And that he played football in high school, that was somethin’.

§ April 22nd, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, dc comics, superman § 33 Comments

I know I’ve talked about this before, but bear with me for a moment. I will hear modern day criticisms of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s continuity-changing mini-series from 1985, where it is essentially summed up as being “a bad story.” Beautifully drawn, there’s no argument about that. But the actual plot and script itself are held up as flawed.

And, I mean, fair enough. I once posted on Bluesky “thou shalt not read Crisis for its prose,” as just reading it for the story is only part of the experience. And the part of the experience that is arguably most significant is one that simply can’t be captured decades later, by people who weren’t there for it in 1985 as it debuted. It especially can’t be captured after the onslaught of universe-changing events and crossovers and reboots and rejiggerings that have been churned out since Crisis.

It was the excitement at the time that fed into the Crisis experience. Yes, maybe the storyline was, to be kind, slightly nonsensical. But DC Comics promised BIG CHANGES in their series, at a time when readers weren’t quite so jaded to assurances like these, and right from the get-go we were getting those changes in this series. As you picked up each succeeding issue, you were left wondering “what happens next? What worlds will live, what worlds will die, what will never remain the same?” Things were happening in this series, seemingly irrevocable things, and readers were left in suspense month to month as to what was next.

Well, that was then, this is now, DC has spent nearly 40 years trying to undo Crisis, and after seeing, like I said, reboot after relaunch after reboot, the primary oomph that moved the series along has faded away, leaving a nicely-drawn comic with a story that no longer has the energy it once did. It’s like reading about a roller coaster that had been torn down long ago and you can no longer ride. Meanwhile, old farts like me are all “you just don’t get it, that roller coaster was awesome back in the day.”

Which brings me to Man of Steel #1 from 1986.

Crisis wasn’t the only engine of change over there at mid-1980s DC Comics. Superstar comic book artist/writer John Byrne moved from Marvel to their rivals to take command of a “reboot” of the Superman line of comics.

The previous five decades’ worth of Superman comics would be brought to an end, the two main titles (Action and Superman) would be put on a brief hold, while Byrne’s six-issue mini-series The Man of Steel would be issues on a biweekly basis. That series would essentially restart the Superman line from scratch, with a new canonical origin, redesigns of old establishing elements, and a shaking up of Everyhing We Know about the character.

Right from the first page we’re presented a new vision of Krypton:

Inspired in part its depiction in 1979’s Superman: The Movie, this new version of Krypton does away with the sci-fi pulp style cities we’d previously seen. We now have a cold and sterile environment, where the inhabitants shun contact with each other, where babies (like Kal-El) are created in a “birth matrix” without all the fuss and mush of mixed genetic material the old-fashioned way.

As I recall, Byrne’s intent was to create a Krypton that wasn’t a high-tech fantasyland, a wonderful and magical place, but rather a loveless world that was already dying even withoiut the whole “about to explode” thing. A place that a young Kal-El was lucky to escape from.

There were other changes in this first issue, too, such as establishing that Clark’s powers didn’t really come in full ’til he was older, thus doing away with the Superboy (and Superbaby!) era of the character. That only one piece of Kryptonite made it to Earth. That there was some sort of “aura” around Superman’s body, a thin one just above the surface of his skin, that would prevent damage to, say, a skin-tight superhero uniform made out of ordinary Earth materials. (As opposed to resewing super-strong Kryptonian blankets in which he was swaddled as a baby.) That Superman wouldn’t let on that he even had a secret identity, letting folks think he was just Superman all day, every day.

There were other little changes, plus plenty more in the rest of this mini-series, but the big change, the BIGGEST change:

…is Ma and Pa Kent still being alive.

This was the wild one, the choice that really struck me out of all the other decisions made for this new version of Superman. For years, one of the big emotional elements of the character was ultimately how alone he was…I mean, despite his cousin Supergirl and a whole freakin’ Bottle City of Kandor in his Fortress of Solitude. This was long before Lois new the secret, of course, which was still a reboot away. And I suppose he had his super-pals in the Justice League.

But when it just came to Superman in his own books, he was pretty much just on his own. No confidantes, no family (unless Supergirl was guest-starring), just him and his thoughts. Most notably there’s those scenes when he goes back to Ma and Pa’s now empty Smallville home (which he still owns, of course), and putters around there for whatever reason, sadly recalling his younger days. It’s especially evident when you compare this to, say, DC’s former line-up of superhero TV shows, where every hero has a support team, either back at the home office or out in the field, who all know his secret, who all fight beside him.

