My willingness to suspend my disbelief is tested in Superman #79, as the Cyborg Superman proves he’s a real hero by thwarting a terrorist attack.
Triangle Number 1993 – 18
Writer/Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Brett Breeding
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: John Costanza
This issue is one of the most unique comic book issues I’ve ever seen. Only a single page of this issue is told via a traditional comic book format. The rest serves more as illustrated prose, as Ron Troupe works to earn his spot at the Daily Planet, furiously typing up an article to gain Perry White’s approval. Each page is a block of text from that article and a series of panels with no narration or dialogue.
While in the context of the book this is presented as a front-page news story, in reality, it reads much more like an editorial. This is something that often comes up when comic writers try to represent newspaper articles on the page. News stories are mostly there to present facts, and to give as an unbiased recounting of events as possible. Troupe’s piece opens with a personal anecdote, about the man he was asking to replace.
In fact, he asked Perry White for Clark Kent’s job while helping to clean out Clark’s apartment with his family and closest friends. Rather than being angry at the gall of the young reporter to pick that moment to ask for the full-time position, Perry White just asked him to prove that he deserves it. To bring him a story big enough to be impossible to ignore.
Back to how Troupe’s story is presented, once what the story is gets revealed it’s even less clear as to why any reporter would report it the way he is. The story is an attempted assassination of the President of the United States of America by agents of a foreign power. And Troupe buries the lede in paragraph twenty-seven. The front page of the paper is presented on the last page of the issue, and neither headline (“SUPERMAN IS BACK!”) nor anything on the front page actually tells the reader of the paper that the leader of the free world was the target of a terrorist attack. My suspension of disbelief goes pretty far, but it breaks pretty hard when it doesn’t have Perry White send this article back with “Kid, this is a front-page news story, not an editorial. Your lede is the assassination attempt, don’t make people flip to page A3 to read that.”
On top of the assassination attempt is the fact that President Clinton is rescued by the Cyborg Superman. Even Troupe’s recounting of the events was editorializing, rather than a straight recounting of the events as they unfolded. He brings a lot of heart and emotion to his piece, but that’s not the role of a news story.
The art in the issue is fantastic, taking advantage of the format to showcase Jurgens and Breeding at their very best without worrying about word balloon placements. There’s even a bit of foreshadowing as the Cyborg hacks the White House computers and zooms briefly in on Coast City.
For my misgivings to how Troupe’s story is presented, the actual story of the issue is important because it continues to set up each of the four Supermen as being firmly presented as the real deal by at least one good source. The Kryptonian has Guy Gardner vouching for him. The Kid has WGBS following him like an excited puppy. Lois Lane sees the heart of the Man of Steel. But the Cyborg? He has the President of the United States and the Daily Planet on his side.