Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Byrne’s Plot

JayJay here. Jim wrote, in a previous blog entry, about the time in 1984 when Marvel Comics was negotiating with DC to publish Superman comics among others. Read that original entry here. John Byrne had submitted a plot to Jim for the first Marvel issue of Superman. Many of our readers have been curious about that plot, so as he promised last week, here is more information.

It Isn’t Fair…

…to show the actual plot here. Sorry if you’re disappointed. Though he gave me a copy (in 1984), it’s Byrne’s story. Maybe he’ll publish it.

Doesn’t mean I can’t tell you the tale in my own words, as faithfully as possible.

The Story

The first chapter is entitled “KRYPTON.”

As in the classic origin, scientist Jor-El has discovered that his world, the planet Krypton is going to explode sometime soon.

Could be today, any day, but surely within a month.

Jor-El is a member of Krypton’s ruling “Council of Twelve.” Warning tremors shake the Council room, but the other members refuse to believe the danger is real. Jor-El is angry. Let them all die, then!

At home, Jor-El talks things over with his wife, Lara, who is six months pregnant. He has a plan to save her and their unborn child, at least, to which she tearfully agrees.

He was hoping that a large spacecraft might be built, big enough to save a “major portion” of the population, but time has run out. He has built a small “model” of the big ship he proposed, just large enough to hold one adult. He intended to pilot it himself on a “test flight,” but forget that. The untested little ship must carry Lara off world and safely away from Krypton’s catastrophic demise. There is no other way.

Jor-El makes preparations with frantic haste. As Krypton is rocked by its violent death throes, Jor-El and Lara say their last good-byes.

The launch must be timed perfectly.

Jor-El knows that Lara and fetus will become super-powerful as they are affected by the rays of the yellow sun where they’re headed. He also knows of an “additional factor” as well that will help them survive on the world that is their destination. Timing of the launch is critical to this mysterious factor.

At the perfect moment, Jor-El waves to Lara in the little ship and launches the rocket. Lara looks back at dying Krypton—which explodes, sending forth a burst of “searing radiation”—the mysterious, additional factor, maybe? John doesn’t say. Lara feels the radiation affecting her just before the rocket enters hyper space.

The hyper-light-speed journey takes three months.

The second chapter is entitled “SMALLVILLE.”

Earth, the USA, somewhere out in the sticks, fifty-something Jonathan and Martha Kent are riding along in their pickup truck. They’re farm people, good people. They witness the little ship launched months ago by Jor-El crash in a field.

They run to investigate.

Jonathan pulls badly-injured Lara from the wreckage. Right then and there, with the Kents’ help, she gives birth. The child, a boy, yelps when Jonathan slaps him on the butt. He seems unharmed and healthy. Just before she dies, Lara names the boy Kal-El.

The childless Kents decide to keep the baby as their own. They name him Clark.

They successfully convince friends and neighbors that 50-some-year-old Martha had been pregnant, but they’d kept it secret.

No mention of what became of the wreckage of the ship or Lara’s body.

At the age of two, at Clark’s birthday party we are introduced to the Langs, friends of the Kents, and their infant daughter Lana.

Clark begins to demonstrate fantastic strength, but only the Kents see.

At age ten, Clark is attacked by a bull while crossing a pasture. The bull does its best to kill him, but cannot harm Clark. His clothes are not so lucky. They’re shredded. Clark flips the 1,000 pound bull over his head, then runs home to tell mom and dad about the event. The bull, by the way, is okay.

Jonathan and Martha caution Clark to keep these things he can do secret, lest government or military people find out and come to take him away for who knows what purposes.

At age fifteen, while playing with his dog, Clark discovers he can defy gravity. The dog playfully leaps at him, knocking him backward a few steps. Instead of falling into the drainage ditch behind him, though, Clark finds himself hovering over it. After a little practice, he learns to fly.

Meanwhile, Jonathan (in his late sixties at this point) is trying, with two other men, to physically pull a tractor out of some mud it’s stuck in. The exertion triggers a heart attack and Jonathan dies.

The third chapter is entitled “METROPOLIS.”

Years later, after graduating at the top of his class from “journalism school,” Clark is hired as a reporter by Perry White, Editor in Chief of the Daily Planet in Metropolis. He meets “brash” Jimmy Olsen, a cub reporter, and Lois Lane. Byrne describes her as “…beautiful, but in a city-slick, used sort of way, tousled and vaguely rough at the edges.” She’s the type who would curse a lot. Clark is “instantly infatuated.” She welcomes Clark.

Lois and Clark, both superb reporters, become not-so-friendly rivals, despite Clark’s infatuation. He allows her to win, to get the story first sometimes.

Perry White urges Clark to try harder. Women and children first is for lifeboats (or little rockets, I suppose). White somehow knows a big story is about to break and tells Clark to go get it.

The next day the President is taken captive by terrorists. Lois investigates by traditional means. Clark surreptitiously uses his super powers to locate the farmhouse where the President is being held and alerts the authorities. They storm the place. Five people die in the raid and the President is gravely injured.

Clark realizes that if he’d handled it himself, he could have saved the President without any loss of life.  The little light bulb goes on….

He talks it over with his adoptive mother, Martha. They agree that he should stop hiding his powers and use them for good. To protect those close to him he has to keep it secret that he, Clark, is the hero he now means to become.

When he was a kid, Martha made him wear glasses he didn’t need to make him “more human.” (?) He’ll start wearing glasses again to help disguise himself when he’s Clark Kent. A point of difference from his hero self.

Martha, anticipating this day, long ago bought red, blue and yellow cloth from which to make a costume.

Apparently, as Clark aged, he developed…something…an “aura,” perhaps, that more and more protected his clothing when he did super things. So, she will make him a skin-tight uniform to take best possible advantage of that.

The fourth chapter is entitled “THE MAN OF TOMORROW.”

Sometime later, a caped, costumed figure breaks up an armored car robbery and frees hostages. Bullets bounce harmlessly off of his chest. He turns the miscreants over to police and flies away.

The caped man spectacularly rescues a stuck tramway car.

Then he pulls subway cars full of people from a collapsed tunnel. Lois Lane is there, reporting. She reaches the caped man before he can fly away. She doesn’t recognize him as Clark.

She is as attracted to this caped hero as Clark was to her.

Lois wants to tell this mysterious hero’s story. She asks him questions, which he answers. This will be her greatest coup ever as a reporter. Sorry, the caped man says, he’s already given his story to someone else, Clark Kent. He flies away.

Elsewhere, later, a shadowy figure watches television news accounts of the exploits of the caped man.  He reads the Daily Planet article by Clark Kent, which has the bold headline: “SUPERMAN! MYSTERY HERO PROMISES TO BATTLE FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY.

The shadowy figure is criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, who decides that he’s going to have to get rid of this Superman.


Combat Pay, Quota Fulfillment 

Here are a couple of memos from way back that address issues of creator compensation brought up in the comments:

NEXT:  More Tales to Astonish


Uncanny Divinations and Premonitions


Marvel Layoffs – 1996


  1. Kid

    Oops! That should be 'anything' in example 'a' above, not 'anying'.

  2. Kid

    And there is nothing to suggest that he IS, so if you wanted to read that in it would perhaps reflect your own preferences as to how you'd like Clark to be. But it wouldn't be based on anything mentioned in his 70-odd year history.

    However, the Action Comics origin (which was abridged at the request of the editor) states that Clark was handed into an orphanage, so the possibility that he might have been adopted at some point is at least allowed for. Because it is not explicitly stated, however, one can (when the origin was first published) legitimately wonder whether he was or not. A year later 'though, the matter is settled by the original author clarifying certain points which were perhaps open to question.

    Any doubt as to whether the two-page origin may have been a ret-con or not is finally settled with the discovery of the earlier version from 1934, which conclusively proves that Clark Kent being adopted was not a 'ret-con', but rather the writer's initial intention all along.

    Any fair-minded individual would agree that the '34 and '39 origins settles any doubt on whether Seigel intended Kent to be adopted or not.

    Finally, your above reasoning is ludicrous. If some contemporary writer, after 70-plus years, decides to reveal that Clark is a cross-dresser on the grounds that it's never been stated that he's NOT, then it would in no way be comparable to the 'adoption' situation. Why?

    a) The matter has never previously been in doubt in over 70 years of continuity. Although it may never have been explicitly stated that Clark ISN'T a cross-dresser, there has likewise never been anying to even suggest that he MIGHT be.

    b) When a different writer, decades after the character first appeared, decides to do something with him which seems to be at odds with what the original writer established at an early stage, then that clearly IS a ret-con.

    Therefore, the hypothetical analogy which you facetiously offer is in no way comparable with the subject under discussion. Comparing what WOULD be a ret-con with something that ISN'T a ret-con is a funny way of trying to prove your point of view. No score.

    You can try saying it as many ways as you want in the hope that something will stick, but no matter how many run-ups you take, you're never going to clear that intellectual chasm.

    Time to move on, I think. You lost this race a few miles back. You were on a 'non-starter' to begin with.

  3. Anonymous

    It doesnt' state Kent is not a crossdresser either. Perhaps he was and that is yet to be revealed.


  4. Kid

    Rob, you're talking utter nonsense. Here's why you're wrong.

    IF the first printed origin had EXPLICITLY stated that Kent had NOT been adopted, then the second one would have been a retcon.

    However, as you yourself conceded, whether or not Kent was adopted could be interpreted either one way or another in that first origin. Your decision to go one way was a matter of personal preference.

    However, the earlier, unpublished origin, as well as the later one from Superman #1, reveals that the OTHER possible option of regarding Kent as having been adopted, is in fact, the writer's original intent for the character. There is nothing in the first published account which contradicts this.

    While you could be forgiven for holding your view and arguing that it was just as valid as mine at the time Action Comics #1 was first published, there's NO excuse for insisting that a ONCE-possible interpretation which has been subsequently demonstrated to have no actual basis in fact, is still equally as valid 70-odd years later. The writer's original intent, and the one by which the ambiguous first printed origin must be measured, is clearly at odds with your dogmatic assertion.

    In the case of Star Wars, George Lucas clearly changed his mind at some point regarding certain factors. This is obvious from the fact that the finished product is different in places from earlier drafts.

    However, in the case of Superman, you are assuming to be true that which you seek to prove, which cannot be done. Why? In that first published Superman origin, it does not say that Kent was NOT adopted – therefore, the earlier and later versions do not contradict it. In fact, in as much that Kent being adopted was one of two possibilities inherent in that published version (which you have previously conceded, remember), and that the 'bookend' versions CONFIRM that possibility as the correct one, then that interpretation must be considered to be the definitive one.

    All the mental contortions in the world won't change that one simple fact, and your insistence on sticking to your discredited view merely makes you look intellectually dishonest, to say nothing of silly.

  5. Anonymous

    It's very comparable. It's an earlier draft plot point that later doesn't make it into the movie. But it counts per you as author intent.

    In the next movie, Han Solo is shown to have always been a green skinned amphibian, just using an image inducer, and you say "Oh that's not a retcon, that was always intended since it was in an early abandoned draft." and i say no it was a retcon.

    Perhaps the first in comics history.

    THere are no Kents in the first origin-the one that was published. the one that counts.

    Like i said, it's the Parkers are spies thing. Nothing about Amazing Fantasy 15 precludes that. Or vader is luke's father thing. But clearly a retcon. The earlier version is irrelevant-because it was never published and certainly changed by the time of Actin #1. It's a draft. It's an early script. It's meaningless.


  6. Kid


    What does Han Solo being a green-skinned amphibian in 1974 have to do with Star Wars?

    It means that, had Star Wars been made in 1974, Han Solo may well have been a green-skinned amphibian. It means that was the original intent of George Lucas.

    However, there was never any doubt as to whether Han Solo should be regarded as amphibian or human when the movie DID come out, so your example is hardly a comparable one.

  7. Kid

    Rob, an unpublished earlier strip is extremely relevant when it comes to casting light on how a later published work should be regarded. (And the 1934 strip was a finished strip, even if elements were later changed.) To suggest otherwise in this instance is nonsense.

    As to whether Kent was adopted or not, the Action Comics #1 origin can be interpreted in either of two ways because it is non-specific. (You have already conceded this point.) The Superman #1 origin supplies those specifics, and, the unpublished earlier work confirms that Clark being adopted in that origin was the writer's original intent all along. Therefore, that is the way the Action Comics one page origin should be viewed.

    Had that unpublished version confirmed your 'non-adoption' interpretation, I very much doubt that you'd be dismissing it as irrelevant.

    All the intellectual somersaults in the world won't change the facts. Which are: 1934 – Kent was adopted. 1938 – unclear. 1939 – Kent was adopted. That means the Action Comics #1 origin, which can be interpreted either way, should be viewed in the light of the earlier and later versions which 'bookend' it.

  8. Anonymous

    Byrne lies. It's what he does. He gets offended. He's rude.

    Nothing new there.

    anyone who has spent any time on his site knows that.


  9. Anonymous


    Rob, they're BOTH non-actions (to use your term) because NEITHER of them are mentioned.

    And you seem to have missed the bit about the Kents existing in a 1934 version of the origin four years before Action Comics #1. If anything, Clark being from Krypton was the 'ret-con'. What's up? Can't stand being wrong?

    No, a nonpublished earlier draft is irrelevant.

    Han SOlo was a green skinned amphibian in 1974. What does that have to do with Star Wars? Nothing.

    Only published works count. Of course.


  10. I Paint Donkeys

    Byrne is always offended. It's what he does. It's like George Costanza trying to look busy! (Look it up on youtube) He's like an old dog staked and on a chain. The stake is his forum…and the chain is his self-loathing. Say to him, "Hey boy…you're a cute doggy!" He growls. Say to him, "You're a piece of crap, doggy." He growls. He's tedious….boring….and predictable.

  11. LOL! I apologize for the butchered grammar. This tiny box didn't encompass my whole paragraph as I was stream-of-consciousness writing. 🙂 Hopefully, my meaning didn't get lost.

  12. I don't think it really matters if Byrne "feels" wronged or not. One cannot walk through life constantly trying to mind-read whether your words or deeds are going to offend some one or other. That way lies stress-related heart-attacks and insanity.

    Here, rather than looking to Byrne's unknown "feelings", I think it is better to look to the mindset of the one who makes the statement. In this case, Jim did not violate his own conscience and expressly had no intention of hurting anyone's "feelings." To me, unless there's a legal infraction, the issue ends there. No offense was intended. Jim did not violate his own conscience. If Byrne (or any other emotional good Samaritan on his behalf) are taking offense where none was intended — and that's their problem, not Jim's.

  13. Anonymous, by your own admission, it's up to BYRNE to decide if this wronged him or not. Which makes your opinion on "where you draw the line" completely meaningless. We all know what your opinion is, however arbitrary it might be. Even if your opinion was of any consequence to us, it has long since worn out its welcome on account of you repeating it ad infinitum, even after you said you were going to stop. The bottom line is, if there's an issue here, it's between Shooter and Byrne. Until you get hired as an official spokesman for Byrne, you've demonstrated that there's nothing more you have to say on the matter that's worth anyone's time to read.

  14. Anonymous

    Dimitris –
    My lack of objections to the Moench case you cite proceed from the same reasoning as my noting above that I would consider it fine if Mr. Shooter demonstrated he has the proposal in his possession and offered a couple of nuggets from it.

    If the posting said, "Here's the header from the Byrne proposal, in which Byrne suggested that an appropriate Marvel Superman would include (element a), (element b) and (element c)," I would have considered that generally reasonable – it's still telling tales out of school that some of the principals may not want told (or may recall differently), but there's nothing for that.

    For my money, what was done here went further than that sort of behind-the-scenes peek, to a point well beyond what I consider can be reasonably argued as professionally appropriate.

  15. On a different note, even though I don't share Anonymous's opinion, I don't also believe that when something is legal, is also necessarily ethical, and the discussion that followed could prove illuminating.

  16. kgaard is right. Anonymous poster has already mentioned that s/he doesn't talk about it from a legal point of view so his/her knowledge of copyright law is irrelevant. S/he believes that Jim Shooter din't treat John Byrne fairly in this case and it's up to Byrne to define whether he was mistreated.

