A hero fell, the world mourned and fans around the world needed to adjust to a world without a Superman, after he was killed in battle with the monster Doomsday 25 years ago this week.
Death in comic books has always been considered a revolving door. A character dies, then some mystical or metaphysical phenomenon brings them back to life some time later, and everything goes on like nothing happened. But in the decades of superhero comics publishing, a character as iconic as Superman had never been killed off. He was the first, and it’s because of him we have the industry we have today. So, obviously, the decision to kill him off wasn’t taken lightly by publisher DC Comics.
Just kidding, they went with the storyline because the Superman group needed to delay the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the comics thanks to the ABC TV show “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” But once the Superman team decided to go with the story, they really threw their backs into it. Doomsday was introduced in Superman: The Man of Steel No. 17. He was given no background, he didn’t even speak.
He began to cut a path of destruction across the country on a march towards Metropolis. The monster even ran through the Justice League, who confronted Doomsday first (because Superman was doing a TV interview with Cat Grant that was being broadcast to school kids across the country). The battle between Superman and Doomsday raged from Ohio all the way to Metropolis, as Superman tried everything he could to take him down, but nothing seemed to affect the beast. Until that one final blow, where Superman and Doomsday each gave everything they had, knocking each other out as their lifeless bodies collapsed onto a Metropolis street. Superman died in Lois Lane’s arms at the end of Superman no. 75, which became such a hot collector’s item that copies flooded the market and it, basically, became worthless, because everyone needed to have a copy of the issue where Superman died.
I think I have six. Seriously, months later you could find piles of the issue, wrapped in a black bag with a bloody red S-shield, being sold in dollar stores, right next to the piles of the white-bagged Adventures of Superman No. 500, where Superman ‘s essence left the afterlife and came back to the world, kicking off the REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN story arc.
Obviously, Superman didn’t stay dead for long. He was back as the main hero in DC Comics within a year, after the publisher introduced four replacements for several months. But the year-long story from Doomsday’s introduction to Superman’s return is one of the best stories of the early 1990s, and it’s resonated through the years. The story was adapted into an animated movie in 2007 and then again in the 2015 trainwreck BATMAN v. SUPERMAN.
Maybe someday, someone will get the story right again. But until then, we always have the original.