For some reason, killing off Superman is a popular idea. It may be because, being the Ultimate Hero, it is awesome to see him make the ultimate sacrifice. Maybe it's because he's normally invulnerable to nearly everything and so his death comes as a shock. Maybe it's a Christ allegory. Or maybe it's because some people can't stand the character and want to see him offed even if only for a short while. Whatever the case, this has been done several times in various media over the decades.
The first occasions were as "imaginary stories" (that is, set outside of the official continuity) published during the Silver Age of comics. Notably, the first "The Death of Superman" story (Superman #149) was written by Jerry Siegel in 1961. Originally an imaginary story, Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths revealed that this story is in fact an alternate real universe: Earth-149.
The final episode of Super Friends (aired in November 1985), was also titled "The Death of Superman", and opened with the funeral ceremony, featuring the coffin being sent into the sun. He gets betterhe was only mostly dead. An earlier story from Challenge of the Superfriends also featured Superman (and the rest of the League) being killed.
However, the most famous instance was the Story Arc called The Death of Superman in the canon comics during the 1990s.
The Death of Superman arc happened by accident: originally, the then-current Superman writers were going to get Superman and Lois Lane married; however, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was already green-lit at ABC, and the producers of the show wanted the wedding to happen first on the show. Forced to come up with a new storyline to replace "The Wedding" arc, Jerry Ordway, the then-current writer for The Adventures of Superman, jokingly said at the next meeting, "Let's just kill 'im!" Normally, the other writers would laugh it off, but this time, they would do the deed.
The whole arc, sometimes called The Death and Return of Superman for obvious reasons, is split into three parts:
- Doomsday! (November, 1992-January, 1993), compiled as The Death of Superman
- Funeral for a Friend (January-June, 1993), initially compiled as World Without a Superman, but later compilations would revert to the original title.
- Reign of the Supermen! (June-October, 1993), compiled as The Return of Superman
In the first part, a monster named Doomsday comes out of nowhere and thrashes both Superman AND the Justice League International. When it attacks Metropolis, Superman must unleash all of his hidden power to stop it, killing Doomsday but also getting mortally wounded in the process. He dies in Lois Lane's arms, and his ragged cape ended up hung on a pole as a sort of tragic flag in what's possibly the most effective visual ever seen in comic book history.
Naturally, DC Comics was NOT planning on really killing off one of their main most famous characters permanently: it was a publicity stunt to boost sales, and the plan was to soon bring him back. However, the general media picked up the story and ran with it, and a lot of people believed it. This is because, at the time, this thing hadn't been done to death; this story may have been the Trope Codifier for Death Is Cheap (whose former Trope Namer is "Comic Book Death").
A rapid series of Follow the Leader events followed this; Superman hadn't even gotten back to life when Batman got his back broken in Knightfallnote , Wonder Woman got replaced by Artemis, an Anti-Hero Substitute note , and perhaps most infamously, Hal Jordan went insane and killed the Green Lantern Corps in Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour!, and was replaced by the Younger and Hipper Kyle Raynernote , and over at Marvel, the Spider-Man moniker went back and forth between Peter Parker and Ben Reilly, his clone, during The Clone Saga.
After the obligatory period of mourning, DC then decided to milk the story a bit more, and extended it to last nearly a year with the rather inventive idea of having not one but FOUR people showing up and claiming to be a resurrected Superman. Each of these characters was allowed to star in one of Superman's then-current titles for a few months. These were:
- The Man of Tomorrow (Cyborg Superman): A cyborg version of Superman, whose DNA was a match for the original's and whose mechanical parts were Kryptonian tech. He claimed amnesia about who repaired him, yet he could recall crucial details about Superman's past. Featured in Superman Vol. 2.
- The Last Son of Krypton: A vigilante with a personality similar to the one Superman had demonstrated in an earlier arc, where he (under the influence of a Kryptonian artifact called The Eradicator) became ruthlessly logical. Featured in Action Comics.
- The Metropolis Kid (Superboy): A reckless, fame-seeking teenage (assumed) clone created by a secret government project. He cheerfully admits to being a clone, and plans to become Superman's successor. Don't ever call him Superboy. Featured in Adventures of Superman.
- The Man of Steel (Steel): A black hero wearing a suit of Powered Armor. He was the only one to both admit he was NOT Superman from the start and not actively claim the name for himself. John Henry Irons merely wanted to keep the spirit of Superman alive (although there were hints that he may have been literally serving as an anchor for Superman's soul). Featured in Superman: The Man of Steel, naturally.
