Darkness falls upon Metropolis, as the fight of the century reaches its tragic conclusion in Superman #75.
Triangle Number: 1993 – 2
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Brett Breeding
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: John Costanza
And finally, we’ve made it to the issue that would define the entire era. The one that would bring in new fans by the drove, including me. The one that for better or worse would help to reinforce the speculation market for comic books. Everything for the past year has been building to this moment, and the creators involved were determined to make it worth every moment spent.
To start with, there is the iconic cover of the newsstand edition, which would see several reprints as DC rushed to capitalize on the story as much as they could. It’s a cover that truly captures the emotion of the moment, a cover without the hero of the book on it at all, save the corner box indicia. Instead, there’s his tattered cape caught on a pole and fluttering like a flag after a particularly violent battle. The cityscape depicted is also showing the signs of that confrontation with rubble and broken glass standing out. In the background are the shadowed figures of those closest to Superman, and despite not being able to see them fully, you can still feel the heartbreak pouring off of them. It is such a visually striking image that there is no other image I think of first when thinking of this story.
Flipping open that issue, the stakes are as high as they’re ever going to get. Every single page in this is a full-page splash, that final slugfest that Jurgens had pitched repeatedly in the Summit, twenty-two pages of nothing but one massive brawl. And indeed, that first page is a bloody Superman wrestling with a relentless Doomsday as laser bolts pummel the ground around them.
While the fight pages in Superman #75 could all be posters, with none of them being disappointing, that’s oddly not the biggest pull of the issue. Despite pitching this as nothing but a twenty-two-page fight, Jurgens takes the time to sell the human connections that the Man of Steel has, because that’s where the pain and sadness of the loss comes in.
The time that Jurgens takes to focus on the Lois and Clark relationship in this hectic issue is some of the best work of the entire event. There is a pain in Clark’s eyes as he sees Lois worry about him, so clearly at the end of his reserves. While Lois and Clark take their quiet moment, Doomsday’s rampage continues in the background, with Jimmy intent on capturing every moment, every detail of this day he’ll never forget.
But in trying to catch everything Doomsday was doing, Jimmy misses the defining moment of the epic. Lois and Clark share one final kiss, as Clark determinedly puts every last thing he has into protecting his loved ones. The kiss and the page that followed are the two pages that cemented my fandom and instantly made me care about the characters. That was when it was clear what this man was fighting for and what he’d be willing to do to make sure that his loved ones were safe.
The battle rages on, before finally coming to a rest in front of the Daily Planet. Truly, is there anywhere else it could end? Not only the city of Superman but the building most important to him as well. Watching Superman let loose with absolutely everything he has is incredible, but more incredible is knowing that all four creative teams across the books had been doing that very same thing for the past seven issues. Neither Superman nor any of the creators involved left anything on the table for this event.
Finally, both Superman and Doomsday go in for one final blow, and Jurgens, Breeding, Whitmore, and Costanza deliver an absolutely brilliant series of final pages for the fight, capturing the emotions of Lois and Jimmy as they see their fiancé and friend fall. Likewise, Ma and Pa Kent helplessly watch it unfold on TV. Lois’s quiet “No.” in a vast empty word balloon is devastating, as are the text boxes:
“But most will remember this sad day — as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew — finally fell. For those who loved him — one who would call him husband — one who would be his pal — or those who would call him son — this is the darkest day they could ever imagine.”
Finally, the very last page arrives, with a final surprise from Jurgens and Breeding. The whole issue up until this point had been single-page splashes, but the last spread is a double-page spread of a sobbing Lois holding the man she secretly loves, a man who only cares that he saved the people he loves. With that, the back cover folds out, and Superman dies in his lover’s arms.
Collected in the new edition of the trade paperback focused on this part of the saga was also the edition of Newstime magazine that DC put out to commemorate the event. This replica of the in-universe news magazine was contributed to by all the creative teams and offered a retrospective of the events that had occurred by the people that lived through them. It’s an interesting piece that makes the whole city of Metropolis feel just a little bit more real.
Superman #75 was an ending, but for many, it was also a beginning. This event brought an influx of new fans in, helping them to discover that the Superman books really were worth reading. It also started what would become one of the greatest trilogies of stories in comics history, with “Funeral for a Friend” and the “Return of Superman” set to continue delivering fantastic stories for the next several months. Superman was dead, but the world still kept going around him.