Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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Last updated: June 3, 2002
The plot to murder Superman started with a meeting. A super-summit where the creators involved in the Superman titles get together to develop plots for the upcoming year. Needing to fill in the schedule due to a decision to postpone the wedding of Lois & Clark until the TV series of that name did so, someone came up with the idea to kill off Superman. Not wanting to allow an existing villain to have the notoriety, the writers decided to use a new villain. An unstoppable killer.
Starting in 1992's Superman: The Man of Steel #17, the final page of each title showed a gloved fist bursting metal cables and relentlessly pounding on a metal wall with the tag line, "...Doomsday is coming!" until the hooded figure finally broke free from it's underground prison.
In Superman: The Man of Steel #18, writer Louise Simonson (with penciller Jon Bogdanove and inker Dennis Janke), avoiding subtlety in her effort to convince readers about the evil nature of the newest villain, has Doomsday extend a hand for a cute little birdie to land. Only to have Doomsday crush it with a blood red "BLORCH" sound effect accompanied by stereotypical bad guy laughter, "HAH ... HA HA HAAA".
Okay, character established.
While Superman is busy with other matters, the monster begins his rampage across pastures and roadways, leaving destruction in his wake (and continuing the maniacal laughter).
The JLA intervenes in Justice League of America #69, (story/art by Dan Jurgens with finished art by Rick Burchett) but the team is quickly decimated. At the issue's end, Superman saves Booster Gold who says, "it's like doomsday is here!".
Superman gets a personal introduction to the beast in Superman #74 (story/art Dan Jurgens with finished art by Brett Breeding) and is battered around. The combined efforts of Superman and the JLA serve only to tear off Doomsday's container suit, exposing massive muscles and bony protrusions topped by nasty face with blood-red eyes.
Superman and the JLA continue the battle in The Adventures of Superman #497 (Jerry Ordway writing with Tom Grummett penciling and Doug Hazlewood inking). Spotting a giant television advertising a WWF type wrestling event in Metropolis, Doomsday begins growling "Mhh-trr-plss" and begins heading to town. Superman is left to fight alone in Action Comics #684 (Roger Stern writing with the artist team of Jackson Guice and Dennis Rodier) and Superman: The Man of Steel #19, despite the brief efforts of the Guardian and Supergirl as Doomsday continues his devastating advance.
Finally, in Superman #75, Superman and Doomsday (in a series of spectacular full page illustrations by Jurgens & Breeding) strike simultaneous, apparently fatal, blows - leaving two bodies amidst the rubble of Metropolis (all of the above stories are collected in the trade paperback, The Death of Superman.
Cadmus Labs takes charge of Doomsday's body while the world mourns Superman in the excellent "Funeral For A Friend" story arc (collected in the trade paperback of the same name). Then in Superman #78, the Cyborg version of Superman breaks into Cadmus and flies into space with Doomsday's body - using metal cables to bind it to an asteroid and then tossing the asteroid off into deep space to "float forever ... buried in the infinite void".
The final page of that issue shows the monster alive, awake and laughing as his asteroid tumbles off into the darkness.
As readers both casual and faithful know, Superman eventually returns to life and action. Doomsday also returns in a 1994 three issue Prestige format special, Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey, with story/layouts by Dan Jurgens and finished art by Brett Breeding (also available in trade paperback).
Doomsday's asteroid is captured by a freighter en route to Apokolips. Darkseid's elite guard are no match for the monster, but the distraction provides an opportunity for the Cyborg to reveal himself. Cyborg reveals that when he set Doomsday adrift on the asteroid, he planted a device which allowed him to transfer and store his essence following his defeat by Superman. During the battle, even Darkseid is unable to subdue Doomsday and falls victim. A Boom Tube sucks Doomsday away just before Superman (arriving with the help of a Mother Box) can confront him.
During the lull in issue #2, Waverider of the time guardian Linear Men, reveals Doomsday's origin. Almost 250,000 years ago, on a ferociously inhospitable planet, an alien conducts an experiment to create the ultimate being. Obviously a huge Darwin fan, the alien puts the "survival of the fittest" to the test by repeatedly ejecting an infant into the hostile environment and repeatedly cloning the surviving tissue - forcing it to develop and adapt. Over an unknown period of time, the cloned beast defeated all other life forms and then turned upon it's creator. The monster then escaped in the alien's space ship, eventually landing on the planet Calaton. After years of destruction, they leaders of that planet creatde an energy being called the Radiant, who was able to defeat and contain the beast. The containment chamber is left to drift in space, eventually impacting Earth.
