While my constant Death and Return coverage might be over I can still revisit the event every once in a while, especially when I am suddenly able to do something I wasn’t able to do before. So here are all of the covers from the Death and Return of Superman saga presented in chronological order just in case you wanted to see some hi-resolution scans of them.
This is my first gallery for the site and I am loving it. The only problem I am currently having (which might be resolved in the future) is that if you click on an image and hit next button it goes to the next image I uploaded, not the next image in the gallery. My dreams of being able to scroll through the gallery in the order I placed the images in have been dashed for the moment. Still, it looks really neat and I am so glad I figured out how to/can finally do this sort of thing.
When you look at all of the covers in order you really get the enormity of this story. Starting with the one page teases at the end of the November 1992 cover dated books going all the way through the November 1993 cover dated books where most of the sub-plots and character arcs from the story are resolved the creators involved told a truly epic story. Was it perfect all the way through? No, but no story or project on this scale will be perfect from start to finish. It was entertaining and not only served to re-energize the Superman titles and bring in a whole bunch of new readers but also to remind us why Superman is the greatest hero of all. Sometimes you have to lose something to realize how special it was. Luckily they brought him back in fine fashion.
Enjoy the covers. They are from my own collection, which is why you see the wear marks and in some cases some signatures.
More to follow…
It is very rare that I get an actual written request to cover a particular bit of business here at the Fortress, but today’s post is the result of exactly that. I would love to sit here and thank the guy that wrote in and asked me to talk about this omnibus but I can’t find the e-mail to save my life. I also wanted to apologize because I am pretty sure the person that wrote in wanted me to talk in glowing terms about this book and…well…you’ll soon see that I can’t do that. There have been very few moments in my comic book collecting life where I REALLY looked forward to something and was disappointed when it finally came out to the degree that I actually felt let down by the comic or comic related item I was looking forward to.
The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus was one of those times.
Back in 2007 I was sixteen different kinds of excited when DC revealed in their monthly solicitations that they were going to release this book. Not only was this one of the biggest Superman stories ever it was also one of the most pivotal moments in my time as a Superman fan. For once my sixteen year old self felt like I was there before…well, not everyone else because obviously there were a lot of other people buying the Superman books at the time, but as I was the one Superman fan amongst the comic collectors I knew it was a pretty big deal that I didn’t have to fight through crowds to get a copy of the death issues. It meant something to me on a personal level that DC decided to collect the entire saga under one cover just in time for its fifteenth anniversary.
The list price for this omnibus was seventy-five dollars and I didn’t even hesitate. Sure I was going to get a ten percent discount through the comic shop I went to but that’s still seventy-some odd dollars with tax, which was and is a lot of money to plunk down for a book. The Wednesday it came out I went to the comic shop, paid for it (and the other books I was getting that week), looked at the cover and it was at that exact moment that the disappointment really began.
There was an ad…on the dust jacket.
I remember some people at the shop wondering why this pissed me off so much. There is are very few things more infuriating in life than someone looking at you when you are angry about something and going, “What’s the big deal?” That just gets to me on a deep and personal level. If whatever I am pissed at doesn’t bug you that’s fine. Don’t look at me like I’m the idiot when something irks me. It’s rude, especially when I have a reason for being upset.
Oh, you want to know why I was so upset? Okay. I can answer that.
There are two reasons the ad on this omnibus made me see red. The first and most basic is that it is ugly. You have this beautiful Jurgens and Ordway cover and instead of creating a little sticker to put on the shrink wrap the artwork is marred by Warner Premiere shilling their first ever Direct-to-DVD animated movie. I am all about some commercialism but there is a time and a place and that place is not on the freaking dust jacket. I understand that you are trying to convince the person picking this book up at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million to also buy the DVD. Someone in your marketing department should have come up with a better way to do it.
