I never read comics as a kid, but I knew who the major superheroes were from TV. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl (one of the major inspirations for me studying to be a librarian) I knew from the Adam West series and Michael Keaton movies. Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno were my Hulk. I heard the Spiderman theme everywhere despite knowing nothing about him. Yet the hero I never lost track of was Superman.
I didn’t watch the weekday afternoon cartoons. Only recently did I even see any episodes of either Bruce Timm series. I watched the early black and white shows and cartoons whenever they may have shown on TV, but when Lois & Clark came around I was hooked. Superman was already established and, even though it was a superhero show, the series focused more on human-factor storylines with the occasional cyborg or Luthor creation. It didn’t take a lot for me to understand the characters, which made the series even more entertaining (especially when H.G. Wells became a character).
In college a new Superman series came on the air, this time lasting much longer. Smallville was Clark Kent’s high school years, and he was much closer to my age at the time of watching. While Lois & Clark was more like Bill Bixby’s Hulk, with few special effects and less of the alien angle, Smallville had no problem introducing any and all Superman and other DC heroes and villains. Sure, this was pretty lame in the early run of the show, but I learned what I know about Superman today from watching Tom Welling. Combined with the terrible New 52 decision by DC, I worked my way through Superman’s history when I could, knowing I would always have a new story somewhere in time.
Syfy recently debuted Krypton, a series which follows Kal’s grandfather Seg. Set two generations before Kal El’s birth, Seg is informed by time traveler Adam Strange of Krypton’s immediate and far too early destruction by Brainiac, the collector of worlds. Only a few episodes in, I have no determinate feelings about the show yet. While Brainiac looks really awesome, the forced Superman imagery in a world where he hasn’t been born yet is a bit much. Not to mention the somewhat failed usage of the vanishing photograph trope from Back to the Future and the lack of costuming department that makes the characters look as if they are from the final season of Battlestar Gallatica, the conclusion of this season might prove to be this generation’s Superman serial.
Next week marks issue #1,000 for Action Comics, the series that launched Kal El in 1938, as well as being two months away from the 80th anniversary of issue #1. While I may not have read many current comic issues in the last year, especially Action, this is still a big deal for DC. When has any comic series stayed around long enough to reach its 1,000th issue? And after 1,000, where will it go from here? Will comic issues survive in a digital age long enough to reach 1,500? After Detective Comics reaches this number a year from now, what will DC’s plan be for its regular series, especially coming after the events of Doomsday?
I may not be able to always read the comics or have watched the cartoon series as a kid, but Superman will always be an important superhero in my life. Let’s all celebrate this week the anniversary of a legend.