Three years ago today, Justice League hit movie theaters -- and that's part of why HBO Max and Zack Snyder released a new teaser for Zack Snyder's Justice League today. Interestingly, a major plot point from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- one that shaped the Justice League narrative significantly in both cuts -- had hit the comic book stands exactly 25 years before that. According to Roger Stern's book The Death and Life of Superman, the story known as "The Death of Superman" -- Superman #75 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding -- hit the stands on November 17, 1992, just six weeks after the debut of Doomsday, the monster that killed the Man of Steel.
Beyond Batman v Superman, the idea of Superman's death has been a consistent aspect of pop culture since it happened. At the time, it was lampooned on Saturday Night Live, and in the years following, it got video games, a novelization, two different feature-length animated adaptations and various diferent stories riffing on it in TV, comics, and film since. We asked Jurgens years ago what he made of the story's staying power.
"There are probably a number of things, starting with the fact that most everyone has actually read it," Jurgens explained back in 2012. "On top of that, it touched other books. For example, without the "Death of Superman", Green Lantern never would have gone off on the track he did. All of that came out Coast City's destruction, which we did in Superman. The Cyborg Superman also spread out beyond that story, so that's a factor as well."
Published over several parts in Superman, Justice League of America, Action Comics and the then-published titles Adventures of Superman and Superman: The Man of Steel, the story broke from the comfort zone of the creative team at the time by taking on a more Marvel-style story that embraced big action, blood, property damage and a monstrous, unstoppable villain.
Coming off the John Byrne revamp and working under creators like Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern and Louise Simonson, the Superman titles of the early '90s tended to be somewhat more character-driven, and both Ordway and Jurgens say that the initial pitch for Doomsday! was actually rejected at first with much of the creative staff saying, essentially, "It's not really our kind of thing."
But when circumstance painted the writers and artists into a corner (they had planned to marry off Lois Lane and Clark Kent in 1992, but were told by parent company Warner Brothers that they could not, in deference to Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which was airing at the time), they returned to the idea and decided to make it work. Not only that, but the big, blow-'em-up action wasn't enough: they were going to kill comics's most enduring, iconic and seemingly invincible character.
Doomsday would go on to become wildly popular following the event story, and too has appeared in film, TV, animation, and more in the years since.
If you want to get your hands on the story yourself, you can buy it in bookstores and comic shops; online; or read it using your DC Universe subscription.