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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #77

90s_revisited

superman_0077The End

Words & Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Brett Breeding
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Edits: Jennifer Frank
Edits: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: March 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

While this issue’s cover isn’t “bright and flashy” and no “gimmicks” and it’s just a singular cover, period–no variants, no sketch versions, no blank versions, etc…it’s deep. It’s simple, but meaningful. It’s labeled “The End” on the cover. And for a couple months, it WAS. In a way, this was truly the end. Superman was dead. There’d been a funeral. Respects paid, memorials. This was an ending for sure.

The issue opens on Luthor in a training session; he’s none too happy to take a kick in his distraction, reflecting on what he’s himself lost with the death of Superman. Lois and Supergirl interrupt with the revelation of Cadmus’ involvement with the missing body. “Meanwhile,” Jonathan Kent–code blue–is being rushed through a hospital with a distraught Martha nearby. We see parallels of the present with Jonathan’s perception/memories of the past and his boy. Also meanwhile, Jimmy’s meeting with higher-ups of the Planet and Newstime, as his photos will be used for a memorial issue of the magazine…and he–Jimmy–should be the one to choose the photo for the cover. Someone attacks Sasha–one of the trainers–in the locker room; while Supergirl leaves Lois outside of Cadmus when she realizes the reporter isn’t entirely in the moment. Supposedly for her own safety, but that leads Lois to join up with some “Outsiders” to get in. While Cadmus security is well aware of someone breaching, they prove no match for Supergirl…who Lois and the Outsiders meet as she bears the body of Superman from the facility. At the hospital, medical personnel fight to save Jonathan, as Superman fought to save others. In Metropolis, Superman’s body is returned to the crypt, and a new casket is provided. Lois says one final goodbye, and Luthor asks for a moment alone…where he gloats over the casket.

At the hospital, the doctor pounds Jonathan’s chest, urging him to breathe! He opens his eyes–horrified at the idea of Doomsday, urging Clark to look out–and he fades. The heart monitor sounds its alarm, Martha rushes toward the bed, Jonathan “sees” Clark–as Superman–telling him not to be afraid, and reaching for him. As Jonathan takes Clark’s hand, Martha grasp’s Jonathan’s…the monitor remains flat, as Martha holds Jonathan’s hand, begging him not to leave her alone.

The End.

The issue actually ends with those words. “The End.” It’s the end of the issue. End of the story. Superman is gone. Jonathan’s heart’s given out, Martha’s left holding his hand, now losing her husband on top of just weeks earlier having lost her son. There’s no solicitation for Superman #78. There are some of stand-in books: The Legacy of Superman, Supergirl and Team Luthor, the Newstime special. But no Superman #78. No Adventures of Superman #500. No Action Comics #687. No Man of Steel #22.

Jurgens’ art is just about my favorite for Superman–character and this comic series–but it feels more subtle here, somehow. It just IS…it doesn’t call undue attention to itself, nor does it distract. I recognize some of Jimmy’s photos…I’m not sure if I did originally when this was published, but knowing what I do in 2022, I’m pretty sure one photo may have been the one Jimmy took at the end of the Exile arc. Another maybe around that time with Matrix standing in for Clark. And of course, the iconic Newstime cover photo of the shredded cape; and the iconic images of Superman on the pavement where he fell; as well as the combatants falling away from each other from the final blows. This “re-using” of art may or may not be direct…but it’s close enough to assume it’s “re-use.” I normally would consider it a cop-out, especially on a full page…but here, it serves as actual continuity; the images are–if I’m not projecting–from multiple previous issues/instances that a reader can go back and find on-panel of Jimmy taking!

Story-wise, I still could do without the Cadmus stuff; but at least it was minimal. I did not even remember the “Outsiders” in this issue until I got to their page. I remembered Lois’ daydream/flashback, but not that it was while she was with Supergirl. Jonathan’s memory/hallucinating of Clark and the old car fits right in with what we saw in Man of Steel #21; though jumping between the present and past with doctors and the hospital rather than Jonathan being in different places at the farm differentiates.

I can only imagine Lois’ horror at seeing someone carrying her fiance’s body “loose,” mostly covered with a cape, but no casket/stretcher/etc; no dignified transport. And seeing the body in a casket, one last look before knowing one’s earthly eyes would never again see that person…I “get” that.