    Where s/he loses me is where s/he posted "In the Moench case you cite, I have no objections, any more than I do to the constant behind-the-scenes nuggets on which Shooter has built this site". Why was it OK for Doug Moench to reveal information (Marvel's "Big Bang", killing Shang Chi and replacing him with a ninja or whatever) he got by being an employee of Jim Shooter, after he stopped being his employee? Why does Anonymous has no objections about that? Shouldn't it be up to Jim Shooter to dictate whether or not there was harm to him from that?

    To be clear, I'm not implying that Anonymous has a personal beef with Jim Shooter, I just feel that s/he was being inconsistent (not necessarily through design). But if we cannot agree that some things are actually harmless, then any revelation of any information could lead any person involved declare that they are harmed by such revelation, and then I don't know what we can actually discuss.

  17. Anonymous

    I don't think Anonymous has been out of line. The argument that she or he doesn't understand IP law is a non-starter, because from their initial post they have acknowledged that there is no legal impediment to Jim posting his own synopsis of the plot. Their argument is about ethics and professional courtesy, which I don't think can be waved away by pointing to the law. Plenty of things are legal that are not ethical. I'm agnostic on the current question, but it does disturb me how easily people blow past it to counter arguments that were never made.

    A lot of the problem appears to be personality-driven: give the history of hostility between Jim and John, anything involving them is going to be viewed through that prism. This means not only will people be driven to attack one based on a real or perceived offense committed by them against the other, any criticism by an "objective" observer, no matter how rational or principled (and I take Anonymous at their word that they are not a John Byrne defender), will be perceived by some as an attack. This is totally natural, as any political observer can tell you. But it is a problem for keeping arguments in their proper sight.

    Like I say, I'm currently agnostic on this specific issue, but I do think it's a conversation worth having (maybe not right now, as this one appears to be petering out, and probably for the best). However strongly one feels about Jim or John personally or about their professional work shouldn't determine how we treat either of them. If Jim deserves respectful ethical treatment, so does John. And if someone believes that's not happening, they are right to call itout. And the conversation (which is the one, I should note, Jim was having with Anonymous) should be about that, and not about the law, or who secretly hates who, or any other irrelevancies.

    I do prefer to see a name, even a pseudonymous one (like the one I use), if only because it makes it easier to separate one Anonymous from another.


  18. Keith Howell: I don't think it's entirely ignorance. Given the way Anonymous has chosen to argue, and what he lets go unmentioned, it seems clear that he's letting personal animosity trump a fair understanding of IP law and custom. But yes, if one takes his position at face value, he has basically no comprehension of copyright, trademark, or IP law at all.

  19. Anonymous

    Anonymous Byrne Defender is Roman. If anybody cares. Who else cries about courtesy this much?
    He's just scared to admit it, because he doesn't want to be run out on a rail again.

    In your heart, you know I'm right…



  20. Kid

    As Superman did not belong to John Byrne, did he ask DC Comics permission before starting work on his synopsis? If not, doesn't this fall under the same lack of professional etiquette that Jim is being accused of?

    As I said before, if Jim had been discussing an original concept for an original character that Byrne could still use to professional and financial advantage, then that would be a different matter. However, in this case, knowledge of Superman and his origins are already in the public domain (I'm not talking copyright here, I mean public awareness) so I really don't see what all the fuss is about.

    Especially (as quite a few people have already pointed out – several times), as Byrne's tweaking of the legend, with a few revisions to his earlier treatment, was printed back in 1986. So where's the harm in discussing his initial proposals?

    I can see what 'Anonymous' means, and there probably are circumstances under which his definition of courtesy would be applicable – I just don't think this is one of those instances.

    If it transpired that Stan Lee was originally going to call Spider-Man 'Insect-Boy' and that Peter Parker was going to be called 'Peter Pooper', would anybody accuse whoever revealed this info as being out of line because he didn't ask Stan's permission first? I doubt it.

  21. May I just mention that, as one with a Law Degree and one who has taught Copyright Law before, that "Anonymous" has no rational comprehension of even basic Copyright or Intellectual Property law at all. My suggestion is to just pat him on his head. Smile. And talk to other adults. 🙂

  22. Anonymous

    Although I opted out of this conversation already, given that you're the person I accused of inappropriate action, I think it reasonable that I might be expected to answer direct questions, so…

    Unfair as it may be to do this from behind the veil of anonymity, I am very comfortable in my ability to judge the expectations of an editor, which, EIC or otherwise, is what you were. Items given to you in an editorial capacity do not belong to you, which you acknowledged by not posting the proposal in its entirety.

    I am not "inventing expectations." I am arguing for a very straightforward interpretation of where I believe an editor's rights and responsibilities to fall. You may disagree with where I have drawn the line, but I am not staking out an idealized fantasy in which you must have impossibly clean hands – I am saying that I don't believe the way you have used other people's things here to be appropriate. Whether you were EIC, Assistant Editor, junior mail room clerk or Uber-Poobah at the time, I would say the same.

    The whole discussion of "protectable" is, for my purposes, a non-starter. I concede now, as I have in every post I have made, that your paraphrasing of Byrne's plot is not actionable. You're right – it's not against the law. Nor have I declared it a breach of your contract.

    But it was, in my opinion, the wrong thing to do. I don't think it reasonable of you to dictate whether or not there is harm to Byrne in your posting what you did – for my purposes, it is up to him to determine whether he has been ill-used in this circumstance. But I think the proactive thing, and the right thing, to do before unveiling his work – even if not done verbatim – would have been to do him the courtesy of asking. If it were my work, I would definitely consider what you did a breach of professional etiquette. And, again, I feel the same way about your posting memoranda not written by you from your time at Marvel.

    We do not agree regarding this, and that's fine. I appreciate your responding in courteous fashion, and hope you believe I have done the same.

  23. RE: several comments made by Anonymous, referred to by JayJay as "Anonymous Byrne Defender/Disliker":

    You said this:

    "(Jim Shooter) used to hold a job that brought with it an expectation of professional courtesy that included a measure of confidentiality, and even though he no longer holds that job, the responsibility to the work remains."
    How is it that you are an authority on the expectations of the job I used to have?

    I have all my contracts here. I have not violated any expectations stated or implied in them, though they are long expired, even though the company I worked for is long gone, succeeded by several other new entities.

    Inventing expectations and declaring that I have not met them is nonsense.

    Byrne owns his words. Plots are not protectable. Byrne's plot was no secret. Others were shown it, told about it or otherwise made aware of it.

    No conceivable damage to Byrne has been done. People here were interested to read a summation of its points, in my own words. The ensuing discussion of all the myriad variations in an oft-told story was fascinating.

    You are entitled to your opinion and I don't have an expectation of changing it. I disagree with your opinion. I will continue to do what I believe is fair and just.

  24. But still no name.

  25. Anonymous

    JediJones –
    Thank you. In completely overstating my position in insulting fashion, you have affirmed my decision to exit this discussion.

    I think my point a reasonable one about professional courtesy framed in reasonable terms, and rather than merely disagreeing in civil fashion, you're treating me like I'm an obnoxious radical come to stir up trouble.


  26. Anonymous, you better send out a memo to all movie critics telling them they can no longer include summaries of the movies they view in their reviews. Because that's paraphrasing the plot of a copyrighted work and distributing it to people who didn't pay for it.

    Guess what, you're allowed to publish a summary of a plot in your own words, whether it's copyrighted or not. You really need to go back and take the remedial classes on intellectual property.

  27. Basically, in Anonymous' world, nobody in any field of entertainment would ever be able to give an interview that exposed any details on a project that involved anyone besides themselves, unless they were describing exactly what ended up in print. Anything that's not already public knowledge and which involved interacting with someone else could not be brought up. Keep in mind he's also come out against discussing even trivial internal company memos in his comments here.

    We sure wouldn't be able to learn much about publishing and producing any kind of media if it was up to him. Pretty much every interview anyone's ever given would have to be censored to make sure any details that weren't already publically known never got out. We'd need to have a signed release form before we discussed anyone other than ourselves in an article or interview. We would have to stop talking about Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, etc. since they could no longer give permission to us to do so.

    I guess the whole point behind the first amendment was for us to never talk about anything?

  28. Anonymous

    gn6196 –
    Whether Byrne was ever going to use the plot is immaterial. It was not Jim Shooter's to post. Not then, not now, not ever.

    JayJay –
    Saying "Jim has the right to defend himself" is fine, and I agree with that. He did not need to post the particulars of the treatment to do so, and in fact could have just posted the sliver of the page scan at the top of this page to do so more than adequately. What he did is considerably more than "defend himself."

    And to the point of your other post, Mr. Shooter did not "relat[e] the gist" of the Byrne proposal. He went through it in detail.

    Dimitris –
    I think it's wrong for anyone to do to anyone else – I think the posting of Alan Moore's "Twilight of the Superheroes" proposal (which is arguably even worse than this, as there wasn't even the attempt to paraphrase by the person who originally posted the full proposal, but which is also slightly muddied for legal purposes by the question of whether DC paid for the proposal and owns it, though it was the wrong thing to do regardless of owner) was inappropriate.

    In the Moench case you cite, I have no objections, any more than I do to the constant behind-the-scenes nuggets on which Shooter has built this site. Nor would I have had objected if Shooter had posted the sliver of a page scan shown above, thrown out a couple of pertinent nuggets about the story, and moved on. Where I take issue is with the posting of what is essentially the entire story, with the framing of it in Shooter's words as a very thin veil over having done so.

    Jason –
    Please don't speculate regarding what I consider right and wrong. I have said multiple times in this thread that it was wrong regardless of the parties involved. And you're right – this is very simple. Jim Shooter effectively posted someone else's property despite his atempt to claim he didn't via the technicality of paraphrasing.

    And that's it for me, folks. I have made my thoughts on this as clear as I care to, and yet continue to answer the same points again and again. And I will make my lone point one last time:

    Jim Shooter did something that anyone in a creative enterprise should know better than to do to anyone else.

    That's it, really. Attack my motives all you'd like. Call me a Byrne apologist. Offer snide barbs regarding my anonymity. Declare to be "silly" an expectation that people respect the privilege when they have in their possessions things other people own. Knock yourselves out.

    It won't make what was done here any more right.

  29. I'll say it again- No on HAS to be anonymous. You can type you name at the bottom of the post.

  30. Jim mentioned in the original post near the end of August that John had drawn a mock up cover for Marvel's first issue of Superman. When I read that it struck me as sweet and kind of endearing that John Byrne would get so excited about the possibility of a Marvel Superman. However, subsequently John claimed it was the first he'd ever heard of it. I have no idea why. Later, when Jim came across the Superman plot John had given him and we posted a scanned snippet of it, John referred to it as "One of countless little fantasy exercises in which I have indulged over the years." So, he admitted remembering the plot at least, once confronted with it. Bad memory or a grudge? I don't know. I would prefer to think the best of people and it was a long time ago. But Jim relating the gist of John's "little fantasy exercise," especially since it was a few days after John characterized the plot in that light, is hardly harmful or improper in any way. To claim that is just silly.

  31. Kid

    Jayjay has a pertinent point – if Jim was responding to JB accusing him of being a liar, then it's perfectly legitimate for Jim to refute John's claim. (Jayjay, did he actually CALL Jim a liar, or merely deny what Jim said? If he'd just forgotten about it, it would explain his denial.)

    However, hadn't Jim mentioned posting the story of the synopsis before John commented on it?

    In the end, it was a reworking of elements already in the public domain. It would be different if Jim had revealed details of original characters and concepts that John could still use at some point.

    That isn't the case here, so "much ado about nothing".

  32. Actually, I'm guessing that our Anonymous Knave is perfectly content with all those other cases, since none of them involved Mr. Shooter. Since this time it was done by Shooter, it's OBVIOUSLY a problem.

    Even apart from the IP issues, legal or ethical, this is very simple. Jim said that Marvel considered licensing the DC characters to publish, and mentioned in passing that Byrne got enthused about Superman. Byrne called Shooter a liar. Shooter has now produced evidence that Bryne was, to put it as kindly as I may, spectacularly wrong, and either a victim of very poor memory or very questionable integrity.

  33. "Person A came into possession of a story Person B owns. Rather than publish that story, which is clearly an abuse of Person B's rights, person A decided to paraphrase the entire story in detail, which I would argue is an ethical abuse even if it isn't one for legal purposes. Person A used to hold a job that brought with it an expectation of professional courtesy that included a measure of confidentiality, and even though he no longer holds that job, the responsibility to the work remains"

    The way you describe it though is very general which is why I disagree with you. It is more person B freely handed person A a synopsis for a story (not a story which may imply it's complete and ready to publish) with characters that neither person A nor person B own. Naturally, nothing comes from it, and person B later does that story (though altered) for the characters' owners. The thing is that the ideas that Byrne suggested in his synopsis he either did, or revealed himself later (Lara giving birth on Earth) or are unusable by now.

    You say that describing the synopsis has value otherwise people wouldn't read the blog and comment on it, but the truth is, it only has historical value. As far as the information it conveys, it is unusable. On the other hand, the original synopsis is still unpublished and still retains its value, if Byrne ever wants to have it published in a book about him.

    Didn't Doug Moench mention in an interview in the fan press that Shooter intended to restart the Marvel Universe? Does that mean that he was conveying story ideas that were owned by Shooter and he had no right to mention them, cause I don't remember a lot of people complaining about that. A lot of fans (myself included) are also aware of Alan Moore's plans for a rejected DC crossover series ("Twilight of the Superheroes") even though Moore himself never gave them away. I don't remember any outrage regarding that, either.

    I understand that you may believe that those (and other) cases shouldn't have happened either, I just see them as what ifs, and information with purely historical value.

  34. Dear Anonymous Byrne defender/disliker,

    I believe you are entirely wrong about what is at issue. John denied that there ever was a possible Marvel Superman and called Jim a liar. Jim has the right to defend himself and he did so. That is the real issue.

  35. Except, Byrne is not going to use that plot. If it was a plot for Nextmen, then it's an issue. He has probably written his last Superman story for DC. And he himself has published plots and storylines on his website to many Marvel characters. It's common to find former comic professionals revealing past story treatments and plots that weren't used. It's childish for him to imply that he was "wronged" By talking about an Origin tale that has been retold by dozens of writers. Much to do about nothing, i fear.

  36. Anonymous

    JayJay –
    I'm not a John Byrne defender, and don't even pretend to like him. That said, what I think of him is immaterial to what I'm saying. This is not about the parties involved.

    If Byrne has mistreated Mr. Shooter in the past (or present), that doesn't make what Mr. Shooter did in posting the material any better.

    gn6196 –
    Whether Byrne's plot was "original" is not the issue, nor whether Byrne owns the Superman character (as I would think anyone who understands the law would agree that, owning the character or not, Byrne owns what he wrote), nor how much Byrne was paid cumulatively over the course of his career, nor Byrne's questionable use of other people's property to generate his current income.

    Clearly, the plot had some value, as many have read and commented upon its particulars, so the juice hadn't been fully squeezed from that there grape. But even that doesn't matter.

    The issue I have, and if it will help to stop people portraying me as a "Byrne defender," I will make it generic, is that Person A came into possession of a story Person B owns. Rather than publish that story, which is clearly an abuse of Person B's rights, person A decided to paraphrase the entire story in detail, which I would argue is an ethical abuse even if it isn't one for legal purposes. Person A used to hold a job that brought with it an expectation of professional courtesy that included a measure of confidentiality, and even though he no longer holds that job, the responsibility to the work remains.

    By the way, Person A is Jim Shooter and Person B is John Byrne.

  37. I didn't find anything wrong with Jim recapping Byrnes Superman plot. None of it was original, and he used everything that mattered when he actually Did his Superman run. Plus, HE DOESN'T OWN THE SUPERMAN CHARACTER. As for him being paid, he got paid a boatload of money from both companies for all his work and continues to use their characters for his commission business without repercussions.

  38. Rob said: I don't agree that an action is equally likely as a non action if the action is not mentioned.
    If I told you "Clark Kent went to the grocery store" but I gave you no additional information, would you say it's more likely he did not buy anything (a non-action) than it is that he did (an action)?

