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Superman: True Brit
Kim 'Howard' Johnson and John Cleese
DC Comics / Titan hardcover £19.99 / $27.95

review by Ian Shutter

The alternative myths of the world's favourite superhero character are continued here with this slickly packaged graphic novel, featuring colourful artwork by John Byrne and Mark Farmer. Superman: True Brit offers a largely humorous take on the familiar origin story of the last son of planet Krypton. Basically a psychosocial sitcom with elements of media satire and mildly scathing digs at British cultural quirks, the book explains that space baby Kal-El arrives on Earth in a field in Weston-super-Mare, where he's dubbed Colin by adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Clark.

So far, so good, but the Clarks' English reserve, and "what will the neighbours think?" anxieties result in their raising a young wannabe superhero who's more like the clumsy and neurotic Frank Spencer of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973-8) than the famous Man of Steel. However, when he gets away from home to university, Clark Kent - sorry, Colin Clark, breaks out of his shell a little, despite using super self-hypnosis to suppress his powers. Naturally, hapless Colin is smitten by sexy but ambitious Louisa Layne-Ferret (Lois Lane's cousin, eh!) - another journalism student bound for Fleet Street, and yet it's Colin not Louisa who eventually becomes the protégé of sleazy tabloid mogul Peregrine Whyte-Badger.

Superman does have a few small triumphs once he chooses to secretly make use of his powers for the benefit of his 'homeland', and gets a royal summons for an audience with Her Majesty, though our union jack attired do-gooder has his work cut out for him when the Queen gives Superman three 'impossible' tasks (involving railway timetables, NHS waiting lists, and the quality of BBC television programmes).

All the usual supporting characters are neatly spoofed or badly caricatured, the risible Daily Smear newspaper charts the rise and fall of Superman has national champion and menace to society, and there's even a guest appearance for Dirk and Ron of The Rutles in between the cricket matches (oh dear, enter the Bat-Man, argh!), economic difficulties, breaches of etiquette, and cups of tea. This won't be to everyone's taste, but if you can tolerate the brashness of the lampooning plot and look for the understated bits of wry amusement, True Brit should prove an adequate page-turner.
Superman - True Brit

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