This leads into my biggest problem with the ad and that is the hype surrounding the release of the Superman: Doomsday DVD is going to die down soon after the movie comes out. I am not trying to demean the movie as I rather liked it but that film or any film for that matter is only big news to Warner Bros. and DC Comics until the next movie is coming out. This book has a much longer shelf life. Two, three, now five years later someone can pick this up new and that ad is still going to be there on the cover like the biggest, ugliest pimple you ever had. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one that won’t respond to any kind of soap or medicine and doesn’t have a definable head so you can’t pop it so it just sits on your face…judging you…mocking you…making you feel conspicuous.
Okay…that might have been going too far but I think you get my point. The hype for a movie is limited…a collected edition…not as much.
Besides, I was going to buy the damn DVD anyway and I have a feeling that if someone was picking up this omnibus that it isn’t a stretch to assume that they were going to get the movie as well.
And to be fair, you can take the dust jacket off is you really want to appreciate the cover art.
And then I got pissed off all over again.
If there is one thing I want people to take away from the entire Death and Return of Superman saga it’s that while Doomsday (Act I) is a great fight and has a dramatic ending and that Reign of the Supermen (Act III) is a huge action piece with some fantastic new heroes/villains and truly shocking moments that will make you feel something for the characters involved Funeral For a Friend (Act II) is the heart and soul of the story. The writers, artists and editors that worked on this storyline knew that killing Superman was not a story in and of itself. What happens next, that’s the story and Funeral was where Superman’s family, friends and foes dealt with his passing. Without Funeral you have some fun comics but the emotional core of the piece is gone.
Having written all of that you can imagine why the “raging fury” returned when I realized that they didn’t just cut out a page or two of Funeral For a Friend…they cut out whole freaking issues. I was more than a little confused by this. I figured if the thing is called an omnibus that it would print everything. After doing some digging (i.e. typing the word “omnibus” into some dictionary sites) I soon found out this was not the case and that my perception of what an omnibus is comes from a whole lot of assumption based on past collected editions that were called omnibuses. Still, it’s kind of annoying that something that bills itself as “…the definitive word on the greatest saga of the Last Son of Krypton!” would eliminate scenes and issues in favor of forty pages of background material. To be fair maybe there might have been behind-the-scenes factors that we’re not privy to but as a fan of this story and character it was really disappointing.
The break down of what is cut out of Funeral For a Friend goes like this:
- Adventures of Superman #498: Pages 10, 11 and 13 deleted.
- Action Comics #685: Pages 1-8, 13 and 15-22 deleted.
- Superman: The Man of Steel #20: Pages 1, 2, 9 and 11 are not in the omnibus.
- Superman #76: Pages 1-6, 9-14 and 16-22 are absent.
- Adventures of Superman #499: Not reprinted at all.
- Action Comics #686: Again, not reprinted at all.
- Superman: The Man of Steel #21: Pages 1-3, 6, 9-14 and 16-21 are deleted.
- Superman #78: Pages 1-4, 11-16, 17-20 and a panel from page 21 are missing.
Now here is where things get a little strange. When DC originally published Adventures of Superman #500 it came in two editions; a bagged copy meant for comic shops and the collector market and a newsstand copy meant for wider distribution. The bagged copy had eight additional pages of story that weren’t in the newsstand edition, which you can see by clicking here, here, here and here. Pages 6-13, 17 thru 21 and 34 of Adventures of Superman #500 are all cut out of the omnibus. Pages 26, 27, 31, 36, 37 and 41, which were up to this point exclusive to the bagged edition, are in the omnibus. So they cut out fourteen pages of the main story but added six back in. That’s kind of weird, especially when you consider that those eight extra pages aren’t even in the World Without a Superman trade paperback.
For those paying extra close attention the Reign of the Supermen issues are pretty much intact and seems to be everything you would find the Return of Superman trade paperback.
So with all the pages and issues that the powers that be decided to cut out the question becomes what made up the previously mentioned forty pages of extras? The break down for that is as follows:
- An introduction by Mike Carlin.
