With Unshelved, I pull comics from my collection and give them another read, sometimes for the first time in 30 years! These days I’m going through all of the Superman and Superman-related books from the end of Return of Superman through 1999!
Having finished Return Of Superman, it was time to jump back into my individual issues of Superman: The Man Of Steel, Superman, Adventures Of Superman and Action Comics. It was so fun just looking at these covers and putting them in Triangle order that I was awash in nostalgia from the get go. Normally, any time I go back and check out something I loved from my childhood — I was about 10 when I read these books for the first time and just turned 40 last month — I’m a little wary that it might not hold up, but I wasn’t as worried this time because I was so impressed with how the creators handled the Death and Return stories and that carried on into this reading as well.
I probably won’t cover this many titles in future posts, but the way things broke down, there were two books with October 1993 cover dates after Return ended — Adventures #505 and Action #692 — and then we have the November books Man Of Steel #27, Superman #83, Adventures #506 and Action #693. If you’re playing along at home, that covers Triangle Numbers 31-36 for the year.
We start off with a bang thanks to Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet’s Adventures #505. I mean, just look at that holofoil cover! I’m sure I wasn’t too jazzed about dropping a whopping $2.50 on this issue back in the day (most comics cost a dollar less than that and I was only working with a $5 weekly allowance), but it just looks so pretty! As you might expect, this issue deals with a lot of the post-Return clean-up, but my favorite part is the private reunion between Clark and Lois. This seems like the perfect place to note that while Superman’s my favorite hero, Lois Lane is probably my favorite character, so it did my heart good to see her back with the love of her life. Beyond appearances by Superboy, Steel and Supergirl and the debut of a villain named Loophole who gets stuck in a bank vault door, this issue reveals that some people have been stuck in rubble since the Doomsday attack. A plot point that will get picked up in…
Action #692 by Roger Stern (who signed my copy!) and Jackson Guice! It might not have holofoil, but I do love this simple image of Clark pulling back his shirt to reveal the S-shield. Inside, Superman uncovers another survivor from the rubble….Clark Kent! He had been presumed dead in the wake of Doomsday’s rampage, so the shape-shifting Supergirl agreed to help by taking on Kent’s form in an effort to return him to the land of the living. We also learn that Eradicator is being monitored at S.T.A.R. Labs and showing signs of life. The brunt of the issue features Dr. Occult appearing and explaining to both Superman and Lois how he managed to come back from the dead (he had used all of his solar-powered energy stopping Doomsday and needed to be replenished, which happened at the Fortress Of Solitude) and also explained that he could not do it again, which nicely fits in with the post-Crisis On Infinite Earths idea of keeping his powers more grounded.
Moving on to Man Of Steel #27 by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, the issue opens with two elements that will play into the books moving forward: the villain Bloodthirst and the Underworlders, clones created by Dabney Donovan who live in the sewers below Metropolis. But don’t worry about them for a while. The rest of the installment shows Clark finally reuniting with Ma and Pa Kent (I can’t believe this didn’t happen sooner), some super-sleuthing by Lois and then a confrontation between Supes and Lex Luthor II (who was actually the original Lex in a cloned body pretending to be his own son, though I’m not sure if we’re supposed to know that yet). I can’t say for sure, but this issue probably went a long way towards building my infatuation with the character because she shows her bad-assness both as an investigator and during a crisis (a crashing zeppelin, go figure).
Dan Jurgens wrote and drew Superman #83 which nods back to the “Funeral For A Friend” storyline that took place between Death and Return. This isn’t my favorite cover, but I love how very 90s the group shot is (more on that below) and the fact that they brought back the simple, yet effective “FFAF” trade dress. The issue starts with the (I believe) first meeting between Superman and Azrael Batman and then a reintroduction of Cat Grant, her son Adam and a lead-in to the saddest Superman story I’ve ever read. But, the rest brings together a group of heroes to figure out what to do with the remains of Coast City and the fortress that Cyborg and Mongul built on top of it. After Aquaman nixed the idea of just dumping it all in the ocean, they build a memorial with an eternal flame to remember all the lives lost.
