‘All-Star Superman’, the only Superman story that makes sense

All-Star Superman, the defining Superman story

The problem with Superman is that he’s God in the form of a human.

He’s easily one of the most well-known fictional characters ever created. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, he’s everything we aren’t but want to be. The problem with Superman, fundamentally as a character, is that he doesn’t do all of the things he should be able to do. For example, why doesn’t he feed all the starving people in the world, planting sustainable crops in their backyards. Why doesn’t he free the oppressed? Cure cancer with his brilliant, Kryptonian mind? This is where disbelief tends to not be suspended and your left with an omnipotent being that fights dudes in spandex outfits.

Then came along All-Star Superman in January of 2006, written by Grant Morrison, with pencils by Frank Quitely and digitally inked and colored by Jamie Grant. In my opinion, it’s the best Superman tale ever told, because this creative team simply makes Superman, super.

The story starts out with Superman realizing, because of an overdose of solar radiation, that his body has absorbed too much energy and he’s going to die, sooner rather than later. This realization sets him on a journey to figure out what happens in a world without Superman? I have no choice but to describe the story as an epic one. The amount of information they were able to jam into a 12 issues is pretty staggering. He saves a spaceship journeying through the sun from a genetically modified suicide bomb in human form, gives Lois Lane super powers, arm wrestles Gods, turns evil, gets visitors from the future and has a bizarro Earth try and collide with our own. That’s only the first six issues.

The point of their tale is that he is a God amongst men, and thus he must act like one. Grant Morrison had this to say about his interpretation:

“…Quitely and I decided to make it literal and to tell the story of Superman as start, or solar “deity.” hence our opening shot of Superman framed by solar flares and the structure of the story which traverses one epic “day” – dipping below the horizon in issue six so that Superman, like all good solar myth heroes, can journey through midwinter’s longest night and the upside-down underworld before rising again in issue nine, revitalized.”

While Morrisons’ tale is obviously the backbone, it’s Quitely’s pencils and Grant’s inks and colors that give the story it’s flesh. No one draws a Superman quite like Quitely, with and above average but not overly muscular frame. The All-Star Superman doesn’t need gigantic muscles, his strength is a special power, not a physical attribute. Quitely’s attention to detail is a step above the rest, with only the likes of Geoff Darrow outdoing him.

If you’re a comic fan, you’ve probably already read All-Star Superman, and this is all old news to you. For those who haven’t though, I highly suggest adding this to your X-Mas list as it’s something much more than a regular ol’ comic book. This is a work of art, and should be treated rightfully so.

For those who are curious, here’s the complete series on Amazon for $19. It’s a newer version that came out back in October, and it’s the one I own.

9 Comments ‘All-Star Superman’, the only Superman story that makes sense

  1. 153351 December 12, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    Couldn’t agree more, Bobby. I’m thinking about getting the Absolute edition for Christmas.

  2. Hallopino December 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    I read it last year on a plane while traveling. It is a brilliant comic, and suggested must read for non-comic fans as well.

    There is a cartoon adaption that came out a few months back that is supposed to pretty good as well for those who don’t want the “embarrassment”
    of being seen reading a comic.

  3. Bobby Solomon December 12, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    @Hallopino – Yeah, I’ve seen that the cartoon is on Netflix, though I assumed it’s a pretty watered down version of the tale. I’ll have to check it out!

  4. Hallopino December 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    @Bobby – I can’t imagine it’s not watered down to some degree, considering how much content is covered in the comic.

    But DC animation has been making some very strong adaptions of their comics.

    As a next step I would definitely recommend DC’s New Frontier graphic novel and cartoon adaption.

  5. Jae December 12, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Interesting quote by Bill from Kill Bill:

    “Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”

  6. David W. December 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Great article. I don’t regularly read Superman comics. There is so much history and characters in the Superman line that I was at a bit of a loss in certain scenes. There were plenty of great moments but best moment, in my opinion, was when Superman confronts a teenager in peril and has a few words with her. That scene still sparks a certain emotion in me that I equate from the combination of excellent writing and art.

  7. Norman Chan December 12, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    The animated film version of this does a really good job capturing Morrison’s voice, though obviously has to omit a bunch of the more esoteric superman mythos references for length and audience considerations. It was also directed by Dwayne McDuffie (creator of Static Shock) and, unfortunately, he died right around the time of the DVD release. I’d consider it my second favorite DC animated feature, after DC’s The New Frontier. Batman: Under the Red Hood is also really good.

  8. Ian O'Phelan December 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    I’m a sucker for anything Quitely draws despite the occasional missed deadline. He manages to make everything both bright and strange. It really lends itself to Superman’s futurist bent. His turn on The New X-Men & The Authority was great as well.

  9. Amanda December 13, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    I have to be honest, I feel like you’re missing the fun of a comic book if you’re looking at superheroes and expecting them to solve world hunger.

    Then again, maybe I’m the only person going to comic books for the fantasy, not the reality.

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