I knew coming into the issue–even this entire story–that this final scene with Jon, Martha, the hospital–that it would be hard on me. Because while I could read the words on the page, see the images on the page, KNOW that this is fiction, that it’s a story with these fictional characters–Jonathan Kent, his wife Martha, their son Clark–a superhero, a Superman–the imagery obviously rooting it in the events of the Doomsday arc, the Superman comics of the early-1990s…its parallels struck me in the reading, even as the memory of them had crossed my mind in a hospital room just hours shy of six weeks ago as I TYPE this. [EDIT: 9 weeks tomorrow, as this post has gone live]

These pages were a gut punch in the past. I remember at least one time reading them, and FEELING them, and being moved to tears. I don’t remember exact time, just that I have that memory. This time, they’re far more personal, too personal, too identifiable. As I imagine it is for many more than just me.

“The End.”

Of life as it was known. As it was with people important and crucial to our lives. Even IF a larger story continues…there’s still that ending.

And so we have that here.

I know what comes next; and I kinda remember that sense of finality with this issue initially. I’m far from impartial here.

But it’s possible that I even dove into this story now when I have, and stepped through each issue individually…not so much “for” the “29th anniversary” of their seeing print…but as a part of processing my own loss, of my Dad. I don’t remember talking to him, really, about these issues…but I’m confident that I remember THAT he’d read this entire story. Pretty sure he did not read Adventures of Superman #500…but he read Doomsday with me that night in November 1992, and I am pretty sure he read these issues, too, as they came out, as he took me to Capp’s Comics each week to get them.

There are few stories out there that have stuck with me so much. Sure, I forgot a lot of small details…but other details and “moments” throughout Funeral for a Friend were either very clearly in my memory, or had left their marks on my memory. Part of the significance is surely that it was such a momentous time in comics in general, and I was there. I was a kid and hadn’t yet been jaded by the “industry” and such; I didn’t yet realize “the speculator” stuff; etc.

And I got to read comics with my Dad.

Funeral for a Friend is “the heart of the story.” It’s why there was a Doomsday!, why we had The Death of Superman. So that we could get this. It took a 7-issue story to show Superman’s fall; these 8 issues to take us through the aftermath and the deep moments and reflections of the supporting cast and guest-stars; and sure, it left us with a five-month saga later to get the pieces put back for “status quo,” but that’s something for another time.

You don’t have to have read Doomsday, you don’t have to read Reign of the Supermen. But if you want a deep, moving story about Superman…this is it. Even though he’s not even truly “in” it…it’s about him, it’s about his impact on others, how they deal with losing him…even if you cut out a couple chapters, the first 3-4 and this one cover a lot of ground.

Definitely recommended–especially as a complete story.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #21

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0021Ghosts

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Ed: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: March 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

It’s odd, somehow, in a way…this issue’s cover–Martha running through the field screaming "JON!" and seeing him laying face-down in it…even though I remember reading all these issues basically as they came out, as a kid…THIS one I feel deja vu or SOMEthing, I remember actually being AT Capp’s Comics, picking a copy of this issue up off the table there, the week this came out.

The issue opens with Lois standing on some sort of catwalk or platform with a huge whirlpool in the background, and Superman drowning in it. She "reports" on the situation, but seems oblivious to Superman’s need. It turns out to be a dream…obviously her guilt over only "reporting on" his battle with Doomsday and not doing anything substantive to SAVE him from Doomsday. The whirlpool is mirrored in real life as Metropolis is flooding! Meanwhile, the Kents arrive back at the farm in Kansas and reminisce; Jonathan especially confronts "ghosts" in the form of certain memories sparked by stuff around him. A poignant moment with young Clark and the calf Bessie…even as Jonathan had praised Clark’s care of her, Clark said it was Pa…Jonathan taught HIM how TO care!

Also meanwhile, in Cadmus, the Newsboy Legion finds Guardian and Dubbilex conflicted over keeping Superman’s body; while Lois talks with a cab driver as she heads to the park. Jonathan remembers young Clark and his raisin-oatmeal "airplanes" and a toy plane he gave the boy. The Underworlders continue to deal with the flood; the Newsboys lead Guardian to where the flood is getting into Cadmus…and we cut away to see Batman with Alfred, reflecting on the Kryptonite ring Clark gave him in case he ever had to be stopped. Lois joins the Underworlders and ultimately finds Superman’s body at Cadmus. They’re unable to actually take the body back before the alarm is sounded, but Lois is able to get back and expose the fact THAT the body’s been stolen/held. And though she’d spoken to them about it and promised she’ll see the body returned…the news being out there is too much for Jonathan and he collapses by the crater where baby Kal-El first arrived, leaving Martha holding him in despair.

