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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
The Deluxe Edition (Hardback)


Author: Alan Moore
Artists: Curt Swan, Dave Gibbons and others
Titan Books
RRP: £18.99, US $24.99
ISBN: 978 1 84856 291 2
Available 28 August 2009

He is the world’s most powerful being. The sole survivor of a doomed planet, he has made the protection of our world his life’s work. And though his never-ending battle for truth and justice continues to this day, one question has always haunted his shining legend. How would the story of Superman finally end...?

This edition collects all of Alan Moore’s contributions to the adventures of the Man of Steel - not only the two-part “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” (obviously), but also the Superman / Swamp Thing crossover “The Jungle Line” and “For the Man Who Has Everything”, which guest stars Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin.

“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” (originally published in 1986 in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583, the final issues of those respective titles before John Byrne rebooted the series) is an “imaginary story” (as the author says, “Aren’t they all?”) dealing with Superman’s final days. The old-school art style of Curt Swan and the new-wave approach of Alan Moore make for a curious combination. It’s strange and a little unsettling to see some of the sillier elements of pre-Crisis continuity (Krypto the Superdog, Elastic Lad, Superwoman, etc) embroiled in a story that culminates in a considerable amount of grim violence and tragedy. Like Crisis on Infinite Earths, the tying up of loose ends entails many deaths, but unlike the Crisis, Moore has just two issues to pack it all in, and so the result feels rather rushed. Despite that, “Whatever Happened...” is a fitting end to an era.

The other two tales in this collection are from a year earlier, though they read like the work of a more experienced writer. This is probably because they are free of the burdens of the hefty “shopping list” of characters that “Whatever Happened...” involved. “The Jungle Line” (originally printed in DC Comics Presents #85) has the added benefit of featuring Swamp Thing, with whom Moore was already familiar, having written for the character for a couple of years by that point.

“For the Man Who Has Everything” (first published in Superman annual #11) is a team-up of British talent and something of a treat for old 2000 AD and Doctor Who Weekly fans, as it features art by Dave Gibbons, with whom the writer subsequently collaborated on Watchmen. As with “The Jungle Line”, the Man of Steel experiences hallucinations regarding his home planet Krypton because of an alien plant.

In fact, in all three of these stories, Moore uses one method or another to break out of Superman’s regular continuity, perhaps demonstrating that he isn’t really at home on such mainstream titles. Still, these tales make for interesting reading.


Richard McGinlay

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