New York -- An irresistible force is going to meet an immovable object in November and something's going to give:
Superman will meet his demise.
The Man of Steel will die fighting to save the city of Metropolis from the super-lunatic Doomsday, a new villain who is an escapee from a cosmic insane asylum.
But wait a minute. Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. And he's only 54, a mere blink of the eye for `D somebody born on Krypton.
No. It's true. Mike Carlin, the editor of the DC Superman comic books, delivered the advance obituary in the November issue of Advance Comics, a trade publication put out by Capital Distributors in Sparta, Ill., that began arriving at comic book stores this week.
DC Comics, publisher of the Superman comics that appear under four titles, refused to officially comment on the report of the hero's death. But when asked if Superman was going to die, DC Comics spokeswoman Martha Thomases said, "Yes, but that's supposed to be the subject of a press release, and I won't comment further."
Within the comic book industry, the dramatic change in the story line was viewed as a boost to the bottom line: a necessity in the continuing comic book wars involving DC, Marvel and a host of new publishers.
In an interview with Advance Comics, Mr. Carlin said, "Superman is going to die in issue No. 75" of Superman Comics, scheduled to reach comic book dealers Nov. 18.
Here's what will happen, according to Carlin's Advance Comics interview:
"Doomsday will emerge from somewhere in America and just start walking. The fight will be taken to Metropolis, during the course of the stories (which will be serialized in the four comic books). There will be a lot of death and destruction around Metropolis as a result of the fight. . . . Superman is going to die at the end. But he is going to die saving as many people on Earth and in Metropolis as he can, which is what he's all about."
And who or what is Doomsday?
"He is an unstoppable force. Some of us think he is a force of nature, some of us think he is man-made creation, some of us think he is an occult horror. . . ."
Is he an alien?
"We're not going to spell it out."
All of which means, of course, that while Superman might not be around, Doomsday will carry on for a while (how long depends on how popular he becomes) doing rotten things to the other members of the Justice League of America, which includes Blue Beetle; Fire and Ice, a female team; Booster Gold; and Green Lantern.
According to the Carlin interview, the aftermath of Superman's death will take two more months to tell in the four Superman comic books (Superman, Adventures of Superman, Action and The Man of Steel) in a continuing story called "Funeral for a Friend." Each is published monthly, in sequence.
And after that? Mr. Carlin was coy. "I can honestly tell you that there has been talk about stopping publication on the four books."
However: "We don't really know what death means to a Kryptonian. . . . Never say we wouldn't kill Superman, never say we wouldn't bring him back."
It is true that Superman had become a different superhero from the one introduced by two high-school kids, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel, in the first issue of Action comics in June 1938. World War II came soon afterward with its uncomplicated Axis bad guys. The '50s were dominated by occasionally comic master criminals. By the '70s the world had become a very different, much glummer place.
Superman became more vulnerable. He was even allowed to make mistakes. Clark Kent left the Daily Planet for a television job. But the bespectacled reporter's lady love remained much the same. Lois Lane, too, will be a victim of Doomsday.
Asked about Kent's marriage to Lois, Mr. Carlin replied, a shade heartlessly, "I've been engaged to people I didn't get married to. What I'm saying is you can't plan for everything."