    Children get adopted from orphanages all the time. It's a common, everyday occurrence. If I say someone is taken to an orphanage but I do not say whether or not he is adopted, you cannot conclude with certainty that he was not adopted. All you can conclude is that it's possible he was adopted and possible he was not. If you have 1939 adoption statistics available, maybe you can say one possibility is more likely than the other, but you cannot say one is certain.

    Given the fact that the 1934 origin story says Clark was adopted and so does the 1939 story, it seems extremely likely that Siegel always intended for Clark to have adoptive parents, though he did not mention them in the 1938 story.

  39. Well, Mr. Anonymous Byrne defender, regarding professional courtesy… Jim has shown plenty and at least Jim never burned John in effigy.

  40. Kid

    Rob, they're BOTH non-actions (to use your term) because NEITHER of them are mentioned.

    And you seem to have missed the bit about the Kents existing in a 1934 version of the origin four years before Action Comics #1. If anything, Clark being from Krypton was the 'ret-con'. What's up? Can't stand being wrong?

  41. Anonymous

    As Kid has pointed out, it is not clear. The one-page origin in Action Comics #1 says he was taken to an orphanage, but it does not say whether he was raised there or adopted. Either scenario is *equally* likely, based solely on what it says on that page.
    I don't agree that an action is equally likely as a non action if the action is not mentioned.

    There is no Kents in Action #1. Therefore, they did not exist and Superman #1 is a retcon.


  42. Anonymous

    The other Anonymous wrote:
    Suggesting that a former company executive (who isn't under an NDA or non-compete) can't comment on or paraphrase a spec proposal he saw at some point during his tenure is ridiculous. No one, not even the illustrious Mr. Byrne, can possibly expect that copyright covers even the *discussion* of a work — that's laughable.

    Jim was very clear that he was commenting in his own words. Thankfully, neither you nor Mr. Byrne have a copyright on those.
    Couple of points here:
    I don't believe copyright covers a detailed summary of Byrne' work, and as I mentioned several times above, and will mention again, I don't think Shooter did anything legally actionable. I didn't say he can't comment on it. Clearly, he did and faces no legal repercussions, so the use of "can't" surely doesn't apply, now, does it?

    Despite his ability to do it, I do not think Jim Shooter should have done what he did. He has in his possession a work that belongs to someone else. Unveiling its particulars without that person's permission was the wrong thing to do.

    What he did is a breach of basic ethics and professional courtesy, and I believe Mr. Shooter, given his long history with intellectual property, should have known better.

    And to your other point, Mr. Shooter may have been, "clear that he was commenting in his own words," but he wasn't commenting, he was paraphrasing the specific details of the proposal. He was for all intents publishing another person's property while taking steps to avoid the accusation that he was publishing another person's property, and whether that person was John Byrne or someone else entirely is immaterial to my point.

  43. Kid

    czeskleba, it's interesting to note that, in the Keaton pages, Clark isn't as young as he became in the later version. Also, I can't be certain because of the poor reproduction, but that looks like a 'sunburst' on Clark's top, of the kind that Boring and Swan drew on Jor El's outfit.

    Also interesting to note that he was from the future, not Krypton. I wonder if Superman being referred to as 'The Man of Tomorrow' is a remnant of this different origin?

  44. That's an abbreviated take on the exchange between Byrne and Adams. I read the full exchange years ago when it first occurred. I didn't think Neal was too harsh. Neal rightfully commands a high price for his talents and it's slap at his work ethic to imply he's charging top dollar for breakdowns. It implies you pay more and get less. John wanted to debate what constitutes tight pencils, but it didn't undo the insult Neal felt. My recollection is that Jon never once said "Hey, you may be right Neal. I may have misinterpreted Tom's words." He was too busy trying to justify his unintentional insult.

  45. Felt kinda sorry for Byrne in the Adams discussion. Must be terrible for a hero of yours to tear you a new one.

  46. Rob said:
    It is just clear to me that all the early origins in the strip and comic are pretty clear that he was raised in an orphanage and the KEnts are a retcon for SUperman 1
    As Kid has pointed out, it is not clear. The one-page origin in Action Comics #1 says he was taken to an orphanage, but it does not say whether he was raised there or adopted. Either scenario is *equally* likely, based solely on what it says on that page.

    As to which scenario Siegel intended, I just came across this:
    It is the first few installments of a prospective Superman newspaper strip done in 1934, drawn by artist Russell Keaton during a period Siegel was apparently considering working with an artist besides Shuster. At this point Superman was still a work-in-progress (he comes from the future rather than another planet) but the strips show him being found by "Sam and Molly" Kent, taken to an orphanage, and then adopted by them several days later, in a sequence quite similar to what later appeared in Superman #1.

    Given this, it seems almost certain that Siegel always intended for Superman to be adopted by the Kent family, though he did not include that detail in Action #1.

  47. I Paint Donkeys

    He failed because he is wholly unlikeable. I will say that his board is better than it's been in a while. Lots of the worst were banned recently…or left in a huff over the bannings of the other sociopaths. Actually…I suspect the board will disappear soon. As I said earlier…if we never knew anything of Byrne besides the work….he'd still be doing top-tier books.

  48. And the hits just keep on coming. Here is a link to a summary of the Byrne/Adams dispute. Scroll down about 4 pages to the headline "Byrned Again." The link to the original thread on Byrne's forum is dead, so it seems to have been deleted.

    Personally, I think Neal Adams comes off far worse here. He has the tone of taking grave offense at some idle speculation on Byrne's part. It sounds like "internet-speak" in that it's doubtful that the same people in real life would speak to each other this coldly. Some people get on the internet and suddenly become cold, logical machines who communicate like a computer without the normal sense of conversational decorum and rhythm. Neal has every right to come in and correct the record, but saying things like, "I think less of you by a notch," is over-the-top and sounds like a classic case of "I forgot there's a human being on the other end of this computer."

    Adams also takes the position that no conversation should be referenced without the other party first being asked permission. I think that we, the readers, are smart enough to understand that a quote from a decades-old conversation should be taken with a grain of salt. Not to mention, if that rule were followed by everyone in the comics industry, it'd be a grave blow to anyone interested in the history of this medium.

  49. My favorite creator dispute online was Neal Adams setting Byrne straight. I don't have a link, but it was priceless. I think it's the only time I've ever seen Byrne trying to keep someone in agreement. He failed.

  50. It's kinda silly for Byrne to get up in arms over a rehash of an origin. It's not an original creation. sheesh!

  51. "However, for some reason you do seem to mind that your Kyrptonian friend is exactly the same as you, except for being Kryptonian."

    The difference is that Superman wasn't brought up a Kryptonian. I'm not so well-versed in his various incarnations but I think he learned about Krypton, its customs and religions when he was a grown up. So he decided as an adult that he wants to believe in kryptonian religion. Fair enough, it might happen but i don't think it's very believable for the simple reason that Superman makes this decision based on some computer files and stuff. It would be easier to believe if there would be a kryptonian congregation of which he could become part of.

  52. Rob wrote:
    I don't agree. Catholicism is a religion but other than that, where i lived, everyone did the same stuff. Italian Americans were American> Irish Americans were American. Jewish, German English, whatever. We all did the same things.


    A couple of points.

    First, Raoism is a religion. Since the specific complaint was about Superman saying "Great Rao" that would seem to fall into the same category as Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.

    Second, as I already pointed out in my initial post on the subject, Clark Kent did the same stuff as everyone else. He was a fictional demonstration that it was possible to fit into civil society just like everyone else, while still maintaining a sense of heritage. It's just that he happen to split that between two identities.

    In that sense, he's like a lot of Chinese people I know. They have an English name which they use outside of family and a Chinese name which they use within the family and when interacting with others in traditional ceremonies and the like. I'm told members of some other East Asian nationalities do the same, but I don't know that one from personal experience.


    Rob wrote:
    The first time i heard about anti-semitism as a kid, it didn't even make sense. My jewish friends were exactly the same as me.


    Well, except for being Jewish, of course. It's just that you don't mind that.

    However, for some reason you do seem to mind that your Kyrptonian friend is exactly the same as you, except for being Kryptonian.

    Varying milage indeed.

  53. I Paint Donkeys

    I think it's funny that Byrne discounts any positives he experienced under the watchful eye of Shooter….but he never again did work 1/20th as compelling when under another editor or God forbid…himself.

  54. Kid

    Rob, but now you're contradicting the possibility that you allowed for earlier. Nowhere in that one-page origin does it say (or even necessarily suggest) that Clark was actually raised in that orphanage. Unless it explicitly says so in some adventure before the two-page origin, you're putting your own spin on it. It's every bit as likely that he could have been adopted. As it was revealed in the first issue of his own magazine that he WAS adopted, that could have been Seigel's intent from day one.

    It makes more sense to view both versions as complementing each other when considering Clark's early motivations and what makes him tick.

  55. Anonymous


    Suggesting that a former company executive (who isn't under an NDA or non-compete) can't comment on or paraphrase a spec proposal he saw at some point during his tenure is ridiculous. No one, not even the illustrious Mr. Byrne, can possibly expect that copyright covers even the *discussion* of a work — that's laughable.

    If that were the case, we wouldn't have books by former political operatives, whistleblowers, former company executives, and so on ad infinitum.

    Jim was very clear that he was commenting in his own words. Thankfully, neither you nor Mr. Byrne have a copyright on those.

  56. Anonymous


    It is just clear to me that all the early origins in the strip and comic are pretty clear that he was raised in an orphanage and the KEnts are a retcon for SUperman 1



  57. Anonymous

    Zoran: But that's not the way it works. Jewish people continue to be Jewish, Catholics continue to be Catholic, Blacks continue to be Black, Asians continue to be Asian. People continue to celebrate their holidays and observances, continue to cook and share their cuisine, play their music, remember and retell their stories, and so on.


    I don't agree. Catholicism is a religion but other than that, where i lived, everyone did the same stuff. Italian Americans were American> Irish Americans were American. Jewish, German English, whatever. We all did the same things.

    We weren;t first or second generations. Even our grandparents were born here. Thoroughly americanized.

    The first time i heard about anti-semitism as a kid, it didn't even make sense. My jewish friends were exactly the same as me.

    I believe people can be too fixated on this "old world" stuff they never experienced and their ancestors left for a reason.

    But for the most part, i find very few people, unless their parents came from a place, who have much ties to the "old country" and i believe that is how it should be.



  58. Kid

    Rob, you can't have it both ways. You can't admit that the one-page origin in Action Comics #1 could 'go either way', then call one of those ways (in the two-page origin in Superman #1) a 'ret-con'.

    While it's possible to read your interpretation 'into' that one-page origin, that doesn't mean it was the intent of the author. Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't either. However, when we take both accounts together, we get the full picture.

    And there's a big difference between what happened with Superman's origin in the first year of publication and what happened with the story of Spider-Man's parents quite a few years after he first appeared. Nothing in that later story really adds or detracts from the pertinent points of the origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15.

    I'm afraid your examples just aren't comparable.

  59. Anonymous

    I think it's so impolite to criticize Jim anonymously, Anonymous and Anonymous. I think you should apologize to him for being impolite and for being anonymous, and apologize to me because I am offended by your impoliteness, anonymity, and animosity.

    I apologize to you for criticizing your criticism, for criticizing your impoliteness, for criticizing your anonymity and animosity, and for being impolite about your criticism. I apologize for my anonymity and my animosity towards your anonymity.

    I criticize my impoliteness, since it was an impolite criticism. I apologize for my post and I apologize for your posts. I am posting my critical, impolite, anonymosity for to be the purpoise of much enlightening and polite.

    What critical of the Byrne do you not agree? I very much appreciate the Shooter and his tall being. Much happines spread under the branch. Who knows?

    Thank you very so much for to be the critic no long and the polite. End communication.

  60. Note/Reminder To Self: Ignore any topics and discussions about John Byrne. Ignore anything he says or writes. Ignore anyone who cares about what he says and writes.

  61. Anonymous

    Jason –
    Call what Mr. Shooter did "legitimate" all you'd like. I completely disagree with you about the ethics of publishing it, even in the form in which he offered it.

    I am amused at the notion that anyone would be concerned about the legality or advisability of John Byrne writing a Superman treatment. There is nothing even remotely like infringement in him (or anyone, for that matter) doing that. Infringement comes from publication, not creation. That's a non-starter of an argument.

    Jay C –
    I am hardly a Byrne advocate, and I could not care less what he called it or how he chose to qualify it. Given the format in which it was submitted and that it was neither solicited nor paid per his and Shooter's accounts, it was a spec proposal. He can call it whatever the hell he wants, but that's splitting hairs on his part.

  62. Jay C

    —"He did not give the plot to you, he gave it to an officer of Marvel as a spec proposal."—


    Byrne himself on his forum declares that it was NOT a spec proposal. He declares that it was NOT even a pitch or anything of the sort. He likens the idea that Marvel would do DC characters as a false fantasy that Jim Shooter convinced himself of.

  63. Anonymous:

    The precise wording of Byrne's synopsis is his. Summarizing the synopsis, as Shooter did, is completely legitimate, even absent the historical interest of the document. You can't copyright an idea, only the exact form in which you cast it.

    If you want to be REALLY obnoxious and overzealous about intellectual property, why don't you rag on Byrne for even writing the synopsis? I mean, Superman is a wholly owned trademark of DC and its owners, and Byrne had no license to do jack squat with their IP when he wrote that.

    IP law is already very silly and over-restrictive, let's not go making it more so. What Jim did is kosher, both legally and ethically.

  64. Anonymous

    You are essentially suggesting the work has passed into the public domain, and I disagree. It was John Byrne's then, and it is John Byrne's now, and if someone else wanted to publish its particulars, asking its owner for permission to do so would have been the appropriate course of action.

    If Mr. Shooter had declared he had a opy of the proposal and then tossed out a few nuggets about the story that provided some idea of its notable elements, that's completely reasonable. But he as much as acknowledged that it wasn't appropriate to post the work in its entirety, and then proceeded to paraphrase the entire thing in detail. He knew better than to pretend it was in the public domain, but went around fundamental personal and professional courtesy with what he did post.

  65. There's a certain point where stuff like this becomes history and has journalistic value. Even top secret government documents go public eventually. I'd agree with you if Byrne had just now written a screenplay, sent it to Shooter, and then the plot was posted online the next day. But we're talking about documents from almost 30 years ago with content that is obsolete aside from its historical significance. The release of these documents has no financial impact on anybody in the present day. Not to mention, if there is a market for Byrne's script, it's only been increased by Jim's "teasing" it like this.

  66. Anonymous

    From one Anonymous to another:

    John Byrne's proposal for a Marvel Superman series is his property. It doesn't matter whether it is an outline rather than a full script, nor whether he was deprived of any income by Shooter outlining all of its plot points. It is his and only his. The decision of whether it should or should not have been published is his, and not Jim Shooter's.

    And by the same token, what any old memos have to do with Marvel's current business is immaterial to the discussion of whether they should be made public. The memos I'm talking about were not written by Jim Shooter, and they do not belong to him in any sense beyond his posession of hard copies. If Mr. Shooter posts something the person who wrote it would rather he didn't post, is that appropriate? I would argue it isn't.

    There is a difference between posting one's own work and the work of others, and, though I'm not surprised to see the problematic aspect of what is being discussed here dismissed given how the Internet has made so many people believe everything in which they are interested should be an open book, people like Mr. Shooter – who understand the complexities of working in an environment that is fueled by ideas – should at the very least show respect for the opportunity of others to control the ones that are their own.

  67. Anonymous

    Frankly, Jim's posting memos from 25 years ago. None of them are relevant to modern business at Marvel anyway… Also, Byrne's "story" was just a plot outline anyway (from the looks of it) and not a full script or anything. He got paid for MoS so it's not like Jim's depriving him of his well earned pay by talking about a proposal for a series that never happened anyway.

  68. I appreciate your expanding on your view. I disagree, but if I mis-characterized your position, my apologies.

    Byrne's reaction on the boards – if it hasn't been taken down by now – was to deny he ever made a pitch or proposed a plot, and that the idea of Marvel taking over DC/ Superman was "more of Shooter's fantasies." When evidence was produced to the contrary, the story changed. Seemed kind of silly to me.

