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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 22

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we continue our special Tear-Jerker Week of cool comic book moments!

Today’s “tear jerker” moment comes from a classic Alan Moore Superman story (the second of…hmmm…let’s now say four tear jerking moments from this story).


My pal Michael convinced me to edit my choices to add this one in here, too, and it really is a tear jerking scene. In fact, it literally has Superman crying from it!!

As mentioned yesterday, we’re looking at the classic Alan Moore/Curt Swan “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” storyline that told the “final” Superman story before the Byrne “Man of Steel” reboot.

At this point in the story, Superman has gathered all his closest friends to the Fortress of Solitude to protect them, because all of his villains have suddenly became sociopaths. Even the loser villains are killing people now, so now that Luthor, Brainiac and the Kryptonite Man are on the scene, Superman is scared spitless.

While he is hunkering down, getting ready for the impending siege, the Legion of Super-Heroes visit him one last time, and they have along with them a time-traveling Supergirl, who had just recently died in the comics.

So with that in mind, read the following and you can see why Superman is crying on the last page (which is the last page of Superman (Vol. 2) #423)…(click to enlarge)….

If I had to pick one page as the “moment,” I suppose it would be the “Right now, Supergirl…Supergirl is in the past.”

Good call, Mike!

By the way, since I said that I’m doing more than one moment from the issue, could we keep the comments to discussing the moment at hand (or general discussion on the story) rather than discussing other specific moments that will be featured in the next day or so? Thanks!


Geez, I wasn’t trying to convince anyone, I was just guessing.

I was honestly surprised Moore decided to keep this part of Crisis in his “imaginary” continuity for this story. But then, it did provide a great moment, an excuse to bring in the Legion, and a way to explain why the Legion doesn’t warn Superman about what’s coming.

And geez, how much must Brainiac 5 be hurting, to take Kara back to a point where he knows she’s dead?

The full page splash (which is the end of the issue as well) is pretty heartbreaking too, as you see Superman – freaking Superman – break down, and Krypto watching him in that way dogs do when they don’t know why their humans are so sad.

This was obviously before Superman crying became played out, of course. Now he cries if he does long division and has a remainder left over.

I forgot to mention, Curt Swan really sells this scene (and the whole rest of the story, too).

Looking this over again, I see something that I missed before. Right after Brainiac 5 asks Superman if he would tell the Legion if he knew of some awful fate about to befall them, the next panel featured Invisible Kid prominently, who had been killed off by the mid 80s. So Superman has been on the other side of that equation. Nice irony. Can’t believe I never caught that before.

God, I love Curt Swan. That look on Superman’s face when he’s giving shit to Brainiac 5. And the body-language on the last page … you can almost see him sobbing.

Tear-Jerker Week should be Tear-Jerker Fortnight.

I mean, We3 alone could get you a week.

And I totally demand that bit at the end of Thor 421 where Eric and Herc share a hug. Because— because it made me well up a single, manly tear. Like that Native American in the commercial.

But yeah, this is a good scene. It’s the “You… you grew up beautiful, Kara!” that gets me.

Man, i just get through typing about this scene on the last page and now, here it is. i still say for me, the part where Lois tells the interviewer [and us] that Superman never told her what happened that night, but that it looked as if he had been crying is the real tear jerker. Having to go through this is bad, but never sharing your deepest pain with the people you love is real torture! :{
Supes can never fully let someone in to know his real fear, sadness, and hopelessness. That is why this moves me more than seeing his dead cousin [not that seeing Kara is great or anything].

Also, i like Curt Swan, but inked by the awesome George Perez [who i was able to spend just a little time with] makes this one of the most beautiful books ever. Man, i wish that Perez inked the second half too!

OH! One thing i just realized. If Supergirl has superhearing, like Superman does, why does Kal-El say [in a whisper no less] to Brainy, that Supergirl is dead? Did he forget that she could, ya know, hear him?

two tear moments in one day . for i remember how when i read that part knowing how superman didn’t dare tell Kara that her counterpart was dead and he was thinking of her death from crisis once gain sad and touching.

danjack, one has to remember that super-hearing is one of those things where the person having it (especially the Els) have to consciously filter out, based on the older stories (strange as that may sound); hearing everything (such as losing control of the power) could drive them mad, or at least cause severe pain.