It was eventually revealed that the real Superman was none of them; his corpse was actually put in Suspended Animation to be used as a Living Battery by The Last Son of Krypton(who turned out to actually be The Eradicator). The Cyborg Superman was actually Hank Henshaw, an Anti-Villain from a previous story, now a bona fide threat (with Mongul as his Dragon) whom the others had to team up to stop. Superman was soon Back from the Dead afterwards, and (infamously) came back with a mullet, which lasted four years. The Superman legacy carriers stuck around for other stories, with two of them (Superboy and Steel) even getting their own series. Steel would also appear in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, and Superboy is a main character in Young Justice. The Reign also debuted Kismet, who was the living embodiment of the DC Universe, similar to Eternity from Marvel Comics.
The storyline had the most lasting impact on Green Lantern. Henshaw turned out to be a villain collaborating with Mongul to prepare Earth to be converted into a Warworld (basically like a Death Star). He started by annihilating Hal Jordan's home town of Coast City, while Jordan was in space. When Jordan returned, his grief drove him into his controversial turn as Parallax.
Later stories brought back Doomsday as well, who was revealed to have been created as an experiment on Krypton and buried on Earth long ago. Doomsday is now considered to be one of Superman's staple rogues due to killing him, and as such has appeared both in the DC canon and in many adaptations afterwards. However he hasn't been quite as menacing since then, probably because he no longer has a story-backed reason to be.
With the New 52, The Death and Return was taken out of the DC continuity, along with many other stories. Doomsday, however, still existed in the new universe, and makes a full New 52 debut in the Doomed storyline, which itself wa loosely based on The Death of Superman. However, thanks to the events of Superman Reborn, the storyline is restored to continuity, though the biggest major change is the removal of Superboy.
An animated movie based on the storyline titled Superman: Doomsday came out in 2007 and started off the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line. However, Doomsday took many liberties with the original arc to condense it into one movie. The line later revisited the story with a relatively Truer to the Text adaptation, split into two parts, named The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
This Comic Book provides examples of:
- '90s Anti-Hero: Both Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator are pastiches of this 90's trend. Only the Eradicator plays this straight. Cyborg Superman (aka Hank Henshaw) is a villain.
- Adapted Out: The adaptations of the story (such as the video game, the novelization, and the audio drama) don't include Green Lantern at all, even though they still feature Coast City being destroyed.
- Mongul wasn't in the video game either, even though his minions (Warworlder, Destroyer, etc.) were. Supergirl is also removed from the video game.
- Adult Fear: Ma and Pa Kent experienced this as they watched helplessly as their son was beaten to a bloody pulp and then died on national television. To make matters worse, they weren't even allowed to attend his funeral. The stress and grief gave Pa Kent a heart attack. He got better.
- Antagonist in Mourning: Zig-zagged. Toyman is shown to genuinely be mourning Superman's death, while Lex is only upset at being robbed of the chance to kill Superman himself. Parasite meanwhile has zero problem hearing the news and even makes a couple snide comments.
- Affirmative Action Legacy: Sort of with the African American Steel. He didn't outright want to replace Superman, but just wanted to keep his spirit alive.
- Ron Troupe essentially became Clark Kent's successor while the latter was missing and presumed dead. He even wrote Superman's obit.
- A God Am I: The Last Son of Krypton nearly ran with this when a cult confronted him and praised him as the resurrected hero.
- Appropriated Appellation: The name "Doomsday" was given to it by Booster Gold.
- Arc Words: "Doomsday is coming".
- BFG: Part of Steel's origin and initial battles involved a man-portable Plasma cannon he originally designed being sold to gangsters.
- Back from the Dead: Superman, he can't stay dead forever.
- Bait the Dog: Doomsday's Establishing Character Moment has him crush a bird that he goaded to land in his hand.
- Batman Grabs a Gun: The real Superman comes back armed with Guns Akimbo. Justified, in that he's depowered and needs help. He still maintains a Thou Shalt Not Kill and uses the guns only on robotic enemies.
- Belly Flop Crushing: During the "Reign Of The Supermen" arc, John Henry Irons (Steel) was attacked this way by a henchman of the White Rabbit who had the ability to expand his mass to great proportions. Fortunately, Steel wasn't harmed, and managed to get himself out by giving the henchman painful burns on his stomach with his foot rockets.
- Berserk Button: It's generally not a good idea to call Superboy anything other than Superman, prior to the real Superman's return. Destroying his jacket is also not recommended.
- Big Bad: Doomsday for The Death of Superman, Director Westfield and Project Cadmus for Funeral for a Friend, and Cyborg Superman for Reign of the Supermen.
- Big Damn Kiss: Between Superman and Lois at the end of the story:"There is no doubt in her mind. She's in his arms, faster than a speeding bullet."
- Big "NO!": Booster Gold roars this when Ice fears that Blue Beetle is dead. His accompanying Roaring Rampage of Revenge doesn't last very long, either.
- Bloodless Carnage: Averted. The Death portion is pretty brutal, from the first squished bird to the final blow.
- Bomb Whistle: Both Doomsday and Superman make the "cartoon sound" before they drop in on a rural sheriff's office.
