Thanks to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we're once again talking about Doomsday, the Kryptonian monster who (temporarily) ended the Man of Steel's life in 1992's The Death of Superman storyline. In the nearly 25 years since his creation, Doomsday has appeared in multiple comic-book arcs, animated series and films, and now a live-action movie that's arguably the biggest superhero project Warner Bros. Pictures has ever mounted. It's been quite a ride, particularly when you consider that the character was born out of what his creators couldn't do.
Flash back to the early '90s. There are four main Superman series in regular publication, often crossing over and referencing each other, so the writers and artists involved in those books have regular summits to plot out the coming months of storytelling. According to this excellent piece at Vulture, when the writers and artists met in 1992 they had big plans for the books: To finally marry Superman to longtime girlfriend Lois Lane. It could've been a blockbuster comics event, but word came down from on high that Warner Bros. wouldn't allow it. Why? Well, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was about to hit TV, and executives didn't want the characters to be married in the comics even as they engaged in a flirtation on television.
So, the team fell back on a joke Adventures of Superman writer Jerry Ordway often made when their plotting sessions weren't working: Just kill Superman.
For once, it was no longer a joke. The rest of the room was receptive, and they began structuring the story, merging the idea of Superman's death with Superman writer and artist Dan Jurgens' notion about a monster just ripping Metropolis apart. The words "Doomsday for Superman" were written on a board, and the group ultimately decided that the villain to the Do the Deed could just simply be named "Doomsday." The Man of Steel writer Louise Simonson was particularly interested in the idea of a creature who would, rather than outsmart Superman, simply end his life through overwhelming force.
“My idea was that it should be something that was big and horrible and a mystery,” says Simonson. “We wouldn’t know what its origin was. This thing would burst out and start pounding Superman.”
So, Doomsday had no origin, only a purpose. Now, he needed a look. The group decided on a simple art contest: All of the artists in the room would take a few minutes and sketch out a design, and whichever one the room liked best would be the winning look. Jurgens drew a massive monster with chunks of bone jutting from his skin on a yellow legal pad, and won. Doomsday was born.
In the years since, the character has been fleshed out considerably, but the villain at the heart of one of the most famous comic book stories of all time was originally the result of a creative team who couldn't have their first choice, and an artist who quick-sketched a monster.
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