As such, Kara and Kal have always made efforts to “tune out” the private conversations of their friends – let alone most other noise. Which is why Superman doesn’t hear every cry for help, since that word is probably used thousands of times per second in conversations (personally, I always believed that when he DID hear cries for help, while at work, he was consciously or unconsciously looking for a reason to ditch the meeting or the paperwork he was confronted with – wouldn’t you???

So, if B5 and Kal go off to the side to discuss things in private, then Kara would have deliberately not listened in that direction.

These last two days drove me back into the warm embrace of this story. It’s seriously my favorite Superman story by such a huge gap it is just plain ridiculous.

You know what I like about this post, Brian, is your intro.

“Even the loser villains are killing people now”

Because Alan Moore knew you could do that in the LAST issue of a continuing saga, but if it becomes the status quo, well…

What’s great too is that the gift they give him is an out for Supes. They know “Superman” is going to die, but the man in the costume can maybe continue.

And Bill Reed is right, WE3 is loaded with tear jerker moments. In fact, you could probably devote an entire month to cool moments just from WE3.

Yeah, We3 will be having its own week later this year, so it won’t be featured this week (actually, I think this story is going to finish out the week).

By the by,. I said that like I have grand plan for how the year will be laid out. Besides “at some point in the year I will be having a We3 week,” there isn’t much in the way of a plan.

Well, what other planning needs be done?

BTW, this post says “first of 4 moments”, but this one’s actually the second. After yesterday, I made sure to read the intro closer :)


So I did! I remembered to change the “four” but forgot to change the first part! It’s fixed now, thanks.

Just to point out some more Moore brilliance – the dialog, in many places, draws our attention to what *wasn’t* said – that is, the dialog can reveal not only what came out of the character’s mouths, but also what was in their thoughts. Two prime examples occur in the second last panel of page 23, Cosmic Boy stops himself just in time from saying “We’ll miss you”, and Saturn Girl lies about shedding tears of grieving.

One thing I’ve particularly love about this sequence:

Brainy is very subtly telling Superman how to defeat his final, greatest enemy.

That’s very Brainy: cheating against history.

Yeah, the closer you read the scene, the more awesome it becomes.

Also, to John, I never noticed that before about the invisible Kid, either! That’s amazingly cool.

I hated this story. Superman cowering in his fortress while his frineds outside get slaughtered on his behalf? Depressing and unheroic. One of the most overrated and joyless superhero stories ever.

“If Supergirl has superhearing, like Superman does, why does Kal-El say [in a whisper no less] to Brainy, that Supergirl is dead? Did he forget that she could, ya know, hear him?”

Super-whisper. He’s sending individual air molecules to jiggle Brainy’s hammer and anvil.

Brian, it’s an extreme change of pace, but I suggest the pope’s speech transcribed at the end of Judenhass for tear-jerker week. I’ve never cared much about the pope, but boy did it ever hit me hard. I cried not for the suffering of millions, but for the hope engendered of creating a more just world. It really touched me, and I’d love to see you highlight the story.

If anyone has been avoiding Judenhass due to Dave Sim’s deplorable statements about women, I’d urge you to reconsider and pick up this great book.

Hm, T makes a point about Supes “cowering in his fortress while his friends outside get slaughtered on his behalf”. Now, it’s been a bit since I read “Whatever Happened to…”, but I think what I’m going to say fits.

Moore said in other things I’ve read something to the effect that Superman provides a good moral compass for children, but it’s a very basic one. Superman’s moral code against killing and him being “good” and not being “evil” being the very basic dichotomy. Into that basic structure, the villains “played by the rules” — they were “bad” but not “BAD”, if you understand the distinction. Robbery, theft, anti-social behavior, but overall not out to really HURT anybody.

And then comes Bizarro killing people, Prankster and Toyman killing people, there’s Metallo suicide bombers at the Planet, right? All this killing goes beyond what happened before, and Supes can’t deal with it, so he shuts himself away because he can’t make the decision to kill. His friends are willing to cross the line if necessary (if I remember wrong, let me know). I believe the big bad at the end says something about changing the rules of the game. Also, since he tends to solve problems with his fists, he can’t do anything else physically without crossing his moral line.

