Super Twos Day
I was hoping to make this month a March of Comics like I did back in 2009 and like I tried to do in 2010.
All sorts of stuff has conspired against that. But since nothing cheers me up like reading, looking at, and talking about comic books, and because I've been in need of such cheer lately, here's a Cover Album of second issues in DC Comics' family of Superman titles — with links as usual to records at The Grand Comics Database, also the source of most credits.
Super Tuesday has come and gone. Now it's Super Twos Day!
First issues tend to get all of the attention, even if they're not particular landmarks in terms of character introductions and origins. Second issues are much less embedded in comics fandom's collective memory, so it can be fun to look at the covers that came right after the covers we often know so well. How many times have you seen the above cover to the original Superman #2 from August 1939?
I'm not sure, but this might be a cheat. 1941's World's Finest Comics #3 is actually the second issue of the title, which in and of itself is fair enough, but that's only because as of #2 the series was renamed from World's Best Comics. Still, WFC #2's cover is much less interesting than this one, and it at least used to be up elsewhere on the blog (in a post to be republished one day at Adventures in Comicology).
I didn't include Action Comics #2 because Superman wasn't on it, although he did make his second-ever published appearance inside. Pics of the big guy rotated among other features and generic illustrations on Action's covers until after the 1939 bow of his own series, which began as a quarterly. Of course it soon dawned on the publishers that Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster's Last Son of Krypton was the biggest draw in Action, at DC, and indeed throughout the industry at large.
Likewise, More Fun Comics #102 isn't here despite Superboy's debut in the previous issue because he didn't even show up on the cover until #104 in mid-1945. The Boy of Steel finally got his own series in 1949, with Superboy #2's cover giving us the first mention of Smallville as home to the Kents.
The superhero genre waned in popularity after World War II, while horror, crime, science fiction, and Westerns came to prominence, but Superman himself was a perennial. A spinoff featuring Jimmy Olsen was added to DC's roster in part due to the popularity of the live-action Adventures of Superman television show, and later an issue of Showcase, in which DC floated various potential series, led to a starring vehicle for Lois Lane with a greater helping of romance mixed into the adventure. Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #2 and Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #2 were published in 1954 and 1958, respectively.
It would be nearly 25 years before another Superman-family series was launched. Supergirl, Kal-El's Kryptonian cousin, was introduced in 1959's Action Comics #252, costarring in some of Superman's stories or her own strip thereafter, but it wasn't until a long run in Adventure Comics concluded that she earned her own title. Supergirl #2 appeared two months after the first issue in late 1972.
Supergirl's solo title was short-lived, however, and in 1974 it was merged with Lois Lane's and Jimmy Olsen's series into The Superman Family — at first presenting a new story for just one of the three characters each issue, backed by reprints and filler material (which didn't bother Li'l Blam one bit; I loved the mix). High issue counts were rightly seen as a sign of strength in the market then, so the combo series picked up its numbering from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, making The Superman Family #165 the second of three second issues in this list that isn't actually a #2.
I forgot about this on my first run-through. For a brief spell, World's Finest Comics dropped the Superman/Batman team-ups in favor of pairing the Man of Steel with different characters, just as Batman had a variety of costars in The Brave and the Bold. The experiment didn't last, however, and so a new series was launched for just that purpose in 1978. DC Comics Presents #2 continued the latest Superman/Flash race from #1.
Over 30 years, Superboy went through at least as many stylistic changes as the titles featuring the adult Man of Steel.
The earliest Superboy tales often appeared to take place in the present, even though the character was Superman as a boy. Later stories were set before Superman's real-world 1938 publishing debut, but while contemporary Superman adventures stayed current the setting of Superboy remained static — until it was announced in a 1970 lettercolumn that its stories would jump into the more recent past, with Superboy's milieu to thereafter remain about 15 years before the modern exploits of Superman. Clark Kent's parents were also youthified from their familiar white-haired depictions for a while, but that's a whole other can of Insect Queens.
More important, in more than one chronological fashion, is the 1958 introduction of The Legion of Super-Heroes, an interplanetary band of costumed crimefighters who after some contradictions were established as existing exactly 1,000 years in Superboy's future — well, a bit before and after that, too, but that's the rolling timepoint at which Superboy would visit their headquarters. After numerous guest spots they got their own feature in Adventure Comics, displacing Superboy's in 1963. He still had his solo title, of course, at least until the Legion took up a costarring role there in 1973; it was officially renamed Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes in 1977 and in late 1979 the Boy of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow was kicked out altogether when it became simply The Legion of Super-Heroes with #259. (1979 also saw the release of DC's first miniseries, the 3-issue World of Krypton.)
Believe it or not, I've left out even more title-hopping for the sake of brevity, but the salient point is that DC wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the Legion without totally eclipsing Superboy, who as his series became permanently rooted in the 30th Century also enjoyed short-lived solo berths for his Smallville storylines in The Superman Family and back in Adventure Comics again. So the same month that his old title was turned over to his pals in the next millennium whole hog he got a new first issue all his own for his 16th birthday — advancing on his eternally 29-year-old adult self — which was followed the next month by The New Adventures of Superboy #2.
Upon the 1982 demise of The Superman Family, Supergirl also got a new monthly title of her own. Kara Zor-El, alias Linda Lee Danvers, is one of my favorite characters, so I hope this doesn't come across as sexist lack of equal time, but that's all there really is to say about The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #2 except that come #14 the series was renamed simply Supergirl.
In one of the moves that many at DC came to regret, the original, Earth-One Supergirl died in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 and was then declared never to have existed in the new DC Universe continuity established after that 12-issue series concluded in 1986. Superman's past as Superboy was also erased, as in his revised history his powers developed more slowly. Other changes included a very different look for Krypton, a less mild-mannered Clark Kent, and a move in location for Smallville to Kansas (as it was in the 1978 film Superman) from some rural area near Metropolis on the Eastern seaboard (most often suggested as Maryland, with Metropolis in Delaware, although it was never quite made official).