    At any rate, maybe you're right. I admit, I tend to stick up for Jim more than Byrne, but, of course, neither of them is in need of my doing so. Just call 'em as I see 'em.

  69. Anonymous

    You mentioned twice that you're not speaking about my comment in particular, but it was the one you answered (in reasonable and civil fashion, so I'm not taking offense), so I might as well clarify what I believe I already said clearly.

    For my purposes, this is not about who did it – what was done is wrong. We can agree that there are no legal barriers to the action, but I would disagree with you and assert that there are legitimate (hey, I can use that word too!)moral issues here. If I read it correctly, your point is essentially that this story is lacking anything special given that its content is stuff Byrne already covered in a reboot he did do, that Shooter has not diminished any real or perceived value by running it, and as such the material should be fair game.

    And yet here come plenty of people to discuss its particulars, so it must have SOME value. And whatever your thoughts on its specifics, I'll stick with my original premise:

    The story is not Jim Shooter's property, and never was. It was wrong for him to unveil its particulars in detail without the permission of its author.

    If all he wanted to do was prove its existence, the sliver of its heading he posted was more than sufficient. And if you further want to debate if/why Byrne denied its existence (which I never saw him do – I think he only denied having produced a cover, but I could very well be wrong here, as I haven't been following the debate closely on either board, and that's not really germane to the point I am discussing), knock yourself out. That's what the internet is for.

    But the work is irrefutably Byrne's, and detailing its particulars without permission was and is wrong, because it doesn't belong to Shooter, and that was not a decision he was entitled to make regarding the dissemination of its content. The physical copy he kept was not accompanied by the right to publish, and acting as though offering a summary instead of the actual text is a legitimate handling of material not intended for public consumption goes beyond presumptuous, to legitimate mistreatment of the creator who produced – and owns – the work.

    I'm not bashing Jim Shooter. I'm saying this is not the way any creator's work should be handled, and that justifying it as "legitimate" is nothing more than hiding behind technicalities when he should know better.

    And by the way, just to prove how utterly intractable I am, I'll say I believe Mr. Shooter's posting of memos written by other Marvel employees falls on the same shaky ground. Those items are Marvel's property, not Mr. Shooter's, and I think he should at least be getting the permission of their authors before he runs them (which he may well be, by the way – I am saying this only to indicate that I think of these things consistently). If Mr. Shooter wants to post the correspondence of a company he owns, that's his business, as that's his own work product, but running other people's correspondence to him from his time at a company he doesn't own is, again, a decision he is not in my estimation entitled to make.

  70. I'm of the opinion that the splitting hairs is coming from this sort of thinking, Anonymous. I've noticed a real trend in Shooter-bashing. (By the way, I'm not lumping you in with such, but your comment ties into what I'm about to say next.) Shooter does something, often something that is directly contrary or disproving to what the haters believe as dogma, then the haters find one little point or angle and then crank the volume on it to fifteen. In this case, it's the "should Shooter have published his take on Byrne's story?" Not, a) why did Byrne first deny it even existed, then, after sitting with it for awhile, suddenly decide, oh, the tack I'll take is to focus entirely on how Shooter shouldn't have published it, etc. Who cares? Hell, if I'd written and asked Byrne about it before this, would he have just denied it existed?

    The fact is, there is no moral or legal barrier to publishing it here. To pretend or argue otherwise is just silly. Byrne, after all, rather publicly already rebooted Superman. This is not some secret story (nor is it even his! It's the traditional origin story, for f*k's sake) that he is now forever unable to publish because Shooter unethically published it.

    I checked in with the thread over at Byrne's site for a bit, and I saw the story slowly begin to come together. When you have a bunch of people around a table who want to eat, they'll make a casserole of the candelabra, eventually. Don't know what the vibe over there is now, but it's just silly to carry on like this is some affront to ethics or what have you.

    So in other words, once the logical reasoning behind being so anti-Shooter (and again, I'm using your comment, Anonymous, as a springboard, not as your bring personally emblematic of all anti-Shooter-ness) is obliterated, all there's left is one really quibbling point, and that becomes the new meme. Like the whole "did Jack sue Marvel" thing gets picked up and run with by Groth et al. The substance is ignored while one small aspect of the surface is blown up to a size not at all commiserate with its salience.

  71. Anonymous

    Jim Shooter said:
    I didn't share Byrne's words, which are his, but plots are not protectable. Restating it in my own words is legitimate. And, he did give it to me, after all, freely and of his own will.
    That justification may adhere to the letter of the law, but in the spirit of creative enterprise, it is absurd. John Byrne is a wellspring of inadvisable opinion whose unlikable qualities have been thoroughly exposed via his own board, but he – or anyone else – deserves better than this. He did not give the plot to you, he gave it to an officer of Marvel as a spec proposal. It was, and remains, 100% his property. It was not yours then, and it is not yours now, and pretending that it's OK for you to run it because you took it with you when you left the office and there are no potential legal repercussions to paraphrasing it doesn't change the fact that it is his, and you should not even have summarized it in detail if you didnt first get his permission.
    If anyone took something you owned and published its components, using as justification that having a copy of it in hand gave them sufficient license to do so, it would be equally wrong. This is not about the specific parties involved, nor whether your posting is some sort of "answer" to his denial of ever producing a cover for this hypothetical issue (I'm not saying you posted it for that reason – merely saying there is no circumstance that justifies your action). It's not yours, and posting his work like this was the wrong thing to do. Defending it as "legitimate" is a joke, because splitting hairs about legal technicalities that allow you to get away with it certainly doesn't make it right.

  72. Rob wrote:
    See, i liked that bit. But then it fits on how I believe those things should go for children and grandchildren of immigrants.


    But that's not the way it works. Jewish people continue to be Jewish, Catholics continue to be Catholic, Blacks continue to be Black, Asians continue to be Asian. People continue to celebrate their holidays and observances, continue to cook and share their cuisine, play their music, remember and retell their stories, and so on.

    Aspects of these cultures seep out into the general culture, adding to it. The area where I live was mostly Greek and Italians when I was growing up, then it became Vietnamese and more recently there's more and more Nigerians and Somalis moving in. With each wave new foods would appear in the local shops, new music could be heard around the neighbourhood, new DVDs would start showing up in stores. I keep discovering new things that I like and I'm more than happy to share what I know and have with others.

    If people didn't do that, opting instead to abandon their heritage and just adopt the religion, history, cuisine, music, art and stories of the local culture, I think things would be a lot duller. And we all would have missed out on a lot of great things.

    No one culture is so superior that everyone else should adopt it wholesale. Other cultures are not "ultimately meaningless".


    Rob wrote:
    Clark grew up as human, thinks as a human, reacts as a human. He lives and loves as a human. And that is what really defines him.


    Well, the question is one of culture, not species. If you're going to bring species into it, then this attitude makes no sense at all.

    To take a fictional example, Tarzan may have been raised by apes, but that didn't make him an ape. If Superman's rocket had landed in the middle of the ocean — and the odds would have favoured that — and he was raised by a pod of dolphins (assuming he's super from the moment of landing and would have survived underwater), would you argue that would have made him a dolphin?

    One of the features I enjoyed in Julie Schwartz's Superman comics was "The Fabulous World of Krypton" back-ups that developed a wonderful collection of customs, legends, history, religions and philosophies for Krypton. It made it seem alive and much more interesting that the one-note versions of Krypton that came before and since. And while that version of Krypton pales next to any real-world culture, it suggests enough richness that it was worth remembering and celebrating.

  73. Anonymous


    The way i look at it, it seems to be a retcon, the adoption and raising in the heartland of america.

    When Spider-Man is mentioned to be an orphan, nothing says his parents aren't spies for the US government who were killed by a fake Red Skull. But I tend to think that was a retcon too 😉


  74. Anonymous

    Zoran: Also, what's the big deal about Superman being born on U.S. soil? It's not like he's ever going to run for president or anything. And any number of immigrants have made major contributions to American society and culture. Including, one can't help but note, John Byrne.
    THe issue is that Superman not being born here but in a sense smuggled in is an illegal immigrant.

    Given that, old comics tried to make him a citizen of every country on earth through UN decree (which is impossible but…)

    It seemed to bother John Byrne, perhaps because he was politically conservative

    I notice on the Huffington Post (a liberal site), when SUperman stories come up, several people will always make a point to mention Superman is an illegal immigrant as a way to 'stick' it to conservatices who are anti-illegal immigration (but often tend to think Superman should be a symbol of America)

    In other words, though very minor, it's about the politics of immigration and illegal immigration.

    Witness the broughaha when Superman 'renounced' the American Way. Fox News, and others, were pretty upset by that.

    Byrne attempted to make him a legal immigrant. Natural Born. In Armaggedon 2001, an alternate future is shown where Superman becomes president. The Supreme Court rules that the opening of his life-support pod (Byrne's Man of Steel) in Kansas counts as "birth" for eligibility effect.

    **** I am not trying to start a political debate. Just mentioning the issues!


  75. Anonymous

    Zoran Wrote:I generally liked John Byrne's Man of Steel, except for the bit right at the end where Superman responds to Jor-el's attempt to pass on the history and culture of Krypton as being "ultimately meaningless" and just "curious memories of a life that might have been." That just came across as arrogant and parochial. It really rubbed me the wrong way.


    See, i liked that bit. But then it fits on how I believe those things should go for children and grandchildren of immigrants.

    Byrne has made very harsh comments on adopted kids or immigrants who 'reject' in some ways their life in favor of the life that might have been (when Speaking about Superman)so this is where he is coming from (albeit these comments were made 15 yrs after MOS)

    on the issue

    Byrne: I was born in England, and I am proud of my English heritage (I was also quite a lot older than Kal-El when I left “home,” so my connections would be stronger) but I grew up in Canada and I have lived for the last 25 years in the US, and I don’t ever, ever, feel like a “displaced Englishman.”

    Clark would be proud, too, of his Kryptonian heritage, but later portrayals of him have tried to shoehorn in too much of the pychobabble of adopted children longing for and seeking out their biological parents. Excuse my French, but to me, they fall under the heading of “ungrateful little shits.”

    Clark grew up as human, thinks as a human, reacts as a human. He lives and loves as a human. And that is what really defines him.


  76. Thanks again Jim! It's simply amazing to hear the history of Marvel (and the comic industry) first hand. Always interesting.

  77. No problem. You're certainly not the first to accidentally misspell my surname, nor will you be the last.

  78. Kid

    Oops, pardon me. I meant 'czeskleba', not 'czeskblaka'. Where did that come from?

  79. Kid

    czeskblaka, if Rob had formed and expressed his opinion within the first year of Superman's debut, then he could perhaps be forgiven for holding his point of view as to how Siegel regarded the Clark/Superman angle.

    However, to hold that same view in the face of Siegel's early clarification of elements of that account just seems ill-judged to me. Especially when Rob has subsequently admitted that 'it could go either way'.

    My original post was not so much intended to 'correct Rob's statement' as to demonstrate that a point of view based on the absence of information subsequently divulged, is hardly a sound foundation for CURRENTLY subscribing to said point of view.

    In short, why base his 2011 view of the Clark/Superman identity question on a subjective interpretation of an abbreviated account which, in such a short space of time, was expanded in more detail by the original creator nearly 75 years ago?

    And may I just point out that there is nothing in the first year of Superman stories which verifies Rob's interpretation, hence my original response. The two accounts of Superman's origin are better regarded as complementing, not contradicting each other.

    That was my original point.

  80. Kid

    Rob, as orphanages are places where one puts children, with the hope that they WILL be adopted, one can just as easily assume that Clark WAS adopted, but that it just isn't mentioned in that one-page origin.

    As you alluded, there was a more detailed account, but S&S's editor told them to cut it back to the bare minimum because of space constraints. Whether Shuster completely redrew that one page, or merely cut and pasted from the longer version, I'm unsure of, but the fuller information in the two page origin from Superman #1 may have been restored from the earlier version.

    As you admit that it could go either way, it seems redundant to base your earlier point of view on an abbreviated account that was either fleshed out or 'restored' in such a short space of time. That's why I thought it made more sense to regard both versions as being complementery accounts of the same events, the first being a 'truncated' presentation of the second.

    However, even if Siegel didn't come up with these 'extra' details until a year later, it doesn't alter the basic fact that, in Shuster's eyes, Clark was every bit as real as Superman. He didn't regard Supes as being 'real' and Clark merely as an affectation. To do so would have reduced identification with the character to practically zero.

    So I'm afraid I have to disagree with your assertion that, in the early days (the first year), Clark was merely an 'assumed identity'. Although he had astounding strength as a baby, Clark's full powers seem only to have manifested themselves upon him 'reaching maturity'. (According to that one page origin in Action Comics #1.)

    Initially, Clark would always have thought of himself as Clark. One could argue that 'the champion of the oppressed' was the 'assumed identity', because Clark could easily have decided to use his powers for his own benefit, perhaps even becoming a criminal. Although his powers may come from his Kryptonian heritage, his decision to use them to benefit mankind springs from his upbringing as Clark Kent.

  81. Kid wrote: czeskleba, there's nothing about the Kent's adoption of Clark in the two-page origin which is invalidated by the earlier version.
    I know that. I was simply pointing out that in the original origin story there is no mention of adoptive parents. We don't know whether Siegel always intended for there to be adoptive parents (but simply didn't mention them in Action #1), or if he originally intended that Clark was raised in an orphanage (as Rob suggested).

    Your original post ("in the initial S&S tales, the Kents turned him over to an 'orphan asylum' and then adopted him as soon as possible") appeared to be intended to correct Rob's statement ("In the original Siegel and Shuster comics, Clark wasn't raised by anyone. He was in an orphanage.") I was pointing out that there is nothing in the first year of Superman stories that contradicts Rob's interpretation.

  82. Some final comments on various aspects of Superman.

    – = – = – = –

    On relaunching Superman and other DC characters.

    I'd be interested in what Mr Shooter's take is on the recent relaunch of Action Comics. I must admit of all the new 52, it's the only one that feels like a relaunch.

    Picking up various titles I was expecting something like what it would have felt like to buy Showcase #22 in 1959. It said "Green Lantern" on the cover, but if you knew anything about the Alan Scott version of the character, it was no help at all. Some elements were familiar — the nom de guerre, the ring, the power battery — but everything else was new and different. Things that weren't explained were mysteries to draw you in, which would be explored and explained later, not vague references to continuity that you knew nothing about.

    The new Action Comics #1 seems like that. The Superman presented is not one I'm familiar with; it's new and different, surprising and interesting. This version of Superman is not entirely unprecedented — just check out the earliest Superman stories reprinted in the Archives and Chronicles — but it's one that we haven't seen for a very long time.

    I expect that this Superman will settle down into a version of the familiar Superman soon enough. Probably by issue six. The fact that a standard Superman is appearing in other titles in the relaunch certainly suggests that. But I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

    I'd like to think that if Marvel had licensed the DC characters, that's what the Marvel versions would have been like. The core elements would all have been there, but the material would have been fresh and new and different. It would have been surprising and interesting. It would have developed in interesting directions and done unexpected things with the characters.

    Rather than just retelling the same thing over again.

    I don't mind a good retelling, but don't sell me a relaunch and then just provide me with a retelling.

    I was reading OMAC #2 and the entire Checkmate organisation was introduced in a caption. No sense of discovery, no drama, no humour, no tension, no action, no adventure, just a caption. As if all I need was to be reminded of what Checkmate was, because I already knew what it was. The idea that I might not (and I don't) and that it needed to be introduced to me as a new reader never seems to have occurred to the creators.

    Oh, and the lead character's interaction with his girlfriend happened between issues and is just mentioned in captions. The idea that we might actually like to read that interaction as a way of getting to know the lead character and his girlfriend doesn't seem to have occurred to the creators either.

    That professional storytellers could flub things like this so badly just boggles me.

    It does not bode well.

  83. Some more comments on various aspects of Superman.

    – = – = – = –

    On the "Great Rao" Superman, or as I think of him, the Schwartz Superman, since that aspect mostly developed under editor Julie Schwartz.