The other change this makes to the mythos is that we lose out on the lesson Superman learns, that there are just some things even a Superman can’t do.

That’s from DC Comics Presents #50, where Supes and Clark are split into two beings…long story. But the important element is there…”with all my power, I couldn’t save them.” Now the “save them from what specifically” isn’t important. In some comics it’s just old age, in others it’s a deadly virus picked up during a time travel vacation to piratey days (because Superman comics), but the result is the same. It’s an important lesson, one that even makes it into the ’79 flick.

Despite that, it is kind of fun to have them around, to have a home that Superman can go to and have actual parents around, versus ghosts and memories haunting him pre-Crisis. They add a little emotional depth to the proceedings. In recent years it was a little unclear what their status was…George Pérez had famously stated he couldn’t get an answer as to whether they were alive or dead for the New 52 relaunch. But Pa Kent died during a storyline prior to that, and post-New 52/Rebirth they had both apparently died in a car wreck, but [SPOILER] revived due to universal shenanigans in Doomsday Clock. So I guess they’re still around now, which is nice.

Now the Man of Steel mini itself, even at the time, took a little critical drubbing from reviewers and fans. Part of it was, I think, just out of spite. Folks thought a certain way about Byrne and they were always looking for a way to knock him down a peg. Plus Superman, despite having low-selling comics for quite a while prior to the reboot, was still an object of “well, this is the way it should be” backlash from some quarters, objecting to the alterations. And on top of all that…yeah, the series was a little clunky in parts. Byrne was trying to rush through several years’ worth of continuity and world-building in these six issues, catching Superman up to the “present day” of the DC Universe.

Like Crisis (remember Crisis from way back at the beginning of this?) this is a book that also suffers a bit in retrospect. I think it may be a little easier for readers new to it to understand that this book was a Big Deal at the time, given it was tackling the Biggest Hero in Comics and giving him a fresh start. And that, when all is said and done, this is the Superman that is still around today, despite whatever fiddling was done with continuity, despite the asides we got with the absolutely-distinct-from-the-post-Crisis-version New 52 Supes. Our current Superman is the John Byrne Reboot Superman. You can still draw a line directly from Man of Steel #1 to the latest issues of Action and Superman.

But that said…I feel like any readers not old enough to have read Man of Steel back in the mid-1980s may be in a similar position as those new to Crisis. They weren’t there, in real time, watching the pre-Crisis Superman getting wrapped up and put away, while this new series came along to reintroduce the hero. The excitement of change was there, as we wondered what this Byrne fella had in store for us as Man of Steel wrapped up and the new Superman titles launched and/or relaunched. It’s a particular frisson that’s missed when coming to the stories now, especially after all the retoolings both Superman and the DCU at large have undergone since then.

Special thanks to Sam Hurwitt for reminding me of that DC Comics Presents sequence.

33 Responses to “And that he played football in high school, that was somethin’.”

  • David says:

    I always felt like the biggest change in Man of Steel was the change to Lex Luthor. His pre-crisis persona was genius supervillain. Man of Steel established him as a genius businessman, who hated Superman, which moved him to villainy.

  • DavidG says:

    I really liked having Ma and Pa around, it gave Superman an ongoing stake in humanity. In the later years of pre-Crisis Superman you did kind of wonder why he hung around Earth. So he could gaslight Lois all the time maybe? He seemed to sort of tolerate his “friends” rather than actually like any of them, especially because he had to save them from their own self inflicted misadventures very month. And they were all generally really awful to Clark. The Byrne reboot wasn’t perfect, and it royally screwed the Legion, but it was fresh and mostly well thought out, and Supes was no longer so god-like so there was a bit of peril in his stories .

    I loved Crisis at the time too – I seem to recall that part of the reason it doesn’t read well was that DC editorial kept messing with things and changing their minds about who would live and and wouldn’t so Wolfman would have to change what he was doing. There was not much of an actual plan for the whole line, which is why the reboots were such a mixed bag. Batman barely changed at all, but Wonder Woman got a complete reset.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    In my recollection, none of the Major Character deaths in Crisis were a surprise. I think even down to the issue number fans knew what was coming, at least for the two biggest ones, even before the covers spoiled them.

    I think what most bothered me then was that some characters were given heroic and moving death scenes while others came across as tossed off, just so you knew that a particular character was going to be excised from continuity. Also, it was a little hard for me to accept the vast amount of human (& other) death taking place in the story simply for the sake of realigning continuity. That’s… quite a bit of psychological burden for a teenage reader beginning to understand his place in the real world.

