Stories I Never Told

Stories I Never Told: The Return of Superman

So, now this is happening.

Superman is being replaced…by the Superman of another reality.

Well, damn! I was gonna do that years ago!

See, when John Byrne rebooted Superman in 1986’s famous Man of Steel mini-series, I wasn’t a happy camper. I enjoyed Byrne’s seminal work on Fantastic Four, but I was also a big fan of what he referred to as “barnacles” on the legend of Superman — stuff like Krypto, the Bottle  City of Kandor, etc. To be sure, Byrne (and, of course, DC Comics) had good reasons for the revamp, but to a kid who loved those barnacles something fierce, 1986 was the year Superman went away and was replaced by someone who looked a lot like him.

Years later, I had a notion that if I got the chance, I would tell a story in which Byrne’s Superman is killed by a villain…and the original, pre-Crisis Superman returns from…somewhere to take up the mantle. Pretty simple on the face of it, I suppose.

With the news that DC is doing something similar (though in their case, replacing the New52 version with the Byrne version!), I dug up some old notes on that story idea. Here’s a bit of what I wrote up:

Outside Lois Lane’s apartment building, Clark Kent stood in a phone booth. “Lois? Just call me when you get in, okay?”

He hung up. Leaving the booth, he stood out on the street for a moment. Dressed in a blue double-breasted suit with a blue and red striped tie and horn-rimmed glasses, he was the very picture of the disinterested and uninteresting bystander. With a frown, he gazed up at the floor on which Lois lived. He watched for a moment or two, then, with a deeper frown, shook his head and walked away. He caught a bus on the corner and took it all the way to 344 Clinton Street.

The doorman blinked twice as he held the door open for Clark.

“Something wrong, Frank?” Kent asked. “Uh, no, Mister Kent.” The doorman scratched his head. “You feelin’ okay?”

“As well as I can, under the circumstances.” Kent cocked his head. “Why?”

Frank shrugged. “If you don’t mind my saying so… You look a little peaked. Like you haven’t been eating well.”

“Oh?” Clark thought for a moment. “Well, I haven’t really eaten since Superman died. We grew up together, you know.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

Clark grimaced. “Well, okay. Thanks, Frank. I’ll try to look out for myself.”

“Sure thing, Mister Kent.” Frank waved as Clark headed into the lobby. “Oh, and I like your new glasses!” the doorman called.

Clark hesitated, considered turning back, but then kept going to the elevator. Self-consciously, he raised one hand to his glasses. New?

Once back in the apartment, he took the time to do what he had been unable to do before due to time constraints — he searched. He examined the entire flat carefully, pulling open drawers, drawing back curtains, probing in closets. What he found disturbed and baffled him. He reclined in an easy chair in the living room, absently fiddling with his glasses. When he realized what he was doing, he removed them and put them on the end table. Then, feet propped up on the ottoman, tie loosened, fingers steepled at his lips, he settled into a reflective disposition.

Where had the football trophies come from? Surely he hadn’t been a football star in high school—that was impossible. And the clothing was far too flashy, trendy, and noticeable for a mild-mannered reporter. Furthermore, the press credentials listed only the Daily Planet, with no mention of WGBS and the broadcaster’s anchor position.

Most frightening of all, though, was the personal address book, which listed a “Pete and Lana Ross” in Smallville and “Ma and Pa.”

Pete married to Lana? His parents alive?

What was going on here?

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