In the final issue, Superman (now wearing a Mother Box designed "Hunter" outfit) Boom Tubes to Calaton, following Doomsday. By the time he arrives, Doomsday has already defeated his old enemy, the Radiant, and is intent on destroying the planetary power supply (this being comic book science, there's only one giant power supply, it draws from the planet's core and destroying it could blow up the planet - what idiot designs these things? The same fella that builds Death Stars for Star Wars?)
The battle goes badly for Superman until Waverider intervenes and discovers that Doomsday is obsessed with Superman because the planet on which Doomsday was repeatedly engineered, tortured, died and reborn, was ancient Krypton.
Superman uses the time travel bracelet left behind after Waverider falls and uses it and the Mother Box to transport himself and Doomsday to the end of time where he abandons the monster to entropy's deadly crush.
For collectors, Jurgens and Breeding did a short 10 page version of the story packaged with the Hunter/Prey Superman/Doomsday toy figures. The accompanying comic book, titled Doomsday Is Coming #1 has Superman recap his origin, find Doomsday breaking out of a buried prison, use the Mother Box to change his costume to the "Hunter" design and then, after an exchange of blows, quickly drag Doomsday back to his underground prison and secure him with the help of cables and heat vision. Succinct and enjoyable story with wonderful art.
Unnatural Born Killer
In 1995, DC produced the Doomsday Annual #1 as part of it's Year One themed origin specials. At a gathering of Doomsday victims, Superman arrives and shares stories he learned about Doomsday's origins.
The first story, "Showdown" by Jurgens & Breeding, relates a young Darkseid's first encounter with the monster. On the world Bylan 5, a space ship crashes into the ground while Darkseid is visiting. The world, apparently designed by the same Star Wars engineer, dies when Doomsday destroys a chemical mine, unleashing a chemical chain reaction. Darkseid and Doomsday have only time to glare at each other nose to nose before Darkseid is taken away, back to Apokolips.
Doomsday also grabs a lift on a departing shuttle and lands on the warrior planet, Khundia, in the next story, "...Some Say In Fire" by Louise Simonson (with art by Chris Batista and John Nyberg). The Khunds, constantly warring with each other, unite to force Doomsday into a rocket and to abandon him in space. Doomsday is apparently the catalyst for a united Khundia and their subsequent emergence as a galactic power. The dying Khund who sacrificed himself to lead Doomsday away, tells the planet that it was the cooperation of the clans that saved their single, overcrowded world. His dying wish is for them to continue to work together, "and Khundia will own the stars! AAKK". Bet they left that last word out of the Khundian history books.
Next up is a tale of the Green Lantern Corps, "In Blackest Night", written by Roger Stern with art by Jerry Ordway and classic GL artist Gil Kane. Corps member Zharan Pel encounters Doomsday ravaging a planet. Doomsday, never having met a Green Lantern before, responded with maddened glee at the challenge. Even when trapped inside a green energy cage, Doomsday is able to burst free and steal Pel's power ring. Pel's masters, the Guardians, intervene but only cause Doomsday to head for their planet, Oa, defeating all the emerald warriors trying to stop him en route. On Oa, the combined power of the Guardians is only able to force the beast to a standstill - until one Guardian sacrifices himself to remove Doomsday's power ring, enabling a final massive assault. In the destructive aftermath, the Guardians fail to notice that Doomsday is not destroyed, but is blasted through a hole in space ... where he lands on Calaton for the first time.
In an epilogue, "Requiem", written by Jerry Ordway with art by Dennis Janke, Calaton survivors gather to recount the story of Doomsday's second battle against the Radiant and Superman. The Radiant appears to encourage his people to unite and to recover from the devastation and to bring their civilization back from the brink.
The Doomsday Wars
Doomsday returns in another three issue Prestige format special called, "Superman: The Doomsday Wars" written and penciled by Dan Jurgens with finished ink work by Norm Rapmund (also collected in trade paperback). This time Doomsday houses a fierce intelligence as he gloats to the defeated JLA that "the reports of my stupidity were greatly exaggerated".
Jurgens' tale is more entertaining this time around as he weaves several plots, including the birth of Pete Ross and Lana Lang Ross' premature child, an early lesson in responsibility for young Clark and the return of Brainiac.
In the second issue, Superman is transporting the infant Ross child to a critical care hospital when Doomsday attacks him. The now eloquent monster gloats over the downed hero and launches into the traditional villainous exposition.
