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Superman '86-'99

A thorough chronological examination of the best/worst period in Superman history, by Maxwell Yezpitelok. All covers stolen from comics.org.
Oct 18 '14
Superman #51 (January 1991)
Superman gets trapped inside a diamond in his rematch against Mr. Z! What’s that? You can’t remember Superman’s first fight with Mr. Z? Well, neither can Superman, because it hasn’t happened yet.
This mysterious Z guy is shown arriving on Metropolis’ airport and using a Jedi Mind Trick to get out of having his bag inspected (I’m assuming the thing is just filled with pornography). Z then takes a nice stroll down Metropolis, where some hoodlums try to steal his pimpin’ gem-encrusted cane. Z deals with them by using a Darth Vader Force choke, like so:

(Poor Jerry White, he keeps getting killed.)
So far everything indicates that Mr. Z is either a Sith or, based on his name, Mr. Mxyzptlk’s younger brother, but no: he’s just immortal, and I guess you learn strange tricks when you’re super old. Later, Z mentally contacts Superman to tell him he’ll be at the Museum of Modern History, in case he’s interested in “meeting again.” Superman has no idea who the guy is (“Did Brainiac gain all that weight back already?”), but he goes anyway. Z has hypnotized the Museum’s guard and had him kick everyone out so that Superman and him could have some privacy.
Superman ends up in a dark auditorium, where Z projects images from World War II and insists they met there — which is impossible, since Superman was just a sperm cell swimming inside his dad’s test tube back then. Z insists it’s true, then sucks Superman into his cane jewel. FOREVER.

Turns out there’s a whole bunch of people from different eras living inside Z’s soul gem, all wearing period-specific clothes. Superman’s new roommates for all eternity seem nice enough, except a xenophobic Russian who starts yelling at Superman for being an alien. Superman admits he’s from planet Krypton, and when he says that word the entire gem-world starts trembling. Julius Ceasar (or maybe a guy who played Julius Ceasar in a TV miniseries that Z was a big fan of) points out that perhaps the gem’s magic on works on Earthlings. Superman tests out that theory by speaking on Kryptonese, which causes the gem to break, freeing all the trapped souls.

The gem’s explosion pushes Z into a mannequin of a WWI soldier holding a bayonet, which stabs Z through the chest, killing him. Superman goes “Huh, guess he wasn’t immortal after all,” collects the broken gem pieces and flies away. Obviously, the issue ends with Z letting himself out of the morgue and going back to the airport, very much alive.
Character-Watch:
Despite Mr. Z’s claims, this actually is his first appearance. We’ll find out how he could know Superman soon enough. By the way, I was only half-joking with the Brainiac reference, since he does remind me a lot of the original 1950’s Brainiac: besides the mind powers, there’s the fact that they both collect miniaturized people behind glass (Brainiac in his bottled cities, Z in his magic gem). Also, they’re both jerks.
I have a soft spot for this guy, not just because this was one of the first comics I read but because of where his character arc leads him in the upcoming “Blackout!” storyline. They didn’t do anything with the character after that, but they didn’t need to because “Blackout!” is awesome. (Yeah, I guess I’ll be hyping the hell out of that story for a while.)
Plotline-Watch:
Important developments at the Daily Planet: Perry White announces he’ll be stepping down as Editor for a while to deal with his recent personal problems. He leaves long-time staff member Sam Foswell (who apparently works in another floor because we’d never seen him before) as his replacement. Jimmy Olsen manages to make a good impression on his new boss right off the bat.

The triangle numbers are here! The triangle numbers are a triangle (and a number) in every cover that lets people know in which order to read the various Superman titles, something that will become even more useful when they add a fourth series to keep track of. Now it really feels like the ’90s.
The issue starts with Superman preventing a meltdown at a poorly supervised nuclear facility, which turns out to be inside the LexCorp tower. Luthor’s company is already going to the dogs only one week after his shocking death, and it almost sent all of downtown Metropolis to the dogs with it.
At the airport, Mr. Z steals a driver from a bearded guy called Perez. I’m pretty sure his first name is George.
And finally, the Ultimate Jose Delgado Misadventure! Jose is feeling crappy that his girlfriend, Cat Grant, is a TV star while he’s an unemployed schmuck, so he buys a lottery ticket to see if his luck improves (I think it’s the same lotto store Barrage hit up a couple of issues ago). Then good ol’ Jose stops to help those hoodlums who got schooled by Mr. Z, and this happens:

Yep, you know where this is going. You’ll get more than one beer out of that, Bibbo.
Nostalgia-Watch:
As I mentioned, this was one of the first issues I ever read, and something on the first page confused me:

As a dumb kid I thought that yellow box was a reference to another comic, like there was a DC series called Decon Bay and the main characters were nuclear reactor technicians. I always wondered exactly what wacky hijinks led Fabrio and Tobin to end up in this situation. Alas, my searches for Decon Bay #2 on eBay have been fruitless.

Superman #51 (January 1991)

Superman gets trapped inside a diamond in his rematch against Mr. Z! What’s that? You can’t remember Superman’s first fight with Mr. Z? Well, neither can Superman, because it hasn’t happened yet.

This mysterious Z guy is shown arriving on Metropolis’ airport and using a Jedi Mind Trick to get out of having his bag inspected (I’m assuming the thing is just filled with pornography). Z then takes a nice stroll down Metropolis, where some hoodlums try to steal his pimpin’ gem-encrusted cane. Z deals with them by using a Darth Vader Force choke, like so:

(Poor Jerry White, he keeps getting killed.)

So far everything indicates that Mr. Z is either a Sith or, based on his name, Mr. Mxyzptlk’s younger brother, but no: he’s just immortal, and I guess you learn strange tricks when you’re super old. Later, Z mentally contacts Superman to tell him he’ll be at the Museum of Modern History, in case he’s interested in “meeting again.” Superman has no idea who the guy is (“Did Brainiac gain all that weight back already?”), but he goes anyway. Z has hypnotized the Museum’s guard and had him kick everyone out so that Superman and him could have some privacy.

Superman ends up in a dark auditorium, where Z projects images from World War II and insists they met there — which is impossible, since Superman was just a sperm cell swimming inside his dad’s test tube back then. Z insists it’s true, then sucks Superman into his cane jewel. FOREVER.

Turns out there’s a whole bunch of people from different eras living inside Z’s soul gem, all wearing period-specific clothes. Superman’s new roommates for all eternity seem nice enough, except a xenophobic Russian who starts yelling at Superman for being an alien. Superman admits he’s from planet Krypton, and when he says that word the entire gem-world starts trembling. Julius Ceasar (or maybe a guy who played Julius Ceasar in a TV miniseries that Z was a big fan of) points out that perhaps the gem’s magic on works on Earthlings. Superman tests out that theory by speaking on Kryptonese, which causes the gem to break, freeing all the trapped souls.

The gem’s explosion pushes Z into a mannequin of a WWI soldier holding a bayonet, which stabs Z through the chest, killing him. Superman goes “Huh, guess he wasn’t immortal after all,” collects the broken gem pieces and flies away. Obviously, the issue ends with Z letting himself out of the morgue and going back to the airport, very much alive.

Character-Watch:

Despite Mr. Z’s claims, this actually is his first appearance. We’ll find out how he could know Superman soon enough. By the way, I was only half-joking with the Brainiac reference, since he does remind me a lot of the original 1950’s Brainiac: besides the mind powers, there’s the fact that they both collect miniaturized people behind glass (Brainiac in his bottled cities, Z in his magic gem). Also, they’re both jerks.

I have a soft spot for this guy, not just because this was one of the first comics I read but because of where his character arc leads him in the upcoming “Blackout!” storyline. They didn’t do anything with the character after that, but they didn’t need to because “Blackout!” is awesome. (Yeah, I guess I’ll be hyping the hell out of that story for a while.)

Plotline-Watch:

  • Important developments at the Daily Planet: Perry White announces he’ll be stepping down as Editor for a while to deal with his recent personal problems. He leaves long-time staff member Sam Foswell (who apparently works in another floor because we’d never seen him before) as his replacement. Jimmy Olsen manages to make a good impression on his new boss right off the bat.

  • The triangle numbers are here! The triangle numbers are a triangle (and a number) in every cover that lets people know in which order to read the various Superman titles, something that will become even more useful when they add a fourth series to keep track of. Now it really feels like the ’90s.
  • The issue starts with Superman preventing a meltdown at a poorly supervised nuclear facility, which turns out to be inside the LexCorp tower. Luthor’s company is already going to the dogs only one week after his shocking death, and it almost sent all of downtown Metropolis to the dogs with it.
  • At the airport, Mr. Z steals a driver from a bearded guy called Perez. I’m pretty sure his first name is George.
  • And finally, the Ultimate Jose Delgado Misadventure! Jose is feeling crappy that his girlfriend, Cat Grant, is a TV star while he’s an unemployed schmuck, so he buys a lottery ticket to see if his luck improves (I think it’s the same lotto store Barrage hit up a couple of issues ago). Then good ol’ Jose stops to help those hoodlums who got schooled by Mr. Z, and this happens:

Yep, you know where this is going. You’ll get more than one beer out of that, Bibbo.

