Superman: The Man of Steel #18 (December, 1992)
“Doomsday, Part 1”
Louise Simonson – Story
Jon Bogdanove – Penciller
Dennis Janke – Inker
Bill Oakley – Letterer
Glenn Whitmore – Colorist
Jennifer Frank – Assistant
Mike Carlin – Editor
Jerry Siegel & Joe Schuster – Creators
Cover Price: $1.25
This was the very first issue of Superman I ever bought. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that, though I would never assume. Never really had any interest in Superman before this arc… same old reasons that you hear from critiques of the Man of Steel… he’s too powerful, he’s boring, yadda yadda yadda. This is the opening part of the Death of Superman story line, though its focus is more on wrapping up what went down before.
This is a very special issue to me, and is something of a personal collecting touchstone. The Death of Superman has meant so many things to so many people… for me it makes me recall a very bright and wonderful time during my childhood. I was 12 years old when this issue (and story line) arrived.
Earlier in 1992 I was a paperboy for New York Newsday, which if I am not mistaken was the newspaper that “broke” the story of Superman’s pending demise. I remember opening my bundle of papers to be delivered, and seeing the headline under the fold… something along the lines of “Great Caesar’s Ghost, They’ve Killed Superman” and featured an image of Superman battling the monster we would soon refer to as Doomsday. I felt as though I had privileged information, and quickly spread it around my small cluster of friends (those who would care anyway). I kept the clipping of the article; however, after a handful of moves (including one across country) I seem to have lost it… though I still have my newspaper clippings from the 1986 Mets Playoffs and World Series, go figure. I have scoured Newsdays archives from 1992, and have been unable to locate the headline/article.
This was toward the end of my stint as a paperboy, as the “boys” were being phased out and replaced with adults. It makes sense, as adults could deliver more papers faster, and could do so early in the day. The problem this created for me, however, is that I would no longer be able to afford these issues. You see, I was (and am) a big fan of Marvel’s X-Men. I often say that while initially Elfquest made me go to the comic shop, the X-Men made me stay.
Running concurrently (or thereabouts) with the Death of Superman was X-Men crossover “X-Cutioner’s Song” that would run 12 parts across four titles over three months. The prices of the X-Books would increase by a quarter (to an unwieldy $1.50) to accommodate polybagging and adding a trading card to each issue. I would have some tough decisions to make if I were to collect both story lines… after all, I only received so much lunch money each week that I could put toward comics.
A buddy and I decided to pursue gainful employment in attempt to cover our inflated comics expenses. We went into the flyer business. Several local shops used our services to pass out promotional flyers throughout the community, and we charged them $10 for our work (which we would split, and put toward our books).
Our final flyer gig occurred on the day before Thanksgiving, and was for the local TCBY yogurt shop. We were in a rush to wrap up and get home, we both had out of town family visiting for the holiday. After several weeks of marching up and down every street in our Long Island town, we finally realized that we could expedite our endeavors by absolutely carpet bombing a couple of local apartment complexes. Upon finishing up, with the knowledge that I would be able to afford the post-death “Funeral for a Friend” story line (along with my regular must-buy X-titles), we retired.
I still remember walking home that evening. Seeing my house in the distance, and the warm yellowish light spilling out of its windows. There were more cars than usual in our driveway, our guests had arrived. It was so cold outside, yet I felt warm. It was as close to a perfect moment I can remember from my childhood, and I always subconsciously tie it to the Superman books of this era. I cannot think of the Death of Superman without thinking of Thanksgiving Eve, 1992… and vice versa.
Anyways, where was I? Oh, yes. Man of Steel #18.
We open on Doomsday breaking out of containment. Throughout the issue, we are treated to scenes of Doomsday’s rampage including crushing a small bird, destroying a tree with but a punch, demolishing a highway overpass and stopping an 18-wheeler with his shoulder.
The actual story of this issue is about the Underworlders. A young boy named Keith is trying to both locate his mother, and get a message to Superman. Lois finds a note intended for Clark (who was supposed to alert Superman). The note gives the location of the Underworlders. Lois leaves a message for Clark on his computer, and naturally, decides to go to the location on the note.
Before Clark can check his computer, there is a power outage. Superman is able to find Keith through the young boy’s use of glow in the dark spray paint on a local basketball court. Keith paints Superman’s shield on the ground. Superman is guided to the tunnels below Metropolis, and is told that a “reporter lady” down there to boot.
Superman arrives… fights… and defeats the Underworlders. The issue closes with The Justice League’s Oberon listening in on a call to the state troopers about a big monster, who just flipped a rig… with one hand tied behind its back. Oberon says that this sounds like a job for the Justice League, and we are [to be continued…]
I remember being quite disappointed the first time I read this. As this was the first part of the Doomsday story line, I suppose I may have been expecting more Doomsday… maybe even the first confrontation. I was bummed out being dropped into an Underworlders story… I had so little in the way of experience with Superman (and DC Comics at large, really) that I didn’t know who any of these characters were.
I also had a real problem with the art. Judging by much of the reader mail around the time, I was not alone in that. Jon Bogdanove’s art stood out as different than much of the superhero output at the time, and I saw that as an indictment of its lack of quality rather than it simply being a unique take. All of the characters were easily identifiable, so it wasn’t as though Bogdanove was a bad artist by any stretch
I have since evolved on both of these stances. Any time I reread the Death of Superman, I enjoy the slow-burn storytelling during this opening act. We would see Doomsday in action a week later in Justice League America #69 and Superman (vol.2) #74, so it isn’t a terribly long wait. Having Doomsday exploring his newly-found freedom unhindered, all the while Superman is going on with his normal hero-ing illustrates that Doomsday is not (or wasn’t at the time) a Superman villain… he is a force of nature. All he ever knew was containment, now he is free… pray for who or whatever gets in his way. Bogdanove’s art has grown on me as well. It is different, certainly. The characters are big. This works for a title such as this.
Louise Simonson has been a favorite of mine going back to her time on the New Mutants. She brings with her so much heart. The characters are real, and her portrayal of the Lois and Clark relationship is excellent.
It feels weird telling people to grab this issue… as I would imagine most people reading DC Comics review blogs are familiar with the Death of Superman, and probably own this issue, be it in single format or collected. If somehow you have not… Yes. Grab this book. Pick up one of the many collected editions of the Death of Superman, and enjoy a story that… well, may have still actually (sorta) happened.
This issue has “Triangle Number” 1992-45
|Robin III: Cry of the Huntress featured lenticular covers.
You had to pull a tab and it would make the image inside appear to move.
These are kind of proto-Villain’s Month/Futures End covers… just really ugly.
|A Rock the Vote ad in a comic book…
Who says comics are for kids? (who, ya know… can’t vote)
I remember being so annoyed when they stopped recognizing this issue as Doomsday’s first appearance… and instead gave that distinction to Man of Steel #17, where we see Doomsday’s… hand. I still haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of MoS #17.