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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we explore a key chapter in the post-Crisis era of DC Comics through a Superman comic book. This time, however, we go revisit a comic book that literally served as a bridge between the Funeral for a Friend storyline and the eventual Reign of the Superman storyline. I am talking about the 500th issue of the Adventures of Superman monthly series.
To put things in perspective, the Funeral for a Friend storyline dramatized the immediate aftermath of Superman’s sudden death which paved the way for comic book creators to develop not only DC superheroes (affiliated with Superman specifically) but also the supporting characters linked with the Man of Steel in new and creative ways. Not only that, there was even a months-long hiatus on all Superman-related comics before Adventures of Superman #500 was released. Back in the old days when Internet connection and online news were not yet common, I heard lots of buzz about DC resurrecting Superman from the dead which added to the anticipation of the 500th issue of Adventures of Superman.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Adventures of Superman #500, published in 1993 by DC Comics with a story written by Jerry Ordway and drawn by Tom Grummett.
The story begins inside a Kansas hospital where medical professionals are trying to revive Jonathan Kent who lost consciousness. Martha Kent is present witnessing the efforts happen. As his physical body is being worked on, Jonathan Kent finds himself in a dream-like realm and to his shock, he meets his dead son Clark who finds himself being pulled into the bright light in the distance. Refusing to let go, Jonathan Kent accidentally tears off Clark’s clothes which reveal him as Superman in his iconic outfit. Superman tells his adoptive father to rejoin the living.
Suddenly two wraiths appeared and escorted Superman into the light. Still defiant, Jonathan then flies himself into the light to follow his son.
Back in the real world, Martha carefully monitors her husband’s health reading. After being assured by the medical staff that they won’t give up on her husband, Martha is surprised to see Lois Lane who arrived all the way from Metropolis…
Let me get straight to the point about this Superman story…this is a very dramatized approach on bringing back Superman from the dead without necessarily going all-out. As we comic book geeks know by now, the Reign of the Superman events launched with this comic book serving as a launch pad and that meant that people had to go through many comic books before finally getting to see Superman himself in resurrected form.
More on the story itself, the main feature here is Jonathan Kent’s struggle to follow Superman in the dream-like realm (note: DC’s version of the afterlife which is clearly not spiritual) as he was motivated by his love for him as well as his belief that the world still needs the Man of Steel as their beacon of hope. To be very clear, Jerry Ordway and Tom Grummet nicely executed their presentation of Jonathan Kent and his uncompromising effort to get his son back. The creative team’s imagination really was set into high gear which resulted in Jonathan revisiting a familiar place from his old days as a soldier, getting himself into a lair of demons, flying deep into space and visiting the realm’s own version of Krypton. Very truly, this comic book’s protagonist is Jonathan Kent and the iconic Superman was more of a supporting figure.
While the Jonathan Kent tale is good to read, Superman’s return from the dead here ended up more as a teaser of things to come (note: the Reign of the Supermen). Considering the big promise that came with this comic book, it is indeed a disappointing pay-off towards all the build-up. Not only that, the side stories are a mixed back. The respective scenes of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen added weight to the narrative while the scenes of Gangbuster were pointless and looked more like hollow script filler. As for Cat Grant’s scene, it was designed to make readers feel sorry for her.
As for the scenes – each done by different creative teams – showing the new Superboy, the Eradicator, the black Man of Steel and the Cyborg Superman, these revelations really did not work to recover from the disappointing conclusion of the main story. They were more like creative distractions designed to promote what was coming in the other Superman monthly series of the time.
Even back in the old days, Adventures of Superman #500 (1993) was a disappointing read and it was a highly dramatized effort by DC Comics cautiously expressing that Superman’s death was nothing more than a highly deceptive publicity stunt with Dollar signs in mind.
Within the context of this comic book, the resurrection of Superman was essentially a half-step and his eventual full return in comics did not happen until months later (note: after many Reign of the Supermen stories were published). More on the resurrection aspect of this comic book, I can clearly say that Superman – no matter how iconic he is and no matter what comic book creators tried – will never ever become a beacon of hope nor a true savior for people in real life. It really does not matter that many people bought copies of Superman #75 (the death) believing truly that they would witness the end of the American icon and witness a Superman-less future. What mattered here were the deception and the irresponsible use of a pop culture icon committed by DC Comics. Superman #75 (1993) was the gigantic deception that sold millions while Adventures of Superman #500 (1993) was the big follow-up deception.
The resurrection of Superman in this story does NOT make him a more significant DC Comics icon at all. I know that there are die-hard fans out there who love to compare the Man of Steel with Jesus Christ but such comparisons and forced attempts to link them together are pathetic and worthless. Superman is not real and even if he was, he could never overcome death nor could he save people. The resurrection of Lord Jesus can never be matched and only He saved people and led them to salvation in the presence of His Father, the Lord God.
By today’s standard, this comic book is much more disappointing and even worth less as a piece of American comic book history. While the work done by the Ordway-Grummett team here was not really terrible, it was the dishonesty and deception of DC Comics that led to this. In fairness to the creators, bringing back Superman after all the hype and belief invested related to his death was indeed a major obstacle for them. You could feel sorry for Ordway-Grummett.
Overall, Adventures of Superman #500 (1993) should be avoided. If you really want to read it, try borrowing a copy. Just don’t spend anything on it.
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