DC Comics' Tales from the Dark Multiverse line has seen some of the most iconic storylines in the publisher's history reimagined in the titular worst-case-scenario universe introduced during 2017's Dark Nights: Metal. The latest installment in the line of one-shots deals with Death of Superman, which remains one of DC's biggest crossover events ever. As the title suggests, Death of Superman saw Clark Kent/Superman perish during a confrontation with Doomsday. After his death, such characters as Cyborg Superman, Superboy and the Eradicator step up to take his place, though Clark Kent eventually returns to take back his mantle.
Helmed by writer Jeff Loveness and artists Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and Norm Rapmund, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman #1 imagines a world in which Lois Lane' grief facilitates her turning into the Eradicator, which results in catastrophe for heroes and villains alike. CBR spoke with Loveness and Walker about their experience with the original Death of Superman, the choices they made when adapting the iconic story and more.
CBR: What was your relationship with the original Death of Superman prior to working on this book?
Jeff Loveness: I was only a little kid when it initially came out, but it felt massive. And upon revisiting it, I am still impressed with the scope and majesty of it. Dan Jurgens made an Arthurian epic. And now that we know Doomsday’s origin a bit more, it’s devastatingly poignant that Superman was defeated by the combined trauma of Krypton. It’s beautiful.
But yeah, that event is the gold standard of superhero events. I still can’t quite process that I got to do my take on it.
Brad Walker: I was in high school and had been reading comics for several years. Mostly Batman and Marvel stuff at the time. I hadn't gotten into Superman, yet. Somehow, I heard about a big Superman story happening and picked it up right from the beginning. I've been a huge Superman fan ever since. So, it was a big deal for me back then and working on something like this, so specific to that exact story that hooked me on the character, has been really thrilling.
Brad, rather than emulate the art of the original, you've rendered it more in your own, modern style. Can you speak a bit to that choice?
Walker: Trying to strictly ape another artist's style for 48 pages, as much as I love all four of the original pencilers would've...sucked. Haha! But I wanted to try to have the art convey the big, epic feel the original story had. We only had 48 pages on our storyline as opposed to the original having two years and four titles. But Jeff wisely gave me lots of room and suggested big, bombastic imagery so hopefully we could remind the reader of what they loved about the original, but still look and feel new.
Lois' reaction this time around is to blame those around her, which directly leads to what happens next. What about your Lois is different from the original in terms of personality?
Loveness: I tried to isolate Lois in her grief. She’s the best reporter in the world. She’s the most passionate, idealistic character in the Superman mythos…. So how tragic would it be to see her finally lose that idealism? Sometimes life hits you, and you don’t get up.
Walker: In my mind, she's very much the same Lois. In the original story, she turns inward as she goes through her grief. In the early pages of our story, she does the same thing. After the funeral, we tried to make it look like she was removed from her life, and just floating through it. But for whatever reason, this Lois happens to be at the Fortress when Eradicator comes out of the regeneration matrix, and the opportunity to have powers and do something with all those feelings she's having charts her in a whole different direction.
Without spoiling too much, a lot of Lois' dialogue and actions throughout the book deal with this question that really pervades comics: Why don't heroes just kill villains? Tell me about the choice to explore that question in your Death of Superman.
Walker: Jeff can probably speak to this better, but from my interpretation in the visual half of the storytelling, this was one of my favorite things about his script. To me, the book makes a very definitive point about why characters, and especially Superman, don't fall into the approach of killing villains, and trying to solve all of the world's problems at the source. And it's especially interesting since we see this argument playing out constantly these days on Twitter and other fan circles.
Loveness: I wanted to use this story as an exploration of status quo superhero morality. At what point are you just keeping the world hostage in order to placate your individual code? Are Superman and Batman actually enacting hope and change -- or are they merely arresting progress? Superman might be bottling society a little more than he thinks. It was really great to explore Lois gaining power but losing her idealism. Clark was good, no question, but perhaps too naive. Lois is many things, but she is not naive. She gains power, and she will use it.
Lois' look as Eradicator is absolutely striking. Tell me about the design choices you guys made there.
Loveness: I’m gonna let Brad take this. All I did was come up with Lois wearing the torn red cape. The design and execution were all Brad and Lee Weeks. They’re wonderful.
Walker: For the most part, it's the Eradicator costume, but Jeff specifically called for her to wear Superman's original, tattered cape. I thought that was a sad, tragic visual, all by itself. Then without even discussing it, editor Alex Antone and I had the idea to use the bleeding S symbol from the original poly bag of Superman #75. It's such a powerful, visual iconography, and it describes so much about who this, specific Lois is, and roots her to the "Death Of" storyline immediately, no matter where she shows up. I tried to add little, visual things that drive home what she's going through, like her sunken eyes going black and glassy when she's using her powers, and her smeared mascara. I think the look is nice and simple, but everything there is there for a purpose, which is what I love in a superhero design.
Andrew Hennessy, Norm Rapmund and John Kalisz also worked on Death of Superman with you two. Can you tell me what they brought to the project and why they were the right choice for this book?
Walker: Andrew comes with me pretty much everywhere. Haha! He's always game to match me or go a step further in line details, textures, little background elements, whatever. But we got jammed up because I had jury duty for a month over the summer, so he took on extra work when I wasn't getting much done. Norm is a friend of mine and we'd always talked about working together sometime. He was nice enough to help on six pages, and I would challenge anyone to figure out which six. Haha! He did a beautiful, seamless job. And John Kalisz I've been a fan of for a while and he came in and blew us all away! He gave the whole issue a big, bold palette, but still gave every scene a mood that was just right for the story. I think this is some of his best work.
Loveness: Those guys were absolutely essential in making this thing happen. This book is a massive spectacle, and they elevated every page. All I did was type some words and get sad. They nailed it.
What particular challenges were there for you when creating this book?
Loveness: I didn’t want to make just another "X character goes crazy and kills people" book. I wanted to really dive into the ethos of Superman and challenge it through the eyes of Lois. I love her as a character, and it was painful at times to push her this far, but in the end, I think we’ve created a tragic character who challenges Clark’s idealistic worldview, but also shows the horrifying alternative. I’d love for her to show up again down the road. I think she could be a cool Magneto to Superman -- someone who knows him better than he knows himself and has the life experience to challenge him. But that’s up to someone who isn’t me!
Walker: Well, jury duty really threw off my schedule. Haha! That was the toughest part. A 48-page issue is a challenge in and of itself, but to lose four weeks at the beginning was a real gut punch. But I was determined to make sure I drew the whole thing and it didn't interrupt the flow of the story. Beyond that, it was really just a labor of love. To tap into a really precious, childhood favorite story and live in that time for a few months as a grown up, professional artist was a pretty rare joy. Glad people seem to like it!
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman #1 is on sale now.