Friday, April 15, 2005
SUPERMAN #75 DC Comics, 1993
Proposed alternate dialogue for this page: “Lois – get the hell out of the way!”
Remember this thing?
Back in 1993 Superman comics once again flew into the national consciousness with the much-hyped “Death of Superman” storyline, which garnered media attention disproportionate to the comic’s importance. Time/Warner went into full-on hype mode for the comics, which had different covers and merchandising tie-ins like official Death of Superman watches. I still have my black “memorial” T-shirt with the Superman logo. You know, I’d like to see a Death of Jerry Orbach watch – who wouldn’t want that?
This comic was published in the go-go comic speculator market in the 90’s, shortly before everyone realized that maybe they should have spent their money on gold or sports cards – anything but comics. I can’t be bothered to look up the sales figures, but I bet DC sold a metric assload of this book, and that many of those sales were to non-comics fans or “savvy” speculators who bought multiple issues. Of course, lots of folks bought the book out of curiousity, intrigued by the media hype. Which brings us to my problem with the book:
Not only is it bad, but this comic was read by people who may have not looked at a comic for years, if at all. Speaking as a fan and advocate of comics, I hate it when the comics that “regular people” pick up are so bad. It’s tough to crawl out of the “comics are for kids” pit when the industry offers up stuff like Superman #75 or the hideously bad Alpha Flight “I AM GAY!” issue to the world at large. If I was some random guy who picked up this book, I wouldn’t exactly be gagging for more. I mean, it’s just… bad.
This issue is the climax of a multi-part storyline about an unstoppable rampaging monster named Doomsday who stalks towards Metropolis in a gimp suit, beating the shit out of a procession of bush league heroes who yell stuff like: “It’s power--! T-too much! UNNNH!” as they fall. Eventually the gimp suit gets shredded, revealing a dorky looking monster with inexplicable bony protrusions all over his body. Superman finally shows up to defend Metropolis, and during a senses-shattering battle, manages to defeat Doomsday – but at the cost of his own life! This in turn launches the maudlin “Funeral For A Friend” storyline, and then an interminable limbo period featuring four different pretenders to the Superman throne, including Steel and annoying Superboy 2.0.
To convey the epic scale of the battle, writer/penciller Dan Jurgens went with a one panel per page format, much like that one issue of Simonson’s Thor where he fights the Midgard Serpent. The key difference between the two issues? Dan Jurgens is no Walt Simonson. He’s just not up to the task. The pages seem awkward and forced – in order to service the plot Jurgens crams characters into the panel, defying perspective and common sense.
For instance, on the page shown above, Lois runs up to Superman to have a few words – right in the middle of this supposedly savage battle. In a regular comic format, Lois could yell her lines from behind the safety of a police barricade and not look like a total idiot. Hell, she could whisper – he’s got Super-Hearing after all. But here, the artist is restricted by the format and has to cram Lois into the page – even if it means she’s standing like, two feet from Superman as he’s blasting Doomsday with heat vision. I could understand if this was a case of an artist hamstrung by the script – but the same guy who drew this thing wrote it, so there’s no excuse. I have actually read stuff by Dan Jurgens that I like. Didn’t he do Booster Gold? Everybody loves Booster Gold. He also created Bloodwynd, and… and… stuff. Anyway, I don’t mean to personally attack the guy or slander his reputation or anything (I save that pettiness for Brian Michael Bendis, He Who Killed Hawkeye >sob<) but this is a bad comic and damn it, I have a responsibility to the truth. This issue blows.
Despite the fact that the two combatants are “moving too fast,” a suicidally stupid Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen manage to get underfoot anyway. “We can’t worry about pictures!” Lois tells Jimmy. “Superman is in trouble – and I intend to help him!” How, exactly? Throw a shoe at Domsday? On the next page, Lois says, “Move while you can, Jimmy! I’ll distract him while you run!” Again, how? Perhaps she’s going to distract the monster by performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado right there among the rubble.
In addition to impossibly dumb supporting characters, this comic also features page after page of awkward fight poses that make no sense. On the very first page Superman has Doomsday in a weird, ineffectual headlock, the kind of hold you put your dog in when you’re wrasslin’ in the backyard. A couple pages later Superman attacks Doomsday by ramming him at high speed with the back of his neck. I guess if you’re Kryptonian, you can get away with shit like that, but a normal person would sustain serious spinal trauma.
Finally, after a few more pages of strangely unnatural looking combat, Superman and Doomsday land their final blows. “This is it!” he thinks. “Looks like we’re both betting everything we’ve got on this one!”
Then – and I just cannot understand this – Superman threads his fingers together and starts hitting Doomsday with both hands like a big club. Again, maybe his Kryptonian physiology keeps him from breaking every fucking finger in his body, but this would really, really hurt a normal person.
That’s just wrong. And stupid.
Anyway, finally Superman and Doomsday punch each other into oblivion at the exact same time. They both flop unconscious to the ground, just like Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa at the end of Rocky II. Superman gasps a few final words, then dies – for like, six months.
Then he comes back from the grave and grows a mullet.