Superman (vol.2) #76 (February, 1993)
"Funeral For a Friend/4: Metropolis Mailbag II"
Story & Art - Dan Jurgens
Finished Art - Brett Breeding
Letterer - John Costanza
Colors - Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor - Jennifer Frank
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.25
Welcome to day three of the Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths. Today we're going to discuss a very special issue. This is actually the issue in which I was introduced to many of the DC Universe mainstays and heavy-hitters. I don't think I've made it any secret that my introduction to DC was through the Death of Superman storyline... sure, I had assorted issues in my collection before that, but I never actually cared until the tail-end of 1992.
I've been looking forward to rereading this one just to imagine myself checking out so many of these characters for the first time. It feels like a lifetime ago... and I guess an argument can be made that it was!
It's a rainy Metropolis Christmas Eve as many of DC's heavy-hitters organize atop The Daily Planet building. Captain Marvel is the last to arrive. The heroes have a brief rain-soaked discussion about the death of their friend... and loss in general. Tonight is not all about talk, however, they are all there for a purpose... to fill in for Superman on the night that he tries to grant some wishes. Of particular interest here is Robin, who is the relatively newly-minted Tim Drake at this point. He has his own feeling about the loss of the Man of Steel, yet feels foolish sharing them. Such a human reaction... really like it.
Meanwhile, across town... we meet up with our old friend Mitch. You remember Mitch, right? The punk kid from Ohio who got lippy with his mother until Doomsday and the Justice League destroyed his house... yeah, him. Anyhoo, he feels responsible for the death of Superman, and ran off to Metropolis in order to apologize to... Mrs. Superman?
On an outdoor stage some nutjob has orchestrated a press conference so that she may tell the world about her super-secret affair with Superman. Among the press is the Daily Planet's own, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. As you might imagine, this is all quite difficult for Lois to digest... it's not long before she walks off.
Jimmy notices the odd looking Mitch and asks him if there's anything he might do for him. Mitch spills the beans about wanting to apologize to Mrs. Supes, but Jimmy drops the proper knowledge on him. Mitch decides it might just help him to talk to anyone who was close with Superman... well, I guess Superman's Pal might fit the bill! Jimmy offers to buy Mitch a meal with Bibbo at Hobb's Bay Grille.
We rejoin Lois as she visits Clark's apartment for the first time since his passing. The panel layout here is truly wonderful... long, thin, uncomfortable panels... we can actually feel Lois' dread as she enters. It's at this point that Clark/Superman's death is becoming "real". Not that his actual death and funeral weren't... but this signifies the fact that life will have to go on without him.
She enters and begins to cry... fearing that she is now all alone. Lois' internal monologue is interrupted by a friendly voice... Ma and Pa Kent have arrived. This is a particularly difficult scene for me, though it wasn't always. I'm not sure if I've just grown sappy in my old age, or it's that I've become so much more familiar with these folks... but the scenes with the Kents are always the ones that "get" me. The Lois and Kents reunion is interrupted by (a very blonde) Lana Lang. This is a wonderful little "support group"... I mean, who else could any of these four go to in order to talk about this? Not like Ma is going to ring up Batman.
We shift back to the Daily Planet where several heroes are rooting through the mail room... a mail room filled with letters to Superman. Guy Gardner has some choice sarcasm for the entire endeavor... which I like to think is his defense mechanism. He comments that all of these letters signify just another person that wants something. Wonder Woman scolds him and they continue looking through for some wishes to grant.
Gardner winds up finding a letter from an older woman who has a terminal disease. Her request for Superman is to find her son who ran off some three decades earlier. He figures this is just the wish for him to grant... but he hopes there will be some need to "bust some heads" along the way.
Flash and Wonder Woman find a letter from... well, lookit this, a woman whose house was destroyed during the battle with Doomsday! What the heroes notice is that the letter is primarily a thank you for saving the lives of her children. Wonder Woman decides that they will do whatever they can for this family.
