The Death and Return of Superman (spoilers: he comes back to life)

E

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Recently I found a torrent of the entire Death and Return of Superman saga and downloaded it. I've been reading it over the last week or so.

(Note for the morality police - I own most of the individual issues as well as the Death and Return Omnibus)

Everything about this story is dated. It is so 90s that many people would find it unreadable. I, however, love it.

The whole death thing happened just after I started getting into comics and I remember my dad taking me to the comic store so I could get the last black bagged Superman #75 they had, which I paid $10 (!) for at the time. Seeing as how the issue was getting pretty major coverage on the evening news, I was pretty happy I was able to get it.

The issues leading up to the Death of Superman were pretty bad, and I didn't care for Funeral for a Friend, but Reign of the Superman was fantastic. The characters were great, and even though I didn't really know anything about Superman at the time I really liked how the four Supermen represented 4 different sides of Superman, and how they all had taglines/nicknames previously used by Superman that corresponded to their character.

My favorite was The Last Son of Krypton/Erradicator. I really wanted him to be the "real" Superman, even though I was pretty sure it was The Man of Tomorrow/Cyborg/Hank Henshaw. I was naive about comics and didn't think they would bring back the original Superman unchanged, and I was extremely disappointed when they did.

But that disappointment was pretty much the only disappointment I had with it. It was historic, groundbreaking, and even though it was a publicity stunt and might even have directly and heavily contributed to the 90s comic industry meltdown, it was very well done and seemed organized - much more so than the Clone Saga mess or Knightfall (which I couldn't even finish because I had no idea how to follow it or what was going on).

And the events in the story are still being felt today - the destruction of Coast City is a recurring theme in Green Lantern as is Cyborg Superman. And I thought The Metropolis Kid/Superboy was still being used for a while but all the Superboy stuff is too confusing so I don't know for sure.

Did anyone else follow this as it was happening, or read it after the fact and enjoyed it? The torrents should be easy to find if you can't afford the Death & Return Omnibus, but I'd definitely recommend the latter if you can get it.
 

Gothamite

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The issues leading up to the Death of Superman were pretty bad, and I didn't care for Funeral for a Friend, but Reign of the Superman was fantastic.

Yep. The Return of Superman is one of my favourite Superman stories, ever. It's probably my favourite characterisation of Superman. It's quite corny in a lot of parts ("Ah! My slowly-returning X-Ray vision shows me that these are just robot drones and not humans! Therefore, I don't have to feel bad about blasting them into oblivion with this proton cannon while my powers recharge!"), but for me, that only adds to the fun.

A lot of the criticism from this story comes from people who get irritated by the amount of characters wearing Superman's symbol by the end of the story. In my opinion, that's the point. The story is a comment on franchises and hype getting out of control and logos being slapped onto everything to the point of ridiculousness. Throughout the story there are fanatical cultists at odds with each other because they have different beliefs about who the "real" Superman is. In a lot of ways, this story was something of a precursor to Kingdom Come in that it was about Superman teaching other heroes that it takes more than vast superhuman strength and beating people up to be a hero.

My favorite was The Last Son of Krypton/Eradicator. I really wanted him to be the "real" Superman, even though I was pretty sure it was The Man of Tomorrow/Cyborg/Hank Henshaw. I was naive about comics and didn't think they would bring back the original Superman unchanged, and I was extremely disappointed when they did.

Again, I agree, because as a character the Eradicator was the most interesting because he represented what a lot of kids probably wanted Superman to be at the time (just like Azrael in Knightfall) and showcased how wrong that was. Superman can be tough sometimes, but he should never be a badass, Dirty Harry-type angel of death. It just doesn't fit the character.

...it was very well done and seemed organized - much more so than the Clone Saga mess or Knightfall (which I couldn't even finish because I had no idea how to follow it or what was going on).

I think the actual Death issues were well done and created a palpable feeling of impending doom (and the way Superman #75 is entirely comprised of splash panels is awesome). The Return was a popcorn extravaganza and still one of the most "fun" Superman stories ever written, with a fair amount of depth to it, as well.

The only part that really seemed to drag was World Without a Superman. There are only so many ways you can show Lois Lane crying before the plot gets stale. This part of the story has some great moments, but they spread out over 12 issues what they could have done in 4. It does have some nice moments, though.

And the events in the story are still being felt today - the destruction of Coast City is a recurring theme in Green Lantern as is Cyborg Superman. And I thought The Metropolis Kid/Superboy was still being used for a while but all the Superboy stuff is too confusing so I don't know for sure.

