A Tribute to the of

Five years and over 120 reviews later and I'm beginning to learn a few things about how I work.  Writing, like any skill, requires practice and a certain degree of passion.  The passion part is usually pretty easy as I'm a big fan of the material I'm writing about, even when I run across the occasional stinker.  I've also found I can be passionate on the other end of the pendulum, from enthusiasm to loathing.  Even when I'm not pleased I can write with some eloquence from the negative perspective.  I've further come to realize that I'm somewhat anal retentive.  When the webmaster proposed our salute to the 70th anniversary of DC comics this year he suggested doing seven reviews at various points, to encompass the 7 decades.  I thought that was a good idea and began to mentally assemble a list of candidates from the different eras, though my collection is somewhat limited in certain timeframes.  He also gave me a short list of ideas for consideration, but basically left it up to me, as he usually does.  Reviewing Action Comics #1 for the first in the series was a no-brainer, as was Batman #1.  That took care of the 30's and 40's, though All-Star #37 was also from the 40's.  No biggie.  I knew there would be some repeat decades and it might be that I don't cover them all.  No harm, no foul.  Despite all that, however, I'd been thinking I needed to do something from the 50's for the next tribute edition.  I've got a quite a lot from that decade to choose from, but nothing was really striking my fancy.  On the other hand, possibly since I'd recently seen the JLU episode featuring him, my mind had been wandering to the graphic novel my wife picked up for me (at half price) that chronicled the first appearance of Doomsday, the creature that "killed" Superman in the early 90's.  So, I'm going to repress my natural inclination that even now is hollering in my head, "No!  You're doing them out of order!" and review the seven issues that comprise the much-hyped "Death of Superman" series. 

Things begin in Superman, The Man of Steel #18.  It's entitled simply "Doomsday" and the credit list includes Louise Simonson as writer with Jon Bogdanove on pencils, Dennis Janke as inker, Bill Oakley as letterer and Glenn Whitmore as colorist.  An assistant (colorist?) is listed as Jennifer Frank and editorial duties were done by Mike Carlin.

The story opens with four consecutive panels showing a green-gloved fist (the left hand) attached to an arm with cable wrapped around it pounding into a steel wall.  This goes on for four pages (times four panels would be 16 panels) and the only appreciable difference is that bony protrusions seem to emerge, larger and larger on the knuckles until the glove is shredded and the fist finally breaks through the steel wall.  The next page shows a serene meadow "somewhere on Earth…" as the repetitive "KRAANG!" sound jars the local wildlife.  On the next page we follow the fist as it travels up, up, up through the earth and crashes through the surface of a hill.  We then see most of the figure bursting forth.  It is humanoid in appearance, though the fist and fingers have a gray pallor and the head and torso seem to be covered in a one-piece green suit of some sort with two red goggle-like circles at the eyes.  The cable is wrapped around the waist, too.

Segue now to Metropolis, where the Man of Might is in flight and being watched admiringly by a small boy at street level.  The boy thinks that since Superman has saved him now, twice, that he needs to do something.  He goes into a hardware store and purchases a can of glow-in-the-dark yellow fluorescent paint and further thinks that he's a little scared, but it's okay to be scared when the guys he's going after are monsters.  We then see what he's talking about as a few truly monstrous looking beings are holding some citizens captive beneath a power station.  They seem to be interested in stealing electricity.  Back to the boy now, who is preparing a pack with food, juice, a flashlight, extra batteries and the paint.  He slips out of his room at the orphanage, continuing to think about the monsters, who apparently hold his mother hostage.  As he enters a brick culvert, he uses the can to show the way he's come with spray-painted arrows.

We now shift scenes to the Daily Planet where Lois has just received an anonymous note stating:  "Send Superman to the basement under the west side power station.  Metropolis is in danger!  -A friend"  She leaves a message on Clark Kent's computer and leaves the building. 

Meanwhile, "Elsewhere," we see the figure standing in the meadow, its right arm bound behind its back with the cable surrounding it.  It extends its hand to a small yellow bird that lands and is immediately crushed.  The figure laughs.

