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The Rebirth of Superman, Part 1
Superman is reborn...again.
By Edward Gross
June 02, 2000
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know it's old news. Superman is being recreated by John Byrne; he makes the headlines. Superman dies; he makes the headlines. Superman returns; he makes the headlines. Superman gets a dopey blue suit and even dopier powers; he makes the headlines. In other words, we've been down the path of 'new and improved' many times before, and in most cases things haven't been that new, and more often than not they have not been improved.
This time, however, things are a little different. Beginning back in SUPERMAN #151, new creative teams took over the four monthly titles devoted to the man from Krypton (SUPERMAN, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN; SUPERMAN, MAN OF STEEL; SUPERMAN IN ACTION COMICS). Additionally, the the line is now being guided by editor Eddie Berganza. They're obviously doing something right, because sales are up and there is genuine buzz being circulated about the Man of Steel.
'In the past,' explains Berganza, 'way back from when the Death of Superman and the Return of Superman happened, there had been a status quo established on the books, where, basically, it had become a weekly.'
What he's referring to is the fact that each of the four Superman titles would have a small triangle on their cover with a number written within it. Readers would have to use the triangles to follow the scenario chronologically. 'You could follow them weekly,' he says, 'with each title connected to the other. Basically you had a serial, where every issue ended on a cliffhanger and you had to pick up the next issue week after week. Mike Carlin, the editor at the time, established that; then he had two other editors follow who tried to keep up with what he had done. That's when you had the blue suit come in and where some other things had been done. A lot of things were done to try and recapture the Death and Return of Superman.
'But as that kept happening,' he continues, 'they kept getting farther away from Superman. The cast around Superman kept growing and growing, until it came to the point that he became almost a guest star in his own book. There were people from the bottled city of Kandor, Lois Lane's sister had her own plotline going. You had guys on the books who had been there for ten years. They had done everything they could with the main character, so they began branching out. Unfortunately, in doing that, again, you were getting farther away from the basics of Superman. You got to the point where you had the Blue Superman and the Red Superman, and the Daily Planet had been closed down. Nothing against the creators of those stories, but if you're on a gig for ten years, you're going to try and spin it as many possible ways that you can just to keep it interesting. When I came on board, I was new to the book. The strange thing is that I wasn't
the biggest Superman fan. I liked the character, but mostly from TV and the movies. I didn't feel like I had to do the umpteenth Krypto story or something like that. My attitude was that he was a cool character, and I also didn't have the marching orders to follow what these guys had done.'
The first thing that Berganza asked himself was what makes Superman Superman? 'I wanted to get back to the basics of that,' he explains, 'because it had been a long time since that had been explored. The first issue was, 'reopen the Daily Planet.' Then it was the idea of getting Luthor back to being a bad guy. Not that he had become a good guy, but he became more of a businessman bad guy. While we can't go back to the old continuity where he used to wear a purple suit and fight Superman hand to hand, we figured he could start throwing more stuff at Superman and become a little more active. And for my thinking, he had also become overweight, so I've got him on a diet. He also gained two female bodyguards, whose origins are kind of a mystery. They may be Amazons; they may not be. They've got him working out. My role model for Luthor is John Malkovitch. Malkovitch with a shaved head is really scary, yet the power of the guy makes him really attractive. Again, going back to what Superman was about. I also really wanted to separate the four books and give them four distinct identities.'
Helping to accomplish this was a shakeup of the books' creative teams. SUPERMAN is currently being written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith; ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is written by J.M. Dematteis with art by Mike Miller and Jose Marazan; MAN OF STEEL is written by Mark Schultz (the only holdover from a previous regime) and drawn by Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen; and ACTION COMICS is written by Joe Kelly and drawn by Kano and Marlo Alquiza.
'There are still continuing stories as we planned our first year,' Berganza says, 'and we ended up connecting them a lot more than we thought we would, but I tried to give each book a different identity. For instance, SUPERMAN would be the book where if you just wanted to pick up a Superman book, it would have all the classic elements. There would be Perry White at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen; Lex Luthor would do something nasty; we'd see the classic villains like Metallo, Brainiac and people like that. With ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, I wanted more of a human angle through the whole thing, with a focus on the people of Metropolis. MAN OF STEEL would try to go into Superman's Kryptonian roots and the dangers that brings with it. And in ACTION he would pretty much be teaming up with the rest of the heroes from the DC universe, and it would pretty much be just that: action.'