The Superman series that had been running for 47 years was renamed Adventures of Superman in late 1986 to make way for a new Superman #1 after Crisis. I'm presenting the covers to both Superman #2 and Adventures of Superman #425 here not just because of the name change but because there was a hiatus after the last pre-revamp issue of Superman to make way for the 6-issue Man of Steel miniseries, introducing the new take on the legend.
Which makes this a good place to point out that in addition to eschewing, say, the second issue of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes after its formal change from Superboy, I've opted to leave out annuals, other sporadic sequentially-numbered series, miniseries, and collected editions. None of them have particularly iconic first-issue covers, and part of the point here is the novelty of the contrast in familiarity with second-issue covers, while there have been so many miniseries in the past couple of decades that this post would become more than twice as long with little value added.
Since merchandising and media, like nature, abhor a vacuum, Superboy returned in 1988 — first to television, in a low-budget, live-action syndicated series, and then in a comic book nominally set in the continuity of that series. In fact the cover title read Superboy: The Comic Book, as you can see below on 1990's Superboy #2, in part to echo the TV show's Superboy: The Series logo, itself playing off the promotional title of Superman: The Movie.
A fourth monthly title was added to the triumvirate of Action Comics, Superman, and Adventures of Superman in 1991 to ensure a new DC Universe Superman issue almost every week of the year. Unfortunately the quality of the titles varied and the addition of Superman: The Man of Steel felt to many readers like pure opportunism, especially when plots continued unevenly through all four series. More than a few fans just dropped the quartet entirely.
The interseries triangle numbering visible on the cover to Superman: The Man of Steel #2 provided a reading order — but it also reminded us that if we weren't getting every issue we were missing the bigger picture. Perhaps at no time was this more true than during 1992's ballyhooed Death of Superman saga and its 1993 aftermath in which each of the four titles starred a would-be Superman of its own.
Among those characters was the new Superboy, who when the real Man of Steel returned accepted the more youthful moniker and was promoted to his own series bearing that name. Cloned from a mix of human DNA and Superman's own genetic material, the half-Kryptonian kid can be seen below in the cover to 1994's Superboy #2.
Following his supposed demise Superman entered a boom decade. In addition to the monthly titles Superboy and Steel — the latter starring armored inventor John Henry Irons, who inspired by Superman became one of Metropolis's protectors in his absence — 1994 saw a Supergirl miniseries featuring the version of the character introduced in 1988's Superman #16. No week was without a solo Superman series once the quarterly Superman: The Man of Tomorrow debuted in 1995, bringing the triangle numbering to a full 52.
The cover to Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #2 below is mercifully the only one in this bunch depicting Superman with the longer hair he sported after his return to the living, and it's not too out of control here.
The Supergirl of the new DC Universe continuity was, oddly enough, from an alternate reality, even though Crisis on Infinite Earths was supposed to have done away with such things. It was created to explain how the Legion of Super-Heroes could have counted Superboy as a member (before the powers that be decided to eliminate Superboy from Legion history after all, for a while at least); following the death of the pseudo-Earth-One Superboy, an artificial lifeform called Matrix became that reality's Supergirl and sought out the new DC Universe Superman for assistance in battling Kryptonian criminals escaped from the Phantom Zone.
After her own Earth was left a wasteland she settled on Superman's and eventually merged with the non-Kryptonian Linda Danvers of his world, a premise that launched a new series in 1996 that continued through Supergirl #2 all the way to #80 in 2003 and ended, movingly but still oddly, with a visitation from the original Earth-One Supergirl. By that time not only had there been one thematic sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths in the form of 1994's Zero Hour, again giving us glimpses of parallel realities, but 1998's The Kingdom had introduced the concept of Hypertime to establish that literally everything we'd ever read and more existed in some form within an omniversal web of continuity.
Despite some misgivings most of the creative crew behind the celebrated Batman animated series that began in 1992 fired up a companion show for Superman in 1996. And just as DC had done for the Dark Knight, it published a companion title based on the Man of Steel's latest screen incarnation, as seen in the above cover to Superman Adventures #2.
Yet another Supergirl arrived on the scene in 2004, with an origin similar to that of the Earth-One version but from within the current DC Universe continuity — which was about to undergo changes once more thanks to the miniseries Infinite Crisis. Supergirl #2 is technically the third issue of the series that starred this version of Superman's cousin, but since the #0 that kicked it off merely reprinted the contents of Superman/Batman #19 from earlier in 2005 it didn't feel right to represent #1 as the second issue.
The clone Superboy was given the name Kon-El by Superman after the events of Zero Hour and later adopted the civilian identity of Connor Kent. He appeared to die at the climax of Infinite Crisis but was resurrected during 2008's so-called Final Crisis in the 31st Century of the Legion of Super-Heroes using the same technology that revived Superman after his own apparent death. He returned to the Kent Farm in Smallville in a new run of Adventure Comics and then in his own series, as seen in the variant cover to 2010's Superboy #2 above.
Superboy, Supergirl, and Superman all came to an end last year, however, as did every mainstream DC Universe title up to and including Action Comics, as DC rewrote its primary superhero continuity once more at the end of the Flashpoint miniseries and relaunched everything in September 2011 with a fresh #1 under the banner The New 52. We got a new Superboy #2, a new Supergirl #2, and for just the third time in 72 years — at least as far as first-run American publishing is concerned — a new Superman #2, with new costumes and new personalities.
I'll talk about that some other time.
Images copyright year of publication DC Comics, presented as historical exhibition.
Characters and logos are trademarks of DC Comics.