    This is the Superman I grew up reading in the seventies and it's one that appealed to me on a very basic level.

    This version of Superman is very much about balancing cultural heritage. It's about being Jewish/Polish/German/Indian/Arabic/Nigerian/Korean/whatever while living and assimilating to modern American Culture. It's about being a hyphenate (Italian-America, Jewish-American, African-American, etc.). Superman was Kryptonian and Krypton was a fantasy culture that stood in for all other possible cultures, so everyone in that situation could identify.

    Clark Kent was fully assimilated, while Superman kept his cultural heritage alive. But Clark and Superman were the same person. It showed that it was possible to do both; you didn't have to give up one for the other. You could function in regular society and abide by its mores, while still being Jewish/Polish/German/Indian/Arabic/Nigerian/Korean/whatever in your private life. It wasn't a case of either-or, you could have both and be richer for it.

    Given that I was an ethnic kid, learning to live in an anglophilic society while coming from a different cultural background, this spoke to me in a way that no other comic book character did. For one thing, it didn't present the situation as a problem, it presented it just the way things are and something you had to deal with as you grew up. I know from talking to friends and acquaintances in comparable situations growing up at the same time, it also spoke to them in a similar way.

    I always thought this aspect of Superman developed because Julie Schwartz was Jewish — like so many others involved with crafting the Superman stories — and so knew what this cultural balancing act was like from personal experience. That's just an assumption on my part, though.

    I generally liked John Byrne's Man of Steel, except for the bit right at the end where Superman responds to Jor-el's attempt to pass on the history and culture of Krypton as being "ultimately meaningless" and just "curious memories of a life that might have been." That just came across as arrogant and parochial. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Fortunately, it wasn't an aspect that Byrne chose to emphasise in the book, so it was easy enough to ignore and just enjoy the super-hero action/adventure stories.

    Also, what's the big deal about Superman being born on U.S. soil? It's not like he's ever going to run for president or anything. And any number of immigrants have made major contributions to American society and culture. Including, one can't help but note, John Byrne.

  84. Some comments on various aspects of Superman.

    – = – = – = –

    On which is the real person, Clark or Superman.

    I've always thought this was a strange question, since to me the obvious answer has always been "both". Each identity is a different facet of the underlying personality. I've always assumed that was the case with all multiple-identity characters. A character who doesn't have more than one facet to their personality would be remarkably flat and two-dimensional.

    Take Spider-Man. One of the things I've always liked about Spider-Man is the smart-alecy quips and taunts he makes. It struck me that a clever, quick-witted guy like Peter Parker would naturally employ jokes as a way of defusing tension and employ clever put-downs as a way of dealing with opposition. However, being a weak, bookish individual — nerd, if you will — he would have learned early on that having a smart mouth would just be an invitation to getting beat up, so he would have learned to suppress that aspect of his personality.

    However, when he puts on the mask and no-one knows it's him, that long repressed aspect comes out. The fact that it also proves to be of tactical advantage since it often goads his opponents into making errors they might not otherwise make is just a bonus.

    So, who's the real person: Peter Parker or Spider-Man?
    Both. They're just different aspects of the same underlying personality.

    Same with Superman and Clark Kent.

    I've always thought that wimpy Clark was Superman's self-image. That's how he sees himself. Everyone else looks and sees the strength and the powers, but Superman sees himself as weak and as helpless as everyone else. When he was a baby, Krypton exploded and, when he really needed to be strong and powerful, he wasn't. All he could do while his entire planet died was rocket away, leaving it behind. Later, when Ma and Pa Kent got sick and died, there was nothing he could do except comfort them, desperately search for a cure, fret and worry — just like anyone else in a similar situation. When the crunch comes, he's weak and helpless. Or so he sees himself.

    That's why it's so important to him that Lois loves him as Clark. To the extent that she loves only Superman, she's only dazzled by the powers; to the extent that she despises Clark, she's rejecting the real him.

    Superman rationalises Clark's clumsiness and cowardice as being useful because they let him slip away when needed. But he plays the part too often without protest or regret for it to be just a convenience. He exaggerates these qualities almost as a way of apologising for having super powers.

    As Superman, he acts to help people and prevent those tragedies he can prevent. He doesn't revel in the power, he just goes about helping people as effectively as possible. Others see him as powerful, but he never acts that way. He's helpful and kind and polite. He pleads with opponents, he doesn't bully them. When the going gets tough, he allows the courage and determination he represses as Clark to come out. However, other than that, Superman's personality is very restrained; Clark, by contrast, is a lot more emotive. In addition to expressing fear, he's also funnier, chattier, more empathic, affectionate, opinionated and sometimes a bit angry and snarky.

    The few times that Superman has lost his memory and powers – such as in "The Sweetheart Superman Forgot!" (Superman #165 Nov 1963 by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino), the personality that emerges is a combination of Clark and Superman. You get Clark's emotive qualities with Superman's courage and determination. If no-one (including himself) expects him to be super and capable of dealing with anything and everything, he's free to be as brave as he actually is. He's still somewhat reserved, but he's not restrained.

    So, who's the real person: Clark Kent or Superman? Both are. It's a silly question.

  85. The memos posted here show exactly why some editors and freelancers revolted against Jim!

    I mean, how dare he tell freelancers under contract that they will get paid if Marvel messes up and they end up sitting idle?!?! It's common knowledge that all freelancers want to be able to call the company and bitch & moan about not working and not getting paid! How dare Jim steal their joy by putting the issue to rest with such clear finality?

    And offering combat pay for rushes? Jim, you were too hard on these people. And you clearly spelled out how the royalty policy would work for split jobs. That's just cruel!

    Don't even get me started on how you wanted editors to make their own decisions and then you would back them up! If you back them up, they can't blame you! I cannot believe you gave them such an easy out from their cowardly ways.

    I cannot even fathom working under such clearly defined parameters. You are a beast!

    (Sorry, swallowed a cup of sarcasm this morning…)

  86. I like the death of Pa Kent because I found it a very powerful moment in the Superman film where I first encountered it. It was the moment an all-powerful person first realized that even he is powerless to stop some things. "I have all these powers, and I couldn't save him". It even worked as a metaphor for children-adolescents that grow up, usually in a protected environment, not thinking about family members passing away, only to face that reality as they grow older. For a character that was accused of being unrelatable, that was a really human moment. I also loved Grant Morrison's handling of that scene in All Star Superman.

    About the vow, I don't care. It's not like Bruce Wayne's vow on his parents grave. Superman saves the world because of his upbringing, not because of a vow.

  87. Anonymous

    Yes I was referring to the initial origin which made no mention of any raising. Since it's just mentioned he was dropped off at an orphanage, one can assume he was simply raised at the orphange. that was the initial thought. As it says, he was turned over to the orphanage Nothing about being adopted.

    When there was more time to think about it, different details were fleshed out, that don't necessarily contradict that but it's still a retcon to some extent

    Although they actually had a 12 page origin but for space it was reduced to 1 page. so i guess it could go either way.

    What about the father dying and the death bed vow? Important or not?


  88. Kid

    And you'll note that I originally said 'in the initial S&S tales' (plural), so I was referring to both accounts of Superman's origin in my remarks.

  89. Kid

    czeskleba, there's nothing about the Kent's adoption of Clark in the two-page origin which is invalidated by the earlier version. You might as well say that, as Krypton wasn't mentioned in that one-page origin, then it doesn't really count. The later orphanage scene fits pretty easily into the earlier one with no contradiction. It was merely 'fleshing-out' the details.

    Even the reference to a 'passing motorist' in the first version does not necessarily mean that the motorist's wife was absent just because she wasn't mentioned – it just means there was no need to mention her. The lack of detail in the first origin proves just how unimportant it was to Siegel (at the time), apart from providing an explanation for Clark's powers.

    The relevant thing is, according to Siegel (and within the space of about a year after Superman's first appearance – AND in the very first issue of his own magazine), Clark was adopted practically as a baby by the Kents from the orphanage he was handed in to.

    The two accounts complement each other, not contradict, so nobody should get their knickers in a twist.

  90. Kid, to be nit-picky, the Kents were not introduced until the second telling of Superman's origin which appeared in Superman #1. In the first origin story in Action #1 it says Clark is taken to an orphanage, and no mention is made of whether or not he's ever adopted.

    Rob, you are equating the notion of Superman being the real person rather than Clark with a rejection of his earthly parents and earthly upbringing. I don't think that's the case… the two things are separate concepts. Superman is quintessentially American, and the fact that he is the real person is not a rejection of the Kents or their heritage. Calling himself "Kal" and saying "Great Rao" is what's a rejection. But as I've noted, those were things added in the 70's and I don't think they were a good idea.

    By the way, for anyone who's interested, this is a great resource for comparing the various versions of his origin story over the years: http://superman.nu/tales/origins.php
    The one that's not included yet (1948) contained the first appearance of the Pa Kent deathbed scene, by the way.

  91. ja: thanks for proving my final point for me.
    Jim Shooter: I think "ja" pretty much fits what I was talking about when I wrote about "this crowd." So, is that still "good?" Sorry, Jim, but you have a real blind spot about some of these guys.

  92. Kid

    Rob, in the initial S&S tales, the Kents turned him over to an 'orphan asylum' and then adopted him as soon as possible. So he was actually raised by the Kents from a very early age.

  93. Anonymous

    To me, he would be Clark no matter what. That's who he was raised as and he wouldn't just turn it off.

    I prefer a Clark who doesn't pretend to be a complete wimp or non entity. While the klutz was necessary to make it believeable in the Chris Reeves movies, i don't like that in the comics.

    In the original Siegel and Shuster comics, Clark wasn't raised by anyone. He was in an orphanage. He took the name Clark as a fake name identity. He acted wimpy and then laughed and scoffed at Lois for being so silly as to treat him badly as Clark. and Lois was really shallow and petty.S&S's commentary on pretty, shallow girls who don't recognize the wonderful people in front of them who are covered up by glasses and shyness.

    Once the Kents are introduced and raise him, with the dying oath to his father and everything. it completely changes. It no longer makes logical sense for Superman to be the real self, powers or no. He was raised a human being, as Clark Kent, by the Kents. For years he barely had any info about Krypton and certainly wasn't raised by his kryptonian parents.

    To reject all his upbringing would be to reject the Kents in favor of a past and identity he never knew and never was. and to make Clark Kent a complete joke would also be an insult to his parents. He;s not assuming an identity of Clark like in the early S&S days, having had no parents. He is Clark.


  94. Anonymous

    While i didn't make the comment, i interacted with him on his board many times. He can be very mean spirited and petty. I think he has issues with his personality. He has a victim complex. He's a my way or the high way kind of guy who goes on petty banning binges for no particular reason. The comment was too extreme though. and he seems to have mellowed just a bit lately.


  95. Dear gn6196,

    Jules Feiffer said more or less the same thing in The Great Comic Book Heroes.

  96. Kid

    Superman is Clark Kent – Clark Kent is Superman. They're both the same guy. He grew up being called Clark, so even he thinks of himself as Clark. As Clark, depending on who he's with, he sometimes assumes certain characteristics so that nobody suspects he's Superman. That doesn't mean that he's NOT Clark, or that everything about Clark is false. We all have different faces and ways of acting for different people – it doesn't make us any less who we are.

    Kal? He's a pain in the @ss.

  97. ja said:
    John Byrne is a mean-spirited, vicious asshole piece of shit human being.
    Really. Have you had personal experiences/interactions with Byrne upon which to base this rather extreme opinion? If not, aren't you engaging in the same sort of judgment based on gossip and hearsay that is routinely condemned here when it is applied to Mr. Shooter?

  98. gn6196, the speech from Kill Bill is brilliant. I wouldn't take it as a definitive analysis of Superman. It's basically describing the Christopher Reeve movie version to a tee, right down to the Kryptonian blankets, which makes sense since this speech took place in a movie for an audience of moviegoers, natch.

    I have a problem with saying Superman is the "real guy" just as much as saying the Clark Kent of Metropolis is the "real guy." The most "real" one to me is Clark when he's back in Smallville visiting his parents. He was raised in the U.S., not on Krypton. He might wear traditional clothes from the "old country" that his father gave him but that doesn't completely define his identity. The movie allows Superman to be partially "raised" by Marlon Brando's Jor-El through holographic A.I. (it's been suggested that this 10-minute scene actually represented 10 years of story time). But that's after 18 years in Smallville being raised by his human parents.

    If you really look at the movies, you can find even more variations on how the character is played, portrayed and written. About the only time a recognizable "real guy" comes out is after Clark has revealed his secret identity to Lois. Which fits my theory that you don't know the REAL Superman until you know ALL the Supermans.

    The movie starts off with the teen Clark Kent in Smallville. He looks normal, but was an "oddball" that didn't quite fit in with the other kids. Turns out that kicking footballs into the next state isn't so much "scary cool" as it is just plain scary.

    Most remembered of course is the "full reveal" Superman in costume with all of his powers. This one tends to strike a pose, talk in a deeper voice and speak in catchy, patriotic slogans. His hair is combed into a tight S-curl. There is a more naturalistic version of this Superman that comes out when he has intimate conversations with Lois Lane (Even Lois herself has two versions…the brash city slicker who talks down to everyone and the wide-eyed schoolgirl whose heart melts and tongue gets tied in front of Superman).

    Of course there's the nerdy, clumsy, cowardly, bumbling, squeaky-voiced Clark Kent of Metropolis who wears glasses and keeps his hair matted down. There is a more naturalistic version of this Clark Kent that comes out when he's back in Smallville having intimate conversations with Lana Lang.

    In the later films we also see "dark Superman" who becomes a snarling drunk after being exposed to faux kryptonite, in a not particularly well-written variation on a silver age-style plot. We also see a weak, aging, decrepit Superman after he gets infected with a supervillainous form of radiation poisoning.

    Perhaps the most interesting version seen in the movies is the "depowered" Clark Kent from Superman II who gives up his powers to mate with "earth woman" Lois. This is an extremely naturalistic portrayal of the character that more or less seems like an adult version of the teen Clark from Smallville. His voice is neither too deep nor too high, he stands straight up but doesn't puff out his chest, and his hair is loosely combed, not matted down and has no S-curl. This is one of the only versions that doesn't seem to be "putting on an act." Maybe this is how Byrne intended his version of Clark Kent to come across?

    All I really want to know is when they're finally going to do the special double-sized anniversary issue where Superman finally gets diagnosed with multiple personality disorder?

  99. gn6196 said:
    In the old 50's Superman series, Clark Kent seemed tougher than Superman at times…
    I've read that was done at the request of George Reeves, because he did not want to play Clark as a cowardly wimp. Byrne has cited the TV series as a big influence on him, so it's natural he would emulate that characterization. But it's still an example of Hollywood doing an off-model version of a character, no different than the mute Hulk in the TV series or Spidey's organic webs in the recent films.

  100. If you're going with Byrne's retcon that Superman didn't develop his full powers until adulthood (as Smallville did, I believe) then I guess it makes sense for him to see his Clark self as the "real person." He's a guy who spent his childhood as an ordinary human, and then suddenly at adolescence he finds himself developing these great powers. It's only natural that he would still view himself as an ordinary guy underneath all the powers, since the powers are a relatively new part of his existence.

    But that's not the way the character was conceived by Siegel or written for the first 45 or so years of his existence. In the original conception, Superman had his powers from the moment he landed on earth. He spent his childhood learning to use his powers responsibly, as well as learning to conceal them to protect others. In his memory he had never been anything but super. So in that continuity, it makes sense that he would see his super self as the real self.

    Needless to say, I prefer the latter, both because it was how the character was originally conceived, and it makes Superman unique from most other superheroes, who are ordinary guys who become heroes.

  101. Anonymous

    czeskleba said…
    He noted that when Superman appears in other media, the meek Clark is almost always the version that is used, and that clearly that is the version of the character that resonates with people.

    Well not in Lois and Clark. and not really in Smallville.

    In Superman Returns, yes.


  102. Anonymous

    czeskleba said…
    Ihate the "Great Rao" stuff also, but I also think Superman should be the real person and Clark should be the disguise.

