I was at a friends’ house recently, and the topic of Billy Joel came up. I remember the first time I’d ever heard “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which was subsequently my first Billy Joel song I’d ever heard. The video was powerful — the images of flames, the family dynamic falling apart, really a masterwork of visual storytelling layered over lyrical storytelling. Billy Joel had taken all of the histories that happened in his lifetime and put it into song.
I thought that was such a cool thing to do, and I wanted to incorporate it into my blog, as a regular piece like “Ask An Author.” So, welcome to the first edition of “My Moments in History,” where I’ll be chronicling where I was when certain events in history happened.
This week’s addition: the Death of Superman.
[WARNING]: Possible Spoilers
A little preface: I idolized Superman as a child. I watched Richard Donner’s “Superman” like five million times, I watched the Superboy TV show, and just about every Superman cartoon on the planet. There was something special about a man who couldn’t be hurt, who put his gifts to work to make the lives of other people better that just spoke to me. I can’t say that Superman made me any different as a man, but I certainly have impressions of the Superman emblem on my sense of right and wrong.
It was 1993, and apparently the news had been out for a while that DC Comics was planning on whacking the Man of Steel. I heard people talking about it but dismissed it as people talking garbage. In my eight-year-old mind, nothing could kill the Last Son of Krypton, and they were just jealous of Superman’s righteousness. Haters gonna hate, right?
My mother needs an exceptional mention of her parenting skills. In the early 1990s, comic books were regarded as inferior reading material and would lead to the collapse of the youth intellect alongside television, and porn. Mom’s thought was “Hey, he’s reading.” She was right. I learned a lot about storytelling from comic books, and I owe my mother much gratitude for that.
In October (I think) of 1993, I came home and my mother had a surprise waiting for me: the “Death of Superman” graphic novel. I’m not going to lie: I did not do my homework that night. More than any other comic book, more than Batman getting his spine crushed and a new Batman taking the cowl, more than Wolverine carving up the Thing’s face, “the Death of Superman” shook me. In my approximate 2,920 days on Planet Earth, I was certain that Superman was invulnerable, immortal even. By the last page of the graphic novel, Doomsday (a brand new villain who didn’t have Kryptonite at his disposal) had felled Superman. He was dead. Really dead.
The newspapers and news outlets ran stories on how DC Comics killed Superman. The issue of Superman, in which Doomsday had killed Superman, became the best selling comic book of that year. Like me, many were awestruck that the greatest comic book hero to ever grace the printed page could be mortally wounded. How gut-wrenching.
A few years later, Christopher Reeve would have his horse-riding accident, and would end up being paralyzed, all of which uprooted those feelings I had when I read “The Death of Superman.”
Of course, no one stays dead in comic books, but I didn’t know that then. That was a powerful moment, perhaps a micro-introduction into one of the harsh realities of life.
Shortly after Superman died, Superman came back, but with long hair! “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” ran a storyline about Superman and Lois Lane getting married — the Superman books did a parallel arc to the show, and all was well in the world of the Last Son of Krypton.
You may be asking, how does someone get so wrapped up in a comic book? The answer is “the same way people get so wrapped up in television shows, books, and movies.” If we’re doing our jobs as authors, then we are capturing your attention and holding it for ransom! When I think back on the many moments in history I’d seen happen as they were happening, this was one of the first that sticks out so clearly in my mind.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!