Nostalgia-Watch:

As I mentioned, this was one of the first issues I ever read, and something on the first page confused me:

As a dumb kid I thought that yellow box was a reference to another comic, like there was a DC series called Decon Bay and the main characters were nuclear reactor technicians. I always wondered exactly what wacky hijinks led Fabrio and Tobin to end up in this situation. Alas, my searches for Decon Bay #2 on eBay have been fruitless.

Oct 13 '14
Action Comics #660 (December 1990)
And so ends the year 1990, and with it… LUTHOR’S LIFE! Yes, it’s here: the second most shocking Superman story starting with the words “The Death of.” I’m gonna do something a little different for this issue, because I seriously think this is one of the most tightly plotted comics I’ve ever read (Superman or otherwise) and a regular write up wouldn’t do it justice. Here’s Action Comics #660, page by page:
Page 1:
We start with Lex Luthor sitting in his office, and immediately we get a sense that he’s close to death because of the IV connected to his arm. Also, because the Grim Reaper is literally standing right behind Lex, about to chop off his head with a scythe.
Page 2:
Luthor manages to duck the Reaper’s attack and protests his intentions: He still has so much to do with his life! Like kill Superman, or find a cure for baldness! The Reaper has Luthor cornered against a wall, but then the always opportune Sydney Happersen comes into the office. Luthor lets his most faithful employee know exactly how much he values him:

Page 3:
Happersen goes through the Grim Reaper’s body with a shriek, and comes out the other side as a skeleton. The Reaper wanted Lex, though. Lex tries to put up a fight and manages to pull off the Reaper’s cowl, and beneath it is the face of… Clark Kent, without glasses!

Page 4:
Superdeath effortlessly slices off the top of LexCorp’s L-shaped building with his exceptionally sharp scythe, remarking that soon, Lex’s entire empire will crumble. He then lets Luthor fall to his death, as he yells “Not me! Not Lex Luthor!” What, does Lex think he should be exempt from dying? (Yes, he does.)

Page 5:
It was all a dream! Phew! Except the part about Lex being about to die. He wakes up in a medical station as his personal physician, Dr. Gretchen Kelley, performs his chemotherapy treatment. The first panel below concisely explains Lex’s motivation and the origin of his current predicament (the kryptonite ring he started wearing all the way back in Superman #2):

Page 6:
Change scene: We see the newly engaged Lois Lane and Clark Kent looking quite satisfied and telling each other “that was wonderful.” Lois: “When I accepted your proposal, I had no idea—” (pull back to reveal they’re sitting in a restaurant) “—that you knew so many scrumptious restaurants.” Lois gets a call on her brick-sized cellular phone telling her there’s a fire on an old brewery, so she goes off to cover the story. Clark changes into Superman…
Page 7:
…just so he can “run into” Lois as she argues with a cabbie and offer to fly her to the burning brewery. Then he “notices” the engagement ring and congratulates her — because, yep, Lois still doesn’t know she’s marrying Superman. Superman is starting to feel bad about lying to his fiancee every single day since the moment they met, but not bad enough that he’d confess to her right now.
Page 8:
Action scene time! At the burning brewery, a fireman named Frankie falls through the floor, gets trapped and thinks he’s a goner. Then a voice tells him not to worry. The one speaking is…
Page 9:
Gangbuster! Haha, no, he’d already be dead if he was in there. It’s Superman, who saves Frankie and then talks with another fireman: the fire has spread too much, there’s no way to save the building.

"—I’m going home, Dallas is about to start.”
Page 10:
Superman flies away… only to come back with a container full of water. Then, as a TV report informs us, another, and another, and another. The point of this whole sequence, besides reminding us of the engagement plot, is that even in an impossible situation, Superman’s specialty is “finding a way.” And that’s something he has in common with…
Page 11:
Lex Luthor, once again in office, is getting angry at the TV coverage of the brewery fire, since he owns that beer company (and the TV station lambasting it). Lex’s empire is already falling, like Deathman said in the dream. He laments not having a successor to leave LexCorp to — Jerry White could have been one, but 1) Lex never recognized him as his son (hence the “White” name), and 2) he’s dead.
Dr. Kelley interrupts Lex’s morbid thoughts to tell him to take it easy. Lex: “Ah, Kelley, where would I be without you?” Which leads us to…
Page 12:
Kelley thinking: “Where would I be if not for you…” We see a summary of her whole life: from small town doctor, to Luthor’s lover, to bitter alcoholic, to Luthor’s property. All in one page. That’s interesting, but why are we hearing Kelley’s story now? All will make sense in due time. #rogersternplaysthelonggame

Page 13:
In the present, Kelley thinks out loud: “What you need is a miracle worker.” She reminds Lex (and us) that he has a year to live at most, and leaves him to sulk alone once again. Lex grabs a scale mode of the LexWing airplane that started his empire (a seemingly inconsequential detail Byrne introduced in Superman #13) and remembers: HE used to be the miracle worker. Then, the issue’s turning point:

Page 14:
Lex calls a press conference to announce he’ll pilot a LexWing plane once again to break the speed record for flying around the world. The press are like “Aren’t you… dying, and stuff?” but Lex gets Dr. Kelley to lie about his health. Plus, he’ll be accompanied by a young pilot Hotshot McHandsome (or something), in case anything goes wrong.
Page 15:
The press leaves as Lex and Hotshot board the plane (yeah, the  conference happened in the airport, to save on panels). Before getting on the plane, Lex says to Kelley he plans to “give this world something to remember!” Among the reporters is the Daily Planet’s Keith the Racist — and speaking of which, we then cut to Lois and Clark sharing an elevator with Jimmy Olsen as they arrive on the Planet offices. They mention to Jimmy that they don’t wanna make a big deal out of their engagement. Which, of course, means…
Page 16:
…that Jimmy arranged a surprise party for them. Goddammit, Jimmy. Incidentally, we see Allie the intern during the party but Whit didn’t bother to show up, confirming my long-held belief that he secretly loves Clark. He’s probably crying in the bathroom. Better watch your ass, Lane.

Page 17:
Luthor and his co-pilot are crossing the ocean, when Lex asks Hotshot if he’d like to visit the islands one day. McHandsome says sure — at which point Lex ejects him from the plane and speeds away, saying “Now let’s see what this baby can really do!”
Page 18:
Also not at the party: Perry White, because he’s in his office, being depressed about Jerry’s death. Clark and Lois come in to let him know they’re always there for him. I think it’s significant that both Lex and Perry’s current moods are kicked off by the same event, with the difference that Perry’s friends/employees don’t secretly resent him for being an evil jerk.

Page 19:
Peru, South America. A man with a poncho watches the LexWing go down over the Andes, and down, and down, and… POP! Someone uncorks a bottle of champagne.
Page 20:
Racist Keith arrives the Planet just in time for the champagne, although he’s more worried about missing out on the party food. Alas, his plan to eat cake is derailed when the TV announces that Luthor’s plane crashed in the Andes. Lois turns to Clark, but he’s already flying halfway across the world in his blue pajamas.
Page 21:
Superman is skeptical about the accident, until he finds Lex’s body. Or what’s left of it.

Page 22:
And then… it was a dream, right? Nope! Through another TV broadcast, the last page goes over Lex being declared dead, his funeral and the world mourning the DC Universe’s version of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Lord Voldemort rolled into one. Dr. Kelley angrily admits that Lex was dying, but says that it doesn’t make sense that he’d off himself like that.

And the thing is, she’s right! But we won’t find out exactly what happened for another year and a half. For all intents and purposes, Lex Luthor died exactly like this comic described it.
The amazing thing about this issue is that it manages to cover Lex’s crazy dream, his depression, euphoria, death and the world’s reaction to that while also including the engagement celebrations, Kelley’s secret origin, Perry White moping about, and even an action scene with Superman vs. a fire (this is still Action Comics, after all), all in only 22 pages. I’m pretty sure there’s more plot here than on the double-sized Superman #50, or on a full present-day Superman TPB, for that matter. I bow to you, Roger Stern, and to Superman editor Mike Carlin (and that has nothing to do with Mr. Carlin apparently leaving a comment in this blog the other day) (OK, maybe that has a little to do with it).

Action Comics #660 (December 1990)

And so ends the year 1990, and with it… LUTHOR’S LIFE! Yes, it’s here: the second most shocking Superman story starting with the words “The Death of.” I’m gonna do something a little different for this issue, because I seriously think this is one of the most tightly plotted comics I’ve ever read (Superman or otherwise) and a regular write up wouldn’t do it justice. Here’s Action Comics #660, page by page:

Page 1:

We start with Lex Luthor sitting in his office, and immediately we get a sense that he’s close to death because of the IV connected to his arm. Also, because the Grim Reaper is literally standing right behind Lex, about to chop off his head with a scythe.

Page 2:

Luthor manages to duck the Reaper’s attack and protests his intentions: He still has so much to do with his life! Like kill Superman, or find a cure for baldness! The Reaper has Luthor cornered against a wall, but then the always opportune Sydney Happersen comes into the office. Luthor lets his most faithful employee know exactly how much he values him:

Page 3:

Happersen goes through the Grim Reaper’s body with a shriek, and comes out the other side as a skeleton. The Reaper wanted Lex, though. Lex tries to put up a fight and manages to pull off the Reaper’s cowl, and beneath it is the face of… Clark Kent, without glasses!

