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The ’80s Revisited: DC Retroactive – The ’80s – Superman #1


dc_retroactive_1980s_superman_0001New Day, Final Destiny

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Sergio Cariello
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Andrew Elder
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 2011
Cover Price: $4.99

I remember when these DC Retroactive specials hit, back in 2011–as a sort of bridge between the pre-Flashpoint wrapup of titles and dawn of the New 52. I got the Superman 1990s one, but don’t recall if I had actually picked up this 1980s one at the time–though I can’t imagine that I would not have, given the cover! Still, this particular copy coming from a 25-cent bin recently, and including a reprint of a 1980s story along with a new story OF the 1980s pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman places it well within my personal definition of a 1980s Revisited issue!

As said, the cover stood out to me most, showing an anguished Superman surrounded by imagery from the ’90s and forward…particularly Superboy Prime and an OMAC from Infinite Crisis; an Amazon from Amazons Attack, Bane breaking Batman from Knightfall, and a prominent Hal Jordan as Parallax from Emerald Twilight, Zero Hour, etc. In fact, this cover would make for an excellent art print and/or poster. The imagery is nice, and the Superman logo is nice and big, the "classic" yellow letters with red 3D coming off..the "classic" DC Bullet logo I grew up with, etc. While part of my motivation grabbing it from the quarter bin was that it was originally a $4.99 issue and here I was snagging it for a mere 25 cents…the cover had grabbed my attention and was worth 25 cents to me to get just to have handy, regardless of owning a copy "somewhere" in my too-vast accumulation.

The issue opens on an exhausted Superman who’s just trying to get some sleep…but if there’s no rest for the wicked, then he’s apparently been very naughty (to paraphrase the character’s thoughts). Superman quickly finds himself in the midst of a major crisis as an alien creature called The Dread destroys the Daily Planet building, killing thousands. When he tries to at least rescue one girl, time freezes…and he encounters the entity known as Destiny (one of the Endless) who pauses time, and confronts Superman with a choice: Superman can give in to The Dread’s option of aiding their conquering of worlds, or he can live to see horrible things happen to the people and its heroes. Destiny shows Superman glimpses of what’s to come: Amazons Attack Washington, killing thousands. A huge brute called Bane breaks Batman’s back. An earthquake levels Gotham City, and the Arkham Asylum inmates take over what remains of the city. Firestorm and Blue Beetle are killed. With encouragement/sanction of the Justice League, Zatanna mindwipes villains. Sue Dibny–the WIFE of one of the JLA–is killed. Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord outright. Hal Jordan dismantles the Green Lantern Corps and becomes Parallax. Barry Allen (Flash) is killed during a Crisis. Superman himself is killed by a Doomsday creature. Even his beloved cousin Kara is killed. Many other heroes and villains are killed, and eventually resurrected during a Blackest Night to kill countless others. All Superman has to do to prevent these things is to become the assassin/"herald" of The Dread and let all of Earthly humanity to be made into mindless slaves to The Dread. Yet, Superman refuses to give in, refuses to accept these as the only two options…he holds onto hope in the face of it all. The destruction of the Planet building, everything Superman’s seen right here is shown to be visions granted from Destiny…who himself isn’t actually the Destiny Superman had met before. He knows only that this is someone different…but as readers, we learn that this is a disguised Lyla–Harbinger–"testing" Superman, and finding him to be truly the hero they need to recruit if any of the multiverse is to be saved from the Anti-Monitor.

Story-wise, on the surface, this is a rather cheesy, pandering, gratuitous thing. As a DC Retroactive issue, this is designed to play on nostalgia, from the cover-inward. For me it gets that on numerous levels–from the ’80s writer in Wolfman to the’80s version of Superman, to the visions of major events from the ’90s and 2000s that were all "current events" for me as a reader as they came about.

But beyond RECOGNIZING that, in a clinical sorta way…I honestly HIGHLY enjoyed this story! It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want in something like this…give me the older version of the character, with a story that in no way detracts from prior continuity, show that even "old" continuity is part of "new continuity"–one big flow–as well as letting me as a reader see events that I know were indeed coming, that Superman and his world would face and endure. This is both a revisitation of the ’80s and a revisitation of the ’90s. Much as Superman is shown, though, a number of things are left out of being explicitly shown on-page (such as the death of Jason Todd) though the narrative allows for this in acknowledging that so many other events are glimpsed in Superman’s mind.

While I recognize Wolfman‘s contribution to comics history, I cannot honestly say that I specifically recognize his writing…I have not read enough of his work specifically to do so. That said, this was a story I really enjoyed, that captured the "tone" of the 1980s Superman that I do know, from what I have read from immediately prior and shortly after the Crisis itself, before Byrne‘s reboot. That the character is recognizable as such is a strong point to me…as well as the way the glimpses of the actual future of the DC Universe is worked in.

