Saturday, November 04, 2017

POB #4: Doomsday!

To paraphrase Mary Hart from an episode of Entertainment Tonight in 1993, "The world was stunned [November 1992] when Superman died." I had dabbled in comics a bit before because my cousin and uncle were fans but I hadn't really moved beyond comic strips and Archie. Then, on our way home from school, my Mom said that she got something for me. I tried to guess what it was but even with the hint that it started with a 'T', I couldn't guess. When I got home, the trade paperback collection "The Death of Superman" was waiting for me. This started a conversation about how "the" is not used as part of the title but that's a whole other post. Not that I'd probably guess it with 'D' either.

I've been fascinated with this cover, by regular Superman: The Man of Steel artists Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke with colors by Reuben Rude. It's very dark and distressing. Superman is laying among the rubble basically bleeding from every pore on his body while Lois, screaming in heartbreak, cradles his lifeless body. It's a powerful image and it's kind of a shame DC eventually dropped this cover for the more iconic tattered Superman cape from Superman #75.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of this momentous comic book event, here is my recollection of reading the trade paperback as someone who had never read a Superman comic before. Kraka-DOOM!

Superman: The Man of Steel #18
Technically, our story starts in Superman: The Man of Steel #17. For the month prior to the actual storyline, each comic would end with a fist pounding at a metal door. I've always thought that it was a creative piece of storytelling and works in the collection and the individual comics very well.

I was always a fan of Doomsday's design, both the gray, bony version and the green containment suit. Since we can't get right into Superman battling Doomsday, we spend most of Man of Steel #18 in a story about the Underworlders. I never liked the Underworlders and always felt that this issue was the weakest, even though it has the best cover. But the Superman creative team wasn't writing this story for me. They were writing it as a slap in the face to Warner Bros. for halting the Lois and Clark wedding. This was originally just another story and was not written with newcomers in mind--it was written for the fans and current readers. From what I've read, only "The Reign of the Supermen" was added and changed due to all the new readers.
My Grandma skimmed through this one time and didn't like Doomsday crushing the bird. But these panels, crushing the bird, destroying the tree, the highway incident, are meant to show Doomsday's need for senseless death and destuction. When Superman enters the fight, Doomsday's focus switches to him, and we'll learn why in 1994, but if you notice, when Superman isn't around, Doomsday reverts back to senseless violence. Seeing these tiny nuggets of character development in a character that's hard to develop says a lot about the Super-writers at this time.

Justice League America #69
I'll be honest. I went into this Justice League not knowing that it should have Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern in it so when I first read JLA #69, I liked these characters so I didn't think twice about why they were C-list heroes.

We start the issue with the JLA cleaning up Doomsday's mess from MOS #18. Doomsday has disappeared so the JLA take to Blue Beetle's bug ship to look for him as Superman appears on TV to answers some questions from high school students with Cat Grant moderating.

Doomsday is trekking his way through the woods and I have a real appreciation for the deer scene. The full-bodied panel of Doomsday is so well done and his introduction, since readers of JLA may not have read Man of Steel #18, is similar to his introduction in Man of Steel. I always loved what Dan Jurgens and Rick Burchett did with Doomsday's eyes, or goggles, in this issue. So expressive despite nothing being there.

Doomsday handily takes out nearly every member of the Justice League and when Superman's interview gets interrupted by an emergency broadcast, Superman can no longer just sit idly by and rushes out to join the Justice League. It's here that Booster Gold gives this monster its name: DOOMSDAY.

Superman #74
This issue is another odd one. We are introduced to the Andersons, a broken family with a divorcee mom, baby girl, and moody teenager. It's kind of an odd addition but it's to give the story a bit of urgency since we are still 100 or so miles from Metropolis. But this issue finally gives us what we want: Superman fighting Doomsday.

After not being able to kill Superman with one punch, Doomsday then kicks Superman in the gut sending him rocketing through the Anderson house and into a great sturdy oak tree. Superman and the Justice Leaguers still standing with energy blasts gang up on Doomsday and blast him with everything they got. Unfortunately, all they do is sear off some of his containment suit and free his right arm so he can punch more things. They also expose Doomsday's nipple which is later retconned but as I was wondering where Doomsday came from, I took his nipples into consideration.
But enough about that. With now two arms at his disposal, Doomsday finishes taking out the Justice League and after causing a massive explosion, leaps away with Superman hot on his tail. The Andersons are about to burn to death, none of the Justice League are in any shape to help and Superman is already miles away chasing Doomsday.

The Adventures of Superman #497
The stakes are very much raised starting with this issue. Superman has to fight Doomsday while also dealing with the Andersons and protecting Kirby County. We also start getting more of the supporting cast like Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, and Supergirl.

