Brainiac On Banjo #026: Marv Wolfman’s Long, Long Journey

What I should have done, were this to be a proper analysis, was reread every comic book story Marv Wolfman ever wrote. Obviously, that’s not possible. He’s written a lot of comics. Marv wrote his initial scripts on papyrus. He’s only four years older than me, but he’s been at it since Jeff met Mutt.

Not that it wouldn’t have been an entertaining way for me to blow off a deadline. He’s written… everything. Every A-list, B-list, and C-list character owned by DC and Marvel, and most of the lower-list characters as well. He’s written some of the most iconic series around: Tomb of Dracula, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blade, The New Teen Titans. His runs on Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Superman and Batman are the stuff dreams are made of. My personal favorite, Night Force (co-created by his Dracula comrade Gene Colan), is… well… my personal favorite and I’ve read more comic books than Supersnipe.

I strongly expect that at least 95% of the ink Marv gets for his latest mind-stunner, Man and Superman, will start with referencing the second line in his introduction: “(Man and Superman) maybe one of the five best comics I’ve ever written.” That is a ballsy move, my friend. Now every blogger must start there. Is this among Marv’s very, very best? Well, let’s keep in mind it’s also an extraordinary gambit – now everybody is going to ask themselves the same question, and in order to answer it, they’ve got to read it.

As well they should. Having not reread the entire Wolfman oeuvre, here is no way I can say this is among his five best, and if I did enough people (probably including Marv) will share with me at least six other stories that were better. But Man and Superman feels as though it is one of his five best… as well as one of the very best Superman comics stories ever. And, at one time or another I may very well have read them all.

For those who came in late: Man and Superman is a definitive telling of the period between Clark Kent’s arrival in Metropolis and the first costumed appearance of Superman. Defying DC’s notorious addiction to the reboot, I don’t think Marv really changed anything significant. He added some stuff, and Luthor’s appearance and his plot to suck up as much Pentagon money as possible without declaring himself a candidate for office is a bit revisionist, but it does something DC hasn’t done to my satisfaction: it gives Lex a rational motive for hating the Man of Steel.

Originally, this was supposed to be a four-part story in Superman Confidential ten years ago. Unfortunately Superman Confidential was finished before this story. It sat on the shelf since Barack Obama’s inauguration.

That, my friends, boggles my mind. That’s no small achievement, but Man and Superman really is that good. How can something that good sit on a shelf for a decade? Simple: the publishing industry was created by the denizens of Wackyland, where the last of the Do-Dos controls the presses.

I would be truly remiss if I skipped over Claudio Castellini’s magnificent artwork, which is every bit as good as Marv’s script. Just about every truly gifted comics artist has drawn Superman at one time or another, and his work on Man and Superman ranks among the best.

I don’t know why DC didn’t publish this in hardcover – I’m certain they will – but I’m glad the first printing of this “100-Page Super-Spectacular” (really?) was released for the low, low price of $9.99. Yes, Methuselah, in 2019 $9.99 is a low, low price.

For this to be a proper critique the Manual for Self-Important Online Reviewers clearly states I must find something wrong with Man and Superman. Sigh. Well, I don’t want to go to Internet prison, so here goes.

We should have seen Inspector Henderson, Marv. Or are you holding him out for the sequel?

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