Tag Archives: Death

Smile Because It Happened – Death: The High Cost of Living by Emily Scott

Every once in a while I read or watch something so mind-boggingly good, so paradigm changing, that all I can do is get pissed off. While that might seem like an odd reaction to discovering a great piece of art, I believe those who, like me, love nothing more than tumbling down the pop culture rabbit hole and losing yourself to someone else’s world, will understand. The best works, the ones we revisit over and over, feel like they were made just for us, and it’s hard not to rue all the time lost we could have spent loving them with our whole hearts, to wonder how someone, anyone could not have put something so obviously meant to be enjoyed by us in our hands any earlier.

At the top of this list for me is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It’s probably for the best that no one gave it to me as a teenager because it may have actually blown a crater into my mind, but when I did finally lay eyes on it, I became so enraptured and thought it so perfectly suited to my tastes that I was baffled it hadn’t found its way to me sooner. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know weird gothy kids who liked to read. What I do know is that Sandman would have been so hugely influential on me at such a formative age, both as an aspiring writer and a fervent reader, that it might have changed the whole direction my pop culture path took. Hell, I might have even started reading other comics.

Scandalized
I call the last one Unbeloafable.

Yes, that’s right, people reading a comic book blog, I was not what you would call a comic book fan. I was too busy reading Neitzchse and Camus and thinking it made me very smart and cultured (news flash, 15-year-old me: it mostly made you kind of a douche). It never would have occurred to me that I could have found anything as profound as the philosophy I was pretending to understand in a comic. I just wish now that someone would have told me that not only could I do that very thing, but I could also read about angsty cosmic entities while doing it. (The first person to make a joke in the comments about Neitzchse’s Superman gets a prize.)

By the time the proprietor of this blog, Mr. Dean Compton, gifted me the first volume of Sandman (for which I will always be grateful), rightfully insisting that my loving it was a foregone conclusion, I had grown out of much of my literary snobbery. Four years of assigned reading in college had taken much of the appeal and romance out of reading things because they were “important,” and I had spent the following several years discovering all the other places beauty and wisdom could be found on a steady regimen of the best fantasy literature and science fiction had to offer. Now I much prefer my profundity to be accompanied by wizards or spaceship battles and always get a little disappointed when a book is lacking them.

I am disappointed in the Internet that I could not quickly find a picture of wizards on a spaceship.
I am disappointed in the Internet that I could not quickly find a picture of wizards on a spaceship.

That is not to say, though, that I think my tastes have gotten more lowbrow. My definition of what constitutes great literature has merely expanded. The cream of the comics crop could stand up to any work of literature in any genre, and I can’t imagine that many who encounter Sandman would argue it doesn’t deserve its place in that conversation. It’s heartbreaking and funny, epic and intimate, weighty and whimsical, a story about stories, and its popularity, critical acclaim, and endurance are all more than justified.

No small part of that popularity and longevity is the character Death, sister of Dream, the titular Sandman. Her actual part in the series may be small, as Gaiman wanted to parcel out her appearances specifically because readers liked her so much, but she more than makes up for lack of panels by being every different kind of awesome when she does show up.

I love how the contrast of Death's perkiness with Dream's sadsackness makes Dream's word bubbles seem to drip with that much more ennui. I also love that I am not the only one who loves the word 'fantabulous.'
I love how the contrast of Death’s perkiness with Dream’s sadsackness makes Dream’s word bubbles seem to drip with that much more ennui. I also love that I am not the only one who loves the word ‘fantabulous.’

Just as I have encountered almost no one who has read Sandman and not liked it, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy Death. Few characters in any work seem to be as universally loved. (A short list of other fictional characters no one hates that Dean and I came up with because you know you were curious: Indiana Jones, Wolverine, Robocop, the Ghostbusters, Tyrion Lannister, Ashley J. Williams, the Dude, and David Bowie. Yes, David Bowie counts.) Her popularity was something even I was aware of as early as the mid-90s, when I barely knew who Neil Gaiman was, and I assumed it had a lot to do with the fact that all most of her fans would have to do to cosplay her is choose from any of the 1,000 black tank tops they already owned, put on slightly less make up than usual, and rock their favorite ankh necklace with pride. (In the interest of full disclosure, my favorite ankh necklace was a large silver number with a yin yang symbol in the middle that I wore to church to get a rise out of people.)

