The Death and Return of Superman (1992-1993)
written by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Karl Kesel, and Jerry Ordway
illustrated by John Bogdanove, Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, and Butch Guice
This 750 page book was released by DC Comics only a little over 2 years ago and is already out of print. Such is the fucking habit of comic book publishers these days. The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century deluxe hardcover omnibus released by Dark Horse only last fall is already out of print. Why are you companies such stupid pieces of shit? Anyway, back to Superman; this book was released with a $75 cover price which was way, way too high. Yes, there are 750 pages, but the paper stock is basically newsprint and the binding isn’t the reinforced stuff you’re used to. I have nothing against this format but $75 is silly. Fortunately, it isn’t rare and I got it new on eBay for around $40.
Wow, what a long and agonizing intro. Anyway, this book collects the famous/infamous storyline from 1992 in which Superman was killed, replaced, and resurrected. The story was released over the course of 12 months in an era when Superman starred in FOUR monthly titles, so there are a total of 48 related story issues, plus a couple of crossover issues with JLA and Green Lantern.
This book does not quite contain all of those issues but does collect most of them. Two issues that focused on Supergirl have been omitted completely and a few issues from the mourning period have been truncated. I believe these edits were made to aid the flow of the story but it’s a bit strange when Ma and Pa Kent come to Metropolis and then return to Smallville about 2 pages later, stating, “It seems like we’ve been away from home for a million years (PS Not a direct quote).” I’m actually in favor of leaving out pages or issues that are redundant in the overall scheme of things and I think more pages should have been cut, especially those that annoyingly repeat previous plot points.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story it goes like this: a big dude escapes from some chamber and just fucks up everything he can, including the JLA. He and Superman have a cross-country fight during which he is laughably named Doomsday (“He can’t be stopped. It’s almost like . . . like Doomsday is upon us!” PS – Not a direct quote). Superman and Doomsday make it to Metropolis where they kill each other. Everyone is sad and gets emo for awhile. Clark Kent is presume missing/dead.
Four self-appointed replacements show up. “The Man of Steel” is basically an Iron Man-type, wearing a super suit of his own design. He’s the only replacement that does not claim to be the actual Superman. “The Last Son of Krypton” is actually a Kryptonian relic personified. His gimmick is that he’s basically a cross between Superman and Punisher, killin’ villainz. Next is the Cyborg, who looks like a cross between Superman and Terminator. Finally, we have Superboy, a clone of Superman with somewhat different powers and a very annoying personality (he seems to be something of a parody/statement on Marvel’s trend of young, bebuckled and bepouched heroes of the time).
The replacements bicker and bitch and moan amongst themselves. Superman is somehow revived, though weakened. The alien Mongul turns up and destroys an entire city. The Supermen plus Superman team up and fight the aliens and a super surprise villain. The End.
The storyline is deeply entrenched in the comics continuity and the trends of the time. Lex Luthor is a young dude sporting totally womanly red locks and a mega gay beard. Supergirl is his bitch for some reason. Some pony-tailed douchebag that I guess I’m supposed to know keeps trying to fuck Lois. Best of all, Jimmy Olsen repeatedly wears Spin Doctors shirts in issues illustrated by John Bogdanove. When Superman is resurrected, he sports a MULLET. EL OH EL!
Several writers are present, including Karl Kesel, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, blah and blah, although I suspect the editors pulled most of the strings. Four pencilers combine to illustrated about 90% of the book. John Bogdanove rises above the rest due to his strongly stylized work. Next is Dan Jurgens, not exactly exciting but certainly competent. Beneath him is Tom Grummett, also quite competent but a little boring. Last is Butch Guice, who likes to draw everyone pretty ugly. The others draw Superman and his lookalikes as Bruce Campbell types, with jutting chins and pointy noses but Guice’s Superman looks like a mediocre boxer that failed to block many punches.
All in all, it’s actually a pretty fun story. I enjoyed most of it even if I had a lot of questions, which were probably answered in later stories that I will never read. If you read this don’t expect to understand what the fuck Doomsday is or where he comes from. That thread just goes away. Don’t expect to understand how some dork made an Iron Man type suit in the basement of his building (without the benefit of billions in R&D that Iron Man has at his disposal). Still, the writing is pretty even and the art is always at least decent, sometimes pretty great, and usually pretty good. Usually I would read a comics story for the art or writing or combination thereof but this one is really about the EVENT itself.
For such a big epic created by a bunch of cooks in a small kitchen, the whole thing is surprisingly even and shows quite a bit of discipline. I liked it!