I think I’d mentioned with Man of Steel #20 that Bogdanove‘s art is my least-favorite of the four Superman titles in this period. While that may be…I was rather surprised toward the end of this issue when I "realized" that I WAS reading an issue of Man of Steel…because somehow, that did not stand out to me here. It even took a little bit for it to "dawn on me" that this MUST be Man of Steel, given the heavy amount of page space given to the Underworlders. While the visuals are obviously Bogdanove…they fit this issue quite well and conveyed the story, and especially worked for the Kents’ scenes.

Just as with Adventures of Superman #499 where I did not remember the details of Turpin vs. Underworlders…I did not remember the extend of the Underworlders’ plight with the flooding for this issue. What I DID remember was Jonathan’s flashbacks/hallucinations/memories of Clark. Those are sort of "surfacey" in a way, only getting about a page each…but they’re deep when CONSIDERING them more deeply. I can by far appreciate more now than ever before seeing stuff and pausing, remembering. Seeing someone so clearly in "the mind’s eye," remembering just these tidbits or "moments" or a handful of words exchanged with a lost loved one. I’ve lost my Dad, so it’s not the same as a father having lost his son and remembering…but the tone, the feeling, the authenticity of it…hits hard.

I still don’t like the Underworlders stuff. While they "fit" in a world where aliens can be raised as humans, have superpowers and all that…they just don’t "work" for me HERE, in this sort of story where I’m more interested in character interactions than "action," and 29 years removed, don’t have the full, ongoing context that the Underworlders subplots had in 1992/1993. What I recall of the novelization excised them, and having read that several times as well as the comics over the years…they just don’t "hold up" for me nor have quite as important a part in what memories I’ve maintained OF the story in general.

This is definitely a solid issue…we get development and forward movement with the on-panel discovery of Superman’s body; that Lois knows; that she gets the word out. The plight of the Underworlders does show how their world has been upended by all this, not mention the allegory or whatever of people slipping through the cracks, which perhaps puts me in a bad light given my reaction to the characters and their presence in this story.

Much of this issue though is stuff I don’t care much for…but the scenes with Jonathan and Martha…and the (surprise/I’d totally forgotten about it) one with Batman and Alfred definitely make the issue worth reading.

I’ve got a couple scenes bubbling up that I apparently remember from the next/final chapter of Funeral for a Friend…and one may well be one of the harder ones for me of this entire story.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #686

90s_revisited

action_comics_0686Who’s Buried in Superman’s Tomb?

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

While literally a bit "dark" in coloring, this is another "recognizable" cover for me…specifically because it is part of this Funeral for a Friend story, with the black border, Supergirl starring in Action Comics, showing her on the cover, with the question "Who’s buried in Superman’s tomb?" The image is presumably the point of view of the empty tomb looking out, and is a memorable cover…even though prior to this re-read, I really could not have specified from memory what actually went down in this issue.

We open on the Guardian dealing with the hijackers of a van, before he’s summoned back to Cadmus by Dubbilex. Meanwhile, Luthor and Happerson discuss Superman’s missing body and Luthor wonders if all of this is some ruse by Superman to catch him unawares–we get slight flashbacks to the "truth" behind our young Luthor here. Luthor meets Supergirl, Turpin, and Maggie Sawyer to investigate the tunnels under the tomb, while Guardian arrives at Cadmus and discovers what Westfield’s been up to. Though appalling, with the argument that they might be able to–for Superman, for Metropolis–at least create some facsimile of the Man of Steel, Guardian hesitantly stands down. Back in the tunnels, Supergirl just manages to save her "crew" when an undetonated charge detonates, flooding the tunnel. Seeing the Superman cultists outside the tomb, they agree to keep the missing body hush-hush for now. And amidst these events, we see Lana and the Kents preparing to leave, and Lana and Lois get a connecting moment.

While–as said–I could not have recounted to you from memory what went down in this issue…having now re-read it, there’s a fair bit that stands out. I do remember that at the time–first time or so I read this–I pretty much totally "missed" the Luthor stuff. I mean, I read it…but I had no context at that point. I missed the entire "Death of Luthor" stuff by a few months and this Lex Luthor II was already present when I came back during the Eclipso stuff, end of Panic in the Sky, etc. in 1992. I also knew next to nothing about Guardian’s background, particularly the present-day status quo…just that he was a character that was "there." Having come to realize–particularly from the Death and Life of Superman novel–stuff seems natural and obvious to me here such that I "know" more than what’s let on.