Page 4:

Superdeath effortlessly slices off the top of LexCorp’s L-shaped building with his exceptionally sharp scythe, remarking that soon, Lex’s entire empire will crumble. He then lets Luthor fall to his death, as he yells “Not me! Not Lex Luthor!” What, does Lex think he should be exempt from dying? (Yes, he does.)

Page 5:

It was all a dream! Phew! Except the part about Lex being about to die. He wakes up in a medical station as his personal physician, Dr. Gretchen Kelley, performs his chemotherapy treatment. The first panel below concisely explains Lex’s motivation and the origin of his current predicament (the kryptonite ring he started wearing all the way back in Superman #2):

Page 6:

Change scene: We see the newly engaged Lois Lane and Clark Kent looking quite satisfied and telling each other “that was wonderful.” Lois: “When I accepted your proposal, I had no idea—” (pull back to reveal they’re sitting in a restaurant) “—that you knew so many scrumptious restaurants.” Lois gets a call on her brick-sized cellular phone telling her there’s a fire on an old brewery, so she goes off to cover the story. Clark changes into Superman…

Page 7:

…just so he can “run into” Lois as she argues with a cabbie and offer to fly her to the burning brewery. Then he “notices” the engagement ring and congratulates her — because, yep, Lois still doesn’t know she’s marrying Superman. Superman is starting to feel bad about lying to his fiancee every single day since the moment they met, but not bad enough that he’d confess to her right now.

Page 8:

Action scene time! At the burning brewery, a fireman named Frankie falls through the floor, gets trapped and thinks he’s a goner. Then a voice tells him not to worry. The one speaking is…

Page 9:

Gangbuster! Haha, no, he’d already be dead if he was in there. It’s Superman, who saves Frankie and then talks with another fireman: the fire has spread too much, there’s no way to save the building.

"—I’m going home, Dallas is about to start.”

Page 10:

Superman flies away… only to come back with a container full of water. Then, as a TV report informs us, another, and another, and another. The point of this whole sequence, besides reminding us of the engagement plot, is that even in an impossible situation, Superman’s specialty is “finding a way.” And that’s something he has in common with…

Page 11:

Lex Luthor, once again in office, is getting angry at the TV coverage of the brewery fire, since he owns that beer company (and the TV station lambasting it). Lex’s empire is already falling, like Deathman said in the dream. He laments not having a successor to leave LexCorp to — Jerry White could have been one, but 1) Lex never recognized him as his son (hence the “White” name), and 2) he’s dead.

Dr. Kelley interrupts Lex’s morbid thoughts to tell him to take it easy. Lex: “Ah, Kelley, where would I be without you?” Which leads us to…

Page 12:

Kelley thinking: “Where would I be if not for you…” We see a summary of her whole life: from small town doctor, to Luthor’s lover, to bitter alcoholic, to Luthor’s property. All in one page. That’s interesting, but why are we hearing Kelley’s story now? All will make sense in due time. #rogersternplaysthelonggame

Page 13:

In the present, Kelley thinks out loud: “What you need is a miracle worker.” She reminds Lex (and us) that he has a year to live at most, and leaves him to sulk alone once again. Lex grabs a scale mode of the LexWing airplane that started his empire (a seemingly inconsequential detail Byrne introduced in Superman #13) and remembers: HE used to be the miracle worker. Then, the issue’s turning point:

Page 14:

Lex calls a press conference to announce he’ll pilot a LexWing plane once again to break the speed record for flying around the world. The press are like “Aren’t you… dying, and stuff?” but Lex gets Dr. Kelley to lie about his health. Plus, he’ll be accompanied by a young pilot Hotshot McHandsome (or something), in case anything goes wrong.

Page 15:

The press leaves as Lex and Hotshot board the plane (yeah, the  conference happened in the airport, to save on panels). Before getting on the plane, Lex says to Kelley he plans to “give this world something to remember!” Among the reporters is the Daily Planet’s Keith the Racist — and speaking of which, we then cut to Lois and Clark sharing an elevator with Jimmy Olsen as they arrive on the Planet offices. They mention to Jimmy that they don’t wanna make a big deal out of their engagement. Which, of course, means…

Page 16:

…that Jimmy arranged a surprise party for them. Goddammit, Jimmy. Incidentally, we see Allie the intern during the party but Whit didn’t bother to show up, confirming my long-held belief that he secretly loves Clark. He’s probably crying in the bathroom. Better watch your ass, Lane.

Page 17:

Luthor and his co-pilot are crossing the ocean, when Lex asks Hotshot if he’d like to visit the islands one day. McHandsome says sure — at which point Lex ejects him from the plane and speeds away, saying “Now let’s see what this baby can really do!”

Page 18:

Also not at the party: Perry White, because he’s in his office, being depressed about Jerry’s death. Clark and Lois come in to let him know they’re always there for him. I think it’s significant that both Lex and Perry’s current moods are kicked off by the same event, with the difference that Perry’s friends/employees don’t secretly resent him for being an evil jerk.

Page 19:

Peru, South America. A man with a poncho watches the LexWing go down over the Andes, and down, and down, and… POP! Someone uncorks a bottle of champagne.

Page 20:

Racist Keith arrives the Planet just in time for the champagne, although he’s more worried about missing out on the party food. Alas, his plan to eat cake is derailed when the TV announces that Luthor’s plane crashed in the Andes. Lois turns to Clark, but he’s already flying halfway across the world in his blue pajamas.

Page 21:

Superman is skeptical about the accident, until he finds Lex’s body. Or what’s left of it.

Page 22:

And then… it was a dream, right? Nope! Through another TV broadcast, the last page goes over Lex being declared dead, his funeral and the world mourning the DC Universe’s version of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Lord Voldemort rolled into one. Dr. Kelley angrily admits that Lex was dying, but says that it doesn’t make sense that he’d off himself like that.

And the thing is, she’s right! But we won’t find out exactly what happened for another year and a half. For all intents and purposes, Lex Luthor died exactly like this comic described it.

The amazing thing about this issue is that it manages to cover Lex’s crazy dream, his depression, euphoria, death and the world’s reaction to that while also including the engagement celebrations, Kelley’s secret origin, Perry White moping about, and even an action scene with Superman vs. a fire (this is still Action Comics, after all), all in only 22 pages. I’m pretty sure there’s more plot here than on the double-sized Superman #50, or on a full present-day Superman TPB, for that matter. I bow to you, Roger Stern, and to Superman editor Mike Carlin (and that has nothing to do with Mr. Carlin apparently leaving a comment in this blog the other day) (OK, maybe that has a little to do with it).

Oct 10 '14

Anonymous asked:

A friend pointed me to your Superman 86 to 99 page and I have to tell you that it's great fun to see. Lots of fun stuff. Really takes me back as I hadn't really thought about those days or looked back on them in quite some time. --Dan Jurgens

Wow. If this is really Mr. Jurgens, #1: I’m gonna faint, and #2: THANK YOU, that means so much! It’s always so hard to pick panels to spotlight from your issues because there are so many cool moments, both art- and plot-wise. (Also, sorry about the occasional snark, I can’t help it.)

HAVE A BALDY AWARD!

Oct 6 '14
Adventures of Superman #473 (December 1990)
Superman teams up with Green Lantern and Green Lantern. This issue is called “Rings of Fire” because both Green Lanterns have power rings, and also because Clark Kent just gave Lois Lane an engagement ring last week in Superman #50 and now she’s showing it off to people. None of those rings are made of fire, though. I demand a refund.
Clark is having lunch with his beloved fiancee (who still doesn’t know he’s secretly an alien supergod), when they see a giant Green Lantern logo appear in the sky and morph into a Superman logo. Superman ditches his ladyfriend and goes looking for a Green Lantern to find out what that stunt was about. Unfortunately, out of all 3600 GLs the only one listed in the phone book is Guy Gardner, the Justice League’s resident butthead. Superman finds Guy using his cosmic powers to look at boobies.

(The things we had to do before the Internet.)
Guy has no idea about that sign in the sky, which means it was created by Earth’s other Green Lantern: Ryan Re- um, Hal Jordan. Hal, who’s going through a “finding himself by hitchhiking across America” phase in his own comic, was last seen in Wyoming before disappearing. Superman goes off to look for Hal, but Guy insists on tagging along to prove that he’s the best superhero.
Superman and Guy track down Hal’s power ring to an US Air Force base and are immediately attacked with missiles, which Guy sees as evidence that they’ve been infiltrated by commies. It’s something worse than commies, though: Guy and Superman stumble upon a huge alien spaceship buried deep under the base, and that’s where they run into…

…freaking Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, Superman’s second and third least favorite characters ever (the first one being Guy Gardner) (you thought I was gonna say Jimmy Olsen, right?). Turns out Hal was kidnapped by the Galactus-sized alien living in that ship, who has been stuck down there for centuries after a bad landing. The alien created Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught to find him an energy source for his ship, and after a few years of dicking around they finally came across Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern power battery. Unfortunately, the ship is so big that it’s gonna destroy like half of Wyoming if it lifts off.
Galactus’ cousin takes down Superman and Guy using the power of Hal’s battery, but this distraction allows Hal to free himself and help the other two. Superman, Guy and Hal hit the alien with a concentrated Green Lantern willforce blast, which involves joining hands and thinking nice thoughts. Guy loves it, naturally.

