Today I’d like to introduce a new feature on the site - the Comic Spotlight - where we highlight amazing comics from other creators that are noteworthy, influential, or for whatever reason worth a read. In addition to reviewing the comics, we’ll also be diving deep into the mechanics of the book from a craft standpoint, examining how and why it ‘works.’
Our first spotlight is: All Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant.
All Star Superman was first published as a limited run series by DC Comics from November 2005 to October 2008. The series was initially intended to be published monthly, but numerous delays led to the twelve issues to be published over the course of three years instead.
The All Star line for DC Comics was an attempt for the company to establish iconic, out of continuity series comics akin to Marvel’s Ultimate universe, which at the time was at the zenith of its popularity. Only two series were ever produced - All Star Superman, which received universal acclaim, and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder by Frank Miller and Jim Lee, which, well, did not…
All Star Superman follows a terminally ill Superman with only a few months left to live. In mythical fashion, Superman is given a prophecy of his 12 Labors by the time traveling Sampson & Atlas.
In the end Superman does transcends life, sacrificing himself to save all humanity yet again.
In my opinion, this is the best Superman story of all time. The only ones that might have a case are the two Alan Moore Superman tales: For the Man Who Has Everything or Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
What makes All Star Superman so good is the interpretation of Superman as a mythological god. Grant Morrison has revisited this theme time and time again, and it’s, for me, the core of DC Comics as a whole; unlike Marvel superheroes, who are presented as fallible humans, DC heroes are divine heroes upon which the symbols of man wrought large.
All Star Superman distills many of Grant Morrison’s beliefs, including his belief in Chaos Magic / Alchemy, into a story that is heartfelt, nostalgic, and pure in its intent. There’s no hint of cynicism in this Superman; he does good because he is good, sees the good in others, and believes in all of us.
For the most part, All Star Superman sticks to around 4-6 panels per page. This results in a lush, experience that is not unlike our own sensibilities. The way that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely manipulate the pages to condense so much into so little is breathtaking. Take, for instance, the opening page…
Frank Quitely is one of the masters of the craft, with his wiggly linework and distinctive way of drawing characters. What stands out most to me in All Star Superman is his ability to distinguish between the oafish Clark Kent, with his hunched shoulders and clumsy nature, and Superman, who stands upright and is filled with the confidence of invulnerability.
Frank Quitely is one of the masters of the craft, with wavey lines and expressive features. What stands out most to me in All Star Superman is his ability to distinguish between the oafish Clark Kent, with his hunched shoulders and clumsy nature, and Superman, who stands upright and is filled with the confidence of invulnerability.
Who doesn't love Lois Lane - a girl boss who is confident, sassy, and independent, but with a vulnerability and authenticity to her that makes it obvious why she’s the love of Superman’s life.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention colorist Jamie Grant, who provides a soft, pastellike palette that channels the iconic americana of Superman. Colorists are oftentimes the forgotten third artist of the comic medium, so it’s nice to see Jamie’s name right next to Grant and Frank’s on the titles.
I especially love the coloring on Mr. Quintum’s technicolor dream coat, which steals the show every time it comes onto frame.