Well, now that we’re done reading the Superman novel you’d think you were done hearing about Superman for a while. So let me welcome you to the site because you’re obviously super-new here. We still have Superman in comics, and it’s time to look at another Secret Files & Origins comic magazine. That’s a curious thing. The covers say “Secret Files And Origins” but the publishing information says “Secret Files”. But this one isn’t about Superman, but the trio that makes up Team Superman. I guess Alpha-Centurion and Eradicator weren’t available at this point.
I don’t think you can call 90s Superboy, post-Crisis Supergirl, or Steel supporting cast. All three had their own books and lives while operating outside of Metropolis. But I guess they weren’t considered popular enough to get their own Secret Files books. Steel was nearing the end of volume 2, which to me was a mercy killing given how little I cared for Priest’s run. Sadly Supergirl was still going on, and I’m not sure what happened to the issues I had of that run or you’d already know my problem. See, for some reason Peter David decided to have Matrix merge with a woman named Linda Danvers (Kara’s secret identity before she was tossed out of continuity), a victim of a botched sacrifice that her boyfriend somehow talked her into. It’s not the weirdest thing about that run and I’ll get into that in the review. Superboy was still hanging out in Hawaii but he wasn’t so popular there and his girlfriend left him because he’ll never age. Not because of the usual sliding timeline thing, but because of the cloning process. Although does that mean he’ll never age physically, which some people in the real world actually suffer from (it’s a disease) or that he can’t possibly age emotionally because I think he did eventually. So, no clue there.
Team Superman: Secret Files
DC Comics (May, 1998)
As usual numerous writers and artists contribute so it would take forever to list them all.
COVER ART: Dave Johnson
COVER COLOR: Matthew Hollingsworth
So there are two stories, an “interview” with Superboy, Linda’s diary, a breakdown of the differences between the powers of the Super Three (Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy), and a whole lot of profiles pages. I like how the profiles are divided so that you have Superboy’s supporting cast and villains first, followed by Steel’s, and finally Supergirl’s. I’m not going to go over those because you only care if you follow the books or those particular characters. I’m going to focus just on the two stories instead.
Secret Origin: “Those Who Wear The Shield”
WRITERS: Barbara & Karl Kesel | PENCILER: Bob McLeod | INKER: Mark Pennington | COLORIST: Tom McCraw | SEPARATIONS: Digital Chameleon | LETTERER: Clem Robins | ASSISTANT EDITOR: Maureen McTigue | EDITOR: Mike McAvennie
The story takes place I think during the Millennium Giants story arc. I don’t have any of those stories at this time but it does lead into Superman Forever, which I’ll be reviewing in the daily comic reviews in I think a couple of weeks. The important information here is that Superman isn’t around at the moment and of course this is when Metropolis goes crazy. Steel, Supergirl, and Superboy step in to help so I guess Leesburg’s freaky phenomenon took a break, Jersey City was already Gotham lite, and whatever part of Hawaii Superboy called home didn’t have any worries. I know, it’s an excuse to get the three together but it kind of misses the point of giving them their own cities to defend.
So the trio take on a bunch of store robbers. Superboy uses his tactile telekinesis to pull the Bugs Bunny “plug the gun with his finger” trick and a bad Dirty Harry paraphrase. Steel makes his point to get one robber to give up by using his self-flying hammer to destroy an animatronic bear mascot because he finds the constant promotion recording annoying…which is means our HERO is responsible for destruction of private property for no other reason that it bothers him. I think Jersey City is a bad influence on John Irons. Supergirl let’s us know that she can’t turn invisible anymore (since she can only shapeshift between “Linda” and “Supergirl” now) by smashing through the street just to surprise an ordinary crook. So that’s more property damage. How is the punk kid stops his crook without causing collateral damage just to make the ordinary bad guy to wet himself?
With the crooks arrested the trio go back on patrol. Superboy talks about his origin as Superman’s clone after Superman’s death (he got better), but what we learn here is that people think Cadmus is destroyed but is secretly still running. Considering all the trouble that place has been, is that a good thing? Is Westfield still running the show? Why would Supergirl want to keep it a secret? And who is going to hear them when they are flying above skyscrapers and probably can’t be heard by…well, anyone but them?
After that bit of catch-up they land near the Superman monument. He may not be dead anymore but it’s still there to honor their hero. The statue has since popped up in TV, animation, and even live-action works ever since, so somehow it became part of his lore even if he didn’t die in that continuity. From there we learn Steel’s history, and that wears the armor in Superman’s armor, even if he has gone through a few different designs. He still has the energy-hardened fabric armor at this point and while I like the look and Steel’s modified “S” (making it uniquely him) I’m not much into the concept.