- Boom, Headshot!: This is how the Cyborg Superman attempts to kill the Eradicator, shortly after blowing three holes in his chest. He later smashes his metallic stump into Superboy's head, but only knocks him out.
- Breakout Character: Superboy went on to become a prominent DC character. Steel didn't become as prominent, but did get A Day in the Limelight for the year-long 52 series.
- Brought Down to Normal: Booster Gold and Superman himself. Booster Gold's costume is damaged beyond repair thanks to Doomsday's romp and he spends a good decade+ wearing different costumes/armors. Superman loses his powers due to a combination of being away from sunlight and the Eradicator using Superman as a battery while he healed.
- Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: Inverted. Metropolis goes searching for Clark Kent, not knowing that, because Superman died, Clark died. Clark's Secret Keepers (his adoptive parents, Lana Lang, and Lois) resolve to not tell the world his secret, and Metropolis just assumes that Clark was one of the several hundred people killed in Doomsday's rampage. Superman later resolves this issue by having him rescue Matrix-shapeshifted-as-Clark (complete with that awful mullet), so that Metropolis assumes that Clark was just buried underneath the rubble for months. It helped that he wasn't the only Metropolis citizen who was trapped under the rubble, lending credibility to his alibi.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: A Played for Drama version, where Ice and Bloodwynd return to Metropolis to aid Superman, only to discover that the battle with Doomsday is now over and Superman is dying of his wounds.
- Came Back Strong: Superman in the finale. His repowering by the Eradicator's Heroic Sacrifice bounced his powers to new heights, though, for a while, it almost leads to Power Incontinence.
- Came Back Wrong: In the least, Superman comes back looking different. Namely having a mullet.
- Chekhov's Gun: Cyborg Superman places a sensor on Doomsday's body to alert him if the beast ever came back to life. He also placed a portion of his digital existence in it, so when his body is destroyed at the end of Reign of the Supermen, the Cyborg gets to hitch a ride on Doomsday and build himself a new body, which he does in the Superman/Doomsday mini-series Hunter/Prey.
- Cool Shades: The Eradicator cannot stand even low levels of light, so he dons a pair of yellow shades that take up somewhere between a third and half of his face.
- Covers Always Lie: Most of the covers of the last few issues of the Reign chapters featured Superman still with his usual short hair as opposed to the infamous mullet he was now sporting inside. Green Lantern tie-in is also pretty guilty, as in addition Hal fighting Mongul (which does happen in the issue), there's also the Cyborg-Superman and the Eradicator fighting each other in the background (which doesn't happen at all in the issue).
- Cult: A cult of Superman worshipers make their prominence after Superman's death, proclaiming that he will rise and save them all. The cult splits in four once the Superman replacements show up, each claiming that their chosen substitute was the real Superman reborn. Though we never learn what became of them, especially when it was revealed to the public that none of them are the real Superman, and one of them was a villain.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- The Cyborg deals these to both the Last Son of Krypton and Superboy.
- Doomsday's fight with the Justice League was this as well. And this isn't counting Doomsday's encounter with Blue Beetle.
- Supergirl's fight with Doomsday is even shorter than Blue Beetle's.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books: The quote in that page even highlights this series. Not only it's a dark comic featuring a classic hero dying, but one of his replacements is a '90s Anti-Hero (The Man of Tomorrow).
- Darker and Edgier: Deconstructed. Arguably the whole point of the event (at least the "Reign of the Supermen" arc) was proving that "darker and edgier Superman" is not Superman. The four replacements are all variations on Darker and Edgier versions of Superman, with Cyborg and Eradicator both being lethal enforcers and 90s Anti-Heroes ( at least, until Cyborg is actually revealed to be the villain), and for bonus points Cyborg actually looks like Superman meets the Terminator. Superboy is Superman without any morals to speak of, interested solely in fame, fortune, and getting the attention of hot chicks (at one point, Lex literally seduces Superboy away from the news station he'd agreed to work with just by tossing Supergirl in front of him). Steel is the most moral and upstanding of the replacement Supermen, but even he's got a Dark and Troubled Past, and most of his arc is about undoing the damage that past continues to do. Even when Superman finally returns, he's got all the trappings of Darker and Edgier (black costume, no cape, guns, a mullet) but he's still The Cape we all know and love.
- Death by Adaptation: The novel has Mongul killed by the Eradicator instead of knocked out by Hal Jordan.