Back at the Daily Planet, a red and blue figure descends.  His thoughts reveal that he's scanned the city, but has seen no underworlders.  Moments later, as Clark Kent, he checks his computer, only to have it and the lights wink out.  Beneath the surface, the underworlders are ecstatic at their victory and they're about to receive a surprise visitor in the form of Lois Lane, who has slipped into the darkened area.  When a large hand touches her shoulder, she reacts with a high kick, but it doesn't faze Clawster, a huge, Thing-like creature with large claws protruding from the tops of his hands and feet and encircling his head.  One of Clawster's henchmen recognizes Lois from a soup kitchen he used to patronize.  Clawster says that they are all rejects of society, but will now take what they want by virtue of their war machines.  The scene is witnessed by the boy as well.

Back again to the creature, which proceeds to smash it's way through a forest, literally leveling each tree with brute force.

The boy has returned to the surface, convinced the monsters lied about holding his mother, but they now hold the woman reporter and he is determined to help.  Finding a nearby basketball court, he uses his paint can to make a large, luminous version of the "S" symbol on Superman's uniform.  The effort succeeds as Krypton's Last Son arrives and recognizes Keith.  He quickly tells the hero what's going on beneath their feet, while the same monsters are running a gigantic boring device.  They soon hit an object that stops them in their tracks in the form of Superman, who promptly cleans house, rescues the girl and hauls off the bad guys.  Things continue to flash over to the creature, too, which has now entered populated areas and is wreaking havoc and destruction.

Next up is Justice League of America #69 with a story entitled "Down for the Count!Dan Jurgens is the storyteller and collaborates on art with Rick BurchettWillie Schubert in the lettering department is assisted by Gene D'Angelo on colors.  The editorial staff includes Brian Agustyn with Ruben Dias as assistant. 

You'll forgive me as I go through this segment, and indeed all the stories as the characters are not all familiar to me.  The splash page shows Maxima and Booster Gold rescuing a couple of men from a big rig accident that had been caused at the end of the last story by the laughing monstrosity.  Guy Gardner is also there along with Fire, Ice, the Blue Beetle and Bloodwynd.  They soon begin their search for the creature in Blue Beetle's flying beetle craft.  In between the search, we see segments of Superman being interviewed on a talk show, where he touts the teamwork of the JLA over his own alleged leadership and dominance.  Some sort of subplot, I suppose…

Both Bloodwynd and Maxima attempt a psychic connection with the creature.  Blue Beetle's thoughts mention that he's hoping to gauge Bloodwynd's powers.  Apparently he's a mystery to his fellow members of the JLA.  Maxima manages contact and says merely:  "I've found the creature!  He's hate---death and blood lust personified!  Nothing more.

The strange creature continues his destructive path through the woods and comes upon a curious deer that he promptly strangles to death, once again laughing at the deed.  He then spots the beetle craft and hurls a log at it, sending all the members tumbling out into the air.  Those with the ability of flight save those who cannot and Maxima lowers the craft safely to the ground. 

A short distance away, the walking nightmare enters the highway and causes a crash and explosion.  An arrogant Guy Gardner, using his yellow power ring, swiftly goes in solo for the attack, only to be swiftly beaten half to death.  Only the intervention of the emerald flames of Fire keep him from being killed.  Bloodwynd then arrives and talks of plasma energies of the spirits of the dead that will aid him as he strikes the creature, only to be struck with such force that his body goes completely through a holding tank at the nearby LexOil refinery.  The creature then flings a piece of debris at Fire, knocking her senseless.  Maxima and Booster Gold jump in while the Blue Beetle goes forward to try and save Bloodwynd.  Blue Beetle's mind and monologue state that Bloodwynd is hiding something from them.  He then sees something and says, "Of course!  All this time I've wondered who Bloodwynd really is and now I know!  I never would have guessed it in a million years---but Bloodwynd is really—Bloodwynd must be—" Unfortunately he doesn't get to finish his thought because at that moment a large hand wraps itself around his neck and gives him the same treatment that Guy Gardner received.  Maxima and a revived Bloodwynd try to assist but are soon thrown aside by the beast, too. 