- An afterword by Dan Jurgens.
- A cover gallery.
- Memories of the story written by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Karl Kesel, Jon Bogdanove, Roger Stern and Brett Breeding.
- A gallery of the DC Direct action figure line and the action figure line tied into the Superman: Doomsday DVD.
- A picture of the Superman/Doomsday bookends set that I desperately want.
- Character sketches with notes. This is interesting because it confirms that Superman wasn’t supposed to have long hair at first. That was something that was added later mainly to show that something had changed but also because Dean Cain’s Clark Kent had longer hair in the pilot to Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
- Reprints of the obituary from the bagged edition of Superman #75 and the National Whisper faux newspaper that DC put out to advertise Reign of the Supermen. If you are curious you can see a high resolution scan of the obit here and the National Whisper piece here.
- Advertising artwork, covers, posters and other bits of business from the Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey series that would come out in 1994.
- A small section of the breakdown charts the creative team used to plan out the death of Superman.
To be fair, the extras are quite cool and I liked seeing them quite a bit. It was just really disappointing to not have the whole saga in one book. In the interest of being fair, which I seem to be doing a lot in this post, it’s not like DC was trying to pull one over on us with the missing pages. Again, there might have been behind the scenes stuff going on that we are not and in all honesty shouldn’t be privy to that dictated those pages coming out. Maybe it was a trade off between those pages and the extras. Whatever the case it was still cool that DC put this omnibus out. Recently solicitations show that another version of an omnibus is coming out with a higher page count than this one, so fingers crossed that the new omnibus has everything. I haven’t decided if I am going to buy it yet. While I am not opposed to buying multiple copies of a particular trade (I have all of the various trade paperback printings of John Byrne’s Man of Steel) this one is a bit pricey. I’ll have to think this one over.
And with that, faithful reader, I am closing the books on the constant Death and Return of Superman coverage. It has been a wild nine months. There were periods of frantic activity and there were long stretches where I didn’t post anything. While I am certain that there were plenty of things I missed I feel like I did everything I set out to do. Starting on Monday I’ll be returning to normal Superman coverage though you can expect a lot of bits of business from the nineties to be popping up in the weeks and months to come. I want to thank everyone that commented on these posts both here and on Facebook. That sort of thing means a lot to me. As always…
More to follow…
If Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics is correct (and I see no reason it shouldn’t be) DC released a trade-paperback for the Death of Superman about two weeks after Superman #75 hit the stands. I am going to go out on a limb and say that a storyline has never been rushed into a collected format that fast. A Death in the Family took about two months to get into a trade and that story made national headlines. So while other trades have been released in a quick and orderly manner I don’t think any came out this soon after the final issue had been released.
It is easy to see why DC rushed it to press. Sure A Death in the Family was in the news but not like the Death of Superman. Lines weren’t wrapping around the block the day Batman #428 came out. DC wasn’t putting out multiple printings. This was an event on a scale comic books had never really seen before, so it makes sense that they would want to get the entire story out there and put it in places that wouldn’t normally carry it, like bookstores.
Oddly enough I wouldn’t pick this trade up for over a year after it came out. I was in a Waldenbooks at either the Lehigh Valley Mall or the Trexlertown Mall in December of 1993 and they had both this and the first volume of Batman: Knightfall there, which was the first time I got to see Bane break Batman. It was at an odd time for me too because (and I realize this is getting more personal than I usually do) it was right after my mother died. There was this strange and surreal quality to sitting there leafing through the issue where Superman died right after suffering a very real and painful loss. I either got it for Christmas that year or used Christmas money to buy it. My memory from that time period is a bit jumbled, as you might imagine.
Hey, (he, said, quickly changing the subject) did you see the post a week or so back where I showed off the platinum version of this trade. You didn’t? You did? Either way here it is again.
