Refashioning The Cape
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-seventh choice, Superman: Man Of Steel by John Byrne and Dick Giordano and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Superman: The Man Of Steel
Writer: John Byrne
Artists: John Byrne with Dick Giordano
Letterer: John Costanza
Colours: Tom Ziuko
Today’s book is John Byrne’s retelling of Superman’s origin, Superman: Man Of Steel. When this came out back in 1986, Byrne was best-known as a stalwart of DC’s competitor Marvel and so it came as a bolt out of the blue when he turned his attention to DC’s most iconic superhero.
Superman had suffered for decades in bland, unengaging stories and so something had to be done to bring him out of his slump. DC poached Byrne from Marvel and from the start here, where we see Byrne’s take on the Man of Steel’s Kryptonian origins, he doesn’t waste any time setting the scene for the character’s genesis.
Familiar characters like Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Bizarro and Ma and Pa Kent are reintroduced by Byrne. They are the familiar figures but he has given each of them a little tweak just to bring them up to date. Much like Morrison and Quitely’s All-Star Superman twenty years or so later, Byrne takes the essence of all of these archetypes and brings something fresh to them. Cameos from Batman are very well-handled too and Byrne tells his tale in just six chapters with no flab and no padding.
Visually Byrne’s Superman is the embodiment of hope and positivity, taking his cue from Christopher Reeve in the iconic films but also giving him his own more personal approach. The introduction by Byrne, who was born in England but moved to Canada when he was fairly little, puts his Superman in a very interesting context. Here is this creator born in England and raised in Canada who is taking on the ultimate American hero, so he’s an outsider tackling another outsider figure. Rad Bradbury’s introduction is also fascinating. He gets to the nub of just why it is that throughout our modern era, Superman is there. He reflects the mores of the period he is created in and Man Of Steel is definitely a very 1980s approach to the character. Inker Dick Giordano gives Byrne a very polished sheen to his pencils and letterer Costanza and colourist Tom Ziuko lend the whole thing a very classy feel.
Superman: Man Of Steel is a wonderful heartfelt tribute to the character with Byrne injecting new life into Superman. Set just after DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths, Man Of Steel offers a new perspective on DC’s most familiar creation.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far