Unshelved: Superman Feb. ’94

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!

Looking at the cover dates (which are a few months ahead of the actual on-sale dates), February was a huge month for the Superman books. Sure, we still had Man Of Steel, Superman, Adventures Of Superman and Action Comics, but this month also saw the launch of spinoff ongoings Steel and Superboy as well as the four issue Supergirl mini, plus appearances by our Super Pals in Outsiders, Hawkman, L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 and New Titans! If you’re following along, we’re dealing with Triangle Numbers 5-8.

Superman: The Man Of Steel #30 by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove has my all-time favorite gimmick cover. They call it “Pick Your Own Fight” and the polybag came with a series of ColorForms featuring Superman as well as guest star Lobo. Like most kids, I used the pieces I wanted to on the trade dress-less cover, but also placed a few prime leftovers on my first bass! Anyway, this issue features the big intergalactic bastich making his way to Earth and throwing down with the Man of Steel. Along the way, Superman continues to realize that his powers seem to be elevating while flying off into space to take on some guys giving Lobo trouble. Our hero will stay in space for a while, long enough for Lobo to find him a little later for a guest spot in L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 #63 by Tom Peyer and Arnie Jorgensen. I honestly don’t know much about this series, so I skipped most of the non-Supes stuff, but he gets dragged to a bar by Lobo to prove that they know each other. It’s a minor appearance, but it’s on DC Universe Infinite if you want to check it out. I kinda remember thinking Lobo was cool back in the day, but his dialog is pretty exhausting now that I’m old.

Superman #86, by Dan Jurgens, continues our hero’s space odyssey. See, he had a kind of power surge while fighting with Lobo and wound up in a part of the cosmos he didn’t recognize. Thanks to his boosted powers, though, he’s able to basically take one breath and hold it for an extended period of time. This issue wraps up the Jurgens Sun Devils series that ended back in 1985! Of course, I didn’t know any of that back then and, honestly, I didn’t know it when I read it this time. As it is, this story acts as a one-off sci-fi tale, but also the aforementioned end-cap. This is actually a perfect segue into Adventures Of Superman #509 in which Karl Kesel and Barry Kitson showcase a character by the name of Auron who debuted in the Legacy Of Superman one-shot that I dug out and read. In his first appearance, this clone of Guardian gains a copy of Superman’s DNA and decides to fly into space to keep it safe. In this issue he runs into not just Superman, but also Massacre, a villain who will return for a two-parter in a few months. The funny thing about reading these two issues back to back is that, with no context, they both seem very similar as one-off sci-fi space stories, but have much more context depending on what you know about them going. I don’t even remember reading the Sun Devils issue, but I thought Auron must have been super important at the time! It’s probably because he looked so cool and had a tragic ending. I’m even thinking about getting back into the customizing game to make a figure of him.

Over in Action Comics #696 by Roger Stern and Jackson Guice we get yet another one-off sci-fi story featuring Superman. I actually love Superman-in-space stories because it lets him flex different muscles than usual, but this issue has two smaller aspects that are far more interesting and lead into future stories. Back on Earth, Lois Lane carries on her investigation into Lex Luthor II’s missing sparring partner Sasha Green, who was turned into a New Blood in the Bloodlines Superman Annual #5. It’s wild how much the character herself doesn’t really matter, but the mystery of her disappearance fuels so much of what’s happening in the next few months. To me, this is peak Lois because she’s still being an awesome, brave investigator when she knows that Superman is not around the save her. The other interesting bit of this issue is that we see Doomsday again! He’s still tied to an asteroid and floating around in space (Cyborg Superman did that before his thwarting). We will see more of him soon in Superman Doomsday Hunter Prey, a book I was very excited to read for the first time!

As I said, this month also so the launch of three new books! In Steel #1, Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove and Chris Batista establish John Henry Irons’ new status quo as he moves back to Washington, D.C., reunites with his family and realizes there’s a gang war brewing with one side using the Toastmaster guns he designed and the other ingesting Tar, a drug that makes the user hulk out. There’s also the matter of corrupt company AmerTek and John’s history with them, all of which gets explored as the book rolls on. Even though Irons told Superman recently that he’d given up the armored life, he combines his original suit and pieces of AmerTek goon squad tech to build a sleek new suit. With this series, Simonson and Bodganove shared writing duties giving Batista space to draw some awesome comics.

