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Why You Should Read: The Death of Superman

It may be a story full of gimmicks, but this story still holds up as a ton of fun.

Everyone has their "first story." Sure, we may have picked up a comic book here or there, but there's always that first story that really captivated us as a comic book reader. Maybe there's this iconic panel you have burned within your memories. Maybe there's a singular moment you can never let go of. Regardless of what it is, it's there for a reason. For me, my first collected story was "The Death of Superman."

This epic story line comes from the year 1992. A beast, later named "Doomsday," appears and takes on the Justice League, at that time made up of Bloodwynd, Maxima, Ted Kord, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Fire, and Ice. Doomsday is so powerful that he easily takes down the Justice League. It seems like nothing can hurt him. Superman comes in to save the day, but finds this beast to be a whole lot tougher than anything he's ever faced.

The battle between these two super-powered giants goes from the suburbs all the way to downtown Metropolis. Superman looks for a weakness, but there doesn't seem to be one. Other heroes, like Supergirl, try to come to Superman's aide, but nothing can stop Doomsday. Eventually, Superman gets the best of Doomsday, but at the cost of his own life. The book ends with a seemingly dead Superman in the arms of a crying Lois Lane.

If you're a comic book fan, then you know this story, and that's the reason why nothing is under a spoiler tag. It's common knowledge, even to non-comic book readers, that at one point in time, someone beat Superman so badly that he died. It's an ultra-iconic moment in Superman's history. Everyone was trying to get their paws on SUPERMAN #75, which is the last issue of the story arc. This book really stands out in people's minds, but after 20 years, does this story still hold up?

As a 10 year old, this book was epic to me, and rereading it now, I still get that sense of childlike awe while reading it. The Death of Superman is still a pretty epic and action filled book. It's literally people beating each other up, non-stop, over every single issue. This book was the first time I remember seeing splash pages as art because SUPERMAN #75 was 24 splash pages and 2 two-page spreads. That's 26 panels for a single issue of a comic, and this is the only time I could ever see that working because it really builds up to that through the previous issues of the story. It's emotional. Dan Jurgens' art during these scenes still stands out. It's great storytelling through single panel pages.

So, why should you read The Death of Superman? As far as Superman stories go, this isn't one of the best of the best, but what The Death of Superman has is a look back at some of the awesomeness of the 90s. Big, hulking creatures decimating everything in their path, with only one (or in this case, no) survivors. What I enjoy more than anything else about The Death of Superman is what it leads into: The Reign of Superman and the creation of Superboy, Steel, Eradicator, and Cyborg Superman. Sure, I could talk about Reign as a story for this piece, but Death is a much more important story in the Superman mythos.

This story has a few cooks in the pot, since the book ran through SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS, SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, but there are two big stand outs here: SUPERMAN #74 and #75, both written and drawn by Dan Jurgens. His stories are fun and still a bit funny, although the topical humor isn't so topical anymore. However, you really need to read it all to get the full scope of the story.

Hakuna matata!

However, here's why you should REALLY read The Death of Superman. I find it to be one of the most fun Superman stories I've ever read, and sadly, a lot of that fun is unintentional. It comes off as very 90s in every way, and here's a bit of proof.

Anyone else want to watch Lion King right now? In case you didn't know, that's Lex Luthor. Most of us know Lex Luthor as Superman's bald baddie, but around this time, Lex got cancer and had his brain put into a new body, with luxuriously long, luscious red hair and a beard as red as Krypton's sun.

He spends most of the time in a room with monitors hanging out with Supergirl and refuses to let her help Superman for most of the story. Even this very cool looking Lex Luthor (cool by 90s standards) still wants to get the best of Superman, by doing nothing.

This story is also the introduction to one of my favorite Superman villains. Nope, it's not Doomsday, who is awesome in his own right. My villain of choice is a character named Mitchell Anderson, and super-angsty teenage jerk.

Although he would later become the super-hero Outburst, the Mitch we see here is a jerk. He hates Superman and is awful to his mom who is a single mother trying to raise Mitch and his little sister. Mitch even says to his mom "no wonder dad left you and wants a divorce" after his mother failed to stock the fridge with soda. What an Axl Rose wannabe. Some can argue he's even a bigger villain than Doomsday...

While Death of Superman isn't the end-all be-all Superman story, it's a ton of fun to read. It's also a big piece of Superman's history and the introduction to one incredibly cool super-villain: Mitch Anderson... I mean Doomsday, of course. It's jam packed with 90's action, with punches being thrown left and right, and heroes left beaten on the ground. The Death of Superman is still a must read for any Superman fan, and can you name another worthwhile story that even features Bloodwynd? I think not.

Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a writer, comedian, and fan of the movie The Lion King. Listen to his podcast! Follow him on Twitter!

66 Comments
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Posted by 8008S

I generally don't care for Superman but I found this arc to be very entertaining.