While the Cadmus stuff is fairly important to the story, I would’ve preferred a lot more "tell, don’t show" on that with much more page space given to Lois, Lana, and the Kents and their relationship.

Visually, this is another great issue…though it did seem to have more double-page splashes than I remembered being in most issues. At least even those have dialogue, though, rather than being multi-page filler that we often seem to get in contemporary comics.

I’m really feeling like Funeral for a Friend is essentially two 4-parters joined as one 8-parter. The first four chapters with the immediate aftermath, moving to the funeral itself and into the heroes gathering to help on Christmas Eve. And then this Cadmus-steals-Superman’s-body stuff. That leaves this as another issue I’m not gushing over, and that I felt a lot more disconnect from, compared to the opening chapters.

As with Adventures of Superman #499…I’d definitely recommend this as part of the "set" of the story, but I definitely would not specifically, singly recommend this as a stand-alone in-a-vacuum issue.

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #499

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0499Grave Obsession

Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Scripts: Jerry Ordway
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Assists: Jennifer Frank
Edits: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

We open with Lex and Supergirl finding an alarm going off…it’s from Superman’s tomb. Movement’s been detected, so Lex sends Supergirl to investigate. In her investigating the site, she inadvertently winds up getting the SCU involved as THEY investigate the movement of the grate over an airshaft that she opened. While she investigates the tunnel she’s found, we cut to Jose Delgado–Gangbuster–as he ponders where to go and what to do; as well as check in on Lois and the Kents as each feels they’ve been no good to the other(s).  Supergirl finds Underworlders and winds up fighting them–as does Turpin (without the SCU actually present). Meanwhile, Gangbuster’s back in action. Supergirl and Turpin get away from the Underworlders, as they realize that the culprit behind the missing body has gotta be Cadmus.

Over the years, I’ve read the comics, read the novelization, listened to the audio drama…and there’ve even been a couple animated films. The films of course rushed through the funeral stuff as if the POINT of the story was to kill Superman and then bring him back. My understanding and how I feel is that the point of the story was to detail a world without Superman…just that after that story, it was necessary with a corporately-owned character such as this to return the status quo–eventually–hence the eventual return. But with the various iterations of the story over the years, it’s interesting the elements that stand out and I remember, and the stuff I forgot.

So this issue is a lot more "action-oriented," rather than character-focused. We get SOME of that character stuff, but it’s brief and primarily contained to Gangbuster, Lois, and the Kents (with no mention of Lana). I’ve never cared for the Underworlders…not in 1992, not in 2022, nor the decades between. I remembered Supergirl investigating the motion sensors and finding tunnels…but I think the Underworlders may have been left out of the novelization and audio drama, so I’m less familiar with their part–and Turpin’s dragged-out fight with them.

I do feel like this chapter was dragged out quite a bit, and while I don’t recall specific details now from the next chapter, the tunnels and such I thought I remembered from that issue.

Story-wise this is a solid issue, if rather boring due to my distaste for the Underworlders stuff. Carve that out and the fact of Luthor’s motion sensors picking something up, Supergirl investigates, and Lois with the Kents could be tacked into another issue, perhaps. It’s not bad, just not to my taste…and probably a reason I remembered more from the first few chapters of Funeral for a Friend than latter stuff. The "Sequence Number Seven" move of an Underworlder dropping a grenade with someone to cover an escape rings a bit of a bell for me as a recurring thing…but it’s been so long now that I’d all but forgotten.

Visually this is a definite treat again…and as much as I don’t care for those Underworlders, Grummett gives us a great Clawster! The cover is also rather iconic, giving us a great look at the Superman statue…and that may be the best part of this issue!

This is definitely my least-favorite chapter of the story so far…though I’m sure it serves its purpose in bridging parts of the story, going from the immediate reactions to Superman’s death, the obvious funeral, and the other heroes doing stuff to honor their fallen friend…to Cadmus getting the body and setting up stuff for the rest of the back-half of the story.

Unlike other chapters, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this one in a vacuum…it’s worth getting if you find the series in a bargain bin, and the art is great just to look at. But while the issue is fairly well contained, it’s not all that interesting or stand-out to me as a single, isolated thing.

