It sounds like a clickbait title but I wouldn’t use it if it didn’t fit.
As a Superman fan I’ve gone into this story many times, including Chapter By Chapter going over the novelization of all three parts, but the death and resurrection of Superman is one of, if not the most, defining moments not only in DC history but because of comics. The further you drop down the rabbit hole the more you find less Wonderland and more Blunderland. While the story itself is good and how a hero death should be done for reasons I’ve already gone over, the aftermath really damaged how comics approach death, using it more for shock value, and events, not letting us go a month without one going on due their new disease, Eventitis.
And all this was caused by Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman.
I’m serious. If the producers of that show and DC Entertainment’s head honcho at the time didn’t tell the Superwriters to hold off on the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane until the show was ready to do it, we would never have had Superman die, and the circle of death, the revolving afterlife door, and Eventitis might not have happened. I bring you a two-part video from Owen Likes Comics, as well as my own thoughts, that goes into just how this show led to one of the best stories and worst aftermaths in DC history and comics in general. I think the case is easily made.
Anybody who doesn’t look down on comics as the “lesser medium” would probably ask “What does it matter if the TV show does it after the comics, the source material? Isn’t that like Harry Potter not defeating Voldermort for the last time in the books until the last movie was ready?” Books are not a “lesser medium” to the entertainment industry. Comics are a lesser medium. Video games are a lesser medium. Cartoons are a lesser format. This is the way Hollywood and the studios (Warner Brothers and Disney) think, and far too often lately it seems even the creators are looking at comics and thinking themselves inferior to everybody. Jeanette Khan, or perhaps her bosses who made her give the edict–I don’t know for sure whose idea it ultimately was, just that Khan gave the word, sided with the show producers who didn’t want their superhero romance show outstaged by the comics they were adapting.
If they had let the comics go on, we might have gotten Steel in some form, and maybe even Hank Henshaw, just not as a fake Superman since Jurgens seemed to want to bring him back and saw the opportunity, but I doubt we would have had clone Superboy or the return of the Eradicator. Coast City would still be around, Hal Jordan wouldn’t have gone insane, and we might not have had Kyle Rayner. We also wouldn’t have had Batman with a broken back, death becoming more and more meaningless shock value and being undone if the writer really wanted to use that character, or the event addiction of modern comics. Don’t believe me? Here’s the second part of Owen’s video essay to prove it to you.
The fact that DC or WB higher ups told the editor they don’t know why Superman’s death sold so well, and apparently few of the writers and editors at DC and Marvel have figured it out today, speaks volumes of their lack of understanding of storytelling and their readership. The story sold well because it was a good story. Ignore the specifics, it went to the tragedy, properly explored the aftermath, and then brought back something important to the DC universe and Superman’s legion of fans, while also adding to the character roster. It was a death and resurrection story done right. It’s not that we want the status quo changed constantly. The status quo is what we ultimately come for, to see what these characters do next and what their lives are like. Just by the nature of battles with supervillains, monsters, demons, and aliens their lives are not normal, but we have a place with which to connect with them. That’s why Superman’s death was such an important story to us.
Instead they played to the speculator market who didn’t understand why Action Comics #1 from the 1930s was worth so much and Action Comics #1 from the late 1980s wasn’t. These were people who didn’t understand comics because the industry and the critics kept the medium down. Now we have editorial and writer decisions that are hurting the characters and thus killing the industry. They won’t let go of the variant covers, trade padding, Eventitis, or darkened universes that ignore and remove what made superheroes survive for over 80 years even after a decline in superheroes. Now the superheroes themselves are in decline because it’s all marketing gimmicks, social commentary with a sledgehammer, and a lack of heroics. Right now DC is doing their second wave of villain-focused tales, still shaking up status quos, and getting everything good about Superman wrong as they focus on surface stuff over characters and lore while chasing a particular demographic that has no interest in comics and superheroes to the detriment of those of us that do.
And it’s all thanks to Lois & Clark‘s producers and DC’s higher ups. They ruined a good story with a terrible aftermath that is killing superhero comics. Like Watchmen, a good story is leaving a bad legacy.
For more essays from Owen, check out his YouTube channel, and be sure to go to the videos to find the voice actors and tell him your thoughts about the videos because he won’t see them here.