- Deus Exit Machina: A reformed Justice League, comprised of previous members Guy Gardner and Maxima, along with Wonder Woman, the Ray, Green Lantern Alan Scott and Jade, are lured out into space by a video made by the Cyborg Superman, purporting that the Eradicator had turned evil, obliterated Coast City, then bailed with the aliens who helped him. They come back after Superman returns and settles things.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Superman in Lois' arms.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Lex Luthor, in his clone body of Lex Luthor II, murdered a female training instructor because she beat him in one of their matches. Then, he gloats at Superman's grave as proof that, with Superman gone, he can do whatever he wanted to. Too bad, a little while later, she came back and tried to kill him.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Superboy suffers from this three times. The first time, he bails on the Daily Planet to help a former intern, Tana Moon, land her a big scoop and become a full-fledged reporter... over at GBS. The second time, he's wowed by the Matrix Supergirl ("I was chest choking!") and Lex Luthor II attempts to use this to bring him into Lexcorp's payroll. Ultimately, sleezoid Rex Leech uses his daughter Roxy to win Superboy over and get the rights to the S-Shield.
- Driven to Madness: Hank Henshaw, due to his Trauma Conga Line of losing his friends, body, and wife, so he becomes the Cyborg Superman.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Mitch Anderson would later become Outburst.
- Eat the Bomb: Superman force-feeds Clawster a bomb and it explodes in his mouth, causing him to collapse and say "Good thing Clawster invulnerable."
- Exact Words: While searching the ruins of Coast City, the Man of Tomorrow comes upon a group of survivors. During a conversation, he points and says that the one who destroyed the city is right behind them. They turn to see, and ask where the villain is. The Man of Tomorrow says "I told you, he's right behind you." and proceeds to vaporize them all from behind.
- Evil Albino: The White Rabbit, who was Steel's nemesis from "Reign Of The Supermen".
- Evil Laugh: Doomsday. Especially in the video game, every time he hits you.
- Faux Death: Many of the adaptations to this story transform Superman's death into this. The novel would claim that all Superman needed was time in the sun to fully recharge, but points out that if he had ran out of solar power, he really would have died.
- Foreshadowing: A special issue styled as a Time-like Magazine focusing on Superman's death opens with an ad for Carol Ferris' aeronautics company with the tagline: "Things are Booming in Coast City!"
Waverider:(as events take their natural course and Superman dies) Enough. I can watch no longer.Matt Ryder: Welcome to the curse of being a Linear Man, Waverider. The blessing, though, is that we already know what tomorrow will bring.
- The final story of the one-shot issue The Legacy of Superman which came out in between the "Death" and "Funeral" chapters, seems to drop hints of Superman's eventual revival; said story features Waverider, one of the time travelers known as the Linear Men, who intends to alter time and prevent Kal-El's death, only to be talked out of it by Matt Ryder, another member of the group:
- Freudian Slip: In "The Reign Of The Supermen" part of the storyline, Superboy meets Supergirl for the first time right in the middle of rescuing a car from almost driving off the bridge, and he gets distracted by her appearance.Supergirl: Was that high school stunt really necessary, Superman, or were you trying to impress me?Superboy: Aw, I was chest choking...ab, ah, I mean — I was just joking!
- Friend or Idol Decision: When Doomsday runs rampant across a family's house, smashing it and the Justice League, a gas explosion allows Doomsday to escape and Superman to chase after it. However, the League's knocked unconscious and one of the people there, a teen named Mitch, cries out for Superman's help. Supes decides to Take a Third Option by burying Doomsday in the mud inside a lake while he takes care of the trouble. Doesn't take long for Doomsday to escape and Mitch is hit really hard as he thinks this incident is the reason why Superman died.
- Friendly Target: While Superman and Doomsday are grappling, some troopers arrive with advanced weapons, but hesitate to open fire because they would very likely would hit Superman. Ultimately, they decide that Doomsday is so much a threat that they have no choice but help Superman by attacking and risk friendly fire.
- Superman had that problem with Maxima, as well. However, this was because she wouldn't bother to stop, aim and realize what was around her, ripping a street light out of the ground to use as a weapon, causing sparks to ignite a destroyed gas station.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Dr. Hank Henshaw was actually a gag Expy of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, appearing only in a single story arc. Who would have thought he'd become one of Superman's greatest foes.
- Generic Doomsday Villain: The Trope Namer. Doomsday was just raw unstoppable rage on wheels with no agenda outside destruction and couldn't be reasoned with. Also, while previous Superman villains were smart to counter the hero's strength, Doomsday was also superstrong, with all the lack of personality this implies. Most of his depth comes from the back story in later comics.
- Headbutting Heroes: The Reign of the Supermen arc contains a few examples:
- A little ways into the Reign of the Supermen arc, Guy Gardner instigates a fight between himself and The Last Son of Krypton. It ends when the Last Son purposely tosses him into a building being used for an illicit arms and drug trade, upon which the two of them briefly team up and part ways relatively amicably. In fact, Guy likes him a lot better than Superman given both had Nineties Antihero tendencies at the time.
- Later on, after The Last Son of Krypton doesn't take too kindly to the Man of Steel calling him a fraud (for killing a thug who he felt posed no threat to him), the two start brawling in Metropolis. After the two are chewed out by Lois Lane, the Last Son almost murders a process server and their fight resumes, taking them into space and back down on the other side of the country in Coast City.
