Superman Vol. 2 #75, 1993, DC Comics, Cover by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Nineties, the decade of style over substance, and anatomy be damned.
It was also the decade that saw the death (and eventual rebirth) of the first comic book superhero, an event that made national and global news, and rejuvenated his comic titles.
After first being reimagined and rejuvenated by John Byrne in the 1986 Man of Steel miniseries, by the early 1990s readers could enjoy Superman in four different titles. However, perhaps the plots had become repetitive, or the complexity of the intricately interwoven plotlines between the four titles intimidated new readers from jumping on board, but readership dwindled. Something had to be done to boost sales.
The editors of the four Superman titles decided that boost should come from marrying Lois and Clark. Great idea, but DC’s publisher Jenette Kahn had just sold ABC television on a Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman series. The romantic aspect of the series wouldn’t have that “will-they-or-won’t-they” spark if Lois and Clark were married in the comics, so the idea was scrubbed. When told this, the writers fell back on a knee-jerk joke writer/editor Jerry Ordway always told when they were stuck for ideas: “let’s just kill him.” This time, it turned out not to be a joke, but dead serious. Heh.
The cover for Superman #75 doesn’t feature extremely clever design or symbolism, but is iconic for its simplicity and for the event it represented in its quiet, respectful way. The tattered cape of the fallen Superman flies from a staff of wood standing up from a pile of rubble from the final battle with Doomsday. The flag is framed by the diagonals of leaning buildings and a metaphoric, twilight sky. The top of the flagstaff sits in front of the Superman comic title logo for added layer of depth. Silhouettes of a few mourning figures can be seen in the background, but they do not intrude on the solemn scene. If only the cover did not have the stark white UPC box in the lower right, or the equally distracting signatures of the artists, it would have been a perfect farewell to a hero.
Next week: A cover from the Aughts!