In theory, I like Elliot S! Maggin. The idea of having an exclamation point in your name is simply awesome, and I dig (the first) Kristin Wells, the Superwoman from the future--especially her costume. In practice, though, I don't think I've ever read any Maggin Superman stories that I've really enjoyed. Everything I've read from him seems to me like it takes itself way, way too seriously. And the idea that "Kal-El" translates roughly to "Star Child" is a bit too end-of-"Neverending Story" for my taste.
And yet, just yesterday I bought Miracle Monday at a used book store, thereby completing my collection of Elliot S! Maggin Superman novels, neither of which I've read. Yet. I think I'll be hitting up Tom DeHaven's It's Superman before I get to the Maggin stuff.
So, Mark Waid gave Superman the ability to see this amazingly beautiful aura around all living creatures, and he hated to see that aura snuffed out. Consequently, he was a vegetarian.
Now, here's where I start having a problem: plants are living, too. They're just as alive as animals. Why wouldn't they have an aura? What about bacteria and fungi? What gives animals the special soul-aura that makes them inedible? Would he see an aura around Medphyll or Mogo? Or Red Tornado? The kingdom of Animalia represents a relatively small portion of living things, especially in a universe as densely populated as the DCU. The whole concept fails out of the gate.
But my bigger problem is a thematic one, one that plagues so much of "Birthright." John Byrne may not do much right, but his Superman was conceptually more "man" than "super." He was (technically) born on Earth, his costume was designed by his human family, and his decision to become a superhero was borne out of his rapport with humanity and desire to help people.
Waid, on the other hand, ramped up the alien aspect of Superman's character. He made Clark more of an outcast loser than he had been in decades (perhaps more than he ever had been), Superman's costume came from his alien parents, and as the biggest punch to the gut, his rationale for helping people was more or less borne out of his alien ability to see their souls, and not wanting to have to endure the ugliness of watching souls go poof. This kind of thing really distances Superman from the humanity he struggles so hard to achieve and maintain, and that's a damn shame.
And the worst part of all of this is that every time I think the soul-vision idiocy has been shoved mercifully back into the bottle, it crops up again in-continuity, where Superman assures Lex Luthor or Superboy that they do, in fact, possess souls (which, apparently, means that they're living animals. Whoop-de-flibbity-doo). It hasn't shown up recently, certainly not that I've seen post-OYL, so I hope above hope that Busiek and Johns and the others working on Superman comics have recognized what an asinine idea this is, and have consigned it to the dustbin of stupid powers along with super-hypnotism and rebuild-the-Great-Wall-of-China-vision.