- The confrontation between the Man of Tomorrow and the Last Son of Krypton initially seems to be an example of this. It turns out that The Man of Tomorrow is not a hero.
- He's Back: Every fan still gets chills when the real Supes emerges from the mech in a black suit with a silver emblem, stating that he's the original and he's back.Superman: Dont let the costume fool you. Im Superman - and Im back.
- Superman is so badass he actually gets two "He's Back" moments. First when he physically returns from the dead, but still weak and without his full Superman power set. Then later, during the climactic battle, he gets supercharged and all his normal Superman power returns. Do we really need to say "Cue Curb-Stomp Battle?"
- Heel Realization: The Last Son of Krypton starts to realize at different points that being Superman isn't about going around and flash-frying everyone he sees. Sadly, the Man of Tomorrow's FaceHeel Turn puts a squash to that.
- The Hero Dies: One of the most iconic examples ever.
- Heroic Sacrifice: How Supes goes out.
- Also how The Eradicator goes out.
- Heroic Second Wind: When Hal Jordan's fighting Mongul, Mongul has him on the ropes because his skin is yellow and Hal couldn't use pieces of Engine City lest its Kryptonite fuel kill Superman again. Hal finds Steel's discarded hammer and attempts to lift it despite his injuries and donning Ring-powered exoskeleton. As he tries, Mongul makes the mistake of assuming he broke Hal's spirit. This pisses off Hal so much that he creates a set of Powered Armor that allows him to lift the hammer and proceeds to smash the weapon across Mongul's face, knocking him out.
- Heroic RRoD:
- Steel's fight with the Last Son of Krypton pushes him to his limits, wrecking a lot of his armor and leading him to pass out in an airplane heading back to Metropolis.
- He does it again when stopping Engine City, to the point where his armor's scrap.
- There's also Superman's fight with Doomsday. The comic explains it as out-and-out exhaustion and blood loss. The novel explains that Superman's fight with Doomsday was draining all of his solar energy stores.
- Steel's fight with the Last Son of Krypton pushes him to his limits, wrecking a lot of his armor and leading him to pass out in an airplane heading back to Metropolis.
- "Hey, You!" Haymaker: While in a supermarket, Doomsday hears someone shout to him "hey you!". It sees a large screen TV showing a wrester promoting a wrestling event in Metropolis, which intrigued the beast."MHH-TRR-PLSS?"
- Hijacked by Ganon: The series did this with its final storyline Reign of the Supermen, the story starts out normally with the first two issues of each title attempting to endear us to the four Supermen. Then come the halfway point of the third month when the Cyborg Superman decides to ventilate the Eradicator and allow Coast City to be destroyed by Mongul. Then, it turns out the Cyborg Superman was actually a very minor character who was an expy of Reed Richards!
- Hoist by His Own Petard: How the Cyborg Superman is defeated: in a last-ditch effort to kill Superman again, the Cyborg grabs a fuel line and attempts to douse Superman in Kryptonite. The Eradicator, living up to his programming to protect Kryptonian life, throws himself in front of the shot and his energies re-power Superman, allowing him to finish off the Cyborg Superman.
- How Dare You Die on Me!: Lex was anguish that Superman died defeating Doomsday, since he believes he's The Only One Allowed to Defeat Superman."I WAS ROBBED!!!"
- How Do I Shot Web?: Superboy does not know how his "metal disassembling power" works (explained later on as tactile telekinesis).
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Superman kills Doomsday by not holding back against him.
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: This is what pings Lois into realizing the Cyborg Superman isn't the real Superman - he casually mentions to Superboy that he wished he had better control of his powers when he was his age. Lois remembers that Superman didn't get his powers until he was an adult.
- Interrupted Cooldown Hug: When Steel and the Last Son of Krypton are chewed out by Lois for fighting in the streets, the Last Son is shaken by this and stands down. However, a process server shows up, demanding that they stop using the S-Shield (as Superboy had given the rights away). The Last Son takes this as a threat and forces Steel to pull him away.
- I Owe You My Life: John Henry Irons' life was saved by Superman, who told him to "make it a life worth saving". Becoming the "Man of Steel" was his way of doing just that.
- It's All My Fault: Mitch Anderson feels this way during "Funeral for a Friend" — him and his family is caught in the crossfire between Doomsday and the League and he begs Superman to come back and save everyone at a stage where he could have potentially put down the beast.
- It Only Works Once: During one of the epilogue issues, Dr. Occult drops in for a visit and gives Superman and Lois the low down on how he came back to life through mystic technobabble which boils down to the fact that he can only do this once. The graphic novel doesn't mention this, Superman: Doomsday does the "suspended animation" bit and the novel does a plausible technobabble explanation about how all Superman needed was just a good few hours in the sun to snap him back alive. (But since the world thought he was dead, they kept him in a morgue and then buried him. Oops.)