I’m going to briefly pause here because I just have to talk about this group of assembled heroes. You’ve got stalwarts like Wonder Woman, Flash and Hal Jordan, though the Amazon and the space cop are both about to lose their titles, though Diana gets hers back much faster than Hal. Then you’ve got the family of heroes Sentinel, Jade and Obsidian, an interesting trio who were also tricked by Cyborg Superman into going to space during the main stage of his attack. I’m just not sure why they were included because they weren’t part of the JLA — like Guy Gardner, Maxima, Metamorpho and Flash — and weren’t really appearing anywhere else to the best of my knowledge. Also, it’s wild seeing hooded Green Arrow and this specific Hawkman, though even he will go through a major physical change in a year (a look I based a custom action figure on 13 freaking years ago!). I know this isn’t an event book, but it has a similar energy because it perfectly captures the characters as they were at the time. Heck, even the Justice League Europe crew made it onto the cover along with the Inza Kent version of Dr. Fate, though they don’t show up inside.
Okay, let’s finish strong! Kessel and Grummett also did Adventures #506 which once more shines the spotlight on Superboy. He learns from the people at Cadmus that he’s partially a clone of Superman, but his powers — the oft-mentioned tactile telekinesis — actually came about because they were only able to copy the protective field around Superman’s body. Huh. Okay. Beyond that, this one sets the stage for the kid’s solo series which will bow with a February 1994 cover date. There’s no way they would take five months to launch those kinds of spinoffs today! Anyway, Superboy plans on leaving Metropolis which will vacate his apartment — the one that previously belonged to Clark — which means our hero can stop rooming with Jimmy Olsen (which only just happened at the end of Superman #83). I gotta talk about one small moment in this issue that I loved and that was a conversation between Clark and Jimmy about music. First of all, it was a nice reminded that Clark is a young man and must have favorite bands and performers. Beyond that, it also got me thinking about how much different songs must sound to him given his super hearing. Maybe Clark should ditch feature writing and review albums!
Finally, we have yet another launchpad issue in the form of Action #693 by Stern and Guice. After realizing that the the Fortress Of Solitude has been utterly destroyed (don’t worry, it’ll get better eventually), Superman flew to check in on its creator the Eradicator who was still at S.T.A.R. Labs where an accident fused him with Dr. David Connors. This new version of Eradicator mixed it up with Superman a bit, but then convinced him that he deserved to live his own life and flew off to do that as you’ll see in issues of Outsiders!
Once again, I have to give the creators and editors of the Superman books a lot of credit. They seem to work seamlessly with one another to create this amazing tapestry. I honestly can’t think of any non-crossover that has even come close to reaching these levels of interactivity and this has been going on for years. On top of that, each team gets to not only seed upcoming stories in their own titles, but the other three as well. I’m sure I missed several even on this read through and there must have been a few threads that never got picked back up.
I’ll also just note here that I’m glad I’ve read a good deal of the comics taking place between Crisis and Doomsday because so many characters and stories are referenced in these. I was able to do that mostly through the Man Of Steel trades which started collecting those issues in chronological order along with a few others here and there, but I think most if not all of them are on DC Universe Infinite. You don’t need to read them to dig these books, but I think it helps. If you’re looking for foundational-type recommendations beyond that, I would also say definitely read the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Newsboy Legion stories as well as Kirby’s issues of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. I mean, I consider everything Jack did in the 70s to be must-read, but the characters in those books definitely play a major role in the Superman comics of the late 80s and 90s. If you’re looking to purchase those books — The Newsboy Legion by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby Volume 1 and Volume 2 and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby — it’s be great if you followed those Amazon Associate links. Thanks!
Up next I’ll be finishing up the main Super books cover dated December 1993 before moving on to the last few appearances of the year and one wacky mini series that I had never heard of until last month!