Superman: How DC has changed the Man of Steel's legacy with a new comic book series
The first arc of Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell’s Superman run celebrates the Superman mythos while exploring a new frontier. Here’s how.
Leading the charge into DC Comics’ 'Dawn of DC' initiative, the new era for the DC Universe after 2022’s crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, is a relaunched Superman monthly comic book series helmed by Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell. The series spins out of the events of Action Comics #1050, which set a new status quo for Superman and his family instigated by Lex Luthor’s latest devious plot for his longtime nemesis. Launching in February 2021, Williamson and Campbell boldly came out the gate in establishing Superman and Lois Lane’s new normal, culminating in the two accepting their new future as they saved Metropolis in the midst of a surprise offer for Superman’s role in the city.
Beyond the shift for Superman and Lois, Luthor has played a prominent role in Williamson and Campbell’s run, with dark secrets from his past that are quickly coming to light, poised to impact the entire DCU. Here’s how Williamson and Campbell have kicked off their run with a fantastic first arc that not only celebrates the legacy of the DC flagship superhero but forges a fresh set of adventures for the Man of Steel moving forward.
A forcibly restored Superman secret
December 2022’s Action Comics #1050 – by Williamson, Tom Taylor, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Mike Perkins, Clayton Henry, and Nick Dragotta – began with Luthor kidnapping Manchester Black and using his telepathic abilities to wipe Clark and Jon Kent’s secret identities as Superman from the general public. The strain not only killed Manchester in the process but, as the Kent family quickly found out, had lethal consequences from anyone who learned their superhero secret after the fact, with Perry White nearly dying after stumbling upon Clark and Jon as their costumed alter egos.
Luthor was defeated and jailed for this latest injustice but the damage had already been done and continues to appear to be irreversible. Ever the tactician, Luthor anticipated being imprisoned and is relatively unperturbed about his incarceration as Williamson and Campbell’s run begins in earnest. Communicating with Superman knowing that the hero’s super-hearing could constantly allow himself to be heard from the privacy of his cell, Luthor has not only offered a surprising helping hand in Metropolis’ defense but made Superman an offer he can’t refuse to go into business with him.
The complicated Supercorp situation
With Luthor’s arrest, the thousands of employees working for Lexcorp and its affiliates stand the risk of losing their jobs, even as Luthor’s reliable associate Mercy Graves takes the corporate reins. However, Mercy isn’t the intended leader of Luthor’s empire, which the company rebranded as Supercorp and given a full makeover, complete with a redesigned corporate headquarters in the heart of Metropolis and its assets at Superman’s full disposal. This became invaluable as Superman and Luthor worked together to stop an upgraded Parasite from completely overtaking the city, using the newly christened Supercorp Tower to lure an army of Parasite drones to the building and preventing the contagion linked to Parasite from spreading any further.
Throughout this opening story arc, Luthor has insisted that he can help Superman become the most effective superhero that he was always meant to be, in a twisted sort of attempted team-up. Though Superman and Lois remain understandably skeptical of Luthor’s offer, they decide its best to play Luthor's game from the inside with at least one hand on the wheel, especially given the amount of responsibility that the company carries in Metropolis. The corporate role for Superman comes at a time when Luthor could use friends in high places the most as old enemies from before Superman’s time in Metropolis begin to come out of the woodwork.
Lex Luthor’s dark past resurfaces
Luthor’s incarceration coincides with the return of the Secret Order of Mad Scientists, a cabal of homicidal geniuses that each have their own grudges against Luthor. With their arch-enemy seemingly off the board, the scientists have experimented upon different characters in Superman’s rogues’ gallery, using their illicit technology to upgrade them and unleash them upon Metropolis. After starting out with Parasite, the scientists now target Silver Banshee as their next test subject and, after seeing Superman ostensibly working with Luthor, have gone to include the Man of Tomorrow as part of their vendetta.
These villains not only harken back to Luthor’s own comic book origins as a dastardly mad scientist himself but calls back to the Golden Age iteration of Superman from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Superman would regularly take on nefarious masterminds, with characters like the Ultra-Humanite in the comics and parade of antagonists in the classic cartoons produced by Max Fleischer in the ‘40s. At the start of Williamson and Campbell’s run, Luthor warns Superman he is now taking on his villains, hinting at a hidden history of animosity between him and the scientists that Superman was previously unaware of.
These scientists aren’t the only forgotten figures from Metropolis’ past that have surfaced during Williamson and Campbell’s first arc, with a mysterious Wild West-looking character named Marilyn Moonlight appearing in the relaunched series’ second issue. Appearing like a specter as Metropolis is nearly overrun by those infected by the upgraded Parasite, Marilyn hints that Superman knows even less about Metropolis’ history than he thought. To make matters even more intriguing, the way Marilyn refracts moonlight has a strange effect on Superman’s powers that are sure to be explored as the series continues.
Lois Lane’s big promotion
Superman isn’t the only character to take on a change of roles during Williamson and Campbell’s run, with Lois being promoted to the position of editor-in-chief for The Daily Planet. Inheriting the role after Perry is nearly killed for being exposed to Clark and Jon’s secret identities, Lois finds herself both the best-suited person to take on such a responsibility and also privately frustrated by the change it brings. By her own admission, Lois feels she’s at her best when she operates in the field as an investigative journalist but concedes that The Daily Planet needs her at her current editorial role, at the very least until Perry recovers. This raises a bigger question of what exactly Perry will remember when he’s hopefully back on his feet but, for now, the Kents have bigger things to worry about.
Williamson and Campbell are off to a rip-roaring start to the celebration of the Superman mythos and, three issues in, it’s clear that the creative team is playing a much longer game. In redefining the Man of Tomorrow’s future, Williamson and Campbell are unearthing new elements of his and Metropolis’ past, all led by the most untrustworthy guide imaginable in Lex Luthor. With fresh twists on familiar faces and plenty of new characters already introduced, Wiliamson and Campbell are poised to leave their own indelible mark on the Superman legacy in fine form.
Superman #3 is written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Jamal Campbell, and lettered by Ariana Maher. The story continues in Superman #4, on sale May 16 from DC Comics.
Get up to speed on the new DC status quo with our 'Dawn of DC' guide.