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Or rather, "Nearly Killed Mid-Sentence" - Blue Beetle goes to rescue Bloodwynd from a fire and when he finds him, the state he's in makes him realize who Bloodwynd really is. Doomsday grabs Beetle before he can say the name of his true identity. A mind-controlled Martian Manhunter under control of a demon named Rott.
Doomsday: MUH-TRP-PLIS!Construction worker: Metropolis? It said Metropolis! It said—*neck snap*
- Played straight a little later in the story when Doomsday, imitating a commercial he saw for a pro wrestling event at Metropolis, raids a construction site:
- Kung-Fu Sonic Boom: The narration describes the final blow between Superman and Doomsday as setting off a shockwave that created a crater in the ground and shattered every window for blocks.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Cyborg-Superman claimed to have this. It's a ruse to cover his plan to Take Over the World.
- Last Disrespects: A brawl breaks out at the funeral after a botched attempt at purchasing the rights to the last Superman photo leads to Rex Leech and his entourage on their backs thanks to Jimmy Olsen and Robin.
- Last Stand: After failing to stop Doomsday elsewhere and watching the body count rise, Superman decides to ground his feet in Metropolis.
- Legacy Hero: Superman gets four of them.
- Look Behind You: A sickening version of this trope. The Cyborg Superman discovers a family that survived the Coast City shockwave that ravaged nearby areas. As they're talking, the Cyborg says that the one who did this was right behind them. As they turn and look, he changes his arm to its arm cannon form and obliterates them.
- Magical Defibrillator: In the first part of "Funeral For A Friend (a.k.a. World Without a Superman)", medics haul out normal defibrillators to try to revive Superman and doesn't do anything. So, Professor Hamilton hauls out a device that requires a massive energy charge for one use and forces the user to wear a personal force field to protect them from the shock. Bibbo is the first to try it. Bibbo gets blown across the street, out cold. Does jack to Superman.
- Meaningful Echo: Right before he takes off for Engine City to go after the Cyborg Superman, the real Superman tells Lois the exact same thing he told her right before fighting Doomsday for the final time. It ends up serving as the biggest indicator to Lois that he's the genuine article.Superman: Just remember... no matter what happens... I'll always love you. Always.
- The Merch:
- In-Universe, Bibbo comes across a man selling the "Death of Superman" issue of the Daily Planet along with a black armband. Outraged at someone profiting off his dead friend, Bibbo yells at him and buys every copy so he's out of business. When the man explains that he lost his job in the Doomsday disaster, Bibbo calms down and offers him a job.
- And can't forget GBS, Lex Jr., and Rex Leech treating Superboy like a piece of property to be acquired. Leech also gets a trademark on the "S" shield logo.
- Rex Leech and a couple of big goons also tried to intimidate Jimmy Olsen into selling him the licensing rights to the picture of Superman's torn cape.
- Morality Chain Beyond the Grave: Batman catches a terrorist trying to assassinate one of the visiting dignitaries at Superman's funeral. Out of respect for the deceased, he forgoes his usual harsh approach.
- Ms. Fanservice: A slight one, it seemed like a lot of Ice's appearances had her costume's odd tanktop yanked over her chest after being thrown around.
- Mutual Kill: Supes and Doomsday.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Steel's backstory. He was a weapons designer and quit once he found out his high tech weaponry was being sold to terrorists. Later, the same weapons found their way to his neighborhood and it is one of the things that makes him into a superhero.
- Mitch Anderson has this sort of reaction as he fought with his divorced mother and thought Superman was so lame in comparison to Guy Gardner. Then Doomsday showed up and his mother protected his baby sister from the beast and Superman saved everyone while Gardner was laid out. Needless to say, his views changed tremendously.
- Mythology Gag:
Lois: That charlatan is no more Mrs. Superman than I am!
- During his rampage, Doomsday came upon Midvale (Silver Age Supergirl's hometown).
- A woman claiming to be Superman's wife (Mrs. Superman), which Lois Lane was in many Silver Age Imaginary Stories.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Superman's death would have long-reaching consequences long after his revival. In Infinite Crisis, Kal-L points out that Superman's death was the point where the post-Crisis Earth went beyond saving in his mind and in Blackest Night, Nekron used Superman's revival as part of a scheme to conquer the universe.
- A lesser instance sees the League firing all their energy attacks at Doomsday, who at this point still has one arm bound behind his back. At the end of the barrage, all the League manages to do is destroy the restraint and free Doomsday's arm.
- Not Helping Your Case: Jose Delgado (Gangbuster), while in a relationship with Cat Grant, didn't get along with her son Adam. It didn't help when Jose yelled at him for disrespecting Superman after he died. Adam ran to his room crying and hating Jose more.Jose: Adam, wait. I didn't mean to snap—
Adam: You're not my father, just one of mom's boyfriends!
Jose: "One of"?