    Then Watchmen #12 comes along not too long after, and that pretty much capped off my interest in superhero comics for life, for the most part. Took me a very long time to come back to them after that, and in limited doses only.

  • Thom H. says:

    I had only been reading comics for a few years in 1985, so I thought Crisis was amazing. I wasn’t attached to many DC characters at the time, but the high stakes were really exciting. I bought a lot more DC titles after that and Legends refreshed their lineup.

    Byrne’s Superman revamp seemed to aim at making the character more human and grounded. It was a very Marvel approach to beef up his supporting cast in Metropolis and Smallville, make outer space seem distant and uninviting, and limit his powers. I liked it, but I think it lacked a sense of wonder that’s central to the character. A good reboot, but not great.

  • Oliver says:

    ‘Crisis’ should’ve been used as a means of rebooting Earth-1, and Earth-1 alone — Man of Steel, Batman: Year One, Perez’s Wonder Woman etc. Glomping ALL the alternate Earths into one was a catastrophic mistake which deprived DC of its history and distinctiveness.

    (And, no, the multiple Earths were NOT too confusing! It took my dearly departed, comicbook-loving stepdad all of five minutes to explain the concept to me as a child.)

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    Man of Steel was one of the earliest DC Comics I ever read, years after the fact, when #1 was in a stack of “worthless” Jack Kirby Black Panther, 2001, and Machine Man comics and a few other random things (like 70s Marvel reprints of Atlas-era monster comics) he picked up from a flea market after I started regularly reading comics in 1989. It is very much MY Superman.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I’ve said this many times before but I have to agree with Oliver. At the very least Earth-2 should have also been spared. COIE really messed up All-Star Squadron, which was one of my favorite DC titles at that time, along with New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes. And Earth-2 was actually doing well at that time, what with the Earth-2-centric Infinity Inc. and Secret Origins also being published then and what with Roy Thomas managing the Earth-2 characters quite well. As I’ve said before, I would have also left Earth-Charlton intact and created a team book featuring Ditko-accurate iterations of Captain Atom, The Question, Blue Beetle, and Nightshade (not a Watchmen pastiche)…DC could have even hired Ditko to draw it–although I suppose his art had fallen out of fashion by then.
    Even having John Byrne draw that might have been cool. Instead we got a chrome-plated revamped wannabe Dr. Manhattan take on Captain Atom, a Taoist-inspired take on The Question, and a jokey Blue Beetle…oh, well. At least it was cool to see Charlton-accurate depictions of those characters briefly during COIE.

    Also, Earth-S should have definitely survived…The Shazam/Fawcett characters work better on their own Earth.

    It is both sad and intriguing that DC chose to kill off and/or villainize three of their key early Silver Age 1950s characters: Barry Allen, Kara Zor-El, and Hal Jordan.

    It would have been very interesting if Alan Moore and Rick Vietch had done a New Gods book post-COIE.

    Byrne’s revamping of Superman sort of worked, but I think George Perez’s Wonder Woman was the real success.

  • Ryan says:

    just chiming in to agree with Sean and Oliver. kids can pick stuff up quickly.

    as a really wee tot, i had superman kids books. Pre-Crisis stuff. first actual comic was a trade of the Death of Superman that i got for Christmas.

    Lex II is a nice guy and has hair? why did Kal’s cousin turn into pudding? Clark is known as a cool guy? so on and so on. part of the fun was finding out what that heck was going on.

  • Rob S. says:

    I loved a lot of the changes Crisis wrought — my interest in Superman had really flagged, for instance, but Byrne & Wolfman made me a fan again — but the death of Earth-2 (and the cancellation of All-Star Squadron) really stung. And the crippling of the Legion’s continuity created a wound that eventually scuttled one of DC’s best franchises. But I think the DCU is a lot richer for having the Question, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and Nightshade in the main universe. And yeah, Peacemaker too.

  • DK says:

    Part of the problem CRISIS has is that the heroes have to kind of lose, they have to let the Anti-Monitor do a clean sweep and bump off some major characters.

    It’s just trying to do so so many things at once:

    – Hard reset of the main comics line.

    – Intro newly acquired characters like the Charlton Action Heroes to a DC audience.

    – Pay tribute to the Golden Age heroes while simultaneously whacking their entire storyline.

    – Highlight the hottest new characters of 1985 (Kole! Jonni Thunder! Blue Devil!)

    – Try to tell an “All Universe” epic story without major characters like Hal Jordan and **BATMAN** being involved.

    – Cram literally as many characters as possible into a 50th Anniversary story (Sugar and Spike show up).

    – Bring in Marvel fans who may not have historically read DC but might want to get onboard with a new start.

