The first death of Superman (pt.1)


    *This series was originally slated to be an ongoing episodic series, exploring a mystery I’ve been following for years in DC comics. After meeting with Walt Simonson back in 2017, I ended my exploration into the connective threads of this story, as he explicitly stated that the story had no weight. After reading through the arc that began in Superman #233 for the third time, I’m not so sure I should have abandoned my exploration. Let’s correct that, shall we?

    Back in 2009, I happened to visit my local comic book store and immediately fell in love with a comic cover. Superman #233 was an iconic cover, that really got at my curiosity, as I hadn’t read any of his early 70’s adventures at that point. I’d caught up with Clark in the late ’70s, and of course, seriously became familiar with him after the relaunch in 1986. I’ve loved Superman my whole life, with largely Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, and Kirk Alyn to thank. Being an only child with a workaholic father, I learned how to read by the age of 3, mainly by reading comics he’d bring home, most of which being Superman comics. As everyone (should know) I appreciate both houses, but contrary to my father’s desires (I’m sure) my primary banner is DC. So imagine my surprise when I did a little research to discover that I didn’t really know my first hero as much as I thought I did. DC was in trouble back in the 70’s. Marvel had their finger on the pulse with many social issues layered into their narrative, with DC fighting to keep up. Yes, Green Arrow discovered Speedy was on drugs, and although tragic, it was almost immediately undone by a story of Lois Lane being black for a day. The kings of comics were losing their kingdom, by derivative characters (and talent) “borrowed” from their stable. The character who was taking the brunt of the beating, was the one (at the time) they felt they needed the most. Superman was dying long before Doomsday got his hands on him. Readers complained about how grossly overpowered he’d become over the years, and writers weren’t having fun with the character anymore. He became too routine, and you knew that somehow he’d find a way to defeat any villain in time. Hanna Barbara wasn’t doing the big guy any favors, yet the “SUPERFRIENDS” show was highly successful and gave WB a decent boost. That sadly did nothing for DC’s comic sales. So back to Superman #233. The task was to bring Superman down to earth some and give him challenges he couldn’t easily flex his way out of. He became a television reporter, which served to compromise his abrupt exits, and it opened up the door for a character who’d ultimately become stronger, faster, and more powerful than he while leaving him as close to his golden age powerset as he’d been in years.

The arc is actually decent, yet slightly puzzling, as it shows a flawed Superman not too dissimilar to the Zack Snyder big screen version we got, a departure from the wholesome romanticized 50’s incarnation that Christopher Reeve brought to life, and many can’t let go of.

The story had a decent wrap-up, and in the end, Superman had (most) of his power back. What if I told you that wasn’t the end? What if I told you that DC not only brought that character back shortly before the Death of Superman, and used that story as a potential back door in case the changes they were making didn’t pan out? What if I told you that someone at Marvel caught wind of this story, and helped to rush their own version of it to print, only to see it end poorly, while DC held back its reveal, and has carried the character (possibly in a revamped form) all the way into New 52/Rebirth?

With that, (for those who’ll follow) I serve to present, “The first death of Superman”.

I’ll carry you through issue #233 to current, and discuss why I feel that New Earth Superman may not be who we think he is and hasn’t been since 1988. Stay tuned…

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