In the ’80’s, after years of increasingly convoluted plot lines and character developments involving multiple realities, multiple versions of their characters, and an almost impenetrable swath of titles, DC made the decision to streamline its continuity, effectively rebooting their entire line, and starting over basically from scratch.
This approach allowed them to cherry pick not only the best parts of each character’s history, but big name creators eager to do definitive work on major DC characters. Perhaps the most notable, and successful of these reboots was John Byrne’s Man of Steel, which brought Superman forward into the modern day, redefining not only his origins, but his powers, his history, and his relationships along the way.
Byrne, hot off a critically acclaimed and well loved run on Marvel’s X-Men, was as big a name in comics as existed at the time, and in scoring him for their Superman reboot, DC not only made a huge coup, but a brilliant creative decision as well. Byrne’s take on Superman’s power level, his history, his world, and even his appearance are still some of the most defining characteristics that most people associate with Superman.
Byrne was not the first to redefine Superman’s place in the world, but he was certainly the most successful, with the ramifications of his run still being felt through numerous further reboots and revisions from DC in subsequent years.