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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Cover date: April 2003
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Pascual Ferry, Duncan Rouleau and Alex Ross, Tony Harris, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Bullock, Ed McGuinness, JH Williams, Dan Jurgens and Klaus Janson, Kilian Plunkett, Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Lee Bermejo
Inker: Cam Smith, Marlo Alquiza, Scott Hanna, Duncan Rouleau
"A Hero's Journey"
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (email@example.com)
On a familiar stretch of road, Martha and Jonathan Kent encounter a strange visitor from another planet when a young Clark Kent is rocketed to Earth in a Kryptonian space ship.
Martha tries later to convince Jonathan to keep the boy, pulling out wine. To drink to celebrate, or to drink to drown the sorrow.
Narrator: A young black girl relates how she learned to read by being inspired by Superman comics. Her father watches her, in the past.
Clark is five or so now, talking with his father about how his fight with Tommy Birch erupted over Clark's family being called dirt farmers. They are interrupted by cries for help. A man named Baker is trapped beneath his tractor, which is still moving. Pa manages to turn the key and stop it, saving Baker just in time.
Narrator: Superman is described as a force that proves that the good guys always win...
Clark is now a young teen, cheering because he can fly. He rises up above the earth and beholds it, smitten.
Narrator: A young black boy realizes his dream of flight by believing that he can be like Superman.
Clark is now leaving Smallville. Lana begs him to stay. He asks her to come with him. Both decline, and Clark walks off into the sky.
Narrator: Radio DJs, older style, speak of how we revere Superman, how we believe in flight, and how it is important that he is up there, taking care of us, watching over us.
Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis and quickly realizes through rude people and poverty that he's not ready to stay yet. He heads to Paris.
Clark Kent, working as a waiter in Paris, hears a scuffle in an alley. He steps out to save them, and gets into the usual confrontation with a gun wielding crook. He blocks the bullets, realizing that he is bulletproof, but the crook steps in and shatters his realization by shooting the man Clark was trying to save.
Narrator: A soldier talks of the perils of American war, and how Superman's death was an inspiration to live beyond the losses.
Clark, despondent on the streets after his failure, is met by Lana and Tommy Birch, who is so drunk that he passes out. Lana asks to go back with him. He agrees, but then meets Ed Wilson, a famous reporter, and decides to follow him to Africa.
On assignment with Ed, Cuban Nationals attack the pair in search of a story. Clark saves Wilson and uses heat vision in front of him. He explains to Ed, who fires him and tells him it's time to fly, not learn.
Narrator: A father and son fight over whether to watch horror movies or sports. While fighting over the channel and almost coming to blows, they get a Superman bio, and a father/son moment, rare, ensues.
At the 250 year Metropolis anniversary, Clark watches as the Constitution is damaged. He flies into the air in civilian clothes and saves the ship.
Narrator: An older white woman in a wheelchair struggles to rise and walk, encouraged by Superman.
Lois meets Clark after he saves the Constitution, and he is quickly pulled away by a greedy crowd.
Later, Pa suggests a special forces outfit. Clark notes that he doesn't want to look like he's hiding. Pa also encourages him to stick with the name the people gave him... Superman.
Lana writes Clark and tells him she recognized him on the television, and wishes him the best.
Narrator: The father of a young cancer patient finds that despite his own fears, his son is able to comfort them both with Superman's valiant efforts...
In a diner, Lois talks about how she's going to try and get the Superman story. She also notes that Ed Wilson has died. She takes his hat and puts it on the restaurant rack, saying he would probably have liked to just be an anonymous hat after a good meal. Clark takes it. He also notes the advice: It's time to fly.
Narrator: A police officer is poked fun at for wearing a Superman shirt under his uniform. He is then shot, but survives, barely. His friends stop laughing and start wearing the shirts as well.
Clark steps out of the Daily Planet Building, listens to the world around him, and changes into Superman, flying gloriously into the air...
Story - 5: This story is deceptively simple, repetitive of other themes, and it lacks a lot of action. Normally, this would bring me down on an issue with great vengeance and furious anger. This story, however, inspired me.
When I was younger, I remember waiting for Action Comics #700. See, I did the math back then, and a centennial issue only comes around every eight years. I said, man, next time I read a centennial Action Comics, it will be 2003. I wonder if they will have resolved the whole Luthor clone thing by then.
Heh heh heh. Spare me the laugh, please.
So I've been waiting and anticipating this for a long time, and hoping that it will be a great issue. I mean, heck, barring a cancellation, a change in pace, or other malady, we won't see another one until 2011! I wonder if they'll have the whole General Zod thing figured out by then...
I set my benchmark with Action #700. All of the major and long-running plots and subplots of several years came to a head with that issue. Luthor was revealed for the scurrilous so and so he really was, Metropolis and Cadmus finally had it out, the clones and Underworld took their fall, and many, many characters were tried. Heck, Hamilton (I know, who? But bear with me...he'll be back...?) lost an arm. Also, for the first time since he donned a Green and Purple suit for the last time, we saw Lex Luthor go berserk and try with megalomania to wipe the world clean.
I missed that in this issue. I wanted something climactic, destructive, continuity shaking, angry, bitter, sad. I didn't really get that. But that's okay.
Because the story that Joe Kelly puts before us is more than any of that. It's an affirmation of why we read the 700s in the first place. It defined what Superman is and how he is related to in the real world as an inspiration. Action #775 put it better, I admit, but this is a non-action-oriented way to put it at its best.
There are also priceless, unforgettable moments. The flight at the end is amazing. The Constitution re-imagining is glorious. The writing is top-notch.
I am very pleased that this turned out as well as it did, because things have been a lot worse at times, lately, and this issue was treated with the respect and gravity it deserved. I enjoyed it a great deal.
I have my always-there nitpicks. Martha wanting wine is not a very good way to portray old Ma Kent. Ed Wilson and Ben Conrad (Action #612) seem like the same character. But there are only those two. They're hard to see, as well, unless you're me.
And it's made up for by the hideous irony that Lex actually DID make it into this issue. If you look closely, you'll see that the man Superman inspired to fly and become a spaceship pilot is actually flying...
Mwu ha ha...
A Lexcorp commissioned space fighter plane...
Art - 4: A mixed bag, but mostly all great. I don't recognize who did work where in all cases, and this is a really broad category, given that this is a huge tribute/special issue, but I will note that in distinction, I was able to discern and admire the work of McGuinness, Ferry, Jurgens, Lee, Sale, Sienkewicz, and Ross. I'm particularly fond of Mac, Lee, Sale, and Ferry, but the real kudos have to go to Ferry for piecing in and carrying the issue. The most epic and fond moment I will have for this issue is the final page, Superman, finally flying, ready to go. Great, epic far-shot. I love it.
I note that Pa Kent looks a little like Pa in Smallville, to a degree, particularly on 10. That's give or take to some, but I'll take. I liked it when they made Lois look like Teri Hatcher for a while there... borrowing from pop-culture is slightly cliche, but it's also a great use of the idea of re-imagining. I loved it.
Cover Art - 5: This cover has a truly great logo, a nice re-imagining of the original cover, and a background without detail that actually managed to pull it off, which is extremely difficult with me. KEEP THIS LOGO! PLEASE!!
The change of focus for the page is indicative of the general direction of the story, and since the "didn't happen in this issue" can't really apply, this being a milestone, I have to give this my first five on a cover in a while. Great stuff.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2003.