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SUPERMAN: Jeph Loeb

The new year rings in changes aplenty for the Man of Steelincluding a new origin.

By James Busbee     January 05, 2001

What if you found out that everything you'd ever believed about your life was wrong? Superman and his readers are about to discover that even the Man of Steel can be deceived when revelations about his true origins come to light, revelations that are going to shakeup the Superman books for months to come.

'Not everything we know about Superman is a lie,' says Superman writer Jeph Loeb. 'Just a certain partlike where he came from and why he thinks about that place as he does!' 'That place,' of course, is Krypton, planet of Superman's birth, and everything that Superman knows about that late planet is about to be turned inside out.

Wait a second, you may be saying. We already know Superman's originrocketed to Earth from a dying planet, rescued by the Kents, et cetera, et cetera. It's the classic comics origin. And now somebody's coming along to screw it up?

Not so fast, says Loeb. Everything has a purpose. 'This is, for us, the next step in what will happen to Superman in the coming year,' he says, 'beginning with defining who he is and how difficult it is for him to remain true to himself.' Narrated by Superman's adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, Superman #166 begins in Smallville, where Superman learns that everything he's always believed about Krypton has been wrong. Soon after, he'll get the chance to do the unthinkablevisit Krypton itself.

Who's Your Daddy?

Even a casual glance at the cover to Superman #166 indicates that there appear to be two versions of Jor-El and Lara, Superman's Kryptonian parents. One set appeared in the Man of Steel limited series, John Byrne's 1986 reboot of Superman's origin that envisioned Krypton as a cold, sterile world. The other pair, a happier-looking couple, are 'Silver Age' Kryptoniansmuch closer to Earthlings in both appearance and temperament. So will readers see a blending of these two versions of Kryptonor something new altogether?

'Ah, that would be telling,' says Loeb. 'We have enormous respect for John's workbut we also respect the fifty previous years as well. Can we make that all work now? In the next few months, readers will let us know. That is the remarkable thing about Supermanhe has the most vocal, most loyal, most intense and most decent group of fans and readers of any book any of us [including fellow writers Joe Kelly, Joe Casey and Mark Schultz] has worked on. But, that is also a testament to the character himself. He was the first. There may have been others who could have inspired an industrybut there weren't. There was, is and always will be a Superman.'

But will there always be a need for a Superman? Today, when comics heroes are more proactive and political than ever before, is there a place for a genial good guy like the Man of Steel? Later this month, Superman takes on that very issue, throwing down with what Loeb calls a 'very 'authoritative' group' of superhumans known as the Elite. In a tale called 'What's So Funny about Truth, Justice and The American Way?', writer Joe Kelly pits Superman against the Elite, who bear a strong resemblance to a certain take-no-prisoners WildStorm super-team.

'It's not just the best thing Kelly's written so far, it's the high water mark since the 'new kids' came on the block,' says Loeb. 'Doug Mahnke, who usually draws Superman: The Man of Steel, stepped in and slammed this one so far out of the park, we're still looking for the ball.'

February will mark the beginning of Superman's 'Return to Krypton,' following on the heels of Superman #166's devastating revelations. With the aid of Steel, Superman and Lois Lane travel to Krypton (yes, the one that was destroyedwe'll all just have to keep reading, as Loeb is remaining mum as to how) to find that the icy Byrne-version of Krypton wasn't real at all. After an emotional reunion with his parents, Superman must face down the threat of the evil General Zod and his Eradicators. Will Clark and Lois survive? Of coursebut after discovering the truth behind the lie, nothing may ever be the same for the Man of Steel again.

Recon Controversy

Retooling origins in comics is nothing new. Sometimes it's just for continuity's sakemaking the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm a Gulf War pilot rather than a World War II one, for instanceand sometimes it's just gimmickry, as in the case of the poorly-received Spider-Man: Chapter One. Similarly, on Superman's 50th anniversary, his origin underwent a remodeling thanks to writer-artist John Byrne (ironically, the same creator responsible for Chapter One). No longer could Superman push around planets; after Byrne's Man of Steel, the 'man' became more important than the 'super.' Clark Kent was never Superboy, and his parents the Kents didn't die. Fans generally praised that rebootso Loeb and company were wary of making changes for changes' sake.

'This isn't a case of Chapter One, that much we can assure you,' says Loeb. 'That story, whether you liked it or not, was closer to Ultimate Spider-Man in trying to recreate something for today that many people didn't think needed to be updated. It worked wonderfully with Ultimate, though, so who knows?'

Loeb believes the current reworking of Superman's origin is completely in line with what the creative teams have established over the last year. 'Our intention was to take a little of what was, mix it with what is, and create something that never has been,' he says. 'We're respectful to our longtime readers, [but] still try and create enough curveballs and roller coasters to keep the new ones excited and onboard.'

Loeb makes it clear, though, that the curveballs have a target, and the roller coasters have a destination. 'Nothing happens without a purpose,' he says. 'It may not be very clear at the timebut isn't that what a comic book should be all about? That 'cliffhanger' ending that leaves you breathless, that wait until next time feeling that we used to have or long for? The best comics have that, and it's what we're reaching for.

'In our first year, we brought everyone back to the Daily Planet, changed the face of Metropolis, shattered the trust between Lois and Clark, revealed the truth of the Lois 'Super-B*tch' storyline, put Superman in Critical Condition, got him healthy just in time for reality to be bent by Emperor Joker, came back to see Luthor be the President and now this! Seriously, what other icon has that many twists and turns happening to him? Spider-Man? X-Men? Batman? C'mon, if you're not reading Superman, you're missing the best ride in comics. And if you liked the first year, you ain't seen nothing yet!'

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