Man and Superman

Man and Superman post thumbnail image
Panel of chapter one from Man and Superman

Man and Superman is a 100-page book written by Marv Wolfman. It bummed me out when Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason/Doug Mahnke stopped their run on Superman. I was happy when Brian Michael Bendis took over. And I was pleasantly surprised when DC announced Man and Superman.

Superman is an interesting character in that he doesn’t really change that much. People of course will point out many tiny changes, whether it’s the origin story or perhaps a few costume changes, or the dilution of his powers or the introduction to new ones. Or maybe even a new haircut. But you could agree that he’s been pretty consistent since the 1960’s. And I suppose that’s fine. Superman is Superman and I will admit he’s my favorite character.

Which means you can make Superman as big and powerful as you want but I don’t think you can make him as small and invulnerable as you want. He’s after all Superman with these wonderful abilities that make him extremely powerful. How vulnerable, sensitive and insecure can you make him? Why would anyone be insecure if they are indestructible and literally nothing could harm them?

Marv Wolfman is back!

After reading Man and Superman Wolfman is the author that has accomplished that. It’s not only a back to basics classic story-telling aspect of Superman before he put on the uniform (not a costume), but also a huge reveal in giving reasons for the way he acts and also delves into the fact that he can be insecure and incredibly unsure of himself. Here he lives in a run-down apartment and he tries to figure out how to act and who he is. The struggle between being something greater in the persona of Superman or a human slouchy version of himself in Clark Kent begins here.

And it’s a wonderful Superman story. I grew up reading a lot of back issues from Marv Wolfman and I would look for his stories in my local comic book store. I would go through the Superman boxes over and over again, for at least an hour, carefully choosing the comic that I wanted from the $10 I made mowing grass. I’m sure I wasn’t the owner’s favorite customer.

After reading Wolfman’s introduction you learn that he completed this story more than ten years ago. He sets the story in the nineties and it consists of four chapters. It’s a very human story and very much a Clark Kent story. Superman doesn’t really make a true appearance until the last chapter.

Clark Kent is the focus

How on Earth is Clark Kent able to even get a job at one of Metropolis’ best newspapers on the first visit? Answer, he doesn’t.

How can Clark navigate a big city after when he grew up in Smallville all his life? How can he be so secure of himself? Answer, he isn’t. He’s very insecure and he even mails back his uniform and ponders on returning home.

It's not a costume, it's a uniform - Panel from Man and Superman
It’s not a costume, it’s a uniform.

My favorite part of Man and Superman is when Clark goes to a Baseball game with some of his co-workers. He sees a lot of their work-ethic and way of handling themselves in his own father and it makes his life just a tiny bit easier to get enough headspace to roll up his sleeves and really get into that drive mode to get a position at the Daily Planet. I think this is a scenario many people can relate to, especially those who have moved around, to a big city or another country. This is just one example but this really brings a human element to Clark Kent, even though he’s an alien.

Lois and Jimmy are back

And of course you have the introduction to his allies, such as Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Wolfman teases Lois because he hides her face and makes it a big reveal in book three. And she’s beautiful and intimidating. In fact you question how she will notice Clark because he’s so insecure and uncomfortable.

And that also seems to be a tiny thread throughout Man and Superman. How do you build confidence in the face of so much negativity and competitiveness? You see that grow within Clark until it explodes into Superman and he challenges Lex Luthor for the first time. His appearance, the booming of his voice and final portrayal of confidence shatters Lex’s persona and Superman has arrived.

The art from Claudio Castellini also makes the book work very well. He classically draws and depicts Superman. It reminded me of a mix between Tom Grummett and Brett Breeding’s style. And if you remember those guys Man and Superman makes you smile.

You do see a nod to classic character designs from previous Superman artists

I have a feeling with the upcoming releases that DC is moving more toward these oversized issues and one-offs instead of launching new series and so far I’m really enjoying the concept. I really liked where all the previous creative teams took Superman and where Brian Michael Bendis is going now, but you know what? It’s also nice to take a stroll through an old neighborhood or walk around an old block that you fondly remember.

And this book really does just that. It’s not so much of a reimagining but rather an ironing out of aspects of Superman’s origin story to make him more relatable. Superman makes mistakes, he’s insecure and he can become very small in the face of more confident people. But he can also look within himself, muster up enough emotion and confidence to make him mark on the world. We can all relate and learn from this and this is why it’s an important book.

Plus if you’re out only ten bucks for a Marv Wolfman story then Man and Superman is a steal. Please don’t tell anyone at DC.

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