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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #95

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This is the ninety-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous ninety-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC had no idea that the Death of Superman would be such a big deal.

STATUS: Close call…I guess part False/part True

In a recent interview with Jonah Weiland the other week, speaking about the death of Captain America, Joe Quesada said the two magic words – “urban legend” – which totally piqued my interest.

Here is what Joe had to say:

I was not at DC when the “Death of Superman” happened, but as I understand from what I’ve heard, like some sort of global urban legend, was that DC really had no idea that the Death of Superman was going to be so big and that it hit on a slow news day. It’s probably a story that [DC Editor] Mike Carlin could tell better, and I’ve never spoken with Mike about it directly, but if you take that urban myth – and it may be truth but I’m calling it that only because I’ve never spoken to anybody directly about it – then it’s best to be prepared for this type of thing. Overall, at the end of the day, I think Marvel as a publishing division is well prepared for this kind of thing, this kind of media assault, because we’ve had a lot of experience with doing it.

The problem with really giving this urban legend a proper true or false is the fact that there really are two sides to what Quesada is saying here.

On the one hand, if the statement is just simply – “If there was a bigger story that day, Superman’s death wouldn’t have been as big of a deal”, then the answer would be a resounding true. Mike Carlin even responded to my inquiry (thanks, Mike!) with as much, “I have long said that if there was a war, or Madonna had had a baby that day– nobody would have cared.”

However, if the statement is “DC had no idea that the Death of Superman was going to be so big,” then I think it is a bit false, as DC gave the Death of Superman the front cover of Previews months before it was released, and announced his death at the BEGINNING of 1992 at a retailer event.


Plus, when DCs’ publicist Martha Thomases was pushing this story to newspapers and the like, there really wasn’t anything like this to compare it to, so when Thomases got the story to get a full page of New York Newsday, that was actually a big deal back in 1992.

In addition, DC printed a whole pile of Superman #75’s – although they ended up not being enough when all was said and done (as I think the book had something like four printings), they still had a LOT of copies ready for readers.


All in all, though, if Quesada’s point (and I think it most likely was this) was just that, no matter how big DC thought Superman was going to be, it was much bigger than that – then I think he’s dead on. But if the point of the urban legend was that DC was unprepared for the media storm (and I do not believe that’s what Quesada is saying here, but that is a common belief regarding this particular urban legend) – then that is not accurate.

So, a little bit of True and a little bit of False. Okay, mostly true, with a little false mixed in there.

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Andrew Collins

March 22, 2007 at 3:31 pm

“Grant: When we first started on it, it was 80,000 per month and Detective was selling 75,000″

This really stuck out to me. Aren’t most Marvel & DC books selling in the 20,000-30,000 range now? If so, that’s a big drop from where average comic sales were 20 years ago…

I always wondered about those Nightmare on Elm Street Mags. They just suddenly stopped. I heard rumors along these lines, but It’s nice to hear it confirmed.

And those Alan Grant Detective Comics were great! Very cool take on the Dark Knight and his rogues!

First post!

That must bite when someone else is parachuted in to write an anniversary issue.

Speaking of anniversary issues, anything special planned for Urban Legends #100? A double-sized, New X-Men vs. Old X-Men extravaganza?

Regarding that big sales drop from the ’80’s to today: if I’m not mistaken newstands were still a somewhat popular outlet for comics at that time. I recall getting a few of the Sam Hamm issues at our local 7-11. Can’t say that would account for the entiriety of the sales drop, but I’d guess that it would count for a substantial portion of it.


Andrew Collins said:

“Aren’t most Marvel & DC books selling in the 20,000-30,000 range now? If so, that’s a big drop from where average comic sales were 20 years ago…”

Yes. Yes, it is. That’s why comics back then cost seventy-five cents and comics now cost three bucks–because your break-even point can be much lower when your price-per-unit is so much higher.

But it’s well known that the sales of the top-selling book today was below the cancellation threshold twenty years ago. Marvel’s trumpeting of ‘Civil War’ as “the best-selling comic of the last decade” neatly overlooks the fact that a decade ago, comics sales had been at their worst in a long while.

