Superman & Batman: Generations
John Byrne, writer & artist
(DC Comics, 1999)

The concept is ingenious.

It was a very different world in the late 1930s, when both Superman and Batman were introduced to eager fans. As the years have flown by, DC writers have adapted the storylines for these heroes to keep them current. But what if comic-book heroes aged just like we do?

That's the question John Byrne set out to answer in Generations, a four-part Elseworlds tale that begins with Superman and Batman at the beginning of their careers.

The tale encompasses the first collaboration between the two heroes in 1939 and then progresses through the years, in 10-year hops, as Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne age, marry and have children. We meet their sons and daughters, some of whom become heroes and some of whom do not. Characters (and costumes) evolve. And we watch as tragedies strike both families along the way. The final episode, which leaps into the far future of 2919 and the distant past of 1929, stars a Superman and Batman you might not expect to see.

Byrne even wrote some inconsistencies into the stories, acknowledging some of the lapses in continuity surrounding the characters' lengthy timelines. In the early days, for instance, neither hero balked at killing a foe, while in recent years lethal force by these guys is unheard of.

The idea is very good, and Byrne -- who both wrote and illustrated the story -- adapts his writing style somewhat throughout to mirror the tone of the era in question (the 1950s tale, for instance, is a bit sillier than the one from the grimmer '80s). All told, it makes Generations an all-around winner.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002

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