I do look forward to getting to the next chapter and seeing what ELSE I’ve forgotten and see how that hits me!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #76

90s_revisitedsuperman_0076Metropolis Mailbag II
 
Story & Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Letterer: John Costanza
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics
 
We open this issue on captain Marvel (aka "Shazam!" but he’s the original Captain Marvel!) descending to the roof of the Daily Planet, where a number of heroes have gathered despite the rain. It’s Christmas Eve, and they’ve carved time out to tackle the "Metropolis mailbag," letters sent to Superman, and they’re going to try to fulfill what requests they can since Superman can’t be there to do it himself. Meanwhile, Mitch Anderson has arrived in Metropolis and finds his way to where "Mrs. Superman" is holding a press conference…he’s run away from home in order TO try to make contact with Superman’s family. Jimmy and Lois were present as well…though Lois leaves, disgusted, at the so-called "Mrs. Superman," having told Jimmy "She’s no more Mrs. Superman than I am!" Jimmy notices Mitch and takes the kid under his wing. Lois gets to Clark’s apartment where Jonathan and Martha have arrived…as well as Lana Lang.
 
Jimmy takes Mitch to meet Bibbo where the three share a meal and talk, and find that Mitch believes that if HE hadn’t called Superman back to help HIS family…then Superman would have caught and beaten Doomsday withOUT dying (see Superman #74 / Adventures of Superman #497). Jimmy and Bibbo eventually get Mitch situated to return home, though they have one more place to take him before he leaves. At Clark’s, the Kents, Lois, and Lana discuss whether or no to step forth with the truth of Clark Kent/Superman, deciding that while someone will eventually discover the secret, they don’t have to hasten it. Elsewhere, one of the requests the heroes came across was a woman whose home was destroyed by Doomsday, and the Flash and Green Lantern (advised by the architect?) rebuild. Wonder Woman sought out a man who’d left his wife and kids and didn’t know they’d been involved in the Doomsday stuff. At Superman’s memorial statue, Mitch thanks Superman for saving his mom and baby sister, and as he leaves a photo of his whole family, the threads come together and we see that Wonder Woman has reunited his parents, their home’s been rebuilt, and as readers we see that Jimmy’s telling Mitch to have hope of stuff working out is well-placed. Meanwhile, beneath the crypt…Westfield’s goons have drilled into the burial chamber and make off with the coffin–Superman’s body.
 
This is yet another iconic cover and issue to me. The cover has a bunch of heroes atop the corner of the Daily Planet building and globe, Batman front-and-center (before it became the disgusting cliché I’d see it as if this was published in 2022), apparently casting the shredded remains of Superman’s cape off the building. Iconic, if a bit odd…almost like in a different context, they’re celebrating the DEFEAT of Superman at their combined forces.
 
I don’t remember offhand if I’d read whatever issue had the ORIGINAL "Metropolis Mailbag" story, but I do remember THIS one. As a kid I don’t think I realized how cliché this story is, how CONVENIENT it is to focus on allllll these heroes and we mainly see them rebuilding Mitch’s family’s life. Not that it’s a bad focus–and surely in 2022 we’d have three months’ worth of one-shots, each focusing on a different hero and their individual "mission(s)" from the mailbag–it’s implied they do so much more, the issue simply focuses on these relevant parts.
 
I was always with Jimmy and Bibbo and wondered how Mitch could truly blame himself for Superman’s death. Unfortunately, I do now know how that works and the way one can draw a line between their own actions and someone’s death and feel the weight of self-blame.
 
So the story is good, and the art is fantastic. As much space as I used to synopsize the story, I don’t do it full justice…you really need to read it yourself for the full impact.
 
This issue is a "contextual one-shot," in that it draws from the current continuity of the books from the time, ties directly to those events and sets up stuff for subsequent chapters…but by and large this stands alone. Superman is dead, and these characters are interacting in the aftermath.
 
This issue is oddly specific in its timeframe…it is specifically set on Christmas Eve. December 24. Batman states that "We did just bury Superman last week." Which suggests, certainly, that Doomsday! happened in early December…we’re presumably just a couple weeks or so removed from Superman’s death; and a week removed from the funeral. Most comics don’t seem to get this specific time-wise. I don’t think it gets particularly referenced beyond this issue, and I’m pretty sure that all told, the events of Doomsday, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen only take place across a couple months in-continuity; though real world, we saw events unfold across about 10 months.
 
Between the plot of this issue and some mental association I have between this issue and my grandparents’ house, I’m quite certain this came out the week before Christmas in 1992. (according to Mike’s Amazing World, December 22, 1992)
 
While there’s definitely stuff I remember–"moments"–from the ‘back half’ of this 8-part story…I feel offhand like it’s these first four chapters that I most remember…probably because of their being much more "immediate" after Superman #75. The next few chapters all have an entire issue BETWEEN them and the Doomsday arc…a couple months’ time real-world. Though I suppose as I get to and go through those chapters, even more familiarity may come back to me. I suppose also that some of the "feeling" I have and associate with these first few chapters have something to do with that sense of the season, from right before Thanksgiving into Christmas.
 