From what I understand, the part of the Superman Death media blitz DC didn’t expect was that the media and general public would think they were killing Superman for good.

I had no idea the cover for the issue with Hal Jordan’s funeral was based off Superman #75.

I wonder how annoyed Grant was that Wagner still got top billing after he left.

According to bls.gov, $0.75 in 1988 is equal to $1.34 in 2007, so yeah, all other things being equal, decreased circulation is the reason comics cost so much today. But that doesn’t take into account the rising cost of paper and INCREASED circulation up through 1993, when comics like TEC generally cost between $1.25-$1.75. Nor does it explain why TEC cost $1 in 1989, when Batman sales skyrocketed, and inflation would have only had it priced at $0.82 compared to two years earlier.

The calculator on bls.gov seems pretty consistent. $0.10 in 1938 is about $0.88 in 1989.

This is the part of the article that interests me most. I would really enjoy seeing an article or book that explains the increasing price of comics, taking into account all the various elements (paper, inflation, talent compensation, etc.)

Ironically, 20 years after Marvel’s president “balked” at the idea of publishing a book starring a psychotic killer, it seems like every team book they publish has at least one member who fits that description.

I can’t think of any way to verify it now, but I remember hearing at the time that, since the death of Superman became such a huge deal, they had to whip up a storyline to *delay* his return, which wasn’t initially intended to take so long.

I also recall hearing, probably on Usenet, about a woman who honestly believed that Superman #75 was going to be valuable enough to send her kid to college. Anybody else remember hearing that anecdote?

Oooh! I’m excited for the 100th issue spectacular? Will it be Gatefold? Diecut? Glow in the Dark? Will somebody die?

I think creator pay is also higher today than it was yester-year making the cost much higher.

Hal Jordan had a funeral?

Connor E

I’ve always found it funny that John Wagner generally gets billed over Alan Grant when they work together… it happens with their 2000ad work, too. I suspect it may be something to do with Wagner having created Judge Dredd; since that was the first thing they worked on together it’s natural he’d get top billing for that… I guess after that it just stuck.

Wait a sec… IF Grant and Wagner had a contract, AND Grant didn’t want to break it, AND Wagner was credited on the issues — wouldn’t DC have sent Wagner royalty checks as well?

I see two scenarios:

a) Either DC was duped into thinking Wagner was still participating, therefore Wagner would be getting paid, or

b) DC knew Wagner was off the book, yet continued to falsely promote him as a writer

It doesn’t quite add up for me. As always, my first question is: am I missing something?

The royalties came into play on the later issues; when the movie was pushing sales up.

It wouldn’t apply to the original run.

> Hal Jordan had a funeral?

Yes, after the Final Night crossover. While there was no body left to bury, they held a ceremony in #81, which shipped with two covers. One cover was a great deal of DC heroes all holding a green flame, the other cover was pretty close to the Superman tombstone variant pictured above, except that it had a shiny Green Lantern symbol instead.

I believe you’re conflating a couple of events, Craig–they didn’t delay Superman’s return because the death was such a big deal, the death came about because they had to delay the marriage. Basically, the Lois and Clark TV show was just coming together at around the time they were planning to marry Lois and Clark, and they were asked to hold it off. A big story conference was held to find a reason why they’d delay getting married for a couple of years, and (so the anecdote goes) someone in the room shouted, “Let’s just kill him!”

And Mike Carlin said, “Why not?”

Robert Helmerichs

March 23, 2007 at 5:59 am

What Quesada is clearly saying is an urban legend is the notion that “DC really had no idea that the Death of Superman was going to be so big and that it hit on a slow news day.” He then goes on to say that he’s not sure whether to believe it, but that if it was true, these are the lessons to be drawn from it.

Eric Gimlin said …

The royalties came into play on the later issues; when the movie was pushing sales up.

It wouldn’t apply to the original run.