Following the time altering events of Zero Hour, a previously unknown henchman of Brainiac's transported to the end of time and snatched Doomsday away after Superman and Waverider left. Plans to make Doomsday's body a receptacle for Brainiac's mind (his body having been damaged in the first issue) are interrupted when the monster awakens. With insufficient time to destroy Doomsday's mind as originally intended, Brainiac is forced to take control and override him. Needing to create a new body without Doomsday's controlling but simplistic mind, Brainiac/Doomsday decides to use the Ross infant as host for Doomsday tissue and Brainiac's mind.
Into the mix comes Pete Ross, jealous over Clark's mysterious relationship with Lana (Lana knows Clark is Superman but Pete doesn't) and blaming Superman for putting his newborn son's life at risk. Pete and Superman manage to save the infant as Doomsday casts out Brainiac. While Brainiac is forced to create a robotic body for himself, Doomsday is tricked into a transporter that bounces him between four booths so that he should never be able to think or free himself.
A Body And A Brain
For once, Doomsday doesn't free himself, as Superman himself releases the beast in The Adventures of Superman #594 during the 2001 story arc, "Our Worlds At War" (Joe Casey with Mike Wieringo and Lary Stucker). At the instruction of President Luthor, Superman recruits Doomsday, turning him loose against the invading Imperiex army. However, after only a few pages, Imperiex himself appears and, with a casual blast from his hand, renders Doomsday into a mere skeleton.
While that sidelines Doomsday for the duration of the war, he reappears shortly afterwards in Superman #175 (100 issues after killing Superman) in a "Joker: Last Laugh" crossover (Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith). Doomsday's body is being regrown below the Pentagon when Joker exposes him to Joker gas and then exits stage left.
In an echo of the original battle, Doomsday, wearing his container suit, smashes his way to the White House and Superman. As the costume tears away, Doomsday reveals his next evolutionary development - intelligence. Not verbose as the Brainiac/Doomsday combination, he speaks little but makes it clear that he is sentient and is coming after Luthor as the person responsible for his last "death".
This time Superman stands his ground and as Doomsday swings away, Superman taunts him. He says, "Before you were a mindless thing. Nothing could hurt you" but now that he is aware, "... you'll begin to understand something new. Fear."
"You don't want to die again, do you? The agony of what's happened to you affects your speed - your strength - and that little bit of doubt - that you cannot win today - grows."
"You will never hurt me again. You never kill me again."
And with a mighty two fisted blow, Superman finally lays Doomsday out cold.
The issue's end has the recaptured Doomsday in the control of the US Government and President Luthor again. But once more, Luthor makes a shadowy deal as he reveals that he arranged for Doomsday to get loose in order to satisfy Darkseid, who takes control of the monster in satisfaction of a war debt between the two. Darkseid departs with Doomsday to Apokolips.
Versions of Doomsday also appear in two notable stories.
In Superman: The Man of Steel #75, the team of Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove and Dennis Janke satirically recreate their own version of a classic with the "The Death of Mr. Mxyzptlk".
In a fun issue, Mxy is fixated on Superman (and Lois) and will go to any lengths for attention. He creates his own version of Doomsday, called BadaBingBadaBoomsday. My favorite scene is when Mxy realizes he forgot the bone spurs and has BadaBingBadaBoomsday grow one bony protrusion too many. There's a lot of good writing and visual humour.
Mxy, chewing away at popcorn, waits for BadaBingBadaBoomsday to attack him, but instead the monster ignores him to assault Superman. Useless attempts to get the monster's attention only cause Mxy to get an upset stomach quickly followed by a methane explosion - "FRAPPAPOOM". BadaBingBadaBoomsday, enraged by the stink, finally attacks Mxyzptlk and delivers a killing blow. Apparently the blow (either or both) were strong enough to destroy BadaBingBadaBoomsday, although Mxy, like Superman, manages to return from the dead. Except in Mxy's case he awakens with a miffed, "Just hand me my pants, okay?".
Then in the 2002 story arc, "World Without Young Justice" a villain rearranges history as revenge against the Young Justice team. Superboy #99 looks at what would have happened if they stopped work on the clone Superboy and instead cloned the killer - creating the teen hero known as Doomsboy. The issue looks at the conflicted relationship of Doomsboy and his unpowered "brother", Conal. Doomsboy is a lot like the brash Kon-el Superboy but with a lesser regard for life. Doomsboy eventually disappears in Young Justice #45 when the villain is defeated.