Adventures of Superman #498 (1993)

Adventures of Superman #498 (January, 1993)
“Funeral For a Friend/1: Death of a Legend”
Writer – Jerry Ordway
Penciller – Tom Grummett
Inker – Doug Hazelwood
Letterer – Albert DeGuzman
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor – Jennifer Frank
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.25

Iconic cover… Iconic character… Iconic story… Iconic creators… I’yai yai!

We open in the immediate wake of Superman (vol.2) #75 (wow, it’s been awhile since we discussed that one!).  Lois is on her knees, holding Superman’s body.  Before them, there’s another body… Doomsday lay face down, surrounded by terrified members of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit.  One tentatively pokes the beast with his gun… but nobody can agree on whether or not it causes the monster to twitch.

Luckily for them, Dubbilex is present… and he can attempt to read Doomsday’s mind.  After doing so, he proclaims that while earlier it was full of rage and anger… now, there’s nothing.  Similarly, he was able to get a reading on Superman earlier… and now, nothing.

Lois isn’t willing to accept this… Cat Grant and Jimmy run to her side to comfort her.  Maggie Sawyer and the Guardian walk up… with the latter doing his best to perform mouth-to-mouth on a man who’s lungs are akin to steel drums!

Sawyer calls over some EMTs… who fire up the defibrillator.  Terrible Dan Turpin watches on from the sidelines… he compares Superman’s passing to losing a fellow officer in the line of duty.  He makes his way through the wreckage, and (almost literally) stumbles upon the protoplasmic bod of Matrix.  Lex Luthor pops in to take her away.

Back at the body… the EMT’s are getting ready to give up their shock-paddle endeavor, for fear that they’re going to melt their tools.  The Guardian grabs him by the collar, and tells him if he’s gotta melt ’em to bring Superman back, then they’re damn sure gonna melt ’em.  Jimmy and Cat pull Lois away… Lois has not relaxed her grip on Superman’s shredded cape.

Lois suggests they contact Dr. Sanchez at S.T.A.R. Labs… and then, it happens.  Cat asks Jimmy to call Clark to come and get Lois.  It’s now that it finally hits Lois that not only is Superman dead… so is Clark Kent!  What does this mean?  Did Ma and Pa see their only son die on television?

A WBGS van pulls up, and Cat prepares for her live breaking news broadcast.  When it cuts into “regularly scheduled programming”, we hop to Cat’s own apartment where her son Adam and main-squeeze Jose Delgado hear the news.  Adam’s never been a big Superman fan… so, he switches the channel to cartoons.  Jose snaps at him, and grabs the remote control.  Adam runs off crying.  Jose heads to the closet and pulls out his old Gangbuster costume.  In the background, a particularly snotty newscaster say that he guesses “Superman wasn’t so Super after all”.  Jose hurls his helmet through the set.

In Smallville, Ma and Pa are watching the news roll out on television.  Pa thinks they’re all being dumb… after all, Superman’s come back from worse… right?  Ma wonders aloud if they might be right.  The Kents hug and pray for their son’s safety.

At LexCorp, Lex and Supergirl discuss what had just gone down.  Supergirl regrets that there wasn’t more she could’ve done to help… Lex feels similarly, buuuut for different reasons.  He’d had liked to save Superman, if only to never let him forget that he’d done so.  The Protoplasmic Matrix performs her most difficult and painful transformation… and we can see that her Supergirl bod is covered in bruises from the battle.

Back at the bodies… the head of Cadmus arrives, and claims to have been given the authorization to take both Superman and Doomsday’s bodies.  Dan Turpin doesn’t seem to have any problem with them hauling Doomsday away… but, he won’t let him take Superman.  Head of Cadmus is a jerk… a loudmouthed homophobic jerk at that.  Terrible Turpin hauls off and punches him in the gut.

Dubbilex reveals that he reached out to some friends for help… and so, Emil Hamilton and Bibbo (!) saunter up with an energy-collecting unit to soup-up the defibrillators.

Bibbo has volunteered to be the guy to press the paddles into the Man of Steel’s chest… it’s pretty heartbreaking, he says if anything goes wrong, “no one’s gonna miss a pug like me”.  They load up the unit… and Bibbo pumps the power, which causes a terrific elec-splosion.  Superman’s body actually jumps… however, Dubbilex confirms that his condition is unchanged.  A nearly-kayoed Bibbo asks for another go-round.  As you might assume… none of this actually brings Superman back to life.