At Hobbs Bay Grille, Mitch dines with Jimmy and Bibbo. He shares his story with them... telling them that if Superman hadn't come back to save them he would probably still be alive. Bibbo talks him down and tries to put the entire event into perspective. We learn that some/most of Mitch's guilt is due to making fun of Superman before everything went down. He thought Superman was lame... and it's only because of Superman that he and his family are alive today. Not even his own father cared enough... but Superman came back.
Back at Clark's apartment, the gang is discussing how they are going to go about explaining Clark's disappearance... and Lana wonders if it might be time that the secret comes out. Ma and Pa give that thought the ol' nuh-uh... and the foursome agree that the secret stays between them.
We shift to Wonder Woman standing in front of an apartment door. Inside is... Mitch's dad! He first thinks she's there as a gag, or a singing telegram. She informs him that she is quite real, and fills him in on what just went down with his children and ex-wife.
We next see some cameos... Nightwing and Maxima are delivering gifts to a homeless shelter, and Guy Gardner shanghais the old woman's son and facilitates a mother and child reunion. I like to think that Guy didn't even talk to the guy... just zapped him with his ring and brought him home.
We join Flash and Green Lantern as they help a team of construction workers building a house for a certain Ohioan family. We jump back and forth between scenes of Mitch paying his respects at Superman's tomb and his family home being rebuilt. Of particular note, Jimmy swears he hears the faint sound of drilling at the tomb... hmm...
As construction nears completion Mitch's father, Roger reunites with his mother, Claire. We find out that Claire never told Roger what went down with Doomsday... and right then and there, they decide they want to give being a family one more try. Yeah, a bit too sappy and convenient... but, whattayagonnado... it's Christmas.
We wrap up with Jimmy and Mitch leaving the tomb... just as Cadmus is making off with the coffin! To be continued...
Well, what can I say about this one? As I mentioned above, this issue really was my introduction to the non-Super non-Bat DC Universe. This was my first time really seeing Green Lantern, the Flash, and Wonder Woman in the comics. Such a strange time to see them too, right? Just as the biggest gun of them all is out of commission...
I was pretty disappointed both then and now by Captain Marvel only showing up for a panel or two. I thought I'd forgotten him playing a bigger role here, but... nope. Guess it's really neither here nor there... just would've been cool to see him do more here.
The Mitch scenes bugged me as a kid... I'm not sure if I had the desired reaction to the lad... but I thought he was the worst back then. In my current more *ahem* mature state, I can see the merit in him showing up... still think he's kind of a jerk though. Boy he really let it all out during his dinner with Bibbo, right? Issues with guilt... abandonment... guilt... death... guilt... loss. Mitch got some stuff to work out, eh?
I mentioned in the synopsis... Mitch's folks reconciling, expecially under the circumstances, seems really "easy". It neglects to take into account the prior complexities of their relationship in an attempt to give us something of a "love conquers all" bit... which, if it were in any different book, I might be a bit more upset... but it's Superman... during the death... at Christmas. Any complaints that I have can't measure up to all of that. I think Mitch shows up several years later... with powers (seriously)... maybe then we'll find out how his folks made out.
The scenes that most stuck with me... were really a very small part of this issue. They were the scenes with the Kents. When I was a kid, I saw Ma and Pa as Superman's "Aunt May"... and I didn't see that as a good thing. I really didn't like having them around... can't put my finger on why I felt that way... but, what can I tell ya, I was 12. In the years that followed, I grew to appreciate them... even really like them. It soon became that the only way I could see Superman was as Ma and Pa's son. The New-52 Superman always felt wrong to me due to their absense. Of course they still raised him... but, I felt as though they should still be around.
As I stated above... these scenes have become particularly difficult for me in more recent rereadings. I always think back to Louise Simonson describing these scenes during the documentary that came with the Superman: Doomsday animated feature. She actually struggles to get through her statement... almost choking on her words as she fights back tears. Ever since then, I have a similar problem getting through these scenes. If you haven't seen that doc... it's highly recommended... and is legally available on YouTube uploaded by Warner Bros. Actually... I'll just include it here:
Overall... if you're a fan of Superman or DC Comics, there's a very good chance you've already read this... it would be silly for me to type "recommended"... because, of course it is.