As veteran comics writer and editor Paul Kupperberg points out in his introduction to this volume, by the mid-Eighties major changes were occurring in the comics industry, from the primary distribution method – comics shops had grown tremendously in importance in the past few years, and spinner racks full of comics were already disappearing from the usual venues such as grocery stores, drugstores, and convenience stores – to the creative, where at DC especially, decades worth of continuity were about to be wiped out.
I first heard about the landmark mini-series CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS when it was in the planning stages and thought that simplifying the DC Universe was a pretty good idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for me, a lot of the charm of the DCU was its very clutteredness. I mean, Gardner Fox’s classic story “Flash of Two Worlds” was still one of my all-time favorites. Then when I found out that DC was planning to kill off some of its major characters in the mini-series and do a total reboot and relaunch of others, I liked the idea less and less.
Which brings us to Superman.
Now, I was never a huge Superman fan, although I read a bunch of comics featuring the character over the years. In fact, it’s safe to say that the first superhero comics I ever read featured Superman. But there were other DC characters I liked better, such as Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. Even so, when I heard that DC was starting over with the Superman franchise, starting with John Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL mini-series, I didn’t care for it and didn’t see the need for it. When I first read the stories reprinted in SUPERMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?, they just reinforced that feeling.
Alan Moore had already written a couple of Superman stories, one a team-up with the other major DC character he was writing at the time, Swamp Thing, when he was asked by editor Julius Schwartz to write the final two-parter that would close out the current Superman continuity. I had read and liked those earlier Superman stories written by Moore, and when I read “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, which was split up between SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS, I was more convinced than ever that excellent, relevant stories set in the current continuity could be written. Alan Moore had just proven that by turning out one of the best Superman stories I’d ever read.
But of course, nobody at DC listened to me (not that I actually shared those feelings with anybody there) and Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL reboot appeared on schedule, the first of many reboots that spread to Marvel in the Nineties and eventually had the effect of alienating me so much that I didn’t read a single comic book for years and years. Although I have no statistics to prove it, I’m convinced that a lot of fans who grew up reading comics in the Sixties and Seventies stopped reading in disgust and never came back. Eventually, of course, I did, and I’ve read and enjoyed some of the newer stuff. I still like the reprints of the older stuff better, though.
SUPERMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW? reprints all four of Moore’s Superman stories. The title two-parter features art by Curt Swan, the classic Superman artist, and serves as a beautiful (if unnecessary) farewell to the classic Superman continuity. The other two stories are excellent as well. If you’re a long-time comics fan and didn’t read these back in the Eighties, you should pick up this volume to see what you missed. If you read them then, like I did, I think you’ll enjoy them all over again. They’ve aged well (unlike grumpy, reactionary old men such as myself).