We want to tell you about the time Superman died. The world is lucky enough to be getting a new Superman movie next year (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice), and it will be the first time Batman and Superman appear on the big screen together. It will be a big moment for the Blue Boyscout, but not quite as big as the time he bit the big one. Superman's death was the single largest day of comic book sales in history - and it is totally a story worth telling! Here's a summary for those who would like a refresher before the movie hits the screens:
Origins of Superman's Death
The famous cover of "The Death of Superman"
In 1992, DC Comics was searching for the next big comic book moment, and believed they had it; they were going to marry long-time couple Lois Lane and Clark Kent. However, Superman had recently made his way to the small screen in the new show “Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman," and the show creators asked for DC to hold off on marrying the couple, hoping to have the comic event coincide with the TV series. Legend has it that at a meeting, someone mentioned in passing that DC should “just kill him [Superman]” instead of planning his wedding. At the time, those DC employees had no clue they had just heard the idea for arguably the most important event in comic book history. Doomsday was coming.
The Titans Clash: Doomsday vs. Superman
Doomsday was not an actual day. Doomsday was a Kryptonian monster and living weapon developed by scientists on Krypton, who would become Superman's murderer. This born killer made his way to Earth and went on a rampage. He began by single-handedly (literally, with one hand tied behind his back) taking out the Justice League and continued his path of destruction towards Metropolis. Superman stepped in and, suprisingly, Doomsday was Superman’s superior. The two titans landed a massive blow on each other that shattered windows and caused both to collapse before doors of the Daily Planet. Superman’s iconic cape was wrapped around the debris like a makeshift grave. That image would become the cover of the book, as well as one of the most famous frames in comic book history. Superman was dead.
The Reign of the Supermen!
The Supermen: The Man of Tomorrow, The Man of Steel, The Metropolis Kid, The Last Son of Krypton
Four different beings stepped forward to claim the mantle of Superman after his passing. Each of them had their own look, their own style, and their own way of dealing with criminals.
- The Man of Tomorrow/Cyborg Superman: A half-man/half-machine Superman.
- The Man of Steel/Steel: A weapons manufacturer by the name of John Henry Irons. (Yes, Steel, the same as the horrible 90s movie starring Shaq.)
- The Metropolis Kid/Superboy: A younger clone of Superman.
- The Last Son of Krypton: A cold, emotionless Kryptonian machine known as The Eradicator who took on Superman's likeness.
The Return of Superman
The Real Superman Returns
After a while, Mongul, Superman’s longtime foe, invaded Earth and destroyed Coast City, home of Hal Jordan (aka The Green Lantern.) It is also revealed that the Cyborg Superman was actually Hank Henshaw, a supervillain with the ability to pass his consciousness into any computer system. He had teamed with Mongul to take over the world. Just as the Eradicatior, Supergirl, Superboy, and Steel decide that they would give one last try to stop Mongul and the Cyborg, a huge suit of armor lumbered out of the ocean. After a brief battle, the suit cracked open to reveal a black-costumed Superman, seemingly alive and well. Superman led the heroes against the Cyborg and Mongul and, of course, saved the day. Superman was back!
The Aftermath of The Death of Superman
The whole event changed the DC Universe, and comics, forever. The event lead to Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) being driven mad by the apparent destruction of everyone he knew, though it was eventually revealed that The Green Lantern’s supporting cast was conveniently absent from Coast City when it was destroyed (Phew!). Also, Superboy and Steel were eventually given their own series, respectively.
The lasting legacy of the Death and Return of Superman had an impact on the idea of death in comics themselves. DC had killed one of, if not the most popular characters in comic history — a move that brought the event international media attention. However, the choice to bring him back to life in a “just kidding” moment caused fans to revolt. Since the event, a countless number of superheroes have died, only to be resurrected in some ‘jump the shark’ method, leading to the running joke that the only person in comics who actually stays dead is just Uncle Ben from Spiderman. Sorry, Peter.
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Have you read The Death and Return of Superman? Do you remember where you were when the comic was released? Share your memories about this historical event in the comments below! If you're more than ready to prepare for the movie release, or any upcoming superhero flick, take a look at all of our superhero and comic book t-shirts here.