The alien is like “aw, now I’ll never leave this place” but Superman goes “all you had to do was ask for help, dummy.” Supes and the GLs manage to take out the ship without killing anyone and push it to space, and in return Galactor (I don’t know if that’s actually his name) promises to take Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught with him and never bug Superman again.
Character-Watch:
In this issue Superman makes it clear that Hal Jordan is the “real” Green Lantern to him while Guy Gardner is just an annoying asshole, but ironically, Superman will end up becoming a lot closer to Guy than he ever was to Hal. Superman and Guy will clash constantly when they become teammates in Dan Jurgens’ Justice League (this issue is almost a trial run for that book), but they’ll slowly learn to respect each other. Also, Guy turns out to be a college buddy of a member of the Superman Family, so they’re practically related.
Hal, on the other hand, ends up trying to kill the universe and punching Superman. You never know where the road of life will lead you.
Plotline-Watch:
So, this explains the weird cliffhanger in Adventures #469, when Psi-Phon, Dreadnaught and Mrs. Dreadnaught go into a military base and are told off by an army guy: that guy was being mind controlled by Galactor. This doesn't, however, explain what their attack on Superman in their first appearance (Adventures #442) had to do with helping their boss find a power source. Alas, Galactor’s promise to keep those jokers off Earth will not be fulfilled.
As I mentioned, this is the issue where Lois and Clark tell everyone they’re engaged, or more accurately, when they let Jimmy Olsen do that for them. Lois also announces she’ll be keeping her last name once they’re married, because Lois-El doesn’t sound that great. Wait, no, she still doesn’t know she’s marrying Superman.
Speaking of which, Guy is surprised that Superman didn’t know Hal’s secret identity since they’re been in the same business for a long time, and Superman says “there was a time when nobody told their [identities]”. Foreshadowing?
The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: I said last issue that Jose is pretty lucky to be dating Cat Grant now. Maybe not so lucky, since it looks like Cat still doesn’t get over the Daily Planet’s biggest heartbreaker:

Once you make out with Clark Kent, no other man compares.

Adventures of Superman #473 (December 1990)

Superman teams up with Green Lantern and Green Lantern. This issue is called “Rings of Fire” because both Green Lanterns have power rings, and also because Clark Kent just gave Lois Lane an engagement ring last week in Superman #50 and now she’s showing it off to people. None of those rings are made of fire, though. I demand a refund.

Clark is having lunch with his beloved fiancee (who still doesn’t know he’s secretly an alien supergod), when they see a giant Green Lantern logo appear in the sky and morph into a Superman logo. Superman ditches his ladyfriend and goes looking for a Green Lantern to find out what that stunt was about. Unfortunately, out of all 3600 GLs the only one listed in the phone book is Guy Gardner, the Justice League’s resident butthead. Superman finds Guy using his cosmic powers to look at boobies.

(The things we had to do before the Internet.)

Guy has no idea about that sign in the sky, which means it was created by Earth’s other Green Lantern: Ryan Re- um, Hal Jordan. Hal, who’s going through a “finding himself by hitchhiking across America” phase in his own comic, was last seen in Wyoming before disappearing. Superman goes off to look for Hal, but Guy insists on tagging along to prove that he’s the best superhero.

Superman and Guy track down Hal’s power ring to an US Air Force base and are immediately attacked with missiles, which Guy sees as evidence that they’ve been infiltrated by commies. It’s something worse than commies, though: Guy and Superman stumble upon a huge alien spaceship buried deep under the base, and that’s where they run into…

…freaking Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, Superman’s second and third least favorite characters ever (the first one being Guy Gardner) (you thought I was gonna say Jimmy Olsen, right?). Turns out Hal was kidnapped by the Galactus-sized alien living in that ship, who has been stuck down there for centuries after a bad landing. The alien created Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught to find him an energy source for his ship, and after a few years of dicking around they finally came across Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern power battery. Unfortunately, the ship is so big that it’s gonna destroy like half of Wyoming if it lifts off.

Galactus’ cousin takes down Superman and Guy using the power of Hal’s battery, but this distraction allows Hal to free himself and help the other two. Superman, Guy and Hal hit the alien with a concentrated Green Lantern willforce blast, which involves joining hands and thinking nice thoughts. Guy loves it, naturally.

The alien is like “aw, now I’ll never leave this place” but Superman goes “all you had to do was ask for help, dummy.” Supes and the GLs manage to take out the ship without killing anyone and push it to space, and in return Galactor (I don’t know if that’s actually his name) promises to take Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught with him and never bug Superman again.

Character-Watch:

In this issue Superman makes it clear that Hal Jordan is the “real” Green Lantern to him while Guy Gardner is just an annoying asshole, but ironically, Superman will end up becoming a lot closer to Guy than he ever was to Hal. Superman and Guy will clash constantly when they become teammates in Dan Jurgens’ Justice League (this issue is almost a trial run for that book), but they’ll slowly learn to respect each other. Also, Guy turns out to be a college buddy of a member of the Superman Family, so they’re practically related.

Hal, on the other hand, ends up trying to kill the universe and punching Superman. You never know where the road of life will lead you.

Plotline-Watch:

  • So, this explains the weird cliffhanger in Adventures #469, when Psi-Phon, Dreadnaught and Mrs. Dreadnaught go into a military base and are told off by an army guy: that guy was being mind controlled by Galactor. This doesn't, however, explain what their attack on Superman in their first appearance (Adventures #442) had to do with helping their boss find a power source. Alas, Galactor’s promise to keep those jokers off Earth will not be fulfilled.
  • As I mentioned, this is the issue where Lois and Clark tell everyone they’re engaged, or more accurately, when they let Jimmy Olsen do that for them. Lois also announces she’ll be keeping her last name once they’re married, because Lois-El doesn’t sound that great. Wait, no, she still doesn’t know she’s marrying Superman.
  • Speaking of which, Guy is surprised that Superman didn’t know Hal’s secret identity since they’re been in the same business for a long time, and Superman says “there was a time when nobody told their [identities]”. Foreshadowing?
  • The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: I said last issue that Jose is pretty lucky to be dating Cat Grant now. Maybe not so lucky, since it looks like Cat still doesn’t get over the Daily Planet’s biggest heartbreaker:

Once you make out with Clark Kent, no other man compares.

Sep 29 '14
Superman #50 (December 1990)
KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE: KONCLUSION! The one with Superman’s engagement! And also the one with Superman vs. a massively overweight Lex Luthor clone with the head of a magical imp. I feel like that part doesn’t get mentioned often enough.
This epic, action-packed anniversary issue starts with Clark Kent getting unceremoniously kicked out of the LexCorp tower by security. Again.

Having lost his powers thanks to Lex Luthor’s mysterious red kryptonite, Clark must now suffer the indignity of taking public transportation to go home instead of simply leaping there. While doing that, Clark runs into a mugging in the street and a giant mutant rat in the subway, but they’re stopped by Gangbuster and the Guardian, respectively — the point being that maybe Superman isn’t that necessary after all. Now that he’s a normal, boring human who doesn’t have to save people all day, Clark finally gets around to unpacking his bags from his romantic trip to Smallville a few months ago, and finds out that Ma Kent slipped a little surprise into his luggage: an engagement ring. You know, just in case he ever wants to stop living in sin and make an honest woman out of Lois Lane.

Having nothing better to do right now, Clark figures “what the hell” and pops the big question to Lois. And Lois says… “I have to think about it.” To be fair, she does have a lot going on right now, what with her mom being in critical condition due to a secret, years-long plan by Lex Luthor to get laid with her (Lois, not her mom) (although, who knows). Anyway, Lois gets a phone call from Luthor related to the aforementioned drama, but Clark manages to hijack the conversation to schedule an interview with Lex. The subject of the interview? The fact that Lex took away Superman’s powers, thus robbing the world of its greatest hero. Lex says sure, why not.
Now, you may remember that Mr. Mxyzptlk’s one rule when he gave the red kryptonite to Luthor was that Superman couldn’t know where it came from… but Lex doesn’t know Clark is Superman, so he tells him anyway. Superman gets his powers back, and as a result Mxy reveals himself and sets a new rule: he’ll go away if Superman punches Luthor. Since Superman doesn’t wanna do that, for some reason, Mxy has no choice but to grow a giant, mordbidly obsese Lex-monster from a tiny fragment ot Lex’s skin and force Superman to fight him across Metropolis.

