In 1992, we witness the arrival of Doomsday in the Superman franchise, and coincidentally a large rise in Superman merchandising. Why is this? Simple, Superman died.
Doomsday was the first character engineered to be able to go toe to toe with Superman, and win. Although Superman put up a valiant effort, it was just not enough. The death of Superman in comics was not only a controversial move but it was also one of the best business moves that DC has done in recent times. Following the death of Superman several other versions of the classical man with the chevron “S” popped into comics.
Kon-El, better known as Superboy was created in September 1993 as a meta-human clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, possessed the same qualities and powers as Superman. Cyborg Superman who was a super villain emerged in comic books earlier (1990) but was significantly reintroduced during the storyline of Superman’s death. Hank Henshaw had similar kryptonian powers and a robotic body to boot. Next we have Steel, better known as John Henry Irons was inked in June 1993. Equipped with a power armor suit and a steel hammer, Steel was the embodiment of the Superman philosophy after his death. Eradicator’s first appearance was in 1989 but re-emerged as a more prominent character right after the death of Superman, considered as something of an artifact that’s 200,000 years old on Krypton. The Eradicator possessed the same super properties as the other 3 Super variations mentioned earlier.
Also, immediately after Superman’s death, DC put in to production of new merchandise, including new toys, comics, clothing, movies (That really bad Shaq movie that shall not be named), accessories, and a production of a video game for the Super Nintendo game system. Many of these items have gone on to become rare collector items that fetch for a large sum of money and value.
Following the story of Superman’s death, DC was then able to launch new storyline arcs, bring in new superheroes like the ones mentioned earlier who eventually were able to have their own titles, and re-launching of older titles. This move, for DC was a snowball effect that allowed DC to come up with new ideas or even expand on old ones. In fact, the story was met with such tremendous success that it gained even more exposure to non-fans. This as result made DC tremendous amounts of money.
Even to this day, the death of Superman is still a topic of conversation among the comic community. Looking back to the year that this incident happened, which was 1993 and for it to have an impact for fans and non-fans alike to continue with discussions and theories is quite extraordinary. This success even spawned an animated film, Superman: Doomsday in 2007, which is 15 years later! Not many franchises can pull a stunt off successfully the same was DC did it back in 1992. This brings up a couple questions from me, has any major publisher pulled this stunt off in the past prior to 1992 with the same amount of success? And has this started to become a noticeable trend to kill off iconic characters for money.
Fun fact: Superman never actually died, he was put into a deep stasis sleep and was just recovering. The original Superman returned just a year later in 1993.