Superman's interview is cut short by a special report of trouble in Ohio and the Man of Steel immediately takes his leave.  He arrives just in time to catch a flying Booster Gold, who has just been the latest to take a punch from the creature.  Booster then sums things up nicely:  "I'm telling you right now---it's like Doomsday is here!

Now we go on to Superman #74 with Dan Jurgens still doing the story and art with finishing art by Brett Breeding.  John Costanza is our letterer with Glenn Whitmore on Colors and Mike Carlin in the editor's chair with assistant editor Jennifer Frank helping.

Things don't look very good for the League.  Blue Beetle is dying and it takes a heartfelt plea from Ice to convince Maxima to use her powers to get him to a medical facility rather than follow her warrior's instinct to engage the creature.  Ice then follows the path of destruction while nearby another subplot brews with an angry, misguided youth interacts with his single mother and baby sister.  I'll spare you the drama…until Ice comes flying through their window and crashes into the counter.  They then spot the monster destroying their car.  In the next instant Superman and Booster Gold appear and the Man of Tomorrow christens the creature "Doomsday" as he stands firm under the onslaught of a punch to the solar plexus.  Doomsday's next move, however, seems to catch our hero off guard as a vicious kick to the midsection sends him flying through the humble house, demolishing it in the process.  The rest of the JLA arrive and they decide to do a combined assault with tremendous bursts of energy from Booster Gold's suit, Guy Gardner's power ring, Fire's flames, Superman's heat vision and some sort of force from Bloodwynd's eyes.  They pour it on until they cannot do so any longer and the only result is the partial destruction of the suit Doomsday is wearing along with liberating his right arm.  Half his face is now visible, with the same bony protrusions on his knuckles apparent on his nose, chin and over his eyes and above his teeth along with knees, shoulders and elbows.  He attacks with terrible speed and power, devastating all in his path.  Through it all, the house of the family is a burning pyre.  As Doomsday leaps away, Superman follows, but every one of his teammates is down for the count and the boy cries for help for his mother and baby sister.  The classic dilemma takes place.  Superman has nearly caught Doomsday.  What does he do?  Well, we find out on the next page, where Adventures of Superman #497 begins with a story called "Under Fire!

Superman has about decided to go back and assist when Doomsday reverses course and strikes.  The Metropolis Marvel realizes that Doomsday seems only able to do great leaps rather than fly and tries to use that to his advantage.  He propels the horror into a nearby lake, pushing him deep into the silt in the hopes that he cannot gain purchase.  Then it's back to the burning structure to rescue the family and to check on the rest of the League, who are gradually coming back to consciousness.  After getting the members the assistance they need. Superman flies back to deal with Doomsday, who has managed to release himself and has propelled his body through a military helicopter.  As the battle continues, Superman wonders if Doomsday is actually growing stronger.  Soon, just to make things interesting, Maxima arrives and attacks, knocking the monster for a loop. 

A brief change of scenes find a red-headed and red bearded (Lincoln-style) Lex Luthor in the top of a shiny skyscraper in the shape of an "L" with none other than Supergirl at his side.  Lex is sipping champagne and looking at a series of monitors while Supergirl says she should go and help with Doomsday.  Luthor argues that he needs her there and that they must forge a contingency plan in case the monster makes his way to Metropolis.  Hold the phone!  Since when is Lex Luthor a young buck with a very full head of very red hair?  Why is Supergirl sitting next to him with her arm draped around him?  What hold does he seem to have on her?  Oh and by the way, isn't this post crisis and isn't she dead?  Criminy…  Back to the action…

…where Maxima cannot believe Doomsday is still standing after her haymaker, so she simply unleashes another, sending the figure crashing through a nearby grocery store.  By the way, the bony protrusions (sorry, I just don't know what else to call them) seem to be growing, particularly at his joints.  Superman then shows up and cautions Maxima about harming innocent people.  In a rage she swings at him (and finds her fist handily caught in his palm) and says that in battle there will be casualties.  No time for further debate, however, as the beast again attacks.  He sends both heroes sprawling and then drops a nearby van on top of Maxima.  She quickly recovers and the double-teaming continues until Maxima makes a tactical error by pulling a light pole from its base.  The resulting spark promptly ignites the damaged gasoline pumps and causes a pretty spectacular explosion that sends the three flying, but only Doomsday walks away initially. 

