What I Remember:
As a kid, I bought into the “Death and Return of Superman” hook, line and sinker. I was stoked for this book to come out and wanted to see how they would handle bringing a character back from the dead in a time where comics characters didn't return from the dead that often. This book was polybagged in a white bag and came with a trading card. This book set up the “Reign of the Superman” storyline. This issue was also Jerry Ordway’s send off from the Superman books. Ordway had been with The Adventures of Superman since Byrne revamped Superman.
The Adventures of Superman #500
“Life After Death”
Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciler: Tom Grummett
Inks and Tones: Doug Hazelwood
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Superman Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: June 1993
Cover Price: $2.95
Re-Collection Price: $2.00 at my local comics shop, Royal Collectables.
Superman is dead, Clark Kent is presumed dead and Jonathan Kent lies in a hospital after a heart attack and joins his son in the afterlife.
Clark is flanked by two Kryptonian figures and tells his father to go back, it’s not his time. Jonathan tries to convince Clark to come back with him, but Kal-El travels into the light. Jonathan refuses to accept that answer and travels further into the light to bring his son back.
Meanwhile in Smallville, Lois arrives to show Martha support.
We cut to Metropolis, where Gangbuster attempts to break up what he thinks is a drug deal. He dives in and starts to bust heads, only to realize one of the heads he’s busting belongs to a cop.
Gangbuster tries to get the police to sweep this under the rug, but there is a warrant out for his arrest. PD gives chase only to firing on Gangbuster and he escapes via the river. He gets fished out later in the issue.
Back in the afterlife, Jonathan is reliving key events in his life, first back on the battlefield in Korea where his entire platoon is dead. He comes across a farmhouse on fire and bodies strewn about, one being his brother who died in a thresher accident. Harry tells Jonathan that his son passed through a few hours prior. Jonathan continues his mission.
At WGBS, Cat Grant is told by her creepy boss, Vincent Edge to talk to Jimmy Olson, who has not shown up to work on his show Turtle Boy since Superman died. Edge offers to treat Grant and her boyfriend to a night out (after he grabs Cat’s ass, of course) if she does him a solid.
In Prison, The Prankster learns of his cellmates love for Turtle Boy, which incenses the former children’s tv star.
Jonathan Kent continues his search for the “lost airman” as his idea of Clark gets vaguer and vaguer, he meets a demon and refuses his help, and told he cannot resurrect the dead.
He meets Kismet (fate) who puts him back on the right path. He finds himself smack dab in a Kryptonian funeral for Kal-El, the last son of Krypton. Jonathan, knowing that Kryptonians worshipped science, tells Clark that they are not from Krypton but demons and Clark opens his eyes and father and son take on the demons.
The two head away from the light together only to be interrupted by what appears to be Jor-El, trying to get Clark to return to the afterlife. A shovel appears and Jonathan hits him, harkening back to Man of Steel #6.
Jonathan wakes up claiming that Clark is back.
As Lois returns to Metropolis, she sees a red streak fly past the plane and for a second thinks it’s Clark. By the time she arrives in Metropolis news stories are everywhere about sightings of Superman!
She convinces Detective Henderson to go with her to see Superman's grave. They find the casket open and the body gone!
We then get a preview of the four men claiming to be Superman who would dominate that summer’s Superman comics.
A black man in overalls wielding a hammer emerges from the rubble of a collapsed building thinking that he still has to stop Doomsday.
A Superman, wearing black and a visor, and emits energy from his hands, burns a carjacker.
At Cadmus, it’s discovered that the secret clone of Superman has escaped and it’s a leather jacket wearing teenager, who doesn’t like being called Superboy.
A Cyborg Superman lands at the site where Superman died and crushes the plaque to commemorate the event.
Continued After Ad:
The “Death and Return of Superman” is probably the biggest and most important Superman tale of the last 25 years. It’s important to read this book in some form or another.
I liked Jonathan’s quest a lot because it was hard to tell if it was just him dreaming on the gurney or that he really travelled into some version of the afterlife. Were there really demons trying to take Clark from the world or was it all a dream? Jonathan forgetting his mission going from worrying about Clark to the lost airmen, to the accident on the farm really captured the fluidity but nonsensical nature of most dreams. Things that make sense in a dream often don’t when you wake up, but you rarely question the logic while dreaming. If you do find yourself questioning it, like Jonathan did, you become self-aware.
I also really liked the sequence where Jonathan meets Kismet and she drops him near Clark. It reminds me of the Good Witch interfering in The Wizard of Oz, he even wakes up in a field outside a Kryptonian City reminiscent of the Emerald City.
What I could have done without in this book was the cuts to Metropolis, the Cat Grant story and the Prankster in prison could have been left for another issues in order to keep this story a bit tighter.
Which of the four new Supermen is the real Superman? Next week we check out Superman: The Man of Steel #22 and the first appearance of the man who would become Steel!