Like most 20-year-olds he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He can choose from anything: sports, science, finance or media. The sky is the limit…If he conceals his powers and his true identity from the world.
But when the skies darken with ships from distant planets, and the existence of Earth itself is threatened, Clark must make the most important decision of his life: to reveal himself to the world, sacrificing his chance for a normal life…or let the world die around him.”
What I know about Superman is negligible, little more than a thimbleful of basics, really, and I owe that much to Christopher Reeve and his nerd-adorable tendency to push Clark’s oversize tortoiseshell glasses back into place with one finger. Were those movies faithful representations of Superman’s comic book origin? I have no idea. And, honestly, the character’s appeal was, well, not lost on me, but it was weak enough that I never felt inclined to seek him out in print. Until now, apparently.
Having to read several graphic novels this month, I scoped out various sites to determine which books to request through the library, and my eyes were drawn to Superman: Earth One’s cover time and again. In my opinion – and from what I can recall, which, granted, isn’t a whole lot – Reeve wore Clark Kent’s goofy, bumbling mask so comfortably and so well that when it came time to shrug it off in favor of the Man of Steel’s red cape it proved to be an awkward fit. Oh, his Superman was charming and capable, but I never got a sense of his innate strength, or thought, hey, this is one superhero you just don’t mess with. But the Clark/Superman portrayed on the cover of Earth One? The first two words that came to my mind were hardened and badass. And I kind of wanted to know that Superman.
So, this graphic novel provides basic backstory: Amid the wreckage of what appears to be an alien spacecraft, Jonathan and Martha Kent find and adopt a baby. As the boy gets older, he begins to exhibit abilities – super strength, speed, and, I assume, enhanced healing – and they do their best to instill in him a sense of what’s right and good so that he never abuses his power. Now in his early twenties, Clark ventures into the big city – Metropolis – and that’s the point at which, I believe, Earth One begins to veer into new and current territory.
Clark, determined to take care of his widowed mother, sets out to land a high-paying job. He tries out for a football team, and, oh the power of fiction!, no one questions his ability to carry a 200+ lb player across his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. From there, he dips his toe into chemistry, baseball, architecture, and a handful of other professions before he sets his sights on the Daily Planet. Where he promptly gets turned away…after being schooled on the difference between passive and active voice. Poor guy. He gets a lecture and has to contend with the pesky decision of whether or not to reveal his true nature to the world. The latter half of the graphic novel revolves around the destruction of Superman’s home planet and, while I can’t be certain this is true, I believe that piece of backstory is different in Earth One, which in turn opens the door for a new – again, I think he’s new – adversary (that had an odd – not striking, though – sort of resemblance to the Joker, if favoring black and white spandex over a ratty purple and green suit.)
Earth One is coming of age Clark Kent. He’s negotiating his path in life and he’s about made up his mind when his hand is forced and he becomes Superman, for better or worse. We also meet Lois who, and forgive this likely unpopular opinion, has always grated on my nerves. And we meet Jimmy Olsen who, and this came as something of a surprise, I loved.
Now, quickly, the art: Good stuff. Full color, expressive, and very easy on the eyes.
Superman still doesn’t do for me what Captain America or Iron Man does, but my interest is piqued in a way it never has been before, and I find myself willing to seek him out again, even if that doesn’t actually happen until December when Henry Cavill brings the character back to the big screen.