Wednesday, 5 September 2007

THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN: Remembering a REAL comics event

By Andrew Hawnt

We just got some of the DEATH OF SUPERMAN box sets back in, with a Superman figure, a Doomsday figure and the graphic novel itself all boxed up together, and it brought back some cool memories. Now, I was maybe 15 at the time of its original publication, spread over various Superman comics and a JLA title if I remember rightly, and it was huge for a while there.

I don't remember that many superhero comic events that made it onto the international news. I mean, recently the Civil War storyline from Marvel got into the headlines when Spidey revealed his identity to the world, but other than that I can't really remember much having such a big impact.

Superman is THE definitive superhero, there's no doubts about that. Thus his death was all the more shocking. This invincible big-blue-boy scout had become a global icon during his decades of adventures, to the point where a world without Superman seemed, well, weird. His death was far from pretty. In fact it was downright brutal. Doomsday was an absolute beast, relentless, merciless and seemingly unstoppable. Right from those first frames when all you see is his clawed fist beating against that metal door, you know he means business.

The story is breathless, a massive chase across America as various heroes trail Doomsday and attempt to stop him, with catastrophic results. Naturally the finale took place on the streets of Metropolis, with Supes and Doomsday slugging it out until one of them would inevitably fall. The story, and naturally the graphic novel, has a rather sudden ending, but it is that aprupt and terrible moment where he falls still in Lois Lane's arms that breaks the heart upon first reading it. That last double-page spread where Superman lays dead in the rubble is a fine moment of comic perfection.

Of course, it was inevitable that Superman would return, and his death gave way to the WORLD WITHOUT A SUPERMAN storyline, which in turn led into REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN, in which four possible new incarnations of Superman arrive on the scene. Now, this particular storyline was very continuity heavy and suffered a little from overdoing the geek factor, but it wasn't without its merits. I do like the fact that it is actually Pa Kent that lures Kal El back from the other side, in a weird netherworld while his frail old body lies on an operating table following a heart attack.

Superman's return is suitably glorious, even with the new, longer hairstyle he came back with, and it was essentially back to business, kicking the collective asses of evildoers everywhere.

What followed that? Sadly I lost some interest in Big Blue after that, but there's definitely a mass of cool material out there that even the painfully mediocre SUPERMAN RETURNS movie couldn't tarnish too much. Frankly I would rather have seen Kevin Smith's fanboy extravaganza SUPERMAN REBORN on the screen (go find the script, its awesome. Just don't mention giant spiders to Kevin if you ever run into him).

Thankfully we have been left with a wealth of amazing comic adventures for the iconic superhero, and whenever we need reminding what a real comics event is like, we could all do worse than checking out THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN.


THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN graphic novel is available at our website over at Starstore dot com!

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