DC Comics wanted to kill Superman four years earlier than it did

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Dec 16, 2012

In 1992, DC Comics made national headlines when it killed Superman, its flagship character and the original superhero. Supes is alive and well now, but what if DC had actually been planning something bigger than just one event? What if they meant to kill the Man of Steel all the way back in 1988?

The story by the legendary Walt Simonson that seems to chronicle at least some kind of death for Superman was set to appear in the 1988 Superman Annual, but it was shelved as DC editors began to shy away from publishing annuals. It was finally published four years later in a special issue the week before Superman died in Superman #75, but it wasn't given any real attention with all the hype surrounding the death.

The story features a sand creature irradiated by kryptonite that can mimic Superman's powers and even some of his intellect. The sand monster eventually squares off with the Man of Tomorrow in the Fortress of Solitude, where in a last-ditch effort Superman causes a massive explosion to destroy the creature. An epilogue to the story suggests that perhaps Superman defeated the creature by becoming it.

References to the story pop up several times throughout Superman comics between 1988 and 1992, and the Reign of the Supermen storyline that returns the original Superman to power even suggests that perhaps there's something different about this Superman. The sun doesn't restore his powers. Something else does, but when it came time for the big reveal, DC attributed it to something Braniac was up to.

D.B. Hughes over at Bleeding Cool thinks that DC originally planned to use the sand Superman story as an explanation for why the sun didn't affect Superman the same way anymore. The idea was that Superman had been this sand-based life form ever since 1988, and therefore that the sun was no longer his source of power. But despite numerous hints in the comics, they never went in that direction. Why?

Well, it might have something to do with the now-infamous Spider-Clone saga that Marvel cooked up right around the same time. Without any real prior planning or hinting, Marvel concocted the idea that Peter Parker had been replaced with a clone years earlier, and that everything we'd seen Spidey doing for quite some time hadn't been Spidey at all. Facing the risk of looking like copycats even after years of careful planning, DC came up with an alternate explanation for Superman's relationship with the sun.

Just an interesting bit of comic book fun for you on a Monday afternoon.

(via Bleeding Cool)