Then Supergirl tells part of her story. She tells the others about being a protoplasmic being, which grosses out Superboy but he apologizes later, and coming from the other dimension when it was destroyed by three Kryptonian villains from that dimension. (I don’t think there was a Zod in the main DC Universe for the longest time post-Crisis–remember that this is when DC still had their “only Superman survived Krypton” rule.) What she doesn’t tell them because she’s not sure how Superman would take it, is the part I mentioned earlier about merging with Linda. According to the profile her parents knew and only Linda’s father accepted it while her mother fell back into alcoholism. David really gave this the bleakest supernatural makeover he possibly could and that’s what drew me away. Well, that and she was now some angel with fire wings and some kid named Wally who claims he’s God or something. It’s a shame how happy I was to pick up both Steel and Matrix Supergirl’s ongoing series just to find none of what I was excited for. I dropped her series pretty fast.
The best part of the story comes at the end. The trio land on the Daily Planet building and start talking about Superman. Linda tries to defend secret identities without giving away that Superman has one, but then it leads to how each of them see the S shield, which means we finally get into the title of this story. Superboy says it stands for truth, that none of them keeps any secrets. Supergirl tries to disagree but can’t come up with an answer fast enough so Steel gives his own answer: justice. For him it’s a promise to make the guilty pay for their crimes. (So are you going to pay for that bear you smashed for no good reason?) Supergirl takes the route Zac Snyder ruined: hope, the “promise of a better, safer life”, a “light at the end of the tunnel”. I love this part because it really showcases the personalities of each of the three and how they approach superheroing. And for each there’s good reason why.
- Superboy: Consider that he was created in secret by Cadmus, and also dealt with the lying Cyborg Superfake. I’m stretching a bit on this one, but I can see how being truthful might mean a lot to him. He’s the only one who never had a secret identity until years later.
- Steel: This one is a lot easier. Between his grandparents’ murder that sent him to Metropolis into hiding, the company Ameritek he hid from in the first place after learning the rifles he created were being used by bad guys, seeing them used on the streets of Metropolis by gang bangers, and his final inspiration being the battle between Superman and Doomsday, seeing Superman as a figure of justice makes all the sense in the world.
- Supergirl: In the same vein, Matrix’s encounter with Superman was one of needing hope. She had been sent by alternate universe Lex Luthor to find Superman and bring him to their world to stop Zod and his two subordinates, then when her world died and she almost joined it Superman rescued her and gave her a new life with the Kents. Now there’s all the business in Leesberg with demons and giving Linda a second chance at redemption through her. It makes total sense.
However there’s one more person on that roof. In case you though only Lois showed up there Perry White appears, seen in shadows watching the trio until his reveal. He corrects them in part, saying all three are right. Superman stands for truth, justice, and hope, and tries to sneak in “a little of the American Way thrown in”, trying to stay on brand. Too bad he dropped that last one recently. He also notes that all three do the shield proud and are living up to Superman’s legacy. Then they hear an explosion and the three head off to do good again, Superboy saying they should have a team name.
This is a really good story. It shows not only what Superman means but how each member of Team Superman see him, which is reflected in how each of them approach superheroing.
Lost Pages: “Hammered!”
WRITER: Christopher Priest | PENCILER: Eric Battle | INKER: Jimmy Palmiotti | COLORIST: John Kalisz | SEPARATIONS: Digital Chameleon | LETTERER: Clem Robins
The note from the editor is “Steel’s hammer has changed looks a few times…what’s up with that?” Well, this question answers that, but I don’t know who “Mike” is and I don’t know who “DT” is either. At any rate the story has Steel testing new hammers on Guy Gardner, still in his “Warrior” phase and able to take the hit. He finally gets a design that works for his needs but it’s that one with the stop sign heads attacked to the ball shape. The version he ends up with is closer to Thor’s but with a gun like handle at the bottom for some reason. You would think he’s try to keep something like the sledgehammer John Henry, the tall tale legend he’s named after. As for why he changes it? Natasha looks it looks ugly. In her defense (and defending Priest’s version of Natasha isn’t easy for me) she does suggest that if it’s intimidating enough he won’t even have to use it. Except against animatronic store displays of course, truly the scourge of mankind with its repetitive sales pitch and being a cute bear. And you know it’s Priest’s Natasha and Paul because they still do that dumb “holding up the judge’s score but Nat is still not impressed with you” garbage. Although it was nice to see Guy call John out on a weaker armor and the stop sign hammer was indeed dumb looking. So there’s that.
I also wish Phil Jimenez had been drawing the comic because I like his take on Natasha more than the art in the Steel comic. I also have to wonder why Steel got the comic while Superboy had an interview and Supergirl had a couple of pages from Linda’s diary.
Overall it might be worth it for the first story alone. It really does a good job going into how Team Superman sees their…I guess “mentor” isn’t that far off. The profiles are interesting to see where these characters were at that point, although I wasn’t really into this alteration to Supergirl. It is worth taking a look at if you come across it though. There will be more Secret Files to come in later Scanning My Collection articles, so see you for the next one.