Mo powers, mo problems

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Writer: Alan Moore
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inkers: George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger
DC Comics

Though I accept that Alan Moore is an exceptional and groundbreaking writer, I’ve often found his work difficult to love. However, when Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” stories were reissued in trade form, I went directly to the comics shop and bought the book. This volume is delightful, and it’s a great read whether you’re a hardcore comics lover or a casual reader with only basic knowledge of Superman.

Written in the 1980s as the final chapter for the Silver Age Superman, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is touching, haunting and playful in all the right places — and in a way, it highlights the problem with the lack of an expiration date on iconic comic book characters. No one stays dead (or missing) in comic books anymore, and it is harder to care when you know that a the story of a character’s life has no real end. As wonderful as Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” story was — and it was plenty wonderful — it was undermined a little by the knowledge that Bruce Wayne wasn’t really gone for good. Dude is already on his way back.

Of course, this makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, and new readers keep discovering (and rediscovering) these titles. My point is that the level of poignancy that Moore achieved here is rare because the medium doesn’t often allow for it. A character like Superman is so much more compelling when he is ultimately defeated by something, whether it’s mortality or a changing world. Superman was rebooted in 1986 with “The Man of Steel” arc, but Moore’s story represents the end of a long and storied era. You should read it.

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