As said earlier, this issue definitely works as a one-shot, and I would absolutely recommend it if you find it in a bargain bin, regardless of having the other issues handy.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #20

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0020Funeral Day

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Ass’t Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens a bit like a tv show with a “soft open” or “prologue” before getting to the main thrust of the issue and its credits. We see last-second construction and prep-work/planning being done for Superman’s funeral, checking in with construction workers and Luthor/Supergirl. We see the Kents dealing with the pending event from afar…while Jimmy is discouraged at “praise” being heaped on him by a coworker for his “death photo” of Superman. Lois torments herself for not yet having CALLED the Kents, and turns down Perry’s offer to take his spot at the funeral (as primarily superheroes and world leaders will be officially the attendees, Luthor having extended an exception to Perry). Lois leaves to go up to the roof–or rather, the giant globe atop the building where she so often met Superman/Clark, then as she’s made her way back down and out of the building she trips over a memorial plaque placed on the ground where Superman fell. Jimmy finds her and escorts her into the crowd lining the street where the funeral procession passes by. Lois insists on going with the crowd to the end.

We then jump around with several scenes–a random scene with Lobo hearing Superman’s dead and flipping out. Keith (an orphan) comforts another kid letting him hold his cat, while Batman stops a would-be-bomber from turning the funeral explosive. Professor Hamilton and Mildred watch the procession pass, while the Underworlders do as well. Bibbo finds someone selling commemorative copies of “the death issue” of the Planet and rather than beat the guy up, buys every copy and offers the guy a job…after all, it’s the sort of thing Superman would do. Arriving at the park, the crowd begins to get out of hand and Lois and Jimmy are separated. As Robin and Wonder Woman are shown stepping in, Jimmy is menaced by a sleazeball trying to buy the “rights” to his “death photo.” As the funeral itself gets underway, Lois leaves to call Clark’s parents, but they don’t answer as–in Kansas–they’re out in the field where they’d originally found their baby–they’re burying a box of his things, all they have OF him TO bury, themselves. Back in Metropolis, the funeral concludes, the crypt’s cover is moved into place entombing the coffin…while elsewhere, Lois finally gets an answer, connecting with her almost-parents-in-law as the three realize they need each other.

I’m really re-amazed this time through at just how MUCH is crammed into these seemingly “simple” regular-sized single-issues! This is a far cry from many modern comics that seem so shallow by comparison, where a ’90s issue would be “decompressed” into at least 3-6 issues.

There’s so much going on here…I’m sure I took it all for granted being as familiar with this period of Superman comics as I am. I don’t need any introduction to the main characters–I recognize them, know the context, have read the issues alluded to, and so on. This is moving stuff to me even with the brief scenes and frequent scene-cuts.

This period of Bogdanove‘s art is certainly nostalgic for me for its time…but of the four Superman titles, it’s probably my least-favorite. Still, it’s strong art and “works” and “fits,” if only because it is what it is…WAS.

The double-page spread of the funeral procession is the image I see in my head when I listen to the opening of the audio drama adapting the Death/Funeral/Return saga…even though in the drama it’s actually a flashback to Luthor’s funeral.

The images of the crowds don’t really totally mesh with the descriptions we get. My own frame of reference for this is the crowds I saw on tv when Cleveland won the basketball championship back in 2015 or 2016, whenever that was.

Lois initially thinking she couldn’t bear to be at the funeral itself changing to having to be there at the end, following the procession…rings absolutely authentic to me, with the crazy way grief works, and one can swing from thinking one thing to realizing another. There’s also Supergirl early in the issue insisting on bringing in the memorial statue when conventional logistics fail, as “the last thing she’ll get to do for Superman.” In the moment, so many emotions, feelings, and expectations leave one all over the place and eager to do their part, to do MORE, to do SOMEthing for the person lost…it just rings really true to me. Also the Kents’ burying the box of Clark’s things. Bibbo’s scene isn’t as poignant/moving as his scene in Action Comics 685 was…but it still gives the guy some spotlight and adds to his characterization and what I came to love about the character.

