Springing to life in 4 single bounds!

April 14, 1993|By Beth Hannan contributed to this article. | Beth Hannan contributed to this article.,Seattle Post-Intelligencer

You can't keep a good Superman down.

If you thought the world's first and most financially successful comic book superhero was going to be permanently eliminated by DC Comics, you're a prime candidate for resort property in the Sahara.

When the Man of Steel was trashed last November by a villain named Doomsday, the comic book sold out nationwide.

Stores are preparing for another invasion of fans and collectors when America's best-known superhero returns in The Adventures of Superman No. 500, due out this afternoon in a collector's edition ($2.95) and a standard edition ($2.50).

"I think it's going to do very, very well," said Doug Gratz, manager of Geppi's Comic World on Security Boulevard. "I don't think it will do as well as the death of Superman, but his return will do pretty well. We anticipate a large crowd."

Keith Shanklin of ABC Comics and Cards in Dundalk prepared for today by taking advance orders after the crowds buying the death of Superman. "The Glen Burnie store had a line outside the mall. At this store I had a line wrapped around the street. I was afraid there was going to be a fight."

Even though apparent "deaths" are common ploys in comic book plots, there was unprecedented publicity generated by the demise of Superman. Still, there were few doubts that Superman -- one of the most profitable figures in cartoon history -- would return just as surely as Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and Lassie.

But there's one big catch to Superman's reappearance: He may or may not be one of four different beings claiming to be Superman and appearing in The Adventures of Superman No. 500.

The claimants include a teen-ager who was possibly cloned from the original Superman's body and is without a memory.

Another is an alien being who is half machine and claims to be "the first son of Krypton."

The third is John Henry Iron, a steelworker who was caught in the wreckage of the battle between Superman and Doomsday.

The fourth claimant, who emerges from Superman's "fortress of solitude," is a rougher and tougher Man of Steel who takes the law into his own hands.

While a few people groan about the multiple Supermen idea, others think the mystery will help DC keep readers who originally bought the issues as a financial investment.

"The major thing it's doing is bringing the fun back to comic books," said Eric Pavlat, assistant manager of Alternate Worlds in Cockeysville. "There are other stories that are definitely literature that have won Hugo awards, World Fantasy Awards, but Superman is just intended to be fun."

On April 28, the four new Superman claimants will appear in solo adventures in separate editions of Superman, Man of Steel, The Adventures of Superman and Action Comics.

"The big question," said Colleen Dyke, owner of Golden Age Collectables in Seattle's Pike Place Market, "is are any of these characters really Superman or just well-meaning citizens attempting to do good? How and when the mystery will be resolved is unknown, but rumors abound. It's widely believed that the story will end in late summer, though there is a chance it could last until a new Superman cartoon launches this fall.

Some believe that none of the four Supermen are truly the Man of Steel since there seems to be no connection to Clark Kent. Further complicating matters was Jonathon Kent's heart attack. During a near-death experience, Pa Kent's spirit meets his foster son who helps him return to his body. How Superman's spirit ties into the four men claiming to be him is unknown.

Regardless of how the mystery is settled, it's no secret that DC editors have long considered revamping Superman and changing his goody two-shoes image into a tougher one for the '90s.

"Once again, DC Comics is keeping the outcome -- and the identity of the true Superman -- a closely guarded secret," Ms. Dyke said.

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