    – Get your 1985 superstar franchises in there to move books which is why the Teen Titans and Legion are like constantly around but oops not much BATMAN, Green Lantern, or New Gods.

    – Tell a coherent story, but really it just needs to have the Anti-Monitor show up and blow shit up so those vibration towers and shadow demons are not really that interesting or important and they are dropped fast once the heroes get together and decide to fight back.

    It’s impossible to juggle all those things at once without some cutting corners.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “But the actual plot and script itself are held up as flawed”

    Yeah, it’s a mess. A mess with amazing artwork!

    “thus doing away with the Superboy (and Superbaby!)”

    I kinda miss Superboy, but we can all do WITHOUT Superbaby!

    “George Pérez had famously stated he couldn’t get an answer as to whether they were alive or dead for the New 52 relaunch.”

    Man, if they didn’t tell PEREZ, they weren’t telling ANYONE.

    “Man of Steel #1”

    Liked it, but the Bryne comics that came afterwards were generally better, not being so RUSHED.

    “biggest change in Man of Steel was the change to Lex Luthor”

    Possibly. He went from Mad Scientist to Donald Trump!

    “Legends refreshed their lineup.”

    Legends was underrated. And it led to JLI & Suicide Squad.

    “the multiple Earths were NOT too confusing”

    Agreed! If I can understand Alternate Earths & Time Travel in Star Trek, I can certainly understand them in comics!

    “Roy Thomas managing the Earth-2 characters quite well”

    Agreed! I LIKED that the old Golden Age guys were still around, even if on a different Earth. Ads to the continuity.

    “Also, Earth-S should have definitely survived…The Shazam/Fawcett characters work better on their own Earth.”

    Yeah, Tawny the Talking Tiger doesn’t really GO with other DC stuff, just the marvel Family.

    “It’s just trying to do so so many things at once”

    Yea, that a LOt to ask of one twelve issue series!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @DK ….I enjoyed Jonni Thunder as a character, and Blue Devil was likeable enough. From Kole on the New Teen Titans started to go down hill and Wolfman’s stories for worse. I don’t even much care for Jericho, but then there was the goofiness of Lilith Clay being the daughter of a Greek goddess, and Azrael being in love with her…and it just got worse with Pantha and Baby Wildebeest…ugh. Wolfman should have utilized Mal Duncan as The Guardian, Bumblebee, and the classic Teen Titans West characters more in supporting roles and cameos instead of creating goofy characters like Kole, Pantha, Azrael and Baby Wildebeest…and also given o.g. members Aqualad and Speedy more prominence. As time goes by I feel that
    the Bob Rozakis late ’70s Teen Titans revival is actually quite underrated–those are some fun reads.

  • Thom H. says:

    @DK: I think Crisis actually ticked most of those boxes pretty well. Not perfectly, but well enough.

    Batman was there, but DC was still running away from his goofy/sci-fi elements and he wasn’t yet hypercompetent, so he didn’t have a lot to do except exclaim. I don’t know what was up with Hal Jordan at the time, but that’s an interesting question.

    To be fair, everyone keeps dinging the story, but the art wasn’t perfect either. Giordano’s inks on the first issue were either too light or weren’t printed well. The dip in quality was obvious anytime Perez turned in breakdowns instead of full pencils. And the pencils-only sequence in one issue was difficult to parse on newsprint.

    For the most part, Crisis suffered from all the same problems any Wolfman/Perez Titans project faced. Wolfman needed an editor who wasn’t himself, and Perez needed more lead time to give us the detailed visuals we expected every month.

  • Man of Steel also buttressed the abolition of the Superman-Batman friendship (along with the contemporaneous Dark Knight Returns). Bryne spent an entire issue of Man of Steel hammering in the point that in post-Crisis DC, Superman and Batman were not friends, did not like each other and wouldn’t be sharing a team-up book every month. The end of the Superman-Batman friendship has pretty much stuck in most depictions of them in popular culture.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    “COIE really messed up All-Star Squadron, which was one of my favorite DC titles at that time, along with New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes. And Earth-2 was actually doing well at that time, what with the Earth-2-centric Infinity Inc. and Secret Origins also being published then and what with Roy Thomas managing the Earth-2 characters quite well.”

    According to the CoIE Companion, Thomas refused to go along with the complete reboot, and that’s why everything didn’t start over from scratch. It’s part of why he’s been high on my list of comic book villains even before everything about the creation of Wolverine.

    “It is both sad and intriguing that DC chose to kill off and/or villainize three of their key early Silver Age 1950s characters: Barry Allen, Kara Zor-El, and Hal Jordan.”

