The death of Superman: the best business move by DC

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.

Superman's death

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.

From left to right: Superboy, Cyborg Superman, Steel, Eradicator

From left to right: Superboy, Cyborg Superman, Steel, Eradicator

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.

DC, brought Superman back from the dead only a year later

DC, brought Superman back from the dead only a year later

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3 Responses to The death of Superman: the best business move by DC

  1. Ty Challand says:

    Great post that brings back memories of playing the video game. I think DC played their cards right with this “stunt”. It allowed so many toys to be put into the hands of kids and spread the S chevron even more. In my opinion it seems like DC wanted to blitz the market. I have seen the Doomsday movie and find that it didn’t seem to be a forced production. It is another move to bring even more business in.
    As for this kind of event happening before Superman I would have to say Optimus Prime’s death(s) seem comparable. Every time he died some new series with new characters and of course the mass multitudes of new toys. Here’s a link to what I mean:

    I for one think it is a good business move but it can also help a story progress. Thanks for bringing up the subject.

  2. nadim says:

    i really wish that superman’s death was permanent. Not for any real hate for superman, but for the sake that comic book canon never has anything permanent. Peter Parker marrying mary jane, batmans death, and supermans death. I feel that it weakens the story lines on the whole. Because anything that happens wont have any lasting affect on the characters and how they act.

  3. gsbeatty says:

    Sorry, but I disagree with the entire premise of this post. The Death of Superman was, perhaps, one of the worst moves made by DC in the 90’s and arguably one of the causes of the near-collapse of the mainstream superhero market. Not only was the over-saturation of this story arc responsible for exacerbating the perception that one could get rich and retire off of comic books, but it was also poorly crafted. So poorly crafted, in fact, that most of the creators involved: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, et al, have tried to distance themselves from the controversy of the storyline and have spoken in interviews of the story line’s (many) shortcomings.

    Doomsday was not an interesting character; he was a plot device meant to fill a specific purpose and then disappear. He had no personal motive for murdering Superman which made the story hollow and meaningless. The introduction of the Supermen was not much better because, as you suggested, all of them (with the exception of Steel) existed in some form prior to Superman’s death, which was used as a justification to dust some of these characters off and re-purpose them. I think the reason why it’s so remembered (and not fondly) by fans is because it was the first major death and subsequent return in comics that foregrounded the notion of the revolving door of death. While death had certainly been used as a plot device in comics prior to the Death of Superman (how many times has Professor Xavier died?), Superman’s death really started the trend of meaningless comic deaths that persists in the industry to this day.

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