The Man of Steel #1 classic comic re-read – Byrne reinvents the wheel
This classic comic re-read of The Man of Steel #1 contains some minor spoilers.
By 1986 the good people at DC had realized that after Crisis on Infinite Earth, Superman needed a facelift. With continuity addressed in that 12-issue series, the powers that be decided that all the big hitters would receive a new look, and top talents were recruited to get the ball rolling.
John Byrne was stolen from his amazing run on Fantastic Four at Marvel to take control of Superman, and it seemed DC made him an offer he could not refuse, as he left the FF before completing what he wanted to be a record-breaking run on that series.
The Man of Steel was a 6-issue series that would reintroduce readers to all things Superman. Clark and his supporting cast would be fleshed out and re-invigorated for a new era in comics, and the run would be headlined “The Comics Event of the Century”.
Issue 1 is a prologue and we start on Krypton before the planet explodes. Jor-El and Lara are looking for a planet to send baby Kal El to, and Earth, despite its primitive appearance, they know their son will have superpowers there, and they send Kal out into space as Krypton explodes.
From there we start Chapter 1 and young Clark Kent is on the football field in Smallville and is the hero of the day. Byrne subverts our expectations here, as previously Clark was shy, retiring, and not the hero he appears to be here. Clark knows he is different. Pa Kent decides it’s time to show Clark the spaceship he arrived in and explains how they came to find him. By the end of that chapter, Clark has decided to make his way out to the bigger world beyond Smallville.
By Chapter 2, we see that Ma Kent has been keeping a scrapbook of Clark’s feats, clipped from newspapers. However, a photograph has appeared that shows a mysterious “superman” saving a spaceplane on a maiden voyage. Clark was unable to work in the shadows and is seen by many people as he saves the day.
He returns to his folks’ home in Smallville, where he explains that on board the ship he saved was Lois Lane, and she wants a word with Clark, however by then a crowd has arrived, Clark panics and takes off and has come back home for the support of his folks.
It is here, at last, we get a montage of the creation of his costume, and the last page splash shows our hero flying into the air wearing his costume for the first time.
Written and penciled by John Byrne with inks from Dick Giordano, this re-boot of Superman is a crisp, clean, precise retelling of the Superman story that oozes style, confidence, and spirit. The 6 issue run would re-invigorate the character, and Byrne would continue with Superman after the 6 issues of The Man of Steel, with the title restarting at issue #1 again.
Reboots nowadays seem to happen every year or two, but back in 1986, the relaunch of DC’s top-selling characters was groundbreaking. In the first 6 issues, Byrne has an obvious love for what he is doing, and Clark and his supporting cast have never looked better. Things move faster than a speeding bullet, and his linework is exceptional.
A creator at his peak working on a title that he loves produced a run of issues that are still loved and respected today.