Dan Jurgens Explains Why DC Comics is Still Milking the ‘Death of Superman’


 

Adventures in Poor Taste interviewed Dan Jurgens a few weeks back for the anniversary of the time when the Death of Superman went to press, and such a story, of all things, was what made headlines in the wider media, which probably never lavished as much attention on the subsequent wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane by contrast. The article begins:

 

When it comes to commemorations in comics, the 30th anniversary of Death of Superman this year may be among the more iconic. Not only did this event make national news back in the day, but it was inspiring columnists to reflect on a world without the great hope Superman represents. All that’s is why DC Comics is really rolling out the red carpet by releasing both an 80-page special in November (complete with all-new stories) as well as a deluxe edition of the new collection in December.

 

 

 

Did it ever inspire them to lament how so much attention was being lavished on the premise of characters dying? Did they even have any complaints about the death of Cat Grant’s son Adam at the hands of the Toyman around that time? Did they even argue that resurrections shouldn’t be off-limits for “civilian” characters? Probably not. What’s the big deal if a premise like this tale’s got made national headlines 3 decades ago? The whole notion is insulting in the extreme. Simply put, this is what comics, superhero or otherwise, are all about?

 

The aptly-titled Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special will be a chance to explore new ideas and perspectives surrounding the classic comics event. The stories themselves are set in and around the death of Superman, adding new context from across the larger DCU. And the whole project is in good hands, as it’s headed up by the event’s original writer and artist, Dan Jurgens. He’s joined by a slew of talent, including comics legends Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett, Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Roger Stern, Butch Guice, and Brett Breeding.

 

 

Honestly, why is this such a big deal again, but not the later wedding with Lois Lane? Why must we see stories of this sort regurgitated almost all the time, but nobody wants to spotlight a larger context for perspectives regarding the Man of Steel and Lois tying knots? Jurgens doesn’t seem to address that in the following query:

 

AIPT: If you could go back and give your younger self advice around when Death of Superman came out, what would it be?

Dan Jurgens: You know, at the time, I thought I was taking it all in. I thought I was taking as much appreciation out of it as I could have. Going back, I would’ve documented even more of it with photos and videos and whatever, and really make sure to take the time to soak it in because, in retrospect, I could have done a better job of that. And I wish I had.

 

Well if he thought he could do a better job, how come he doesn’t improve on that now, by developing a story wherein Adam’s resurrected? And anybody who resorts to “reality” as an excuse should be ashamed of themselves. Even at Marvel, that would be unacceptable in a science fiction world. Imposing mandates against resurrections in science-fantasy only destroys creativity, and insults the intellect.

 

AIPT: The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special gives us new perspectives and POVs on Superman’s death. How long has this idea been percolating for you?

DJ: Not that long. What happened is, earlier this year I realized that this was gonna be 30 years since we had done the death of Superman. So in just a couple of casual conversations, I had mentioned to a couple of the good people at DC, “is this something we wanna do anything with? Do we want to do a story or something that touches on it, some way somehow?”

I wrote a little something up and suggested something that could kind of address that idea of that story. Use the original creative teams to do it. And DC was totally on board and said, yeah, let’s go for it. And really got behind it and has been adding all sorts of fun things to it ever since. So it’s been a lot of fun.

 

 

One must wonder what’s so “fun” about a tale spotlighting even a temporary death, but not one where you rescue people in danger, or travel to an amazing planet/paralell dimension for adventure. Or, where civilians are resurrected. Come to think of it, what’s so fun about a story where Hal Jordan’s transformation into Parallax was set up prior to Green Lantern’s Emerald Twilight, with the destruction of Coast City? We’re missing something here.

 

AIPT: Speaking of family, your story “The Life of Superman” involves a nine-year-old Jon Kent being told that his dad had died. That’s a really unique perspective, especially since Jon Kent’s relatively new to the DC comics universe. What made you think about using John Kent in this way?

DJ: Having done the Rebirth stuff that brought Jon Kent into everything I thought that Jon has always added something so nice and unique to the Superman mythos. I really think he is a tremendously valuable storytelling device and character to have in the books. Because through him, we can kind of reframe Superman a little bit, and in this instance, it’s sort of like saying–if you look at the purpose of this special–if you were there 30 years ago, this is gonna bring back a lot of very fun, very fond memories. If you weren’t there 30 years ago, because you’re younger than that and you’re seeing it for the first time.

You kind of get to be like Jon in this story where he experiences it for the first time because what happens is Jon is in school one day, the family had just moved back to Metropolis and there’s someone in class who says, “I’m here to talk to you about one of, if not the most famous days and the history of Metropolis and that’s the day that Superman died.” At which point Jon loses it because his parents never bothered to tell him about those moments. So that gives us a reason that when Lois is walking him home from school, he can say, “So why didn’t you tell me dad died and came back from the dead and what’s with that!”