Even after I read Sandman and discovered for myself what the fuss was about, it still didn’t necessarily make it obvious why Gaiman had chosen to portray Death as an enthusiastic, compassionate, attractive young woman. All the love I and countless others have for her might be evidence enough that Gaiman made a good decision, but I think there is more to it than idea that he made her likable so that we would like her or even that she works so well because her Not-So-Grim Reaper stands in such stark contrast to so many other portrayals of Death. She, just like Dream and the rest of their siblings of the Endless, are meant to be the embodiments of their respective concepts, and there is no denying that we, as a species, are a little obsessed with death, drawn in and attracted to its mystery, anxious to flirt with it, unable to forgot about it even if it’s been a while since we’ve seen it. What more fitting way to portray that than a fun and charming pretty girl? (It’s also established that the forms of the Endless are subjective, so it’s also possible Death’s appearance is something of a commentary on her intended audience, just as I assume the artists drew Dream to look like an even floppier-haired Neil Gaiman.)

Of course, it could just be coincidence, as Dream also appears to herald the coming of Sad Keanu.
Of course, it could just be coincidence, as Dream also appears to herald the coming of Sad Keanu.

Given the character’s likability, it’s unsurprising Death received her own miniseries, Death: The High Cost of Living, in 1993, about midway through Sandman’s original run. The story revolves around a day that Death spends as a mortal, which she must do once a century to better understand the lives she must take away. Just as in Sandman, though, we don’t consistently see a great deal of Death, or at least not as much as I might have expected for a series that is purportedly about her.

We open instead with a haggish pile of an elderly woman named Mad Hettie and a few Cockney street punks, the sort of characters I will assume appear in everything Gaiman writes till I read otherwise. The woman has tasked the youths with finding her a dove, but when they are no longer satisfied with her five quid compensation and attempt to rob her, Hettie proves herself to be more than you’d expect. The street toughs, exactly as you’d expect, prove not to be so tough, and leave her to perform some blood magic, also something you’d expect from the moment you knew that a lady named Mad Hettie wanted a particular kind of bird.

If it weren't for Monty Python, I might never have noticed how often, true or not, people get accused of witchcraft in popular cultural. I will now give you a moment to hear the entire "she turned me into a newt" scene in your head…….all right, we good?
If it weren’t for Monty Python, I might never have noticed how often, true or not, people get accused of witchcraft in popular cultural. I will now give you a moment to hear the entire “she turned me into a newt” scene in your head…….all right, we good?

We next meet Sexton Furnival (who seems to have a silly name so he can repeatedly and resignedly acknowledge he has a silly name), a sixteen-year-old who, more so than Death, functions as the story’s true protagonist. As a protagonist he suffers from the same problem that all teenagers do, real or fictional, in so much as he is not particularly pleasant to be around. While I’m sure I would have identified more with him had I read this comic as a teenager, it’s not a given, as my hatred of teenagers was never so intense as when I was one.

Reading it now, more than a decade removed from my adolescence, I just cringe as I remember my own mopey, self-important musings (and then cringe a little more when I think about how I’ll probably do the same about the things I say now when I’m 40). My new standard for how well a teenage character has been portrayed is how retroactively embarrassed they make me for my own teenage self, and by that measure, Sexton is pretty damn accurate.

With the ringer tee, that haircut, the Nirvana poster, the complaining about his mother's wishy washy hippiedom, and his writing a suicide note à la Doogie Howser diary, the only way this could be more 90s is if the next panel contained Will Smith showing Alanis Morisette how to do the running man.
With the ringer tee, that haircut, the Nirvana poster, the complaining about his mother’s wishy washy hippiedom, and his writing a suicide note à la Doogie Howser diary, the only way this could be more 90s is if the next panel contained Will Smith showing Alanis Morisette how to do the running man.

Sexton is suicidal because…just life, you know, man? I’m being glib, but he states he doesn’t have any particular reason for wanting to die beyond not having any particular reason to want to live, which is a worthwhile distinction to make. As the story progresses, Sexton encounters more than one person who has more reason (i.e. an actual reason) not to go on but still does, and it serves to throw his own more nebulous woes into stark relief. While that might not be the most exciting choice narratively, I appreciate that Gaiman is addressing the fact that depression often needs no specific catalyst and that at an age where you are trying to figure out what your life is going to be all about, it can often feel like there is no point to any of it. You’re old enough to start to recognize that adults are enormous hypocrites and that being one might not be something to look forward to after all, but you’re too young to do anything about it except resign yourself to becoming one.

