the chromium age: superman #75 (dc comics)

Once a month, we take a look at some crazy-ass gimmick comic book companies used to get idiots (read: ME) to buy comic books in the 1990’s. Last month we looked at The Guardians of the Galaxy… this month, we’re taking a gander at Superman #75, published in 1992 by DC Comics.

I’m excited about this one because it involves me opening up my copy of the comic for the first time EVER. I bought this sucker TWENTY years ago. Let’s tear into it!

Gimmick: It’s a three-pronged gimmick here, folks.

1. Poly-bagged – The comic was sold sealed in a plastic bag. Traditionally, polybags have been made of clear plastic, but on Superman #75, DC Comics opted for a black bag onto which was printed the Superman “S” symbol, either dripping blood or consisting of blood. Your choice. What this meant was you had to buy two copies of the comic if you were going to collect the thing- one to open and read… and one to keep sealed forever.

2. Death of a prominent character – I debated whether to include this as a gimmick, as it’s more a story point… but since the story itself was a gimmick to goose sales, I suppose it fits here. Also superhero comic book companies would go batshit insane with killing/maiming prominent characters after seeing the sales bonanza that was Superman #75.

3. Extras within the polybag – At the very least, most comic companies would polybag your comic to include some kind of extra bonus… thing. Often it was a trading card of some kind. With a big event like the death of Superman, DC again brought out all the bells and whistles, including:

– An obituary page for Superman, written for The Daily Planet, printed on just the crappiest paper I’ve ever held. It’s like five rungs below newsprint and maybe one above toilet paper.

– Five “full-color commemorative stamps” (THESE ARE STICKERS, THE KIND YOU HAVE TO LICK TO PUT ON YOUR TRAPPER KEEPER, THEY ARE NOT STAMPS BUT THE POLYBAG TOLD ME THEY WERE STAMPS SO I’M TELLING YOU)

– A “full color memorial poster” which is actually kind of cool. Somehow I had a copy of this poster when I was twelve years old; maybe the guy who ran my town’s comic book store gave it to me.

– A trading card from the Death of Superman card series (labeled 00 PROTOTYPE, so it’s really just an advertisement for the trading card set)

– Weirdest of all, a black mourning armband, like the one the characters took to wearing in the comics immediately following the death of Superman.

…oh yeah, and they gave you a comic book mixed in with all that garbage.

Mark up: A regular issue of Superman was going for $1.25 in 1992. This comic cost ya $2.50, so double the price. I would also add, for most people (myself included) who bought this the Wednesday it hit store, scalpers were already charging extra for the thing. I paid $5 dollars for this copy. Take that for whatever it’s worth. I love how the comic book is still labelled as costing $1.25, as though someone would have sold you just the comic book and kept all the other junk.

Does the gimmick have anything to do with the story? All this extra stuff barely has anything to do with the story. I guess you could argue the armband, as it will end up appearing in the comics… but it doesn’t appear in this comic. The obituary kind of does too… but everything else? No, it has not a god damn thing to do with anything.

Was the gimmick cool? I will say this- DC gave you an impressive amount of junk for the cover price… but since it’s 2012 and I’m only opening this thing up now? No, it wasn’t a cool gimmick. It left me frustrated and annoyed as an 11 year old. I bought a comic and then couldn’t read the stupid thing because I was torturing myself that Superman #75 was supposedly going to be worth a lot of money someday. You could say I was a stupid kid, and you’d be right… but bleh.

Is it still cool? Since it was never really all that cool, no it hasn’t magically become cool twenty years later.

Does the gimmick make the comic worth the extra money? Assuming you paid cover price in 1992 and you immediately ripped the bag off this thing? For a dollar above what you’d normally pay, you would have gotten a poster, some stickers, a piece of toilet paper, a trading card, a cloth armband. I suppose that’s an OK value?

Final judgement: For the record, I’m going out of my way not to talk about content of the comics presented here but the whole Death/Funeral/Return of Superman storyline was actually kind of alright as far as comics in the 1990’s go. While it was most definitely done to jack up sales of Superman comics, the creative teams behind these books at least had some sort of direction, and I can’t think of one superhero comic book being published today which could publish a month’s worth of comics where the main character was dead as a doornail.

The gimmick however, was pretty unnecessary and barely justified.

EDIT: Here’s some extra thoughts I had about the big poster that comes with this gimmick. I had some issues with it as a kid.

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