This segment in the series closes with the arrival of the Guardian, trying to assist and Superman making the pronouncement that he's going to have to take care of this alone. 

Next on the hit parade is Action Comics #684 written by Roger Stern with Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier in the art department.  Bill Oakley serves as letterer, Glenn Whitmore is our colorist and Mike Carlin is editor assisted by Jennifer Frank.  This story is called "…Doomsday is near!

The Guardian helps the dazed Maxima while Superman flies off in pursuit of the creature, who continues his path of pure destruction, knocking everything in his path aside and asunder.  He soon smashes his way right into a Lex-Mart where something funny happens.  He hears a commercial on a big screen television hawking, of all things, a huge pro wrestling match in Metropolis.  For some reason it holds the monster's attention until Superman arrives and the fight begins anew.  The pair take the battle outside and Superman notes helicopters including the Daily Planet's flying newsroom, which contains none other than Lois and Jimmy.  She mentally urges Clark to be careful.  (Lois knows Superman's secret identity, too?)

A brief scene switch takes us again to Luthor and Supergirl and essentially the same conversation takes place.  She wants to help, he discourages her.

Back at the scene of the battle, blows continue to be traded and bodies fly when Doomsday sees a sign that says Metropolis is 60 miles away.  He somehow makes the connection from the advertisement and even gutturally utters "Mhh-trr-pllss?"  This alarms the Man of Steel who swiftly flings his assailant miles away into a hillside that just happens to house a secret Federal project underground.  They send a distress signal to the Guardian as the fight goes on and on.  Superman is showing signs of fatigue and tries using objects to strike Doomsday, eventually burying him beneath tons of debris, but the monster pauses for a moment, allowing the Guardian to return, and then bursts this new prison, sending the debris up and over the two heroes.  He then leaps off toward the city, closing this section.

Now we switch issues yet again to Superman, The Man of Steel #19 entitled "Doomsday is Here!"  The credit listing now reads as follows:  Louise Simonson as writer, Jon Boganove as inker, Dennis Janke as letterer, Bill Oakley as colorist, Mike Carlin as Editor and Jennifer Frank as assistant editor. 

The beast has now entered a construction site on the outskirts of Metropolis, the last remnants of his suit in tatters.  He's now basically down to trunks and boots and a high-flying Superman is flying in for the tackle.  He attempts to spirit him up, up and out of the very atmosphere, but Doomsday manages to twist away and even kick Superman in the mid-section as he goes into free-fall.  Once touching down, he again leaps away.  The spectacle continues to be covered by the newsroom helicopters.  We see Ma and Pa Kent watching with great concern.  The Man of Tomorrow again tracks down the rampaging beast, this time putting him into a full nelson and again flying into the air with him to gain some advantage.  This time the treacherous Doomsday uses the protrusion from an elbow to wound Superman in the side, causing him to release him.  Then, a surprise appearance by Supergirl, who strikes the creature in mid-air.  Also, on a nearby rooftop a trio of people is manning a wheel mounted gun of some sort and waits for a clear shot at Doomsday, who has just delivered a crushing blow to Supergirl, whose face seems to explode as if made of clay.  Her figure falls to Earth, but it doesn't look like her at all any longer.  It's more of a gray, undistinguishable but humanoid figure.  Weird… 

Meanwhile, the gun blasts Doomsday with a powerful ray, but he merely falls back toward the rooftop while the three people leap out of the path.  More citizens fire on Doomsday with futuristic weaponry (What is all this, the Metropolis Vigilante Association?), again to little effect.  Superman again hits the jaw of Doomsday with all he's got, but what he's got is slipping away.  The next appearance of the odd are some weirdly uniformed men in personal flight harnesses blasting away with shock cannons, but the battling warriors below barely notice as the slugfest continues and this portion ends.

