My first character profile; as if there were any other choice. These will stretch beyond superheroes and the mainstream, btw.
Q: So, who is this Superman guy?
A: First, let me congratulate you on being discovered and introduced into society, boy raised by wolves. To answer your question: Superman is the last son of the planet Krypton, which was destroyed in an explosion. His father, Jor-El, a brilliant scientist, had predicted this, but was only able to build a prototype rocket big enough to carry his infant son, Kal-El, before the big one hit. The baby was sent to Earth, where he was found and adopted by kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent of Smallville, Kansas. As he grew up, young Clark Kent discovered that his alien physiology, under Earth's yellow sun, gave him powers far beyond those of mortal men: strength, speed, invulnerability, the power of flight, x-ray and heat vision, and more. As a man, he moved to Metropolis, where he took a job as reporter for the Daily Planet, in order to learn of crises as they happen. As Superman, he protects the innocent and fights for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Q: Cool. What about his supporting cast?
A: Aside from the Kents, there's Lois Lane, his wife and fellow reporter for the Daily Planet; Perry White, the Planet's EIC; Jimmy Olsen, boy reporter and Superman's pal; Lex Luthor, Superman's greatest foe; Lana Lang and Pete Ross, his best friends from boyhood; Krypto, the dog from Krypton; Superboy, a clone of Superman's and human DNA, who's taken the name Connor Kent; and his cousin, Kara Zor-El of Argo City on Krypton, also known as Supergirl. And there's his fellow superheroes, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, etc., who show up from time to time.
Q: Wife? I thought Lois was just his girlfriend.
A: They were married in 1996, in conjunction with the Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman TV show, then running on ABC.
Q: Any kids?
A: Not as yet. See Larry Niven's essay, "Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex" for a possible explanation as to why.
Q: What comics does Superman currently appear in?
A: Short answer, a lot of them. DC Comics is currently publishing a big crossover event, Infinite Crisis, in which Superman naturally plays a large part, so there's guest spots all over. Aside from that, there's his regular monthly books: Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, and Superman. He also appears in Justice League Unlimited, based on the cartoon of the same name, and All-Star Superman, a stand-alone project by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely; the stories in those comics stand on their own, and don't depend on the others. In addition, Superboy is a cast member in Teen Titans, and Supergirl has her own monthly series.
Q: And how long will that last?
A: Well, those are all ongoing series, but a change is coming. In March, Adventures of Superman will become simply Superman, and the title currently carrying that name will end, replaced later this year by Superman Confidential. And practically every book DC publishes will be switching creative teams about that time as well, so that's a good time to jump on, I suppose. All-Star will continue unaffected on its own bimonthly schedule.
Q: Thanks for the heads-up. What about the movie?
A: Superman Returns is set for a June 2006 debut, starring Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
Q: Spacey? Seriously? That's stupid fresh.
A: I know.
Q: I've heard the nerds in my store talking about "Pre-Crisis" and "Post-Crisis" Superman. What's up with that?
A: Any Superman story published before 1986's "The Man of Steel" miniseries is Pre-Crisis, and story published after is Post-Crisis. Essentially, that mini erased and rewrote Superman's history to be more up-to-date with the modern world. The naming comes from the 1984-85 miniseries "Crisis on Infinite Earths," where the entire history of the DC Universe was rewritten, and served as a starting block for revamps of Superman and Wonder Woman, among others.
Q: "Crisis on Infinite Earths…" any connection with that "Infinite Crisis" thing you mentioned above?
A: The latter is a sequel to the former. Issue 2 of IC handily recaps the entire COIE mini in about three pages.
Q: OK. What were the major changes in "Man of Steel?"
A: Not too many; the most important (that still remain; some of the elements "Man of Steel" removed were reinserted later) were that Clark's parents were still alive (the original origin had them dying before he left for Metropolis) and that he never fought crime as Superboy when he was a teenager, which itself affected the Legion of Super-Heroes. But that's another FAQ.
Q: What about the TV show Smallville?
A: It's one of several interpretations of Clark's coming of age. Fun in its own right, but you don't have to follow it to understand the comics, or vice versa.
Q: I have this comic where Superman is a Revolutionary War Soldier/a Communist/Batman/etc. What the hell?
A: That's an "Elseworlds," a reimagining of the character in a different context.
Q: So what's the definitive version of Superman?
A: The character's been around so long, that question is almost moot. Every Superman story is part of the legend, which changes in the telling every time. That said, I'm fond of Christopher Reeve's portrayal in the old Superman movie, and the animated version currently appearing in Justice League Unlimited (although I think Tim Daly did a better voice than George Newburn). Pretty much all the comic versions hold equal weight with me, but my favorite writers would be Grant Morrison, Elliot S! Maggin, Mark Waid, and Alan Moore. Artwise, I like Curt Swan, George Perez, and Bruce Timm.
Q: And your favorite Superman story of all time?
A: "For The Man Who Has Everything," by Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Q: Do you want to write Superman?
A: I've got at least one story in me, about the day Ma and Pa Kent told him he was adopted.
Q: If Superman and Jesus got into a fight to the death, who would win?
A: They would team up and beat the crap out of Lex Luthor and Judas Iscariot, then go on a double date with Lois and Mary Magdalene.