Great Pages: THE MAN OF STEEL #1

From The Man of Steel #1 (1986)

In 1986, Superman had seemingly unlimited power. He, on several occasions, had the strength and stamina to even move planets from their very orbit. He could survive in outer space for as long as he wanted to. He didn’t need to eat or sleep. He was feared to be, in a word, unrelatable. So, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC reset Superman’s continuity. To do that, they brought in one of Marvel’s biggest stars: John Byrne.

Byrne was coming off two very successful runs at Marvel. His work on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four were highly regarded and Byrne was a fan favorite. He was tasked with writing and penciling a new set of Superman adventures. Along with his inker Dick Giordano, Byrne launched his new Superman with a miniseries titled Man of Steel. In that series’ pages, Superman was represented as being Clark Kent first, Superman second, and Kal-El a distant third. He did this by grounding Clark Kent’s early days in Kansas, by giving Clark Kent the kind of parents who would raise a boy to have the ideals and moral fortitude needed to become Superman. It was in the bright and sunny Midwest that Clark could become the world’s greatest superhero. This page, with Clark rising into the air as Superman for the first time, is one example from this story, which would help inform every Superman tale in both comics and television for the next twenty years.


  1. I was an early teen and these were some of the very first comics I collected……Loved it and loved Byrnes art. It made me a life long Superman fan. DC Crisis and following reboot were what really got me full into comics and I became a huge fan of John Byrne (and Perez)…….Now I’ really enjoying the new 52 but these books are where it all started for me.

  2. For me, John Byrne is the standard of comic book artists. I grew up reading his FF, Superman and X-Men comics, along it his very underrated run on Iron Man. Whenever I picture lost any marvel or dc character, it is John Byrne’s take on that character that comes to mind. He isn’t my favorite artist, but he is definitely the one that made me love artists and start looking at the little credit box in comics, searching for his name.

  3. John Byrne’s Superman will always be Superman to me. Making Clark the true identity, setting limits on his powers, giving both Ma and Pa Kent supporting roles in Clark’s life, making Lex the shady businessman/de facto owner of Metropolis– all of it strengthened the mythos and made Superman an even stronger and more relatable character. The 90’s Superman animated series is Byrne’s Superman used to its maximum potential.

    It’s a damn shame that subsequent creators undid Byrne’s work in the name of blind nostalgia to the Donner films.

    • …Make that the Donner films, Smallville and the silver age, hence the tales of:
      – Boosted power levels
      – Kara Zor-El (I still miss Peter David’s far-superior “Linda Danvers” Supergirl to Kara Zor-El)
      – Krypto
      – Lex Luthor’s inclusion in teenage Clark Kent’s life in Smallville
      – The redesign of the Kents from an elderly couple to John Schneider and Annette O’Toole look-a-likes, before they killed off Pa Kent, because you know Superman can’t be good without at least one dead parent. The Donner films told us so…

    • Oh, and the retcon of “Never mind, Clark Kent WAS Superboy after all, because the Legion of Super-Heroes could never have been inspired by SuperMAN”

  4. Is it just me, or is there a mysterious figure peering out from behind the barn door on the right?

    • Yes. The mystery man was revealed in a story line some time after Man of Steel mini.

    • If memory serves, that is revealed to be the gentleman who would go on to create Metallo. He used Kryptonite which came down with Superman’s ship. Ma and Pa Kent kept the ship in their barn, which is why he’s skulking around there.

    • Whoa, I honestly thought it was just a cow or something, didn’t realize it was actually a plot point. Very cool. Needless to say, Byrne’s Superman is a glaring omission from my comics’ reading.

  5. Of John Byrne’s work, it was his work on Superman that I loved the most. He absolutely made Superman relatable, and I loved the little touches that Byrne made to him to explain some of the logical flaws in Superman’s world, such as:
    — He vibrated his face just enough so that cameras could never get a clear shot of him, thus limiting facial recognition of his days as a young Clark Kent in Smallville
    — He still had to shave, but had to use a mirror to reflect his heat vision to burn away the stubble.
    — Clark Kent worked out regularly, so that helped explain why he had a similar physique to Superman

    Things like that showed me, even as a kid, that Byrne actually took time to plot out his somewhat new character and his place in the post-Crisis DC Universe. It seemed like there was a definitive roadmap in place from day one, and Byrne stuck as close to that as he could while he worked on the Superman titles.

    Whereas now, it seems like we have a Superman, who not only is aloof and feels perpetually alone and distant from everyone, but whose creators and editors don’t appear to communicate with each other, as evidenced by interviews George Perez gave following his short tenure on the title. Everyone seems to be flying by the seat of their pants trying to characterize him in his various appearances, and now I have no interest in reading his books.

  6. This was the introduction of Superman for me. As a kid I’d seen the movies, but only had an awareness of him as a comic book character and after reading this great story I was hooked. John Byrne’s take on Supes was so unique that he viewed the yellow space of the “S” on his chest as two fish swimming in opposite directions and would draw it as such. Crazy.

  7. I think this was the first american comic ever read. it seemed so light and optimistic compared to the british stuff at the time, very refreshing for my 5 year old mind.

  8. I’ve never read a page of any Superman comic, ever. I will start with Byrne’s Superman.

  9. Right on.

  10. @Jeff: My Superman publication history is spotty at best. Any idea when the phrase “This looks like a job for Superman.” made its debut?

    • I am going to guess it came from the TV show.

    • To the best of my knowledge, that phrase began in Superman’s radio program. Because there were no visuals to indicate when Clark Kent was changing into Superman, Bud Collyer, the guy who voiced both Superman and Clark Kent, used different voices to differentiate the two. Clark had a slightly higher voice and Superman’s had a deeper, richer voice. When he changed, Clark would say, “This looks like a job…” Then, Bud would change to his Superman voice to finish, “…for Superman!”

      Those old radio shows were a lot of fun. They got even better as they went.

    • That makes sense. Good to know. Thanks.

  11. John Byrne is the reason I became a lifelong fan of comics.

    If you haven’t already, “like” his facebook page. he shoots out awesome art a couple times a week. I don’t know if this stuff is current or not, but it as good as his “peak” years for sure. he got really loose sometime in the 90’s, and I didn’t love it as much as his 80’s stuff.

  12. Man of Steel is best Superman origin ever!!! This is the series that made me fall in love with Superman.

  13. Wow I remember John Byrne’s run fondly I was 17 yrs old going into the army.John was the man at that time.I still have the originals of that series I’m gonna have to pull them out and re read them again.

  14. 1986… I was a short scrawny kid in 5th grade and I’d just relocated to a new school in a new state. I didn’t know anyone but the first trip to the supermarket in this new town, I hung around the comic book rack and browsed, and eventually picked up an early Who’s Who….Convenient timing as well, as I would learn Crisis on Infinite Earths had just wrapped up and Man of Steel was kicking off the next month. Im pretty sure my regular monthly buying started with GL Corps #201, Flash #1 and of course…. Man of Steel #1 in whatever order.

    Byrne’s Superman is my definitive Superman and even long after Byrne left the Superman titles, I continued to read Superman straight through through ups and downs and didnt break the run until just a couple years ago.