Superman: The Death of Superman


By Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-124-3

Although largely out of favour these days as all the myriad decades of Superman mythology are gradually re-assimilated into one overarching all-inclusive DC continuity, the stripped-down, gritty post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Man of Steel re-imagined by John Byrne and marvellously built upon by a stunning succession of gifted comics craftsman produced some genuine comics classics.

This is probably the most significant of them all: the first part in a truly epic triptych story-arc which saw the martyrdom, loss, replacement and eventual resurrection of the World’s Greatest Superhero in a stellar saga which broke all records and proved that apparently everybody still cared about the hoary icon of Truth, Justice and the American Way…

This landmark collection features material which originally appeared in Superman: the Man of Steel #17-19, Superman #73-75, Adventures of Superman #496-497, Action Comics #683-684 and Justice League America #69, spanning cover-dates November 1992 to January 1993 and opens with the fearsome first glimpses of a of a masked and manacled figure pounding its way free of an adamantine cell.

Breaking out of the earth in the heart of rural America the saga proper begins in ‘Doomsday’ by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove & Dennis Janke, as Superman deals with successive terrorist attacks by dropouts, alien dregs and mortal monsters known as Underworlders who have infested the tunnels beneath Metropolis but are now hungry for their own place in the sun. Whilst the Action Ace brokers a tenuous peace-treaty the horrific and kill-crazy escapee carves a purposeless swathe of destruction across the country…

In ‘Down for the Count’ (Justice League America #69, by Dan Jurgens & Rick Burchett) Superman is tied up with a meaningless publicity interview whilst in Ohio his JLA comrades, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire, Ice, Bloodwynd, Maxima and Guy Gardner are savagely thrashed by the lumbering monstrosity, who maims and cripples many of the World’s Greatest Superheroes with one arm literally tied behind its back…

By the time Superman arrives in ‘Countdown to Doomsday!’ (Jurgens & Brett Breeding) the remnants of the team have regrouped, determined to sell their lives dearly to stop the creature rampaging through a housing development, but their combined efforts do little more than shred the remaining restraints holding it back.

In a catastrophic explosion the JLA succumb to their punishing injuries and Superman, determined to stop the beast, chases after it, utterly unaware that a family have been trapped in the burning remnants of their home…

‘Under Fire’ (scripted by Jerry Ordway and illustrated by Tom Grummett & Doug Hazlewood) sees the hard-pressed Man of Steel break off his desperate struggle to rescue both the trapped citizens and the fallen heroes, allowing Doomsday to wreak even more havoc and slaughter. Soon after however the Caped Kryptonian catches up with the howling horror in the idyllic hamlet of Griffith, but even with the frenzied aid of majestic alien superwoman Maxima is overcome in a shattering confrontation which razes the entire town to the ground.

In ‘…Doomsday is Near!’ (Roger Stern, Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier) he is joined by the cloned Cadmus security officer Guardian and comes to the conclusion that the brutal beast must be stopped at any and all costs, but as he follows its trail he is constantly diverted by the need to rescue civilians caught up in the mindless path of destruction. However when the monster sees a big screen TV ad, Doomsday diverts from its latest tussle with Superman and heads inexorably for the hero’s home town, smashing its way through the Cadmus testing grounds dubbed Habitat…

Despite Superman’s Herculean, repeated efforts, ‘Doomsday is Here!’ (Simonson, Bogdanove & Janke) sees the beast hit the streets of Metropolis like an atomic bomb and the Man of Steel realises he will happily give his life to destroy the unstoppable leviathan. A small respite is gained when Supergirl enters the fray (not Superman’s Kryptonian cousin but rather the devoted protoplasmic facsimile that held the title at this time) but she is quickly disposed of by the mysterious monster, as are all the super-scientific resources of Lex Luthor’s private army.

Eventually all that’s left to save the day is the bruised, battered and utterly exhausted Man of Tomorrow…

The magnificent legendary saga concludes in ‘Doomsday!’ with a final chapter delivered as a succession of full-page splash-shots from writer/penciller Jurgens and inker Breeding depicting Superman and his savage nemesis going toe-to-toe in the rubble of the city, and concluding as the man expires at last, taking the monster with him…

Short on plot but bursting with tension, drama and breathtaking action, the epic encounter was but the first step in a bold and long-term plan to push the complacent readership off the edge of their collective seats and revitalise the Superman franchise, but the positively manic public interest beyond the world of comics took everyone by surprise and made the character as vital and vibrant a sensation as in the earliest days of his creation.

It worked…
© 1992, 1993 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.