Cover to All-Star Superman #1 by Frank Quitely
|Publication date||November 2005 – October 2008|
|No. of issues||12|
|Created by||Grant Morrison|
|Written by||Grant Morrison|
|Volume 1||ISBN 1-4012-0914-9|
|Volume 2||ISBN 1-4012-1837-7|
All-Star Superman is a twelve-issue American comic book series featuring Superman that was published by DC Comics. The series ran from November 2005 to October 2008. The series was written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely, and digitally inked by Jamie Grant. DC claimed that this series would "strip down the Man of Steel to his timeless, essential elements".
The series was the second to be launched in 2005 under DC's All-Star imprint, the first being All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder. These series were attempts by DC to allow major comics creators a chance to tell stories showcasing these characters without being restricted by DC Universe continuity.
Grant Morrison's approach to writing this series was to make the reading as universal as possible. He stated that he was not interested in "re-doing origin stories or unpacking classic narratives" but instead wanted to do "a total update, rehaul and refit". However, rather than just creating a "fresh and relevant" update for new readers, Morrison wanted to write a "collection of ‘timeless’ Superman issues". The origins of this lie in a revamp of Superman, Superman Now, which began when Morrison and editor Dan Raspler were unsuccessfully brainstorming ideas for a new take on the character outside the San Diego Comic Con, when they had a "shamanic" encounter with a man dressed as Superman which helped spark the creative process and inspired the cover to the first issue. Morrison states in an interview:
He was perched with one knee drawn up, chin resting on his arms. He looked totally relaxed... and I suddenly realized this was how Superman would sit. He wouldn't puff out his chest or posture heroically, he would be totally chilled. If nothing can hurt you, you can afford to be cool. A man like Superman would never have to tense against the cold; never have to flinch in the face of a blow. He would be completely laid back, un-tense. With this image of Superman relaxing on a cloud looking out for us all in my head, I rushed back to my hotel room and filled dozens of pages of my notebook with notes and drawings.
The ideas generated by that meeting were refined and pitched to DC in 1998 by Morrison, Mark Millar, Mark Waid and Tom Peyer. They picked up on the fifteen-year cycle of reboots to the character, the previous one being John Byrne's The Man of Steel, and suggested a new approach:
The Superman relaunch we’re selling bucks the trend of sweeping aside the work done by those who came immediately before. Unlike the ‘cosmic reset’ revamps all too prevalent in current comics, our New Superman approach is an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras. Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel. The ‘cosmic reset’ notion has been replaced by a policy of ‘include and transcend’ with regard to past continuity.
Our intention is to restore Superman to his pre-eminent place as the greatest super-hero of all.
Although initially greenlit, it was eventually turned down and Morrison said, "I didn’t expect to be doing any further work on Superman" but the chance came as he was finishing his run on New X-Men. In an interview with Matt Brady from Newsarama, Grant Morrison stated he was contacted by DC Vice President Dan DiDio and asked "if I'd like to come back to DC to work on a Superman project with an artist of my choice". He mentioned it worked out well since he was also planning to return to DC "to do the Seven Soldiers project and the Vertigo books".
Morrison has confirmed that he made use of some of his Superman Now ideas for All-Star Superman, like "Luthor’s heart-stopping moment of understanding," as well as drawing on his original proposal for elements later included in the "DC One Million" storyline.
In his writing of the character Superman, Morrison identifies different aspects of his personality, stating, "'Superman' is an act. 'Clark Kent' in Metropolis is also an act. There are actually two Kents, at least – one is a disguise, a bumbling, awkward mask for Superman. The other is the confident, strong, good-hearted Clark Kent who was raised by his surrogate Ma and Pa in Kansas and knows how to drive a tractor. I think he's the most 'real' of all."
As the series drew to a close, writer Grant Morrison conceived of a series of one-shot specials, loose in continuity from the original series, that would depict or pay tribute to the Golden Age Superman, the Super-Sons World's Finest Comics team, the Superman Squad, the Superman of the 853rd Century, and the Superman dynasty. Publisher Dan DiDio has stated that are no current plans for the specials. Morrison would later become involved as writer on a 2011 relaunch of Action Comics where he used his ideas about the Golden Age Superman.