And this was pre-Watchmen and DKR.

So Moore knew, as I said in an earlier post, that you can pull out all these stops at the END of a series, but I think now we’re seeing writers at the big 2 trying to outdo Moore, Miller, and others in SERIALIZED stories. Eventually people are turned off with no moral compass at the base of superhero stories.

So I doubt I changed T’s mind, but I did want to offer up my take on it.

Grr, let me try to post this again.

T raises an interesting point about Superman cowering in his fortress. While it doesn’t make Supes look good, it does, to me, have a purpose. Let’s see if that Art History degree was a waste of 4 years or not (look mom, I can post semi-erudite comments on a comics blog!)

Moore said in interviews that I’ve read that he thought that the stark good vs evil moral code that Superman has (being “good”, no killing) is a good place for kids to start, but that it can break down in the real world and more nuance is required (I’m paraphrasing, and can’t remember the source, so I may not be conveying his viewpoint totally accurately).

So here’s Superman, “playing by the rules” with his villains. They’re bad, but it’s more robbery, anti-social pranks, bizarre behavior. Nobody ever really gets hurt badly. Then, Bizarro commits genocide, Toyman and Prankster are killing, there’s Metallo suicide bombers at the Planet (I think I’m remembering that part right). They’re no longer playing by the rules, and Superman doesn’t know what to do, as he solves problems with his fists, but if he does that, he’ll have to cross the “no killing” line. So he hides, then finally once the big bad is revealed and defeated, he can no longer be the Superman he was, so he leaves that behind.

So, it’s maybe not so much cowering in his fortress as simply not knowing what to do from that point. His friends are maybe willing to cross the line, so that’s why they’re getting slaughtered too. They don’t really have it in them to kill either.

As I said in an earlier post, “even the loser villains are killing” is an ok way to end out a grand continuing saga, but that seems to be the status quo any more. Something gets lost if every hero is willing to cross the line.

And remember, there was a reason why every villain went haywire beyond “somebody has to kill people”.

So I doubt I changed T’s mind, but I hope I didn’t sound too stupid.

Random Stranger

January 23, 2009 at 6:18 am

These posts had driven me to the point that I was about to order the new edition of The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore. I have the old one and couldn’t justify buying it again for this and The Killing Joke, but while I was trying to confirm that the new printing had the opening text I discovered that DC is publishing a hard cover of What Every Happened to the Man of Tomorrow due in July.

It stings but I’ll wait. I did go ahead and order the hardcover Killing Joke to complete the set.

This is a good example of why today’s DC writers could never leave the post-Crisis universe as it was. Why so many writers began to have the old multiverse reappear, and have Earth-2 characters come back. While I think DC’s original Crisis was probably necessary, so many up and coming writers who loved those old stories and characters didn’t like that they were gone. It’s very strange how attached people become to fiction. Because I know a lot of us fans feel like it’s unfair to these fictional characters that they suddenly didn’t exist.

Of course, the problem with all this is the DC universe has become an even more confusing, inaccessible-to-new-readers place. Who can keep track of character histories, and who’s who. I mean, we now have Earth 2 characters — gone for decades — back in the picture. How can you explain Power Girl being the Earth 2 Supergirl to some new reader without explaining the entire Crisis and the reasons for it?

Why does Superman tell Kara to “go this way, where the light’s better”? In the trophy case on the same panel might there be a plaque in her memory? Any fans know the layout of his Trophy Room? Is he leading her away from reading her own death notice? Again, on the same panel, Saturn Girl seems to be noticing something to her left as well, with a concerned expression on her face.

See, this is what I love about this stuff. YEARS after a book comes out, there is still more to discover. That, my friends, is what they call art.

I mean, We3 alone could get you a week.

“Bad dog”

And this was pre-Watchmen and DKR.

Nope – this was either post or during Watchmen and DKR

Y’know Supergirl died! Why did you bring her here?

Don’t sweat it. She comes back later when some writer decided to screw with continuity. That was of course after there where a couple other attempts to bring back a “Supergirl” to keep the copyright alive.