    All that stuff about Superman swearing by Kryptonian gods, being called "Kal" by his friends, and thinking of himself as an expatriate Kryptonian was added by Julius Schwartz in the 70's. Prior to that Superman always saw himself as an earthman, and more specifically an American.

    Thanks for that. I did not have as much access to old Superman stuff as a kid (in the 80s) as the Marvel stuff and so i am little unclear on the time periods.

    I guess part of my reason for feeling the way i do is coming to comics post Man of Steel where DC seemed to be saying so often (or other articles about comics) how wrong they got it before and how right it was now.

    So i was a little brainwashed 😉


  103. ja

    @ Jeff Clem:

    What's the point of having a secret identity if Clark Kent is no different than Superman, except for pretending he has no powers?

    I've decided to ignore this question, as I really don't understand it. Also, I think the glasses are all that's needed to make people not recognize superman when he's in a suit and hat.



    A Part of 'This Crowd'

    P.S. My sarcasm is very lickable. Feel free.

  104. In the old 50's Superman series, Clark Kent seemed tougher than Superman at times…

  105. Scene from Kill Bill 2

    Bill: Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak… he's unsure of himself… he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.

  106. Dear Jeff C,

    Marty is a smarty! : )

    I think "this crowd" is a pretty good one.

  107. I'm torn on the best way to portray the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy. I definitely didn't like Byrne having Clark lift weights in front of Lois and show off his muscles. That lends credence to the fact that everyone must be an idiot for not recognizing Clark Kent is just Superman with glasses. He should have to work harder on his disguise than just putting on the glasses. Ironically, given how people like to say the disguise would never work in real life, Christopher Reeve made the disguise look more credible in live-action than it tends to look even in comic book art.

    Playing football as a teen seems fine. The movie had that too. "Every time I get the football I can make a touchdown, every time." It'd be different if he became a pro football player and still expected to maintain a secret identity.

    It's not entirely accurate that every other medium has portrayed the "meek" Clark. Even in the third Superman movie, Christopher Reeve spoke in interviews about how they decided to portray Clark as more human and less of a nerdy caricature. They were doing the same thing Byrne basically did, loosening Clark up and letting him have a natural personality. You see this in the third movie in his scenes with the adult Lana Lang. He seems serious enough to be a credible love interest for her, which was never true in "meek" Clark's scenes with Lois in the first two films. I don't think the "Lois and Clark" TV show had a "meek" Clark either, but I didn't watch it for very long.

    It can be really entertaining to see Clark play the wimp and avoid danger, which is an amusing contrast to Superman's behavior. But that seems like a pretty thin characterization to hang a whole comic book series on. So you end up torn between making his disguise more plausible vs. having him interact more realistically with people in his civilian life.

    The Superman persona is a costume, not a "real guy." Clark Kent is a disguise. The only time Superman can really be himself is with people who know his secret identity. I think to do things right, you have to accept that fact, not pretend that one or the other of the two main personas are the "real guy." He more or less has a triple identity, not just a dual identity. Maybe it makes him an odd social animal in a human context and not as easily relatable. But it works as mythology and it's one of those things that adds some uniqueness to his character that other superheroes don't have.

  108. Kid

    The overuse of Superman's Kryptonian heritage always bugged me. Siegel's Superman was as much an Earthman as any other, the doomed planet angle merely supplying an explanation for his powers. All this "Great Rao!" and being called "Kal" stuff never sat well with me. His name is Clark Kent, and he and Superman are the same person. The public perception of Clark as being excessively meek is based on his assumed characteristic designed to throw people off the scent. That apart, Superman is Clark and Clark is Superman. I thought Byrne was spot on with his humanizing of the character, at least in the Clark, not Kal, aspect.

    Nowadays I don't know who Superman is anymore.

  109. DJ

    Hi Guys,
    But Lara dying on earth was an obvious plot point that would come back to haunt(literally?) Superman. For it seems obvious that she herself would turn to Kryptonite, and Luthor would appear brandishing her mummified left arm, in a potentially killing burst of green as a twist in the story around issue 10 or 12. How evil of the nasty Lex, not only threatening Supes (oops JB) with his dead Mum's bones, but leaving him with the terrible quandry of destroying her remains (in the sun Roy?); or burying her deep, lined in lead, in the earth; or jettisoning her bones out in space. That's bad Lex. Nasty man.
    David J.

  110. ja


    I don't know how old you are, but I'm way older than I'd like to be. During my years, I've gone way out of my way to be as politically correct as possible, and to always be deferential to everything and everyone, even when I'm criticizing someone.

    But at one point I became overly saturated with everyone's malicious behavior, and everyone else excusing such behavior. I finally threw up my arms in disgust, and decided to speak out on malicious behavior when I see it.

    I didn't come down on Byrne hard at all. I came down on him accurately.

    I suspect that you don't like malicious people either. I have just chosen to be vocal about it. Well, as vocal as one can get in a comments section with my crappy keyboard.

    If more people would speak out against malicious people, those malicious people (re: BULLIES) will more than likely back off, especially when they're exposed for being who they are.

    But I do admit, that might not apply to Byrne. He might just be the living personification of Ego, the Living Planet. It seems he has no shame.

  111. "Jeff, the Pasko quotation I cited came from a TwoMorrows publication, but I can't recall exactly which one. I believe it was an issue of Alter Ego. It was in the context of a roundtable discussion about Superman. Elliott Maggin also came down on the side of Clark being the disguise, citing the mythological example of Odysseus diguising himself and saying something along the lines of "the best (or most idealized, or strongest) version of the character is always the real one." The way he put it was far more eloquent than that but I can't remember his exact words."

    I think it was an issue of "Back Issue". I remember Maggin's view of Superman that you describe, comparing him to legendary figures like King Arthur, who even when he was serving as a squire and didn't know who he was, in essence he was actually King Arthur.

  112. Re: Marc's question about pre-Crisis vs post-Crisis Superman

    I think it's natural that if you are really a fan of a character (not just a casual reader) it's very difficult to be a real fan of an alternate version that comes to take the place of the mythos you already loved. I guess it must look like a hostile takeover.

    Personally, I first encountered Superman in the first 2 Superman films and then in the 60s Filmation animated series, the Fleischer shorts, Lois and Clark tv series etc. All those versions didn't follow the exact same continuity, so I wasn't attached to any and regarded Superman as a larger than life character, a heir apparent of Heracles of greek myths who had no consistent and linear continuity (I'm not implying that this is how comicbook superheroes should be treated in an established title, just how I encountered him in various media).

    When I first read Superman comics, it was the greek editions of Byrne's Man of Steel #1 and #5 and the fact that they didn't match exactly with any tv/film version I had seen seemed natural to me, and I enjoyed them very much as Superman adventures (mostly #5, cause at the time I wasn't aware of the importance of the reboot and it seemed kinda boring to me that #1 only had his origin).

    Later on, when I started dealing more seriously with comics I also read quite some pre-Crisis stories and enjoyed some of them immensely, while got bored by others. I also read the rest of Byrne's run and enjoyed most of those. Ultimately, if i had to describe my ideal Superman version it would include elements from various versions in various media.

  113. Byrne became one of my favorite creators in the '80s-'90s. The best comics I read in the early to mid-'90s were Valiant's first year or two and John Byrne's Next Men. Those were truly great comics that broke out of the standard superhero formulas that Marvel inparticular had started getting trapped into by that time. They offered a fresh take on the genre that offered an added dose of realism and maturity without losing any of the silly escapist fun.

    I know I really like a creator when whatever series they leave quickly turns into something that seems bland and pedestrian in comparison. That was true for Jim Shooter at Valiant and for Byrne on Fantastic Four, Superman, She-Hulk, etc. To me both Shooter and Byrne are masters of the genre in their own ways. Both are men who seem to put their heart and soul into their work and are incapable of "phoning it in." It's not surprising to me that they didn't get along personally at Marvel. They both had every right to be confident in their abilities which would make each of them less willing to cede ground in any particular disagreement.

    I just picked up Byrne's Cold War and love the fact that when I open it up, his art style hasn't changed. It looks exactly like something he could have drawn 20 years ago. I like that kind of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" consistency.

    I don't really follow Byrne's forums much and didn't care for the climate there when I did check it out. I always separate how I judge a person personally from how I judge their work.

  114. Anonymous


    you're coming down on Byrne pretty hard.

    But hey – have you seen this Byrne video on Youtube?? The comments that the Youtube poster put on it are pretty hilarious


  115. ja

    Not only has Byrne proved himself to be someone who lies, but he's also demonstrated time and again how much of a prick sonofabitch malicious asshole he is.

    To qualify: Byrne draws a DC comic, creating a character that looks like Jim Shooter, wherein he blows the legs off this Shooter-type character.

    He also will counter anything Chris Claremont does, such as when Claremont used Dr. Doom for one of his stories, only to have Byrne make the Doom that Claremont used to be a malfunctioning Doombot, effectively negating Chris' story.

    Then there was his masturbatory dream come true; taking over Star Brand, so he could, piece by piece, dismantle everything Jim Shooter had built.

    John Byrne is a mean-spirited, vicious asshole piece of shit human being. If ever one day he gets cancer, it will likely not be a shock, as the disease he would be dealing with would only be a manifestation of the kind of cancerous asshole has been toward people in his life.

    That's my view on malicious people in general.

  116. Anonymous

    Byrne's just being Byrne.

    When Shooter's first account of the JB Superman-Marvel was on this blog and then on JB's board, someone wrote:

    "A JB drawn cover for a mock Marvel Superman #1? That's the first I've ever heard of such a thing."

    Which Byrne then quoted and responded with:

    "Me too!!"

    Then after the small tear sheet from the plot was posted, Byrne dismissed it as . . . "One of countless little fantasy exercises in which I have indulged over the years. "

    Now that his meaningless fantasy indulgence that was not noteworthy at all has been paraphrased (which itself was mostly a re-telling of a well established story) . . . he's mad?

    So while maintaining that Marvel doing DC books was all made up nonsense from Shooter . . . he indulged in fantasy and then gave that fantasy to Shooter . . . when there was no truth to a Marvel Superman book possibly happening . . .


    Please Jim, if you have a photostat or copy of Byrne's cover mock-up in your storage . . . DO NOT REVEAL IT! John Byrne would have a medical emergency after having denied it so strenuously while claiming that Marvel doing Superman was a fantasy in your mind.

    — Jay C

  117. Jeff, the Pasko quotation I cited came from a TwoMorrows publication, but I can't recall exactly which one. I believe it was an issue of Alter Ego. It was in the context of a roundtable discussion about Superman. Elliott Maggin also came down on the side of Clark being the disguise, citing the mythological example of Odysseus diguising himself and saying something along the lines of "the best (or most idealized, or strongest) version of the character is always the real one." The way he put it was far more eloquent than that but I can't remember his exact words.

    Pasko also pointed out that even though it's been a quarter century since Clark's personality was changed in the comics, that version has never gained acceptance by the general public. He noted that when Superman appears in other media, the meek Clark is almost always the version that is used, and that clearly that is the version of the character that resonates with people.

  118. I think you just summed up why very well. 🙂

  119. Byrne must think it's wrong of Jim to share the plot he wrote because he has tried to deny it ever happened. So weird. Why does he think this would make him look bad? A creator being excited over the possibility of Marvel licensing Superman seems very normal. Human, even.

  120. czeskleba said: To paraphrase Marty Pasko: "What's the point of having a secret identity if Clark Kent is no different than Superman except for pretending he has no powers?"

    Excellent quote. Martin Pasko's 1977 or so run on Superman is one of that title's best and said quote is one of the reasons why Pasko is one of my favorite Superman writers. From where did you obtain this quote?
    Anyway, bringing up that Pasko quote should end all discussion over whether or not he is Clark as Superman or Superman as Clark, but knowing this crowd, it will either be ignored, misunderstood or totally twisted into a sarcastic, "witty" put-down.

  121. Anonymous

    And again Byrne won't admit to any of it. It's almost like he doesn't want the truth of the whole matter to come out so he just denies everything so his little byrnebots won't find out that he is lying.

  122. Anonymous

    @Steven R. Stahl

    I'm not going to take the time to thoughtfully explain individual issues that Byrne wrote and why they were good. But your assertion that formulaic is bad is utterly false. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote formulaic books, as did John D McDonald, as did many great western writers like Max Brand – and guess what, many of their books were good – sometimes great

    You have a weird bias that you blanketly apply to everything

  123. Anonymous

    Though Byrne in my experience can't be trusted for any accurate representations of historical events (see the Stern-Byrne Captain America history and how Stern's account bears zero similarity to Byrne's Shooter-demanded-no-multi-issue-arcs-SHOOTER-IS-EVIL! stuff) . . .

    I find Byrne's comments on storytelling and the like largely spot on. And in regards to that, some of it rings true with his claims against Shooter (like Molecule Man), others a little suspect.

    In some ways it's like a bizarro world, as I understand that both Shooter and Byrne used the same old Avengers issue to demonstrate who characters are at their core . . . but Byrne I suspect would assail Shooter as misapplying/misunderstanding the lessons.

    But Byrne is without a doubt one of the dying mediums all-time greats.

    And for no other reason than there's nowhere to put it . . .

    I thought Next Men was garbage. I bought a whole mess of issues sight unseen in the 90s thinking it, "It has to be good! It's Byrne! He's unshackled from the big two! I have complete arcs of this story now!"

    And I even bought more and more issues of the multiple mini-series in my madness. The purchasing of so many consecutive issues of Next Men ranks right up there with buying so many issues of Bloodstrike and Youngblood as my regrets of 90's comic book collecting.

    — Jay C

  124. Dear Chris H.,

    My method of teaching is pretty well represented here: Storytelling Lecture Part 1(see the blog Table of Contents for the entire series) Anyone may judge it for themselves.

    "Buying DC" is of course, an inappropriate term. It was tossed around back at the time as shorthand for buying (or licensing) the publishing rights for the DC characters. That almost happened, as explained here. Believe what you will.

    Byrne was obviously convinced of the possibility enough to spend time writing an eight-page plot.

    I didn't share Byrne's words, which are his, but plots are not protectable. Restating it in my own words is legitimate. And, he did give it to me, after all, freely and of his own will.

  125. Anonymous

    He's really not worth people getting worked up about.


  126. Rob wrote:I believe it makes more sense that Clark is the real person.

    I hate that "Great Rao" nonsense.
    I hate the "Great Rao" stuff also, but I also think Superman should be the real person and Clark should be the disguise.

    All that stuff about Superman swearing by Kryptonian gods, being called "Kal" by his friends, and thinking of himself as an expatriate Kryptonian was added by Julius Schwartz in the 70's. Prior to that Superman always saw himself as an earthman, and more specifically an American.

    The notion that Clark Kent was a disguise was a key part of the character since almost the beginning. The mild mannered Clark Kent personality was appearing in Superman's first year. The notion of Clark as a heroic, dynamic footbal star just doesn't ring true to me. To paraphrase Marty Pasko: "What's the point of having a secret identity if Clark Kent is no different than Superman except for pretending he has no powers?"

  127. He produced many, many good stories in the 80's and early 90's.

    Why were the good stories good, and why were the bad stories bad? Your assertion is meaningless otherwise. And since he used formulas — reusing a formula would make the story bad by definition. So much for the EYKA___IW stories.


  128. Anonymous

    @Steven R. Stahl

    Meh – you could pick apart any writer with a significant body of work like Byrne.

    He produced many, many good stories in the 80's and early 90's. Your nitpicky critiques can't tear that down

  129. I don't see any problem with describing the plot in as much detail as anyone would want. It's a plot about Superman, a character Byrne doesn't own, so there are no copyright considerations — and the plot was about a rehashed origin story. It's like a fan fiction writer musing about how he'd revise _____'s origin if he could do it for pay.

    The major problem with Byrne's writing, from what I've seen, is that he's a formula fiction writer. That doesn't mean that every story based on a formula is automatically terrible (Busiek is a good formula fiction writer, while Bendis is a terrible one), but such stories are simple, predictable, and not worth reading, if the formula is familiar.

