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:

It’s bad.

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.


Mark W. Hale said...

Hey, I've seen the Mikado, and those tall gay men in their platform shoes, kimonos, and faux-kabuki makeup are fucking HYPNOTIC. Doomsday wouldn't have stood a chance.

David Campbell said...

I think a little Gilbert & Sullivan would have vastly improved the comic as well...

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, this issue featured one panel per page, the issue before that featured two panels per page, the issue before that featured three panels per page, and so on...I guess the general idea was that as you read it, it would start to read faster and faster and faster—which I guessed happened, because I do remember reading Superman #75 in about forty seconds.

But the whole decreasing number of panels stunt didn't really work if you were reading one comic a week—it really only works if you're reading the whole thing in one sitting. Therefore I point to the Death of Superman storyline as the first nail in the "let's write comics that are really intended to be collected later and have you buy the trade paperback" trend. And thus ironically giving birth to the hyper-extended Ultimate Universe, whose books take at least a little longer to read that Superman #75.

(PS to Dave: great site! Just discovered it and have bookmarked it for easy access during boring working moments.)

David Campbell said...

Dave says: Thanks John! I don't remember the whole decreasing-panels thing - I'll have to dig out my run of Superman comics leading up to (or down to) this issue, because God knows, I've got them all... Sigh.

And I'm with you: I think this and the Death of Robin saga are the progenitors of some of the current trends we suffer through/enjoy.

Tom the Dog said...

Excellent post. That comic really did suck ass. I mean, that first panel is just PAINFUL to look at. What's with Superman's back leg? Outstretched to the side, toe pointed -- is he practicing for his performance in Swan Lake? And Lois' pose is completely incomprehensible to me. Did Picasso pose her? Or Escher? Is she lying down on the sidewalk? Is she kneeling? Is she standing, but bending her knee at an impossible angle? Maybe it's a yoga position. It makes my eyes cross to look at it. Just pure crap composition.

David Campbell said...

Word up.

Anonymous said...

I recently pulled out the rush trade DC put out, which was only FIVE dollars!

God, this story is horrible. Jurgens actually puts more thought into the scene where the mean kid (in flannel!) insults his mom for his father taking off than anything else in the book (unfortunately, this was resolved cheaply with the dad coming back in the "Funeral for a Friend" storyline).

What's really goofy about this trade, though, is the cover by Jon Bogandove and Dennis Janke with a weeping lois holding superman's body which is for some reason bleeding from a billion cuts on his body- but he's bleeding BLACK! Oh, MAN, Bogandove's art was irritating. Of course, his writing (on Power Pack) was even worse.

Anonymous said...

Lois looks *hyyuuuge* in that first panel, doesn't she? It's like she's either hovering a few feet above the ground, or she's about to flex her biceps and shout, "It's RENO time!!"

Just found this site via Jim Treacher. Enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, you're Superman and you have to fight this gimp and you can fly and have heat vision and super breath and are able to pick up buildings and throw it at this non flying dude with no heat vision or super breath and you think it';s a good idea to go box with him?

Superman deserved to die.

Windy City Blow said...

Hey....your site is really funny! I always liked Hobgoblin for the same reasons and I enjoyed your thing there about Amazing Man and the super-rendered 90's comic art. And why does Cpt. Atom look so gay? It's a ? for the ages. And if his ass is hanging out like that, where does he keep his nuts?

Anonymous said...

Until I read this post, I never realized just how crappy Superman 75 was. Wow. But I still the whole five-panels, four-panels, three, two, one thing was a pretty cool idea.

Anonymous said...

Superman is obviously an old-school wrestling fan, which you can tell by the fact that he chose to finish Doomsday with the Polish Hammer, the signature move of Ivan "Polish Power" Putski. And you only wish I was making that up.

Doomsday combined four elements that make for a great villain: a cool unique look, a cunning plan, interesting powers, and clever dialogue. Oh, wait--he had none of those elements. Bravo, Dan Jurgens. Way to elevate the suckage. God knows there have never been any comic book stories about a dumb strong rampaging monster. Thanks for filling that creative void for us.

Another story by Dan Jurgens that sucked: Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey. The followup story where they go to Apokolips, and fucking Jurgens writes Darkseid and all of his forces like they're a bunch of feebs, just to make his villains look better. Ol' Dan might as well have gone and taken a dump on Kirby's grave.

Anonymous said...

I just read this for the first time. I gotta admit, I enjoyed the entire battle...up until this last issue. I damn near crapped in my pants with rage when he used the Polish Hammer.

An extremely dissatisfying ending to an otherwise entertaining (albeit hammy) series.

Dan Jurgens, you make me sad for this :(

Felicity Walker said...

You’d think for such an “event” comic they’d bring out the artistic big guns, instead of just handing it off a mediocre hack.

It looks to me like Lois is lying down on her side in that first scan.

Anonymous said...

One of the greatest comic books in history Superman 75

Anonymous said...

I really hated the artwork for this series. Only good artwork was in this issue. I remember when it came out and the prick comic dealer in florida wouldnt sell us one for under 10.00 when it came out. We use to buy stuff from him every week but he was so greedy with this. Thank god he closed down. I think the store was called a-z bookcase

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