Welcome to a special edition of Adventure(s) Time, a look back on the history of beloved animated adaptations of comic properties. This week, we’re going to be doing something a bit different; to acknowledge ten years of DC’s animated direct-to-video films, we’re examining the first release Superman: Doomsday, and the ambitious, thousand page-plus storyline that inspired its plot.
Released in 2007, following the cancellation of Justice League Unlimited (the final edition of the DC Animated Universe canon), the film was conceived as a way to keep producer Bruce Timm and his talented crew of animators busy on new DC projects. The studio and DC Comics were both excited at the prospect of doing direct adaptations of popular DC story arcs as animated films, pairing well-respected animators with stories that had taken on legendary status over the years. One of the earliest stories presented to Timm was the best-selling 1992 “Death of Superman” storyline…and he balked. As he reveals in the audio commentary, Timm initially had no interest in the story, and had convinced co-writer Duane Capizzi to work with him on pitching other ideas for the initial DC animated release.
During that meeting, however, they did begin to toss around ways to possibly make the complicated Death/Return saga work as a singular story, and eventually hit upon some ideas that they liked. DC was surely thrilled with this, given that the storyline was not only a top-seller, but also the template for how Superman stories were told in the 1990s — sweeping sagas and high concepts, dramatized over the course of every Superman title for numerous months.
The early 2000s saw a new editorial team move away from this approach, as the internal enthusiasm for this era waned; declining sales in the late 1990s and a Wizard magazine article that eviscerated the current status quo of Superman titles likely contributed to this sentiment. The attitude had vacillated once more by 2007, however, with “Death of Superman” and its sequels regaining some respect. Somehow, this behemoth of a story was going to become a seventy-five minute film.
When re-examining the initial story, Timm and Capizzi felt Lex Luthor had been given an unusually small role in such an important Superman event. Existing in a cloned body, passing himself off as his own son, attempting to romance the protoplasmic version of Supergirl, and sporting an impressive mane of fiery red hair…the early 1990s Lex Luthor was certainly not the general public’s perception of the legendary villain. He’s also not involved with the appearance of the Doomsday monster, and doesn’t have much to do with any of the four replacement Supermen who appear after the hero’s demise.
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