Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Comic Book Beard: Superman

The Adventures of Superman #455 (1987) by Jerry Ordway and Dan Jurgens.
It was not the first or last time that Superman sported a beard in comics, but it was among my favorite runs in modern Superman Comics. So this edition of No Shave November Comic Book Beards allows me to reflect briefly on Supes circa 1987, while honoring the superest beard of them all...

From Superman (Vol 2) #32 (1987),
story by Roger Stern with
art by Kerry Gammill and Dennis Janke.
Though it had been previously established (thanks to Jim Croce) that one should definitely not tug on Superman's cape, there was also a brief moment in time when pulling on his whiskers would be a social faux pax, too. During my senior year in high school, the unimaginable occurred in the pages of all three Superman comics published by DC at the time (Superman, The Adventures of Superman and Action Comics) when Kal-El, while on a self-imposed exile in outer space, let his hippie flag fly and grew a beard.

I miss this Superman, the one brought to life by the writing of Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern and others. A Superman who felt such an intense responsibility to humanity that he left Earth rather than stay due to the risk his own inner turmoil created. Upon leaving his adopted home planet, Kal-El found more adventure and action among the stars, first, battling on Mongul's War World and later getting further in touch with his Kryptonian roots by meeting the Cleric and finding the Eradicator. Sooo many seeds for great stories that followed were sewn in these issues.

Interestingly, Superman's beard runs contrary to many comic book facial hair growth in that his does not represent a descent into madness, but rather a return to clarity. The events leading up to his exile were initiated when Superman made the conscious choice, for the first and only time, to kill (by exposing three Kryptonian villains who had threatened to destroy our Earth after eliminating one from a pocket universe to Kryptonite). These events of John Byrne's classic Superman #22 (1987) led to schism his psyche resulting in the development of a second heroic persona. Ultimately, Supes left and found himself... and embraced his hairier side.

Upon returning to Earth he returned to his clean shaving ways, but at least we'll always have War World.

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