It was October of 1992 and The Boston Globe confirmed some rumblings I’d heard from friends who rumored that DC was planning to kill off Superman and bring a halt to his titles. For good. Not one of us read any of the multitude of Superman titles available at the time as most of the guys were fanatic believers in the House of Ideas but a few of us had the taste to pick up a few DC books. Superman was never among them, though.
Among the punishments of living on the seacoast of New Hampshire at the time, we had one choice of comic shop within driving distance as all the shops that opened near us closed within a few months and were the characteristically dark caves of people who no idea about comics trying to capitalize on the sudden collectible status of comic books at the time. Chris’ Cards and Comics was the only one that managed to stay open – unless we decided to drive double the distance to Paperback Bazaar – and remains open to this day in the very same scuzzy strip mall in Seabrook, New Hampshire. I walked in, grabbed my sub and then swallowed hard as I grabbed a copy of Superman #75 off the special display, closely guarded by the shop’s owner, Chris, that declared that I would pay no less than $10 for a sealed copy. Let’s go over that again. Ten dollars. Books were still reasonably priced around $1.25 to $1.50 at the time so to shell out $10 for this book was kind of insane but in spite of never really following Superman, I wanted to see how they brought this all to an end and according to my friends, not one of them was going to rip their copy open since it was highly collectible. Boy, were they going to be pissed.
They actually bagged and boarded their sealed copies of the book. I ripped mine open in the car, horrifying them all, and promptly wrapped the memorial Superman arm band around the sleeve of my flight jacket, where it remained for the rest of the winter and let me tell you, winter in New Hampshire lasts a long, long time. The above video is actually pretty unkind to the death of Superman, which is a suitably epic death story. Doomsday was, in fact, pretty fucking stupid and I really wished it had been Lex Luthor that had done the job, but what do you want? It was the 90’s and everyone was still reeling from the complete lack of taste in pop culture brought on by the dread decade, the 80’s. The comic market was also feverishly trying to keep up with the demand for new books and in spite of what you may think, comic book creative teams are actually the losing team when it comes to coming up with new characters. Their parade of fly by night characters come and go far more often than heroes and villains who actually stick around. So Doomsday being a Hulk-style destruction engine with spiny-points is really no surprise. Superman #75 just isn’t that bad and I was actually a little bummed in the end. I mean, it’s fucking Superman!
In the end, the book had the desired effect. People who didn’t even give a shit about comics snatched up multiples of the millions of copies shipped and the whole thing sold out overnight. Overnight. Comics do not sell out. Like, ever. What these speculators didn’t know, however, was that they were playing a role in the destabilization of the entire comic book market. Market value for Death of Superman skyrocketed almost immediately. I know that at one point shortly after the book was impossible to find in shops, unbagged copies were selling for as much as $50 and sealed books were going for as much as $300 and then the bottom fell out. As Max Landis discusses in that video, DC pissed all over their creation and revealed their hand over the course of the next 12 months with some wingnut, hyper convoluted story about how Superman was just resting all that time. Comic fans recoiled in horror. Speculators couldn’t sell their stacks of sealed books fast enough and almost as quickly as it rose in value, sealed copies of Superman #75 plummeted to a point where they were selling a little below cover price just to get them out of storage. This stupid marketing move by DC nearly destroyed the entire comic book market.
So even though I think Landis is a little cruel to Superman #75, he’s pretty much spot on with his analysis of the Reign of the Supermen and Rebirth of Superman – which actually had the balls to ship in a sealed bag with a gimmick cover. Props for Mandy Moore, Elijah Wood and Simon Pegg. Hilarious video. I’d like to hear his thoughts on Red and Blue Superman.