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Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

Originally presented in Superman# 423 and Action Comics #583, September 1986

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This is an imaginary story (which may never happen, but then again may) about a perfect man who came from the sky and did only good.  It tells of his twilight, when the great battles were over and the great miracles long since performed; of how his enemies conspired against him and of that final war in the snowblind wastes beneath the Northern Lights; of the two women he loved and of the choice he made between them; and how finally all the things he had were taken from him save one. It ends with a wink.  It begins in a quiet midwestern town, one summer afternoon in the quiet midwestern future.  Away in the big city, people still sometimes glance up hopefully from the sidewalks, glimpsing a distant speck in the sky... but no: it's only a bird, only a plane.  Superman died ten years ago.  This is an imaginary story...

Aren't they all?

Editor Julie Schwartz reveals how he approached this project:

"I started to think, what am I going to put in my last two issues.  And in the middle of the night, it came to me:  I would make believe that my last issues of Superman and Action Comics were actually going to be the last issues.

"Therefore it was incumbent upon me to explain all the things that had been going on in the previous years.  For example, did Lois ever find out that Clark Kent was Superman?  Did they ever get married?  What happened to Jimmy Olsen, to Perry White, to all the villains?  I had to clear it up.

"I ask this at conventions:  'Who would you, sitting in my editorial chair, mid-1985, ask to write that story?'  The answer was obvious - he wrote the first one, let him write the last one... Jerry Siegel!

"Jerry and I spent a lot of time together at the (San-Diego Comic Convention) DC booth that year, and I finally asked him the critical question:  Would he be willing to write the last Superman story?  Jerry's response was, 'Oh... boy, well, I have to think about that... no, no need to think about it, I would love to write it!'  But it turned out there were legal problems that, because of the schedule, we didn't have time to resolve, so Jerry wasn't able to do it after all.

"The next morning, still wondering what to do about it, I happened to be having breakfast with Alan Moore.  So I told him about my difficulties.  At that point, he rose out of his chair, and said, 'If you let anybody but me write that story, I'll kill you.'  Since I didn't want to be an accessory to my own murder, I agreed."

"The cover to Action Comics #583 shows Superman flying off from the roof of the Daily Planet and everyone waving good-bye.  The three people standing in front, in the middle is Jenette Kahn, on the left is Curt Swan, and on the right, the guy with the glasses, is me.  And in the background are all the super-heroes.  The tears in Superman's eyes are really Curt's tears."

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Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is available at finer comic-book shops everywhere.  Superman TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.

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 external link: 1958-1966 reader's guide 
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