The Death Of Superman Brought To Animated Life
by Ben Martin
The 1990s gave us many seminal comic-book arcs. Most of which still resonate today such as Batman: Knightfall (1993-1994) and X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (1995-1996). However, no comic book storyline in the 90s was more significant than The Death of Superman (1992-1993). To even consider such an idea was bold. How could Superman possibly perish? What foe, if any could bring The Man of Steel to his end?
Well, the then editor-in-chief of DC Comics at that time, Mike Carlin and the writing staff of Superman,headed-up by Dan Jurgens managed to develop a formidable villain for their hero in the form of Doomsday. Moreover, they spread The Death of Superman over one year and six DC titles: Action Comics, The Adventures of Superman, Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel, Green Lantern, and Justice League of America. As we all know though, no one is ever really dead in comics, especially Supes. Following the character’s titular death, he was absent from all books for the next year. Despite The Last Son of Krypton’s absence from the page, his presence in comics could certainly still be felt. During this interim, other folks in the universe kept Superman’s legacy alive until his triumphant resurrection.
As with any other significant comic book event, The Death of Superman was eventually given the trade-paperback treatment. In this format, the key and titular event was boiled-down to its essence; making for one of the best Superman stories ever. Don’t get me wrong, like everyone else, I dig the man in the blue tights and red cape. Alas, I must admit that Superman has never been my favorite character. Why? Because Supes is not only alien, he’s nearly infallible to the point of being able to be interpreted as a messianic figure.
The Death of Superman, as a story, managed to take all the gripes I have with its protagonist and throw them up, up, and away. It was the first tale concerning Superman that managed to tap into my emotions. Sure, at its core, the comic is brutal and simplistic; but it still made me feel respect for the character and mourning over his “passing.” To date, I have not felt the same emotional impact over any other Superman storyline. I think that’s because this particular arc unquestionably illustrates that Supes is all the comics before it chalks him up to be. In The Death of Superman, our hero proves to be the ultimate sacrificial hero. Furthermore, his deeds make him the greatest of humanitarians; despite being from Krypton.
Not surprisingly, The Death of Superman has placed its bloody mark on comic book history. Firstly, upon its publication, Superman #75 arguably created a speculative market that took a foothold in the comics industry, during the 90s. Secondly, the arc represents the first time a major hero met his demise. And, for better or worse, neither of these occurrences were small feats in any regard. As a result, The Death of Superman was eventually adapted, albeit, loosely by DC Animation in 2007 with Superman/Doomsday. Unfortunately, that animated feature was entirely negligible. Following that, The Death of arch was cherry-picked from for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). I don’t think I need to remind anyone how disappointing said silver screen showdown was.
Knowing that comic book fans would like to see this story done in earnest, DC Animation has decided to take a second bite at the apple pie. The film follows its comic source material very closely except for one thing. Unlike the comic book on which it’s based, this animated adaptation takes place in the DC Rebirth era. In any event, Superman/Clark Kent (Jerry O’Connell) has a lot on his plate in Metropolis these days. When he isn’t battling super-villains, leading The Justice League or worrying about his arch-enemy, Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson); Supes has to worry about maintaining his life as his alter ego. As Clark Kent, he is now engaged in a romantic relationship with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn). The only problem is that Lois has no idea that her boyfriend is Superman!
If you’ve read The Death of Superman, you’ll have no doubt discerned that this animated take on the material has added some new aspects to the narrative. Luckily though, these new additions of Clark keeping secrets from Lois and A-list Leaguers fighting alongside our hero, add to the adaptation as opposed to distracting from it. Also, if this animated movie were a straight-adaptation, it wouldn’t be a feature-length film. The Death of Superman is also beautifully animated. Moreover, the animation style is such that you could look at it as a logical end to Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000).
There’s another aspect to this movie that is both a gift and a curse…the voice acting. Some of the roles are expertly cast, such as Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, or fan favorite, Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman. Alas, others are not, notably Jerry O’Connell as Supes. The actor’s delivery as the hero just did not work for me. Granted, it did not take me out of the picture too much, but I just found it distracting. I also must say that did not care for Jason O’Mara as Batman, as I found that performance carried the same issue.
Vocal qualms aside, the only other issue I have with this adaptation is that it does not pack the same emotional wallop as its source material does. But, it does still manage to capture that emotional resonance. The Death of Superman is not perfectly executed. However, this movie is probably the best adaptation of this comic we’ll ever get. That is unless, the DCEU ever gets their live-action films on reliable and consistent ground, which is a prospect I wouldn’t count on. In the meantime, give this animated adaptation a shot as its faithful and one of the better DC Animated movies thus far!
The Death of Superman is Now Available on Blu-Ray, DVD, & Digital!