Comic Legends: Did Superman Almost Die in the 1980s?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and fifty-sixth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As we've been doing it for some time now, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.

Let's begin!


Cary Bates had a pitch to reboot Superman in the mid-1980s through killing him!


Basically True

Cary Bates had one of the longest runs writing Superman in the history of the character, as he wrote well over 200 issues of Action Comics. He and his sometimes writing partner Elliot S! Maggin sort of represented the "new wave" of Superman writers in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. They co-wrote Superman #300...

In any event, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics rebooted Superman under a new editor (as longtime editor Julius Schwartz was retired and longtime Superman artist Curt Swan lost his regular gig), with John Byrne rebooting the character in the Man of Steel miniseries...

However, before Byrne took over, other writers were allowed to pitch to reboot the character (Bates notes that this very well could have all just been a gesture and that they always intended to hire Byrne, but he couldn't know for sure)

I asked Cary about his and he was gracious enough to share it with me...

In my pitch Superman quite literally "died" a heroic death in order to save millions of lives.... and was out of commission for several issues, until he was eventually "resurrected" by a mystical process that took place in the heart of a yellow sun.

Once revived, however, the reborn Superman found he had become far more "mortal"; his powers were significantly downsized by the life-and-death ordeal, which meant his days of juggling planets and flying at faster-than-light speed were over.

While this de-powering could've been see as an elaborate retread of the Denny O'Neil 'Kryptonite No More" saga of 1970, to my way of thinking it was more akin to the third-act resurrection of the fallen Michael Rennie/Klaatu character in "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

But admittedly, the biggest drawback of a 'soft reboot' approach within existing continuity might have been the fact that it left the rest of the 1985 Superman mythos basically intact. At this juncture, DC may have already decided it was high time to deconstruct much of the Weisinger-Schwartz Superman continuity that had been building up over the preceding four decades... which would have paved the way for the major revamp John Byrne eventually delivered.

Fascinating stuff, Cary, thanks so much for sharing!

Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:

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Check back Saturday for part 2 of this week's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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