Superman eventually relents and punches the shit out of the Lex-monster, making Mxy disappear. With his powers back, Mxy gone and Luthor feeling like he failed in life, Superman’s job is done and he goes visit Lois’ mom at the hospital. It turns out the old lady is suddenly no longer dying, and Lois’ grumpy dad is so happy, he even admits that Clark doesn’t completely suck. And then, on the last page, this happens:

Superman is engaged to Lois Lane! Or Clark Kent is, anyway, since he’s still lying to her about his secret identity. Always a good way to start a (six-year-long) engagement.
Reference-Watch:
Back when this storyline started, Mxyzptlk told Lex he couldn’t personally mess with Superman because he was busy having fun in another dimension. Now we get a glimpse at that other place, and the shape Mxy uses when he’s there:

Those are clearly (the legs of) the Fantastic Four, albeit with The Thing temporarily covered in pink goop for copyright reasons. The coolest part is that those pages are even drawn by John Byrne and inked by Jerry Ordway, who were the creative team on Fantastic Four before they both moved to DC. So, the vacationing place Mxy was talking about was actually the Marvel Universe, where he’s known as classic FF villain The Impossible Man. The implications of this revelation are vast and fascinating, so I’ll ignore them and move on.
Plotline-Watch:
This is an oversized issue and an Ordway-written issue, which means plotlines galore:
When Luthor is trying to sweet-talk Lois on the phone, he tells her she should write his biography, but Lois is like “Didn’t your last biographer end up dead?” Well, yeah.
If you were wondering what the hell was up with that giant rat on the subway that the Guardian stopped: it was actually one of those Underworld mutants that escaped from Project Cadmus, as seen in Adventures Annual #2.
At one point Superman runs into Luthor’s grandmotherly personal physician, Dr. Gretchen Kelley, and he says Luthor is lucky to have her. Then Kelley looks all somber and thinks “Luck has nothing to do with it.” We’ll find out her sordid story in an upcoming issue.
So, uh, when exactly did Lois figure out Lex was behind her mom’s accident? A few issues ago she loved the guy for helping her mom, and now she suddenly hates his guts. Then again, there are many unanswered questions about this plot, starting with “What was Lois’ mom sick of?” and “How did she get cured?” I’m just gonna go ahead and assume Mxyzptlk’s magic was behind everything. Problem solved.
Speaking of Lois, apparently the “Ma Kent hates Lois" plot (which might have been just in my head) ended before it began, since Ma secretly gave Clark the engagement ring months ago.
The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: Jose/Gangbuster is in this issue, and no buildings fall on him. Not one building. In fact, things are looking pretty good for him since he’s officially dating Cat Grant, who must be loaded now that she has two jobs (Planet columnist and GBS reporter).
Things are looking good for Jimmy Olsen, too: Not only does his mom finally wake up from that bullshit coma she mysteriously fell in a while ago, but Jimmy manages to spend an entire issue without being an annoying turd. Good going, Jimbo!
On the other hand, Perry White is sort of falling apart: He has a strong argument with Lois on the Planet offices, and then we see that he still resents his wife for the whole “you never told me Lex Luthor was the real dad of our son who died" thing. Perry will take a drastic decision next issue and the DC Universe will never be the same.
And finally, the second most historic moment in this issue: For the past few years, there’s been a running joke in the Superman titles where every cab in Metropolis costs $6.50 — they even did a whole issue about that, sort of. Well, it was all building up to this punchline:

It truly is the end of an era.

Superman #50 (December 1990)

KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE: KONCLUSION! The one with Superman’s engagement! And also the one with Superman vs. a massively overweight Lex Luthor clone with the head of a magical imp. I feel like that part doesn’t get mentioned often enough.

This epic, action-packed anniversary issue starts with Clark Kent getting unceremoniously kicked out of the LexCorp tower by security. Again.

Having lost his powers thanks to Lex Luthor’s mysterious red kryptonite, Clark must now suffer the indignity of taking public transportation to go home instead of simply leaping there. While doing that, Clark runs into a mugging in the street and a giant mutant rat in the subway, but they’re stopped by Gangbuster and the Guardian, respectively — the point being that maybe Superman isn’t that necessary after all. Now that he’s a normal, boring human who doesn’t have to save people all day, Clark finally gets around to unpacking his bags from his romantic trip to Smallville a few months ago, and finds out that Ma Kent slipped a little surprise into his luggage: an engagement ring. You know, just in case he ever wants to stop living in sin and make an honest woman out of Lois Lane.

Having nothing better to do right now, Clark figures “what the hell” and pops the big question to Lois. And Lois says… “I have to think about it.” To be fair, she does have a lot going on right now, what with her mom being in critical condition due to a secret, years-long plan by Lex Luthor to get laid with her (Lois, not her mom) (although, who knows). Anyway, Lois gets a phone call from Luthor related to the aforementioned drama, but Clark manages to hijack the conversation to schedule an interview with Lex. The subject of the interview? The fact that Lex took away Superman’s powers, thus robbing the world of its greatest hero. Lex says sure, why not.

Now, you may remember that Mr. Mxyzptlk’s one rule when he gave the red kryptonite to Luthor was that Superman couldn’t know where it came from… but Lex doesn’t know Clark is Superman, so he tells him anyway. Superman gets his powers back, and as a result Mxy reveals himself and sets a new rule: he’ll go away if Superman punches Luthor. Since Superman doesn’t wanna do that, for some reason, Mxy has no choice but to grow a giant, mordbidly obsese Lex-monster from a tiny fragment ot Lex’s skin and force Superman to fight him across Metropolis.

Superman eventually relents and punches the shit out of the Lex-monster, making Mxy disappear. With his powers back, Mxy gone and Luthor feeling like he failed in life, Superman’s job is done and he goes visit Lois’ mom at the hospital. It turns out the old lady is suddenly no longer dying, and Lois’ grumpy dad is so happy, he even admits that Clark doesn’t completely suck. And then, on the last page, this happens:

Superman is engaged to Lois Lane! Or Clark Kent is, anyway, since he’s still lying to her about his secret identity. Always a good way to start a (six-year-long) engagement.

Reference-Watch:

Back when this storyline started, Mxyzptlk told Lex he couldn’t personally mess with Superman because he was busy having fun in another dimension. Now we get a glimpse at that other place, and the shape Mxy uses when he’s there:

Those are clearly (the legs of) the Fantastic Four, albeit with The Thing temporarily covered in pink goop for copyright reasons. The coolest part is that those pages are even drawn by John Byrne and inked by Jerry Ordway, who were the creative team on Fantastic Four before they both moved to DC. So, the vacationing place Mxy was talking about was actually the Marvel Universe, where he’s known as classic FF villain The Impossible Man. The implications of this revelation are vast and fascinating, so I’ll ignore them and move on.

Plotline-Watch:

This is an oversized issue and an Ordway-written issue, which means plotlines galore:

  • When Luthor is trying to sweet-talk Lois on the phone, he tells her she should write his biography, but Lois is like “Didn’t your last biographer end up dead?” Well, yeah.
  • If you were wondering what the hell was up with that giant rat on the subway that the Guardian stopped: it was actually one of those Underworld mutants that escaped from Project Cadmus, as seen in Adventures Annual #2.
  • At one point Superman runs into Luthor’s grandmotherly personal physician, Dr. Gretchen Kelley, and he says Luthor is lucky to have her. Then Kelley looks all somber and thinks “Luck has nothing to do with it.” We’ll find out her sordid story in an upcoming issue.
  • So, uh, when exactly did Lois figure out Lex was behind her mom’s accident? A few issues ago she loved the guy for helping her mom, and now she suddenly hates his guts. Then again, there are many unanswered questions about this plot, starting with “What was Lois’ mom sick of?” and “How did she get cured?” I’m just gonna go ahead and assume Mxyzptlk’s magic was behind everything. Problem solved.
  • Speaking of Lois, apparently the “Ma Kent hates Lois" plot (which might have been just in my head) ended before it began, since Ma secretly gave Clark the engagement ring months ago.
  • The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: Jose/Gangbuster is in this issue, and no buildings fall on him. Not one building. In fact, things are looking pretty good for him since he’s officially dating Cat Grant, who must be loaded now that she has two jobs (Planet columnist and GBS reporter).
  • Things are looking good for Jimmy Olsen, too: Not only does his mom finally wake up from that bullshit coma she mysteriously fell in a while ago, but Jimmy manages to spend an entire issue without being an annoying turd. Good going, Jimbo!
  • On the other hand, Perry White is sort of falling apart: He has a strong argument with Lois on the Planet offices, and then we see that he still resents his wife for the whole “you never told me Lex Luthor was the real dad of our son who died" thing. Perry will take a drastic decision next issue and the DC Universe will never be the same.
  • And finally, the second most historic moment in this issue: For the past few years, there’s been a running joke in the Superman titles where every cab in Metropolis costs $6.50 — they even did a whole issue about that, sort of. Well, it was all building up to this punchline:

It truly is the end of an era.

Sep 22 '14
Action Comics #659 (November 1990)
KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE, Part 3: Superman literally becomes a Man of Steel! And by literally I mean figuratively, because he just puts on an armor. It’s not like a wizard transforms him into an actual robot or something. Also, is anyone else suddenly reminded of New 52 Superman?
As seen in Starman #28, the face-shifting superhero called Starman is going around Metropolis looking like Superman because the real Superman lost his powers, and they don’t want everyone to start panicking (even though they probably should). Starman even fooled Lex Luthor into thinking Superman recovered his powers, but then Mr. Mxyzptlk’s face appears on a whirlwind of dust and tells Lex that he’s just been punked.

(Lex has a has a brain tumor and is talking to himself, isn’t he?)
Later, Starman manages to fly right into a trap that some mutinous prisoners on Stryker’s Island (led by Professor Killgrave) had prepared for Superman. The real Superman uses this opportunity to debut the brand new robot armor Professor Hamilton built for him — Robot Superman, Gangbuster and the Guardian invade the island, save Starman and stop the mutiny, but unfortunately Superman’s armor is completely destroyed in the process (along with Starman’s shirt).