Okay.  Final installment at last in Superman #75.  One final listing of creators with Dan Jurgens again doing the story and art with Brett Breeding on finished art.  John Costanza provides letters with Glenn Whitmore on colors.  Mike Carlin edits with Jennifer Frank as assistant.  This time it's called simply "Doomsday!

We show up just in time to see Doomsday heave Superman's body into the flying newsroom.  A battered and bloody Superman is annoyed at all the innocents nearby, but still takes the time to gently bring the chopper to earth.  Lois urges the Metropolis Marvel to retreat and get reinforcements, but of course he refuses, stating that the JLA has already fallen and there are too many potential victims now that the monster is within the city.  A full page panel shows a kiss and embrace:  "Just remember…no matter what happens…I'll always love you.  Always."  He then flies away with renewed resolve, head-butting the beast, but Doomsday again turns the tables and drives Superman head-first into the concrete.  He then turns on Lois and Jimmy, but the Man of Steel, his uniform now in shreds bursts forth again with a vicious kidney punch.  We're down to full page panels now and a blast of heat vision pins Doomsday to a nearby wall, but he continues to retaliate and hurt Krypton's Last Son.  Superman realizes it must end now, before he drops.  He grips Doomsday's fists, leveraging the bones that seem to extend from his skeletal structure in an ultra powerful game of mercy, finally causing the creature some pain.  Finally, the force of their blows shattering the windows in the nearby buildings, each backs off for the final, ultimate shot.  Superman drops a double fisted smasher on Doomsday while the monster unleashes a left hook on our hero. 

Then, as the world looks on, both through the news feed and those in attendance, the menace is finally stopped…dead.  Lois pleads with Superman to hang on until medical help arrives, but the text says it all in the concluding pages:  But it's too late.  For this is the day—that a Superman died!"  The final two-page spread shows our battered and bleeding hero comatose on his back while Lois cries, Jimmy snaps photos and the familiar red cape flutters like a ragged banner on a nearby jutting piece of debris.  

Fade to black…     

Okay.  So we finally get to the end.  All those issues, all that hype and buildup and it culminates in the demise of the greatest hero ever conceived after a 50+ year run.  My take?  What a complete and utter waste.  Now I'll admit I got in line with all the other lemmings and purchased the final installment.  It was the first comic I'd bought in years and years.  I read it in the same sort of attitude you look at the results of a car crash.  Maybe you don't want to look, but you can't seem to help yourself.  Kill Superman?  Superman?!  No way.  Impossible.  Un-American.  Wrong on a massive scale.  Besides, it's been done before.  There's always an out.  There's always a loophole.  So, with this graphic novel I read everything leading up to it and I think I can sum it up in a few short phrases:  Large, mysterious, bloodthirsty creature appears from nowhere and can only roar, laugh and destroy things.  It crushes a beautiful songbird and Bambi to help you detest it.  The sorry excuse for the Justice League, a bunch of showboating "heroes" who seem to harbor distrust for one another and couldn't seem to work as a team or find their butts with both hands and a GPS engages the creature and summarily gets their sorry butts kicked repeatedly.  Superman takes on the creature and is beaten half to death, rallies, is beaten half to death, rallies, lather, rinse, repeat, until we have a lovely double death to end the story. 

Sorry, but the premise, execution and overall effort just sucked rocks.  I was dissatisfied and downright disgusted from start to finish.  Unimaginative.  I'm usually fairly handy with the written word, but I'm having trouble expressing just how much I detested this thing.  They managed to cheapen a long and proud legacy and even drug the JLA down in the process.  This isn't my idea of heroes or storytelling.  Small wonder that I've had little use for the genre outside my beloved Silver Age and a ways into the Bronze Age.  If this is the best that the 90's had to offer, no thanks.  I'll keep hanging out where things make sense to me. 

I'd say I've sufficiently made my opinion known.  This one goes back on the shelf, perhaps for good.  Next time I'll have something more worthy up for your reading pleasure and in the meantime I'll try to forget this mess.

If you'd like to drop me a line, please be my guest at professor_the@hotmail.com.  We'll be back in approximately two weeks with another effort here at the Silver Lantern. 

Thanks for your indulgence and patronage and… 

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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