Episode 15 – Catharsis…2020

Back in late 2009 I recorded an episode of Views From The Longbox with my friend Scott Gardner where we talk about our feelings about how DC Comics was treating Superman.  It was a raw and honest conversation and I titled that episode Catharsis.  Well, it’s now 2020 and once again I find myself at a crossroads, of sorts, with Superman and I thought it might be time to once again take a raw and honest look at where I am as a fan of the Man of Steel.  Why am I walking away from the ongoing books?  Why is Clark Kent as a secret identity important?  What were things like back in 2007?  How have my opinions on being a Superman fan changed?  And what does Doomsday Clock #12 have to do with all of this?  Listen and find out.

Below are selected images from Doomsday Clock #12.

It All Comes Back to Superman is available on a variety of formats.  It’s on Apple Podcasts, the Google Play Store, and even Spotify.  If you like accessing the RSS Feed directly, you can do that here.  Feedback for the show can be left below or you can head on over to the It All Comes Back To Superman Facebook Page.  The email address for the show is [email protected].

Next Time: Another installment of Superman Is For Everyone.


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  1. This was an interesting episode for me. I have, on a couple of occasions, walked away from Superman comics, later to return. As a Silver and Bronze Age fan (yes, I’m old), I was not at all pleased with the John Byrne reboot when it happened (In light of later developments, though, that one doesn’t look so bad, now.), but I stayed with things until the Doomsday/Death of Superman storyline, which was really my “bridge too far”. I stayed away, mostly, until “Rebirth”, although I did, from time to time, dip my toe back into the water if I saw a comic that looked interesting, more often than not, some non-Superman comic. I found the “Rebirth” line of stories less engaging than I liked, so I hopped off the train again, only to return with Action Comics #1000, which I enjoyed, so I stayed with Action and Superman for a year, but realized I don’t much like the pace of decompressed storytelling, so I stopped again. Much of my dissatisfaction, I suspect, is due to my age and my formative comic reading in the Silver Age. A lot of the newer stuff just feels “dragged out” to me, and I find I have less patience for that than I did. I dropped the books before I found out that Bendis was planning to “out” Superman’s secret identity, but that just confirmed my decision. I mentioned in a comment on Facebook that, in Elliot S! Maggin’s 1981 novel Miracle Monday, there’s a moment, after Clark Kent has been exposed before the world as Superman, Jimmy Olsen says that he’s glad Clark Kent turned out to be Superman, because it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, and he wishes Clark would stop by at some point, because he misses him. Someone asks Jimmy, “Well, what would you call him? Would you say, ‘Hi, Clark’, or ‘Hi, Superman’?” The idea was that, if you know he’s Superman, but he’s dressed as Clark, wouldn’t that seem pretty weird? I’m not sure how Superman could still be Clark, if the secret is exposed, and, frankly, the idea isn’t sufficiently interesting to me, to want to read how a writer explores that.
    Ultimately, I suppose every reader decides for themselves what they want to read, and whether they want to continue reading. For me, I’m out, at least for now, but, for those who like what’s being offered, I’m glad for them, that they have a treatment of Superman that they can enjoy. I’ll always have the stories I like, from many decades of reading, and I’m happy for that.

  2. Zane Johnson says:


    This is a long one, so bear with me.

    This was THE podcast I had been anxiously looking forward to ever since you posted about leaving the main Superman titles (“Superman” and “Action Comics”), after the news of the secret identify reveal. Everything you discussed in the podcast regarding your reasoning behind leaving resonated with me, and even more when you made a particular comment in this podcast that brought everything into focus for me. But more on that in a bit.

    You know, the main reason I gravitated towards your podcasts back in 2010 was that it seemed like you and I pretty much had (and still have) the same ideas about what works for us regarding Superman, and I’m guessing the reasons would be that we were both heavily invested in what I now refer to as the “Mike Carlin-curated” Superman from the 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. The only difference between us is that I came in to the reboot immediately when it began.

    I was 12 years old in 1986, and I had been eagerly anticipating the Superman reboot since Dick Giordano announced it in his “Meanwhile” column, because I absolutely loved John Byrne from his Marvel output, and Jerry Ordway was the one who helped me see a different look to Superman beyond the versions that had been ingrained in me since the 1970’s – the Curt Swan version from the comic books, and the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praise be his name) version from the merchandise and media outlets – by Jerry’s work on the Earth-2 Superman in the pages of the “All Star Squadron”. The splash page of “All Star Squadron” issue 21 is one of my favorite Superman images of all time.

    Byrne and Ordway (along with Marv Wolfman) definitely did not disappoint at the start of the reboot, but I always felt that the post-Crisis Superman really got rolling once Byrne left, and Carlin had Roger Stern, Ordway, and eventually Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove to fully define this new(er) version of Superman. There were definitely peaks and valleys throughout the latter half of the 1990’s, but I stuck with it.

    I stuck with it during the Eddie Berganza era, though only the Loeb/McGuinness era kept me constantly engaged. Like you, I became frustrated once things like “Superman” issue 166 and “Birthright” came into play. I couldn’t figure out which version of Superman was in the books. Was it still the “Carlin version”, or was it now the “Waid version”?

    Then “Infinite Crisis” happens, and we went into what I call the “Geoff Johns” version of Superman. Unfortunately, that particular version became defined by late books, confusing plot points on history that wasn’t yet defined by this apparent “new” version of Superman, and finally culminated in both “Secret Origin” and the “New Krypton” saga.

