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A death without dignity or respect

  • Jul 31, 2008
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It's taken a long time for comics to get where they are today. At the present, comics are widely regarded as a serious art form, although the medium still has a long way to go before everyone buys that. It's true, though. Unfortunately, when most people think of comics, they think of the original comics from the '40s, '50s, and '60s, back when Batman and Robin were fighting "Blockbuster," a villain who could kill Batman with his flashlight, or when Lois Lane could only watch helplessly as Superman was inexplicably transformed into a tree. Those comics were ridiculous. They couldn't help it -- I mean, that's what comics were. No one thought of pushing it farther. But then, in the 1970s, the writers tried pushing things forward a bit. The turning point: 1986, when Frank Miller's legendary "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" was published to ecstatic praise and major public attention. That book was a structured, clever, thoughtful, and complex narrative that proved comics could be more than pretty adventures for kids. Later that year, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons concocted "Watchmen." "Watchmen" was not only the best comic book of all time, but one of the best novels of the 20th century, even winding up on TIME magazine's list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Since then, the medium has continued to produce thought-provoking, intellectual, challenging pieces of work -- for the most part.

Which is why "The Death of Superman," which collects issues published from October to November of 2002, is so despicable. Heralded as the best-selling graphic novel of all time (which is often challenged by fans; a more likely candidate is "Arkham Asylum," published in 1989), "The Death of Superman" arc caused a massive stir when it was being published. News agencies around the globe covered the news. DC Comics was killing the Man of Steel, the original comic book superhero, for good (or so people thought). So imagine the disappointment and outrage when, a little over half a year later, Superman was resurrected. Turns out he was able to harness the sun's rays to "hibernate" during his death.

Personally, I think killing Superman is an awful, awful idea. To kill Batman makes sense. Batman is human, after all, and with his shenanigans it wouldn't be that surprising if someone finally struck down the Dark Knight. But Superman is not human. He is not someone plagued with ordinary human problems. He is a god. Most importantly, he is hope. He had been the shining beacon of hope for legions of comic fans young and old since debuting in 1939. DC didn't care. To generate more publicity for their comics, which were losing readers, they decided to kill him off. DC killed off hope. There is little that they could have done that would be more cruel.

They went even farther, though. It's one thing to give a superhero a fitting death, or even a vaguely plausible one. But "The Death of Superman" is brainless rubbish. Out of the blue, some kind of alien juggernaut (whose origins aren't addressed during this arc), nicknamed "Doomsday," appears on Earth and proceeds to destroy everything in his path without even breaking a sweat. He's unstoppable. He easily wipes out the Justice League, and then just keeps truckin' to Metropolis, where, as Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and the Kents watch, Doomsday strikes down Superman. Of course, Superman kills Doomsday in the process -- but not until Doomsday has inexplicably destroyed Superman.

Now, it would have been one thing to have Lex Luthor, Braniac, or one of the classic Superman villains come up with some devious plan to get rid of Superman. Instead, the writers created a villain out of nowhere, offering no explanation whatsoever as to how this random alien is able to easily kill Superman, and apparently feeling one wasn't necessary. Doomsday is a creation without any sort of intricacy or thought put into him. He was created solely to wipe out Superman in a way that wouldn't allow people to ask questions. As if that's not bad enough, along the way we have to put up with absurdly bad writing, which harkens back to the comic days of old. Back then, they didn't know any better. They were doing their best. By 1992, after the publication of "Dark Knight Returns," "Watchmen," or any comics like those, they should have known better.

For comic fans, "The Death of Superman" is required reading. After all, Superman dies. But it won't be an easy read. It's painful, dull, and often laughably bad. Its insulting simplicity and stupidity should make any true Superman fan quake with rage. Because the truth is, if books like "The Dark Knight Returns" or "Watchmen" moved the medium ahead 60 years, then comics like "The Death of Superman" set the medium back a solid 30 years anyway. It's just like superhero movies. Yeah, you can have an "X2" or "Spider-Man 2" that pushes the genre ahead, or even something like "The Dark Knight," which erases the concept of "genre" completely. But then you can have something like "Catwoman" or "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," and, well, after those, it's going to get a little harder to take superhero movies seriously. Ultimately, "The Death of Superman" is contemptible for its inexcusable execution, but it is truly despicable for doing one of the worst things human beings can do: exterminate hope.

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review by . October 12, 2009
This lengthy comic is generally a ferocious battle between a super villain called Doomsday and first the JLA and then Superman. Doomsday seems unstoppable, when he first appears the JLA minus Superman do battle against the rampaging monster to no avail. They are seriously defeated, some injured to near the point of death. Doomsday is not a monster with an agenda; the mind of the creature cannot be probed beyond the point of having the simple goal to destroy everything it encounters. A television …
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Tom Benton ()
Ranked #352
Aspiring high school English teacher with dreams of filmmaking and a strong taste for music.
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The Death of Supermanwas a 1992 stunt that turned out to be DC's bestsellingSupermancomic ever. The massive 11-issue crossover among four different series (Superman,Superman: The Man of Steel,Action Comics, andJustice League of America) introduces an unstoppable alien named Doomsday who creates a path of destruction on his way to the heart of Metropolis and whom Superman must stop at any cost. It's of interest as a milestone of the Superman mythos (though of course the outcome didn't last), but casual fans might be underwhelmed by the unfamiliar villain and the unfamiliar Justice League (with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and other minor heroes rather than the traditional lineup), the drawn-out story (by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern), and the ordinary art (by Jurgens, Jon Bogadanove, Tom Grummett, and Jackson Guice).--David Horiuchi
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ISBN-10: 1563890976
ISBN-13: 978-1563890970
Author: Dan Jurgens
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: DC Comics
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