Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Death Of Superman!


Superheroes dies so commonly in modern comics that the shtick has lost its potency. Everyone dies, only to be be reborn, revived, or revised, or all three. When Bucky Barnes returned at the Winter Soldier, the notion that a comic book character could die for all time died with his revival. One of the most famous superhero sagas ever was the death of Superman from the 90's. So a humble one-issue story by Jerry Seigel, Curt Swan and Stan Kaye titled "The Death of Superman!" has little power today. But in the Silver Age maybe it might still carry some weight, although as an "Imaginary Novel" its impact is limited of course.

Not this death -- an earlier one.
The story begins with the reformation of Lex Luthor who appears to change his ways when thanks to a novel meteor mineral finds a cure for cancer. His cure finds him a release from prison and his continued need for help from the attempts on his life by his former criminal allies makes Superman believer he's truly a new man. Not so much it turns out as all of it was merely one more Luthor scheme to make Superman drop his guard and before you know it Lex exposes the Man of Steel to lethal amounts of Kryptonite which end his life. All this before the eyes of his friends Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White. Superman's funeral is a lavish affair and is attended by all manner of men, aliens, and even a few Legionnaires from the future. Even Krypto sheds a tear. But one person who attends is Superman's secret weapon, Supergirl. She takes it upon herself to bring Luthor to justice and he is duly caught and tried for his crimes. The story ends with Supergirl taking up the mantle of hero joined by Krypto.


I liked this one a lot, but mostly because it vindicated Superman's scheme to hold Supergirl back as a secret reserve. She proved to be the unknowable element which Luthor could not account for and proved herself to be a worthy successor to her cousin. Seeing Supergirl as Earth's one and only Kryptonian defender (aside from the dog of course) at the story's end was a mighty satisfying sight, even if it was only for this one-shot imaginary tale.  That's the kind of emotional punch these kinds of offbeat yarns were created for.


Rip Off

4 comments:

  1. I also remember a Wayne Boring illustrated tale of Superman dying. In fact, I think he died (or appeared to) a few times during the '50s & '60s. (Or am I imagining it?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not at all. One of the first Superman tales I actually bought to read had his elaborate funeral which ended with him being injected into the sun I think, which ended up curing him. I might have that wrong. But it was a commonplace.

      Rip Off

      Delete
  2. At the same time as this comic was being prepared, Adolph Eichmann was being tried for Nazi war crimes and it was televised to the point that Eichmann's calm demeanor, sitting in his bulletproof cubicle, became iconic. The image was duplicated when Luthor was listening to the testimony against him and I remember Eichmann's name being invoked when Lex got sentenced.

    It was quite a tear-jerker for a Superman comic; Seigel pushed every emotional button to convey a sense of heavy elegy. It felt monumental to me when I experienced it as a kid, and it must have been a huge hit, because about 6 issues later they published "The Last Days of Superman", which contrived a way for Superman to be convinced he was slowly dying, and did a good job of showing how heroic he could be, trying to do what he could for the world at his finish and facing death with a sober fatalism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder too if the writers at DC were facing their own mortality. The comics sometimes reflect what is going on in the lives of their creators, at least in the broad thematic way.

      Rip Off

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...