That, coupled with the fact that Superman was unable to stop Professor Killgrave from escaping in a rocket (since, you know, he can’t fly and stuff), makes him feel pretty useless. IS THIS THE END OF SUPERMAN? Probably not, but let’s pretend it might be.
Plotline-Watch:
Not much to talk about here, except that while pretending to be Superman, Starman has an awkward encounter with Lois Lane, who tells him that her mom’s condition is still bad (since Superman #49). Starman just nods and pretends to know what she’s talking about.

"Odd, usually he calls me Sweet Cheeks."
Also, for some reason I like seeing the Guardian and Gangbuster, Metropolis’ two helmet-wearing non-powered heroes whose names start with a G, team up. The only time we’d seen them together before was when they fought in Superman #27, but that was actually Mentally Unbalanced Superman pretending to be Gangbuster. Hey, if Superman never gets his powers back he could form a powerless superhero team with those two and, let’s say, Maggie Sawyer! “The Regular Four” or something.
Creator-Watch:
Bob McLeod is in top shape here. I especially like all the panels of Clark Kent feeling absolutely worthless while Starman and Professor Hamilton talk about trolling Luthor:

Poor Clark. Now he’s just an average, every day reporter built like a quarterback.

Action Comics #659 (November 1990)

KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE, Part 3: Superman literally becomes a Man of Steel! And by literally I mean figuratively, because he just puts on an armor. It’s not like a wizard transforms him into an actual robot or something. Also, is anyone else suddenly reminded of New 52 Superman?

As seen in Starman #28, the face-shifting superhero called Starman is going around Metropolis looking like Superman because the real Superman lost his powers, and they don’t want everyone to start panicking (even though they probably should). Starman even fooled Lex Luthor into thinking Superman recovered his powers, but then Mr. Mxyzptlk’s face appears on a whirlwind of dust and tells Lex that he’s just been punked.

(Lex has a has a brain tumor and is talking to himself, isn’t he?)

Later, Starman manages to fly right into a trap that some mutinous prisoners on Stryker’s Island (led by Professor Killgrave) had prepared for Superman. The real Superman uses this opportunity to debut the brand new robot armor Professor Hamilton built for him — Robot Superman, Gangbuster and the Guardian invade the island, save Starman and stop the mutiny, but unfortunately Superman’s armor is completely destroyed in the process (along with Starman’s shirt).

That, coupled with the fact that Superman was unable to stop Professor Killgrave from escaping in a rocket (since, you know, he can’t fly and stuff), makes him feel pretty useless. IS THIS THE END OF SUPERMAN? Probably not, but let’s pretend it might be.

Plotline-Watch:

Not much to talk about here, except that while pretending to be Superman, Starman has an awkward encounter with Lois Lane, who tells him that her mom’s condition is still bad (since Superman #49). Starman just nods and pretends to know what she’s talking about.

"Odd, usually he calls me Sweet Cheeks."

Also, for some reason I like seeing the Guardian and Gangbuster, Metropolis’ two helmet-wearing non-powered heroes whose names start with a G, team up. The only time we’d seen them together before was when they fought in Superman #27, but that was actually Mentally Unbalanced Superman pretending to be Gangbuster. Hey, if Superman never gets his powers back he could form a powerless superhero team with those two and, let’s say, Maggie Sawyer! “The Regular Four” or something.

Creator-Watch:

Bob McLeod is in top shape here. I especially like all the panels of Clark Kent feeling absolutely worthless while Starman and Professor Hamilton talk about trolling Luthor:

Poor Clark. Now he’s just an average, every day reporter built like a quarterback.

Sep 16 '14

A Guide to Superman ‘86-‘99 Comics Collections (Part 1)

This was gonna be a short post to gush about the fact that DC just announced the “Sinbad Contract” storyline will be collected for the first time in 24 years right after I talked about it (clearly, someone at the company reads this blog) (do “Blackout” next!), but I got a little carried away. So, here’s a guide to all the Superman tradepaperback editions from this era that have come out so far:

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 1

Or just Superman: The Man of Steel. This one collects the full MoS miniseries by John Byrne, chronicling Superman’s origin, his first meetings with Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Batman, and, more importantly, the explanation of how Superman shaves.

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 2

Superman faces deranged villains like Metallo, Darkseid and some crazy guy called Professor Hamilton. Contains the full storyline where Superman loses his memory and thinks he’s Darkseid’s son, then murders some space hobos.

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 3

Superman fights giant robot mummies, gets ditched in space by Hawkman and invades the terrorist nation of Qurac. Also includes the Bloodsport issue, otherwise known as “the only time Jimmy Olsen was ever useful.”

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 4

More assorted stories, but the main dish here is the four-part crossover with the Legion of Super-Heroes, in which Superman visits the Pocket Universe and gets into a fight with his own alternate-reality teenage self, and said teenage self’s super-smart flying dog (Superboy and Krypto).

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 5

The one with the Superman/Big Barda porn tape. Also Gangbuster’s debut and the Joker and other stuff. But mainly the porn tape. May be sold out in most comic book stores.

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 6

All three 1987 Superman Annuals: the one with Superman and Batman versus a sexy vampire, the one with the giant ape, and the one with Hfuhruhurr the brain-stealer. Also, Superman fights Booster Gold and dates a mermaid.

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 7

All of the Superman tie-ins with DC’s Millennium crossover event, in which supporting cast members in every superhero’s book turned out to be alien robot sleeper agents. In Superman’s case, it was the entire town of Smallville. Also, Gangbuster gets crippled for life, irreparably, forever.

Superman: World of Krypton

The only one of the “World of…” miniseries that’s been collected, but also the only one that’s worth a damn. The tale of Superman’s ancestors, and how they ruined everything. Art by Mike Mignola!

Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 8

The last of the Man of Steel reprint volumes so far, so there are some gaps in the issues starting from here. This one includes the super-sized Action Comics #600, in which Superman makes out with Wonder Woman and gets sick. Batman is in it for like two pages.

Superman: Exile

Superman exiles himself in outer space, becomes a gladiator and grows a sweet beard. Man, that beard was great. Featuring Mongul, Draaga and the return of Helferfer the brain stealer. Also, Superman finds a thing called the Eradicator and brings it to Earth, a decision that will surely never backfire.

Superman: Eradication!

Superman’s decision to bring a thing called Eradicator to Earth backfires epically as he is brainwashed into becoming the cold, dickish Krypton Man. This one is out of print, but you can find it used pretty easily.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis

Superman and Batman learn to get along for the first time ever, as they investigate the case of the kryptonite ring. Gangbuster is in it, no longer crippled for life forever. Also includes the sexy vampire annual again, in case you wanted two copies of that. I can see why you might.

Superman: The Power Within

The just-announced collection I mentioned up there. Besides the  “Sinbad Contract” storyline, this also contains the entire Action Comics Weekly Superman serial by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, which is pretty good news for Superman completionists because until now, the only ways to read it were 1) buying 42 non-Superman comics just for the two-page inserts, or 2) shady online means.

Superman/Batman: World’s Finest

GET THIS WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR

Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite

The thing we’re covering now! Superman loses his powers to Mr. Mxyzptlk’s red kryptonite, and then… uh, don’t look too closely at the cover because there’s a pretty big spoiler there. Also out of print but easy to find.

That’s it so far. I’ll continue when we’ve accumulated enough storylines to justify it, so in like ten years.

Sep 13 '14
Starman #28 (November 1990)
What? Why is there a Starman comic in this blog? Because this is Part 2 ½ of KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE, the storyline that will change Superman forever! (Also because I’ve been super busy this week and haven’t even had time to read any Superman, but I did read this thing.)
In this issue: Superman, having lost his powers (Superman #49) and subsequently realized he sucks without powers (Adventures #472), asks Starman to come over to Metropolis and use his solar abilities to replentish Superman’s batteries. All this plan accomplishes, however, is giving Superman a nice tan (and, apparently, the douchey attitude that comes with one).

Meanwhile, word is getting around Metropolis that Superman may be sick, which means criminals are suddenly getting ballsier. Luckily, one of Starman’s vaguely defined powers is identity theft, so he disguises himself as Superman and flies around the city for a while to prevent panic from spreading. Fake Superman even fools Lex Luthor, who angrily attacks him with the red kryptonite that took away Real Superman’s powers — Superstarman just grabs the rock and flies away with Luthor’s private property, leaving poor Lex utterly baffled.