    I was so frustrated during 2009 and 2010, that it was a near-miracle that I found your podcast at just the right moment. I had found you initially through the “Tales of the JSA” series with Scott Gardner, then back to “From Crisis to Crisis”, then finally in “Views from the Longbox”, specifically the “Catharsis” episode with Scott. Finally – FINALLY – someone else was saying out loud the frustration I had been feeling with the “Superman” books! Now, there were people stating it on message boards, of course, but this was the first time I heard someone actually speak it out loud. It completely resonated with me, and really made me think about why I still bought the books. If I wasn’t enjoying them, why was I spending (in all honestly, more like “wasting”) money on them?!!? Unlike you, I just couldn’t let go of the titles. Despite my frustration dating back to 2006, I kept collecting them. Maybe it would get better soon…

    My attitude changed in 2011, with the advent of “The New 52”. As you’ve stated before in different podcast episodes, someone’s “jumping on” point in comics is also likely someone’s “jumping off” point. It was time for me to jump off. At the time, it just seemed like the right time for me to go. The versopm Superman I knew and enjoyed was gone, and – let’s face it – had been long gone since Berganza took over as editor of the Superman titles. Plus, DC was completely erasing any existence of the JSA from this New 52, which was another big reason for me to stop.

    But then “Rebirth” happened. I’ll admit, I didn’t take the bite when it was first launched. Yes, Dan Jurgens would be on “Action Comics”, and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason would be on “Superman”, but that just wasn’t enough for me. Even though I saw online what great reviews the books were getting, I held off. After all, I held off for 5 years. Why go back now?

    Well, I went back because of “Action Comics” #1000. Now, this logic will seem very familiar to you, Michael, but I thought to myself when 1000 was on the horizon, “Wow, issue 1000. I am alive for issue 1000. How can I miss that? I was there for issue 600, issue 700, issue 800, and even issue 900. I can’t miss 1000.” But, do I just buy one of the covers I like and only read 1000 and be done with it? Or, do I get caught up by reading the “Rebirth” era stories so it all makes sense to me?

    After a ton of debating, I decided to pull the trigger on “Rebirth”. I found an amazing deal on the entire “Action” and “Superman” run on eBay versus going the trade paperback route. I bought it, and anxiously awaited it.

    When the box came, it had “Justice League” issue 52 and “DC Rebirth” issue 1 as well. So I started with those two issues, then read the “Superman Rebirth” special. I was so intrigued by what I was reading thus far, that I decided to also start on the Jurgens “Action Comics” storyline.

    I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. Jurgens was coming out of the gate firing on ALL cylinders. Even though I wasn’t familiar with the New 52 set up, there were so many call-backs to the “Death and Return of Superman” storylines that I was immersed in it all. Once I read the first “Doomsday” storyline, I read Tomasi and Gleason on “Superman”. By the time I got to “Superman” 7 (the county fair issue), I was HOOKED.

    Basically, I was a hungry man at a buffet – I devoured the books, figuratively speaking.
    Suddenly, I was in the midst of my own personal “Superman” renaissance. I wasn’t going to buy just one version of issue 1000, I’ll get all 10 of them! Not only that, I went down to the comic book store and, for the first time in 9 years, started a pull list for both “Action” and “Superman”. And hey, get me both the A and B covers for my pull list – Superman is fun to read again! I want to fully support it!!!

    Then the “Bendis Era” began. Which brings us over a year later to 2019. I’m not going to say his run was bad. I really enjoyed his take in “Action Comics”. “Superman”, well…I’m still debating that one. The art by Ivan Reis was, and still is, amazing.
    However, with the identify reveal (part 2) now in place, I have to go back to a phrase you uttered in the podcast that really stuck with me, and rang true…

    I’ve stayed at the party too long.

    That’s painful to admit, especially after just coming back almost 2 years ago for “Rebirth”, but as Bob Fisher stated in his own recent “Superman Forever” podcast, I’m likely not part of the audience that DC is looking for now. Plus, with the price point of comic books currently, it is too much money to plunk down if there isn’t enjoyment. Ivan’s art, amazing as it is, can’t justify $3.99 per month.

    And, that’s okay.

    I have a stockpile of “Superman” comic books from 1986 to 2020, along with the “Superman Golden Age Omnibus” Volumes 1 through 6 (and counting), and the Superman Golden Age newspaper strip reprint series from IDW to read and enjoy. Plus, now with the DC Universe app I’ve subscribed to (and will likely keep subscribing to), I have over 20,000 DC comic books to read at a moment’s notice, plus all of the streaming content. Plus, there’s still a few years yet to go with “From Crisis to Crisis”, so I’m good there, too 🙂 I’m set.

    Like you, this is not any noble endeavor by any means. It’s just time.

    It’s 2011 all over again. It’s time to go. The party’s over, and I, too, have outstayed my welcome.

    I’m looking forward to what you have in store for the next podcast!

  3. Lucien Desar says:

    Mr Bailey,

    What a fantastic entertaining episode. I was listening to it while going grocery shopping. It made the experience much more pleasant. I just added Superman to my pull at the LCBS starting at #18. I felt like it was a great jumping on point in the story. For the most part I enjoyed it, especially the artwork. There was a great spread in issue #19 of Superman with the entire Justice League which was worthy enough to be a poster.

    Question for you: what panel or splash page would you like to be presented as a poster?

    Thank you again for the show!

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