Twenty years ago this month, Superman died.
It wasn't the first time, or the last — but for one moment in the early 1990s, the combination of a slow news day and the growing popularity of comics collided for what many people recall as the busiest-ever day for comic-book sales.
The writers and editors of the Superman line had been leading up to a wedding between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. But with the show “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” on the air, it was decided to delay the wedding to be more in line with the TV show's romantic plans. With issues to fill, the retreat of Superman writers and artists brought forth the idea to kill the Man of Steel.
On the day of release, Nov. 18, 1992, I watched a line of customers snake out the door and around the building of the comic shop I worked in at the time.
The Oklahoman featured the demand for the issue in an article on Nov. 20, 1992.
Planet Comics in Oklahoma City sold 2,200 copies of the issue, up from the 50 they usually ordered.
“The demand for this book has been outrageous,” co-owner Mike Kennedy said in the article, written by Nolan Clay. “We've got housewives, businessmen and grandmothers coming in. I've got secretaries being sent out by their bosses to get this. “Among the 80 fans in line outside the store Thursday were comics collectors ranging in age from 11 to 61.”
Kennedy rented a casket and draped it with a homemade red Superman cape for the festivities.
In Chicago, Eric Kirsammer of Chicago Comics remembers scrambling for more copies.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday ... not really, but I was open,” he said. “We were totally unprepared for the onslaught. Sold out really quickly. One of the things I remember most was being on the phone with Capital City, asking for a second or third print and they said it was sold out.”
Rick Lowell, of Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine, remembers the throngs of people.
“The first time that we ever had a line of people waiting for us to open,” Lowell said. “That happened three days in a row, and then repeated every week for a month or so.”
In a day, DC Comics had sold 3 million copies of “Superman” No. 75. The story continued through Superman's funeral, the unveiling of four possible new Superman, and the eventual revival of the original. Some fans grabbed “Superman” No. 75 hoping for a massive increase in value. The polybagged edition of the comic sold new for $2.50. Recent sales at ebay.com include sales at $9.16 and $12.99.
ComicsPRO president Joe Field, of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, Calif., remembered the day as well, and spoke to the collectability aspect.
“I think the comment that I'd most want to make is what I said to the Contra Costa Times back then when they asked about the collectability of Superman #75,” he said. “‘I honestly hope every one of these copies is opened up and read. That's where the real value is in comics — entertainment first, last and always. But I've also come to know that for some (many?) comic book consumers, the entertainment is in the chase — whether that's for a complete run of a title or a favorite classic cover or just for the hunt.'”