Come to think of it, that’s a pretty morbid cover on that trade.

§ November 16th, 2022 § Filed under death of superman § 7 Comments

JohnJ jams in

“Important thing about the 1992 Death of Superman story was its coverage on the Today Show and other news sources. There was a lot of interest by strangers but they were the kind of a-holes who thought that meant it was the very last copy of Superman ever to be published. I sold a hell of a lot more copies of the quickly collected $4.95 paperback than I did of Superman #75.”

I wish I kept note at the time, though I suppose the answers are somewhere in the piles of old invoices I inherited from the old store that I keep meaning to data-mine. But I *do* recall we ordered 10x the number we usually did on Superman, which was quite the risk given that Superman sales weren’t terribly strong for us at the time and if this stunt flopped, we’d be eating a lot of polybags and armbands.

SPOILER: 10x our regular numbers wasn’t nearly enough, and 100x would have been closer to what we could have used. Why I wish I had better recall of sales of the time was that I do not recall exactly how well that quick ‘n’ cheap Death of Superman trade sold. Yes, it sold very well, $4.95 being a shockingly low price point for such a high demand storyline, but did we sell more of it than we did of the actual issue #75 in which they dood the death? I’m thinking maybe we did, if not within the initial sales rush period of the storyline, but certainly as the years wore on and the book remained available.

I can’t remember if I noted this here or on Twitter or, God help us, on LiveJournal, but I realized at some point that while later reorders of the Death of Superman book were, like, 12th printing or whatever, the follow-up cheapie Funeral for a Friend trade had first printings coming in our reorders for years afterwards. There must have been a huge initial print run on that thing.

Now as JohnJ says, Real World Media pushed the general public into comic shops seeking that issue, though I perhaps had a more positive experience with some of these new customers than JohnJ seemed to. We had a ton of people come through the shop that day, with a giant line out of the door that, as I recall, former coworker Rob had to stand at to regulate customer entry. And yes, while we did have many pushy and annoying people come through (one particular person I still remember, and of course she was the one featured in the full-color photo of the local paper covering the event), most people were cool about the whole thing. I do remember a very nice elderly couple coming in for the Death of Superman storyline (not just #75, but they were in from the beginning of the storyline) and kept following the books for years. And we picked up several other regulars due to the event as well. I still get people telling me that it was the Death of Superman that got them into collecting.

The belief that this would be “the last ever Superman comic” was rather prevalent, despite our attempts to inform everyone otherwise. The day #75 came out, we smart-alecky employees made a window display of many previous Deaths of Superman to sort of drive home the point. And, as I’m sure many of you readers who’d been around a bit, I heard for a decade or more afterward surprise from folks not in the comics scene that Superman comics were still coming out. “I thought he died!” they’d exclaim, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t being facetious. I’d said that I thought it was an unusual promotional move to convince everyone one of your most famous characters was going away forever. To be fair, I haven’t had anyone mention that to me lately.

• • •

Ray Cornwall stalks in with

“Silly question- what if DC sold a new version of the bagged issue? Would that sell? Is there a market for such a gimmick?”

Given how the two comics they did release — the 30th anniversary special with new stories, and a reprint of the non-deluxe Superman #75 — a full-on reissue of the original bagged edition of #75 probably wouldn’t have been a huge deal. As I’ve said, these books are only selling fair-to-middling for me as is, and even the bagged version of the 30th anniversary special is hardly flying off the shelf (though it is selling better than I thought it would).

So while there is a market for gimmick covers still, I suspect the Superman thing being mostly callbacks to a 30-year-old story instead of a New Hot Thing dampened enthusiasm. “Yes, yes, we’ve seen all that…whattaya got that’s new?”

• • •

Okay, I’ll move on to the next batch of Death of Superman responses Friday. Thanks for reading, everyone, and as always for your great comments. They’re much appreciated.

7 Responses to “Come to think of it, that’s a pretty morbid cover on that trade.”

  • Thom H. says:

    If I recall correctly, that Superman #149 story was kind of bleak. Very good ’60s storytelling, but sad.

    My favorite “Death of Superman” story will always be “The Last Days of Superman” from Superman #156, mostly because it guest stars just about everybody, including the Kandorians. Also, Superman spends his final days in a glass box, which is kooky and weird.

  • JohnJ says:

    I still have a copy of Superman #149, not the copy I had when I was a 9-year-old kid. I still remember shedding a tear over that story, even though I knew it wasn’t “real.”
    It was like the year before when I was with my dad when friends of his made jokes about George Reeves’ death which had just happened. Since I had discovered Superman through the tv show, I must have really looked sad since I remember the guys kind of backing off the joke.

  • Nicholas says:

    I happened to be in a store when they first announced the Death of Superman, and I was interviewed by the local news! At the time, I was a total 14 year old jerk who only liked X-Men comics and remember talking about how dumb I thought Superman was…although of course I ended up buying those comics and reading the Superman books for years.

    30 years (ugh) later, I still really like the majority of Death/Funeral/Reign – re-reading it now, it’s such a bananas story, and I think it’s amazing how much they focused on Lois’/the Kent’s grief.

  • DK says:

    For those that have HBO MAX, there is a last-season episode of Superfriends that features The Death of Superman AND Adam West voicing Batman AND Darkseid, really how can you not watch?

    Those post Man-of-Steel Superman books really do hold up decades later, the 10 years after the Crisis was a DC Renaissance for sure.

  • JohnJ says:

    Mike, someday would you write about how your store did with the ‘Marriage of Lois and Clark” I really over-ordered on that, hoping for the same type of press coverage the “Death” storyline got. It turned out to get next to none which I blame on the “Lois and Clark” tv series having their wedding episode at the same time.
    Also, how weird is it that Bendis’s big idea of revealing Superman and Clark Kent as the same guy really fizzled since he did next to nothing with the premise. It’s part of the reason why I finally stopped reading most Superman comics after having read them for several years.

  • Rod Carpenter says:

    Re: ‘I heard for a decade or more afterward surprise from folks not in the comics scene that Superman comics were still coming out. “I thought he died!” ‘

    I ran a comic shop in the late 1990s. I remember somebody coming in one day and being (or at least seeming) genuinely surprised that comics were still being published at all.

    They thought Superman being killed off – which they also seemed to have believed with no skepticism – meant that comics were over.

    Back in those days, “Only Bucky stays dead” was my standard response whenever anybody asked whether a given comics death would stick. Whoops.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Rod Carpenter: “Back in those days, “Only Bucky stays dead” “.

    Now it’s “Only Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) stays dead!”