Superman Turns 70: The Search for Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

supes-mot-header.jpgIn our next feature celebrating the 70th birthday of the Man of Tomorrow, Steve Higgins tells how Alan Moore’s historic Superman swansong started him on a quest and changed the way he looked at comic books.

 

 

The only time I got new comics as a child was when my father would bring home a new issue from the grocery store for me every couple of weeks. Generally these were DC team books, like Justice League of America or Legion of Super-Heroes, and of course the lynchpin of both of those teams, Superman, quickly became one of my favorite characters.

When Superman as a character was being "rebooted" in 1986, post-Crisis, DC released a story called Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? that closed the door on Superman as he existed at that time. Through an amazing confluence of events, it just so happened that one of my dad’s grocery store trips coincided with the release of part one of this story, leading me to become the proud owner of Superman #423, billed as that comic’s "historic last issue."

The cover to Action Comics 583 by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. Click for a larger image, and thank you to Comics.org for the image.It was a monumental occasion for me in many regards. This issue was probably my first exposure to the work of Alan Moore, a creator whose work I of course admire to this day. As such, it helped signal a change in me from a time when I purely loved comics for the thrill of the battle between good and evil to requiring more from them in terms of character development and plot.

But perhaps most important is the fact that Superman #423 is part one of a two-part story, and I painfully would remain unaware of how the story ended for over a decade. All throughout my high school years and on into college, I searched for the second half of the story, as seen in Action Comics #583, at every comic shop I visited across the country, and for all those years I came up empty-handed time and again.

It was only in 1997 when the book was reprinted in one edition that I was finally able to read the conclusion, yet even then my collector’s itch remained unsatisfied. I had to own the actual issue itself, and it wasn’t until I was through graduate school, almost fifteen years after reading the story’s beginning, that I finally got my own copy of the ending.

That second issue of this story was my holy grail for many years, and acquiring Action Comics #583 was in many ways like the fulfillment of a quest. This story then will always hold a special place in my heart, as the touchstone of my transition from an occasional reader into a true aficionado of comics. | Steve Higgins

 

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