It was the year 1992, I was seven. I remember taking a break from chores to read the newspaper. I always had a habit of reading the arts and entertainment section, and there on the cover of the Virginian-Pilot was that symbol we all know too well. The red symbol of the House of EL written in blood with black behind it. It read “Superman is Dead.” I was shocked.
I didn’t know that any character could die, much less Superman. I read the article and was devastated, how else could I be. My hero had died. Now at this time I did not read comics regularly. I would get them occasionally when I could. I had a bunch of Superman and Batman issues I had gotten for my birthday, but there was not a lot of continuity. This was the triangle era. The only place to find comics nearby was a spinner wrack in a uniform shop on base. It would be another three years before a comic shop opened near me.
That image and those words stayed with me. It would be revisited in 1997 when Our Lady Peace would release the single “Superman’s Dead.”
Let’s fast forward a few years to when I was about 10. I was able to ride my bike to places and, most importantly, the library. The library is an awesome place for a reader. That is where I was able to check out the “Death of Superman” book series. That evening I read all the books. I poured through the pages, engaging in blow after blow as Superman battled the never stopping Doomsday. He was dead, now what happens?
I continued the collected series. I found the Reign and Return of Superman fun, very convoluted at times and pure science fiction perfection. However, the story that grabbed me the most was the battle of the soul of DC Comics, for the spirit of truth and justice in Metropolis in Funeral for a Friend.
I have read the second collected volume multiple times over the years and it always brings me to tears. This is the story that shows the importance that Superman brings to the world. The character of Bibbo Bibbowski gives one of the most moving speeches and puts a point on the importance of Superman’s actions in terms of a role model. Bibbo tries to do more to live better and be the example that Superman set for the world. That is the message of the character that is Superman’s legacy.
Funeral for a friend resonated harder for me than the death. This story you felt the emotion and for lack of a better term it felt real. Over the years I’ve had many conversations with friends and people about death. Doomsday’s destruction, how powerful is Doomsday, the art, the characters, but the emotion is never discussed, the aftermath.
The 2018-19 film set “Death of Superman” and “Reign of The Supermen,” which would later be collected as one film, “The Death and Return of Superman,” did the best job of showing the loss the world suffered. Bibbo’s speech was included in a nice punctuation of how the world feels. I will say that the 2018 animated film “Death of Superman” is my favorite adaptation of the story.
When looking back on one of, if not the most, landmarked storyline in comics history, I have a sad thought. Why did Superman have to die to matter to people? The old adage said it best “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
Today hardly an adaptation is done without the threads of Superman’s death story line being present. In a way it saddens me because Superman only matters or the only story that matters is when he dies. His death only matters if he has the legacy and life that goes with it.
In many ways I am still that boy reading the newspaper, shocked by the headlines. Only now I truly understand what a world without Superman feels like. To some everything up comes a quote from my wife, Junia “It’s kind of representing what is wrong with the world today. Someone had to become a martyr in order for us to care.”