In the DC Universe's second foray into Tales From the Dark Multiverse Elseworlds-style tales, writer Jeff Loveness and artist Brad Walker tackled DC's best-selling collected edition of all time, The Death of Superman. In the issue, which hit the stands on October 30, Lois Lane obtains the powers of The Eradicator following Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday and, without really meaning to, becomes the Man of Steel's worst nightmare, ultimately allowing the power to twist her beyond recognition and leading to a second death of Superman, this time at the hands of Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw. The issue is, more than the Knightfall story that came before it, a time capsule of how DC (and the Superman books) felt at the time.
Seemingly everything was on-point, from "Aussie Lex" (remember Lex Luthor II, with the long red hair and awful beard?) to certain poses and plot points that most casual fans would likely have forgotten. For the creative team behind the issue, though, they weren't casual fans: these guys grew up on "The Death of Superman."
"I was a kid and so it was it was like a religious event," Loveness told ComicBook.com. "I was so little to where like I didn't know Superman could die. It's like when you find out Santa isn't real, or that America has problems in it and stuff, or you have questions about Jesus Christ. It was a really seminal event of my childhood, and I remember my dad went out and bought a 'Death of Superman' comic, but he put it in the garage and he wouldn't let anyone read it or open it because he thought it was going to be valuable and I think now it's worth what? $5.00 or something? But, the whole death of Superman was always such a mystery to me, because I didn't know how he died or what happened, and then I finally read it in a Barnes & Noble years and years later, and I've always loved the artistry and imagery of it, and it's so massive and it's so epic. In the first couple of pages, it felt really good to slip into that language, and then, of course, Brad nailed it on the visual front."
"I was in high school and I wasn't reading Superman yet," added Walker. "But, I started with that first issue of Justice League. I don't know how I started hearing that this event was going to happen, but it was at a time in my comics reading where if somebody talked about something happening, I tried that thing. What a beautiful age of comics, where any hype would be absorbed by the readership! So I started reading Superman with this storyline and I caught on at the beginning and that was where I became a Superman fan. I hadn't read it since it came out, and then re-reading it going into this, I was really surprised by how powerful it still felt to me, and the quality of the work by everybody involved. But more so, this was a pre-9/11 world, and I was really taken by how perfectly they portrayed a grand societal tragedy. Granted, 9/11 wasn't the first societal tragedy that Americans ever went through, but, it resonated so many of those feelings that I remember from after a time like that when the whole world is grieving in a way that nobody ever could have imagined us all feeling, and so that was the kind of stuff, from reading it, that I wanted to try to bring into making a new story that spun out of it."
The issue published last month opens with Superman dying in Lois Lane's arms, just as he did in Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding's 1992 Superman #75. Jurgens, it's worth noting, was writing and drawing both Superman and Justice League of America at the time, so the issue that attracted Walker was also from the creator of Doomsday. The difference between Superman #75 and this issue? When the Justice League arrives, too late to help, Lois snaps at them, furious.
"DC came to me and asked me to do a Death of Superman 'What If...?' story basically, and I think they threw a couple of things at me. They threw out things like what if Eradicator wins or what if Cyborg wins or what if Superman doesn't come back? Those were cool, but I wasn't really landing on anything, and then suddenly the image of Lois holding that tattered cape came to me, and I'm like, 'oh wow.' There's been so many stories where Lois dies in the first act and Superman goes crazy or Superman gives up or Superman loses heart but I've never really seen one as far as ... I'm sure there is. I've never really seen one where Superman is martyred that way and and we track Lois through her grief and rage and I thought that was super, and to use the backdrop of the death of Superman, but to not let it get hopeful and to dial into that despair. Like what Brad said, that post-9/11 feeling, and to really track Lois as she loses her idealism."
The costume designed for Lois was, basically, the costume used by The Eradicator in "Reign of the Supermen," except without the visor, with Superman's torn and likely bloody cape, and with a darker color of blue for the center mass of the body. It almost looks completely black which, paired with the bleeding Superman logo from the bagged Death of Superman (which From Crisis to Crisis once informed me is apparently called "the weeping S" for marketing reasons), makes her look a bit like the short-lived villain Savior, but without the terrible hair.
"Obviously, she's getting the Eradicator powers so it seemed important to connect her to Eradicator, and it's essentially exactly Eradicator's costume, just with a torn cape, which is story-specific, and then the bleeding S, which everybody knows. It's such powerful iconography from outside the story, because we all bought that polybag and it was so linked to this era. It seemed like it had to be used, not just to link it to the era, but also to set her visual apart. There've been, probably thirty female, Superman-powered characters, and I feel like you see that bleeding S, and you know exactly what story this spins out of. And it describes so much about the difference in her approach to superheroing."
Without getting into the specifics of the final scene, the issue ends on a bit of a down note, and concludes more or less the same way it opened: with Lois standing alone. The scene leading up to it, though, and even that final shot, are evocative of stories and images from '90s Superman in a way that was surprisingly heartfelt.
"The art iconography is incredible," Loveness told us. "From a story point-of-view, I wanted to start on the grief of Lois and I wanted to end on the grief of Lois, but this time it was her own fault in the way that classical tragedies play out. I think I wrote a reverse pieta or something in there, as like a reference point. Brad and the whole art team really elevated it, and it's such a tragic image. I'm really happy with those final two pages."
You can get Tales From the Dark Multiverse: The Death of Superman #1 at your local comic shop, or digitally at ComiXology, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.