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The story of The Death of Supermans conception goes back to the 1985 crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following that event, DC Comics rebooted their continuity and relaunched the Superman character with the mini-series The Man of Steel, written by John Byrne. However, due to di

The Death of Superman is a 1992 storyline that served as the catalyst for DC Comics' crossover event of 1993. The completed multi-issue story arc, with Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Superman, was given the title The Death and Return of Superman. The storyline, devised by editor Mike Carlin and the Superman writing team of Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, and Karl Kesel, met with enormous success: the Superman titles gained international exposure, reaching the top of comics sales charts and selling out overnight. The event was widely covered by national and international news media.

Synopsis

Origin

The story of The Death of Supermans conception goes back to the 1985 crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following that event, DC Comics rebooted their continuity and relaunched the Superman character with the mini-series The Man of Steel, written by John Byrne. However, due to disputes with DC, Byrne left the Superman books and was replaced by Roger Stern. While the stories continued from Byrne's revamp, sales slowly dropped. In an effort to attract female readers, the Lois Lane/Clark Kent/Superman love triangle, in place since 1938, changed. Thanks to John Byrne's revamp, Lois fell in love with Clark Kent rather than with Superman. In a story arc titled "Krisis of Krimson Kryptonite" Clark proposes to Lois; she accepts. Although the road was set for the marriage of Lois and Clark, an unforeseen event would change these plans.

Warner Bros., the owner of DC Comics, canceled the Superboy television series produced by Alexander Salkind (Salkind produced the first three Superman films starring Christopher Reeve, as well as the Supergirl movie). Warner Bros. created their own Superman television series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, premised upon a romantic relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent/Superman. One of the ideas that arose during production was the wedding of Lois Lane and Clark Kent/Superman. Warner Bros. learned that DC Comics planned a similar plotline in the Superman comic books, and as a result DC, Warner Bros., and the Superman writing staff came together and reached an agreement: the Lois and Clark wedding arc in the comic book would be put on hold, to resume once the Lois & Clark TV show reached its wedding episode.

Doomsday!

On the last page of several comics prior to Superman: The Man of Steel #18, a gloved fist is shown punching a steel wall, accompanied by the caption: "Doomsday is coming!" In that issue, Superman fights the Underworlders while a hulking figure in a green suit rampages through a pastoral field. This marks the first of seven issues in the "Death of Superman" story proper, which would continue through all four of the Superman books at that time, and one issue of Justice League America, before culminating in Superman (vol. 2) #75.

The Justice League (Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Maxima, Fire, Ice, and Bloodwynd) respond to a call from a smashed big-rig outside of Bucyrus, Ohio, and follow the trail of destruction which leads them to a confrontation with the mysterious creature. It hurls a tree trunk at Blue Beetle's aircraft, downing the ship. It then systematically takes the team apart, finishing by punching Booster Gold into the stratosphere. Booster Gold is caught in mid-air by Superman, and declares "It's like Doomsday is here," thus providing the monster with a name.

Superman dies in Lois Lane's arms in Metropolis.

The Man of Steel arrives on the scene, having cut short a television interview with Cat Grant in Justice League America #69. He and the able-bodied League members follow the threat to the home of a single mother and her two children, where their battle with "Doomsday" destroys the house. The League attacks Doomsday with all their energy-projection powers; the only discernible effect is that much of his bodysuit is blasted or burned off. Doomsday again defeats the League, causes the house to explode into flames, and then leaps away. Superman follows, having to ignore the son's cries for help if he is to stop Doomsday.

Superman throws Doomsday into the bottom of a lake, slowing him down long enough so that the Man of Steel can return and save the mother and her infant daughter. After Doomsday escapes from the silty lake bed, he and Superman tear up a city street. Maxima then re-enters the fray. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are sent to cover the battle for television, while Lex Luthor II dissuades Supergirl from joining the fight. The battle continues at a gas station, where Maxima rips a light post from the ground. The sparks from the wiring ignite the leaking gasoline and destroying the station in a huge explosion. Guardian arrives after Doomsday leaves, finding Superman and Maxima, and offers his aid.