Yes, but Wagner’s name would have been on those later issues, right? Thus he would have gotten royalties?

Or are they saying that his name stayed on for a while, but then dropped off, and THEN the royalties kicked in, thus he should have not only stayed on the issues he’s credited for, but also the ones to follow?

Julius Anderson

March 23, 2007 at 7:29 am

I read somewhere that during Peter David´s run in X-Factor, he had plans for a new villain, like a ruler of Genosha, that had a cameo in an issue, but then he left the title and Marvel went into a different direction.

Is it true??

John’s story about the Death of Superman only happening because of the TV show is absolutely correct (and was covered in Urban Legends previously, I believe). My favorite part of that story is that this was a routine suggestion in the story conferences, and this time they said “Why not?”

But I don’t think Joe Q’s comparison of the two situations holds up that well, as DC announced that they would be killing Superman months in advance, not the day the comic came out. So they had plenty of time to prepare for the comic to come out. I don’t remember, but I would not be surprised to learn that they created the bagged edition after the media storm hit. And lots of people thought that Superman #75 would sent their kids to college. Hell, lots of people thought that X-Force #1 would do the same….

I read the royalties thing as the following:

Wagner and Grant originally had a 1 year contract (12 issues) Wagner’s name was on those 12, then when contract renewal came up, grant became sole writer.

Royalties would only apply to those first 12 issues and since the book did not do so well then, royalties were small or non-existant.

Later when the Batman movie cam out and Grant was on his own, sales were way up and he got royalties.

That must bite when someone else is parachuted in to write an anniversary issue.


IIRC, those Sam Hamm issues weren’t any particular treat for readers either.

“IIRC, those Sam Hamm issues weren’t any particular treat for readers either.”

Ah, I thought they were okay.

But then I was …what? 9? 10? Something like that. The art was lovely though.

That villiam on the last Batman cover shown, looks like Bane with a hood, anyone know if theres a connection?

I just pulled out and re-read those Nightmare issues — they were okay. Marvel’s leadership had a lot of problems with the B&W books at that time. IIRC, they were going public, or had just gone public after being part of a conglomerate for years, and all of a sudden the more adult skewing B&W titles didn’t look so good for a “children’s” publisher.

They tried a lot of different approaches to the B&W magazines after the horror/kung-fu boom ended, but none of them ever really took. The best B&W book that they ever published was The Destroyer, but that was right at the end and simply didn’t sell well enough to maintain the license. Heck, Even Savage Sword got cancelled, and that lasted way, way longer than any of the other B&W books.

There’s some interesting history in the B&Ws — including the fact that the initial B&W magazines were credited to the distributor (Curtis, I believe) instead of Marvel. I’ve never seen anyone discuss if that was to shield Marvel from controversy or just another Martin Goodman publisher trick, but there’s no mention of Marvel on the covers of those initial B&W magazines.

Brian quotes Alan Grant on DETECTIVE COMICS: “…there was talk of closing it down unless [Denny O’Neil] could turn it around….”

Did anyone know it actually did get cancelled once? ‘TEC’ was a victim of the infamous DC Implosion of ’78. To save the title (in the most literal sense of the term) they slapped the logo and numbering on the Dollar format book BATMAN FAMILY. On the first few issues that way, you can see both logos and, if anything, BF’s is the larger one. Shoehorned ‘TEC”s remaining inventory in there, too (as well as the Human Target stories made as BRAVE & BOLD back-ups). Speaking of this run, does anybody here know why Steve Ditko replaced Michael Golden on the Demon miniseries that ran there, after the first installment? Mike was announced to do the whole thing, but then Ditko took over, and this was when he was at his worst (at his best he was very good, don’t misunderstand me, but I don’t think anybody but Fred Hembeck could compare Golden’s work on the opener to the rest and not think the latter is a big step down). Deadline troubles don’t make much sense there, as it was supposed to be four parts, but Steve himself did that many installments, and the page counts indicated that they had been broken down into shorter episodes because HE wasn’t getting them in on schedule. So, anybody have details?

