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The Kryptonian Code: The “Lost-Modern” Age

Posted by jadecanary on June 18, 2008

In 1985, DC Comics decided to combine the “Infinite” number of continuities they created, purchased, or inherided through a 12-issue mini-series called “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. We all know that. At the same time, they decided to ret-con Superman. Y’know, make him fresh for new readers. Dump the entire Silver Age continuity. They handed the reins to John Byrne.

Bryne had a vision. I remember reading from an article years ago that the Silver Age became overburdened with Kryptonians that “it seemed like only the -Els and a few nieghbors didn’t get off Krypton in time”. The first step was to make Superman truly “The Last Son of Krypton”. Kryptonian DNA was bonded to it’s homeworld. No Kryptonian could ever leave or they would die. In Bryne’s World of Krypton, he explained that Kryptonians were logical, solitary beings during the last age of Krypton. They reproduced by donating a little of “the good stuff” to the birthing bank. Jor-El, in his infinite wisdom, became aware of the impending doom. He travelled to the birthing bank and began modifications on the embryo that would become Kal-El. This explained why no one else escaped. Kal-El’s birthing matrix was attached to a starlight drive and blasted off Krypton, moment before its destruction. When the ship landed on Earth, the matrix opened and Kal-El was literally born on Earth. And he was the last Kryptonian.

And I stopped typing for a moment. Just a moment to check Wiki for the release date of Superman: Birthright, the story that ret-conned Bryne’s ret-con. I did that because I didn’t feel like walking a few feet to pick up the Birthright Tradepaperback and looking. And then wiki shows me something I didn’t know.

DC Comics doesn’t consider Superman: Birthright continuity anymore. Wait, what? I found the footnote that took me to this article on the Superman Homepage. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’ll tell you what Superman’s origin is…

There is no origin. Simply put, if they need anything from Superman’s past, they’ll take it, use it, and explain how it works now in the New Earth era.

So where does that leave me?

I’ll get back to my point with this new information added to my swirling brain of frusrtration. Let me talk (write?) about Busiek’s run on Superman for a moment. It was great. With the exception of Superman #661, every book he was responsible for told a good story. But there was that damn Third Kryptonian. She started this.

I was able to live with the idea that the Superman I read about now was the Silver Age version. I didn’t like it, but there was nothing I could do about it. And I really liked what Busiek was doing. (You notice I don’t mention the Johns/Donner tag team? WTF was that?) But then there was the ramifications of who the Third Kryptonian was and what she meant for New Earth continuity.

She was a soldier of the Kryptonian Empire. Yes, the empire. One day, a new political party takes charge, and disbands the empire. Some soldiers don’t want to go home. under the red sun, they’ll have no powers. So they ran (flew?).

Why does this matter? It effects the legacy of Superman in the eyes of the intergalactic community as a survivor of the totalitarian Kryptonian society. That has a way of making people hate you. What’s worse, there is an untold number of Kryptonians out there. Superman is not the “Last Son”.

The Infinite Crisis has changed Superman–forever. It destroyed the foundation of the Modern Age Superman, and left some great stories as non-continuitus. The first book I ever bought was The Adventures of Superman #463, Superman races The Flash. Of course Clark and the various Flashes have run together before and after this book, but nobody puts a race together better then Mr. Mxyzptlk.

After this, The Day of the Krypton Man 6-issue story arc was released. I was introduce to an idea that I could follow an ongoing story in three books over the span of a month. How cool was that? At the end of the year, Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite came out. Mxy was back, and he gave Lex Luthor red kryptonite. In this continuity, there were no other colors. Red was new to me too. At this point, I was begging to go grocery shopping with my mother each week, just in case the next issue of the Superman franchise had been released. I mean, “What the hell is a comic book store?”

Well, I soon found out what a comic book store was. I picked up all the Superman books. I followed Superman’s adventures in Time and Time Again, and read about the return of the Eradicator in the first issue of Superman: The Man of Steel. This book turned Superman into a weekly series.

It wasn’t just the character of the Eradicator who shouldn’t exist now that I enjoyed back then. The Guardian, the protector of Project Cadmus and the Newsboy Legion, has been altered in this New Earth to be one of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers. Gangbuster, aka Jose Delgado, would fight the good fight in the Suicide Slum, while Superman was taking care of intergalactic threats. Agent Liberty was a hero whose origins would make him an agent of a homegrown terrorist cell, one he turn against and brought down. Even Bibbo Bibbowski has seemingly vanished from the mythos.

Then there was the creative teams. Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, just barely before my time with Superman, started things off. They handed off to the talents of Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern and Dan Jurgens. Louise Simonson and Karl Kesel joined up later. Ordway and Jurgens would lend their artistic talents along with Tom Grummet, Kerry Gammill, Jackson Guice, and Jon Bogdanove (who named his kid Kal-El). These men and women, along with others, took the Man of Steel to the grave, and brought him back.

And the DC Universe was never the same.

The resurrection of Superman brought down Hal Jordan, which gave us Kyle Rayner and Parallax. Parallax gave us Zero Hour, which doesn’t matter anymore. But Parallax was defined in Green Lantern: Rebirth, which leads to the Sinestro Corps War, and so on. Right into New Earth continuity.

And that is why DC brass says the death still counts.

But that’s it, unless the writers need something.

At this point, I don’t know what to think. I’m pissed that my favorite stories don’t count anymore. But shouldn’t these stories stand on their own? Do they need continuity to be good? Is giving the New Earth Superman any sort of true background even necessary? If the writers are just going to re-imagine the concepts, the villians, the support staff, do they need the works of Bryne and Wofman, Ordway, Stern and Jurgens, even Loeb and Waid? Does any of this matter????

To me, it does. These are good stories by good creative teams. They don’t count to DC, but they count to me. This is MY Superman continuity.

Onward to the present. I still buy Superman. I still buy Action Comics. I hate what has happened to both of these books. But at the same time, Busiek wrote some damn fine stories, as mentioned above, and I’m happy to see that Geoff Johns has ditched Richard Donner.

AND I LOVE JAMES ROBINSON! Firearm and Starman. Two of the best titles I’ve ever read. The Golden Age may have been a better mini-series then Kingdom Come. “Face the Face” was a good read at the One Year Later jump in the Batman books. I’m so happy to be reading James Robinson on Superman. But I reserve the right to be grumpy as things change.

But, then again, I can only imagine if I picked up my first comic book in 1965, and 20 years later, some jerk named John Bryne ret-cons everything I knew about Superman.

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4 Responses to “The Kryptonian Code: The “Lost-Modern” Age”

  1. Torch said

    Byrne’s best stuff was definitely with Marvel. And I love the convoluted DC continuity – no comic company gives you brain aneurysms better than DC!

    So until Superman dies of a brain aneurysm, MAKE MINE MARVEL!

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