Dr. Leo Quintum and his team from P.R.O.J.E.C.T. are exploring the Sun when they are remotely sabotaged by Lex Luthor. Superman rescues them, and acquires the ability to project his bio-electric aura. Luthor orchestrated this event to overwhelm Superman's cells with massive amounts of solar radiation; Quintum determines that Superman's new level of power is also killing him, and that he has one year left to live. Luthor is arrested, thanks to a Daily Planet article by Clark Kent. Superman decides to keep his impending death secret from the public.
However, Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane, because he wants to spend his remaining time with her. Lois initially refuses to believe that Clark and Superman are the same person. For her birthday, Superman takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude, where they have dinner in a stateroom of the RMS Titanic, which Superman has raised and restored. During this visit, he also tells Lois that she can explore the Fortress save for one room he is constantly checking. Superman's furtive behavior heightens Lois' suspicions and she becomes paranoid. She attacks Superman with a Kryptonite laser, but his enhanced powers have rendered him immune to it.
Superman calms her down and reveals that he was preparing her birthday present in the off-limits room: a liquefied form of his DNA that will grant her all his superpowers for 24 hours, as well as a leotard for her costume. Using the name "Superwoman", she joins Superman as he stops a monster attack in Metropolis involving Samson, Atlas and an Ultra-Sphinx. Superman drives Samson and Altas away and he and Lois spend an eventful day that ends with them kissing on the moon before her powers fade and she falls asleep. Superman flies her back home.
Luthor is convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. Clark meets with Luthor for an interview at Stryker's Island. Luthor discloses his respect for Clark as a journalist and states that he has no desire to escape as long as he defeats Superman by causing his death. He reveals to Clark that Superman is dying, hoping that it will be published in the Daily Planet.
Nearing death, Superman accomplishes a variety of tasks that significantly help both humans & Kryptonians and completes his last will and testament. Meanwhile, Luthor survives his execution as he took a serum similar to what Superman made for Lois and escapes. Superman then learns of Luthor's ally Solaris, who has tampered with the sun. Superman engages Solaris until a Sun-Eater that Superman had cared for in the Fortress and subsequently released returns to weaken it. After Solaris destroys the Sun-Eater, Superman defeats Solaris, leaving its body intact because he has learned from the Superman Squad that Solaris will become an ally in the future. Clark returns to the Daily Planet to submit his article but falls dead. As the staff tries to save him, Luthor arrives and attacks Metropolis.
Believing he is on his home planet of Krypton, Superman joins his Kryptonian father Jor-El, who reveals that Superman's body is converting itself to a solar radio-consciousness. He offers him a choice: remain or come back to life. Clark wakes up, and confronts Luthor, firing a gravity gun at him. The gravity gun warps time for Luthor, speeding up the exhaustion of his powers. As his powers fade, Luthor briefly sees the world as Superman sees it, and weeps before Superman knocks him out. Superman and Lois embrace and he proclaims his love for her once and for all. He takes off, flies into the Sun and repairs it, saving the day for one last time. One year later, Lois tells Jimmy that she still believes Superman will return. Inside the sun, Superman, now a solar being, maintains machinery to keep the sun alive. The story concludes with Quintum revealing that if something happens, they will be ready, standing before a door with Superman's characteristic shield, but with its usual "S" replaced with the number "2".
Kal-El himself would one day emerge from his seclusion: he was seen once from countless thousands of years in the future, having evolved into a sort of golden god, meeting with his past self shortly after the death of Jonathan Kent and his masquerade as the Unknown Superman, and shortly before his own 'death'. The future Superman presented his dying past self with an indestructible golden flower from New Krypton, "For him, from all of us. In remembrance of all that we are. And all that we will be." The flower was planted at Jonathan Kent's grave.
The first issue was released in November 2005 and was a sales success, ranking second in the top 300 comics for that period, with Infinite Crisis #2 being the top seller. The second issue also ranked second in the top 300 comics for the January 2006 period, with pre-order sales of 124,328; Infinite Crisis #4 being the top seller that month. The series completed its run upon publication of its final issue in October 2008.