While Sexton can be insufferable, he is nonetheless relatable. I may want to smack him when, for example, he tells the mother of the wheelchair-bound neighbor boy that that he can TOTALLY understand how her son gets really bored, but I still remember a time when I was the one deserving that smack. We have all deserved that smack. We have all inflated our problems or lack thereof, taken our health or our youth or the gift that is life for granted. Had Gaiman given Sexton a more concrete or tragic source for his suicidal thoughts, it would only remove some of that universality and muddy the waters by putting an emphasis on life being worthwhile in spite of its ugliness rather than it being worthwhile because of all its beauty, no matter how small.

Sexton finds himself at a garbage dump and manages to end up trapped underneath a refrigerator, leading to, what we would call in the parlance of our time, a meet cute with the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Death rescues him from the refrigerator and offers to clean him up, all the way remaining indomitably cheerful in the face of Sexton’s relentless snideness. We learn that she is spending the day in the guise of Didi, a teenage girl whose family was recently killed. Sexton learns that his savior is the manifestation of Death living a once-in-a-century day as a mortal and responds how anyone not being on the right side of the fourth wall might.

Death’s face in the last panel is what I will now picture every time I shrug for the rest of my life.
Death’s face in the last panel is what I will now picture every time I shrug for the rest of my life.

After storming out of her apartment, Sexton gets taken hostage by Mad Hettie, who extracts a promise from Death/Didi to find her heart, which the 250-year-old woman has apparently hidden and forgotten where. Now on a mission to locate the missing heart AND get the most out of her short time in the flesh, Didi embarks with Sexton on an adventure of free cab rides and hot dogs on what would be a pretty ideal New York City day if it weren’t for his refusal to enjoy anything and her being the temporary physical embodiment of a cosmic entity with a few hours left to live.

The crazy kids end up at the show of a family friend of Sexton’s, where he continues to mope about with the sort of fervor only the young have the energy to muster. He meets a young girl who tells him what is basically the SADDEST STORY EVER, obviously about herself, a fact that, along with the point, completely passes Saxton by.

Cool story, bro.
Cool story, bro.

Our dichotomous duo soon find themselves taken prisoner by a man known as the Eremite. Ultimate-source-of-all-human-knowledge Wikipedia tells me the Eremite is suspected to be Mister E, bent on revenge on Death following the events of another amazing series of Gaiman’s, Books of Magic (which I’m sure we’ll take a look at here at The Unspoken Decade at a future date because what’s life without something to look forward to?). While not knowing the Eremite’s identity doesn’t especially detract from the story, knowing it does help him from feeling like just a random crazy dude around to wreak havoc.

I have been going through the main points of the plot pretty thoroughly so far, but the more I talk about them, the more obvious it is that they are inconsequential. Not to say that the story is bad or uninteresting, but the real meat of these books can be found in the quiet conversations rather than in the major narrative conflicts, which are resolved almost by afterthought. Didi and Sexton are rescued by Mad Hettie and Didi’s awesome neighbor, the heart’s recovered, and Death’s ankh, stolen by the Eremite, is simply replaced with a cheap version from a street vendor.

In any story where the main antagonist is thwarted by a deli owner, you know he was never much of a threat to begin with.
In any story where the main antagonist is thwarted by a deli owner, you know he was never much of a threat to begin with.

This is ultimately a story about Sexton and Didi, about the sort of unforgettable day you only seem to have when you’re young, where everything and nothing seem possible at once, where a random encounter with a sympathetic stranger can make all the difference between delight and despair. The idea that you have to take time to enjoy the small things or appreciate life in all its complexity is nothing new, but the many intimate and poignant moments mean that, whatever their sum, the individual parts make the story.

We like spending time with Death, whether she is thwarting a mystic plot or merely laying some hard truths on a misguided kid, and delight in her presence the same way she delights in something as simple as eating a bagel. (I totally get the bagel delight. If I only got to live one day every century, finding a fresh bagel would be at the top of my To Do list too.) No matter how serious the subject matter, High Cost of Living never takes itself too seriously, giving it a decidedly more easygoing feel than much of Sandman.