Wait, did he… make fun of Luthor’s cancer? Is that another power Starman has? Finding out if someone is terminally ill and mocking them from it? Wikipedia doesn’t mention anything like that.
Anyway, Professor Hamilton examines the red K to see if he can revert its effects… but nope, all his intruments say it’s just a regular red rock that glows. And since Superman doesn’t want to rely on Starman forever (can you imagine a Superman with a mullet?!), it’s time for the next crazy plan: ROBOT ARMORS. Continued!
Plotline-Watch:
The robot armor is something Professor Hamilton apparently just threw together in a day, based on that other armor he and Gangbuster once stole from LexCorp (Adventures #451). We’ll see it in action in the next Action.
The reason they thought Superman could get his powers back just by standing near Starman is that that technique did work the last time they met (Starman #14 and Action #645), after Superman’s powers got briefly hijacked by the Parasite. So the plan wasn’t that stupid.
SIX-FIFTY: At one point we see a pair of tourists coming out of a cab in Metropolis and spotting Starman in the sky. The cab fare is… $10.60. Tourists always get ripped off.
This comic is a must-have for any serious Superman collector, because it contains a rare appearance of one of Superman’s most obscure villains: Professor Killgrave (the midget with the Moe haircut last seen in Superman #19), who is shown planning a breakout in his cell at Stryker’s Island. I’ve read this storyline a bunch of times and I seriously forgot that guy was in it.
WTF-Watch:
Speaking of guys called Professor who are insane, I like how Professor Hamilton immediately volunteers his whole life story, including the unsavory parts, to Starman, a guy he’s never met before.

Jesus, all he said “How do you do?” — ask Professor Hamilton for the time and he’ll tell you about his erectile dysfunction problem.

Starman #28 (November 1990)

What? Why is there a Starman comic in this blog? Because this is Part 2 ½ of KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE, the storyline that will change Superman forever! (Also because I’ve been super busy this week and haven’t even had time to read any Superman, but I did read this thing.)

In this issue: Superman, having lost his powers (Superman #49) and subsequently realized he sucks without powers (Adventures #472), asks Starman to come over to Metropolis and use his solar abilities to replentish Superman’s batteries. All this plan accomplishes, however, is giving Superman a nice tan (and, apparently, the douchey attitude that comes with one).

Meanwhile, word is getting around Metropolis that Superman may be sick, which means criminals are suddenly getting ballsier. Luckily, one of Starman’s vaguely defined powers is identity theft, so he disguises himself as Superman and flies around the city for a while to prevent panic from spreading. Fake Superman even fools Lex Luthor, who angrily attacks him with the red kryptonite that took away Real Superman’s powers — Superstarman just grabs the rock and flies away with Luthor’s private property, leaving poor Lex utterly baffled.

Wait, did he… make fun of Luthor’s cancer? Is that another power Starman has? Finding out if someone is terminally ill and mocking them from it? Wikipedia doesn’t mention anything like that.

Anyway, Professor Hamilton examines the red K to see if he can revert its effects… but nope, all his intruments say it’s just a regular red rock that glows. And since Superman doesn’t want to rely on Starman forever (can you imagine a Superman with a mullet?!), it’s time for the next crazy plan: ROBOT ARMORS. Continued!

Plotline-Watch:

  • The robot armor is something Professor Hamilton apparently just threw together in a day, based on that other armor he and Gangbuster once stole from LexCorp (Adventures #451). We’ll see it in action in the next Action.
  • The reason they thought Superman could get his powers back just by standing near Starman is that that technique did work the last time they met (Starman #14 and Action #645), after Superman’s powers got briefly hijacked by the Parasite. So the plan wasn’t that stupid.
  • SIX-FIFTY: At one point we see a pair of tourists coming out of a cab in Metropolis and spotting Starman in the sky. The cab fare is… $10.60. Tourists always get ripped off.
  • This comic is a must-have for any serious Superman collector, because it contains a rare appearance of one of Superman’s most obscure villains: Professor Killgrave (the midget with the Moe haircut last seen in Superman #19), who is shown planning a breakout in his cell at Stryker’s Island. I’ve read this storyline a bunch of times and I seriously forgot that guy was in it.

WTF-Watch:

Speaking of guys called Professor who are insane, I like how Professor Hamilton immediately volunteers his whole life story, including the unsavory parts, to Starman, a guy he’s never met before.

Jesus, all he said “How do you do?” — ask Professor Hamilton for the time and he’ll tell you about his erectile dysfunction problem.

Sep 7 '14
Adventures of Superman #472 (November 1990)
More like Adventures of MAN #472 (November 1990), because Superman just lost all of his super back in part one of KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE. Undeterred, The Man of Regular-Human-Flesh tries to continue his superheroing career by replacing his powers with a rope, some gloves, a bulletproof vest and a faulty force field belt (all borrowed from Professor Hamilton). Considering that the issue starts with not-Superman hanging upside down and about to get a tractor thrown at his face, that plan isn’t going too well.

The big guy (in case he didn’t mention his name enough times) is Mammoth of the Fearsome Five — who, by the way, already defeated Superman once when he had his powers (Adventures #430), so this situation isn’t looking good. Before Mammoth can kill Superman, though, Maggie Sawyer and the Special Crimes Unit almost do that themselves by unloading their full arsenal on his general direction, thinking he can take it. Superman manages to hide from the explosions by crawling into a sewer, and then convinces Mammoth to turn himself in using the real power that was inside him all along: the power of smack talk.


Unfortunately, not all villains are as dumb as Mammoth, so going around talking criminals into submission probably isn’t gonna be a sustainable crimefighting technique (it works for Batman, but that dude is crazy). So, Superman comes up with an idea to get his powers back: getting a bath of solar radiation. Luckily, he knows a guy who practically poops solar radiation and happens to owe him a favor, so Superman calls him on the phone and…
TO BE CONTINUED! IN STARMAN #28!
Plotline-Watch:
Clark Kent visits Lois Lane’s mom at the hospital as she continues getting worse, because he’s a supportive boyfriend and all. Then he flips out on Lois when she casually mentions that Lex Luthor has been paying for her mom’s meds for years — meds that don’t work anymore, but Lois says she’ll do anything to keep her mom alive. Anything. Including bald people, presumably.
Because I know you were wondering: Clark’s cab ride to the hospital is $6.50.
The force field belt Professor Hamilton lends Superman is, of course, the same one the good professor used in Adventures #425 to try to kill Superman and also a random hooker, as I’ll never, ever get tired of reminding people. On a related note, Hamilton mentions that he heard about Mammoth’s legendary stupidity while he was in prison. You know, I’d read a miniseries about Hamilton’s time in jail and how he managed to keep himself alive/unmolested through wacky improvised inventions.
The sister that Mammoth wanted to get a birthday present for (by robbing a jewelry store) is Shimmer, also of the Fearsome Five. I think at one point DC killed her off, and then for some reason Mammoth turned super-smart.
WTF-Watch:
I think pretty much everyone is bizarrely out of character during that aforementioned hospital scene:
Let’s start with Clark. Is it me or does he come off as an insensitive jackass towards Lois, considering the whole “her mom is dying” thing? It doesn’t help that the art kinda makes it look like he’s shaking her by the shoulders.

Then there’s Lois herself, though this is more of continuity nitpick: she says she’s been “getting closer” with Luthor since he saved her mom’s life (after secretly making her sick himself), but that was three years ago, and she seemed repulsed by Lex as recently as the “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” storyline. She even says she’ll “never forget what he did to her mom” when they run into him at the Baldy Awards gala. So, when exactly did she get “close” with Lex? I would not read a miniseries about that.
Lois’ dad, who has historically been a macho asshole, notices Clark’s face is bruised and rather than commending him for getting into a fight, he calls him irresponsible. But, his wife is dying so I guess he gets a pass.
And finally, Lucy Lane’s personality isn’t really off, but she barely has a personality to start with so it doesn’t count.

Adventures of Superman #472 (November 1990)

More like Adventures of MAN #472 (November 1990), because Superman just lost all of his super back in part one of KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE. Undeterred, The Man of Regular-Human-Flesh tries to continue his superheroing career by replacing his powers with a rope, some gloves, a bulletproof vest and a faulty force field belt (all borrowed from Professor Hamilton). Considering that the issue starts with not-Superman hanging upside down and about to get a tractor thrown at his face, that plan isn’t going too well.

The big guy (in case he didn’t mention his name enough times) is Mammoth of the Fearsome Five — who, by the way, already defeated Superman once when he had his powers (Adventures #430), so this situation isn’t looking good. Before Mammoth can kill Superman, though, Maggie Sawyer and the Special Crimes Unit almost do that themselves by unloading their full arsenal on his general direction, thinking he can take it. Superman manages to hide from the explosions by crawling into a sewer, and then convinces Mammoth to turn himself in using the real power that was inside him all along: the power of smack talk.

Unfortunately, not all villains are as dumb as Mammoth, so going around talking criminals into submission probably isn’t gonna be a sustainable crimefighting technique (it works for Batman, but that dude is crazy). So, Superman comes up with an idea to get his powers back: getting a bath of solar radiation. Luckily, he knows a guy who practically poops solar radiation and happens to owe him a favor, so Superman calls him on the phone and…

TO BE CONTINUED! IN STARMAN #28!

Plotline-Watch:

  • Clark Kent visits Lois Lane’s mom at the hospital as she continues getting worse, because he’s a supportive boyfriend and all. Then he flips out on Lois when she casually mentions that Lex Luthor has been paying for her mom’s meds for years — meds that don’t work anymore, but Lois says she’ll do anything to keep her mom alive. Anything. Including bald people, presumably.
  • Because I know you were wondering: Clark’s cab ride to the hospital is $6.50.
  • The force field belt Professor Hamilton lends Superman is, of course, the same one the good professor used in Adventures #425 to try to kill Superman and also a random hooker, as I’ll never, ever get tired of reminding people. On a related note, Hamilton mentions that he heard about Mammoth’s legendary stupidity while he was in prison. You know, I’d read a miniseries about Hamilton’s time in jail and how he managed to keep himself alive/unmolested through wacky improvised inventions.
  • The sister that Mammoth wanted to get a birthday present for (by robbing a jewelry store) is Shimmer, also of the Fearsome Five. I think at one point DC killed her off, and then for some reason Mammoth turned super-smart.