“IIRC, those Sam Hamm issues weren’t any particular treat for readers either.”

If nothing else those issues introduced Henri Ducard.

That guy had the original name of “Bonecrusher”.

Here’s another vote for more history on Marvel’s black and white magazines. I’ve been reading my way though Savage Sword recently. Suddenly, a few years in, a bunch of nudity shows up! A few years later, it goes away again. What was up with that? Who took a stand to put the nudity in there? Who took it out?

The Mad Monkey

March 23, 2007 at 7:43 pm

I just recently acquired the magazine runs of Tomb Of Dracula and Dracula Lives. And, yeah, I noticed that there was this sudden boom of nudity and sex (even a story of Dracula being a pedophile), then as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
Personally, I think it may have been someone realizing that the mags didn’t have the comics code on it and they didn’t actually have the same rules that comics do, so they felt that adding nudity and sexual situations would make it a more “adult” read. Or, as the old adage goes, “sex sells”.
It also could’ve been shunted out because of a reader (or a few readers) taking great offense to the direction the mags seemed to be going.
Perhaps this issue isn’t an urban legend, but it would be interesting to find out what went on that caused this.

Craig’s comment:

“I can’t think of any way to verify it now, but I remember hearing at the time that, since the death of Superman became such a huge deal, they had to whip up a storyline to *delay* his return, which wasn’t initially intended to take so long.”

…rings false to me. I have no more “evidence” than you do, Craig, except to say that I’m acquainted with one of the creators who was involved with that story. In a conversation we had after Captain America’s death, this creator said to me, “When we killed Superman we had no idea how or when he’d come back, but we knew we needed to [do] something cool.”

If that’s true then I can’t imagine that they were initially planning to bring him back any sooner than they did–which really wasn’t that long, when you consider that Superman #82–seven issues and about one year after the death–was the “BACK FOR GOOD!” issue where we saw longhair-Supes put the old suit back on for the first time and fly away from Coast City.

First, I remember way back during the Nightmare on Elmstreet comic, that was not the only thing that censored poor Freddy. I had bought a Freddy Kreuger doll back then which was suddenly taken off the market because of fear of controversy. It was a normal doll you could change into Freddy, and there were supposed to be others made (I think Alien, Frankenstien Monster, and Dracula were the others) but never were. You compare that to attitudes now about such things and it seems really silly.
Also, a friend of mine told me that Clint Eastwood was supposed to play Two-Face in the Batman TV series. Any idea if this is true?

I heard it was charlton heston who was going to play two face but i have also heard that eastwood was also. I do know that the producers did want to use two face and the tv executives wouldn’t even let them used a sanitized campy version because he was too disturbing of a character or something like that. Not sure if they really gott to the casting stage if they were shut down to not do it because of the execs.

I find it hard to believe that Detective was near cancellation

O’Neil had just taken over and the # 567 and # 568 had Klaus Janson on art and then Alan Davis took over with # 569.

Mark you Alan Davis was a nobody then but I thought Year Two would have generated a lot of interest, especially after Year One over in Batman was such a big hit.

The day I picked up # 579 at the Pharmacy (yes the Pahrmacy) by Mike Barr and NORM BREYFOGLE – I thought to myself “this art is good”

Grant & Wagner’s first issue was a big hit for me, Ventriloquist was a classic in the making.

I thought the issues by Sam Hamm sucked, but Denys Cowans art ROCKED.

Ken Raining said …

“My favorite part of that story is that this was a routine suggestion in the story conferences, and this time they said “Why not?””

“Why not?”
“How did Superman die?”
“Why not?”
“How did Superman die?”
“Why not?”

(Fans of Opie and Anthony will get the above bit)

Grant and Breyfogle should return to the Bat-books! Their return would excite that old nostalgia we’re all supposed to be feeling when we read these new but “inspired” stories!

Funny to think that the Ventriloquist was originally a 2000 AD idea, and now he’s a staple in the Bat-verse, in multiple incarnations!