ProfoundThe drawback to this breezier tone was that the overall work felt a little frothy, a little insubstantial on first read. Once I had given it time to percolate in my brain, I realized I was comparing it to Sandman, which just isn’t fair. Not that one is good and the other is bad, but this book deals with its weightier topics on an intimate, micro scale rather than the epic, multidimensional cosmic clusterfuck that is Sandman. Had I read this when it came out, I probably would have just mentally inserted it into the larger Sandman tale, where it would have fit perfectly, not just because it’s the same author with a shared character but because Sandman was a book that told so many different stories in so many different ways. Reading it  now, the best thing to do for me and the comic seemed to be to judge it as a standalone, both because it could easily make its case as a great and poignant piece of art without Sandman even existing and because it makes it feel less methadone after a Sandman binge.

My other initial quibble was that we don’t really gain much new insight into Death, since her role in the narrative is mostly as a vehicle for Saxton’s character arc, but I quickly came to the conclusion that I was dumb for thinking anything else would happen. It’s fitting that we don’t learn a great deal of significance about Death because Death as a character is meant to be the embodiment of death itself, and death with a small ‘d’ will always be a mystery till Death with a capital ‘D’ comes for us all. I am more than happy to enjoy the little things, a fresh bagel here, a good comic there, till that happens.

The Death of Me

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Super-Blog Team Up Presents-GODKILLERS: Doomsday & Bane!

 OTIwToNO

 

Hey there!  Welcome to a very special installment of The Unspoken Decade, as this is our first foray into the AMAZING Super-Blog Team-Up!  After you’re done enjoying our article here, check out the other great blogs participating in this go-round of the Super-Blog Team-Up!  Aw, who the hell am I kidding?  Those blogs are so great, you’re probably going to go read them first.  Reckon I can’t blame you, so go ahead and scope them out!  I will wait.

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You’re back?  Fantastic!  Hope you had a most excellent time, and I just want to say how honored we are here at The Unspoken Decade to be a part of the Super-Blog Team-Up, even if it has meant one of the busiest weeks of my life!  Regular readers of the best 90’s comics blog in the universe know that our usual post date is Monday, and I know that all of you enjoyed that kickass X-Force article. A few of you even enjoyed the Mike Mignola X-Force surprise post yesterday, but this is now our third straight day with a post, a first here, and between this and the two LIVE radio shows I know all y’all listen to every week (Compton After Dark and Her Dork World/His Dork World), and working 6 days a week at my regular job, I have been working my fingers to the bone!

But no matter how bad I have had it this week, two of the greatest heroes of all time had it much worse in the early 90’s.  There’s no way anyone, superhero fan or not, who was alive and cognizant in the early 90’s could forget the furor and hoopla over the death of Superman and the breaking of Batman’s back.  The latter did not create the firestorm that the former did, most likely because it came after Superman’s demise and at the same time as his rebirth, but it still caused ripples in the mainstream media, a place that comics were rarely able to venture into in the early 90’s, although that notion seems silly now, as we are in an era where super hero movies routinely dominate the box office.  But as usual, I digress.

From what I understand, it was Jerry Ordway’s idea to kill Superman.  Superman had four monthly titles then, and the creative teams worked closely together so that the four titles (Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Superman:  The Man of Steel) basically meshed together to make what was essentially a weekly series.  Not being a giant Superman fan, that seems like more than a bit much.  I’m sure the Superman fans were ecstatic, but I didn’t know either of them.  None of my pals were into Superman.  He was seen as a relic, and the four titles were ignored by us and the world; they were to be seen as a stepping stone to license underoos and usually shitty video games.

Then they decided to kill him.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 11
Doomsday’s suit makes him look like one of the villains from the Sega CD game Night Trap, especially if one of them had been apprehended by Dr. Octopus

 

Don’t let the snark in my statement fool you; I fucking love Doomsday in this suit.  He looks creepy to me, and somehow even deadlier than when he loses the suit and has BONES THAT STICK OUT OF HIS KNEES.  I like his look and all, but I think it is hilarious that the guy who iced the Big Red S has such a feature.  It just seems silly and too “comic booky,” but then again, not only is this guy’s name Doomsday, but this also is a comic book, so I guess I can let knee-bones go.

