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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #498


90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0498Death of a Legend

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with a note to see Justice League America #70, which ALSO picked up from the final moments of Superman #75.

We open on an awkward full page shot of Superman’s body slumped against Lois, his cape draped over his chest while Lois looks over the shoulder of the reader, Jimmy stands behind her, The Guardian is seen behind him, while Bloodwynd holds the unconscious body of Ice off to the side. Bloodwynd has declared Superman dead–though Ice may yet live if he gets her to a hospital, and Jimmy questions Lois as to their taking Bloodwynd’s word for it that Superman’s actually dead. Subsequent pages bring us the reactions of various individuals–Dubbilex, Maggie Sawyer, Dan Turpin, Lois, Jimmy, Guardian, various SCU folks and some Cadmus…and Cat Grant joins in as well. Reactions to Superman’s fall; to whether or not the beast Doomsday is dead, and attempts to resuscitate Superman himself. While resuscitation attempts continue, Turpin wanders off, lamenting another loss and is startled by what appears to be a totally burned body and then the arrival of Lex Luthor II who carries it off, calling it his Supergirl.

Cat gives Lois a tough-love pep talk as tv crews arrive/set up, and as we see Cat begin her tv report on the fallen hero, we get a scene with Jose Delgado–Gangbuster, with Cat’s kid Adam as they react to the news. We get a scene of Jonathan and Martha Kent at home reacting to the news. Cadmus begins to remove Doomsday’s body, but is challenged when they try to remove Superman’s as well. With the arrival of Professor Hamilton and Bibbo with an energy-collection device, one last attempt is made to resuscitate the Man of Steel…that doesn’t work. Shifting to the Daily Planet, Perry White and Jimmy discuss Jimmy’s photos and they realize that as hard as they have things, Lois is hit harder…both with Superman having died in her arms…and her fiancé, Clark, is among the missing in the wake of Doomsday’s destructive rampage. Lois finishes typing her story to hand in to Perry, as he and Jimmy try to encourage her, that Clark will be found…though she tells them that Clark’s luck ran out when Superman died.

Like Superman #75, this is an extremely "iconic" issue to me. The cover certainly…black border as is the "trade dress" for the Funeral For a Friend arc–with further black background as the main image is a photograph–Jimmy’s–of Superman laying on the cracked pavement. While the cover image is symbolic, it’s also part of the story, as this photo is one that I believe gets mentioned a number of times in-continuity, and I believe is a referential image later for the "death of Superman" issue of the Planet. Other than some color variations for the LOGO The Adventures of Superman and a Roman numeral (or lack thereof) and a bar code or not…the cover itself–trade dress, image, etc–remains the same. There is REALLY only ONE COVER for this issue. Of course, there’d be probably a DOZEN or more if this was published in 2022, and it’d be an extra-sized $5.99+ issue rather than "just" "the next issue" of a title at regular price.

While I tend to think of Dan Jurgens first as my favorite Superman artist, Grummett is absolutely right up there with him! The characters are extremely recognizable and–while going solely on memory withOUT comparing any issues side-by-side–consistent. This does not feel like "this issue’s artist’s ‘take’ on the characters," it just looks like those characters, as drawn by this artist. The art is distinct, it is different, but it does not have a feel of TRYING TO BE different or trying to stand out from the other Superman titles of the time, or to be some singular/distinctive "interpretation" of the character(s).

The writing is hardly noticeable in a way. For me, as an issue this close to Superman #75 and that–along with that issue–I’ve probably read more times over the years than just about any other single issue of a comic series–the story just IS. The characters just ARE. In reading the issue, I simply am watching the story unfold, and the characters all seem like themselves…in-character, acting as one might expect, etc. Though one COULD "join in" at this issue, you’d be kinda fending for yourself. You’re not spoon-fed WHO the characters are, what they’re all about, backstories and nuances and context. That stuff’s there if you know the general Superman stuff of the era, and there’s plenty to pick up on having that sort of context, or simply authentic-seeming details to suggest these are real characters inhabiting a real world going on in real time. There are a lot of characters and subplots present, the stories being nudged along…advancing, but not racing forward. Some jumps are a little abrupt, but some of that I think only seems so by comparison to modern "decompressed" comics.

This issue has a whole new sort of impact on me in early 2022. While I’ve lost a number of extended family members over the years, I’ve never experienced loss QUITE so close before as losing my Dad less than 48 hours before the new year, five weeks ago as of this typing.

There are some moments in the issue that especially stand out to me, that have stuck with me over the years. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of deja vu but I’m pretty sure I had a mental "flash" to the Guardian’s yelling "Then melt the blasted paddles!" while I saw what I saw in the hospital when I lost Dad.

And then there’s Jimmy’s frustration he shares with Perry: "I mean, the way everyone’s crawling over everyone else to be the first to officially pronounce Superman dead…you’d think they were HAPPY he died, to save them all from a slow news day!" That was poignant THEN 29 years ago and it’s all the MORE poignant NOW in 2022! Whether it’s comics sites tripping over one another to be "first!" to spoil something, or any "news" outlet PERIOD trying to be the first to post something public about WHATEVER.

I have a new sort of identification with Lois–the shock of seeing a particular death, of (perhaps projecting) seeing them given up on as even heroic efforts aren’t enough, of having to "go through the motions" and someone "existing" or "functioning," after being through a sudden, virtually-unthinkable loss. My own real-world loss also makes it far more identifiable with so many characters as they react. Knowing what I thought and felt and would have done if I could, the helplessness, all of it…there’s a painful authenticity to this issue that I never fully "understood" before.

While not necessarily FREQUENT, I have definitely found this issue in quarter-bins and other bargain bins. Particularly if you’re not looking for a high-grade first printing and just want THE ISSUE, I wouldn’t pay more than a couple dollars for it; pretty much anything over cover price (if that much, even) would be more of a "convenience fee" for immediacy, to me. You can find this issue digitally, and there have been a number of printings and editions of collected volumes with it, and there are at least 3 printings of the issue that I’m aware of (having a first and a third printing in front of me as I type).

As a "part of history" or just part of what I consider to be an extremely high-quality "era" for Superman, I’d definitely recommend the issue if you’re at all interested in Superman, these characters, or the story in general. I’m surprised at how well it seems to "hold up" nearly 30 years later…though that may be my "closeness" and that this is SUCH a part of my childhood and early period with comics.

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One Response

  1. […] the front page of the Daily Planet indeed using that ‘photo’ from the cover of Adventures of Superman #498 stating Superman–Dead. Tv news informs the world of the events of the day up to […]

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