An open letter to DC Comics regarding the Superman: The Triangle Era Omnibus


Dear DC,

I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.

I can see how I got us into this mess. All these years I’ve been clamoring for a Triangle Titles omnibus, I was not specific enough. I realize now, in your announcement of the new Triangle Era Omnibus, you thought I actually meant an omnibus collecting only Superman titles with triangles on the covers, while I meant an omnibus picking up where Superman: Exile and Other Stories left off, around when Dan Jurgens took over from George Perez as writer on Adventures of Superman.

A simple misunderstanding, really. Some people hear “Triangle Titles” and assume, again, the titles with the numbered triangles on the covers. Other people hear “Triangle Titles” and think, y’know, when they added triangles to the covers of the Superman family of titles, that was to make it easier for readers to follow the interconnecting story that was already taking place in the Super-titles at that time.

The Triangle Titles era takes its name from the triangles on the covers, but indeed the Super-titles read as an interconnected story for a long time before. Arguably the runs of John Byrne on Superman and Action Comics and Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway on Adventures of Superman set the foundation for the Triangle Titles, but certainly it was in place by the time Roger Stern and Ordway were handling Superman and Adventures respectively, through to Stern moving to Action and, again, Perez taking Adventures, followed by Jurgens.

Indeed I’d venture that when fans think of the Triangle Titles era, that’s who they think of: Ordway, Jurgens, and Stern, with Louise Simonson on Superman: The Man of Steel (SMOS) later completing the quartet. Ordway, Jurgens, and Stern are the three writers on Superman, Adventures, and Action where your proposed Triangle Era Omnibus picks up with “Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite,” and they’re the team with Simonson and Karl Kesel who subsequently brought us the landmark “Death and Return of Superman” storyline.

I understand why you’d think that’s where I wanted you to start the Triangle Era omnibus. “Krisis” ends with Superman #50, a big issue, probably the biggest issue of that Superman run until Superman #75 came along after it. And in Superman #49–64, Adventures of Superman #472–486, Action Comics #659–673, and Superman: The Man of Steel #1–8, there’s some great stuff:

  • The death of Lex Luthor (Action #660).
  • Clark revealing his secret to Lois (Action #662).
  • “Time and Time Again” (Adventures #476–478, Action #663–664, Superman #54–55).
  • “The Red Glass Trilogy” (James D. Hudnall on Superman #56, Adventures #479, and Action #666).
  • “Revenge of the Krypton Man” (the Eradicator, in SMOS #1, Superman #57, Adventures #480, and Action #667).
  • Crossovers with War of the Gods (SMOS #3) and Armageddon 2001 (Action #670).
  • Lex Luthor Jr. (also Action #670) and Agent Liberty (Superman #60).
  • “Blackout” (Adventures #484–485, Action #671, SMOS #6, and Superman #62), ending right before the superlative “Panic in the Sky.”

But jumping straight from Exile’s Action #646, Superman #37, and Adventures #460 to the new Triangle’s Superman #49, Adventures #472, and Action #659 misses a lot of good stuff, too:

  • The “Brainiac Trilogy” by Roger Stern, George Perez, Kerry Gammill, and Brett Breeding, Action #647–649, plus Brainiac also appears in Superman #38 and Adventures #462 during that same time, an example of how these books, too, were connected, even if there weren’t triangles on the covers.
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk makes Superman race Flash Wally West (Adventures #463).
  • “Day of the Krypton Man” (Superman #41–42, Adventures #464–465, Action #651–652), which includes among others Lobo, the Eradicator, Maxima, and Hank “the Cyborg Superman” Henshaw, thus serving as a lead-in to “Revenge of the Krypton Man,” “Panic in the Sky,” and “Reign of the Supermen.”
  • “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” (Superman #44, Adventures of Superman #467, Action Comics #654), a defining Superman/Batman team-up of the post-Crisis era.
  • Lois and Clark’s burgeoning romance (Adventures #468, Action #655, Superman #46, and Adventures #469 are a really great sequence).
  • “Soul Search” (Action #656, Superman #47, Adventures #470), a supernatural story that was pretty creepy for the time and with big consequences for Superman’s supporting cast; it particularly sets up Lex Luthor’s arc for “Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite” and beyond. It also introduces Blaze, a villain who returns in the issues that ought be in the next Triangle Era omnibus.
  • “The Sinbad Contract” (Superman #48, Adventures #471, and Action #658), a three-parter by William Messner-Loebs and Curt Swan(!), and a good example of Lex Luthor at his billionaire baddie best.

