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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

Justice_League_America_0069_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

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