Visually, it’d be easy to mistake this for what it is–a much more contemporary take on Superman. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t LOOK like ’80s Superman…it looks like early 2010s Superman, a more generic Superman as depicted by whoever the current artist is. However, for this story, the art still works well and in and of itself is quite solid, conveying the action, this artist’s takes on the key turning points that Superman is shown, and the characters involved.

I also quite appreciated the editorial note that Superman had previously met Destiny in Superman #352…I actually made a note for myself with the intention of tracking that issue down in the near future, curious about that original story. I had not even connected that with the knowledge that this issue also contained a reprint story from the ’80s after the new "lead" story.

superman_vol1_0352Superman (vol. 1) #352: Day of Destiny!

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Julius Schwartz

It was a very welcome treat to find that the reprinted 1980s story included in this issue was the aforementioned Superman #352! Rather than having to remember to look for the issue and maybe find it easily, maybe not, I was able to simply turn a page and dive right into the story!

This story was also written by Wolfman, with accompanying art by classic Superman artist Curt Swan…whose visuals I definitely recognize and made for a real treat of a thing. Given that it IS from then, it looked and read as an ’80s piece, with the familiarity I’d expect, and also enhanced what I had read in the lead, contextualizing things a bit and giving a post-read feel of merely reading two issues out of order…bringing back memories of reading Grandpa’s old comics. Like I had been grabbed by the cover and read an issue, and then being referred to a previous issue, found it and got to read it.

Despite my praise that definitely comes from the nostalgia of it all…this story’s looking/feeling like its time period isn’t all good…strip away the nostalgia and it felt a bit boring and ham-fisted and a bit borderline preachy.

Superman encounters Destiny, who is determined to PREVENT Superman from helping people, despite Superman’s every instinct being to leap into action and help people as he always does. Superman is forced to stand by helplessly as he sees people that he WOULD save ultimately save themselves. And thus Destiny’s lesson is imparted to the Man of Steel that the world and its people cannot be solely reliant on one person–him–for everything; that they are actually capable of taking care of themselves (Superman and the people are made to realize this).

I couldn’t help but think of the years-earlier story Must There Be a Superman? from Superman #247 (in which the Guardians of the Universe put Superman on trial for interfering with Humanity and impart to him the same lesson, essentially, that Destiny does here). The two are 106-some issues apart (nearly a decade) so it’s not like they were back to back…but as someone who has read SOME stuff from throughout Superman’s history it jumps out at me where it may not to others.

Though I recognize Swan‘s art and like it in the nostalgic sense…there’s a certain "generic" nature to the art that I personally tend to compare to (in particular) Dan Jurgens‘ art, particularly from around The Death of Superman as well as other Superman art from the late 1980s/early 1990s, a good 9+ years removed from this, as this was from Superman 247.


The cover price is rather steep for a 26-page "main" story and 16-page REPRINT. Still, that’s 42 pages of content for $4.99, from a time where many books were $2.99 to $3.99 for only 20 pages. Additionally, the reprint is specifically germane to the main story, which would certainly be a $2.99 value, and it’s pretty unlikely I’d be able to acquire the single issue as its own unit for under $2, so the extra price is still a definite savings and added convenience to have the issue’s story right here.

All in all, this is actually a solid value and enjoyable issue for a $4.99 special, whether at that price over 5 years ago or by present-day 2017 standards. As something that might be come across in a bargain bin, this is certainly worth 25 cents, and would be a strong buy for $1, and I dare say I’d be relatively willing (for the nostalgia factor at least) to pay full cover price on this (or rather, some of the other DC Retroactive specials).

Highly recommended for the lead story if you’re a fan of Wolfman or the era; and certainly worthwhile for a glimpse back to that period combining the lead with the reprinted story (and pre-Gaiman appearance of Destiny). The cover is a definite treat as well!

dcretroactivesuperman1980s

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2 Responses

  1. […] Then there were several giant-size issues that are an even greater "value" for being 25 cents compared to their significantly greater cover prices. I’m nearly certain I already have the Superman 80-page Giant and the DC One Million 80-page Giant, but especially in this case, duplicates will be no complaint from me. And though I can’t imagine having passed on it in 2011, the DC Retroactive – The ’80s: Superman #1 made for a great near-immediate re-read! […]

  2. […] The 50% off back issues brought the cost of these issues to around or under half the cost of a current DC issue, so I snagged the three Superman Specials and the actual Superman issue that had Superman meeting Destiny for the first time (and reprinted in the DC Retroactive – Superman: The ’80s). […]

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