Back in bygone days of the early 1990’s, Superman died. But don’t worry, he got better.
That old joke simplifies what is in essence, one of the greatest Superman stories ever told, and one that occurred quite by accident.
The various creators of the Superman comics had already done the unthinkable and had Clark Kent and Lois Lane get engaged, which shortly after caused him to finally take off the glasses and reveal his true heritage. With this, the stage was set for the Wedding of the Century. But then the Lois and Clark television show came on the air, and this storyline had to be shelved for a wee bit. What to do? Killing the Kryptonian, once a constant joke idea, suddenly became a very real option.
And it steamrolled. The concept and execution made the whole enterprise bigger and bigger, with tons of creators pulling out all the stops. Month after month, the battle to save Metropolis and the world from the monstrous creature Doomsday rapidly became a tour de force. Once Superman breathed his last, in the arms of his beloved Lois Lane, the next chapter began. A Funeral For A Friend featured Kal-El’s burial, and shortly after, four different people picked up the mantle of the S symbol, all leading up to the inevitable resurrection of the real steel.
Sales soared with this huge story. Fans went nuts, commoners checked out their LCS, and the DC Universe was never the same again. And suddenly every other comic started huge sweeping sagas, but none were even as close to greatness as this.
To promote the long neglected Superman, which finally got some DC attention with this deadly fight, they released an adult novel, which adapted all those comics into one hefty hardcover by legendary writer Roger Stern. And to capture the youth market, DC tapped another legendary writer, Louise Simonson, to do the YA novelization.
This was not an easy task. What was essentially a six months long tale has to boiled down to about 190 pages of slightly simplified story. Simonson very swiftly encapsulates the origin of Kal-El and introduces the main characters and the supporting cast. For someone like me, who loved and trilled to this era of Superman, it gives an unique excitement to see these wonderful people in a book, immortalized to the general public as being a part of the mythos. Simonson, with the set-up now accomplished, strikes right to the main point of this adaptation, the Superman / Doomsday battle. We are not even half way through and Kal is dead, Doomsday is defeated and everyone, except for the diabolical Lex Luther, is in mourning.
And when we hit the mid part, the four competing heroes sporting the S symbol appear. Superboy, a clone a Kal with an attitude. Steel, a man in armour channeling Kal’s spirit. The Kryptonian, a Kal made pure and deadly. And the Cyborg Superman, a Kal made living by the addition of robotic parts. Who, if any, are real? Cue suspenseful music.
Simonson makes this journey fun and enjoyable and emotional. While old Geeks like myself notice all the plot points and characterizations and abundant subplots that she has to jettison, a fairly complete story is still present. And while one hero guest star is not in the big battle probably due to licensing issues, making it all work is quite a triumph for Simonson. By the end, and this is not a spoiler, Superman is back amongst the living, flying high, with lady love Lois. This happened in the comics, and almost the exact same scenes are replicated here.
To help Simonson with this book is the liberal use of art from the stories all throughout, giving some visual aids as to the nature of the unfamiliar characters introduced to the public. In fact, one of the multiple highlights in this book is the two page spread featuring a gallery of the cast. It is right after the page listing, not only of all the comics this is based upon, but the creators as well. Classy move, much loved by this Geek.
As a launching pad for young fans into the wide world of Superman and comics, it is most excellent. Simonson brings the essence of what Clark is, all enveloped is one amazing adventure, to diehard fans and newbies alike.
And, by the way, Superman dies. But not for long.
…is currently reading Every Never After by Lesley Livingston.
P.S. This post is one of several I hope to do this year to celebrate the 75th Birthday of Superman. Happy Birthday Kal-El! Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
P.P.S. Superman Man Of Steel opens Friday, June 14th 2013. For an indepth look at the creation of this landmark movie, check out Jeffrey Taylor’s columns.