I have the entire Grant/Breyfogle run on both Batman and Detective Comics. Good stories, not great, but good. The art really makes it though, very moody with out being too dark.

By the way, comics are doing quite well nowadays.

$.75 x 75,000 (as of 02/1989) = $56,250

$2.99 x 55,206 (as of 02/2007) = $165,065

According to an inflation calculator $56,250 in 2006 dollars = $92,442.

IIRC, those Sam Hamm issues weren’t any particular treat for readers either.

I really liked that story. They were way way better than the Batman film he wrote

I really liked that story. They were way way better than the Batman film he wrote

One issue with the 1989 Batman film is that the Writers Guild called a strike while it was in final pre-production or actually in production, so Hamm couldn’t do any of the rewriting. I’m not sure how Warren Skaaren was able to do it, but at any rate Hamm couldn’t. I actually like the film, but the writing disconnect left a few holes in its wake.

I also recall hearing or reading stories (yes,stories)about people thinking that The Death of Superman books (again, the plural is meant) would finance their retirements/kids educations.
I always felt it was part of the speculator fiasco.
And Brian, a question for the general forum.
I seem to recall reading , possibly in his But I Digress column, Peter David commenting in a Marvel X-meeting, “Why don’t we have Magneto remove Wolverine’s
Anyone have any recollection about this?

From the creator I know:

When we planned “The Death” we knew that Superman would die in #75 and that we would then do the “World Without a Superman” bit for a couple months. We hoped that DC would allow us to cease publication for a time, which they did. That way, when the catalogues came out, retailers could readily see that there were no Superman, Action, Adventures, etc. coming out.

But to fill the gap we then added some specials, like a Newstime magazine.

At the time we didn’t know how or when exactly we’d be bringing Superman back. We honestly considered having a fill-in guy be a type of Superman. Hell… there’s nothing we didn’t consider.

Joe Quesada said:
>it’s best to be prepared for this type of thing.
>Overall, at the end of the day, I think Marvel as a
>publishing division is well prepared for this kind of
>thing, this kind of media assault, because we’ve had
>a lot of experience with doing it.

Well, they’ve had a lot of experience backpedalling from a media assault. Northstar, Rawhide Kid,… arguably, Marvel may have taken a good look at those events and ran through different scenarios to figure how to spin this one to good effect rather than bad.

I owned a comic shop during the death of Superman and the news did confuse civilians. They called asking about “the last issue of Superman”, etc. and I spent a lot of time telling them that he would come back somehow. Stores had already placed our orders for both versions of the book and although they did overprint, the black armband in the bagged edition was given as the reason why they couldn’t produce more of the bagged ones although they went through several reprints of the individual issues of the story.
DC’s smart response to the demand was a fast reprint/collection of the 7-issue storyline which really helped with new customers who wanted to read the storyline. It was only $4.95 and I sold many more copies of that than I was able to get of Superman #75.
I can’t speak for other stores, but my lesson from this was to order many more copies of the Wedding Special later. Unfortunately, tying this into the dying tv series helped it sell way below expectations, even with the advertising that I bought.

I need to correct my Peter David query.
What I meant to add was Peter said it as a joke and the rest took him seriously.
Damn sleep deprieved typing.

Is it true that MARVEL emailed retailers and told them that they (Marvel) were shipping another 200000 copies of Captain America 25 (1st print) but not to tell anyone to keep prices high,

Matt Bird asked about the sudden appearance and subsequent and equally sudden disappearance of nudity in Marvel’s b/w Conan mag, SAVAGE SWORD…. I know nothing of the appearance, but the disappearance was reported at the time (more or less), probably in AMAZING HEROES, as being a post-Roy Thomas regime deciding that, since it was a direct sibling to a color–&–Code comic with a (presumed) major overlap in audience, it shouldn’t be too different from it in terms of the content’s maturity level.

