1992 was an interesting year for comic books and comic book properties. The second year of the 9th decade brought us the sequel to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Batman Returns. On the small screen the Batman: The Animated Series and the X-Men both made their debuts. And a group of renegade writers and artists founded Image Comics publishing books like Spawn, Youngblood and WildC.A.Ts.
Over in the offices of DC Comics, the early 90’s saw some plans coming together for a wedding. After years of bantering, flirting and at times, latent hostility, plans were swirling around to put a wedding together between long time frenemies, Clark Kent and Lois Lane. The two characters had been on a course for romance ever since John Byrne’s 1986 re-boot of Superman, The Man of Steel.
When the 90’s began, four different Superman monthly titles were being led by editor, Mike Carlin. Superman written and penciled by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway and Tom Grummett were teamed up together on Adventures of Superman, writer Louise Simonson and artist Jon Bogdanove helmed Superman: The Man of Steel, and the perennial Action Comics was being written by Roger Stern with Bob McLeod then Jackson Guice providing the art.
Tying the four books together was the new Superman triangle/diamond numbering system DC Comics had recently installed: On the cover of each Superman book appeared the year and number of said book that let readers know how that particular issue fell into the connected Superman continuity.
While the new system was great for readers, the tight continuity was at times a headache for the Super-Teams. To which, Mike Carlin responded to the challenge with “Super Summits”; a regular gathering of the Super-Teams that usually consisted of at least a dozen folks involved with the Superman storylines. On the schedule for one of these particular Super Summits were the upcoming issues of Superman #75 and Adventures of Superman #500.
The direction the Super-Teams wanted to head into the mid-90’s was the wedding of Superman. Ideas and storylines were developed and hashed out. Unbeknownst to the attendees of the Super Summits, though, Warner Brothers had other plans for Superman. Jenette Kahn (then DC President), Les Moonves (head of Lorimar Television) and writer/producer Deborah Joy LeVine came together to pitch ABC the show, Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman. With the show having a romantic twist between the two lead characters, Warner Brothers and DC Comics made the decisions to put a hold on the wedding the Super-Teams were planning. According to Mike Carlin, “DC’s decision was that it would be a good idea to hold off the wedding and do it at the same time as the TV show, if it got that far.”
Force of Nature
With the wedding off the table for now, the Super-Teams were left scrambling for an alternative idea to take them out the next couple of years, or at least until the TV show caught up with the storyline in Superman books. A long running joke in the Super Summits was to kill off the Man of Steel. “As I recall, Jerry Ordway had joked at one point that ‘We could always kill him.’” Action Comics writer Roger Stern recounts. “But Jerry often said that when we were stuck for ideas. He’d either suggest killing Superman or having Superman fight a werewolf.”
This time, when Dan Jurgens proposed the idea, though, it was taken seriously. “Yeah. It’s one of those things where I walked in, and we had story meetings where all the writers and artists and editorial got together,” Jurgens told Comicbook.com. “I walked into the meeting with a yellow legal pad, and I had two ideas written on it. One was ‘Death of Superman.’ The other one was ‘Monster Destroys Metropolis.’”
What was once the go to joke time after time at the Super Summits, began to take hold. After a few hours of back and forth, the plot line started to take shape.
With the decision to kill Superman agreed upon, the next line of business was “who”. Who would/could kill the Man of Steel? The answer wasn’t so obvious to the group. “Superman’s villains for the most part had been very cerebral type guys. Lex was basically just a businessman. Brainiac was certainly not a physical threat.” Dan Jurgens recalls. They were looking for something big, something powerful. And no one in Superman’s rogues gallery had the ability to go toe to toe with the Man of Steel. Let alone take him down for good.