Quick aside; The Death of Superman trade was where I finally got to read Justice League #69. The comic shop I went to when the death happened, Comic Vault, didn’t pull that issue for me. To be fair I didn’t ask them to, so I wasn’t upset that I missed it. In fact, I think this trade was the first time I put two and two together that Doomsday crossed over into Justice League because I really wasn’t paying attention to the next issue boxes as I read through the six parts of the story. It was the first time I really remember feeling like my pride as a Superman fan had taken a hit because I considered myself to be a person that knew what’s what when it came to the Man of Steel. I still get that feeling every once in a while when I find something I had missed from this time period.
DC was pretty quick on the uptake in releasing trades to the follow-up stories as well. World Without a Superman came out about a month after Adventures of Superman #500.
This was another trade that I didn’t get right away. I didn’t even know it was out until I saw it at my friend Levi’s house during the summer of 1993. Levi was a fellow comic book fan I met at a theater workshop I was a part of between my junior and senior year of high school and he was such a fan of the new Superboy that he had his hair cut just like the Boy of Steel, which I still think is kind of cool. I remember seeing the cover to this book and just not knowing what it was until I started leafing through it. Oddly enough it would still be quite a bit of time, years really, until I bought my copy at Titan Games and Comics.
World Without a Superman still has my favorite cover of all the collected editions. Grummett really knocked that one out of the park.
Again DC waited about a month to put this collection out but unlike the other two I didn’t wait as long to pick it up. I found this book at the Waldenbooks at the Lehigh Street Mall (or whatever it was called because I never saw nor heard a name for it) sometime late in my senior year of high school and snapped it up right away. I am trying to remember if this was the first place I read the Green Lantern chapter of the story. Again, the last few months of 1993 were a weird and bad time for me so my memory is a bit fuzzy. I want to say I got Green Lantern #46 when it first came out but now that I really think about I believe this is where I first saw that particular part of Reign of the Supermen. It doesn’t really matter.
Now that I think The Return of Superman was the first place I read that book. Years later I would finally get a single issue copy and was startled to find that they had cut pages out of the issue when they included it in the trade. As Jeff and I discussed on From Crisis to Crisis there was a good reason for this. The last few pages of that issue TOTALLY spoil the ending for Superman #82. So the powers that be were quite right in cutting it out of the trade. In 2007 I wouldn’t feel the same way when they cut out other things for the omnibus, but more on that tomorrow.
I guess you could say that this is where the desire I have to buy the collected editions of comics I already own was born, especially if they are Superman related. At the time there was no way of knowing how big the collected edition market would become. When these books were released and even on up through the rest of the nineties I always assumed that DC and Marvel were only going to reprint the important storylines. Somewhere along the line that changed and once again comic books as a medium evolved. It could be argued that “writing for the trade” became a real problem in the early 2000’s but looking back I think this sort of thing was inevitable. One of the main reasons DC put these collections out was to try and grab the people that had either missed the story or weren’t going to comic shops. For good or ill the market changed and if collected editions are doing big business for any comic book company than more power to them. While it can be annoying to read the books in single issue format because the story is paced for a trade after the issues are all finally out it doesn’t really matter. It’s odd that I feel that way because I used to have a real problem with “writing for the trade” but now it just doesn’t bother me.
Anyway, those are the covers to the various collected editions for The Death and Return of Superman. I am not such a hardcore collector that I have to buy the newer printings of these books even though they have different covers and I apologize for not including them here. The mandate I have set for myself and this show is that unless absolutely necessary I will only post stuff from my collection, so I unless I find the new printings really cheap I’ll stick with what I already own. DC has solicited a new printing of Death of Superman with a new cover so if you can’t find it now wait a few months and that should be out.
More to follow…
The same week Superman #82 hit the stands in comic shops Roger Stern’s novelization hit the shelves in bookstores.