    Wally was a more interesting character than flat and boring Barry, Matrix was better than Kara, and anything is better than Hal Jordan, who even by the standards of 60s patrician super heroes is a bit much.

    But hey, they’ve all come back.

    “It would have been very interesting if Alan Moore and Rick Vietch had done a New Gods book post-COIE.”

    IIRC Moore’s Twilight was going to be the first post-Crisis crossover, until DC decided to go with Legends instead.

    ” Highlight the hottest new characters of 1985 (Kole! Jonni Thunder! Blue Devil!)”

    Wolfman created Kole to die in Crisis.

    ” I don’t know what was up with Hal Jordan at the time, but that’s an interesting question.”

    Jordan had quit being GL a few years earlier. He actually returned to the roll during Crisis, as part of Englehart’s run-up to #200.

  • CRISIS was thrilling while it was happening, although I remember the sinking feeling I got when I realized just how drastic the reboot was going to be. And then in the aftermath, when it became obvious that nobody had given even the slightest thought to planning what the rebooted universe was going to consist of, all I could do was shake my head. Watching DC scramble to try and patch all the holes they’d shot into characters like Hawkman, Wonder Girl, the Legion, the All-Star Squadron, etc. was pretty comical. “Power Girl is now a 10,000 year-old Atlantean princess!” Sure, man, whatever you say…

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    I think that is one area where Jim Shooter was completely correct. The whole idea of Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Roy Thomas, etc. being allowed to be both the writer and editor of their own titles over at Marvel was always problematic. I thought Len Wein was the editor for COIE–or maybe I’m confusing that with him having been the editor on NTT at least part of the time while Marv was the writer. I do recall watching a YouTube video interview with Jim Shooter where he referred to them as “Len-Marv the two headed monster” or something to that effect. Obviously, all of these guys were very talented fans turned comics pros, but it seems like it was almost a given at Marvel during the ’70s that if you had served as Editor-in-chief at one point you automatically got to be both a writer/editor, like Roy, Marv, Len, Gerry Conway…maybe Archie Goodwin…and, I think, Jack Kirby when he returned to Marvel in the mid’70s. Perhaps there are others and I’m forgetting their names?

    Speaking of Gerry Conway, I’ve been reading some of his ’70s run on Thor and quite enjoying it… and as time goes by I think he’s one of the most consistent Bronze Age writers who usually delivered the goods no matter what title he was scripting.

    Also, I think Jerry Ordway’s inking really made Perez’s pencils pop on COIE, after he took over from Giordano.

    @ Joe Gualtieri

    Personally I think it’s great that Roy Thomas stood up against the drastic COIE changes…he was right to do so. I suppose the rationale behind all of the changes was that Marvel was drastically outselling DC, and Janette, Paul Levitz, Len, Marv,
    Giordano, et al felt they had to “Marvel-ize” DC. Ironically, Jim Shooter created the New Universe more or less around the same time…so, go figure.

    As to Barry Allen being “bland” or Hal Jordan being “a bit much,” I disagree. Or, maybe I should say that I think the fault lies with the writers for not being good stewards of the characters. Why kill off Iris West? Why have Hal become a villain?

    If you go back to the Silver Age, writers including Gardner Fox and John Broome were great stewards of these characters…characters who were emblematic of a “can do” attitude. I kind of feel like the Greatest Generation writers…who had actually been through the Great Depression and WW II created these great, aspirational characters who were subsequently torn down by some of the Baby Boomer writers–who projected their own issues or whatnot into the characters. Maybe Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and others
    have tried to restore some lustre to Barry and Hal…and good on them for doing that.

  • J Levy says:

    On the Crisis mash-up of worlds: I eventually reached a point where I was able to appreciate what was fun about the Silver/ Bronze Age multiverse alongside what was great about the post-Crisis-verse. While eventually it got exhausted and exhausting, for a long time there was a lot of wonderful DC storytelling about legacies on this combined world where the JSA came first— everything from Starman to the way Jay Garrick (and Max Mercury! and Johnny and Jesse Quick!) fit into Waid’s Flash run to the early good years of Johns’ JSA run to the awesome issue of Chase with Alan Scott and Batman to the way Wildcat became an elder statesman of punching people.

    And even in the immediate aftermath of Crisis when the JSA got taken off the board, it was fun to have a Justice League with characters from Earth-1, Earth-2 (Dr Fate), Earth-S (Cap), Earth-4 (Beetle), the Fourth World (Mr Miracle), Crisis itself (Dr Light), a LSH-adjacent future (Booster). It really worked for a while!