Posted by StMichalofWilson

One of the best Superman stories I've ever read, well before All-Star Supes.

Definite must read for Superman fans

Posted by Z3RO180

The first ever trade I got was the death of superman as a kid and its still with me now its a great read.

Posted by danhimself

this was one of my first arcs as well...I read it first as the novelization then a friend of my brother gave me all of the issues as a gift

I had no idea that Mitch went on to become a supervillain

Posted by inferiorego

this was one of my first arcs as well...I read it first as the novelization then a friend of my brother gave me all of the issues as a gift

I had no idea that Mitch went on to become a supervillain

He became a super-hero, but I only found that out while researching him during this write-up... I spent most time researching Bloodwynd.

Staff
Edited by FoxxFireArt

Already read it. I own he trade paperback. I got it somewhere downstairs.

Downside is that this was the era of Supergirl's sexual relationship with bearded Luthor.

Posted by TheIncredibleSuperHulk8642

I loved this story arc and Funeral For a Friend and Reign of The Supermen although not the greatest stories of all time they certainly were all great and memorable a must read for any Supes fan.

Posted by Breadspread

When this issue came out my local comic store set up a little monument, with candels, and the Crash Test Dummies song on repeat.

The entire book is made of splash pages.

Posted by SmashBrawler

Eh, it's OK for what it is but Funeral for a Friend is much, much better.

Online
Posted by Grimoire

This along with Batman: Knightfall were the first trades I ever owned and to this day I find myself re-reading them because they were so great.

Posted by iceslick

I loved reading all the issues of Death of Superman arc that my brother brought. I wish I still had them and thanks to my Dad, he decided to burn them!!!!!! >:-( Yup, once again my Dad had to be cruel! Oh well hopefully I will get read them again and thank god my boyfriend has the Superman #75 in his closet. So I might read it again someday and maybe collected the rest again.

Posted by Nahuel

i didn't like it... i don't know why, just didn't enjoyed it

i'm gonna read it again now that a i know who the redhaed is, but still i thought it was going to be better, more emotive, even for a person who doesn't like Superman very much. Everything felt forced in this story. But as i said, i'll give it another read.

Posted by inferiorego

@nahuel said:

i didn't like it... i don't know why, just didn't enjoyed it

i'm gonna read it again now that a i know who the redhaed is, but still i thought it was going to be better, more emotive, even for a person who doesn't like Superman very much. Everything felt forced in this story. But as i said, i'll give it another read.

Treat it like a 90s action film, and you'll enjoy it more.

Staff
Posted by BaneStrokeLoboGrundyBatArrow

My first Arc ever and what got me hooked was Knightfall

Edited by SuperManofSteel

My dad bought the trade for me as a kid. It was my very first Superman comic.

Posted by EvilPenguin543

The very first comic I ever read was Superman #75, so this story has a very special place in my heart. I still have that issue somewhere...

Posted by saoakden

One of the first trades I bought. First Superman story I read. One of my favorites. Seeing Superman fight the way he did against Doomsday was crazy. I eventually read the World Without A Superman and The Return of Superman trades like a year or a year and a half after reading Death of Superman. On that note, Doomsday gave me chills in the return of Superman. After we see Cyborg Superman come in to the story, he grabs Doomsday's body and tosses him into space and when Doomsday is in space with his eyes open and just starts laughing.

Posted by z1co80

I have read it but i really struggled my way through it. It felt really dated and all in all it just wasn't that good. I then tried to read a World Without Superman but i gave up near the end. I then didn't bother reading the Return of Superman or the Doomsday Omnibus which i both owned.

Wasn't a fan to be honest

Posted by Barkley

Mitchell who?

Posted by Schmalzel

I'm not a fan of how Godly some of the characters have become, but this series showed that even Super Man was "mortal' which was fine if he came back, but they got silly afterwards in my opinion. I thought it was a great read as well.

Posted by TeamUnitedNerds

I don't like this story at all. I did enjoy how Superman was shown with vulnerability, but God do I hate Doomsday

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Such an emotional story and is as timeless as it is readable. All I remember was that when I first read this it was getting it at a store after having a rough day at school and it lifted my spirits for a time before Kal's death just made me upset again. Memories I tell you...memories.

Edited by spidermonkey2099

I love this story. Say what you will about its gimmicky-ness, it's one of the most fun Superman stories I've read. I also liked Funeral for a Friend, and I really liked the characters that came out of Reign of Supermen, but I felt that Reign was a little too drawn out. It is still a very fun read, but I think they just took too long in introducing the new characters. But, like I said earlier, I love the characters it introduced. Steel was one of my favorite superheroes growing up. And the version of Hank Henshaw that this story introduces is an amazing adversary for Superman (and later, Green Lantern). Of course, the story really picked up once Superman returned to reclaim his title. Overall, The Death and Return of Superman is one of my favorites of that superhero's story arcs.