One thing Doomsday and I have in common is an intense hatred of birds.  DC decided a great way to get me to hate Doomsday would be to have him kill a bird with his hand, and while I am not the kind of person who is cruel to animals, if Doomsday wants to kill a wild bird, power to him.  I fucking hate birds.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 17
I guess the laughing afterwards makes it creepy, but the real question is, why the hell did that bird come to Doomsday in the first place? Did he think he was the world’s scariest and least ergonomic birdbath or something?

 

Seriously, why would that bird leave the flock just to fly over to Doomsday and meet its demise?  Perhaps it was sad and ostracized by the others.  We will never know now.  What we do know is that if we are to take Doomsday seriously as a villain, he must beat some enemy greater than a lonely bird who had no flock friends.

ENTER THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA!

I guess technically they were not the Justice League OF America, as their title was just “Justice League America,” and they also had a counterpart in Europe, cleverly titled “Justice League Europe”.   When I was in 7th grade, I “made up” a team called The Protection Agency, and then placed them all over the globe.   “Protection Agency Asia” and “Protection Agency Australia” were two of the teams, and if you don’t get the pattern from those two, I am not sure you should be allowed to read this or any blog.

I was accused, rightfully so, by my pals of just copying Justice League.  Of course, I could not admit this, so I clung as hard as I could to the fact that I put a Protection Agency on every continent and not just two, thus making my idea much different than JLA or JLE.  Yeah, they didn’t buy it either.  What we all bought, or at least tried to buy, was this:

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 32
Does Oberon just listen to every police band in the world and wait for something that sounds worth of JLA attention? That’s both the best and worst job ever.

 

The JLA had little identity in this time.  They were past the Maguire/Giffen/Dematteis humorous BWAHAHAHAHA era (which should be checked out by those who haven’t ever seen those JL comics.  They are as good as you have been told.), but they haven’t really established themselves as anything but a generic super-hero team.  They are a group of B-Listers and The Man of Tomorrow.  I’m not knocking these guys; I am a fan of all of them, and I especially love Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle.  My sister, Angel Hayes (who does work here at The Unspoken Decade too), is a giant Booster Gold fan.  But there’s something about this team that just doesn’t work for me.  Maybe it is Maxima, a former Superman villain, being on the team, or maybe it is a lack of Martian Manhunter at this time, but it just doesn’t always feel like the JLA.  I do like them, though, because as I have said in other entries, this is MY era, so this was MY JLA in a certain sense.  Even the JLA with Nuklon and Blue Devil holds a near and dear place to my heart, although Morrison’s JLA did eventually supplant this group as MY JLA later.

I wonder if that powerhouse line-up in Morrison’s JLA could have done better against Doomsday than this Justice League did.  One thing is for sure:  They could not have done much worse.

This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.
This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.

As bad as Guy Gardner got it, he didn’t lose out nearly as badly as Blue Beetle, who was literally beaten into a coma.  I’m not one of those folks who misuses literally, so you can stop cringing now.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 48

Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.
Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.

As Blue Beetle lay dying, his best friend was hurtling through the sky, having been punched by Doomsday.  REALLY HARD.  Thankfully, Booster Gold literally has friends in high places.  Now you can cringe.

Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.
Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.

The books do a fantastic job of very quickly getting Doomsday over as a force to be reckoned with.  What made him even more palatable to readers, especially readers my age when this came out, is the fact that Doomsday was shrouded in mystery.  I don’t mean that he was wearing that awesome Night Trap villain suit; I mean that no one knew who he was.  I think nearly every character that got hot in the early 90’s had a past that was at least cloudy, if not as outright murky as The Everglades at midnight on an overcast night.  Ghost Rider, Cable, and Wolverine all immediately spring to mind as examples of this phenomenon.

Sacrificing the JLA, even if it wasn’t your Daddy’s JLA or even Grant Morrison’s JLA, made Doomsday seem formidable, but the next question had to be how they’d make Superman seem just as formidable.  The answer is an old-school wrestling tactic:  THE NO-SELL!

Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.
Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.

Then they beat on each other.  A LOT!  This had to be one of the most savage fights in the history of Superman, and it had to happen against the most savage opponent he ever faced.  You would think that whoever killed Superman should have been well-known, but I think having the character that killed Superman (and the character that broke the Batman) comes out of nowhere really showed the inherent danger of being a superhero.  Since we know that these stories are fictional, we can forget how serious these adventures can be.  Having a new guy come out of the woodwork and destroy an established character reminds the audience of that danger, thus inspiring new interest.

