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In 1993 the unthinkable happened. Superman died. Now, this certainly wasn’t the first time a comic book killed off its main character and then figured out a clever way of bringing him back later, but when news of Superman’s impending death hit mainstream media it was publicized as the end of the era. People lined up for blocks outside of comic book stores and waited for hours just to get a copy of the illusive Death of Superman issue—some because they were curious, others because they figured it was a good investment. The Death of Superman collection remains the best-selling graphic novel of all time.


In the story-arch that resulted in the death of Superman, a beast known as Doomsday, who had been imprisoned in an abyss far below the surface of the Earth, breaks free and begins carving a swath of destruction that quickly endangers human lives—he topples an interstate overpass, obliterates an 18-wheeler in a head on collision with his fist, and wanders from place to place attacking whatever catches his eye. One of the other heroes who try and fail to stop him describes him as “hate, death and bloodlust personified.” Later, when a boy and a woman see Superman in the fight of his life, the boy asks about the monster, and the woman replies, “I’d say he’s the devil incarnate ushering in the end of the world!”


Fatefully, in a battle the raged across half the Midwest, Metropolis becomes the epicenter for the fight of the ages. Streets are demolished and cars are hurled as the indestructible fighter crash through buildings. Their final punches send shockwaves, shattering the glass from nearby windows. Finally, after a bloody battle, each puts his all into one last strike—which proves to be the killing blow for both. In the end, Superman gives his life to protect the people and the city that he loves. Of course, even after an elaborate funeral spanning several issues, he would only spend a few days in the grave before his marvelous Kryptonian body is miraculously restored.


It certainly doesn’t take a theology degree to see the Christ-like parallels here.


Superman’s battle with Doomsday points us to the passion of Christ, in that each chronicles the sacrificial death of its world’s Savior. What Superman did in a graphic novel, Jesus did in real life. The word “doomsday” which is an old Anglo-Saxon term, was originally synonymous with Judgment Day. In that sense Doomsday represents God’s wrath and judgment against humanity. But in a more vivid sense, Doomsday personifies the monster lurking within each one of us: sin—the most destructive force in the world. In either case, Jesus conquered the beast, but at the cost of his own life.


The Bible says, “When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8 NCV).

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