Jeremy Estes, an early reviewer from PopMatters, notes the difficulty in revamping the character Superman in his review of the first issue of the series. However, the All-Star continuity allowed the writer Grant Morrison much more writing freedom. Frank Quitely's art is praised as "fresh and modern", while still "evoking the classic hero known around the world". At the time of writing only the first issue had been released, and so Estes was unsure of the direction of the story, noting the creative team "have set up a promising tale, but only time will tell if they take the last train to Memphis or head West, all the way to Vegas".
Nicholas Labarre, writing for Sequart, argued that All-Star Superman "confidently exploits the near omnipotence of the main character," in contrast with other Superman stories. He compared the series favorably with Morrison's other work.
Ed Mathews from PopImage reviewed the first collected trade paperback, which collects the first six issues, and praised the creative team, stating the art is "the most elegant work out of Frank Quitely I’ve seen to date". Mathews also singled out Grant Morrison's, saying that the series adds to the Superman mythos "by tweaking bits and parts from the character’s rich history just enough to make old concepts fresh again". He recommended Volume 1 of the collected editions, and stated that "All Star Superman sings a hit".
Another review of Volume 1 came from Danny Graydon of The First Post, who stated that Grant Morrison's writing is "the most vigorously entertaining take on the 'Man of Steel' in decades" and that the "nuanced artwork is to be savoured".
Time magazine's Lev Grossman ranked the graphic novel third in Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007. He praised the storyline, noting that due to the character's strength and morality, he is a difficult character to write for.
IGN.com's list of top 25 Superman stories ranked All-Star Superman number one on the top of the list, describing it as "... a loving and affectionate celebration of everything that Superman stands for."
In other media
- All-Star Superman, a film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series, is an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's comic book. It was written by writer Dwayne McDuffie and directed by Sam Liu. It was released on February 22, 2011. It stars James Denton as Superman, Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane, Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor, Edward Asner as Perry White, Obba Babatundé as Judge, Steven Blum as Atlas, Linda Cardellini as Nasthalthia "Nasty" Luthor, Frances Conroy as Martha Kent, Alexis Denisof as Dr. Leo Quintum, Michael Gough as Parasite, Matthew Gray Gubler as Jimmy Olsen, Finola Hughes as Lilo, Kevin Michael Richardson as Steve Lombard, and Arnold Vosloo as Bar-El.
- The 2013 film Man of Steel features a monologue spoken by Jor-El (Russell Crowe) taken almost word-for-word from the comic.
- The 2017 Arrowverse crossover "Crisis on Earth-X" loosely incorporates several elements from All-Star Superman; the Nazi Supergirl is shown to be suffering from the same condition Superman is in the comic, and her cells are mentioned to be overloaded with solar radiation. When asked about this, she says "like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun," further referencing the events of the comic.
All-Star Superman won the Eisner Award for "Best New Series" in 2006, as well as "Best Continuing Series" in 2007 and 2009. It also won the Harvey Awards for "Best Artist" and "Best Single Issue" in 2008. In 2006 it won the Eagle Award for "Favourite New Comic book" and "Favourite Comics Cover" (for the first issue), as well as the 2007 "Favourite Colour Comicbook - American" Eagle.
The series has been collected into three volumes in hardcover and softcover format:
- Volume 1 (collects #1–6, 160 pages, hardcover, DC, January 2007, ISBN 1-84576-326-2, softcover, DC, April 2007, ISBN 1-4012-0914-9)
- Volume 2 (collects #7–12, 160 pages, hardcover, DC, February 2009, ISBN 1-4012-1837-7, softcover, Titan, September 2009, ISBN 1-84576-859-0, DC, February 2010, ISBN 1-4012-1860-1)
- Absolute All-Star Superman (collects #1–12, 320 pages, hardcover, DC, October 2010, ISBN 1-4012-2917-4)
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- Greene, Darragh. "'The Jungian Stuff': Symbols of Transformation in All-Star Superman." In Grant Morrison and the Superhero Renaissance: Critical Essays. Ed. Darragh Greene and Kate Roddy. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2015), pp. 131-49. ISBN 978-0-7864-7810-1
- All-Star Superman at the Comic Book DB
- Newsarama preview
- All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 3, Newsarama, October 23, 2008
- All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 4, Newsarama, October 24, 2008
- All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 5, Newsarama, October 27, 2008
- All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 6, Newsarama, October 28, 2008
- All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 10, Newsarama, November 3, 2008