To an outsider, Superman is not an easy character to like. He’s an all-powerful boy scout with a stupid disguise and a cheesy suit. Even more ardent superhero and DC Comics fans can find it hard to find a Superman tale that makes the Man of Steel more appealing. It takes a specific kind of creator to pinpoint and flesh out the characteristics that make this icon arguably the greatest superhero of all time. The acclaimed creative duo of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale accomplished such a feat by scaling back the “super” and just focusing on the man. Superman For All Seasons is the story of a boy growing up to be a man, and the responsibilities that come with that. It is an intimate and timeless tale that any person of any age could enjoy and relate to, that just so happens to be about a superhero who grew up on a farm.
Writing & Plot
Superman For All Seasons watches Clark Kent as he struggles to define himself and leaves his family’s farm to become the hero of Metropolis, all the while maintaining the values and manner instilled in him by his humble beginnings. The four issues that make up this miniseries are each told from the perspective of a different person in Clark’s life: his father, Jonathan Kent, his co-worker and future lover Lois Lane, his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, and his high school sweetheart Lana Lang. The series takes place over the course of a year, with each issue representing a season. The four issues each pose a different internal or external conflict that a young Superman has to evolve past. Despite the fact that the comic is told from the perspective of other people, it is still clearly introspective on Kal-El. In these pages, the boy from Smallville decides to become a hero, learns what responsibilities that entails, starts to walk back his decision, and then is reminded by those who raised him as to why he does what he does.
Writer Jeph Loeb has proven himself tour de force in the comics world with the likes of Batman: The Long Halloween and Daredevil Yellow. What makes For All Seasons such a special piece in his bibliography is the small scale heart and effectiveness of the style used in this miniseries. The majority of this comic is written in internal narration from the four chosen characters in Superman’s life, and they each bring a new perspective and tone; the aging farmer who raised his son the best he could, the dedicated reporter in awe of her newest subject, the envious and insecure genius targeting his newest rival, and a girl trying to understand the boy she once loved. Loeb gets into the minds and hearts of these characters with an intimacy and simplicity seldom seen in any medium, making the comic an emotional joy to read. The events in the comic are the perfect examination of Superman’s dedication as well, as he saves people and communities in Metropolitan disasters and small-town mishaps alike. Most importantly of all, Loeb succeeds as a writer who understands what makes The Man of Steel a great character.
Tim Sale’s signature unorthodox visual style may seem an odd fit for a Superman comic to anyone coming away from his work on The Long Halloween or Challengers of the Unknown. However, Sale manages to curb the eccentricities in his style for For All Seasons to accommodate a simpler tale. The result is one of the most charming aesthetics in all of comics. Sale’s interpretation of Supes is one of the most recognizable in the character’s history, towering over his peers with a muscular sort of “pudginess” that makes the character especially endearing. All of the character detail is down to earth and easy to interface with, as character expressions are nailed down in lieu with the comic’s introspective nature. Sale’s vision of Smallville may be the best ever drawn, as its beauty in all four seasons is reminiscent of a Rockwell painting. While Metropolis looks as fine as ever, it can’t compete with the sunrises and sunsets, the snowy fields, or the quaint Mainstreet views of the Kent family hometown. This is some of Sale’s finest work, and it’s all out of artistic finesse.
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman For All Seasons is the sort of comic that should be thrust into the hands of anyone who says they don’t like Superman. It’s a quiet, quaint, and simplistic tale of a boy from Kansas who takes off for the big city, only to need to be reminded as to why he’s made the decisions he has. Jeph Loeb’s idea to frame Supes in the viewpoint of four different people in his life is an intimate and varied touch unique within any medium. Tim Sale’s art captures characters and scenery in a quiet beauty rarely seen in comics. I mentioned earlier that For All Seasons succeeds because Loeb understands what makes Superman a great character. What exactly is that, though? Well, Superman succeeds as a character because of the impossibility of his choices. An alien crashes into a farm to be raised by a kind pair of small-town farmers. The values instilled into the child stay with him for the rest of his life even as he becomes impossibly powerful. Kal-El/Clark Kent is a man with all the power in the universe, who decides to simply be good. This is why Superman is great.