    For Superman, likewise I can enjoy them both and there was lots from the reboot era that I loved reading. But I do miss the Silver/ Bronze Age “limitless power and yet…” He couldn’t use his time travel to save Kryptonn even though it was a Krypton worth saving (unlike Byrne’s). He had to sentence his surrogate brother to a thousand years in the Phantom Zone. He couldn’t (for a very long time) restore Kandor. He couldn’t (in the end) save Kara. His childhood best friend turned against him— actually two of them, both Lex and Pete. He couldn’t (for various reasons over the decades) really let himself be with Lois. And, yes, biggest of all, he couldn’t save Ma and Pa. Byrne thought you had to make Superman physically weaker to make him limited and interesting, and that was never right at all. He gave us a Superman whose cape could get tattered but who had loving parents, a Pulitzer, the girlfriend, and generally no real sense of loss.

  • Thom H. says:

    @Sean Mageean: I just checked, and Wolfman was editing himself on Crisis. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but it’s true for better or worse.

    And I agree: once they stabilized the art team by bringing Ordway on board it was the best looking book on the stands. Why they didn’t start with the Perez/Ordway team is a mystery to me. Maybe they needed an outside editor to coordinate talent better?

    @J Levy: I agree that the post-Crisis DC universe had a lot to offer. Even continuity headaches like getting rid of Superboy gave us some brilliant Time Trapper/Glorith stories in Legion.

  • King of the Moon says:

    Crisis hitting at the beginning of when I was finally old enough to start buying my own comics regularly really cements it as important to me for my own narrative.

    I loved Superman up to that point and felt so grown up reading Man of Steel because Superman wasn’t kiddy stuff anymore! Oh 12 year old me, you were so trying to be a grown up.

    I was excited for it and then it was just comics like all DC reboots thereafter would become.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “The end of the Superman-Batman friendship has pretty much stuck in most depictions of them in popular culture.”

    Which is a shame, as I always liked that aspect of their relationship.

    “But hey, they’ve all come back”

    Everyone comes back, except Bucky. Then HE came back!


    I re-read The Shadow War of Hawkman months ago, and they’re pretty good.

    “that if you had served as Editor-in-chief at one point you automatically got to be both a writer/editor, like Roy, Marv, Len, Gerry Conway…maybe Archie Goodwin”

    Goodwin could probably handle it. The rest really shouldn’t, as good as they all are.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    As far as I know the only character who never came back from the dead is the original Menthor from Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents run during the Silver Age…although it did seem that his spirit was communicating with a young woman who stole the Menthor helmet and was using it in either the JC Comics or Deluxe Comics iteration from the early 1980s.

    I haven’t followed Marvel Comics for awhile now but I think Mar-Vell was brought back at one point.

    Over at DC I think Invisible Kid I, and Ferro Lad were brought back…or maybe those were just continuity reboots? What about Chemical King? Has Don Hall, the original and best Dove ever been brought back (not counting the dumb zombie crap that DC did with Darkest Night)?

    @ Thom H.

    It’s possible it was a vanity project on Dick Giordano’s part where he wanted to reclaim his spot as one of the industry’s top inkers as he has been during the classic GL/GA run of the early Bronze Age–and I’m not throwing shade, I genuinely admire Giordano as an artist/inker/editor and an executive who pumped new life into DC during the ’80s. It’s also possible that Ordway was still tasked with drawing All-Star Squadron when the first few issues of COIE went into production–or maybe Rick Hoberg had taken over by then. Anyway, that’s a valid point about some of Giordano’s inking lines being too fine to register well when the book went to press. But I actually liked Ordway’s art on Adventures of Superman better than Byrne’s art on Superman….and Ordway’s All-Star Squadron art is superb…the way he rendered Golden Age Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, etc.

    I think Byrne was given too much power, a lot of those Superman changes weren’t really necessary and did mess up so much continuity. DC should have also hired Terry Austin to ink John Byrne’s art for the long haul …it was Austin’s meticulous inking that really made X-Men pop…Byrne inking Byrne never reaches that level of craftsmanship. And Murphy Anderson was the best inker for Curt Swan…he made Swan’s art shine. The dissolution of the Superman/Batman friendship was a sad thing, although I did enjoy Batman and The Outsiders–but JLA Detroit was not very good, and I’m not even a big fan of the revamped Justice League–classic Satellite Era JLA is best JLA. I think extending membership to Mr. Miracle and Big Barda made sense, but not all of those other characters. Dr. Fate should be with the JSA, Blue Beetle I would have preferred as part of a Charlton Action Heroes team, and I never cared for Booster Gold or Guy Gardner who just seem to be annoying characters to me who embody all the negative aspects of the narcissistic bro culture of the late ’80s and ’90s. I wonder if it was Denny O’Neil
    or Steve Englehart who decided to phase out Hal Jordan? It’s a shame, as Hal deserved better.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:


    “As to Barry Allen being “bland” or Hal Jordan being “a bit much,” I disagree. Or, maybe I should say that I think the fault lies with the writers for not being good stewards of the characters.”

