The best Superman story you’ve never read
In 1993, Ed Pinsent, a cartoonist and small press publisher from the U.K., published a bootleg Superman comic book entitled “Silver Age Superman,” with artwork by Mark Robinson. Drawn in a style reminscent of early Silver Age stories, it includes reworked period comic advertisements and a letter column. It is printed with a color cover on gloss paper and black and white interior on uncoated paper finished to A4 size.
The story is ambitious: Clark Kent remembers an early childhood event with his father giving him some instructions about plants he’ll have when he gets to earth. Clark is then jarred back to reality by Perry White, who wants him to look into a Japanese boy with supermemory and write a story about him for the Daily Planet. After Perry suggests the kid’s IQ must be really high, Clark argues that true intelligence isn’t just memorized knowledge, but also wisdom, and Perry promptly throws him out of his office to work on the story.
Perry White is one of the few humans that Clark seems to have respect for, so Clark sets out to impress Perry by getting the scoop on the story while at the same time trying to answer what intelligence is and figuring out the meaning of the memory he had from childhood.
Here’s an early sequence… panels 3 and 4 in particular are favorites, but you can see here how different this approach to Clark Kent is.
Pinsent’s characterization of Kent/Superman is totally different and unique from any other one I’ve seen in comics; Clark is portrayed as detached and patronizing towards humans, knowing full well he is Kryptonian and different. It reminds me of General Zod’s opinion of people in Superman II or maybe the portrayal of the Kryptonian astronauts Bar-El and Lilo from All Star Superman #9, but without their malevolence. Instead, Pinsent’s Clark Kent is existentially alone and searching for meaning.
Rather than recap the entire tale, I’m going to scan some random pages and let them speak for themselves. You can see a direct line between this work and many later indie-influenced superhero stories, like the Bizarro books from DC and Strange Tales from Marvel. It also would not surprise me to find out Grant Morrison had seen and been influenced by this comic.
As far as I know, I got the last copy of Silver Age Superman from Ed Pinsent, so it’s going to be very difficult to find. However, you might also enjoy Ed’s takes on Batman, which are available for download on Ed Pinsent’s comic page. Maybe someday he’ll scan and upload Silver Age Superman.