It Begins, Again: Andy Burns on Superman: Earth One

It’s a simple story, one we’ve all heard a thousand times: boy’s planet blows up, boy arrives on Earth in a spaceship, the sole survivor of his race and is taken in by a kind farmer and his wife, boy develops huge superpowers and becomes a savior and embodiment of heroism.

Somebody cue the John Williams score.

There are few origins in pop culture as instantly familiar as that of Superman. It’s so simple and memorable. Yet even with it’s instant familiarity, the early beginnings of Superman have been told multiple times – the classic Richard Donner film; on television in the various animated and live action series, including Lois and Clark and Smallville (currently in it’s tenth and final season). In the world of DC Comics, where Superman was birthed all those decades ago, creators such as Mark Waid and John Byrne have gone back to the beginning to revisit and update Kal-El’s saga, mostly staying true to the roots. Which begs the question, is there anything left to say when it comes to The Man Of Steel?

After reading J. Michael Straczynski’s new graphic novel Superman: Earth One, the answer is a very resounding yes.

A little background first. Earth: One is a new, ongoing line of graphic novels that will take iconic characters such as Superman and Batman and establish them in a continuity free world that exists right now. While DC big wigs may cringe at the comparisons to Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics, that’s essentially what Earth: One is. While not entirely innovative, I do think it’s pretty exciting to be able to start at the beginning with these legends and see how they could possibly be innovated, especially in the case of Superman. As an indestructible and omnipotent character, it’s a sad but true fact that Supes in pretty boring in regular continuity. In Earth One Straczynski is determined to shake things up, while still remaining true to the classic pieces of the puzzle.

Working with artist Shane Davis, Straczynski’s story introduces us to a 20 year-old Clark Kent, new to Metropolis and determined to figure out his place in the world. Should he be a scientist? An athlete? A reporter? Or does he fulfill the dreams of his adopted father Jonathan, who thinks Clark is destined to help the world. It’s extremely compelling to read a Superman who is not yet the embodiment of everything G-O-O-D; it makes him that much more human. There’s no doubt of the end choice he makes, of course. He is the Last Son Of Krypton, after all.

Along the way, we meet core characters like Lois Lane, Jimmy (sorry, Jim) Olson, and Perry White. We’re also introduced to a new villain who adds serious drama to the destruction of Krypton and who will give Superman a new reason for being that could never fly in regular continuity. can probably tell by now that I really enjoyed Superman: Earth One. The art is great and the story felt fresh too. Straczynski adds some new material to the classic origin story, but I never found that he strayed too far off course. While I did have a few moments where I didn’t totally buy into the changes (where the name Superman comes from, along with his costume, felt like the author was stretching just a bit too far) those were really few and far between. Instead, I felt like for the first time in a long time I was really interested in the character and where he could be taken without any baggage.

If you’ve never picked up a Superman book before, or if you’ve been hesitant to delve back into the character, Earth One is an excellent story and well worth a read. Not only will it have you remembering what came before, but it’ll have you wondering what comes next for the Man Of Steel.

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