On Superman and my Uncle...

This week we finally wrapped up production on The Superman Files, a book that's been as challenging as it has been rewarding. For those not familiar with the format from our previous volume, The Batman Files, this 312-page hardcover is meant to look like a scrapbook of Superman's life, much of it from Superman's own perspective. As such, it's chock full of things like journal entries written by Clark Kent, "photos" taken directly from the comics, and faux newspaper articles.

As is the case with any book I write, there are often bits and pieces that don't make it into the final product, so I thought I'd share one of those "deleted scenes" here on my blog. In this particular instance, we were recreating two pages from Ma Kent's famous Superman scrapbook. Established in John Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series, this scrapbook contained newspaper clippings of many of Superman's early adventures before he adopted his super-hero identity.

For this particular spread, I wrote five newspaper articles, taking the headlines from clipping shown in Superman: Secret Origin and from the aforementioned Man of Steel. Unfortunately, our designer, the talented Michael Reagan, could only fit four of the articles on the spread, which meant this last piece had to be cut. In the finished book, the newspaper pieces will look like actual articles clipped from various papers, but for this one, you'll have to use your imagination.

The article:

Child Saved From Mountain Fall!
Reports “Flying Angel” Caught Him as he Fell
By Richard Byrne

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, CO – A fifth grade student of Elizabeth Elementary School in Longmont, Colorado mysteriously survived a fall off a sheer cliff during a class trip to Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday. The boy, Maxwell Madison, age 10, is claiming that he was saved from what would have been instant death by a “flying angel.”

Madison had wandered off from his class and was climbing rocks on an unmarked trail when the event occurred. “I turned away for two seconds, and he was gone,” said his supervisor, Elizabeth Elementary teacher John Shank. “The boy always finds trouble someplace, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.”

According to Shank, he realized where Madison had gone just in time to see him plummet off the 80-foot cliff. “My heart just sank. I reached the clearing just as he slipped on some loose stones and fell forward over the edge and out of sight,” said Shank. “I was horrified, to put it mildly.”

When Shank reached the edge of the cliff and peered over it, he was greeted with one of the strangest sights of his career. “Max was just standing on the ground at the bottom of the gorge,” said Shank. “I’ll never forget it. It was like he landed on his feet. We were around eight stories up. That shouldn’t have been possible.”

If Madison is to be believed, it wasn’t possible. “He saved me,” said Madison. “He was an older kid, like maybe in high school or college or something. But he was flying. He didn’t have wings, but you could just tell. He was a guardian angel. A real one. He caught me, put me down on the ground, and then just disappeared.”

Whether miracle or delusion, Maxwell’s family is certainly happy to have him home safe and sound. “We’re not blaming anyone,” said Ronda Madison, Maxwell’s mother. “And honestly, I don’t care if it was an angel, alien, or Bigfoot. I’m just happy my baby’s home in one piece.”

As is often the case in the books or comics that I write, three of the characters in that article were named after members of my family. In this case, my Aunt Ronda Manning, and two of her kids, Maxwell and Madison.

When I was putting the finishing touches on The Superman Files, I took an unexpected trip to Ohio and Indiana with my wife and kids. Ronda's husband, my uncle Tom Manning, passed away unexpectedly, so we headed to the midwest for his funeral service.

Having lived in New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina for the better part of two decades, I wasn't as close to my Uncle Tom as I was when I was kid. He was the uncle that bought me my first video game system (an Atari 2600), introduced our entire family to Laser Tag, and had a laugh straight out of a cartoon. Most every natural-born Manning has a certain off-beat sense of humor, and it certainly didn't skip Tom's generation. This was a man who once dropped a two-foot high stack of newspapers at my mom's feet, telling her there was a gift certificate inside, and also, "Merry Christmas."

I'll miss that humor, and the occasional chat with him at family gatherings. But most of all, I'll miss the look he and my dad would exchange when they said hello. It was a look of understood mischief that could only be shared by brothers who grew up in middle America in the 1950s.

I named a character in The Superman Files after my Uncle Tom before I knew I wouldn't see him again. The character Thomas Chapin (named also after Tom's oldest son) appears in another article on this same scrapbook page. It's not much of a tribute, but at least it made the cut. And if nothing else, I think it would have gotten a laugh out of him.


Madison said…
Thanks Matt

Sue Phillis said…
Thanks, Matt. You're right. Tom would have added his own quip then would have laughed. We all need to be reminded life is fun. What a great reminder.