Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Last Superman Of Earth-1 Comics

The last Superman of Earth-1 comics were:

Superman 423 by Alan Moore (see attached image);
Action Comics 583 by Alan Moore;
DC Comics Presents 97 by Steve Gerber.

The two comics by Alan Moore present a two-part "imaginary story" in which Superman settles accounts with all his supporting characters whereas the one comic by Steve Gerber presents an alternative settling of accounts not described as "imaginary" and therefore in fact constituting the last Superman story in Earth-1 continuity. Gerber's story, some though not all of which I thought was worthy of Alan Moore, was described as an "Untold Tale" but not - important distinction - as an "imaginary story."

I wondered at the time why the Alan Moore story had to be described as "imaginary." Given that a new continuity initiated by John Byrne was to commence the following month, Moore's story could have been regarded as rounding off the old continuity. In fact, that is what it was presented as doing.

One simple answer is that, if Gerber's story was in continuity, then Moore's could not be, and vice versa. However, I now think that it was appropriate that Moore's culminating story was described as "imaginary." It very soon ceased to matter whether a high quality, much reprinted, story counted as being in or out of the now defunct continuity. The very terminology of "imaginary stories" was part of the familiar architecture that was to fade into oblivion along with Earths -1 and -2, so it was appropriate that that phrase, eventually to be replaced by "Elseworlds," was commemorated one last time in Moore's story introduction, which ends:

"This is an IMAGINARY STORY...Aren't they all?" (Exactly. At the end, Clark winks directly at the reader. The author shares a joke with his audience through the character.)

Note that the cover of Superman 423 advertises Frank Miller's The Dark Knight mini-series, which was already showing the less powerful post-Crisis Superman in a possible future.

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