Someone played a cruel practical joke on Superman not long after he returned from the dead. In “Dead Again!”, a Superman corpse is discovered, leading to speculation about whether the living Superman is the real deal. After all, four imposters sprang up after Superman died, so the public’s skepticism is understandable. Fool me once, shame one you; fool me five times, you think I’m nuts or something?
Even Superman himself can’t be entirely sure. If it’s possible for him to come back from the dead, then it’s also possible he could be a clone or some other fabrication, even one with all the right memories. And as a journalist, he’s trained not to take anything at face value. The genetically identical corpse could well be a hoax, but he also has no proof it’s not. For all his strength, he’s not invulnerable to mind games.
So The Adventures of Superman #517 shows us Superman working through his existential crisis, and it also highlights the strengths of the Super-books’ structure at the time.
There were four Superman titles, but they functioned together as a single, nearly weekly series. Though each title had its designated creative team, they’d share the same stories, passing them down the line in a pre-planned round-robin fashion. It was almost like how television series are handled, but with the line editor serving as the showrunner.
While you had to read all four series to get the complete story, each individual issue provided a satisfying read with its own mini-story within the larger framework. In AOS #517, Superman works through his doubts while tackling an admittedly generic villain, though he remains rattled by the mysterious fake corpse. Superman overcomes some obstacle, but the tension still builds—and the next chapter hits the stands usually just one week later.
The structure gave the stories room to breathe and facilitated many solid Superman stories for readers young and old.
Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciler: Barry Kitson
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology
Appropriate For: ages 9 and up