Here we are, almost at the twenty-year mark...
In 1992, I was a sophomore in high school. I had been reading comics since I was old enough to hold one, obviously just looking at the art until I could read.
I had been reading a lot of Marvel prior to Batman 89, which catapulted me into reading a lot of DC on a regular basis. Because of my brother's comic book collection, I was extremely well-verse in all of the DC and Marvel heroes, and while I had loved the Chris Reeve Superman movies and the old Super Friends TV show, by the time I was avidly reading comics, the "Grim n' Gritty Age" had gotten a hold of me.
In fact, before Superman died, I was reading a lot of Batman, The Flash, X-Men, X-Factor, Wolverine, both Punisher titles, Ghost Rider, Spawn, and reprints of EC horror stuff. I had become very dark and jaded at my young age, and held a character as "bright and corny" as Superman in some disdain.
These were the days before the Internet. My uncle comes to our house for Thanksgiving and brings a newspaper clipping with him. It's article about the Death of Superman. I was floored...I wasn't yet savvy enough to realize it might be a stunt like Jason Todd's death, which I had read as a twelve-year old years before. I actually thought this was the end of Superman, and being converted to the darkness as I had been, I was grimly interested in reading how it had happened.
My mother had been taking me to two comic shops before I could drive. I asked her if I could have the issues for Christmas. She called both shops, but to no avail, or at least she told me. They were sold out.
I was disappointed, but added the Superman titles to my already large pull lists at both stores. As the "Funeral for a Friend" storyline began, I forced myself to avoid reading them, hoping that I'd get some reprints at least.
Then Christmas came. I had received everything I'd asked for more or less, but then there was one more present, packaged in a white dress shirt box. I opened it excitedly to find the entire "Death of Superman" story...ALL FIRST PRINTINGS! My mom had actually bought them when the story hit the news, and had put some serious coin down for the issues, including two copies of both the standard and bagged Superman #75.
After rushing through dessert and saying goodbye to my visiting relatives, I retreated to my personal Fortess of Solitude. Reverently, I opened each bagged issue and read.
The Superman I thought I'd known, the one who was cool in the movies but whose pre-Crisis comics were very cheesy, was in no way a lame character. He was powerful, yes, but also, despite having no huge arsenal, adamantium claws, hell-fueld powers, leather, black capes and batarangs, or spikes, he was...a hero. THE hero. He put others before himself even to the extent of jeopardizing his own personal safety. And he did so without killing. Even in his final battle with Doomsday, which was the most epic battle I'd ever seen, in any media, he didn't try to kill. Instead, he gave all he had left in the hopes that his last blow would at least stop the monster after he died.
I was moved by Superman's sacrifice. I ravenously tore through "Funeral for a Friend" and every Friday, while other kids went off to parties and sporting events and "real lives," I went to my LCS and picked up my comics. But when I got in the car, the first comic I'd thumb through was the newest installment of "The Reign of the Supermen." And I'd hurry home and read that issue first, thrilling to the introduction of the four mystery Supermen and their adventures. My three best friends, who'd I'd hooked on comics through The Death of Superman (they only got reprints), went one afternoon to one of my LCS and met Jon Bogdonove, who signed our comics and our copies of the Death of Superman trade paperback.
Finally, Superman #82 saw the return of Superman, with longer hair to boot. Superman was back and slightly changed over a year later, and I had changed as well. I was now a Junior in high school and had gravitated away from the grim and murderous "heroes" I'd enjoyed previously. Sure, I still read Batman and Wolverine, and enjoyed flawed comics, but stuff like Spawn and other darker stuff was gone. Those stories and characters just didn't inspire me the way Superman and his adventures did.
I know a lot of comic geeks will lambast this story as just another (or perhaps, THE) 90s marketing stunt, but The Death of Superman still holds a place in my heart, and always will. It's epic and entertaining and fun, qualities absent from far too many comics today.
Anyone else love this storyline?