Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Classics - Superman #149

In the 1950s and '60s, DC's editors established certain formulas that apparently translated into strong sales.

That's why you saw lots of covers with gorillas - and Superman seemed to die a lot (and this long before Doomsday first appeared).

This issue from 1961 was one of my earliest exposures to the Man of Steel, and it was pretty traumatic - because it actually featured Superman's death!

They managed this by the time-honored method of making it an "Imaginary Story" - the equivalent of reaching the end of a story and finding out it was "all a dream" - but it was a format DC used a lot (especially in the Superman titles).

The first 15 pages of the story seemed normal enough, as Lex Luthor announces he's discovered a cure for cancer, and he works with Superman to bring the cure to humanity.

The underworld is furious with Luthor for working for humanity, so they try to assassinate him - but Superman serves as a bodyguard to his old enemy.

Not to give away the twist (the cover pretty much spoils it, of course), but it's all a plot by Luthor to kill Superman - and he succeeds!

It's a sad, grim tale as we see the world's heroes heartbroken by it all (the pages are virtually tear-stained), and the world seeks its revenge on Luthor.

The issue features artwork by "the" Superman artist for the '60s, as Curt Swan turns in his usual top-notch craftsmanship - and what a deliciously evil Luthor he depicts!

Heroes faced death all the time, but this was the first time a hero actually "died" - so it was quite a shock, even though they're quick to remind us at the end that Superman was still alive and well in the "real world."

How popular was this death-dealing comic? Just seven issues later, Superman again faced certain death - but it wasn't an imaginary story! We'll review that one... next week!

Grade: A-


No comments: