I never got excited about Superman because I couldn’t relate to him. I have a friend who felt the same way, until he read Superman For All Seasons. He said I should give it a shot. He was right – this book changes everything for me. Well, no, not everything, but Superman For All Seasons casts the man who masquerades as Clark Kent in a whole new light. Suddenly he is complex and relatable, and perhaps more heroic for it.
This book is made up of a four issue series written by Jeph Loeb and with art by Tim Sale. Bjarne Hansen is the colorist, using watercolors that move between bold primary, easter-eggy, and sad purples. The art style is Rockwellian and evokes a simple life – the graphics are all Americana, with gentle subtleties provided by both the coloring and the writing. Each issue is told from the point of view of a different main character, and with each switch the reader gains a new bit of insight into our hero. I was left with an image in my mind of someone utterly more conflicted and connected and brave than I had thought.
We begin with a farm boy, a dog, a dear mother and father, and a highschool sweetheart. There’s that simplistic Superman I have no patience for. Only, highschool is ending, his powers are growing, and Superman, like many American teenagers, has the scary and exciting task of deciding, “what next?” The decision is more complicated that he wants it to be, and no matter what he must give some things up.
The story unfolds from here with standard comic book elements – heroics, races against time, feats of strength, villains. But in this story too are questions about honesty and making connections. About what you leave behind when you go and what good it will do to return. About the impressions a person leaves, and about figuring out who we really are. Teenage Superman has a lot to figure out. He gives something up when he decides to be Superman, and it’s hard for him. Even though he is Superman, he has to live with his choices, and they are the kinds of choices we can all relate to.
Other superheroes may have more shadowy appeals, and I like that. But in Superman For All Seasons we realize that just because Superman is from another planet and possesses what for earthlings are super powers, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle like the rest of us, and it doesn’t mean he isn’t human after all.