Posted by RDClip

Man I remember how huge this was back in the day. Superman 75 and a few of the funeral for a friend issues were the first comics I ever bought. To a seven year old mind, this was a biggest thing ever.

Reading it now, it's still pretty good. There are a few really goofy moments like Doomsday seeing wrestling on a display TV while wrecking a Lex Mart and deciding to go to Metropolis. But the end is a great heroic sacrifice and it led into the very emotional Funeral For a Friend arc.

Plus, Death of Superman is a very important and influential moment in comics history (for good or bad is up to debate) Anyone serious about comics should probably at least read through it.

Edited by Pokeysteve

One of the best Superman stories out there. Very well written and packs a punch. Funeral for a Friend and Return I thought were pretty boring. Return was all right I guess but only when it gets going.

Edited by Queso6p4

Another good choice. Nice to see this keep going.

Posted by UltimateSMfan

My first ever trade was the return of superman which was a gift,i was 12 and i Loved it!and just had to know what came before. As a story of the 90's and an all out slugfest with amazing art,this book was really really good. Wanted to get the new 20th anniversary omnibus(signed) from we can be heroes but i dont live in America, curses!!

Posted by Mbecks14

Death of Superman is a great read.

I would never recommend the Return of Superman though.

Posted by Larcheese

I was born in 1992 so obviously this isn't my first story, it is however the first omnibus that i purchased. Just finished it recently both Death and Reign and really enjoyed both of them. The action and emotion in Death is absolutely amazing and like it has already been said by many others, just really packs a punch.

Posted by sinestro_GL

I could feel the impact of the punches as these two duked it out in Metropolis.

Posted by dcguy

I really enjoyed Death and Return of Superman. Artwork is good for 90's standarts . Fight scenes with Doomsday is one of my favorite fight scene in comic history. But it really starting point of some of the bad trents. Like collector issues speculators . And heroes frequently die and return from dead. After all Superman is first superhero , it's normal for him starting this.

Posted by simian

This was the only time in my comic collecting youth that I ever jumped over to DC from Marvel. Also I totally forgot how robust and lush Superman's chest hair was back then.

Posted by Manwhohaseverything

I really liked the pacing in this series. It wasn't meant to be deep or provocative, (though at times, it kinda was.) It was meant to be fast-moving action, the comics equivalent of a roller-coaster ride. Not easy to do, a lot of stories that try to be like that, don't pull it off.

Posted by LuisAlonso_AC

Back then, this was one of the most awesome things ever...and still is!

Edited by wundagoreborn

I pull out my well-worn trade of this and re-read it from time to time. Always enjoy it. They know they really have to invest in making Doomsday a credible threat to Superman's life. Having him hospitalize members of the JLA was a gutsy and effective way to do that.

Thanks for the appreciation, Mat.

Posted by LaserLambert

technically did it feature Bloodwynd? I'm not too sure on the details but wasn't he Martian Manhunter in disguise?
anyway, this gets bashed as being a marketing gimmick but it's a perfectly enjoyable story.

Posted by JoeEddie

What gimmicks? I first read this when I was around 12 years old and I enjoyed it then. Get to see Doomsday destroy everyone and an awesome final battle to top it off.

Posted by DocFishstick

wow it was 21 years ago that this came out. i was ten years old when i picked this up at the comic book store. i really liked it then. i will have to read this one again.

Posted by Kerrigan

Gimmicky and fun about sums it up.

But man, did the Justice League suck back then...

Edited by Gotham331

I still have my Superman 75 bagged, boarded, and unopened. Lol! And it's still worth the same price it was when I first bought it.

Posted by DancingWithDeadpool

Probably one of the most memorable story arcs I have collected over the years...(sheds a tear)...Truly epic.

Posted by Stompa

My first epic saga that made me almost cry was the whole Onslaught arc.....that thing was awesome! :-)

Edited by Zionis

superman is such an incosistent character. one of the reasons he is so lame to me

Posted by CODYSF

Love the book enjoyed it my first time to this day I'm still not bored of it

Posted by evilvegeta74

Still have a copy in that black plastic unopened!

Posted by RDClip

@simian said:

This was the only time in my comic collecting youth that I ever jumped over to DC from Marvel. Also I totally forgot how robust and lush Superman's chest hair was back then.

And thanks to Henry Cavil, we got to see hairy chest Superman again. That's one thing I want DC to carry into the comics.

Posted by ccraft

I haven't read it yet, but really want too.

Posted by Stewartoons

Definitely one of my favorite Superman comics.

Posted by NYSMUSCLE

i think the best story he's ever had i woud even say him at his peak

i remeber the arm bands still have my copy

Posted by lauren12saldiva

as Bonnie implied I am taken by surprise that a student can profit $4124 in 1 month on the computer. did you look at this site link ............... www.Jam10.com

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