Oh! Well that’s good news. I guess… so I die today?

Hell no. You die fighting some huge monster named “Doomsday” to the death a couple years from now.


But you come back.


But so does Doomsday.

Wait! Does anyone stay dead?


You know what? The Legion were kind of dicks to bring Supergirl along just because “she insisted on coming.” They could make their little goodbye trip at literally ANYTIME after Supergirl left because, y’know, time travel.

And how awkward must it have been for the Legion the next time Superboy visited the 30th Century?

Man, that final splash page is just a brilliant layout. I love how the pterodactil’s wing frame Krypto & leads your eye back to Superman. Same with the bent girder. I wonder if Moore’s script specified which trophies Superman should be surrounded by. Knowing how notoriously detailed Moore’s scripts typically are, I bet it did.

My apologies for posting twice above, neither post showed up when I typed them out. That’s why I did it again.

@Random Stranger — I’m almost certain that the new edition of the DCU stories of AM DOES NOT have the text intro to “whatever…”, nor does it have the rainy endpapers of Killing Joke.

@Dan CJ — “Bad dog” YES. That’s definitely one I was thinking. “Is run no more”

Also, I think I was thinking of “For the Man who has Everything” as being pre-DKR/Watchmen. I think you are right that “Whatever…” was either concurrent or after. It doesn’t invalidate my point, though, I hope.

@Mark — the “go this way” I think would indicate that Supes is leading Supergirl away from her memorial. In Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics that Avatar put out a few years ago, there’s a discussion of his writing “For the Man…” that says that when he wrote THAT script, he used a layout drawing that Dave Gibbons had of the Fortress so he would know where the characters ended up in the battle. So that when the battle ends, he’s in front of the statues of Jor-El and Lara. I assume Moore still had the layout drawings so he could indicate where Supes would lead Supergirl away from. Or just made the implication that her memorial was that way.

Man, I’m a nerd. A BA in Art History and posting comments online is about all it’s been good for.

On the second-to-last panel of the previous page, we see that Superman and Krypto are right in front of the giant Supergirl memorial.

You know what? The Legion were kind of dicks to bring Supergirl along just because “she insisted on coming.” They could make their little goodbye trip at literally ANYTIME after Supergirl left because, y’know, time travel.

Yeah – I always thought that.

You know what? The Legion were kind of dicks to bring Supergirl along just because “she insisted on coming.”

John, have you ever read any Silver Age LoSH comics? The legion were always dicks.

You know what? The Legion were kind of dicks to bring Supergirl along just because “she insisted on coming.” They could make their little goodbye trip at literally ANYTIME after Supergirl left because, y’know, time travel.

To me, The Legion is an interesting symbol in the Superman myth. During the Weisinger period, Krypton and Earth in the 30th Century were depicted as being effectively the same. The implication being that the example of Superman turned Earth into Krypton. They are, in a sense, his descendents.

Supergirl was the last Kryptonian woman. You do not have to read much sci-fi to know what is supposed to happen when a dying civilization sends one male and one female to an alien planet. Being purely good,Superman chose to treat the naive newcomer like a kid sister rather than a mail order bride.
Nevertheless, the death of Supergirl seemingly closed off any prospect of Superman having any literal children.

The question of marriage and children seemed to come up in every single issue of Superman during the Silver Age. Confronting Superman on what he believes to be the day of his death by that group is sort of beyond dick-ish.

Goddamn, even fifteen years later, that sequence still gets me.

“You know what? The Legion were kind of dicks to bring Supergirl along just because “she insisted on coming.” They could make their little goodbye trip at literally ANYTIME after Supergirl left because, y’know, time travel.”

I think that was something Moore felt he needed to do, a final good-bye of sorts to Kara. Since she was dead by this point, he had to work her in somehow, and that was what he came up with.

Overall, it’s still a great piece, and one of the few Moore works I can say I really love. Def much more moving than the Bizarro entry. And Swan and Perez made a gorgeous team on the art. I love the meta-line “Supergirl is in the past.”

Don’t ask me why, but Saturn’s Girl line, while a bit cheesy, always gets me as well.

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