- Numerological Motif: In the last five issues, each comic had each page with a decreasing number of panels, until the penultimate issue had two panels per page and Superman #75 was nothing but splash pages.
- Oh, Crap!:
- When the entire Justice League is fighting Doomsday, they pour all of their energy attacks into the beast. When the smoke clears, they learn that all they did was tear his outfit... and freed his other hand as he raises both of them into the air.
- There is also that moment when, thanks to wrestling TV ad, Doomsday learns that there will be a "war bash" in Metropolis. Superman instantly realizes that for an unstoppable monster that only seeks to destroy everything in his path, getting such idea on his head is BAD NEWS for the city.
- Palette Swap: Some of the enemies in the video game. The Underworlder Tick was recolored as the alien Razorback. The Cadmus troops Defender and Elite were recolored as Mongul's Destroyer and Warworlder respectively.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The novel version of the saga, The Death and Life of Superman, made a number of alterations to the "Funeral for a Friend" and "Reign of the Supermen" storylines, due to the fact it was being done while the series was being written. Most of the DC Universe don't make an appearance, outside of the Justice League, Wonder Woman and Batman (which is very odd since they obliterate Coast City, yet Hal Jordan doesn't show up at all!), the entire fourth chapter of "Funeral" is omitted (where the other DC heroes answer the Christmas mail Superman usually gets), Steel's story is greatly compressed and the final chapters, due to the lack of Hal Jordan, is heavily altered. As well, anything to do with the Underworlders and Keith, the young orphan, is omitted and the Newsboy Legion takes their place.
- Prefer Jail to the Protagonist: Batman catches a terrorist who was going to use Superman's funeral as an opportunity to assassinate a world leader. Batman caught him and said that in Superman's honor, he'd do things Superman's way. The assassin is left tied to a flagpole begging to be arrested because "Batman might come back!"
- Put on a Bus: Superman supporting cast members Gangbuster, Sinbad, and Thorn made their final appearances in the "Legacy of Superman" one-shot that was released in-between "Doomsday!" and "Funeral For A Friend" (although Thorn would later return elsewhere in the DCU). Gangbuster made one more appearance in Adventures of Superman #500, but he'd return much later in Kurt Busiek's weekly series Trinity.
- The Quincy Punk: Chainsaw and Molotov in the video game.
- Red Skies Crossover: The arc affected everyone on The DC Universe's Earth, seeing as how their Big Good had just been killed. It got a nod in the lead-up to the Batman arc Knightfall, where Bats wears a black armband similar to The Merch.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Cyborg Superman monolouges this, stating how Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunternote could have stopped Doomsday with ease as he's taking away the creature. Later stories revealed that wouldn't be the case.
- The Reveal: Superman #81 and that The Man of Tomorrow wasn't entirely good.
- Rogues-Gallery Transplant: The Big Bad and The Dragon (or more precisely, The Dragon's Son) of Reign of the Superman would eventually become Green Lantern villains due to the fact that they destroyed the hometown of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. (It actually took a while, since the destruction of Coast City caused Hal's FaceHeel Turn and replacement by Kyle Rayner).
- Second Coming/Reincarnation: Some believed that Steel was this of sorts for Superman (at least being a vessel for his soul), since he was the only one to uphold Supes' Cape ideals.
- Series Continuity Error:
- Superman: The Man of Steel #19 does this throughout its entire issue. One panel, Superman has his cape, but tattered, another it's gone, a third it's back but in a different state. And this was done by the same artist!
- Adventures Of Superman #497 does the same thing. Near the end of the issue, Maxima accidentally causes an explosion while ripping an electrical light pole out to use as a weapon against Doomsday causing both her and Superman to be caught in it. When this happens, the panel clearly shows Superman's cape being ripped to shreds from the explosion, but one page later and it's shown to still be in one piece. Again, the same artist was drawing the entire issue.
- From Reign; The real Superman emerges from a kryptonian energy matrix within the Fortress of Solitude (that the Eradicator had been using to "recharge"), sees the chaos the four pretenders are causing, and makes his way to Metropolis in a giant battle robot, and it's implied that the trip takes only a few hours. When he emerges from the robot, Superman has that mullet. However, from the time he emerges from the energy matrix until when he first gets into the robot, he doesn't.
- Also in Reign, for most of the first half of the story, one of Luthor's legs is in a cast, referencing how it was broken during the events of the "Supergirl and Team Luthor" special. By the time Superman arrives in Metropolis inside the Kryptonian Battle Suit, Luthor's leg is fine now, which could be attributed to it healing - except that the last time we saw him when it was still broken was only a few hours in-universe, right around the time Superman left the Fortress.
- In The Man of Steel #25 Steel refers to Coast City by its new transformed name of Engine City. Except that he did it before anyone aside from Superboy knew that it had been transformed into the Cyborg-Superman and Mongul's base. Editorial outright admitted they screwed up in the letters page talking about the issue, to the point that they gave out a Baldy (their equivalent to Marvel's No-Prize) to anyone who wrote about the mistake.
