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.
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.