I think that’s where Jon becomes a very valuable character both in Superman, in general, and in this story because he gets to find out for the first time what it was all about, even as he experiences something new happening in the streets of Metropolis.

 

 

Notice there’s no mention of the recent retcon turning Jon Kent into a bisexual – or exclusively homosexual – character for the sake of LGBT agendas? One can only wonder what Jurgens really thinks of his own creations, or the characters he’s worked on, regardless of their corporate status in ownership. Because that’s the only value Jon’s got right now with the editors led by Marie Javins, and Tom Taylor as the assigned writer on the Son of Kal-El spinoff.

 

AIPT: It kind of reminds me of the story you did with Josh Williamson for the Road to Dark Crisis, where we have Nightwing and Jon talking about how death isn’t permanent in the DC comics universe. That story must have been drawn probably earlier than this project had started, or were you working on those two simultaneously?

DJ: I had already written the special, then I drew Josh’s story just before starting to draw this one. And I did tell Josh, here’s what we’re doing, and we gotta be very careful with the verbiage here, but yeah. And he did that. I mean, Josh is a wonderful guy and very accommodating, and he did a wonderful job of making his point in that story and also leaving us room to make our point ours.

 

This is almost getting somewhere, but, when there’s no mention of Adam Grant’s status as he remains in the comics graveyard of obliterated supporting characters, you know they’re not really serious about addressing the issue of resurrection at all.

 

AIPT: Whenever a superhero dies now post Death of Superman I always think of Death of Superman.

DJ: Everybody does.

AIPT: It was so groundbreaking. So I’m curious from your perspective when you see like Captain America dies and it’s on CNN or Spider-Man dies and it’s on CNN, is Death of Superman running through your mind at all and the memories you have experiencing that response?

DJ: So I’ll be careful here, but at the same time, one of the things I think of is when it comes out, it’s like, do you really want to compete with that? Cause that is what goes through everyone’s mind. I think in each instance, each creative team is doing what we did, which is to set out and tell the very best story that they can regarding their character. There is also that reality of realizing, you know, that’s what you’re competing with. It’s like, if I was gonna do a story with Superman fighting the heavyweight champ of the world, it’d be like, you really want to compete with Superman versus Muhammad Ali? No.

 

Ahem. I think the query is, do you want to emulate that kind of story, no matter how temporary the character’s death is? I would most definitely not. Rather, I’d want to counter it with stories about resurrecting honest/law-abiding characters whose deaths were poor to begin with, or were victim to publicity stunts, and better still, I’d want to reverse setups where good co-stars are turned evil for the sake of it, which is easily worse than putting them to death.

 

AIPT: It’s kind of amazing, it’s so ingrained into history, I would say, not even just comics history, but people’s memory of these things.

DJ: That’s what happens when you have the media coverage we did. And it also makes Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno did something with it on his show. It was just everywhere, and that’s nothing we ever could have anticipated. It strung with us as we did the entire story, and as I’ve pointed out, you did have fiction, in reality, to combine for a while. Because we’re doing stories about a world without Superman and plenty of columnists were writing those columns.

 

But what about a world with inspiring heterosexual marriages and romances, not to mention a story where innocent lives are saved that isn’t laced with divisive politics? That’s not something to celebrate? Anybody who’s going to celebrate death and devastation has only proven what’s wrong with this backwards world we’re now saddled with. If the X-Men’s Phoenix Saga had premiered at least a decade later than it did, I hesitate to think of all the fawning news coverage that was likely to get. A story like that, for all we know, could very easily have gotten massive press coverage too, for all the wrong reasons. Let’s be clear. Celebrating death, regardless of how brief it can be in science fiction, is revolting. But hardly surprising the MSM would do it, when again, you see how they’ve gone miles out of their way to romanticize violence in cinema, as Bill Maher rightly complained. By contrast, even if the return of the Kryptonian Supergirl in the mid-2000s was all style-no substance, why was that, in itself, not celebrated by the press at the time? IIRC, Jeph Loeb’s storyline from the Superman/Batman title at the time was largely ignored…in favor of Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, which certainly says something about the sorry state of the MSM, when they can’t admire the return of a classic character, in sharp contrast to lauding a book emphasizing death, and minimizing sexual assault.

 

 

The Death & Return of Superman in 1992-93 may not be the worst of its kind on its own, but the way it precipitated a lot of stories far worse speaks volumes to what’s gone wrong with the industry. Of course, even resurrections that do occur can regrettably be sabotaged, having noticed DC’s launching another Justice Society volume, where Beth Chapel and Yolanda Montez are said to return, but with the insufferable Geoff Johns as writer yet again, there’s no reason to assume he’d actually turn out a merited story, and besides, he turned to social justice propaganda more openly a decade ago. So, don’t be shocked if he’s got more of the same in store, and that would take away from whatever credit you could give for resurrecting Dr. Mid-Nite and Wildcat’s lady successors.

 

Originally published here.


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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON