🔍 BEHIND THE MASK 🔎: Superman Edition

Welcome to the first in a new series on the DC Universe community forums, BEHIND THE MASK, in which we welcome all armchair psychologists to explore the heroes and villains that keep the delicate balance of good and evil a-teetering. Every week, we will shine the interrogation light on a new character and ask you, the fans, challenging questions about what made them who they are.

Let’s discuss the “who’s”, the “why’s”, the “what were they thinking’s”?
Let’s dig a little deeper.


This week, we’re taking a look Behind The (figurative) Mask of “Superman”, through the lens of the Death & Return of Superman story arc.

:mag:Would the DC Universe be the same if Superman had never been created?

:mag:What would the DC Universe be like today if he had stayed slain?

:mag:Why did the death of a fictional character create such a tragic sense of loss worldwide?

:mag:Is the name Doomsday being used as a motif for what was meant to follow the death of one the greatest superheroes the DCU has ever known?

Share all your thoughts, theories, and additional questions below! :point_down:

  1. There would BE no DC Universe if Superman had never been created. He was the standard bearer for the entire genre. Without Superman, DC never would have commissioned Batman, and the whole company might have gone the way of Gold Key or Fawcett.

  2. Nobody stays dead in comics. But supposing Superman did, Superboy probably would have grown to inhabit the role, the way Wally West and Kyle Rayner did before him. Conner Kent would probably be leading the Justice League by now.

  3. Superman represents not just a fantasy of empowerment or guardianship, but generations of childhoods. Even lapsed comic readers grew up watching George Reeves on TV, or Christopher Reeve in the movies. It was like losing an icon, and one without flaws thanks to his nature as a fictional character. People’s only associations with Superman were good.

  4. Well, obviously. As far as names go you can’t get much more on the nose than “Doomsday.” Maybe if he was named “Death O’Superman.”


Do you think the Justice League would be any different if Superman had never existed?
I mean yes, Wonder Woman was also one of the founding members of the JL, but do you think she, along with the other members might over time have been swayed into less idyllic standards, were it not for Superman silently leading the bunch morally?


Without Superman, I think the Justice League would definitely turn fascist.

For example, Wonder Woman comes from a tiny, socialist society. The rules that apply to her society wouldn’t work in a large, sprawling country like America.

Likewise, Batman would likely have trouble from descending into the abyss of Big Brother. As it is, he’s barely capable of staying on moral ground.

Flash would remain moral. But I think he’d be one of the few holdouts. Maybe Green Arrow…

Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, Captain Atom, Martian Manhunter, etc. Almost all of them desire some type of order. And if Wonder Woman and Batman are the two heaviest hitters, I think the rest would fall in line.


Good point on WW! Sometimes, I find myself conveniently forgetting certain things about her…lol
But that reminds me of how she was in Flashpoint Paradox.
I could definitely see that side of her rising up a little more in discussions, with Superman gone.

think we all know Batman is barely holding on. With Superman gone, seems Batman and WW would be next in line, and that is just… a very questionable due.
To say the least.

I could see a couple of the others attempting to stand up against it, but ultimately, I don’t think the JL would survive.

I mean, Batman already walked away from the JL once before. Would he even be a part of it without Superman??


@LadyWonder, read Justice League of America: The Nail. Read it’s sequel “Another Nail” too. They’re great and feature beautiful Alan Davis artwork. They’re in the Comics section.


I will! Thanks!

I assume they are also somehow relevant to the discussion…? :eyes:


Yes. I won’t spoil how, but it relates to a JL without Superman.


oOo Then I shall definitely read!
Though, I am still very interested to hear your thoughts on the questions posed above!


Oh yes, JLA: The Nail is a great story about a world without a Superman.

Superman: Red Son is a similar meditation, but one which considered a world where Superman’s rocket touches down in the Ukraine instead of Kansas. But personally, I prefer the often overlooked Superman: The Dark Side by John Francis Moore and Kieron Dwyer, where the rocket misses Earth altogether and ends up on Apokolips.


I believe there would be no DC Universe without Superman. His contributions both artistically (his colorful costume and amazing abilities) and historically (being the first super-protector of the people) made him the foundation on which not only the DC Universe was built on, but the entire comic book industry.

With earth’s greatest protector dead, even the entire JLA would have had an arduous time filling his shoes. Notwithstanding his enormous physical and mental capabilities, being the bulwark against crime and natural disasters, the loss of his empathy and compassion for all people would be felt throughout the DCU.

Simple. Everyone love and respects Superman. His mission statement–"…Truth, Justice, And the American Way!" resonates with all people who believe in fairness and goodness and doing right by others.

When hope is destroyed what else but “doomsday” can follow?

Thank you for posting these most intriguing questions. Superman has been very near and dear to my heart for over half a century. I hope and pray he will always be around to inspire new generations of people who value the power of hope.


It’s so interesting to think that Superman seems to be a literal embodiment of “truth, justice, and the American Way”.
When I wonder what/who is “behind the mask” of Superman, it’s kind of hard to say anything other than "trustworthy, just, and all-around patron of the “American Way”.
Other heroes may be particularly funny or charismatic or nerdy or WHATEVER.

But what might you say that Clark Kent is?
Other than … pretty much Superman, minus the powers. lol

  1. As it’s been pointed out, the DCU would not exist without Superman. And not just the DCU. There is no Marvel and therefore no MCU without Superman. He was the first super hero and all the others came into existence because of his success.

  2. I’d hate to think what the DCU would look like if Superman had stayed dead. I’m not a big fan of all the dark and grim that’s become so commonplace in comics, especially DC, and Superman has always been a ray of hope and light amongst all the angst found everywhere else. If he had stayed dead, I could see the DCU descending into a dark and desolate “Planet Gotham.” Batman would be killing people left and right and Wonder Woman would be lopping heads off with her stupid, stinking sword.

  3. I think one of the big reasons for the sense of loss that occurred when he “died” was a classic case of not appreciating what you have until it’s gone. For a lot of people in the early ‘90s (myself included) Superman was our first introduction to the world of super heroes and it probably came through the George Reeves TV show, the Super Friends cartoon or (like me) the Christopher Reeve Movies. He’s our first introduction to the concepts of truth, justice and right and wrong; our first moral compass if you will. For a lot of us, Superman is a treasured part of our childhood who made us feel safe because he always caught the bad guy in the end. And DC comes along and says he’s going to die?!?


Fans are baffingly fickle about Superman sometimes.

Before the news came out that he would die, all of the people who didn’t care one iota about him and thumbed their noses at him because of his lack of claws, pouches, scowls and scantily clad female co-stars (to say nothing of crappy variant covers) couldn’t care less about him and his franchise. "He’s old! The future is with fill in the blank flash in the pan character that had more muscles than character that nobody has cared about since early 1992

Then the news breaks of his upcoming death and those same people are (gasp and guffaw!) “the biggest Superman fans ever”.

His costume changes in 1997. Nobody cared when it was the regular one. “Oh, Superman is old hat again.” some say. Costume change goes into effect and it’s the “big fans” making a stink.


All of the above shows just how much we need Superman. Even people who are fickle care about him in some way and recognize his value. Things just aren’t right if the greatest superhero EVER isn’t at the top o’ the heap.

If Clark stayed dead then as others have said, Connor or a new character would have replaced him and the Superman franchise would have endured under someone else’s shoulders.

Thankfully Clark has endured as Superman and all is well. Superman was the first, the best and remains the absolute greatest comic character of all time.


Very well said, as always.


The accuracy of your statements is overwhelming.
There is a guy I know who’s mother recently passed. I know very few mothers who were willing to sacrifice the way she did for him. She loved him, regardless of his mindless & reckless actions. She was always there to help him out of his own messes.
She was by most standards, the heartiest measure of a mother.

Yet, he didn’t give her the time of the day. She helped whenever she learned of/sensed his need, and would either throw it in her face or refuse her help.

At her funeral, however… He was a sight to behold. You would have sworn his plan was to be buried in the casket with her, the way he clung on to it so.

And he was been very different emotionally.


Clearly, this is an instance of taking things for granted. But also, as @HubCityQuestion mentioned, Superman spanned “generations of childhoods”. So, there’s the seasoned aspect of his presence.

