Nov. 3rd, 2011

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Perhaps you've seen the commercials about how DC Comics has revamped their continuity to make things relevant and accessible and new reader friendly? This one explains it:

Okay, actually it doesn't really explain much of anything.

Anyway, all DC Comics were started over with new issue number ones in September. (52 of them, hence the New 52 slogan which seems kind of pointless to me.) But it's not just the numbers on the cover that have changed.

Because of some weird timey-wimey adventure called Flashpoint, fellow hero (and time-traveller) the Flash broke the existing timeline and didn't quite put it back together right. The history of DC Comics characters has been altered. For as long as I can remember, the "present day" of the "DC Universe" was about 10 to 12 years after Superman first appeared. Now it's five years. So, the heroes are a bit younger. Their clothes have changed -- a lot of them seem to be wearing collars and underwear on the outside is now a fashion faux-pas. Married heroes like Superman and the Flash have now never been married. Wheelchair-bound Oracle, the information broker formerly known as Batgirl, has been magically healed and is fighting crime in the cape and cowl again. (A huge step backwards, in my not so humble opinion.) And Batman and Green Lantern.. actually as their comics were selling, their histories apparently haven't changed that much.

Superman's history, personality and costume were radically changed. Action Comics started with a cover date of June 1938 and recently published its 900th had its numbering reset too. (A numbering which had previously withstood all previous temporal changes to Superman's history.)

I had been thinking for a while about reviewing the new issues of Action Comics and Superman. And then, Clark Kent referred to his famous alter ego as "Robin Hood with the Strength of Ten Men". That made up my mind for me.

It's not the first time that the backstory of Superman has changed. And before I get to reviewing Superman as he is now, I want to review Superman as he was.

Click here for the history of Superman )

I've said that one reason I got into Robin Hood was it was the first character where I really got a sense that myths and legends changed over time. But that's not quite true.

Even as a kid, I was well aware that Superman and Batman had changed radically over the years. I had two hardback collections Superman From Thirties to the Seventies and Batman from Thirties to the Seventies which featured reprints (mostly black-and-white) from the whole history of the characters. Also, DC often reprinted their old stories in special issues or digest collections. As a kid, I was familiar with a Clark Kent who worked for Morgan Edge (a seedier, less paternal version of Perry White) at station WGBS, but I also knew the Superman who worked at the Daily Star and the 1960s Daily Planet employee whose head turned into a giant ant thanks to Red Kryptonite. And even the Byrne revision happened when it was young enough that Superman feels like my Superman too.

Now that I have the background out of the way, I can get on with the review of the new, new, new Superman.

November 2011

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