I know, you’ve published trades that collect many of those issues — Superman: Eradication: The Origin of the Eradicator, Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Superman: The Power Within, even the Lois & Clark, The New Adventures of Superman tie-in collection. Unfortunately, most of those are either out of print or hard to find. Maybe those are on the docket for reprints too, as with Exile and Other Stories, but that would still leave some sizable gaps ahead of the Triangle Era Omnibus.

I hate to be the fan that says, “Here’s what I’d do,” but since lack of specificity got us into this situation, permit me to pose the “Triangle Era Omnibus (CE’s Version).” We’re talking about 50-odd issues, so I’m just thinking, if you had started the new collections with Action #647, then 50-ish issues could take you to Action #665, the end of “Time and Time Again” and then another 50-ish issues for a second volume would take you to Action Comics #683, the issue just before “Doomsday/Death of Superman” starts.

And then you could stop.

I understand that what I’m about to say now might be tough to hear, but we’ve known each other long enough that I feel comfortable being honest. The Triangle Titles, which I love … they kind of peaked with “Soul Search”, “Krisis,” the death of Lex Luthor, through to the death and return of Superman, and were never as good again. I know, I know; it was not all bad after “Return of Superman”; traditionally that story ends with Action #692, but what about the epilogue in Superman #83? Superboy and Steel leaving Metropolis in Adventures #506 and SMOS #28 respectively? I agree, there was some good to come — “Bizarro’s World” and the “Fall of Metropolis” and the Zero Hour tie-ins. But in short order we’re into “Dead Again” and “The Death of Clark Kent” and “The Trial of Superman,” some art that doesn’t quite hold up, Lois and Clark’s break-up histrionics, the Super-wedding that got tangled up with Final Night such that Superman didn’t even have powers during it, and Scorn, my god, Scorn.

We both know collections series have a tough enough time as is. Probably we’re looking at one or two volumes max, right, before the whole thing peters out? My vote would be, start where Exile and Other Stories ends and go two volumes until just before the well-collected “Death of Superman.” Then take a breather, see where we’re at. We’re talking two, three years down the road? If by some miracle there was still appetite for more volumes after that, then you could pick up with SMOS #27 and go to something like Zero Hour or “Death of Clark Kent” and Superman #100. (But stop before Tolos. Please, I beg you.)

However it shakes out, I’m in your corner. Mostly I just want to say, I’m glad a Triangle Era omnibus will finally be published. These are comics that are very dear to me, still what I think are some of the best of the modern era and among the best Superman portrayals, and I’m glad at least some of them are being canonized in collection. This was a long time coming. Thank you.

You keep publishing those comics, I’ll keep reading them and writing about them. Your friend,

Collected Editions

Comments ( 10 )

  1. Sometimes you've gotta take what you can get. If this actually means getting the Triangle Era itself back in print, I'd be very happy, especially the later stuff, which for me was my era, the stuff I thought was the best, especially getting into Immonen territory, which I thought was THE best (if I had my way, the Immonen stuff would get omnibus treatment all on its own). DC has such a hard time committing itself to these things. They need concise periods to collect. Someone must've looked at when the triangle started appearing, and took that literally.

    1. I love Immonen’s work and I was happy to see him on Joe Hill’s Plunge (in my review, I wrote Immonen had “the dubious distinction of being among the artists to best render the mullet-haired Superman”). Here’s a good comprehensive interview that talks about what Immonen has been up to:

  2. Hey, I like Dead Again… and I’ve always been rooting for a Conduit omnibus.

    With the “Exile” reprint coming, I do wonder if there’s a “Before the Triangle” collection in the offing — otherwise that’s an egregious gap for a collections department that seems to be firing better than not lately.

    But agreed we should take a beat when the books catch up to Death… so long as we reprint the rest of the “Doomsday is Coming” issues. To date, we’ve only gotten the last pages of each reprinted.

    1. I like “Dead Again” too (bought those issues with my own hard-earned cents!) and I’d be thrilled to see someone use Conduit well *now*, but I just went back and took a gander at those issues. Steve Erwin on Man of Steel, Mike Manley inking both Dan Jurgens and Barry Kitson — something was going wrong over there, if not on story then at least on art.

      Meanwhile the Bat-titles are doing Prodigal, and which of these stories is still in print? My pie-in-the-sky project is a month-by-month comparison of the Super- and Bat-titles from post-Crisis to sometime, to try to catch where it is the once-high-flying Super-titles go wrong while the Bat-titles increase in popularity. It can’t just be that Batman movies were happening and Superman movies weren’t. We were doing King of the World (not ever collected), they were doing No Man’s Land.

      Really a strong part of this was me wrestling with the idea of, if there was going to be a Triangle omnibus, where *would* it stop, given that — having seen collections series stop more often than continue — there was just no way we’d get all the way to, say, Superman: King of the World. So where could we stop that would be good?

