Supermanthe ancestral family, the House of El, has been a family of heroes since ancient times, beginning with a warrior who bears more than a passing resemblance to a Marvel hero. Conan the Barbarian. At least that’s how it was shown on Superman: The Blood of My Ancestors (written by Stephen Grant and Gil Kane, art by Kane and John Bush, signed by Kevin Nowlan) A 2003 Superman one-shot like no other. The story is a Superman story previously unknown to readers, and introduces a figure into the mythology that closely resembles a certain Marvel character that Kane and Buscema made famous by drawing.
Superman: The Blood of My Ancestors begins as a simple story in which Superman fights a huge memory-eating alien creature. However, through a series of flashbacks to Superman’s earliest genetic memories, the tale introduces readers to El, Superman’s ancient ancestor from prehistoric Krypton. Superman: The Blood of My Ancestors is an interesting story for many reasons, not least because it was one of Kane and Bushham’s last projects. Buscema picked up the drawing baton from his friend and collaborator Kane, who passed away in 2000 before the book was completed. Buscema himself passed away in 2002, shortly after the release was completed. Their styles, distinct yet complementary, are perfectly brought together by dyer Kevin Nowlan, who gives the book a cohesive, muscular line that matches both the athletic grace of Kane’s figures and the weighty seriousness of Busham’s figures. Another fact that makes this book even more historical is that it was one of Busham’s few jobs for DC Comics, as he has mostly worked for Marvel throughout his career.
Busceme, who notoriously disliked drawing superheroes, was lucky that it wasn’t so much a superhero story as it was a prehistoric barbarian tale. It was more in keeping with Bushham’s favorite storyline, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, created in 1932 and featured in comics published by Marvel from 1970 to 1993, and then again from 2019 until the end of 2022, when Marvel lost the rights to Conan. Barbarian. There is almost no Superman in the story, who most of the time is digested by a large alien creature. Instead, readers mostly get the story of El, the founder of the House of El. A young warrior living on ancient Krypton, El possesses a supernatural connection to death and resurrection that marks the letter “S” on his chest and grants him super strength, which he uses to fight the corrupt tyrannical rulers of his time.
The story is very reminiscent of and inspired by the biblical story of Samson, and effectively sets the familiar barbaric action against the backdrop of ancient Krypton. Of course, this changes some elements of the Superman canon – in particular the idea that one of Superman’s ancestors had superpowers on Krypton, where the planet’s historically red sun suppressed Kryptonian superpowers. The story also plays with the concept of the House of El and the “S” crest, which in this story appears divinely planted on the chest of El Rao, an ancient deity of Krypton. The real surface of Krypton also has kryptonite, which is completely contrary to the understanding of kryptonite by most fans and writers. Overall, the story introduces some changes to the Superman mythos that may not be to everyone’s liking.
However, he holds a particularly unique place in the character’s history, which is belied by his current unpublished and non-canonical status. Especially when you consider that it was one of only two stories that John Buscema drew for DC (the other was The Bats and Rats Game, Batman: Black and White short story written by John Arcudi and published in 2000), he really should have a bigger place in the story for Superman fans, as well as Bushham and/or Kane fans. The historical status of this Superman history probably means it is long overdue for a reprint, if only because of the talent involved and the rare opportunity to see Conan the Barbarian jump and punch your way through Ancient Krypton.