DC ComicsDeath of SupermanSuperman

Action Comics #684 (1992)

Action Comics #684 (December, 1992)

“… Doomsday is Near!”
Writer – Roger Stern
Artists – Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer – Bill Oakley
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor – Jennifer Frank
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s funny when I think back on my comic collecting career.  My adolescent years were very X-Centric comic book-wise.  The X-Men family of titles comprised nearly 100% of my purchasing and reading, however, my actual “collector memories” are so much stronger with the Death of Superman issues… and I wasn’t even really a Superman fan at the time.

I suppose this may speak to what a comic-cultural touchstone this story line was for us.  This story was an event in so many ways… not only through the fictional narrative between the covers, but for the anxiety, panic, and scramble many of us comics enthusiasts experienced just trying to get our hands on these issues.  This was one of those stories that non-fans would ask me about.  Aunts and Uncles who’d never shown any interest in comics were suddenly asking me what “Doomsday” was.  It was as though everyone was curious about this story.  Everyone wanted to know what was going on.  This transcended fandom.

Of all of the Death of Superman issues, it was my procurement of the one I will be discussing today that was the most satisfying… it was the one issue I actually had to “hunt down”.

Leading up to the event, our local comic shop set up a Death of Superman/Funeral for a Friend subscription service.  For the cost of cover price plus a $20 fee, you would be guaranteed every issue of the story line (including both versions of Superman #75, and the Justice League America tie-ins).

In retrospect, it seems as though the comic shop owner was playing to our fears of missing out to make a tidy profit… however… at the time, I remember actually losing sleep at the prospect of missing an issue.  A buddy of mine was able to coerce his parents into spotting him the cash… I was not so lucky.

As the event drew closer, the comic shop owner… who was likely in his late-40’s to early-50’s at the time would ride and jab at me for not taking advantage of the subscription “service”.  For full appreciation of how pathetic this was, please keep in mind I was a 12-year old boy at the time.  This clown was praying on my fears of missing an issue, and talking up how smart my buddy was for paying up-front (plus slipping him an extra $20, of course).

All was well, and I was able to snag every issue… until Action Comics #684.  I remember us stopping in to pick up our books, and this shop-owner-jackass was standing there with such a satisfied smile on his face.  He giddily advised me that they’d sold out of this week’s issue, while reinforcing that I really should have “subscribed”.  Again, I was twelve… and usually paid for my books with lunch money or spare change I dug out of the couch cushions… pennies included from time to time.

To say the least, I was majorly bummed out.  This was at a time where never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that twenty-years hence I would encounter this issue regularly in quarter-bins… after all, this story line would be able to put me and my children through college, right?

Long story… still long… my fear and frustration was short-lived.  The following weekend, while my parents did their weekly grocery shopping, I wandered into an attached baseball card shop.  Inside they had a full-rack (plus a pile behind the counter) of this very issue.  I gleefully grabbed it, and all was right in the world once more.

Reporting back the following week to our shop, my good news was met with some passive-aggressive digs from the man-child behind the counter.  I didn’t care… I was happy to still be on track to collecting this run.  Was it worth the frustration?  Let’s find out…

We open on Superman and Guardian tending to an injured Maxima, a result of the last chapter’s fallout.  Superman orders Guardian to bring Maxima to a hospital, and sets out on the trail of Doomsday.

Doomsday is rampaging across the countryside.  Superman describes tracking Doomsday as akin to following the path of a tornado… nothing but devastation in his wake.  Doomsday comes across an oncoming car, which he grabs and launches into the atmosphere.  Superman is able to pluck the car out of the sky and safely deposit it back on solid ground… noticing that some of the nearby solid ground (in the form of a freeway overpass) has been absolutely demolished.

Doomsday has invaded a nearby shopping plaza, featuring a Lex-Mart… which I suppose is an early-nineties analogue for K-Mart, rather than the Wal- variety.  While terrorizing the shop, Doomsday’s attention is piqued when he perceives the threat of a challenge.  In the store’s video center, one of the display televisions is airing a commercial for the upcoming professional wrestling card War Bash, which is taking place at The Metropolis Arena.  Wrestler, Major Mayhem is cutting a promo, and Doomsday registers the word Metropolis (or, Mhh-Trr-Plss) in his memory as Superman enters the scene.

The two battle out of the Lex-Mart and along the nearby Expressway.  Doomsday notices a large sign signifying that Metropolis is a mere 60 miles away.  He repeats the word “Mhh-Trr-Plss” in effect setting a course for his destructive rage.  Superman hears Doomsday speak, and knows he must, at all costs stop Doomsday from reaching his destination.

Superman throws Doomsday into a hillside, as Lois and Jimmy watch on from a hovering helicopter.  Doomsday’s rough landing causes seismic activity at the Cadmus Project.  Superman pounces once more halting Doomsday’s recovery.  The two battle through the Cadmus Tree City, “Habitat” effectively topping the entire research project.  As Habitat crumbles, it appears as though Doomsday becomes buried in the rubble.

Guardian arrives on the scene to rouse Superman.  He passes on that Doomsday is buried and to relax as Superman surely “got him that time”.  Mere moments later, Doomsday explodes through the wreckage, sending both Superman and Guardian flying.  As he regains his faculties, Doomsday remembers that he is Metropolis-bound.

The issue ends with Doomsday leaping his way toward Metropolis, and we are… [to be continued…]

What an issue… What was so amazing about the march to Superman #75 was the sense of urgency throughout.  There is nary a moment to catch your breath here.  That is one of the things that works so well about this story line.  We do not get the opportunity to reflect before the end.  There is so much forward momentum… which will ultimately come to an abrupt and definitive halt (though, that is a discussion for another time).

This issue is wonderfully written and looks fantastic.  It is what a big-fight issue should be.  The stakes are high, and getting higher by the panel.  Considering that this is Superman, the end-result of this story (in the narrative) should never be in doubt.  Doomsday is a challenge… a huge challenge, but Superman is Superman.  Observers, friends, and fellow heroes know that when the end comes… it will be Superman standing tall.  There is optimism… tempered with trepidation throughout this entire story, making the end result that much more sobering.

Wonderful issue.  It’s another one that’s difficult to “recommend”… this is no “hidden gem”, if you’re reading a DC Comics review blog… you’ve probably read this one several times over.  If somehow you have not, and still stumbled upon my semi-coherent-ramblings, yes… you should read this one… in fact, read the entire story line.  It’s easy to find and won’t cost you much.  Your comics library deserves to have the Death of Superman in it.  If not for you, do it for your collection… it’ll thank you.

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UPDATE 5/7/23 – “Remastered” for WordPress!

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