    Also, since Byrne was reliant on formulas, he (often?) wouldn't create stories based on the characters. Instead, he'd change the characters to fit the desired formula. The "Everything you know about _____ is wrong" retcon was nothing more than a method of reducing any character to a simple archetype. The retcon could be applied to any character, at any time, regardless of what had been done by previous writers. That might have been wonderful for Byrne, but terrible to people who wanted character-driven storytelling.


  130. Actually, Jim is well within his right to share the plot in its entirety, afaic. It's his property and as long as it's presented as informational/historical I actually think it would fall under fair use considering that it was written so long ago. However, he obviously has a moral problem with sharing it in its entirety. Rather than bitch about him sharing his own words of description, I find that a much more admirable way of addressing it. That way, the information is filtered through his perception (which is what this blog is about) and doesn't violate his conscience. So, good on Jim for answering his readers in this way on this topic.

  131. "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

    I popped over to ByrneRobotics, but was too lazy to register. It's interesting how the titans feather their nest. Well, I haven't earned a dime from Byrne or Shooter, so I'm not heavily invested. I've probably spent more money on Byrne comics than Shooters, so take that what it's worth. I did buy Byrne's Star Trek McCoy graphic novel, and enjoyed it. But before that, it's been years and years.

    But I didn't register: too many rules. That's fine.

    In my search, two quotes popped:

    John Byrne from 02 June 2011 at 2:14pm
    ( http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39001&PN=1&totPosts=89 )
    "It should be noted that Shooter's method of "teaching" basically consisted of constant badgering with little or no positive input, and the only way you would ever know you'd finally figured out what he wanted was when he would suddenly start badgering you about something else!"

    John Byrne from 26 October 2011 at 5:18am
    ( http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=40168&PN=1&totPosts=19 )
    ( to the question: "Why did Marvel almost get Superman and why did it happen?")
    "It didn't. Shooter was convinced, during his later years as EiC, that Marvel was on the verge of buying DC."

    Taking the second quote first, Jim has well-explained, that on the table was a notion of Marvel licensing the characters, like both DC and Marvel licensed Tarzan at some point, it was conceivable, and maybe even doable that Marvel could license Superman, except for the perception of becoming a monopoly, against an ongoing lawsuit from First Comics, I think.

    Going back a couple of posts, I liked what I read about Vince Colletta talking about people protecting their turf. So comics is tough business, and some egos clash. So does Byrne have a point? What's Jim doing sharing a plot he didn't pay for?

    That said, you know who's sharing it, and not everyone tells the story the same.


    By the way, loved the memos on Quotas and Residuals and Combat Pay. Keeping the peace in those days must have been a job and a half.

  132. First, Clark Kent is his real name and Superman the alias, in any continuity when written right. Second, the act of saving falling airplanes and stopping tidal waves is his vocation and being a journalist with a civilian life is his hobby.

    This is how I see Superman.

  133. I was wondering when/if this would come up at ByrneRobotics. It has, so far with the usual range of comments, i.e. "Shooter's blog is revisionist history," "How unethical posting that plot summary," "people are stupid," etc. Too bad. I have this weird hope that one day the Byrne/ Shooter rift will be closed.

    I actually still buy Byrne's stuff. I was a huge fan of his FF. I don't buy into the vitriol so often displayed on his page, of course, but if I see anything by any of the creators I loved in the 80s, I'll always pick it up at least for a glance. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised; with Byrne, I have to say, I really enjoyed this first Cold War that just came out. Could be good. But back to the matter at hand:

    Dear Marc

    "I wonder how many fans of Byrne's Superman are "converts" from pre-Crisis Superman fandom? I imagine that there must be some Superman fans who grew up with the Weisinger and/or Schwartz eras but loved Byrne's version even more. However, I've never met any such fans, though perhaps Dale above fits the bill. In my experience, there seems to be a rift between pre-Byrne and post-Byrne fandom. Anyone else noticed this — or the total opposite?"

    I only ever got into Superman via the movies, then Byrne's stuff. That was pretty much it. My Dad was a big Superman reader in the early 60s and I was puzzled by all the things he'd remember that had no parallel in the Supermythos I knew, from that aforementioned limited exposure. It got me interested in pre-Crisis Superman, tho. Years later, I finally got around to checking out the Weisinger/ Schwartz era, and I really love those old stories.

    Modern-days-wise, Grant Morrison's take on the mythos, both in All Star Superman and the unfolding Action Comics, appeals to me.

    I kind of like each era for what it is. They all co-exist in my head with relative happiness.

    And The Animated Series = great stuff.

  134. I'm pretty sure that the Lara birthing scenario was simply Byrne's legalism and need to over-explain. Based on his experience as an adult and obtaining American citizenship, it obviously gnawed at his OCD nature that Superman was not "born" in USA and was not "truly" an American citizen.

    As to the mysterious "additional factor", I would suggest that it's the same "additional factor" that Byrne did with Gladiator (a Superman analogue) in the FF series and extended into his actual run with the character at DC. That is that Superman has some sort of super telekinetic ability that he doesn't even realize he has. It's why he can, for example, pick up a building or a cruise-liner, or a plane, etc. and not have the physics of reality cause the object to crumble or collapse when being held aloft at a single stress point.

    Again, another example of overthinking OCD, but based on his work with Gladiator and Superman, I think it's a safe bet that's what it was.

  135. Anonymous

    Byrne is a strong idea man. I am not sure his dialogue is as good as his ideas. Sometimes he gets preachy in it

    Franklin" Spidey-Man"

    Spidey "um, that's SpideR-Man, Franklin"

    which is not how your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man would react at all.

    and puzzling

    until you find his board and realize he hates when people use nicknames for characters. Wolvie, Supes, etc.

    So it's a lesson to the readers, not organio from the characters

    Not a big a deal. But over the years the lessons started to overwhelm the characters. He was hamstrung by his own self-imosed rules (his stories were better when he didn't have those rules) and his need to teach the readers that he believed were not the kind of readers the books should have (the fanboy types and not the mass market readers)

    From what I understand, by moving to the Star Trek and Next Men and now Cold War 'universes', he's gotten back to being good again.

    Superheroes from Marvel and DC don't seem to be his forte anymore, so it is for the best.


  136. Anonymous

    Having Lara give birth in American would have added a very interesting dynamic to the character. I never had a chance to read Man Of Steel, but I thought the ongoing monthly had some fun ideas. Byrne did some great things with The Fantastic Four as well, and even though he's never truly embraced Alpha Flight, I think they're his single best creation. I personally don't understand people's fascination with Nextmen, and I can't think of a single villain he's ever created that wasn't completely atrocious, but for my money no one will ever match his X-Men run.

  137. Anonymous

    I think Byrne's superman is mostly a missed opportunity. Man of Steel is quite good but then the regular series was somewhat unimaginative and flat. Like Braniac. The new villains were uninspired. From what I remember.

    Still, it would have been interesting to see how Marvel handled all of this.

    The synopsis is interesting if a bit by the numbers. Hard to say since it's not the actual plot but a summary of the plot.


  138. Anonymous 7:48 AM wrote:
    "Go back and read some of his FF issues – they are sci-fi fantasy storytelling at its best"

    In fact, I'm just reading some early Byrne FF issues these days (#235 and 236 last night). Great entertainment, great art, great comics and… wow, a COMPLETE story in 22 pages!? That latter point must surely be a mindboggling concept for some of today's creators…

  139. Anonymous

    I believe it makes more sense that Clark is the real person.

    I hate that "Great Rao" nonsense.

    Superman is almost obsessive about Krypton IMO in some of those older stories.

    If you grew up for 2-3 decades being called Clark, it be a little weird to suddenly have your friends call you Kal like his superhero friends would.


  140. Anonymous

    Byrne still kept the "born on Earth so U.S. Citizen" thing in MAN OF STEEL

    Remember, he was in a birthing matrix-a womb because Kryptonians were cold and sterile and didn't touch (Lara and Jor-El actually cared foer each other and rigt before they died, held hands).

    The birthing matrix-womb-opened on earth. Kal-El was thus born in Smallville.

    You can see it here, at the end of the mini


    "I may have been CONCEIVED out there in the endless depths of space"

    "But I was BORN when the rocket opened on Earth, in America"


  141. Marc Miyake wrote:
    "I wonder how many fans of Byrne's Superman are "converts" from pre-Crisis Superman fandom? I imagine that there must be some Superman fans who grew up with the Weisinger and/or Schwartz eras but loved Byrne's version even more. However, I've never met any such fans, though perhaps Dale above fits the bill. In my experience, there seems to be a rift between pre-Byrne and post-Byrne fandom. Anyone else noticed this — or the total opposite?"

    I grew up on (Norwegian translations of) the Schwartz Superman (with the occasional Weisinger classic thrown in). I was fairly pleased with Byrne's reboot, though at the beginning Superman's history seemed a bit "empty" – he was supposed to have been around for ten years or so, and all there was to show for it was the "Man of Steel" series. That worked itself out over time, though, and I followed the post-Crisis Superman (a bit on and off) until shortly after his death and resurrection.

    All in all, I'd say I'm more a fan of the Byrne/post-Crisis Superman than the Weisinger/Schwartz/pre-Crisis Superman.

    We'll have to see about the post-Flashpoint/New 52 version. The costume sucks, though. 🙂

  142. Anonymous

    Byrne a mediocre writer – are you kidding?? He wrote some of the best FF stories, he wrote the best Namor stories, he wrote the best She-Hulk stories, he created a great team with Alpha Flight, he had a lot to do with the ideas for some of the best X-Men stories, he wrote some of the best Superman stories

    Next Men was no slouch

    Go back and read some of his FF issues – they are sci-fi fantasy storytelling at its best

  143. Firestone

    As people have noted, the Lara's Death did survive to the DC version, via the Birthing Matrix. Superman was born in the US. Or decanted, at least.

    I feel that making Clark the real person is just an expansion of the Elliot S! Maggin era's work in making Clark interesting. It does look like DC has reverted back to the other way now, but the one thing it avoided, was the era of Superdickery. By making Clark the real person, there was never the motivation for Superman to sustain a romantic or personal relationship. This meant that any Lois-Lana games were on the Clark side of the fence, which gave us more personal, human interaction, rather than the impersonal version of the Superdickery era.

    It also gave us more time with the Daily Planet crew. Which I appreciate.

    I've got relatively little good to say about Mr. Byrne's choices over the years, but I think he got most of this right.

    And I'm a long-term Legion fan. (I still think of the owner of this blog as Little Jimmy Shooter.) So, yes, I know exactly how badly this bent the rest of the universe.

    Supergirl, the Legion, Supermurderer… no.

    But mostly, it works. And I like the revision of Luthor. It gave Luthor power in a sphere Superman couldn't have, making things more equal without making Luthor into Batman.

    (As far as Spidey is concerned, there are necessary things to be Spidey's human identity. He must be an outsider. Not a nerd, nerds can be popular these days, he must be excluded from the pack. Pete was poor and bookish and nonathletic. Being mixed-race and possibly gay works. He must have a driving need for redemption, occasional lack of empathy, wits, and courage… as well as a certain personal cowardice. The new kid shows potential.)
    (Lack of empathy and personal cowardice are critical: Peter screws himself over so much. And the cowardice is a fear of consequences. You really think he couldn't have come clean to Aunt May?)

  144. It's interesting to see what Byrne's plot consisted of. It's the opposite of decompression, for sure.

    That said, I saw a lot of problems with it even before reading the comments section and Jim's remarks.

    While there is room for criticism of Byrne's choices, both here and what he actually had published later on, I must say this:

    Imagine having the kahunas to actually tackle a project like this!

    Even back in the mid-80s or so when it happened, Supes had been around for something like fifty years. Now it's closer to eighty.

    And he's the first superhero, a cultural icon and even the mildest changes ever made to him have caused people to trample baby seals in outrage, and use chihuahuas as boomerangs!

    (Okay, maybe not, but close to it.)

    Yet Byrne did it. He laid his kahunas on the table, knowing a lot of people were standing around with machetes, and said, "Here it is, here's my take, it's probably not perfect but nothing is, and this is the best I can do with it."

    I was briefly contemplating a post saying, "Byrne's plot sucked, here's how I'd do it."

    But really…. as I thought about doing that… it overwhelmed me a bit. Even though it's just Jim and his followers.

    I mean, to redo anything and call it Superman… that's just huge.

    One would almost be better off using those changes on an all-new, different character, rather than one as iconic as Supes.

    Are there plot holes in Byrne's plot? Sure. But I trust Jim and John would have hashed them out before anything was drawn, had it ever happened.

    It's similar to the current Spider-Man reboot Bendis is doing. Lots of plot holes, and some lame ideas that Jim wasn't around to help him work out.

    (I mean… don't get me wrong… I want to give this new Spider-Man a chance, I really do… but to make him half-black AND half-Hispanic… and also possibly gay? Any one of those elements would have been plenty… saddling him with all three gives the whole reboot a feel of desperation, like, "we really really need to make Miles as different from Peter was possible," or potentially more along the lines of a "everything and the kitchen sink, too" approach to rebooting the character.

    It just seems like a desperate scream for attention, to have that many elements going on, all in the same character, and causes one to say, "Wait a second, could he have an Asian grandmother and a native American great-grandfather while we're at it? And be homeless? Because there's a few checklist items that were missed…."

    Even so… it tales kahunas to even attempt it, so for all the flaws of Miles and the new Spidey… I'm willing to give Bendis time… to do the honorable thing.

    (Hands him a sword and leaves the room.) 😉 LOL

  145. Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this Jim – love your blog!

    Byrne is a great artist but has always been a mediocre writer who needs a string editor (like yourself) to help shape up his stories. His Superman plot is pretty pedestrian and needs some polishing from another set of eyes.

    Of course the lemmings on his board are complaining about this post. Glad you get to spread the truth and the record straight as Byrne is always trying to retcon his own history at Marvel and DC to put himself in a more favorable light.

    Keep up the great posts Jim!


  146. I have to say, looking back, the Byrne reboot lost a lot of its lustre very quickly. I have read (although I can't remember where) that he wanted to do far more with the idea of a novice Superman and DC would not let him do it. Having said that, I find a lot of pre crisis Superman to be awful.

    If you go back to the character's genesis (The Superman Chronicles trades) he is actually a far more interesting character than DC editorial allowed him to be for a great many years.

    The only Superman comics I have really enjoyed in the past 20 years or so have been All Star Superman (where Morrison really took all the fantastic elements and made them seem and feel fantastic rather than jokey or safe) and Morrison's current on Action Comics looks like it could be interesting.

    Also, although not really a Superman comic, Kingdome Come (the mini series) felt utterly "right" to me in a way that Dark Knight Returns never did in its assessment of both Batman and Superman.

  147. Four reading assignments for those unfamiliar with ancient comics: the first Brainiac story, the first Bizarro story, the first Metallo story and the first Lori Lemaris story.

  148. Dear Marc,

    I think you have to address Superman's boyhood. I would not alter the Siegel and Shuster death of the Kents.

  149. Marc Miyake wrote:
    In my experience, there seems to be a rift between pre-Byrne and post-Byrne fandom. Anyone else noticed this — or the total opposite?
    Marc, I think you're exactly right. I think there are two types of Superman fans: those who became fans because of Byrne and consider his version definitive, and those who were fans pre-Byrne and either dislike his version or at best, grudgingly accept it. I haven't come across very many pre-Byrne fans who also think his version is great.

    I had been a Superman reader for years when Byrne took over, and I really hated the changes he made. Some of them I felt were flat out wrong for the character. Some I disliked because they changed things that had been in place since almost the beginning. And some I disliked for sentimental reasons, though I could understand why Byrne felt they were necessary. At any rate, I stopped reading the book at that point.

    A few years ago I went back and read a bunch of those Byrne issues. I found that on the whole they were quite good, and for the most part Superman felt "right" despite the changes. One thing I still think is flat out wrong for the character is the alteration of Clark's personality, and the notion that he, rather than Superman, is the "real" person. I also really hate the concept of Luthor being a respectable businessman who Superman always fails to bring to justice. That makes Superman look impotent. So although I enjoy Byrne's stories, I guess that puts me in the realm of "grudgingly accepting" his version of the character.