Back to the art–while Bogdanove may not be my FAVORITE Superman artist, his work is distinctive without making the characters unrecognizable. And he draws a beautiful Wonder Woman. I can’t quite put my finger on WHY, but one panel of his Jimmy Olsen actually put me in mind of Rob Liefeld somehow…giving me the momentary half-thought as to whether Jimmy’s personality was in any way based on Liefeld in the early ’90s or if it’s just one of those dumb, random thoughts I can have.

All in all, another strong issue with a depth that comes partly from nostalgia, partly rose-colored glasses of memory, and partly the sheer tight ship of continuity the Superman books had at the time, telling a singular ongoing story while each creative team got to “focus” on their own subplots and such for individuality (Man of Steel here had the Underworlders, for example).

This is “the Funeral issue” the way Superman #75 was “the Death issue,” so is worthwhile in that regard. It also lets it stand alone a bit…you get all these allusions and subplotty stuff and the overall story of the characters being nudged forward a bit, but the issue is readable by itself as slice of life, especially if you know the characters…and there’s context one can pick up on otherwise, albeit not perfectly.

Certainly worth a purchase from a bargain bin or such, but as with previous issues, not something to pay more than a couple dollars for individually with the collected editions and digital available out there. While I’ve seen multiple printings for myself of much of the Doomsday arc and the first couple chapters of Funeral for a Friend, I’m not sure if this issue actually saw multiple printings offhand or not. The copy I read this time through I definitely got from a quarter-bin myself…the whole Funeral for a Friend set I’m reading through I picked up for $2.25 including the Justice League issue.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #685

90s_revisited

action_comics_0685Re: Actions

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice, Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Special Thanks: Tom Grummett & Doug Hazlewood
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with contextualizing…with 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 Doomsday’s rampage, and recaps some of Adventures 498 and the eventual official pronunciation of Superman’s death. Meanwhile, Westfield and his Cadmus people try to get the alien bodies–Doomsday AND Superman–but are met with resistance from Maggie Sawyer, Dan Turpin and even the Guardian himself…and eventually, some Team Luthor agents and Luthor himself…and the Mayor, with faxes from the President that Superman was an American and is to be honored as such. We then get a montage of scenes as we jump to a number of people and their reactions to this news and consideration of what it means–from Lois, to Perry and Jimmy, to the Kents and Lana, to others worldwide. We then get a scene with Luthor at the morgue where he loses it, smashing a chair over Doomsday’s body. Another scene shows us the uptick in crime with authorities busy and Superman dead, though Supergirl tries to fill some part of the gap. And we close on Bibbo making it back to the Ace o’ Clubs and closing the bar, and praying for the world Superman’s left behind…lamenting that Superman is gone, but he–Bibbo–goes on living.

This is another issue that had several scenes in it that have stuck with me. The image of the Daily Planet front page definitely is one; as is the Cadmus confrontation having happened, though I didn’t remember all the details. That they were presented with an order from the POTUS that Superman was not to be considered an alien is there; and a lot of the scenes of Lois, the Planet staff, and the Kents have blurred for me over the years, clarified in re-reading this issue in the moment.

Bibbo and his prayer, though, is probably the most memorable part of the issue for me; what I feel like I "know" Action Comics #685 FOR. Because that scene has long stuck out to me and been very moving…and I recall in the past it’s even moved me to tears. Now, it gives me an ‘avatar’ of sorts…replace "Superman" with "Dad" and I could BE Bibbo. I’m pretty sure this scene was also one of the key scenes to really make me appreciate the character, far more than the drunken buffoon that tagged along with Lobo in some issue I’d read a couple years earlier.

Having JUST READ Adventures of Superman 498 and still having THAT issue’s art clearly in recent memory, I’m not AS thrilled with the art on this issue. Which is absolutely not to say that any of this issue’s art is bad…just that it’s not QUITE to the level of Jurgens or Grummett for me, apparently. As with AoS 498, the characters are all totally recognizable and do not feel like some artist’s interpretation of things…just the natural fact of the matter that different artists’ work will look different.

Story-wise I’m certainly "too close" to things to be impartial. Along with the actual Doomsday story, this one I feel like I’m extremely familiar with from multiple re-reads over the years (plus the Death and Life of Superman novel by this issue’s writer Roger Stern!). While many cite The Death of Superman as the main story, my understanding over the years has come to be that THIS is the story–Funeral for a Friend–that the writers wanted to tell, and you needed The Death of to get here so that this COULD be told.