While novelizations of movies and even televisions series were nothing new in 1993 and super-heroes stories had been told in prose form before this book was released there had never been, to my knowledge, a novelization of a specific comic book storyline. I think this proves how popular the Death and Return of Superman really was. To invest in not one but two different prose adaptations (one for the mainstream market and one for the young adult market) is simply amazing.
But why did they do it in the first place?
After some intense research (i.e. I re-read Mike Carlin and Roger Stern’s introductions in the 2002 Barnes and Noble re-release of the novel) all I could come up with is that Bantam Books wanted to put out a novelization so they reached out to DC who reached out to Mike Carlin who tapped Roger Stern for the writing gig. Stern was, at the time, the most senior member of the writing team and had written a good bit of the reference material concerning Superman when you count Who’s Who entries and the Superman: The Man of Steel Sourcebook that Mayfair games put out in 1992, so he was the logical choice to tackle the “adult” version of the book. If I had to hazard a guess as to why they wanted to publish the novelization I would have to say the answer is probably money. Don’t forget that the Death of Superman made international headlines and sold millions of comic books. There was gold in them thar hills, brother, and Bantam probably wanted a little bit of that cheddar.
That’s not me being judgmental, by the way. I am glad they published this book.
I have always liked this cover. It’s simple and to the point and because of that I believe it appeals to a broader audience. The bleeding (a.k.a. weeping) “S” turning into the traditional “S” may seem obvious but that’s only because this cover worked so well. The black background makes the reds and the yellows pop. Everything about this cover works to draw the eye of a potential reader whether that reader had heard of Superman’s supposed demise or not.
The most striking aspect of this book to me is its legacy. I have talked to dozens of Superman fans (including my From Crisis to Crisis co-host Jeffrey Taylor and the webmaster of the Superman Homepage Steve Younis) that got into the Superman comics because of this book. That’s an interesting perspective to me considering that I got into the Superman titles five years before the Death and Return went down. To my mind reading this book and the story that inspired it was a given. Other people found it to be their “in” to this era of the Man of Steel and to me it is easy to see why this was such a gateway drug for Superman. In 416 pages Roger Stern not only told the story of Superman’s death and resurrection but also the entire Post-Crisis history of the Man of Steel, his world and his supporting characters. Stern breaks everything down into a manageable, easily digestible form. It’s all there. Sure he makes some major and minor tweaks to the overall story but they all work for this version of the tale. I really can’t say enough good things about this book. If you have only read the comic book version of the Death and Return you owe it to yourself to read this version as well. If you can find the previously mentioned 2002 re-release that Barnes and Noble put out that has new (and also previously mentioned) introductions by Roger Stern and Mike Carlin that give some cool insight into the death of Superman as a whole and why this book was written. Here are the covers (front and back) of that edition.
More to follow…
Today I wrap up my coverage of the artwork that Dan Jurgens and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez provided for the young adult novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond. In this final installment we see Lois and Clark reunited and…an ad.
It’s a pretty cool ad, though.
And there you have it, folks! All of the beautiful art that Jurgens and Garcia Lopez did for the Young Adult novel. I have a few more things to roll out as far as the Death and Return of Superman coverage goes but as weird as it is to type this I am close to wrapping this series up. This doesn’t mean the Fortress is closing up shop, though. I still have a bunch of Superman stuff to post about so stay tuned and as always…
More to follow…
Today I present more of the artwork that Dan Jurgens and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez provided for the young adult novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond. In this exciting installment we see the Man of Steel return and Superman and the Cyborg fight to the finish.
More to follow…
Today I present more of the artwork that Dan Jurgens and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez provided for the young adult novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond. In this exciting installment we see Supergirl and Lex make a shocking discovery and Jonathan Kent fighting “Jor-El” for the soul of his son.
More to follow…
Today I present more of the artwork that Dan Jurgens and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez provided for the young adult novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond. In this exciting installment we see a hero fall and a funeral for a friend.
More to follow…