    I’m literally saying Hal was a bit much from day one. He was always written as a misogynistic, right-wing jackass.A lot of Silver Age superheroes were written that way by today’s standards, but even in the earliest Hal stories by John Broome, he puts the others to shame. The one exception to this portrayal of Hal, in my experience, is, weirdly, Gerard Jones who probably overcorrected.

    If you think Barry was interesting, more power to you. I and a lot of fans found him to be a bland cipher.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” the only character who never came back from the dead is the original Menthor from Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents”


    “but JLA Detroit”

    I have a soft spot for that era, odd as it was!

  • Thom H. says:

    @Sean: I can see how it would have been difficult to tell Giordano “no” if he wanted to ink Crisis. Good point.

    The thing I appreciate about Ordway inking Perez is that you can somehow see both of their styles shining through at the same time. He doesn’t overpower Perez’s line, but he adds his distinctive touch to it. They made a great team.

    For what it’s worth, the only time I’ve really liked Hal Jordan is in DC: The New Frontier. Cooke’s version of the character was about as far from right-wing as you can get, although still more interesting for his powerset than anything else.

    John Stewart is my favorite Green Lantern. Maybe because he was in the role during Crisis, now that I think about it.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Joe Gualtieri

    I have by no means read the entire Green Lantern or Flash runs from the Silver Age, but from the issues I do own, I would say that more often than not the stories were well-constructed fun reads–yes, they were designed as light entertainment, but they were still fun reads. I think by the standards of the late 1950s and early 1960s, both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen were presented as clean cut role models for young readers. If anything, I see them more in a JFK-inspired light than in any rightwing or misogynistic light. One thing that is offensive and was in poor taste on the part of John Broome was Hal calling Tom “Pie Face” as a nickname. But as I see it, it was Guy Gardner, not Hal, who was the misogynistic, right wing GL character, as per how he was devolved during the late Bronze Age by Denny O’Neil, Steve Englehart and others. But even in his first appearance during the Silver Age, Gardner was just depicted as an average Joe (or Guy) gym teacher who had the right stuff to be a substitute Green Lantern. I believe that Guy was also originally named as an homage to writer Gardner Fox…so it kind of sucks that a character named after a great comics writer was, over time, made into a total jerk.

    But going back to Hal and Barry, they were created as products of their time, so, of course their creation predates modern sensibilities, but I would say they were shown as middle of the road, middle class, “average American” characters during the Silver Age, reflective of that whole better living through chemistry and science era. If Barry was bland it was probably because he was from the Midwest. If Hal was cocky it was probably because he was supposed to be a hotshot test pilot modeled after Chuck Yeager and other pilots who would become astronauts. But most if not all DC Comics superheroes during the Silver Age were depicted as stoic and brave in the face of adversity, but also sometimes self-deprecating or with a sense of humor. The only ones who were different that I can think of were The Doom Patrol and The Metal Men…they were much more like Marvel characters.

    Anyway, I can appreciate what Denny O’Neil did with his tenure on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but even there you have the inconsistency of Speedy being depicted as a junky there, while we was a member in good standing of the Teen Titans with no signs of addiction when that comic was
    being published simultaneously. And, although Marv Wolfman course corrected, other writers have perpetually brought back the “Roy Harper is a loser” trope to the extent that they have permanently messed up the character …and then Tom King, in his infinite wisdom, had Roy killed by Wally several years ago–so, that’s what I mean when I say that there are writers who have not been good
    stewards of the characters.