Yep, exactly. There are a fair few problems with modern continuity that prevent me from being able to fully reconcile this story with the modern era (most notably the Eradicator, now that Krypton once again has a completely revised history; and Superman's "birthing matrix" which was a plot device used in the origin of the Cyborg Superman who is still very much in-continuity). DC's universe is so messed up continuity-wise though that I just enjoy the characterisation and don't focus on the overall implications, anymore.

I do think the creation of Superboy/Kon-El was a stroke of genius. The TV show had just ended and the comic based on it had sort of acted as a prototype for Kon-El, where they'd do a lot of classic stories with a modern 90s feel. This new character they introduced into mainstream continuity was those kinds of ideas pushed up to factor 12. Some of those early Kon-El stories are great because they show how a teenager with Superman's powers would actually act (read: he would use his powers to be famous; make a load of endorsements and have sex with lots of women) as well as showing why Superman would be so against someone using his shield as a franchise.

I think that the era of Superman comics that started in 1986 with Byrne's reboot, up until about this point, was the best era in terms of creating a living, breathing universe with stories that carried on from issue to issue, the same way Spider-Man's did. This era introduced a bunch of new characters and settings (Professor Hamilton, Gangbuster, the revived Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, Suicide Slum, Centennial Park and various other specific areas of Metropolis and of course the concept of LexCorp.) that are still very important to the mythos, today. I really wish they could capture that "ongoing" feel again. Johns seemed to be going in that direction when he wrote "Brainiac" but now it's all just gone pear-shaped again, with World of Krypton dragging on too long, that stupid "War of the Supermen" and now this "walking around America" nonsense by JMS.
 
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Langsta

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I once found a copy of either the issue where he dies or the one afterwards (I can't remember, for some reason I recall it being the one with the tattered cape-flag on the cover, but I also recall it being the issue where everyone grieves over his death....), and as a little kid I didn't really understand how valuable it was. And I have no idea where that comic is now. Funny thing is, it was just chilling in a comics bin inside the local convenience store when I bought it.

By the way, the title of this thread is funny.
 

E

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Yep. The Return of Superman is one of my favourite Superman stories, ever. It's probably my favourite characterisation of Superman. It's quite corny in a lot of parts ("Ah! My slowly-returning X-Ray vision shows me that these are just robot drones and not humans! Therefore, I don't have to feel bad about blasting them into oblivion with this proton cannon while my powers recharge!"), but for me, that only adds to the fun..

There are corny parts but as I'm re-reading it now (I'm going to estimate that this is probalby my 7th or 8th read-through of the story and it's been quite a few years since the last so I'm kind of rediscovering things I had forgotten about) I'm really surprised how few there are compared to most other 90s era stories. I still hate the writing vice of having a character's consciousness "jump" like Henshaw's can but it works decently enough to not really cripple the story.

A lot of the criticism from this story comes from people who get irritated by the amount of characters wearing Superman's symbol by the end of the story. In my opinion, that's the point. The story is a comment on franchises and hype getting out of control and logos being slapped onto everything to the point of ridiculousness. Throughout the story there are fanatical cultists at odds with each other because they have different beliefs about who the "real" Superman is. In a lot of ways, this story was something of a precursor to Kingdom Come in that it was about Superman teaching other heroes that it takes more than vast superhuman strength and beating people up to be a hero.

The cultists are brilliant and I wish they had played a larger role in the whole story.

I'd probably agree that is the point of it all. It's a really well-executed comparison between what Superman is and what others think he should or could be. At the time (even today, really) you had these different types of characters written in comics and Reign of the Supermen had a real sort of amazing commentary on them as compared to the ideal, traditional hero which, in comparison, might have been regarded as antiquated or out of touch. You have to look at this in terms of the 90s and what was going on then, but compare The Last Son/Eradicator with Punisher, or Metropolis Kid/Superboy with the whole Image mindset that was coming about (or was about to), or The man of Steel with any of the more ethnic stories that were starting to come about. It's pretty incredible, even though I have a hard time giving guys like Karl Kesel the credit for coming up with something like that.

Again, I agree, because as a character the Eradicator was the most interesting because he represented what a lot of kids probably wanted Superman to be at the time

Right - exactly. It was a great way to address that and fill that need without destroying Superman - something they weren't able to do with Superman Red & Blue (I say that having never been able to read that complete story and only having a vague idea what it was about).

I think the actual Death issues were well done and created a palpable feeling of impending doom (and the way Superman #75 is entirely comprised of splash panels is awesome). The Return was a popcorn extravaganza and still one of the most "fun" Superman stories ever written, with a fair amount of depth to it, as well.

Superman #75 was done wonderfully and being composed of all splash pages was a great touch...I was referring to the long, drawn out fight with the JLA, specifically...

