You would think that I would be reading old Batman comics this weekend with the death of Adam West, but instead I decided to read a more appropriate Superman story that I finally picked up. Heralded as one of the greatest Superman yarns of all time, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was originally published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 in 1986. When one hears the words “greatest comic story of all time” one name always comes to mind, Alan Moore. And so it is with this finale of the original superhero. Moore was hot off of Watchmen and retiring long-time editor Julie Schwartz wanted the best for his final send off. The most famous Superman artist of the sixties Curt Swan was brought back to draw both issues with George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger inking them.
The story is an “imaginary tale” of Superman’s last days. It has an epic, Lord of the Rings feel to it as Superman makes his final stand at the Fortress of Solitude, surrounded by his closest friends and lovers. All of his greatest villains team up all at once to make sure he dies for good. Even formerly mischievous and comic villains like Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk turn to chaotic evil as they are simply sick of their foe’s existence. Superman realizes that he cannot take them all on at once, even with his great power. Lex Luthor’s mind and body are taken over by Brainiac who leads the assault and Superman’s lesser villains start to wipe out his secret identity, Metropolis and his friends.
The primary obstruction to Brainiac’s plan is of course the Justice League, so he forms an impenetrable force field around the Fortress that they can’t get past. Batman and Wonder Woman end up having to merely watch the final battle from the outside. What follows is complete carnage as Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang are slaughtered and the Fortress of Solitude is destroyed by a nuclear blast. Superman himself is forced to kill for the first time as it’s the only option. Batman has only one line in the story after the forcefield is dropped, but it’s a good one: “It’s like walking amongst the fragments of a legend.”
As the title insinuates, by the end, Superman is no more. The character was then rebooted by John Byrne in the Man of Steel mini-series that reset Superman’s timeline after Crisis on Infinite Earths. This would be a great story for Warner Brothers to make as an animated film. My only complaint is that two issues were two few. Four would have been ideal. As it is, the final twist is contained only in the very last page.
5 Legends Outta 5
A newly recolored version of the story can be read here