Sometimes the greats of the comic book world aren’t all that great. Sometimes a creator gets a good idea but something doesn’t quite work and other times everything works but the idea just doesn’t hold up. These project still deserve praise and, with the aid of hindsight and study, we can learn from such projects. Today I want to take a moment to look at a story arc from 2004 that deserves a little more credit than it was ever given. Superman: For Tomorrow. This storyline saw Superman reach into some of the darkest parts of his being as he decided to leave the Earth by essentially committing suicide. It’s dark, harrowing and yet there is still an air of optimism. For me, this is a piece that shows the best of what a Superman comic can offer, a look through the steel visage of most powerful man on earth.
Living In The Shadow Of The Bat
Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee released Batman Hush in late 2002 to rave reviews as they through the Caped Crusader through a whirlwind adventure, pitching him against some of his greatest villains in ways we have never seen before. After the legacy and boost in sales Hush created the higher ups of DC, along with Azzarello and Lee, where keen to maintain the creative teams momentum so they set them with a new task, writing for Superman. At the time there had been two big Superman stories, one involving the disappearance of almost a million people including Lois Lane and another set around the idea of Superman creating a pocket dimension to save Earth in the event of a Krypton, except Superman had failed to save the million. When the story opens we see Superman discussing his failures and thoughts with a depressed, possibly suicidal, priest and for the first time we see the imperfect side of Clark, the scared Kansas farm boy unsure about his place in the universe.
Heaven Is A Place On Krypton
Azzarello decided to run with these ideas, setting up a scenario where Superman could give up his life on Earth and live in the pocket dimension with Lois and an alternate version of his Kryptonian family, in the closest science fiction equivalent to heaven. The trade off being that neither Superman or Clark Kent could revisit Earth. This created a two part story, the first half looking at Superman’s life and who he consulted when deciding whether to live or go. Most readers assumed that Superman would choose to stay, but after much deliberation, the man of Steel crosses over to his own personal heaven. This move was a big leap for the character and it lead to second half of the arc which dealt with Superman’s realisation that his pocket dimension, Metropia, was partly the work of General Zod and that he had been responsible for the vanishing event. When faced with a new foe Superman realises that he cannot give up the fight and eventually returns to Earth, with the victims of the vanishing in tow. The majority of the arc is told from both Superman’s and the priest he visited at the beginning of the arc’s perspective giving both a grounded and epic point of view.
What Can We Learn?
Superman: For Tomorrow sold well, by all measures it was a commercial success and it even saw some critical acclaim, but compared to most of the series and arcs I have covered in this feature it was weak. I think this fault lay in the complexity of the arc, Azzarello pulls in every corner of Superman’s universe and it all just gets a little too silly. The arc also overstays it’s welcome, lasting maybe a few issues too long. But at the core of this piece is a good story that could really strike a chord with the right reader and, if it had been further streamlined, it had every bit of potential as any other arc I have examined. This is the ‘what if?’ tragedy of some comic book runs but I doubt I am the first to examine this series and I have no doubt a that it has gone in to inspire many current writers for the Man Of Steel! Next week I will be looking at World War Hulk and the day the Hulk finally snapped.
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new Covert Coot article!!!