The only part that really seemed to drag was World Without a Superman. There are only so many ways you can show Lois Lane crying before the plot gets stale. This part of the story has some great moments, but they spread out over 12 issues what they could have done in 4. It does have some nice moments, though.

...although I do agree it was not nearly as droning as World Without a Superman/Funeral for a Friend. I had a hard time getting through that. Very tedious.

Yep, exactly. There are a fair few problems with modern continuity that prevent me from being able to fully reconcile this story with the modern era (most notably the Eradicator, now that Krypton once again has a completely revised history; and Superman's "birthing matrix" which was a plot device used in the origin of the Cyborg Superman who is still very much in-continuity). DC's universe is so messed up continuity-wise though that I just enjoy the characterisation and don't focus on the overall implications, anymore.

I never understood the birthing matrix but I think my analysis of it was a little more superficial - it seemed really small and I didn't understand how it could be that small, or if the ship that landed on the Kent farm was supposed to be inside it or what.

So a few things post-Reign that I am trying to reconcile because I never read any of the follow up stories:

  • How did the cyborg reincorporate himself and, even more curious considering how he "died", come to inhabit what seems to be the exact same body?
  • Did the Eradicator ever come back?
  • What came of Superboy and how is he used today?

I once found a copy of either the issue where he dies or the one afterwards (I can't remember, for some reason I recall it being the one with the tattered cape-flag on the cover, but I also recall it being the issue where everyone grieves over his death....), and as a little kid I didn't really understand how valuable it was. And I have no idea where that comic is now. Funny thing is, it was just chilling in a comics bin inside the local convenience store when I bought it.

By the way, the title of this thread is funny.

I'd be curious what those are worth, although I wouldn't think much. I never opened my first print black bag Superman #25 and it is still sealed with all the extras inside. Like I said, I paid $10 for it and I'd be surprised if it was worth that now. I also picked up a 3rd or 4th printing of the issue to read.
 

Zombipanda

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but now it's all just gone pear-shaped again, with World of Krypton dragging on too long, that stupid "War of the Supermen" and now this "walking around America" nonsense by JMS.

2010-07-20.jpg
 

Gothamite

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So a few things post-Reign that I am trying to reconcile because I never read any of the follow up stories:

  • How did the cyborg reincorporate himself and, even more curious considering how he "died", come to inhabit what seems to be the exact same body?


  • No idea, but I guess, long story short, he did.

    [*]Did the Eradicator ever come back?

    Yeah but he was completely different. I think consciousness inhabited a Kryptonian WarSuit (which don't exist in continuity anymore). I do know that he was "Jokerised" in that Emperor Joker storyline which is worth a read.

    [*]What came of Superboy and how is he used today?

    Superboy's origin story remains pretty much unchanged and unaffected by any of the changes in continuity. It's basically assumed that his origin is the exact same as it is in those original books. The only thing now is that they retconned it a few years ago as a big shocker that Superboy is actually 50% a clone of Superman and 50% a clone of Luthor, which kind of doesn't make sense because I'm pretty sure there are a lot of parts in Reign of the Supermen where Luthor (in his own company) seems genuinely surprised by the emergence of Superboy. Plus, Luthor never had anything to do with Cadmus in those stories.

    The only other major difference is that I guess somewhere down the line the writers forgot that Superboy wasn't actually a clone of Superman, but a just sort of the closest Earth-human copy they could come up with. His powers were always supposed to look like Superman's, but not as a result of Kryptonian DNA; just genetically modified human DNA. In current continuity they're kind of implying that he is maturing into fully Kryptonian DNA, so he's started gaining all of Superman's powers that he never had before (like heat vision and ice breath). It doesn't really make sense why.

    They're-just-comics I guess.

    I'd be curious what those are worth, although I wouldn't think much. I never opened my first print black bag Superman #25 and it is still sealed with all the extras inside. Like I said, I paid $10 for it and I'd be surprised if it was worth that now. I also picked up a 3rd or 4th printing of the issue to read.

    Superman #75 sold a couple million copies when it was released and for that reason is basically worthless now, just like MacFarlane's Spider-Man #1 from around the same time. I guess you might get something if you have a still-bagged version with the armband unopened and all that, but I found the basic issue in a 25cents bin in Toronto just over a month ago.
 
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J. Agamemnon

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same here, i found all those Death of Superman/Doomsday issues for about .50 cents at my old comic shop. I have them all for nostalgia but they're practically worthless. butt paper cheap. probably cheaper since butt paper costs twelve dollars.
 

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How was Engine City destroyed/dismantled so Coast City could be rebuilt? I mean, it was huge.
 

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