      As you said, among the only logical ways to explain the really dubious choice of picking up the new omnibus with Superman #49 is to consider there’s an interstitial collection coming. But that’d still be something like 25 issues; how very weird to do a “Before the Triangle” collection instead of just starting the Triangle collections earlier.

  3. I think there's enough material between where the Exile Omnibus ends and the Triangle Era Omnibus begins to fit in one more Omnibus, maybe?

    I also expected the Man of Steel Hardcovers to include the Action Comics Weekly Superman stories as well as the Byrne World of Krypton/Smallville/Metropolis trilogy. Do you think we'd see a vol 5 of that someday?

    1. Maybe? A new, successful movie could raise all ships. For the Triangles, I just think it’s weird to do like a Vol. 0 omnibus after doing the Vol. 1 omnibus — let’s not confuse consumers more than they already are. (And I have less faith than some of you that such a thing is really in the offing.) Most — all? — of those Action Comics Weekly Superman stories are collected in Superman: The Power Within, though that’s somewhat hard to come by.

  4. I'm not sure if this is a contrarian take, but I'm actually pretty happy with what I *think* DC is doing here. DC (I believe) doesn't think they can run an omnibus line like Marvel does that just starts at Volume 1 and goes to 8-15 volumes over the course of many years. So they've created a framework for doing Volumes 1-8 (give or take) of Superman in a way that will work for completionists and casuals. That is, what I think will happen is we get the something like the following:

    2024: Triangle v1, Exile (Reprint)
    2025: Triangle v2 (possibly sub-title "Prelude to the Death of Superman"), Man of Steel by Byrne v1 (concatenate the first two HCs)
    2026: Man of Steel v2 (concatenate the last two HCs), Days of the Krypton Man (my name for the Exile-to-Triangle connector)
    2027: Death/Return (Reprint), Post-Return (ballpark guess, from the end of the Death of ... to Zero Hour)

    That's 4 years, 2 straight reprints, two almost-reprints (MoS), then 4 new omnis that take us all the way from the first Crisis to the second. No scary numbering of omnis, solid hooks for each title, nothing left out.

    As far as mapping goes, I think you'd do something like:
    Day of the Krypton Man: Adventures 460-471, Action 647-658, Superman 28-48, any annuals +/- the three Byrne World of ... minis (those could also be in the MoS omnis). That's easily 900 pages, or the same size as Exile if you omit the World of, about the size of the Triangle one if you include them.

    Triangle v2: Adventures 487-496, Action 674-683, Man of Steel 9-17, Superman 65-73 and Justice League 61-68, and any annuals. That's at least 46 issues, so the size works out pretty well

    Post-Return (or Fall of Metropolis?): Adventures 506-516, Action 693-703, Man of Steel 27-37, Superman 84-93, and any annuals. 43 issues is big enough, certainly, and splitting here allows them to use the 0 issues as the starter for the next one if they feel inclined to.

    Now, given DC's history of collected editions, I think it's probably MORE likely that they'll just put out some kind of random stuff and leave some noticeable gaps, but I'm optimistic here that they've basically already created the mapping structure to do the equivalents of Post-Crisis Superman Omnibuses Volumes 1-7 with different names

    1. That's a plan, and I like it. I am maybe skeptical there's a four-year plan here, but, y'know, the new movie is a giant X factor. I'm game for a "Day of the Krypton Man and Other Stories" omnibus. Hey, maybe some of this could get wrapped up with a DC Finest volume?

    2. It is incredibly optimistic. Reasonably speaking, I think the Byrne material and a post-Death Omni are a bit unlikely, but I think they've left enough specific space that we'll get the other two omnis in short order (remember how quickly they put out Knightfall?). And if sales are good (and I think they will be), they're certainly well-positioned to capitalize. The Triangle Era pretty well does all the work of mapping order ahead of time!

  5. I’ve been bodging together a triangle-era run for years as well and, like you I tend to think of everything post-Byrne as being a sort of proto-triangle era. I feel like the appearance of the triangles was acknowledging the status quo rather than establishing it.

    Still, if you’re going to publish a triangle-era omnibus, I’m not going to complain about it starting with first triangle issue.

    At this point, my slow assembly of Superman issues has reached the end of Dead Again, which is about where I read up to back when they were being published, so it’ll be a long time before these Omnibus get as far as giving me something new to read. Nevertheless, I’ve been wishing for Triangle collections for so long that I’m excited about buying these just because it feels like a wish granted. I hear a lot of people say that quality declined after the Fall of Metropolis, but it’s been a thirty year regret that I stopped collecting there, so I’ll happily buy as many volumes as DC want to publish, double-dipping and dipping quality be damned.


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