DC ComicsDeath of SupermanSuperman

Superman (vol.2) #75 (1993)

Superman (vol.2) #75 (January, 1993)

Words & Pictures – Dan Jurgens
Finished Art – Brett Breeding
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Glenn Whitmore
Assistant – Jennifer Frank
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Prices: $2.50 (Deluxe) / $1.25 (Newsstand)

It always comes back to Superman #75, doesn’t it?  No matter what era or vintage of the Man of Steel one discusses, the conversation invariably returns to Superman #75.  I will dispense with the “vol.2’s” as I believe everyone knows when you say Superman #75 which issue we’re talking about.  This single issue is likely one of (if not, the) most important to be released during my collecting career.  I am currently in my mid-thirties, and cannot for the life of me think of a more significant release… on a narrative, personal, and cultural level.

I think most comics enthusiasts, my age range and above have a Superman #75 story, though I’ll concede that I may be projecting.  At the risk of going completely overboard, this issue is one of those “Remember where you were when…” instances usually saved for seminal and world-changing events.  I would feel silly (bordering on ridiculous) comparing it to what people felt following the assassination of John F. Kennedy or anything, but the Death of Superman is one of those things I will always remember on an incredibly deep level.

Going into this story line, as I’ve recounted on this blog… I was not a Superman fan, much less collector.  This event is what first drew my eyes to the Man of Steel.  I was an X-Men fan… those were my books.  I didn’t even venture into non-X Marvel books, a DC book would be out of the question.  Even with that said, I knew I had to get on board for this story… not for some idea that these books would be worth a substantial amount of money… not for bragging rights… no… I had to get in, because I knew we were about to witness history.

As I’ve detailed in other discussion posts, my local comic shop offered a paid-subscription for the entirety of this story line.  A subscription that I could not afford to drop all at once (cover price plus $20.00).  Leading up to the release of Superman #75, I actually lost sleep… fearing I would not be able to buy it.  I really want to say this released on a Friday.  I am oddly cloudy on that, but I really want to say it was a Friday.  I begged and pleaded to stay home from school that day.  My local shop opened at noon, and I knew that if I waited until after school to stop in, I would have zero chance at finding this issue.

My mother was cool… although she wouldn’t let me stay home that day, she told me that she would go to the shop for me early in the day and grab the issue for me.  Before school the morning of release, I remember having my poor mother study the Previews catalog.  Showing her both versions of the book she unwittingly agreed to procure for me.  I feel like a goofball thinking about that now… but, in November of 1992, there was likely nothing more important to me than getting my hands on this book.

With a lump in my throat and a belly full of butterflies, off to school I went.  Thirty-eight hours later (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration), I returned home… to be greeted by, the newsstand edition of Superman #75.  You know when you’re a kid, and try as you might… you can’t hide your disappointment?  I’d like to think this was not one of those instances… but I’m likely dead wrong.

I was happy to have it, no doubt.  I would be able to read and experience the story, which… after all is what it’s all about.  I thanked my mother (who stood in line for over an hour in our utility-closet sized comic shop), without even asking about the deluxe “black bagged” version, and headed up to my bedroom to see how the story turned out.

As I entered my bedroom, I found that my sneaky mother had left not only the “black bagged” Superman #75, but Justice League America #70 on my bed.  Before I could run back downstairs to thank her again, she laughed and yelled “You’re welcome!” up at me.  What a day!

That night, which is more fuel for me thinking this was a Friday… we went to the flea market across the street from the Sun Vet mall in Holbrook, NY… which I wanna say was only open Friday through Sunday.  Regardless, we went there and looked around as we would do from time to time.  On this night, however, it appeared as though every vendor was suddenly selling comic book.  Yeah, “comic book” singular, Superman #75.  The cheapest option inside that flea market was $25.00 for the newsstand edition.  This was release day!  I saw copies of the “black bagged” version for over $100.00.  Again… the book had not yet been out for 24 hours!  What a crazy time to be into comics.

This book remains the only one that my mother will ask me about from time to time.  She’ll ask how much its currently worth, and even ask if I remember her having to stand in line to get it for me.

Yeah, Ma… I remember.  I’ll always remember.

