In 1990 the first non-American Superman graphic novel was published exclusively by a Swedish publisher, and has never seen reprint in America or elsewhere since it was published. It was titled “Superman og Fredsbomben”, which translates into “Superman and the Peace Bomb”.
In a recent interview with Norwegian.com, artist Teddy Kristiansen recalls how the project was born because DC Comics wanted to do something special to celebrate Superman’s 50th anniversary.
“It was Superman’s 50th anniversary in 1988, and for the first time DC allowed overseas publishers to do their own interpretation of the character,” recalls Kristiansen. “A Swedish publisher [Interpresse] asked me if I was interested. I panicked because I was this amateur artist in Copenhagen working with this famous character.”
The book’s writer, Niels Søndergaard, was also concerned about his lack of experience, but he had an idea for a plot. “I came up with an activist called Theodore who travels to Scandinavia and Holland to promote a new invention called the Peace Monger, which turns radioactive material into lead,” he says. “Lois Lane and Clark Kent are covering the tour and it turns out Theodore is actually a robot controlled by Lex Luthor.”
While Kristiansen was given a free rein as long as he drew the S on Superman’s chest precisely – “Now I can draw it in my sleep” – Søndergaard clashed with DC over Clark Kent’s choice of changing room. “DC was annoyed I used toilets instead of phone booths,” he recalls. “I thought it would be a logical choice because phone booths are open. At the end they allowed me to use toilets, but they did complain.”
Another sticking point was the destruction caused by Superman during his Scandinavian sojourn. “A lot of things get smashed during his fights, including Frogner Park in Oslo and the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki,” says Søndergaard. “DC said, ‘Superman has to rebuild this. Why does he smash everything?’ I told » them it is because kids think it’s funny, but in the end you have Lois Lane saying, ‘Superman is not here because he is rebuilding everything that was smashed.'”
Superman og Fredsbomben turned out to be a refreshingly different take on the superhero that’s now a valuable collector’s item. It also helped to change the way DC and rivals Marvel looked at the content of their comic books. “I feel proud to be part of the Superman story,” Kristiansen says. “He is a mythological figure; Americans don’t have gods so they had to create Superman. He is so iconic and can be interpreted in so many different ways. It is fantastic that we were able to show people a Danish version of a great superhero.”
Interestingly, Kristiansen was able to rekindle his relationship with Superman when he was asked to illustrate “It’s a Bird” by writer Steven T Seagle in 2005.