The ‘80s were a time for transition for DC Comics. In order to modernize its heroes—who had been around for almost 50 years at this point—the publisher came out with a comic miniseries called Crisis on Infinite Earths, which reset the publisher’s continuity and started all of the heroes’ lives from scratch. Before Superman got the reboot, though, writer Alan Moore and artist Curt Swan debuted a two-issue comic event titled Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. The plot focuses on the last days of the Silver Age Superman, who meets his demise (or does he?) after sacrificing himself to save humanity.
Then, in 1986, John Byrne kicked off the reboot officially with the launch of The Man of Steel. This miniseries modernized Superman’s backstory for a new generation of comic fans. Byrne replaced Silver Age trappings like Superboy and Krypto with a more serious and relatable take on Clark Kent’s life. He was more proactive and serious, as opposed to bumbling and campy; his powers were reduced to make his physical foes more of a threat; and, most importantly of all, Lex Luthor was transformed from a mad scientist into a malicious businessman. During the Reagan administration of the ‘80s, this was as evil as evil got.
The reboot became the standard for the character and helped bring more drama and sex appeal into the life of Superman. Chances are that if you were born in the ‘80s or later, this is the version of the character that you know.