We wrap up at the Daily Planet, where Jimmy is annoyed at all of the sensationalism… even more annoyed that Cat Grant is part of the deluge.  Meanwhile, Lois is working on her article… Jimmy’s instantly-iconic snap of Superman’s body will run alongside it.  Jimmy feels as though publishing this photo is in someways a violation of his friendship with him.  Jimmy offers to walk Lois home… and Perry assures her that if the worst should be confirmed about Clark, they will do whatever they can to keep his memory alive.

Alrighty, we got quite a bit to unpack here…

Let’s first discuss the fact that this story actually happened in the first place.  I remember when we first learned that this entire event was going down, I wasn’t sure how this whole Funeral For A Friend leg of the journey was going to work.  Normally, you’d figure the death of an iconic comic book character might require an issue (mayyyybe two) devoted to the fallout and funeral.  Certainly not two-months… and nine (counting Justice League America) issues!

Gotta say, in hindsight this might be my favorite bit of the Doomsday “three-act play”.  This is an extended post-credits scene, where we’re actually afforded the opportunity to see how everything rolls out.  This issue (and story) picks up immediately following the last page of Superman #75.  There’s no jump to “days later”… or “the morning of the funeral”… this is, for all intents and purposes, the second chapter of Superman #75.  The credits rolled… but the curtain never went down.

Let’s talk Lois.  The way she was depicted here was perfect.  To her mind, Superman and Clark Kent are the same fella… because, well, ya know… he is.  She doesn’t immediately consider the ramifications of losing both of them individually.  When Jimmy and Cat ask about Clark… it hits her like a ton of bricks.  Superman’s dead… but so is Clark.  How does this effect those who called Clark “friend” or “son”?  How does this effect her own life going forward… her fiance is gone!  Her refusal to let the cape go… her insistence that the EMT’s continue pumping electricity into Superman’s body… all very touching… and amazingly “real”.

The Kents in Smallville… their scenes during this arc are particularly painful to get through.  They may have lost the most during this event, however, they are so far removed from Superman, so far as the general public is concerned, that their grieving is… I dunno… unrequited?  I know that’s the wrong word for it… but it feels like their mourning isn’t quite as “real” as it could be.  Part of the grieving process for many is being able to talk to others about their loss.  Here the Kents are… alone in Smallville, having lost their son.  The rest of the world might’ve lost it’s greatest hero… but they lost their only child… 

Bibbo is another heavy-hitter for me during this era.  He sees himself as disposable in his attempts to help shock Superman back to life… which is very touching.  A later scene with Mr. Bibbowski is particularly difficult to get through.  I’m sure we’ll cover that book sometime soon.  Suffice it to say, Bibbo is depicted as having perhaps the purest “heart” here… and I love that Ordway included him.

Without going too deep here… because many of the cameo characters will get more fleshed-out scenes during this arc, and we’ll eventually discuss them at length… I really appreciate the way in which so many characters from the Super-cast are included.  Transitioning from Cat Grant’s “breaking news” to Jose and Adam hearing the news was perfect.  All of Metropolis’s “Science” gangs all being interested in conducting studies… even before the bodies are cold is a nice touch as well.  Lex and Matrix both wishing things could’ve gone down differently… but for very different reasons… all fantastic stuff!

Overall… if you’re a Superman fan, let’s face it… you’ve already read this issue.  It’s a wonderful (and terrible!) look at the fallout of a horrible disaster, and we get to experience the reactions first hand.  There was no time to digest what had just happened… every reaction here is determined by “gut” and “heart”.  This is before anyone can reflect… or utilize critical thinking, and with that in mind… is scripted as perfectly as I would hope.  Tom Grummett is able to convey so much emotion in these characters… it’s almost as though you can guess, at a glance, which step on the Kubler-Ross scale each person is currently on.

A pair’a masters (and team) working their magic on an amazing book.  If somehow you haven’t read this… rectify that at your earliest possible convenience.  The entire Doomsday arc is available in a number of ways… and while I always recommend single-issues (not floppies!), you can get this in several flavors of trade paperback, omnibus, and of course… digitally.

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