The issue’s cover is iconic in and of itself as this 2nd chapter of Funeral for a Friend…but ALSO because it’s an obvious homage to the cover of Action Comics #1 but with Supergirl instead of Superman. And it’s even quite relevant to the issue itself with a scene playing out in the issue of Supergirl picking up a car and shaking the goons out of it/smashing the car. Something modern comics are sorely lacking in–covers actually relevant to their interior contents.

BECAUSE I’m personally so familiar with the Death/Funeral stories of Superman, and this "era" of the titles and such….this "stands alone" perfectly well for me; all the more being only a day removed from the previous chapter. That said, if you’re unfamiliar with this era of the character(s) you’ll be sure to have some questions or "huh?" moments…but I do think the issue still makes a decent read as a one-off, slice-of-life thing in the immediate aftermath of Superman’s death.

This would definitely be worth getting from a bargain bin, up to cover price or a couple dollars at most…by far not something to pay anything significant for–it has at least 3 printings, has been reprinted in multiple collected editions, and is available digitally as well. But definitely worth getting, and reading.

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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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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #19

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0019DOOMSDAY is Here!

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1993/1

This issue has one of the most iconic covers of my life. It may not be a favorite, exactly–it’s not one that’d really work (for me) as a poster image or such–but for a lotta years, just because of the cover date–January, 1993–and being the first Triangle # of 1993, this was an image I pictured when I’d think of "1993."

The image is "just" an extreme close-up of Doomsday and Superman literally getting in each other’s face, the creature being larger/taller and bearing down on the (black)-bloodied Superman (though no real/obvious facial wounds for the blood, but hey, it adds effect, right? And had to get by the Comics Code Authority and all that.

Despite reading this entire Doomsday! story fresh, I’ve realized that part of my confusion on the gradual tearing-away of Doomsday’s suit and the reveal of the hulking grey-and-white creature is the inconsistency from book to to book of its depiction! While there was some severe tearing and a big chunk missing, where we left off in Action Comics #684, the creature very shortly later now has far more of it gone. I expect that’s the peril of having to get multiple issues drawn by differing art teams in a short time, and the thing was probably set on the notion that "most of the green suit is now gone," but no ultra-hardline visual "bible" to lead it. Of course, this is–to me–mere "observation," something I don’t recall consciously noticing quite in this way before, and I have no problem with it!

This issue has us down to only two panels per page in the several-issue declining-panel-count countdown to the main issue of the story, and as such is increasingly fast-paced with less dialogue and less room for pauses…just faster visual beats on the march from cover to cover. Perhaps it’s the increased action, the ferocity of the battle, but I dug the visuals on this issue a lot more than I did the previous issue, with several iconic moments (to me) in this issue: from Doomsday’s first kills in Metropolis, Superman trying to take the creature into outer space, Doomsday’s elbow-stab of Superman, and the Underworld explosion, Doomsday one-punch taking out Supergirl, hitting her so hard she reverts to her protoplasmic state, the look on Bibbo’s face as he, Hamilton, and Mildred realize they’ve not only angered the creature, but it’s gonna land right on them if they don’t jump…and the shock-cannon blasts from the Cadmus troopers as Superman and Doomsday pound on each other, with Superman thinking "Even if it kills me–Metropolis is where I hold the line!"

And in a way, that sums up the issue. Going from scene to scene, as Doomsday hits Metropolis like a wrecking ball, killing immediately and continuously, punctuated only by attempts to damage him, whether by Superman or Professor Hamilton with a sci-fi cannon of his own, and so on. There’s not much story, exactly, but this issue’s not intended to be all that deep in that regard, and receives no penalty from me for it.

It’s also a credit to the Dirk Maggs dramatization of the story that I "hear" echoes/flashes of that as I read this, as it definitely gets across the frenetic ferocity of the situation, and certainly moments out of this issue.

Yet again, there’s not exactly a whole lot to be gotten from this just as some standalone single issue at this point, picking it up some twenty-five years after publication. It’s a key chapter in the overall story, and maybe sees Superman take some of the worst physical damage ever to this point…certainly more than I remember offhand seeing him take on-panel in Superman #75. While I mentioned early in this post that I don’t see this issue’s cover making a great poster, I could probably be persuaded pretty easily, as I do think on a small scale this would work as wall art at its actual-comic-cover size (perhaps amidst the other issues of the story).

This is definitely well worth snagging from a quarter bin or otherwise bargain bin if you can get all the issues of the story (or all the issues you are interested in at the time), but I’d continue to recommend a collected volume of this story over the single issue for "best results" and maximum impact.

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