This is a full-length fight scene.  This book is comprised entirely of full-page splashes, minus the final awe-inspiring three-page spread.  We open on Superman and Doomsday in titanic struggle.  Superman is joined in battle by hovering soldiers wearing Cadmus shock cannons, which can take out a tank… though are ineffective against Doomsday.

Doomsday throws the Man of Steel into the soldiers and the nearby onlooking Daily Planet helicopters.  Superman nabs the chopper containing Lois and Jimmy, and brings them down safely.  Lois pleads with Superman to go for help.  Doomsday, who is currently shrugging off cannon fire appears unstoppable.  Superman refuses to bring in back up, as Doomsday has hurt too many innocent people already.  This is his fight… and his city, Superman will stop Doomsday.

Lois and Clark share what will prove to be their final kiss, and Superman leaps back into the fracas.  Doomsday quickly drives Superman into the ground, and sets his sights on more destruction.  His immediate line of sight includes Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

Superman punches through the rubble and goes back on offense, blasting Doomsday with his heat vision.  One awesome detail throughout this fight is the nearly constant appearance of Superman’s torn cape.  It appears in many panels, including this one, in which Superman is actually stepping on it.

The next several pages feature the two going punch for punch.  Barely conscious, Superman breaks off one of Doomsday’s bony protrusions, which proves to hurt the beast.  With renewed confidence, Superman continues to pummel the monster, Doomsday is now stepping on the torn cape.  The two hit each other so hard nearby windows are shattering, it is quite the awesome scene, really adding to the scope of just how much power is being expended in this melee.  Each blow results in shock waves that can felt by onlookers, the battle leaves behind it an enormous crater.

With one last punch, Superman and Doomsday both fall to the ground.  Superman has been in danger before, however, those who know and care about him know that this time it’s different.

In Lois’ arms, Superman last words are, “Doomsday… is he… is he…”  Lois reassures him that he saved them all.  With that, Superman slumps into lifelessness.  For this is the day– that a Superman died.

Now, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a million times?  It’s always intimidating for me to opine on these milestone issues, as it’s already been done many times over, and very likely much more eloquently and with more insight.  It’s Superman #75… that’s pretty much all you need to know.

My first time reading this, I felt almost a sick feeling in my stomach.  I hesitated with each turn of the page, even though I anxiously anticipated what was to come.  This issue had long been “spoiled” for us comics enthusiasts, yet that did not change the way in which I reacted as I read through it.  Like, we knew they were killing Superman, but… they couldn’t kill Superman… could they?  Such conflicting emotions all throughout this issue, masterfully (is there a word stronger than masterfully?  If so, substitute that) crafted by Dan Jurgens.

I have never been so moved emotionally reading a comic book (or any book, really).  As I stated, I was not someone who could be called a “fan” of the character at this time… yet, I knew what Superman stood for.  I knew he was the “good” in all of us, the light in the darkness, and all that.  It affected me then, as it affects me now.  I remember being moved to almost tears as a child (and not that silly “Internet” man-tears either… real tears).  Hell, I’m sitting here like an idiot with welled-up eyes now (and my dogs are looking at me like I’m insane).  No, it’s not allergies… and there’s no “dust” in my eye.  This is a powerful, powerful issue… with a painful (yet oddly beautiful) ending.

Everything from the amazing iconic cover, to every word and picture included within… I can’t think of an adjective powerful enough to clearly state how I feel.  I hate throwing out “perfect” or “brilliant”, because by now the Internet has done a good enough job of making those words meaningless… but this may be as close to that as we’re going to see.

Because of this story line, Dan Jurgens will forever be my Superman writer/artist/creator.

Recommended?  Whattayouthink?

I was commenting on Comic Reviews by Walt earlier this month, and it seems as though there’s something of an unwritten law for 90’s comic book enthusiasts.  If you see a copy of Superman #75 in a cheap-o bin… any version, any printing… you pick it up.  This is true for him, and is true for me as well.  This book is that special.

This book is so special, that even now twenty-odd years later, I am still unable to tear into that black bag.  It just wouldn’t feel right… even though I have a few sealed copies, and the monetary value is no longer there… I just can’t do it.  It feels like something of a comics enthusiast’s mortal sin to break that seal.