Moving along alphabetically, Kesel re-teams with Tom Grummett for Superboy #1 which found the teen clone of Superman making a stop in Hawaii on a publicity tour arranged by his sleazy agent Rex. Rex’s daughter Roxy and Dubbilex, the psychic clone assigned to chaperone the young hero by his creators at Cadmus are also along for the ride. After saving Roxy from the cybernetically appendaged Sidearm, Superboy decides to stick around because it’s awesome there. We also get our first look at Knockout who will play a major role in the series as will Tana Moon, the Kid’s reporter friend who had previously transferred to Hawaii. Of all the Super Spinoffs, this is the one I’m most excited to read because I always wanted to collect it as a kid, but just didn’t have the funds. I love this creative team and think setting Superboy in Hawaii adds that fun 80s teen comedy vibe that suits the book and this character so well.

And now we make our way to Supergirl #1 by Roger Stern and June Brigman (of Power Pack fame) with Jackson Guice inking. Before jumping into the events of this book, this seems like a good time to explain who this Supergirl is. The post-Crisis On Infinite Earths edict was that Superman should be the only Kryptonian. So, to get a new Superboy, they made him a clone. Before that, the Man of Steel traveled to an alternate dimension where he met a shapeshifting creature known as Matrix who eventually made its way to our hero’s home and took on the identity of Supergirl, though she had even more powers. Though she still spent some time with the Kents on their farm, she also wound up dating Lex Luthor II (gross) which leads us back to this miniseries. Lex is having his number one scientist Gretchen Kelley run a series of tests on Supergirl’s biology. Of course he’s not really interested in helping her understand her unique origins, but is instead trying to use that information to build an army of Supergirl clones that he can manipulate. We’re also at the very beginning of the time when Lex is starting to feel sick, a story that’s just starting to trickle now, but will rock Metropolis like a tsunami soon. By the way, Supergirl and Lex II also appear in this months’ New Titans #108 by Marv Wolfman and Bill Jaaska when Arsenal visits the mogul who is interested in making weapons for the Titans. It’s only a few pages in the midst of a lot of ongoing Titans business, but it is a nod to the team that Supergirl will join in 1995.

And, of course, we can’t forget about the black sheep of the Super Fam, Eradicator. Sure, the cold, emotionless Kryptonian AI (sorta) bonded with a human scientist a few months ago, but you can’t really tell from these appearances as he’s always either murdering someone or talking about murdering someone. In a previous Unshelved, I noted that he makes a one-panel shadowed appearance at the end of Hawkman #5, but then he plays a much larger part in Hawkman #6 by John Ostrander and Steve Lieber. This was not an easy story to be dropped in on because there’s a whole lot of body-swapping and mind-control. In fact, Erad’s being controlled most of the time which leads to one of the most 90s fights possible when he takes on Bloodwynd of the Justice League America. I find myself deeply compelled to finally figure out Bloodwynd’s true history after all these years, but that will have to wait. Anyway, I think this issue might take place before his brief stint over in Outsiders. In #2 he had a brief cameo, in #3 he went from wanting to kill the team to backing them up and in #4 (by James W. Barr and Paul Pelletier) he bails! Don’t worry, he’ll be back and hopefully the character will start making sense, but I wouldn’t bet my still-sealed polybagged copy of Adventures Of Superman #500 on it.

To my surprise everything that came out this month — except the already-covered S.T.A.R. Corps #4 and Legends Of The World’s Finest #1, which I’m still trying to get my hands on — are on DC Universe Infinite. I think it’s great how many books from the much-maligned 90s are on there. If you want to get your hands on a few physical copies and wouldn’t mind helping me out, follow these Amazon Associate links if you’re interested in picking up Superboy Book 1: Trouble In Paradise (collects #0-10) or Steel: Forging Of A Hero.

The next post will be brought to us by the letter C for clone because that’s a major topic of conversation in just about every Super book that came out with a March 1994 cover date!

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