Superman then follows Doomsday's trail of destruction, waiting for an opportunity to attack. With the monster's rampage drawing closer, Lex Jr. convinces Supergirl that she's needed in Metropolis while Superman is fighting elsewhere. While demolishing an appliance store, Doomsday sees a TV commercial for a wrestling show being held in Metropolis, and after seeing a road sign for Metropolis, heads in that direction. Superman engages him and throws him in the opposite direction, where he lands on the mountain housing Project Cadmus. They brawl throughout Habitat, a living forest connected to Cadmus, bringing most of it down. When Guardian arrives, Doomsday knocks him down and leaps toward Metropolis.

Doomsday is driven below ground, where he ruptures gas and electrical mains, leveling Newtown, a large section of Metropolis. Supergirl goes to Superman's aid, but a single punch from Doomsday knocks her to the ground, her form destabilized. Professor Hamilton and Bibbo, Superman's allies, fire a laser cannon at Doomsday, but it does not harm him. The local police open fire on Doomsday, but again, he is not harmed. Superman returns to the fight.

Superman and Doomsday lay into each other with everything they have. They strike each other so hard that the shockwaves from their punches shatter windows. At the struggle's culminating moment, each fighter lands a massive blow upon his opponent. The two titans collapse and moments later, in the arms of a frantic Lois Lane, Superman succumbs to his wounds and dies. Jimmy, Ice and Bloodwynd are also present at the end.

The climactic event happened in Superman (vol. 2) #75. The issue only contains 22 panels, and every page was a single panel, which was a structure building on the previous issues — Adventures of Superman #497 was done entirely with four-panel pages, Action Comics #684 with three, and Superman: The Man of Steel #19 with two. The entire story was immediately collected into a trade paperback and titled The Death of Superman.

Funeral for a Friend

The funeral that followed featured many of Superman's fellow heroes and friends, including most of Justice League America, and a mausoleum was built in Metropolis in honor of the Man of Steel. During this time, every hero in the DC Universe sported a black arm band featuring the S-Shield logo. Some time later, Project Cadmus stole Superman's body from his mausoleum. It was hypothesized that they were attempting to clone him. The body was recovered by Lois Lane and Supergirl.

The stories after the funeral often dealt with the emotions felt by the general public as well as specific characters entwined within Superman's world, including Lois Lane, Clark Kent's parents, and even a number of supervillains. Also, the (then) President of the United States, Bill Clinton and wife Hillary were included in a scene during the funeral. With Superman gone, crime rises up again and the costumed heroes of Metropolis rise to fill in as protectors. Supergirl, Gangbuster, Thorn, and even Team Luthor, a Lexcorp-sponsored team, all tried but were not sufficient. Meanwhile, Jonathan Kent took the death of his adoptive son the hardest and as a result, suffered a heart attack. At this point, all Superman comic titles went on a three-month hiatus.

The story was also collected into trade paperback form. Rather than using the banner title Funeral for a Friend, the title used for the collection was World Without a Superman.

Reign of the Supermen!

Following a three month hiatus on the Superman titles, all of them were relaunched. Four new heroes emerged in Superman's place, one in each title, each claiming in some way to be Superman. The story of Adventures of Superman #500 followed Jonathan Kent into the Afterlife. In a possible hallucination, he convinced Superman's soul to come back with him to the living. The only "evidence" that this was not a hallucination was the fact that shortly after Jonathan was revived, four individuals arrived in Metropolis claiming to be Superman. This storyline was known as Reign of the Supermen!

The Cyborg Superman.

Each of the Supermen were designed with ideas taken from some of the monikers that Superman is often associated with. The four new heroes were:

  • The Man of Steel: John Henry Irons was an ironworker and ex-weapons designer for the military who wears a suit of armor and wields a hammer. He did not claim to actually be Superman, but rather to represent the spirit of Superman and continue his legacy. The Man of Steel appeared in Superman: The Man of Steel starting with #22. He later changed his name to just "Steel".
  • The Man of Tomorrow, also called the Cyborg Superman, arrived with augmented Kryptonian technology. He was scientifically proven to be Superman but claims amnesia in explanation to his part-mechanical nature. The Cyborg Superman appeared in Superman starting with #78. He later became a major supervillain.
  • The Metropolis Kid, who hated being called Superboy, is a reckless teenage clone of Superman. This Superman appeared in the The Adventures of Superman starting with #501. He is a result of the brief time Cadmus attempted to clone Superman. He later had a career as Superboy.
  • The Last Son of Krypton was a visored, energy-powered alien who dealt with criminals lethally. The Last Son of Krypton appeared in Action Comics starting with #687. He claims to have the memories of the original Superman, but his emotional distance makes Lois uncertain. He later became the Eradicator.