Luckily for me, while visiting a local Half-Price Books several years back, I came across an already opened deluxe version of Superman #75… with all the goodies included… for a buck.  I was finally able to eat my cake… and have it too.


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5 thoughts on “Superman (vol.2) #75 (1993)

  • The comic was released on Wednesday November 18th 1992. I know this for a fact because my father who had not touched a comic in 15 years or so suddenly was at the comic shop every week during the months of September to November picking up each issue. On that particular day my dad picked my sister and I up from AM Kindergarten and we were dragged to the local comic shop where we stood waiting in line forever in the brisk cold to pick it up. It's amazing, that a fictional character could have such a hold on people that the world reacts so negatively towards his death at the hands of greedy publishers. At 5 I couldn't understand that, but at 29 I totally can. Superman loves the people he protects and that he's willing to sacrifice himself for them. That's one of the most beautiful things a child could hear.

    • Hello Darren, thank you for stopping by!

      Well, I suppose I stand (or sit) corrected. Cannot for the life of me figure out why I am so set on the book being released on a Friday. I know our local shop didn't put new books out until the end of business Thursday… but, I can't imagine he'd do the same for an issue as huge as this! Hell, who knows… this was pre-Internet, maybe his shop did hold it till Friday.

      This was a beautiful story. It really shows what Superman is to his world. Each and every time I flip through it I can't help but become (overly) emotionally invested.

      Thanks again for stopping by, and taking the time to leave a comment!

  • I was 20 when this issue dropped, in the midst of my post-secondary school career. I had a huge "Reign of the Supermen" poster in my dorm room later that year. While not as big a Dan Jurgens fan as you are, he did a pretty good job on #75. What I remember in the comic shop wasn't the lineups to get this issue (though there were lines), it was the furor to reserve copies of the upcoming "Funeral For a Friend" issues. Looking back it was 80% speculation, but still. It felt like something momentous had happened and was still happening.

    • Oh for sure, Funeral for a Friend is an odd-study… people were super-psyched for it, but they were also the quickest "collector's issues" to be dumped back on shops. They started popping up in 50-cent bins SO quickly!

  • Very eloquent review. I was, I think, a couple years older than you when this came out, and already in high school. In 1986, “Man of Steel” was the first full (mini)series I ever got, with my small 7-year-old’s allowance. That led to “Superman,” which led to “Legends,” which led to “Justice League,” which led to… everything else. So, in 1993 I was already pretty “savvy” and a little jaded and I KNEW he was, of course, not going to die permanently…and yet, it still felt personal to me–for a second, they really had me going.

    I remember what a scam some of the shops had going and that “subscription” you mention with the $20 premium infuriates me, still, 30 years later. It goes to show what a difference having a regular store, where they know and like you, makes, because even as everyone else was going speculator crazy I was able to easily buy all these books at cover price. And I bought two of this one–one to open, one to keep. A friend of mine and I wore the black armbands to school the next day (yes, we were THOSE kinds of nerds). The “funeral for a friend” poster was on my bedroom door for YEARS.

    Looking back as a middle-aged man it all seems a little silly, but quaint, even though it was the harbinger of everything that went wrong in comics–the endless stunts, the speculation, the continual reboots, and revamps, replacements, and, finally resets right back to the status quo.

    The one thing I really love about this miniseries within four (five, counting “JLA”) series was one very clever artistic choice they made. The first issue of the battle is all four-panel layouts. Then the next one is three. Then two. Then finally all splash pages.

    I don’t really know what the “point” of this choice was, but it was great to see Jurgens and Breeding get that last all-splash issue. And thank goodness it was THAT team–I was not then (and am not now) a fan of either Bogdonove’s or Guice’s art runs on the books, and I like Grummett’s character work but he isn’t great with “epic.”

    Of course, what I WANTED was for Jerry Ordway to come back as artist one last time. It seemed to me that if you couldn’t have Byrne involved in the “conclusion” of his version of the character, you could at least have the guy who worked alongside him and outlasted him by five years do the honors–but at least Ordway gets credit for the IDEA.


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