- During the last few chapters of Reign most of Steel's armor is completely destroyed. Much of it is demolished except for around his legs, his gloves, and his helmet after he damages one of the Cyborg-Superman's fusion reactors in Superman: The Man of Steel #26, and his helmet and gloves are destroyed by Superboy in Superman #82 after the Cyborg takes control of his remaining armor. So naturally, in Adventures of Superman #505 when we next see him mere moments after the last comic, his armor is now in one piece again and only missing the cape. This one was given a Handwave, with the response in a letters column stating that Supergirl merely telekinetically pulled a new set of armor together for Steel behind the scenes, much like how she transformed Superman's tattered outfit into a new version of his red and blue uniform.
- Series Fauxnale: Deliberately invoked, with "Funeral For a Friend" initially appearing to be the finale for the Superman books with all four titles going on hiatus a few months after the final chapter, concluding with an apparent Downer Ending with Jonathan Kent passing away to join his son. The only titles released during this hiatus were two specials, "Supergirl and Team Luthor" and "Legacy of Superman," before things finally resumed in the summer of 1993 with Adventures of Superman #500.
- Starter Villain: The Underworld Warworlders in the first part of the "Death of Superman" arc, continuing a subplot that had been going on in the previous issues of Superman: The Man of Steel. They have no relation to Doomsday and Superman defeats them before they can invade the surface without much difficulty.
- That Man Is Dead: When Lois first confronts the Last Son after he saves an airplane from crashing, he tells her this in regards to Superman's secret identity of Clark Kent and flies away.
- True Love's Kiss: How Superman is able to convince Lois that he's the real one.
- Trust Password / Something Only They Would Say: When Lois demands that the real Superman prove who he is, he answers, "To Kill a Mockingbird", the name of Clark Kent's favorite book.
- Unreliable Narrator: In his introductory issue, the Man of Tomorrow goes to retrieve Doomsday's corpse from S.T.A.R. Labs, all the while making first-person references to the battle with Doomsday. This narration is solely for the benefit (and deception) of the reader.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After Cyborg Superman tosses him into space, Doomsday wakes up and starts laughing. This plot twist has no impact on the remainder of the story... not until several years later, in Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Steel was actually pretty good with this. He delivers his first one to Superboy after his grandstanding gets a helicopter pilot killed and nearly takes Lois with him. He delivers another to the Last Son of Krypton after he's forced to pull him away from Metropolis for trying to kill a process server.
- Lois delivers one to both Steel and the Last Son of Krypton when they start brawling in Metropolis. Steel is genuinely upset that they had went through it and the Last Son is shaken (more by Lois than what she said), then comes the process server...
- Ice delivers one to Maxima when the latter was willing to let Blue Beetle die "a warrior's death" in order to go after Doomsday.
- Wham Episode: The storyline was filled with them. Outside of Superman #75, there was:
- Justice League America #69 and Superman #74: Doomsday's Curb-Stomp Battle against the League
- Adventures of Superman #500: Superman's apparent revival and the appearance of the four Supermen.
- Adventures of Superman #502 and Action Comics #689: A battle between Superboy, Supergirl and a Badass Normal terrorist leads to the destruction of the Hobsneck Bridge, something that wouldn't be fixed for a few years IRL. Also, the issue Superman is revived.
- Superman #80: After a number of different hints, we learn that everything isn't as they seem as Coast City is obliterated. The culprit? Mongul, lead by the Cyborg Superman, who has also apparently killed the Last Son of Krypton!
- Wham Line:Doomsday: Meeeee-troooo-po-lis!
- With My Hands Tied: Doomsday wreaks massive damage with one hand tied. It gets worse once the other is freed.
- The Worf Effect: The entire Justice League, who not only sported Superman, but also three people at Superman-like levels (Maxima, Bloodwynd and Booster Gold) and a Green Lantern-type (Guy Gardner), gets hit with this when Doomsday prances up.
- Given that Doomsday at the time had no ranged abilities, and both Maxima and Guy Gardner could have simply picked him up off the ground to neutralize him, this comes off as jobbing. However, seeing as Maxima was a Proud Warrior Race Guy and Guy was a Hot-Blooded meathead, them not doing this makes sense.
- The Worf Barrage: When the entire League is gathered, Superman orders the projectile-firing Leaguers to fire everything that got at Doomsday. At the end, Fire's drained of her powers, Booster Gold's suit is depleted of energy and Guy's exhausted. All they do? Release Doomsday's other arm.
- Writing for the Trade: This series was not written for collection but the success of the collected version helped kickstart this trope.
- Younger and Hipper: Superboy is a pastiche of this type of trend.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Guy Gardner's enthusiastic endorsement of the Last Son of Krypton's methods caused him to reconsider them (at least temporarily).