“Is it true that MARVEL emailed retailers and told them that they (Marvel) were shipping another 200000 copies of Captain America 25 (1st print) but not to tell anyone to keep prices high”

There was an email asking that the 2nd prnting be kept quiet, but someone spilled the beans on Newsarama the same day…

With regards to the Peter David / Wolverine thing, it’s mentioned in his writing for comics book (very good, BTW). He says at the conference he just said he couldn’t understand why magneto just didn’t really do Wolverine over by ripping the admantium out. Jaws dropped. Someone said “That’s fantastic!” and all of a sudden PAD’s having to explain that while it’s logical and all it’s terrible idea… none of which mattered by that point.

You missed the second Urban Legend in that interview…email me (I can’t find your address) and I’ll tell you what it is…certainly worth running with. Great stuff by the way – love it!

Just to correct an error here. It was Jim Galton not Terry Stewart who cancelled THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET magazine. Jim was President of Marvel at the time. Terry would join shortly afterwards as a VP and then eventually take over from Jim. I recall this incident pretty clearly as I was the 23 year old guy in the Direct Sales department who had to go to the meeting JIm called on the subject (Carol Kalish and Lou Bank were both travelling at the time). Jim cancelled the book because it offended his personal standards (particularly Freddy’s “Origin scene” where his mother (a Catholic nun) was raped by the inmates of an insane asylum (I think I’m remembering that correctly. haven’t seen the book in 20 years). Quite remarkable that Jim took this stand considering how well the title was selling. He really put his personal integrity before commerce in this case.

me gustaron mucho los comics de elm street pongan mas


November 20, 2008 at 12:35 am

>>> And lots of people thought that Superman #75 would sent their kids to college. Hell, lots of people thought that X-Force #1 would do the same….

I definitely remember people buying multiple copies of each and immediately bagging them without even reading them, in the hopes that they would dramatically go up in value. I remember the same about all four Reign of the Superman titles (when everyone assumed the issue that had the “real” Superman in it would become the most valuable, but no one knew which one it WAS, so better play it safe…), and all of the multiple cover versions of X-Men one.

Hell, I remember paying $40 for a copy of Rai #0, and I want to weep more or less every single time I remember that fact.

Death of Superman was definitely one of the biggest and earliest examples, though… so much so that I wonder whether or not it was all the mainstream hype that brought the speculators into the markey in the first place. And if that’s the case, I’ll honestly say without a shred of sarcasm that the Death of Superman storyline might have been the worst thing that ever happened to comics.

That speculator market utterly DESTROYED comics for YEARS (one could argue that they still haven’t recovered). And about the only silver lining I take out of that very dark cloud is that I learned a hell of a lot about market speculation and short-term stock trading as a teenager living in that time period and watching the crash happen and trying to understand the underlying reasons. Which, strangely enough, help give a unique perspective on how the stock market works (and the many reasons why it’s currently not working so well).

Grant on Batman was good until he flaked out with the Neo-Tech cult bullshit. It tore my heart out. It destroyed Anarky, turned him into an egotistical randroid marketer. I try to make a point not to rag on comics creators online any more but it’s Wallace’s spewings I’m really blaming.

If Anarky is what Grant would’ve been when he was 15 if he “knew then what he knows now”, why don’t he do at least some of those things, even though he’s older? Ugh!

@Ted Watson, I would say that the switch from Golden to Ditko on the Demon story was more jarring because of the dramatic difference in art styles, than any lack of quality on Ditko’s part. I liked the Ditko installments, but was disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing more Golden artwork. Unfortunately, I have no idea why it happened. Although I wonder, wasn’t this about the time that Golden was developing Bucky O’Hare?

Heya i will be for that most important occasion below. I stumbled upon the following board i to find It genuinely valuable & them helped me out lots. I hope to give the one thing rear plus guide people like you reduced the problem.

I have a huge poster of that Nightmare #2 cover, and I had Joe Jusko sign it.
Funny, I was just talking about him in relation to something else today (I might never have become a wrestling fan if his poster for Royal Rumble 1992 hadn’t caught my eye).

Oh, and it was Jerry Ordway who would regularly shout out “kill him!” at every year’s ‘Super-summit’ creator’s conference.

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