Great Rao! This month Superman turns 85 years old, which means we’re celebrating the champion who put the action into Action Comics with some of our favorite Superman stories. For our Weekend Escape this time, we’d like to invite you a step or two outside of continuity to experience Superman from one of his greatest eras—the one that taught a generation to believe in the pure goodness of the Man of Steel. It’s a comic written by one of the most celebrated luminaries in comic book academia, putting theory into practice with an unforgettable year of Superman stories. Welcome to the first thirteen issues of Superman Adventures.
There is absolutely nothing you have read before reading Superman Adventures. It’s designed to be a comic book entry point to the character. And yet, few of the enemies Superman encounters here are ones that he’s meeting for the first time. That’s by design. After the success and acclaim of Batman Adventures, DC’s ‘90s tie-in comic to Batman: The Animated Series, DC saw no reason not to launch Superman Adventures right alongside their new Superman-focused cartoon, Superman: The Animated Series.
A companion piece to the show, Superman Adventures gives us Superman’s further run-ins with enemies he first met on television and a deeper exploration of his world. Superman Adventures is comprised mostly of one-shots, with some short arcs. It’s designed with the classic sensibility comics used to have in a simpler time when you could pick up any issue and experience a satisfying story on its very own. The premise of Superman Adventures is that, well…it’s the adventures of Superman.
Let’s Talk Talent:
Superman: The Animated Series creator Paul Dini opens the series with an inaugural first issue, setting the tone alongside Rick Burchett, fresh off an Eisner Award win for his work on The Batman & Robin Adventures, similarly based on Batman: The Animated Series. With no artist more adept at adapting Bruce Timm’s signature style to the comic page, Burchett was the natural choice, and he stayed on for the entire first year of the series.
What’s really special about this run, though, is the writer who takes over issues #2-#13 after Dini’s one-issue opening. If you know the name Scott McCloud, it’s likely as the man who literally wrote the book on comics. McCloud’s Understanding Comics and its follow-up graphic textbooks are mandatory reading in academic curricula the world over, masterfully explaining the nature and features of sequential art and how a story can be told through pictures. With Superman Adventures, McCloud proves he doesn’t just talk the talk—he puts all those principles on display for twelve issues which still stand as one of the purest distillations of all the potential a Superman story can have, and all of the ways it can hold you.
A Few Reasons to Read:
- The Adventures Continue! For many of us, Superman: The Animated Series was our introduction to Superman—not just the Man of Steel himself, but a thesis on the platonic ideal of Metropolis, the Daily Planet staff and his cadre of villains. Like Batman Adventures, the mission statement of Superman Adventures is to provide that same unique perspective from the show and carry it into the comics. Batman’s animated series has gotten many such treatments, but this is the only one so far for Superman’s.
- A View From the Street: Many of the issues in this run provide an average citizen’s perspective on life in Metropolis and what it’s like to live under the shadow of Superman. What happens to a woman so smitten with Superman that she puts herself in peril just to see him? Or a disillusioned boy who admires Lex Luthor as much as the Man of Steel? Superman Adventures is often not just a story about Superman, but about living in a world with Superman in it.
- Rogues on Parade: In each issue of Superman Adventures, Superman’s greatest villains take their turn at vexing Superman in brand new ways. In just under a year, McCloud and Burchett put Superman through the ringer against Metallo, Brainiac, Livewire, Jax-Ur and—naturally—lots and lots of Luthor, dripping with that signature Clancy Brown contempt.
- Best Supporting Actors: In most Superman stories, it’s Superman who saves the day in the end. That’s obvious, right? I mean, it’s Superman, and he’s Superman. But Superman Adventures shows just how important the people in Clark’s life are to him, giving them the chance to pull him out of the fire when he needs support the most. Jimmy Olsen and Emil Hamilton both get their moments in the yellow sun, but issues #11-#12 of this series in particular feature what may well be Lois Lane’s finest hour, as she races against time across the world and puts everything on the line to save a fallen Superman from an alien disease.
Why It’s Worth Your Time:
Whether this is your first Superman comic or you’re up to date on 85 years of continuity, Superman Adventures is a book that always feels fresh. Its streamlined approach to depicting Metropolis, its citizenry, its villains and Superman himself will resonate with both the seasoned signal watcher and new audiences only aware of Superman’s inescapable cultural presence. Give it one issue for Paul Dini and twelve more for Scott McCloud, and we know you won’t want to stop there. And that’s the good news—there are 54 more issues waiting for you once you take that first flight into this Superman’s never-ending battle for truth and justice.
Superman Adventures is available to read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.