Webcomics are good at a lot of things. Sometimes they provide humor that is often too nerdy or too obscure for the mainstream. Sometimes they give a page that little animated nugget that makes the characters leap off the page. Sometimes they provide that framework of community for fans to share their favorite moments or moan when a story goes off track.
But how about a webcomic that restores history?
A recent blog post on BW Media Spotlight alerted me to a project that had been competed around December 2008. Its mission: to restore the unpublished Superman #8.
What’s so great about Superman #8? First of all, it was made by the original creators: the story was written by Joe Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster and his studio. But, most importantly, it introduced something called “K-Metal” a weird mineral from Krypton that would rob Superman of his powers.
Sounds familiar? While it’s generally accepted that Kryptonite was created for the Superman radio show as a weakness, Siegel had hashed out the concept some time before. From superman.nu:
DC’s Editorial Director, Whitney Ellsworth, had read the K-Metal script and was intimately familiar with its contents. Ellsworth was also producer, script editor, and frequent ghost-writer of both the Superman Radio show and the later Adventures of Superman television series. It’s likely that 1940’s introduction of K-Metal was the inspiration not only for various incarnations of Kryptonite in various media (the Radio Show, the comics, and Smallville), but that the plot concept of Superman facing emotional and mental challenges—internally debating with himself about his role and his feelings—in the face of an approaching meteor from space that has unpredictible effects on him was also used in the 1953 George Reeves episode, Panic in the Sky and in the later 1994 Lois and Clark episode, All Shook Up. In The Deadly Rock, a follow-up episode to the original George Reeves Panic in the Sky episode, a fragment from the Kryptonite meteor has arrived on Earth and effects not only Superman, but his friend Gary Allen. When exposed to this fragment of Kryptonite, Mr. Allen is impervious to all harm and is invulnerable to gunfire. In the episode, no explanation is provided for why an earthman should be effected by Kryptonite in this manner.
The not-necesarily unrelated idea of an approaching meteor presenting a threat from Superman’s home planet was also obviously inspired by “The K-Metal from Krypton.” This idea was re-used in many comic books stories (most recently in Jeph Loeb’s introduction of the latest Supergirl) and served as the major plot element in the unproduced George Reeves movie, Superman and the Secret Planet. Planetoid-sized fragments of Krypton also played a role in the 2006 movie, Superman Returns, although the scenes were cut from the final release.
And there are other important Superman milestones, like the first time Perry White is named to the first time Supes discovered that he’s an alien.
So why was it never published? Well, it also includes Superman revealing himself as Clark Kent to Lois Lane, and that was probably one change too many for DC.
The restored Superman #8 (“The K-Metal from Krypton”) boasts art from Angel Criado, Shuster Studios, Jon Bogdanove, and Shane Foley. A post from a year-and-a-half ago shows that, while a bit incomplete (with 3 pages to go), this is probably the final draft: “The long and the short of it is that I think the project is as done as it’s going to get. I haven’t heard from any of the artists in quite a while, so I suspect that they’ve pretty much moved on.”
Still, it’s an incredibly worthy effort. The art’s a little modernized, especially in the areas of coloring and detail. Still, it’s got that Golden Age touch where designs are simpler and layouts favored tidy square panels with plenty of dialogue. It’s an interesting exercise, bringing one of Superman’s finest moments to life.