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The Man of Steel is a six-issue mini-series, by John Byrne, published in 1986 by DC Comics.

It lays the foundation for the Post-Crisis version of Superman, retelling his origin and showing his first encounters with his friends, Batman, and Lex Luthor.

Issues:

  1. Superman's origins on Krypton, being found as a baby and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, discovering his powers, resolving to use his powers for good, and creating the costumed superman persona with his parents' help as a way of keeping his heroing and the resultant celebrity separate from his personal life.
  2. Told from Lois Lane's point of view as she attempts to get the first interview with Metropolis's new superhero (and gets a bad first impression of new colleague Clark Kent).
  3. Superman investigates a vigilante in Gotham City, and winds up helping Batman crack his latest case. The two heroes gain a grudging respect for each other, but (in deliberate contrast to the Pre Crisis status quo) are too different in outlook to become close friends.
  4. Superman and Lex Luthor meet for the first time, when terrorists attack one of Luthor's parties. After Superman cleans up the terrorists, Luthor reveals that he knew they were coming but had his security hold back so he could see Superman in action, and offers Superman a job. Superman's response is to run him in for endangering his party guests.
  5. An attempt by one of Luthor's pet scientists to create a Superman duplicate results in a bizarre warped copy that attempts to live Superman's life, trying to do good deeds for people who are as afraid of it as of what it's trying to rescue them from, and forming a connection with Lois's sister Lucy.
  6. Clark Kent goes to visit his parents in Smallville, reminisces about the past, and discovers a recording of Jor-El that teaches him about his Kryptonian origins. He affirms that, although he appreciates knowing where he came from, he now thinks of himself not just as an alien visitor but as a citizen of Earth.

This mini-series contains examples of:

  • Anything But That: "NOT HAPPY BIRTHDAY! NOT HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
  • Batman Gambit: Batman, of course, uses one to stop Superman immediately apprehending him for vigilantism before having a chance to see the good he does. It's brilliant, it's specifically tailored to Superman's strengths and weaknesses, and (especially the key detail revealed at the end of the issue) it says a lot about how Batman sees the world.
  • Blind and the Beast: Lucy Lane and the bizarro-Superman in issue #5.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lex Luthor, for the first time.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first issue, the Kents are being spied on. It was Dr. Emmett Vale, who used his science to create Metallo.
  • Living Lie Detector: Superman is established in issue #3 as a living polygraph; his super-senses let him monitor the heart rate, breathing, etc. of anyone he talks to and spot subtle stress signs.
  • Mega Corp: LexCorp
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Clark's secret identity would be his "Fortress of Solitude". It would be some time before the actual Fortress of Solitude was re-established Post-Crisis, and at first it was just called "the Fortress".
    • In issue 3, Batman wonders if he and Superman could have been friends in another lifetime. At the time, the intention was that they would not be friends in their Post-Crisis lives. Inspired by their dynamic relationship in The Dark Knight Returns.
    • In issue 5, Superman captures who he thought was Lex in his Lexorian power suit. But it was one of Lex's Mooks in an experimental LexCorp suit.
    • "Bizarre-- Oh, forget it!"
    • The plot of Issue 5 is similar to Bizarro's debut in Superboy #68.
    • While the cover of each issue features a character facing the reader, Issue 5 has Bizarro has his back on the reader.
  • Post-Crisis
  • Ret Canon: Byrne borrowed elements from the 1978 Superman film.
    • Krypton was depicted as a cold and emotionally sterile planet.
    • Smallville is in Kansas.
  • Secret Keeper: Lana Lang, instead of Pete Ross, in this continuity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In issue #3, the Magpie kills one of her henchmen using a re-enactment of the "Happy Birthday" gag from the Looney Tunes cartoon "It's Hummer Time!" (it's a Non Fatal Explosion in the cartoon, but the henchman doesn't have the good fortune of being a cartoon character).
    • Lois insults Lex by saying he's starting to look a lot like Fred Mertz.
  • Stephen Ulysses Perhero: The villain Batman is after in issue #3 is the Magpie, who is driven by a compulsion to steal and hoard valuable artworks. Her real name is Margaret Pye.
  • Super-Hero Origin
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Addressed in the third issue. Batman tells Supes that "Defending a planet and cleaning up a city are two very different things... Gotham City isn't your turf. It requires a different approach." By the end of the issue, Superman warns Batman he'll come after him if he ever cross the line.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Lana has a crush on Clark Kent, who only sees her like a sister.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Magpie. Discussed by Superman and Batman.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • In some pre-Crisis retellings, Jor-El wanted to save both Lara and Kal-El by sending them away in the same rocket, but she would refuse saying that the rocket was too small and might not make it to Earth because of her added weight, and she wanted to stay with her husband, (an idea that was briefly touched on in Superman: The Animated Series). Byrne's original idea was to show a pregnant Lara leaving Krypton. After landing near Smallville, Lara would immediately succumb to a small chunk of kryptonite that was embedded in the ship's hull. This would have been Byrne's way to show early on how deadly kryptonite was. Lara would then have been found by the Kents while she was in labor, induced by the stress from kryptonite poisoning. Before dying, Lara would have told the Kents to look after her son. They would then take young Kal-El, an alien born on Earth, and raise him as their own just as they promised his mother. This was also Byrne's way to emphasize the Kents being chosen caretakers rather than them being a random couple who finds a baby in a rocket, (this concept was also, in a way, touched on in Smallville and Last Son of Krypton). The idea was not used because DC wanted Kal-El to be sent to Earth alone, as all the previous incarnations agreed upon.
    • Superman was originally going to save a landing space-shuttle. But after the Challenger disaster, the Constitution was changed to "an experimental space-plane".
    • Byrne suggested that the Legion of Super-Heroes was formed based on legends of Superman's adventures as a boy. The Legion would eventually be surprised to discover that these adventures never happened, likely similar to Captain Atom's Charlton adventures as his fake backstory.
      • Recently, Byrne stated that he regretted ever removed Superman's Superboy career. As Superboy, Clark would have been "learning the ropes"/"figuring it out" (partial reason why he'd Ret-Gone it in the first place since he needed Superman "up to speed" in his relaunch) before he reached adulthood as Superman.
    • Another unused Marv Wolfman idea was having Lois Lane and Lex Luthor romantically involved and living together in Luthor's estate in the mountains until Superman came to Metropolis. Lois would then leave Luthor to go after Superman, another reason for Luthor to hate Superman. This idea was scrapped because Byrne did not want Lois as someone who was drawn to power (and he didn't want any mountains shown alongside the city either). Though the actual comics did mention that Lex and Lois had dated a couple times.
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