The fact that Superman has been around long enough to become a staple or “fixture”. But unless a fixture holds significance in your life, it quickly fades into the background.

But is it not the “background” to our lives and experiences that contribute a large percentage of “stability, security, familiarity, comfort, etc.”? The backdrop for the going-on’s of our everyday lives?

We may not have a precise need for its existence, but we definitely sense it when its gone. We surely feel at loss in its absence.


@LW, thank you :slight_smile:

@Kitty wow I’m sorry for his loss. When you say he’s been different emotionally, I hope it’s for the better.


He is doing alright. A lot more settled.
He is in transition.

I didn’t mean to pull so much attention to him, rather than Superman. Though, the scenarios seem quite similar.
To many, “Mom” is our first superhero.
And eventually we grow so accustomed to Mom’s presence that it becomes easy for some to become so enthralled with the new “this and that” that comes along, that one might “forget” why Mom was at the forefront of it all for so long.

Much like “Mom”, Superman is a central figure for us all - whether we’re conscious or not. He is a baseline for all things “fair, just, & right”. Whether we choose to go “this way” or “that”, the attributes that Superman both possesses and embodies are essentially a personification of what most refer to as a moral compass.


Superman appearing in Action Comics #1, is the sole reason the DC and Marvel Universe exists at all. Superman and other comic books sold millions of copies for many decades, then declined to the niche product it is now.

Superman is still a money maker, so there is no reason for Superman not to be published, but a real Kara like Supergirl or Power Girl would have been great substitutes, like Nightwing substituted for Batman.

Only the Matrix Supergirl existed at the time, however. The real Supergirl remembers Kryption and was adopted, which are valuable story angles, while Superman remembers being only being raised on an American Farm. She is also more aggressive, as is Power Girl, who was raised as a baby by Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and has the same morale code that Superman does.

Sometimes heroes exist best as memories, unencumbered by the frail attempt of envisioning them by human writers, writing on a schedule, instead of waiting for a story worthy of the character.

Superman’s powers are so great that he can not be the solution in many situations, because the story would end on page two. Best to keep him offstage, have a natural disasters, or endagered civilians, or load up the kryptonite to keep him busy, while the villains escapes.

Marv Wolfman said in his hterview with Greg Rucka here recently that the Trinity does not show up until the fourth chapter of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The stage had to be set and the tension built.

There are exceptions, which shows Superman at his moral force peak:

Superman taking Thor’s hammer and Cap’s Shield, as leader of the final attack in Avengers/Justice League. There is no question he is worthy of both.

Superman’s Speech in Final Frontier, unifying everyone.

Superman died in 1993. The great old movie stars were dying at the time. The AIDS epidemic was ongoing. There were rock stars dying of drugs. The great American Dream of doing better than your parents was still alive, but not for much longer. America felt uneasy.

Superman was a fictional character, not human, but he had been around everywhere, in Comics, animation, radio, tv and movies. He was part of everyone’s childhood. If he was not part of your current life, you remembered him with fondness, part of a simpler life, one filled with hope. If asked, like you would of a childhood friend, you would have wished him continuous happiness, not death.

Doomsday is an unthinking monster, not worthy of killing Superman. He did show one of Superman’s greatest qualities, of never giving up. It also showed his concern for protecting the vulnerable.


Loved all the responses and the questions really get you thinking.

Why did the death of a fictional character create such a tragic sense of loss worldwide?

Superman stands for more than a superhero…he’s a symbol. He reminds me of All Might from My hero Academia. He’s the symbol of peace. It’s why the WORLD’s criminals feared him even being continents away. When you take away this symbol, it puts fear in everyone’s hearts and minds. Having Superman exist gives everyone everlasting hope and trust that they will be protected and can live their best lives.

That’s why I think he stands for soo much more than just fighting crime. He’s the light that keeps darkness away and fear at bay. It’s almost like he creates love and opportunity for everyone if you really think about it. A world where you have a symbol of peace…knowing that you can smile and trust everything will be okay. Superman does THAT! That’s his impact imo.

And is why the world in a sense cracked with the news of his death. An overwhelming sense of doom and dispair :confused: