• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Why DC’s Darkest 1990s Superman Story Haunted the Series

Today, we take a look at how the legacy of Superman’s darkest story from the 1990s loomed over later Superman stories during the decade.

This is “Look Back”, where every four weeks of a month I will highlight a single issue of a comic that has appeared in the past and talk about this issue (often on a larger scale, like the series as a whole, etc.). Each spotlight will be a look at a comic from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first spotlight of the month takes a look at a book released this month ten years ago. The second spotlight is on a book released this month 25 years ago. The third spotlight looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth spotlight looks at a book released this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week (we’re looking at weeks in a broad sense, so if a month has five Sundays or five Saturdays, that counts as having a fifth week) look at books from 20/30/40/60/70/ 80 years old.


We go back to January 1997 for a story in Dan Jurgens and Joe Rubinstein’s Superman #121 that saw the effects of a past Superman story hover over it.

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WHO IS CAT GRANT? WHO IS ADAM GRANT?

In general, when John Byrne and Marv Wolfman took over the rebooted Superman titles in early 1987, the series looked more like the Pre-Crisis Superman stories than they were different, but the differences definitely stood out. One of the most notable examples was the decision to make Clark Kent a much bigger character on the show (Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin had similar stuff with Kent in the past, but never to this extent) and the introduction of Wolfman’s Cat Grant and Jerry Ordway was a big part of this new approach.


When she arrived, she had a “Meet Cute” with Clark Kent in Adventures of Superman #424 (Mike Machlan inks on Ordway)…


And she was totally under the spell of the bespectacled journalist…


It was a clever way to show how close Clark Kent had come that not only would someone like Cat Grant be interested in him, but how it kind of created a whole new kind of love triangle for the Superman books. as now being between Clark, Cat, and Lois (there was a similar deal briefly with Lana Lang, but it was obviously very rare for two women to go after Clark Kent).

Five issues after meeting Cat Grant, we also learned that she had a son, Adam…



By the end of the issue, she and Adam were reunited…


THE TRAGEDY OF ADAM GRANT

Over time Adam came to live with his mother and they slowly grew to form a romantic relationship. This, however, changed tragically in Superman #84 (by Dan Jurgens and Joe Rubinstein), where the crazed villain Toyman had snapped, feeling that modern toys were far too violent, so he began kidnapping children to “protect” them. “from the outside world.

He then kidnaps Adam, who was dressed as Superboy for a Halloween party at the Daily Planet…


Adam fends off Toyman’s psychosis, not realizing he’s pushing the villain too far…


When Adam tries to free the other children, it’s too much for the Toyman and he murders Adam…



Horribly, Superman had taken Lois to Paris for a fun dinner, so neither Clark Kent and Lois Lane nor Superman were there for Cat when needed, which hits them hard when they return to the planet that night…


Holy darkness, isn’t it?

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SUPERMAN WILL NOT FAIL A SECOND TIME

Interviewed about Adam Grant by Everybody’s Hometown Geek a few years ago, Jurgens had some fascinating thoughts on the story:

I’ve said it before, as creators we all have a few stories that we wish we could have done again, sometimes I think that would be the one I could [do over.] For those who don’t know, in this story, Adam Grant dies…and it’s not that Superman failed, but Superman didn’t. I don’t think every story has to have a happy ending, but I think it ended up being a good story for Cat Grant. And we debated that, when we were setting up that story at the time…if Superman…like I said, he didn’t fail, but he didn’t find Adam in time and Adam died. I think Superman didn’t make it and for me that’s something that you always have to consider with a bit of caution and I’m not saying I regret making history but I’m not sure that today, for example, if we had to do that again, I wouldn’t want it to end the same way. It was different for books back then. I think it’s important to have a sense of loss in our stories from time to time and it certainly is.

Looking back, it does seem like Jurgens was affected by Adam Grant’s story, as Jurgens stopped drawing Superman with 1995’s Superman #100, but continued as the book’s author. until #150 and delivered a number of covers for the book, he only drew two issues during this time.

The first was Superman #121, from 25 years ago, where Clark Kent investigates drug trafficking in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum and tries to convince a little girl who witnesses a murder to come forward, despite the fact that her mother insists that she not do it. …


Superman flies around the projects and destroys all of the gang’s weapons to keep the little girl safe. However, Lex Luthor likes Suicide Slum to be a problem, so his men rearm the gang and the little girl is shot in a driveby, because even Superman couldn’t stop every bullet…


Could Jurgens replicate the tragedy of Adam Grant? Of course not. In an epic moment, Clark doesn’t even have time to fully transform into Superman before taking the little girl to the hospital…


Mr. Jupiter (from Jurgens’ Teen Titans run) helps the little girl and her mother out of plans, and the mother talks about the hope Superman brings…


The legacy of this Adam Grant weighed heavily on this excellent question.

The last Jurgens issue he drew and wrote during his original run was Superman #146 (also finished by Joe Rubinstein) where Toyman helps Superman stop the Jail Prankster and Superman laments what he thinks is the society that made Toyman psychotic. .



In the end, he gets a reduced sentence from Toyman where he will supply toys to an orphanage, bringing a sort of bittersweet coda to the story of Adam Grant, which as I noted has certainly had an effect on Jurgens later in the race…


If you have any suggestions for comics for February (or other later months) 2012, 1997, 1972, and 1947, message me at brianc@cbr.com! Here’s the guide, though, to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional time lag between cover date and release date of a comic for most of comic book history has been two months (sometimes it was three months, but not during the periods we discuss here). So the comics will have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (so October for a book released in August). Obviously, it’s easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago came out, because there was internet coverage of the books at the time.


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