  150. Dear Thunder,

    The word "decompression" was in my mind too. 🙂

    But I don't think the amount of the material is the problem for me. The Silver Age had "epic novels" that were complete in one issue. And even Jim's Marvel had such high-density stories — in the pages of What If?!

    Jim pinpointed my real issue with Byrne's plot: the lack of drama. One thing after another happens, but there's no emotion. Weisinger-period stories may have been crammed by modern standards, but at their best they could evoke emotions with scenes lasting only a few panels.

  151. @Marc…

    I know we all hate modern day decompression but it almost seems like dragging it out a little bit more here might have been an improvement (but not as bad as Bendis does though. I said "a little bit". Let's not get crazy:).

  152. Dear Thunder,

    Byrne covered the same amount of material (except for the debut of Luthor) in The Man of Steel #1 (1986) which has four chapters:

    "Prologue: From Out the Green Dawn" (destruction of Krypton; escape of the "matrix")

    "Chapter One: The Secret" (Clark as high school football star; flashback to how the Kents found him and how he gradually developed his powers; Clark decides to stop using his powers "to make other people feel useless" and "seek out the people and places that need someone" with superpowers)

    "Chapter Two: The Exposure" (Clark returns to his parents in Smallville and tells them how he was mobbed after saving a "space-plane")

    "Epilogue: The Super-Hero" (Ma Kent sews a costume for Clark and Clark and Pa Kent create the S symbol and the bespectacled version of Clark Kent)

  153. So this was the plot for an entire issue? It "reads" more like an outline for a mini-series to me. To do all that in one issue would've killed any real drama present in the story.

  154. Dear Jim,

    Before I saw your response, I almost wrote that Byrne's plot felt like a checklist. A sequence of obligatory events. Thanks for the history/story and documentary/drama dichotomies. A lot of wannabe writers, myself included, confuse histories with stories.

    As a writer of the pre-Crisis Superboy and Superman, do you consider Superboy and the death of the Kents to be "core concepts"?

    Dear everyone,

    I wonder how many fans of Byrne's Superman are "converts" from pre-Crisis Superman fandom? I imagine that there must be some Superman fans who grew up with the Weisinger and/or Schwartz eras but loved Byrne's version even more. However, I've never met any such fans, though perhaps Dale above fits the bill. In my experience, there seems to be a rift between pre-Byrne and post-Byrne fandom. Anyone else noticed this — or the total opposite?

  155. I Paint Donkeys

    I'm not crazy about the plot…or the guy that wrote it. With that said…I'd have bought it in 1984…because I had no idea (in those days) what kind of idiot Byrne is. The more we know of him…the less likely we are to buy his stuff.

  156. Anonymous, click the first link in the first paragraph at the start of this blog entry. All will be revealed.

    William, I definitely agree with you. In addition to the first 2 Christopher Reeve Superman movies, I love Byrne's Superman and the Timm Superman Animated Series. I've never seen anything else that could make me into a Superman fan, but I'm a big fan of those.

  157. I have always been a big fan of Byrne's version of Superman. His various Superman books were some of the only DC books I ever read faithfully on a regular basis. (New Teen Titans and Justice International being the others).

    I have to say that I like what Byrne actually ended up doing much better than his proposed Marvel treatment. The Marvel one seemed sort of directionless and not really very "tight", if you know what I mean. Whereas "Man of Steel" had a much better and well though out mythology. I was very sad to see Byrne leave the Superman titles after only 2 years. I thought he had a very good grasp on the character and where he wanted him to go. To this day, whenever I think of Superman, it's Byrne's Superman that comes to my mind.

    I also like the Timm-verse animated Superman as well, but that version is largely based on Byrne's.

  158. Kid

    By keeping the Kents alive, the tone of the Superboy tales was preserved, even 'though he no longer existed in the new continuity. I'm sure this must've been one of the reasons why Byrne decided to keep them.

  159. Anonymous

    Anonymous said…Why was Marvel going to relaunch the DC titles? Is there a story to this, or was DC just struggling and Marvel tossed the idea around. This is the first I've ever heard of this, and I find the possaibilities fascinating.

  160. Dear Marc,

    Briefly, Marc, it's a history, not a story. More documentary than drama.

    If Marvel had relaunched the DC titles we would have made them work together as a universe. We would have started with the core concepts, everything that was good about/important to the characters and started from there. Changes and updates would have been made carefully and only as necessary.

    Byrne didn't do that in this plot.

  161. OM, now that you mention Jor-El might have been planning for the rocketship to land in the U.S., that makes me think that the opportunity to get U.S. citizenship by birth could be the "mysterious additional factor" Byrne mentions that would help them survive on Earth (or at least Kal-El). That could be why the "timing" of the launch was critical. The ship had to land on Earth, and in the U.S. inparticular, fast enough so that Lara would give birth there.

    However, it still seems that Superman would face problems without a valid U.S. birth certificate. That lack of documentation would make it impossible for him to ever become Super President or to collect Super Social Security. 😉

  162. OM

    …Jim, from what I recall about Byrne's discarded elements of his Superman pitch, his justification for having Lara survive just long enough to give birth to Kal-El on Earth was based on US Law regarding Citizenship: if you're born in the US or one of it's territories/protectorates/embassies, you're automatically a US citizen. It's not beyond the realm of doubt that Jor-El had been studying Earth for some time, and would have realized that the US was the nation most likely to be able to accept an immigrant, especially one born on its shores.

    …The interesting thing I find about the Marvel pitch is that Pa Kent dies. One of the things Byrne always bragged/emphasized about his pitch was that he was going to bring back both Ma and Pa Kent, and that "killing them off was a dumb idea to begin with, because they're an even better anchor and role model to keep Superman *human*!" The deaths of Jor-El and Lara served a purpose just as much as Uncle Ben's death served in the formation of Spider-Man. The Kents dying served *NO* purpose whatsoever, not even for simple pathos. Having them alive after the COIE reboot was quite possibly the best change to the Super-mythos Byrne made, and it was made for the right reasons. This is sadly – and retardedly – something the current pathetic excuse for a creative team has callously forgotten, and were I running DC it would be the first change I'd make after having three large security goons toss Didiot out on his butt.


  163. Marc, that's a good way of putting it. Incidentally, Jonathan Kent's death in the Superman movie ended up having an emotional resonance that wasn't intended to be there until a last-minute rewrite of the ending. That happens after Lois dies in the earthquake. Superman flashes back through a whirlwind of memories, hearing Jonathan's voice and remembering what he said at his funeral, "All those things I can do, all those powers, and I couldn't even save him." It became a full-circle moment in the storyline and it grew his character, since he now refuses to give up and finds a way to use his powers to bring back Lois. I am not one who's inclined to quibble with the logic of whether or not Superman could or should actually do such a thing because of how well it worked in the story on an emotional level.

    It works so well that it's hard to believe it wasn't intended all along. But, as has been documented with many interviews of Richard Donner, et al., the first movie was always going to end with him saving Lois from the earthquake before she dies. They just eventually decided that wasn't a strong enough ending. The "turning back the world" was originally going to be used in Part II to undo the destruction the Phantom Zone villains wrought on the world and to wipe out Lois' memory of Superman's secret identity. That "superfeat" got moved to Part I, they had Lois die to provide the motivation for it, and we ended up with what I think is still one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in any superhero movie.

  164. Ben Ronning, that sounds like a plausible reason why Byrne would have brought Lara to earth. As Kal-El's origin typically plays out, he's not a U.S. citizen by law, but an undocumented alien, pun intended. Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." came out in 1984, didn't it? At any rate, I believe there was a bit of a resurgence in patriotism in the U.S. in the mid-'80s, which may have contributed to a desire to make Superman a natural-born U.S. citizen. Obviously not strong enough though for that concept to survive long enough to make it into the Man of Steel comic.

    The biggest problem with that for me as Jim alluded to is wondering what happens to Lara's body? It adds an unnecessarily creepy and alien note to the Superman myth to think that his Kryptonian mother is buried somewhere on earth. You'd have to be reminded of it many times because he would naturally want to visit her grave. It also makes the Kents a little too aware of his alien origins. On an emotional level, it badly mars the joyous moment of Kal-El's arrival on earth and the Kents' discovery of him. Perhaps even worse, it would have been too tempting for later writers to build a plot around some villain exhuming her body or dissecting it. She probably would have ended up as one of those "Blackest Night" zombies.

  165. Dear JediJones,

    I've been trying to figure out why both the subway and space plane rescues leave me cold despite their spectacular nature. I think it's because Superman has no emotional investment in either rescue. Although Lois is on the scene in both cases, he doesn't know her yet. OTOH, as you wrote, "Having Clark be persuaded to don the costume in public to save Lois' life helps underline how important their relationship is to the story and how much he cares about her." Such a rescue plays up both the super and the man — the powers and the emotions — that together comprise Superman.

  166. I'm a big fan of the 1978 Superman movie and the first sequel (one of the few "true" Part IIs in cinema since it was mostly written and shot at the same time as part I). John Byrne's Man of Steel series is right up there with the movie as one of my all-time favorite Superman stories. It worked both as an exciting "event" and as a story. At the age of 10, it successfully tempted me, a Marvel loyalist, over to the other side.

    I believe Jim has stated that Byrne told him he saw the Superman movie something like 100 times. Man of Steel was already clearly inspired by the movie in parts, but this plot is perhaps even closer. The Krypton council, the haste to prepare the ship during the planet's disintegration, the Kents discovering the spaceship while out in their truck, Jonathan Kent dying while Martha survives, a brief appearance by Lana Lang, the "rough city girl" description of Lois, the nature of the love triangle with Clark liking Lois and Lois liking Superman, Perry trying to "toughen up" Clark, and Luthor learning of Superman on TV and instantly deciding he's his enemy all parallel the movie. Of course many of those things may have appeared in older comics first.

    I don't remember if all of those things happened that way in Man of Steel or not. Some of the elements that weren't in the movies I do recall from Man of Steel, like the "aura," the way Clark discovers some of his powers in Smallville, Clark's family helping him with his decision to take on the Superman persona and with his costume, and "Superman" giving his big scoop to Clark Kent instead of Lois.

    Interestingly, the action scenes, rescues and so forth all seem pretty unique here. They don't bear much resemblance to any scenes from the movies and they don't remind me directly of any scenes in Man of Steel.

    If there's one spot where Byrne's story does not improve on the movie, it's in the big reveal of Superman's identity to the public. I think it's hard to top the way the movie did it. Having Clark be persuaded to don the costume in public to save Lois' life helps underline how important their relationship is to the story and how much he cares about her. It also makes sense that, since saving Lois is the most iconic feat Superman routinely performs, it should be the first thing he does as Superman.

  167. Dear Jim,

    Could you briefly describe the "significant, fundamental problems" you have with the plot? I'm interested in your take on its mechanics.

    Maybe I'm so tired of structureless and/or incomprehensible "stories" that I'm relieved to see a comprehensive story with structure, even if it has elements that just … exist without much impact: e.g.,

    – Lara's death (she might as well have died on Krypton and the story would still be the same)

    – Jonathan's death (no visible effects on Clark; cf. the impact of Uncle Ben's murder on Peter Parker)

    Also, what sorts of things about the DC characters would have to change in the revamps beyond simply restarting continuity from zero? Did you think some elements in their concepts and backstories were dated and/or somehow out of sync with 1980s Marvel standards?

    For those familiar with Byrne's published revamp:

    By coincidence, I happen to have The Man of Steel #1 (1986) and Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 by my side right now for reasons unrelated to this post and it occurred to me that both Superman and Spider-Man publicly debut saving spacecraft.

  168. and I prefer Clark Kent being the real person and Superman the alter ego.

    Byrne kept quite a bit, and making the Kents younger and being able to advise the adult Clark generate many wonderful thoughtful stories.

    I collected Superman from the 70s onwards and Byrne's revamp was a breath of fresh air and much needed. Pity he didnt stay around for a 50+ issue run on the main title.

  169. Dear Ben,

    Byrne wrote his plot for the potential first Marvel issue of Superman without being asked. I wouldn't have accepted his plot. I have significant, fundamental problems with it. His take on Superman was just that, his take, not at all what Marvel would have done under my watch.

    There would have been a relaunch of all the characters, and some things, of necessity, would have been changed. The reboots would have not been "similar" to what Byrne proposed for Superman.

  170. Anonymous

    That was a thousand times better than the recent Action Comics #1

  171. Dear Jim,

    I remember hearing rumor that claimed John Byrne wanted Lara to give birth or Kal-El on Earth (and thus make him a native of Earth in a roundabout fashion) and this pitch confirms it. It would have been interesting to see the fan reaction if this agreement went through. Would other DC characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern (among others) have gotten a similar "reboot"?

  172. Nothing about Superman occasionally breaking the 4th wall and speaking to the readers? And where's that old school Byrne humor? Jor el could have been just ordering lunch, and accidentally pressed the "launch" button.

    I prefer Superman to be the real identity and Kent the disguise, and this for sure does not seem to be that.

  173. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for summarizing Byrne's plot. I wish you had reviewed it, but maybe it's best that you didn't because we readers can then give our own evaluations without being influenced.

    I wasn't terribly fond of much of Byrne's published revamp, but in some ways I prefer it to this unused plot:

    1. The "searing radiation": This element is confusing and unnecessary. Could Lara have been poisoned by it? Maybe not, since Kal-El wasn't. Did it mutate them, just as cosmic rays changed the Fantastic Four? Whatever changes affected Lara — if any — obviously weren't enough to enable her to survive the crash … despite Jor-El's prediction that the "additional factor […] that will help them [plural!] survive." Maybe Byrne meant to introduce the "additional factor" in some later issue.

    2. Lara dying on Earth. Byrne has mentioned this in an earlier proposal. This serves no purpose I can see other than to differentiate this origin from the classic one in which Jor-El and Lara die as a couple. I recall Byrne saying that Lara's death would serve a purpose: she'd die from kryptonite and thereby prove that it was fatal. Maybe he came up with that after he turned in this plot.

    3. Martha's "pregnancy": IIRC, in the published revamp, Martha had a cover story: she was pregnant when the Kents were snowed in (sorry if I got this wrong). No cover story here.

    4. Jonathan's death: In the late 30s version of the origin, the passing of both Kents marks Clark's manhood. This death just seems random. I guess Martha has to survive to sew Clark's costume.

    5. The raid reminds me of Spider-Man's origin: in both case, a failure to act led to terrible consequences. Would Byrne's Superman have been perpetually haunted by this incident? Was this a conscious attempt to Marvelize Superman, to give him a psychological weak point? I don't like the idea of associating Superman with failure.

    6. The subway rescue is large in scale, but not as spectacular as the space plane rescue in the published revamp.

    It's still a decent done-in-one, though. I'm sure I'd have loved Byrne's art, and the conclusion cracked me up: "Sorry, the caped man says, he’s already given his story to someone else, Clark Kent." And I'm relieved to see that teenage Clark didn't become a football star which I've long thought was out of character. (Maybe he did off-panel.)

    I wonder how readers who have read the New 52 relaunches of the Superman titles would react to this plot.

    Thanks for the documentation presented in the second half of the post. I'd love to see comics history told by scholars using this kind of material rather than speculation and nth-hand stories. Speaking of documentation, have you seen "The Check That DC Comics Used To Buy Superman"?

  174. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,

    Thanks for the info on Combat Pay. I was the one who brought it up in the comments way back, thanks for shedding some light onto that part of comics history.

    I first heard of it in an interview with Joe Rubinstein where he had several specific stories of some of the good things you did plus he had first-hand accounts of how innocent requests by you were misunderstood and twisted by others into something bad or unreasonable.


    — Jay C

  175. Very interesting comparing this version of Byrne's take on Superman with what he later did post-Crisis. He kept bits about the bull, the dog, and the aura, but most of the rest was different (Lara, Pa Kent dying, Kent starting at the Daily Planet before becoming Superman, etc.) As a fan of Byrne's reworking, I'm not sure I'm objective, but I'd say most of the changes made later were for the better.

  176. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,

    Thanks for the info re: Combat Pay. I think I was the first person who brought it up in comments after hearing a Joe Rubinstein interview where he had several stories of the good that you did and examples of innocent requests by you would get misunderstood or twisted by others.


    Jay C

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