WTF-Watch:

I think pretty much everyone is bizarrely out of character during that aforementioned hospital scene:

  • Let’s start with Clark. Is it me or does he come off as an insensitive jackass towards Lois, considering the whole “her mom is dying” thing? It doesn’t help that the art kinda makes it look like he’s shaking her by the shoulders.

  • Then there’s Lois herself, though this is more of continuity nitpick: she says she’s been “getting closer” with Luthor since he saved her mom’s life (after secretly making her sick himself), but that was three years ago, and she seemed repulsed by Lex as recently as the “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” storyline. She even says she’ll “never forget what he did to her mom” when they run into him at the Baldy Awards gala. So, when exactly did she get “close” with Lex? I would not read a miniseries about that.
  • Lois’ dad, who has historically been a macho asshole, notices Clark’s face is bruised and rather than commending him for getting into a fight, he calls him irresponsible. But, his wife is dying so I guess he gets a pass.
  • And finally, Lucy Lane’s personality isn’t really off, but she barely has a personality to start with so it doesn’t count.
Sep 4 '14
Superman #49 (November 1990)
It’s here: KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE! Despite the silly name, which sounds kinda offensive when you strip it down to just the initials (KOKK), this is one of the most important Superman storylines ever. For starters, the scene on the cover actually appears in the comic: Lex Luthor really does beat the crap out of Superman in a fist fight. Or, uh, a fist/lump fight.

This historic moment is possible thanks to a chunk of red kryptonite that Lex gets as a gift from Mr. Mxyzptlk, who is busy in another dimension at the moment but still doesn’t want to miss his quarterly appointment to bust Superman’s balls. According to Myxzptlk, the red K will magically turn Lex into Superman’s physical equal — the only rule (because there’s always a rule) is that Superman can never know that Mxy is involved. After Lex has analyzedthe rock to make sure that this type of kryptonite won’t make another part of his body fall off, he follows Mxyzptlk’s instructions and activates it… only to find out the kryptonite won’t give him Superman-like powers, it just gives Superman the powers of an overweight, balding businessman. So, no powers, and possibly asthma.
A fight ensues at Lex’s office and the now powerless Superman loses, partly because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, and partly because he probably isn’t accostumed to feeling pain in his knuckles when he punches someone. Rather than killing Superman, though, Lex just has him kicked out of his office to make him suffer the indignity of being escorted out of a building by security, which is worse than death.

A crowd surrounds Superman and overwhelms him, but this time he can’t just fly away from their filthy hands. Luckily, a cabbie that Superman once saved (as told in Action $6.50) rescues him from the crowd and gives him a free ride to Clark Kent’s apartment. Does that mean the cabbie now knows that Kent is Superman? Nope, because there is no Superman anymore. THE END.
I mean, TO BE CONTINUED.
Plotline-Watch:
This whole storyline is about Superman suddenly becoming mortal, so appropriately, mortality is a big theme in this issue:
It opens with Lex Luthor stalking Perry White as he visits the grave of his (Lex’s) recently deceased son Jerry. Perry and Alice White’s marriage is going through a rocky moment right now, on account of everything I just said.
Luthor himself, of course, also learned recently that he only has months to live thanks to green kryptonite poisoning, so this is like his last big chance to defeat Superman forever.
Lois Lane tells Clark that she just found out her mom is dying. Remember Luthor secretly made Lois’ mom sick way back in Adventures #424 only to give her the cure, all part of a plan to score with Lois. I guess that now that she’s officially dating Clark, Lex finally gave up on that prospect and stopped giving her free meds.
Non-death related plots:
Lex isn’t the only amputee Superman fights in this issue: there’s also Barrage, the stock villain with an arm cannon who put “Terrible” Turpin in the hospital a while ago. Superman happens to be flying Barrage to Stryker’s Island when he loses his powers and they both end up underwater… at which point Barrage is fished out by Turpin himself. Theirs is truly a rivalry for the ages.
Lotto fever hits Metropolis! The store Barrage hits up is selling tickets for a $20 million jackpot. One of our supporting characters will win that money, and the DC Universe will never be the same again.

Pete Ross apparently traveled all the way from Smallville to Metropolis just to ask Clark if he could start courting Lana Lang… even though Pete already started doing that. Pretty dishonest, Pete. No wonder he becomes a successful politician, folks!
And finally, Mxyzptlk first offered Lex the red kryptonite back during the Superman/Flash race (as thanks for teaching him how to lie), but Luthor thought it was a joke and ignored him. To be fair, red kryptonite was a joke in the old continuity, where it turned Superman into wacky things.
BJ-Watch:
Moving on to more important matters, donsparrow got back to me about the BJ panel in the World’s Finest miniseries: turns out it’s on issue #1, page 35. I see the amorous couple now, Don! I just figured they were innocently making out in the park with their shirts off, since the guy’s pants appear to be fully up (at least in my copy).
Incidentally, this issue also has a BJ panel — as in, a “Byrne, John” one (which is almost as perverted).

Superman #49 (November 1990)

It’s here: KRISIS OF THE KRIMSON KRYPTONITE! Despite the silly name, which sounds kinda offensive when you strip it down to just the initials (KOKK), this is one of the most important Superman storylines ever. For starters, the scene on the cover actually appears in the comic: Lex Luthor really does beat the crap out of Superman in a fist fight. Or, uh, a fist/lump fight.

This historic moment is possible thanks to a chunk of red kryptonite that Lex gets as a gift from Mr. Mxyzptlk, who is busy in another dimension at the moment but still doesn’t want to miss his quarterly appointment to bust Superman’s balls. According to Myxzptlk, the red K will magically turn Lex into Superman’s physical equal — the only rule (because there’s always a rule) is that Superman can never know that Mxy is involved. After Lex has analyzedthe rock to make sure that this type of kryptonite won’t make another part of his body fall off, he follows Mxyzptlk’s instructions and activates it… only to find out the kryptonite won’t give him Superman-like powers, it just gives Superman the powers of an overweight, balding businessman. So, no powers, and possibly asthma.

A fight ensues at Lex’s office and the now powerless Superman loses, partly because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, and partly because he probably isn’t accostumed to feeling pain in his knuckles when he punches someone. Rather than killing Superman, though, Lex just has him kicked out of his office to make him suffer the indignity of being escorted out of a building by security, which is worse than death.

A crowd surrounds Superman and overwhelms him, but this time he can’t just fly away from their filthy hands. Luckily, a cabbie that Superman once saved (as told in Action $6.50) rescues him from the crowd and gives him a free ride to Clark Kent’s apartment. Does that mean the cabbie now knows that Kent is Superman? Nope, because there is no Superman anymore. THE END.

I mean, TO BE CONTINUED.

Plotline-Watch:

This whole storyline is about Superman suddenly becoming mortal, so appropriately, mortality is a big theme in this issue:

  • It opens with Lex Luthor stalking Perry White as he visits the grave of his (Lex’s) recently deceased son Jerry. Perry and Alice White’s marriage is going through a rocky moment right now, on account of everything I just said.
  • Luthor himself, of course, also learned recently that he only has months to live thanks to green kryptonite poisoning, so this is like his last big chance to defeat Superman forever.
  • Lois Lane tells Clark that she just found out her mom is dying. Remember Luthor secretly made Lois’ mom sick way back in Adventures #424 only to give her the cure, all part of a plan to score with Lois. I guess that now that she’s officially dating Clark, Lex finally gave up on that prospect and stopped giving her free meds.

Non-death related plots:

  • Lex isn’t the only amputee Superman fights in this issue: there’s also Barrage, the stock villain with an arm cannon who put “Terrible” Turpin in the hospital a while ago. Superman happens to be flying Barrage to Stryker’s Island when he loses his powers and they both end up underwater… at which point Barrage is fished out by Turpin himself. Theirs is truly a rivalry for the ages.
  • Lotto fever hits Metropolis! The store Barrage hits up is selling tickets for a $20 million jackpot. One of our supporting characters will win that money, and the DC Universe will never be the same again.

  • Pete Ross apparently traveled all the way from Smallville to Metropolis just to ask Clark if he could start courting Lana Lang… even though Pete already started doing that. Pretty dishonest, Pete. No wonder he becomes a successful politician, folks!
  • And finally, Mxyzptlk first offered Lex the red kryptonite back during the Superman/Flash race (as thanks for teaching him how to lie), but Luthor thought it was a joke and ignored him. To be fair, red kryptonite was a joke in the old continuity, where it turned Superman into wacky things.

BJ-Watch:

Moving on to more important matters, donsparrow got back to me about the BJ panel in the World’s Finest miniseries: turns out it’s on issue #1, page 35. I see the amorous couple now, Don! I just figured they were innocently making out in the park with their shirts off, since the guy’s pants appear to be fully up (at least in my copy).

Incidentally, this issue also has a BJ panel — as in, a “Byrne, John” one (which is almost as perverted).