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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: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

New Death of Superman Editions

death_of_superman_new_editions_03Back in late 1992, possibly early 1993–VERY shortly after Superman #75 was published–a collected volume was rushed out, collecting the six Superman issues and the Justice League issue that made up the Doomsday! (now simply The Death of Superman) arc.

I have always considered it something that was rushed because on the back where they gave a cover gallery, several of the issues were obviously-marked (Roman Numerals) later printings…whoever had been tasked with designing the back cover did not even themselves have access (or care) to all first-print editions (and I say this assuming there were no digital images floating around back then to simply access and use).

And over 1993 we then got the Funeral for a Friend story collected as World Without a Superman, and then eventually a massive (even by contemporary standards!) The Return of Superman (my copy, bought at the time, was a whopping $14.95 or so..!).

Over the years, those volumes have remained in-print…with the only major difference that I have noticed being that the Death of Superman volume eventually was switched to the iconic Superman #75 cover image of the tattered cape amidst the wreckage of Doomsday’s rampage.

The volumes originated in a time where any such collected volume was a real rarity/novelty, and it was only the particularly “special” or truly “sold-out” major storylines that would get collected into a single-volume edition…and each was largely its own thing, existing as an isolated item. “Simple” as the spines were back then, my original editions, at least, look ok together, but do not match many “surrounding” volumes on the bookshelves…and other than “knowing” the three volumes belong together, there’s no real indicator of them, nor the order to read them in. I take such knowledge totally for granted, but especially in this day and age of constant deaths and resurrections and timey-wimey stuff and multiverses and pre-Flashpoints and New 52s…’nuff said.

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We now get five volumes–each more manageable than the Death and Return of Superman Omnibus, and admittedly higher prices…but also more content in the volumes–for example, the Death of Superman volume now contains the Newstime magazine that was published during all this; the Funeral for a Friend volume has the Legacy of Superman and the Supergirl/Team Luthor special; while what was formerly the single-volume The Return of Superman has been split in two–with the addition of the four ongoing titles’ Bloodlines annuals (each issue starring one of the Four Supermen) as well as the entirety of issues that had only had several pages reprinted.

And while it does not fit the “set” or “series” quite the same way, we have the inclusion of the Doomsday volume, giving us the Doomsday: Year One annual as well as the complete Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey along with Superman: The Doomsday Wars.

I believe podcaster and fellow blogger Michael Bailey said it on Facebook (and I wholeheartedly agree!) that probably a better fit for this volume would have been the early-2000s mini-series Superman: Day of Doom in place of The Doomsday Wars.

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Still, all in all, I love the new trade dress–the black bar with red logo/title text contrasts nicely with the images, and really make them look like part of the same series of books.

While I kinda question the wisdom of numbering the volumes (wondering if a 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 on the spine would put someone off from buying an isolated volume), I absolutely love that with the full set, part of the spines makes up a black box with the iconic (extremely so to me!) “bleeding S” that denotes the death of the Man of Steel.

This set gives me at least my 5th edition of the Death of Superman volume, and I have many of the issues in this set multiple times over. Yet, given what the saga means to me, on learning of these new editions’ existence and the inclusion of the specials and particularly the annuals…I was immediately interested. That the spines do what they do put me over the fence.

However, I did wait until these were available from InStockTrades, as I certainly was not going to buy all 5 at once at anything remotely approaching cover price, and even this was a hefty one-time amount to lay out. For saving 45%, though, I’m extremely pleased with the purchase, and having these volumes!

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