Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reader's Diary #1264- Various writers and artists: The Death of Superman

According to the cover of The Death of Superman it's "The best-selling graphic novel of all time!" That struck me as surprising. Granted, I do recall it being a big deal at the time, and I wasn't even really into comics at the time, so for it to have hit my radar, I'm guessing that in 1992 it probably was the best-selling graphic novel of all time. I'm skeptical if those claims would still hold up today, however.

It's surprisingly difficult to determine the best-selling graphic novel of all time. However, looking at's list of best-selling comics and graphic novels, I think any of the following are probably more likely contenders:

Alan Moore: The Killing Joke (2603 days in the top 100)
Frank Miller: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2975 days in top 100)
Alan Moore: Watchmen (not currently in the top 100 but I can't imagine it hasn't outsold The Death of Superman)

The interesting thing is, all of those were published in the 80s and that suggests that when The Death of Superman first came out it probably did outsell those other titles. However, it has had no where near the same legacy or longevity.

Why not? To begin with, all of those who rushed to by a supposed collector's item, i.e., the final Superman comic, were beyond pissed when he was back to life mere months later. There is no legacy because it essentially meant nothing. Secondly, it doesn't hold up particularly well.

At the risk of getting myself blacklisted from every comic-con from here on in, I think the Moore and Miller titles listed above are also overrated. But I won't deny that they were game changers and still hold up today, or at least a far cry better than The Death of Superman.

I was taken aback at how dated The Death of Superman actually felt. Not so much for the early 90s references (this fills me with endless amusement), but for the dated way characters narrate the action with their thoughts. I would have thought that by the 90s such a thing was long gone. It felt out-of-place, like hearing a laugh-track today.

I am, however, dying to know what in the heck was going on in DC Comics at the time. As Superman faces his toughest foe ever, the Justice League shows up. Er... sort of. Booster Gold? Maxima? Bloodwynd? Superman is dying and only this second tier roster bothers to show up? Where is Batman? The Flash? Wonder Woman? The classic Justice League characters from when I was a kid are largely still the same ones today, but clearly something had happened in the late 80s/ early 90s, once again showing how poorly The Death of Superman holds up. One familiar face was Supergirl, but she's dating the red-headed son of Lex Luthor? WTF?

As for the story itself, there's not much of one. It's basically Superman getting his ass kicked for 100+ pages with so many sound effects it begins to feel like a bass drumuntil he dies. Of course, he dies saving the day, but you knew that.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Kudos to you for reading this, even though Superman didn't have the grace to stay dead.

John Mutford said...

I know! It cheapens the whole Crash Test Dummies song.