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…