Doomsday is also one of those characters, much like Punisher and Hulk, who is more of a force of nature than they are people or people-like entities.  Doomsday seems to exist just to destroy whatever gets in his path, and he had no direction.  That is, until he found pro wrestling.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 109
(I think that Doomsday destroyed this Lex-Mart because he hates the encroachment of Corporate America against small business.)

Once again, wrestling is to blame for destroying everything.  Of course, being the huge wrestling fan that I am, I would actually be interested in WarBash.  This card spelled doom for the citizens of Metropolis, though, as this is the moment that Doomsday became aware that he no longer had to use the Disney secret of calling birds to himself so he could subsequently kill them.  No longer would he have to wait for a cadre of costumed heroes to attack him.  He knew there was a battle waiting for him in Metropolis in the form of Major Mayhem!

Despite looking more like the lead singer of The Village People than a legitimate World Heavyweight Champion, Major Mayhem was able to teach the DC Universe’s most formidable force of nature the geography lesson that led to the death of Earth’s Greatest Hero.  He now knew of Metropolis.  One smashed road sign later, and somewhere in the distance Death of The Endless put on her blackest makeup and coolest ankh and headed for Metropolis as well.  (Spoiler Alert:  She isn’t in any of these comics.)

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 123
He smashed The Cadmus Project and Guardian too, but I can’t show you everything here.  This article is too long as it is!

Superman, the world’s mightiest hero, seems to be very out of his league here.  In a single swoop, Doomsday would eviscerate Superman, and punch the 90’s Supergirl (who will one day get a write-up here!)into goop.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 138
Supergirl appears to be made out of Nickelodeon Gak.

 

Fearsome.  I think this was the first time I ever saw Superman bleed.  This was also from the first issue of the storyline I was able to pick up.  Every time I hit the LCS then, the Doomsday stuff was sold out.  My mom managed to snag this one for me.  I remember trying to keep it in near-mint condition as I watched the Wizard articles tell me that its price was climbing higher and higher, but I also was completely overwhelmed by the comic and just had to read it over and over.  This meant an early demise for what I thought was going to be worth a fortune forever, but in hindsight, there were very few comics I loved more than the one where Supergirl fell to Doomsday.

Despite the setbacks and despite Doomsday’s rampant brutality, Superman remains valiant and steadfast in his belief that he will stop this creature, no matter what takes.  The determination shines through, and you believe that a Superman will die.

I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.
I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.

 

Dan Jurgens does an amazing job with Superman #75.  Every page is a single panel; every panel is a story, culminating in an epic showdown where Superman’s Double-Axehandle is pitted against a big haymaker from Doomsday. Jurgens shows us not just how Superman appeared to the world, but also to those closest to him.  This makes his imminent death personal, and not just the death of an icon that we have all been familiar with since before we could read.  Before we see The Man of Tomorrow die, we must see him live.

 

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 154 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 158 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 166 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 168 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 172

 

The entire saga is amazing, as we see a World Without a Superman, and the Return of Superman was really clever, with four men claiming to be Superman.  Doomsday was the perfect entity to destroy Superman.  He’s a monster from his opening panel until his demise alongside The Man of Steel.  His relentless onslaught was more than even Superman can handle, and even though it cost Doomsday his life, he can say what few villains can; he not only defeated, but he killed Superman.  Such a feat alone makes him worthy of inclusion in the villains entry for this go-round of Super-Blog Team Up.

However, Superman was not the only iconic superhero to fall prey to a villain.  He wasn’t even the only iconic hero to fall to a brand new villain.  In the case of the Caped Crusader,  Bane was able to do something adversaries like The Joker, The Riddler, or even KGBeast had been unable to do, and that is break Batman.

Bane first appeared in the Chuck Dixon/Graham Bolan special, Batman:  Vengeance of Bane.  I actually bought this off the shelf when it first came out.  I loved the cover, and I loved one-shots.  Due to my status as poor white trash, I was sometimes unable to get all the parts of a multi-part story, and so one-shots appealed to me, and how could a cover like this not appeal to anyone?

With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.
With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.

I said on my entry here on Punisher:  War Zone #1 that Chuck Dixon probably only wrote one masterpiece, but after reading VoB, I have to reconsider my stance.  This is amazing.  By the time you are finished with it, you both feel sorry for and repulsed by Bane.  He got a rather raw deal in life, but he somehow turns it all to his advantage.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 4 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 6

I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.
I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.

