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…