Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
Day Four of the A to Z Challenge brings us to the letter D. So I thought we might focus on the guy who finally took down the Man of Steel… Doomsday.
And, no, I’m not talking about that abomination that showed up on the big screen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked Batman v. Superman, even when a lot of folks didn’t. But that creature that showed up at the end was not Doomsday. I mean… it was… but it wasn’t…
I mentioned in my post about the Cyborg Superman that a decision was made in the 90s to kill off Superman. But they couldn’t just allow any old villain to kill the world’s greatest superhero. Lex Luthor had been trying for decades and had always come up short. And if it wasn’t going to be a villain from Superman’s usual suspects, that meant the writers had to come up with someone new. Some thing new.
My earliest memory of DC Comics hinting at the coming Death of Superman involves seeing the in-house advertisements that would show up in the pages of the comics I was already getting. I saw a full-page splash with a blue background and that recognizable S shield. Only the red of the S was dripping blood. And superimposed over that image was a silhouetted outline of the creature that we would all come to know as Doomsday. Ominously written in bold letters at the top: Doomsday is coming!
A month before the story was scheduled to begin, the final page of each title featuring Superman reminded us that Doomsday was on his way. Four panels depicted an enormous fist punching the wall of a dark prison somewhere. And in the final panel, just a week before Doomsday was scheduled to arrive, his fist finally broke through.
From there, all hell broke loose.
Doomsday carved a path of destruction from somewhere in the Midwest of the United States all the way to the doorstep of the Daily Planet building in the heart of Metropolis.
Doomsday decimated the Justice League. However, at that time, the League was not made up of the A-listers you typically think of. You had guys like Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Guy Gardner, who was once a Green Lantern but, at this point, wore Sinestro’s yellow power ring. The team also had Fire and Ice in the roster. But none of these characters could be considered heavy hitters.
By the time Superman was able to join the fight, Doomsday was already making a beeline for Metropolis. The Man of Steel did all he could to slow down the mindless killing machine, but wasn’t too successful. Eventually, the fight took everything out of both combatants and both threw their final punches… then it was all over.
Superman died in Lois Lane’s arms. Doomsday lay motionless in the rubble.
The writing and art in each title leading up to Superman #75 was brilliantly handled by all involved. The scope of the battle kept getting bigger, with fewer and fewer panels used per page. Until, finally, in the Death of Superman issue, each page featured a full-page image, ending with a fold out back cover depicting Superman’s lifeless body. So well done.
The Cadmus Project, a sometimes morally bankrupt genetics lab, laid claim to Doomsday’s body. But when the Cyborg Superman arrived on the scene, he broke into Cadmus and took the body. His claim was that Doomsday should no longer be Earth’s problem. So he strapped Doomsday’s corpse to an asteroid then sent it off floating through deep space. But not before fitting Doomsday with a small device that would eventually be used to house the Cyborg’s consciousness. It was his back up plan in case the whole WarWorld thing didn’t work out.
Sometime after Superman’s resurrection, he decided to go after Doomsday, concerned that the creature was still a threat. In the follow-up story Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey, it’s discovered that Doomsday wound up on Apokolips, the home planet of Darkseid, who is probably the biggest bad in the DC Universe.
Now, it’s been a while since I read through that storyline, so I’m unsure of where everything fits in with the timing. But at some point, Superman seeks the aid of a character known as Waverider, who has the ability to see into the past or potential futures of individuals. Through Waverider, we learn Doomsday’s tragic origin story. Not that we’re meant to feel bad for Doomsday…
On a desolate planet, a team of scientists is working to create the perfect being that will be immune to everything that could cause it harm. They grow an infant in the lab then send it out to the planet to be destroyed. Then they gather the genetic material and clone the next generation from there. This cycle continues for decades. Until finally the creature Doomsday is what remains.
Once Doomsday has reached the peak of the scientists’ ideal conditions, he destroys every living thing on that planet, including the team of scientists. Eventually he hitches a ride into space and winds up somewhere that has a super powered being that is easily able to “kill” the monster. They give Doomsday a traditional burial, but also place him in a vault that is then shot into space.
That vault eventually lands in what would one day be the American Midwest. And the rest is history. Oh, and Doomsday’s origin planet? Just happened to be a prehistoric Krypton, Superman’s home world.
Doomsday has appeared again and again since his debut in 1992. Though I really can’t tell you what all of those appearances entail. I’m pretty sure he only killed Superman that one time.
The creature has also shown up a number of times in animation and also appeared (sort of) on Smallville as well as the aforementioned Batman v. Superman. But none of those adaptations of the character have matched what was created for that Death of Superman storyline in the comics.
In a lot of ways, it was a lot more terrifying in those earlier issues, not knowing who or what Doomsday really was. He was just a mindless creature bent on destroying everything in sight. And nothing could stop him. It was a scary thing to read as a kid.
Are you familiar with Doomsday? If so, what did I leave out? Let me know what you think about this character down in the comments! Even if you only know Doomsday from the version we got on the big screen.