Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Classics - Superman #233

Even though he is one of the greatest superheroes in the history of comics, I have to admit that I've always been a sporadic buyer of the comic books starring Superman.

I read his adventures often when I was young, but I drifted away at some point in the mid-'60s.

But this issue in 1971 caught my attention (the iconic Neal Adams cover didn't hurt) and I stayed around for a while.

As companies tend to do when their main characters are struggling (sales-wise), DC wisely assigned some of its top talents to the comic - and the editorial reins were given to one of the industry's all-time greats, Julius Schwartz.

He (in turn) turned the writing chores over to Denny O'Neil, who had worked wonders (and won numerous awards) with his work with Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

O'Neil immediately pumped some new blood into the franchise. He took Clark Kent away from the Daily Planet and put him on the air as a TV reporter/anchor. He "permanently" eliminated Kryptonite (a change that held for decades), but gave Superman some mysterious weaknesses and power failures that would plague him for months to come. He also created a mysterious new figure made of sand that would haunt Superman for months.

O'Neil established Morgan Edge, the owner of the Daily Planet and WGBS-TV as something of a foil for Clark, and eventually he would bring in several new members to join the supporting cast.

So the writing was fresh and moving in new directions. That left Schwartz with the challenge of what to do about the artwork.

He solved the problem by teaming up one of (if not the) best Superman artists - Curt Swan - with one of (if not the) best inkers in the business, Murphy Anderson. The result was a fresh, modern look to the title, with dynamic layouts, expressive characters, and new designs - especially for Lois Lane, who lost that "Jackie Kennedy" look (finally).

It was a great new start for the Man of Steel, and it breathed new life into what had become a somewhat tired and stale franchise.

And it was successful - it got the attention of fans, and it brought me back to the fold and kept me hanging around - and reading - for quite a while.

Grade: A-


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