By Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely with Jamie Grant (DC Comics)
Older readers of the Man of Steel remember an age of weirdness, wonder, charm, hope and above all, unparalled imagination. Grant Morrison obviously remembers them too, and must miss them as much as we do.
When dwindling sales forced comics down certain editorial paths, the US mainstream went for darker, grittier tales and heroes, and a policy of following trends became mandatory. Ninjas, cyborgs, younger incarnations – all the old heroes put on new clothes as fashion dictated, abandoning their own mythologies whenever it seemed most expedient. The saddest thing is that sales kept falling anyway, and by recanting all the appurtenances of a long-lived character, they removed points of reference for any older readers who might contemplate a return.
So ‘well done’ to those companies that have repackaged their classics (such as DC’s ‘Greatest Stories’ line) for the nostalgia market, and especially for those editors that have eschewed slavish continuity as the only option and opened up key characters to broader interpretation.
When I was a nipper, Superman had outlandish adventures and was still a decent bloke. His head could be replaced by a lion’s or an ant’s and he loved playing jokes on his friends. His exploits were routinely mind-boggling and he kept a quiet dignity about him. He only shouted to shatter concrete, and not to bully villains. He was cool.
And in All Star Superman he is again. Morrison and Quitely have produced a delightful evocation of those simpler, gentler times with a guided tour of the past redolent with classic mile-markers. Superman is the world’s boy scout, Lois has spent years trying to prove Clark is the Man of Steel, Jimmy Olsen is a competent young reporter dating Lucy Lane and all of time and space know they can count on the Man of Tomorrow.
But don’t believe this is just a pastiche of past glories. Kids of all ages are better informed than we were, and there’s a strong narrative thread and sharp, witty dialogue, backed up by the best 21st century technobabble to keep our attention. A plot to kill Superman carries this tale along and there is drama and tension aplenty to season the wonderment. I can’t wait for the next volume, and that’s how it should be. It’s how I felt at the end of each issue all those years ago.
© 2006, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.