The first issue for each of the new heroes featured a cardstock cover and a poster of the new hero.

The first half of the Reign of the Supermen! story focuses on each of the Supermen "resuming" his duty as protector of Metropolis and gaining acceptance from the public. Of the four, the reader very quickly learns that neither the cloned Metropolis Kid nor the John Henry Irons Man of Steel are the real Superman. The Cyborg Man of Tomorrow and the Last Son of Krypton were easily bought in by the people as the possible real Superman, since Lois questioned both of them, and both recalled memories which Clark Kent had. Cyborg was even tested by Dr. Hamilton who stated that the Cyborg appeared to be the real Superman.

Kon-El as Superboy

In actuality, the Last Son of Krypton stole Superman's body and put it in a regeneration matrix in the Fortress of Solitude, drawing on his recovering energies to power himself, as bright light blinded him. It is revealed that the Last Son is the Eradicator, an ancient Kryptonian weapon, and the Cyborg is the deranged consciousness of Hank Henshaw, which used Superman's birthing matrix to create a physical duplicate of his body.

The regeneration matrix broke open, and the original Superman emerged, greatly depowered, but alive. Meanwhile, the Cyborg helped Mongul destroy Coast City, believing he killed the Last Son in the explosion, and captured Superboy, holding him in Engine City, a towering construct erected where Coast City once stood. Superboy escaped and flew back to Metropolis to get the Man of Steel to help him fight the Cyborg. Before he could tell the whole story, however, an overbearing Kryptonian Battlesuit rose out of the harbor, and the two heroes attacked it.

Eradicator as seen in the Reign of the Supermen! story arc.

After suffering heavy damage, the suit opened, revealing a still-weak Superman, who had used it to walk all the way back from the Fortress of Solitude. Despite his weakened state, he quickly joined the other Supermen in defending Coast City. Upon his revelation, he acknowledged himself as the real Superman (the fifth person at this point to claim that title). When asked by Lois Lane what made him any different from the other Supermen, he responded with "How about... To Kill A Mockingbird?" (Clark Kent's favorite movie, and something he shared with only those closest to him). Though she remained hesitant, Lois mentally acknowledged that this was something only the real Clark Kent would know.

During the battle of Coast City, the Cyborg launched a devastating missile at Metropolis, with the intent of destroying it and putting a second Engine City in its place. Superboy managed to grab onto the missile as it launched, riding it all the way to Metropolis, which he narrowly saved from destruction.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan had returned from space to find his hometown destroyed. He immediately attacked Engine City and fought Mongul, shattering the Man of Steel's hammer across his face. Meanwhile, the Last Son/Eradicator joined the fight after recovering in the Fortress, and blocked the Cyborg from dousing Superman with lethal Kryptonite gas. The gas interacted with the Eradicator as it passed through and into Superman, returning his powers rather than killing him. The Eradicator's body degenerated into a lifeless husk, and the Cyborg looked for Superman's body in the debris and Kryptonite mist. Superman blindsided him with an attack using his super-strength, and he punched a hole right through the Cyborg. He destroyed his body, but his consciousness survived. Supergirl used the remnants of the black Kryptonian suit to re-create Superman's traditional costume, and the group returned to Metropolis.

Again, like the previous two storylines, the collected edition of Reign of the Supermen! did not use its original title, DC Comics instead chose to use The Return of Superman.

Issues

Doomsday!

Funeral for a Friend

Reign of the Supermen!


Recommended Reading

Links and References


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Superman Family Storyline
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This event or storyline is specifically related to Superman, or to members of the Superman Family. This template will automatically categorize articles that include it into the Superman Storylines category.

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The Death and Return of Superman

The events from this issue or series are related to The Death and Return of Superman, a retroactively named trilogy in which Superman is killed by the monster Doomsday. Later, four superheroes debut in Metropolis who claim or are assumed to be reincarnations of him—the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, and Superboy. Meanwhile, Superman is brought back to life.

This template will automatically categorize articles that include it into the Death and Return of Superman Crossovers category.

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