by Michael Eury, et al
Oh my god. This is one audacious and exhaustive piece of gonzo comics journalism. And soooo much better than that last Superman movie. But here we have, released at the height of Supermania last year, the Krypton Companion, which is a kind of time capsule-cum-crash course in the Superman universe and the men and women who dreamed it all/made it into a reality. The focus of the book is on the Krypton mythos and its development over three decades of Superman comics — the Superman family, the varied and poisonous Kryptonite, Superman’s parents, the bottle City of Kandor, Braniac, Metallo, Krypto and the superpets, Bizarro, the Phantom Zone, Superboy and his time-travelling adventures with the Legion of Superheroes and the colorful rogues gallery that Superman clashed with then. This flowering or exponential expanding of the Superman universe, one that included elements of science fiction and fantasy, is considered mostly down to the editorial stewardship on the flagship Superman titles (Superman, Action, Adventure, Legion of Super Heroes, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, etc) of the infamous and legendary Otto Binder and his successor, the almost influential Julius Schwartz. Thus does the Krypton Companion, for the most part, restrict itself to the editorial reign of these two men, which is mostly seen as an unbroken line of continuity, but even that restriction doesn’t mean much as it covers the period from 1958-1986! Lordy! From there we head off into the Crisis on Infinite Earths and John Byrne’s controversial “reboot” of Superman, on to the present day, items which are dealt with briefly, or in the humongous roundtable discussion at the end.
With a book this dense and catholic in its coverage of Superman, it’s almost impossible to find a good starting point without feeling you’re leaving out maybe 25 other good openings; there’s just so much to see and read in here! I love the sprawling, ambitious, messy nature of it all. Yet it’s perfect for a comics novice or someone who’s a big fan of the Superman movies only. You needn’t have more than a passing prior knowledge, because it seems that quite literally everything is covered and no stone left unturned. Interviews, testimonials, timelines, checklists, sidebars, recaps, commentaries, original art, reproduced covers and panels, unpublished drawings, sketches, designs — great Caesar’s ghost! Krypton Companion is divided into four main sections — the first, “The Key To Fort Weisinger,” deals with the apex or golden age of Weisinger’s Superman shepherding from 1958-1964, the second, “Up, Up and Away,” covers the end of Weisinger’s run from 1964-1970, the dawn of the Julius Schwartz era (also the first “formal” Superman revamp) is run down in “There’s a New Kind of Superman Coming,” 1971-1979, and finally, the winding down and return to form (before everything was blown apart again) is dealt with in “Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow.”
Each chapter is comprised of a wealth of archival material, alongside quite a few retrospective looks without too much inside baseball, so even the novice fan won’t feel like they’re on the outside (of the bottle city of Kandor) looking in. The Krypton Companion is a quality package, money well spent for any serious student of popular culture.