    But as far as “right-wing”/”left-wing,” from what I recall during the early Bronze Age, Oliver Queen was developed to reflect “left-wing,” progressive and somewhat counter culture values which were in line with the youth culture of the late ’60s and early ’70s and could serve as a platform for Denny O’Neil, Mike Friedrich, Elliott S. Maggin! and other young writers to voice their concerns; and Hawkman was developed as a more “right-wing” very authoritarian character–which made sense,
    as he was a cop from Thanagar, which was a very authoritarian planet. As for Barry and Hal, were they ever “right-wing”? I don’t know…they were created during the late ’50s, so it is possible that the liked Ike, and Hal was a space cop, while Barry was a police scientist, so, of course they weren’t left-wing, but I always thought of then as middle of the road, somewhat square–especially Barry–straight arrows.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    I totally agree with your comments on Ordway’s inking enhancing Perez’s art and bringing out the best in both of their styles. I think Ordway did the same for John Byrne’s pencils when he came aboard as Fantastic Four inker. And when he started out in the industry he did a great job on All-Star Squadron keeping continuity on both Rich Buckler and Adrian Gonzalez’s pencils as the book’s inker before moving on to become the penciler himself. In fact, I would say that Terry Austin and Jerry Ordway are my top two mid-to-late Bronze Age inkers.

    I also agree that John Stewart is a great Green Lantern and he was utilized particularly well in the Justice League animated series.

    I also liked Darwyn Cooke’s characterization of Hal and all of the other Silver Age characters in DC: The New

    Going back to Joe Gualtieri’s comments, again, Hal, and Barry, and Ray Palmer (who was also named in tribute to a Pulp sci-fi writer) were all emblematic of positive, problem solver New Frontier ideals…and if you think about, most of the Silver Age was defined by Democrat presidencies–JFK and LBJ–and progressive values, so I disagree with the notion that Hal Jordan was “right-wing.” Nixon became president in 1969 and I don’t recall any late Silver Age or Bronze Age stories where superheroes are praising Nixon or saying they voted for him–except maybe The Comedian in Watchmen or something. I mean, who knows, did Carter Hall vote for Tricky Dick? I guess there is that one Fantastic Four issue where Nixon is on the cover,
    along with the FF, Silver Surfer, and Galactus.

    Also, you have Iris West being an independent career woman reporter a la Lois Lane, Carol Ferris eventually inheriting and managing Ferris Industries as a businesswoman, and wasn’t Jean Lorring a lawyer? So it’s not like Silver Age DC Comics on the whole weren’t advocating social and career advancement for women–and if Hal seemed modeled after Chuck Yeager or JFK, Carol seemed modeled after Jackie, or maybe Mary Tyler Moore, the way Gil Kane drew her. Who knows, maybe Star Sapphire was more Liz Taylor-inspired? Speaking of Star Sapphire, I want to know if it has ever been written into any DC Comics continuity how Hal Jordan responded when he found out that Star Sapphire made Superman kneel before her and kiss her boots. Also, I see Silver Hal in some ways like Silver Age James T.Kirk–he can come off like a prick, but he has the will power and personality to get the job done.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “As for Barry and Hal, were they ever “right-wing”?”

    Barry never struck me as RW, just kind of square. Pretty normal for a chemist in the 1960’s/50’s.

    “I guess there is that one Fantastic Four issue where Nixon is on the cover,
    along with the FF, Silver Surfer, and Galactus.”

    He was going to be on an Incredible Hulk cover, but they changed it, though he was still in the story inside.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    There’s also that late ’70s Challengers of the Unknown revival issue where Nixon is engulfed by a Cthulhu-like monster. And Steve Englehart’s classic Captain America and The Falcon run where Nixon is revealed as the big villain. And Roy Thomas featured a Skrull disguised as 1950s VP Nixon in one of those 3-D Man stories in Marvel Premiere. Also, there’s that All-Star Squadron Annual where the heroes have to save all of the future presidents, even Nixon, from some supernatural villain named Krakull or something like that.

    Imagine what Alan Moore would have done with Barry Allen if he had become the Flash writer…I’m sure Barry’s skills as a chemist would have taken an interesting turn…

  • Snark Shark says:

    “There’s also that late ’70s Challengers of the Unknown revival issue where Nixon is engulfed by a Cthulhu-like monster”.

    Clearly, that SHOULD be a movie starring Nick Cage!

    “And Roy Thomas featured a Skrull disguised as 1950s VP Nixon in one of those 3-D Man stories in Marvel Premiere.”

    Oh, I read that, but forgot that part.

    “Alan Moore would have done with Barry Allen if he had become the Flash writer…I’m sure Barry’s skills as a chemist”.

    “I’M A WIZARD, MAN!”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    Nick Cage could play Nixon in the COTU film..Cillian Murphy can be Prof., Ryan Gosling can be Ace, Tom Hardy can be Rocky, and Harry Styles can be Red.

    In a Moore Flash comic, I would picture Barry tripping through the Speed Force…

  • Snark Shark says:


  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    Would Alan Moore have just changed it to “The Weed Force”…?

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