Superman’s darkest creative period is about to end! Several months from now Eddie Berganza will leave the Superman line as head group editor. “The Berganza Era’s” irreverence to this iconic character’s history has led to the dissolution of the once prosperous franchise. It is my hope that new group editor Matt Idleson will avoid Berganza’s mistakes and return Superman to his former prominence.
Dan Jurgens, the writer that killed Superman and spearheaded his resurrection, had left the Superman title with issue #150. Jurgens’ swansong also brought about the end of the moderately successful editorial reign of Joey Cavieleri. With the line standing at four titles, Superman had the prestigious privilege of offering the grandest scope of the hero’s exploits. Jeph Loeb, award winning writer of Superman: For All Seasons, was tapped by newly appointed editor Eddie Berganza to script Superman with #151. Rather than bringing his story forward into the next century, “The Berganza Era” amalgamated recycled ideas from Superman’s history.
My biggest complaint about “The Berganza Era” is its indifference to bring Superman’s story to a new or different level. There were barely any changes made to Superman’s status quo for the entirety of Berganza’s reign. Superman went through the motions, fighting battles that he had already fought. Whenever anything monumental happened to Superman, the status quo immediately was restored. Pa Kent was thought to have died in the “Our Worlds at War” crossover, but ended up returning less than a year later. Superman also changed the color coding on his costume, but that only lasted for a short while. What was the point to put our hero through these harrowing times if everything always returned to how it was? In a time where most of our favorite heroes are moving in new and exciting directions, it is a shame that our greatest hero stays stagnant.
Krypto the Superdog was one of the classic characters that was recycled during “The Berganza Era.” I wanted to focus on Krypto’s return specifically because I believe this was the only significant change to Superman’s status quo. John Byrne’s The Man of Steel mini-series sought to modernize Superman’s mythology, and Krypto the Superdog was one character that did not make the cut. Krypto was a fantastic character that, in my opinion, never should have been wiped from Superman’s continuity. But as would be a continuous problem with “The Berganza Era,” the execution of the concept proved to be Krypto’s downfall. Krypto was not the same faithful companion of Superman that would always do his master’s bidding. This new Krypto brutally attacked his enemies and destroyed Lois and Clark’s residence. Clark did not know what to do with his new pet, so he brought him to the Fortress of Solitude. There Krypto would find his place in the world, far away from anyone who he could possibly harm. What was the point of bringing back a character only to leave him in exile? It was great to see this classic character return, but the effort proved fruitless. Krypto was eventually placed in Superboy’s care in the pages of Teen Titans. But apart from his brief appearances, Krypto has barely made any impact in the book. Time will tell if DC is able to find any further use for the character other than promotional purposes for his cartoon.
Eddie Berganza’s primary influence for Superman actually did not come from comic books, but rather Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series. In the cartoon, Metropolis was depicted as a futuristic city incomparable to the rest of the world. The beginning of “The Berganza Era” showed the villain Brainiac imbuing Metropolis with a futuristic technology. The look of Metropolis now mirrored Bruce Timm’s fantastic depiction from the animated series. Lois Lane’s appearances were changed in the comics to echo even more similarity with the cartoon. After being a brunette for the past fifteen years, Lois now had black hair and a hairstyle to reflect more parallels with her animated counterpart. She even started calling Clark “Smallville” in the comics, a nickname made popular by the cartoon.
I would not presume to say that I have all the answers to successfully revitalize Superman comic books. I, however, do believe that I have a firm understanding about what is wrong for Superman’s future. A definite way to revive the franchise is to avoid many of the mistakes made from “The Berganza Era,” and to instead tap Superman’s unlimited potential. I respect Superman Returns director, Brian Singer, for his willingness to add a new pivotal character with Lois Lane’s son. This simple development changes the dynamics of the mythology and opens up many new story possibilities. So here is my message to new group editor Matt Idleson. Take Superman and soar!