Keep in mind, this was my first experience with Superman so I just thought that Lex Luthor always had a full mane of red hair. It really amazes me how I can look at this from both sides. On one end, I enjoy the little asides with the supporting cast--everyone thinks Superman will be perfectly fine, the ones that try to help, and Lex's slightly abusive relationship with Supergirl--but on the other end, I like the advancement of plot for all the characters--Lois worrying about the man she loves while trying to act like everything is fine, the ones trying to help and hopelessly failing, and Lex's slightly abusive relationship with Supergirl. It again says a lot about the writing when readers new and old can pick this up and still get a full story even from the supporting characters. That's a rare thing these days in a lot of comics.

This issue features a lot of punching, which I really liked when I was a kid. As an adult, I enjoy the build-up more and the fight in Metropolis but as a kid, this issue of Adventures and the next issue of Action Comics were my favorites. The best part of this issue is the explosion at the end that seemingly tatters Superman's cape but not really.

Action Comics #684
More punching! After the explosion, Doomsday is able to put many miles between him and Superman. While Superman tries to save people, Doomsday has a field day in one of those big box stores and is yelled at by a wrestler on TV about coming to Metropolis. "This mean war!! I'm out for blood!" That all sounds amazing to Doomsday and I remember getting worried about Doomsday making this connection. I know it's weird because I know how the book ends but it is such an important moment. Doomsday can learn. Doomsday can plan. Doomsday can strategize.

Superman attempts to keep Doomsday away from Metropolis and ends up tossing him to Cadmus' Habitat tree city. Let's refresh: I am a new reader and, due to this storyline, I have been introduced to numerous characters--both recurring and guest-starring--I didn't need any information on these characters, I just read the comics. I still enjoyed it and became a regular reader for the next 15 years and a casual reader after that. Never did I think DC needed to restart the numbering. I learned about the characters by collecting back issues because after this, I wanted to know what happened next whether it was going to be until Superman #77 or Superman #225.

The collapse of the tree city once again lets Doomsday get several miles away and only five leaps away from Metropolis.

Superman: The Man of Steel #19

Doomsday is in Metropolis snapping necks and killing Underworlders, who I don't feel sorry for, and making a general mess of everything. I remember this being a very quick read, as it is since there are only two panels per page and I remember how good of an issue this was because, due to the quick read, everything was on the line. I knew what was going to happen. It's on the cover. But this issue shows us how dire everything and everyone is getting. Lois is starting to worry as is Jimmy. Professor Hamilton and Bibbo, two close friends of Superman, try to stop Doomsday but ultimately fail. The Special Crimes Unit tries to stop him. We also finally get some Supergirl after being teased with her since the issue of Adventures but she only lasts one panel against Doomsday so it's up to Superman to finally take Doomsday down.

Superman #75
Before I get into the story, I need to take the time to mention how much I love Dan Jurgens work on Superman. His writing and art were always amazing to see and I'm glad that people realized just how great he was while he was still on the title and later on. I'm not sure this ending would've had the impact it had if it hadn't been with this team in this title. Maybe, but I think it's doubtful.
While dozens of people look on, Superman and Doomsday duke it out in the middle of Metropolis. Doomsday throws Superman into one of the news helicopters covering the story. That helicopter just happens to be the Daily Planet helicopter because newspapers have helicopters? Superman and Lois finally get a chance to talk. When I first read this, I didn't know they were engaged and seeing them kiss and say that they love each other wasn't off-putting like I think some people would find it. Since I wasn't even familiar with the older stories where Superman kept his identity a secret at all costs, Lois and Superman being together kind of made sense.
Superman pulls no punches on Doomsday. Doomsday is able to shove Superman into the ground head first which rips off his cape. When Superman claws his way from underground, he gives Doomsday everything he's got. The two fighters make one last move and both go down.

Through multiple text boxes, it's revealed what everyone--Jimmy, Lois, Clark's parents--are thinking and seeing at this moment. This is the darkest day they could ever imagine. When you actually read those words, it's powerful. Many of these text boxes I memorized and no matter how many times I read them, they get to me every time. Those words For this the the day--that a Superman died are as chilling to me now as they were back in 1993.
I have reread "The Death of Superman" numerous times since first getting this collection. I have two other copies of it but this copy has heart. It has tracing indentions on the cover, strange rips in the middle of a couple of pages (I'm blaming a cat named Shadow), and an odd red ink stain through most of The Man of Steel #18, not to mention all the normal wear and tear from 24 years of constant use.

This collection--this storyline--got me into a wonderful relationship with comic books that helped shaped my world and that continues to this day. For that, I am eternally grateful.