It began with the ending. That’s the way I remember it. Superman, the symbol for truth, justice, and the American way was gone, beaten to death by the creature known only as Doomsday. As comic fans surrounding the globe mourned the passing of DC’s iconic superhero, they couldn’t help wondering, “Is this it?” and “Who will fill his big, red boots?” Well, as it turns out, we wouldn’t have to wait long! Introducing “Reign of the Supermen”! Before the “Big Red S” could grow cold in his tomb, four oddly familiar (and some not so familiar) beings arrived in Metropolis, claiming to be the resurrected Man of Steel!
We will begin with The Man of Tomorrow. This Superman resembled a type of cybernetic Kryptonian with a very familiar costume and powers. He acted very much like the Superman we had known but exhibited lapses in his memory. He did remember Doomsday though and the first thing he did was to chain the creature to an asteroid in the furthest reaches of space. This Superman starred in “Superman,” which was written and drawn by Dan Jurgens.
The second, the Last Son of Krypton, looked exactly like Superman but with very different powers. This being had the ability to produce blasts from his hands of pure solar energy. He ￼wore sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from intense light but, more importantly, he wore black like an executioner. He also dealt out punishments to criminals as such. This Superman starred in “Action Comics,” which was written by Roger Stern with artwork by Jackson Guice.
Next, the Metropolis Kid (he hates being called Superboy). This Superman was seen escaping the cloning labs of Project Cadmus with the Newsboy Legion. Oddly enough, he only appeared to be around fifteen years old. He donned a leather jacket, sported a skater-style haircut, and had an attitude bigger than he was. His powers involved only a type of telekinesis. This Superman starred in “Adventures of Superman,” which was written by Karl Jewel with artwork by Tom Grummett.
Lastly, there was the Man of Steel. This armored avenger was clad entirely in a metal suit of armor and carried a sledgehammer. He seemed to have no powers of his own, looked nothing like Supes, and acted the most human of the bunch. He was also the first of these supermen to in fact say he wasn’t Superman. He crawled from beneath the city’s wreckage, ready to finish off Doomsday. This Superman starred in “Man of Steel,” which was written by Louise Simonson with artwork by Jon Bogdanove.
Now that the stage was set, and the players were all present, it was time for the story to commence and for fans to wonder, “Who is the real Superman?” Starting with the Man of Steel, this character was a true hero! Take one half Iron Man and one half John Henry from folklore, and you get the amazing John Henry Irons. Irons, once saved from a fatal fall by Superman, promised to make his life count for something. When Superman fell in battle, and a new weapon nicknamed the “Toastmaster,” (Who named this thing?!) was beginning to kill people in John’s neighborhood, he created a high-tech suit of armor with a familiar design on the chest to take the fight to the gangs and honor his hero’s legacy. It turned out that Irons had created the weapon long ago for the military and felt responsible. Though he was later proven to not, in fact, be Superman reincarnated, Steel remained a hero long after the “Reign of the Supermen” and even joined the Justice League for awhile.
The Metropolis Kid, though obviously only a young clone of Superman spliced with unknown human DNA, stated for anyone to that would listen, that he was the only true Superman. He even went so far as to legally obtain the rights to the name! When this “Superman” wasn’t trying to pick up women, or grandstanding for crowds, he actually did some good for Metropolis. After the “Reign of the Supermen” Superman, with permission from the nameless youth, rightfully reclaimed his name and dubbed him Superboy. Though reluctant, Kon-El, as he was later named, accepted the moniker. Later, Superboy remained a hero even after dealing with the fact that the human DNA used to create him, was Lex Luthor’s!
Next would be the Last Son of Krypton. (My personal favorite!) Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the Punisher and Superman had a secret love child? That would be our boy! This being was later found out to be the (once thought destroyed) Kryptonian computer called the Eradicator in energy form plus dead tissue from the corpse of Superman. This Superman was actually thought to be deceased at the end of the “Reign” storyline, but, as we all know, energy cannot be destroyed, only changed. The Eradicator would surface many times throughout the years. Never with the same look, but always with the same “anti-hero” attitude.
Finally, what about that Cyborg Superman? He was really the real deal, right? You, and apparently, then President, Bill Clinton, couldn’t be more wrong! This creature was actually once a man named Hank Henshaw. Henshaw, a madman with the limited ability to absorb the properties of whatever or who ever touched him, had a real hatred for Superman. So much that, after absorbing Kryptonian DNA and technology while in space, seemingly masqueraded as his enemy only out of pure spite! This genocidal maniac, with help from the villainous Mongul, destroyed the then Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s hometown, Coast City, to build a giant “Engine City” in its place! His next stop would have been Metropolis had it not been for the intervention of the above mentioned “Supermen” and…..Superman himself?!
That’s right, fellow comic fans! After recovering from his wounds from the Doomsday fight this whole time in a healing chamber within the Fortress of Solitude, Superman was back! There was a collective sigh of relief in the DC Comic’s Universe plus, in the real world we live in. The hero that every child (whether they want to admit it or not!) had looked up to as they grew up, be it by tying a towel around their necks in place of a cape or jumping off their roofs in order to fly, had returned from the great beyond! And I, for one, would never take him for granted again.
Dedicated to my dad, who thought I was Superman when it came to my writing and now flies like him in Heaven.