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How ‘Mister Fantastic’ Came to Become the Cyborg Superman

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
How ‘Mister Fantastic’ Came to Become the Cyborg Superman

This “I’ve Been Here Before,” a feature that deals with a term that I coined called “nepotistic continuity,” which refers to the way that comic book writers sometimes bring back minor characters that they themselves created in the past as characters in their current work.

In every installment of this feature, I’ll spotlight an example of a character that did not appear in a comic for at least two years before then showing up in a comic written or drawn by the creator of the character.

Today, we look at Hank Henshaw, most famously known as the Cyborg Superman, but when he first showed up, he was based on an entirely different character.

Adventures of Superman #466 was relatively early in Dan Jurgens’ stint as both the artist and the writer on one of the three main Superman titles of the period (Superman, Action Comics and Adventures of Superman). Initially working with finisher Art Thibert, Jurgens then worked with finisher Brett Breeding for a long run and the two would move over to take over the flagship Superman title, Superman, where they would later famously do the final chapter of the famous “Death of Superman” storyline, the issue that actually included the, you know, death of Superman.

But back in early 1990, Jurgens was still pretty new on the book. In Adventures of Superman #466, he started a clever two-part story that opened with four scientists basically going through the same thing that the Fantastic Four did in Fantastic Four #1 (Jurgens had always been a very notable and vocal fan of the Fantastic Four)….

The various astronauts went through different reactions that were inspired by the original FF…

Anyhow, things go horribly wrong for most of the crew and by the end of the issue, only Terri, the wife of Hank Henshaw (the Reed Richards of the group) is still alive.

However, in Adventures of Superman #468 (following a Batman/Superman crossover that split the two-parter over three issues), we learn that Hank survived, but he survived by transferring his consciousness into machinery!

When he realizes that his very existence causes pain for his wife, Hank then transfers his consciousness into the birthing matrix/rocket ship that took Superman to Earth when he was an embryo. He then uses it to travel the stars and that’s it for Hank Henshaw for the next two years.

As we noted, Superman then passed away in the “Death of Superman” storyline and this was followed eventually by the “Reign of Superman,” which introduced four men each claiming to be the “real” Superman (well, three of them, at least – John Henry Irons never really claimed to be Superman, so it was weird that he was always lumped in on that aspect of it all) in Adventures of Superman #500 (released precisely two years after Henshaw vanished). One of the heroes was a Cyborg version of Superman…

Eventually, it turned out that this was Hank Henshaw, who had used the birthing matrix to copy Superman’s DNA and mixed it with his power to control machinery, he became the Cyborg Superman. He had also been driven mad, as when he teamed up with Mongul to come back to Earth to destroy it, beginning with nuking Coast City! After he did that, he showed off even more how evil he was in Adventures of Superman #503 (by Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett and Doug Hazlewood)…

It was rather clever of Jurgens to go back into his catalog of characters (which obviously was not yet that extensive at the time) to find his Cyborg Superman, ultimately creating one of the best new Superman villains of the past 25 years.

That’s it for this installment (at a casual glance, I think it might be almost three years since I’ve last done this feature. That can’t be right, can it?)! If anyone else has a suggestion for a future edition of I’ve Been Here Before, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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