 

You start out feeling badly for Bane, as he has been “trapped in a world he never made!” in a much more harsh way than we ever saw happen to Howard the Duck.  Many folks, myself included, sometimes complain about the cards life handed us, but this story reminds us that there are many, especially in the third world, that have it so much worse than us.    Bane was screwed before he ever tasted oxygen.

Bane could have allowed that to damn him, but he instead rises to the challenge and makes himself king of the prison.   First, though, he has an accident that bashes his head and renders him comatose.  He has a vision of his future self while unconscious that inspires him to rise to the occasion by becoming stronger than all those around him.  Bane starts quickly after emerging from the coma, as the inmate who offered Bane what seemed to be unsavory employment gets his quickly…

It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.
It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.

Bane gets sent back to solitary for this, and when he emerges this time, he is a man on a mission.  He picks up a few henchmen in the prison, and begins his takeover.  He also learns to read, which I like to think was inspired by pirated broadcasts of Reading Rainbow starring LeVar Burton, but that probably isn’t true.

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The henchman dumping the books out of the bag, Trogg, is holding that bag of books like it is a trick or treat bag full of candy.

Soon, ruling the prison just isn’t enough for Bane, who has become the pinnacle of prowess via sheer will, concentration, and determination.  His thirst for knowledge in these books means he soon learns of a great world outside of these walls, and he finds himself wanting to know all about it.  He is intrigued when his henchman Bird (who can seemingly talk to Birds, so it isn’t just a clever name) tells him of Gotham City and Batman.  Bane decides he is to rule Gotham.

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That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.
That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.

Bane is then placed into an experiment in the prison using the drug Venom, which had been featured in the Batman comics prior to this.  Bruce Wayne even got addicted to it.  Bane survives experiment after experiment in the prison, and eventually, engineers a way off the island.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 28 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 32

That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.
That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.

 

Now that he has escaped the prison, Bane is in Gotham City, learning the ropes, and discovering television, in the early 90’s, I would have had to recommend USA Up All Night to him.  Being the savvy guy that he is, I am sure that he found Rhonda Sheer and Gilbert Gottfried all on his own.

He was also able to start carving a piece of the Gotham City underworld out for himself with the help of his henchmen.  That was just the start of what would eventually culminate in this…

Batman_497BBatman - Knightfall #232 - Page 42 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 44 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 46

Batman was broken.  Superman was dead.  The 90’s brought you the villains who fulfilled the promises of all the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age villains that preceded them.  They destroyed the icons of good, maybe not forever, but more thoroughly than any who came before them.  These two characters also became firmly entrenched in the lore of Batman and Superman, showing up in cartoons, movies, and one of the most underrated beat ‘em up games of all time.

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(I played this for hours and never beat it, no matter how many late fees I racked up at the video store by keeping it too long. Thanks to emulators and GameFAQ, I will soon though.)

 

These villains had to be larger than life, bigger than Gods and a 90’s kind of extreme in order to triumph over the greatest superheroes of all time, but they did so with aplomb, and remember, it all happened in The Unspoken  Decade…

Now head on over to the articles listed below and enjoy Super –Blog Team-Up!!!  Thanks for stopping in with The Unspoken Decade!  Special post tomorrow, and then next Monday, take a look at Starman!!!!  Also, check me out LIVE on internet radio Thursday nights at midnight for Her Dork World, His Dork World, and on Sunday nights at 11:30 Eastern for Compton After Dark!!!

Bronze Age Babies show us The Frightful Four!

Fantastiverse brings you The Green Goblin!

Check out an edible Boba Fett and Darth Vader at Between the Pages!

Longbox Graveyard brings us the best cosmic villain ever, Thanos!

SuperHero Satellite shows us The Legion in The Great Darkness Saga!

Chasing Amazing gets 90’s like we do here as the monster called Carnage arrives!

Superior Spider-Talk goes old school with The Chameleon!

Silver Age Sensations is bringing us the best Armored Soviet not named Rocket Red!

The Daily Rios brings you JLA vs. Beasts!

Flodo’s Page features Green Lantern villain The Lamplighter!

The Retroist gives you the one villain who rises above all others…DOOM!