Before he was the best-selling writer on DC’s “Rebirth” of Action Comics, veteran comics creator Dan Jurgens was the writer and artist on Superman in the ’90s.
During that time, Jurgens participated in — and often spearheaded — some of the best-selling, most popular, and in some cases most infamous Superman stories ever told.
Chief among those was the grand-daddy of all comics events, The Death and Return of Superman.
After the death of Superman, four new heroes emerged, each seemingly representing a part of Superman’s personality. One of those was the Cyborg Superman, who seemed to remember the Kent farm, Lois Lane, and had Superman’s DNA.
In his second issue, the Cyborg Superman foiled a terrorist attack on the White House and saved the life of then-President Bill Clinton, ultimately being named the “official” Superman of the federal government.
That didn’t last long, because the next month, the Cyborg was revealed as not only not Superman, but as a villain. That happened when, in Superman #80, deposed Warworld ruler Mongul flew a giant spacecraft to Coast City, California, and destroyed it.
The events of Superman #80 reverberated through the DC Universe for years, since the destruction of Coast City led to the fall of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, led into Zero Hour, and on and on.
So why are we rehashing a 20-plus-year-old comic book?
Becuase it turns out that in Superman #79, writer/artist Dan Jurgens planted what would turn out to be a huge clue about the future. Check out this page, when the Cyborg Superman connected to the White House computers:
…Did you see it? Look closer.
That’s right: Directly beneath a “Welcome to Coast City” sign, you can see Mongul’s ship — the one which, at the urging of the Cyborg Superman, would destroy Coast City the next month.
It’s a small, hidden clue — and when we noticed it, we were pretty shocked. The death and return of Superman stories had sold hundreds of thousands of copies back in the ’90s, and have been read and re-read by thousands of readers for years. Hell, there was a recent repackaging of the whole Death and Return of Superman storyline in a series of five trade paperbacks.
A quick look around the internet seems to indicate that nobody has noticed, or at least those who did, didn’t document it. We also spoke briefly with Michael Bailey — one of the hosts of From Crisis to Crisis, a podcast that specifically covers the Superman comics made between 1985 and 2005, and which spent multiple episodes unpacking hours of material related to the death and return of Superman — who concurred nobody had ever pointed it out to him before.
We reached out to Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens, who wrote and drew the issue, to find out how often he’s asked about it.
“Back in the day, a few folks might have [noticed],” Jurgens told us. “But I really can’t remember the last time anyone brought it up.”
There’s also a Fantastic Four logo on the page, although that one is a lot easier to spot, since the Fantastic Four existed prior to Superman #79. The whole reason this is likely to have been missed by most readers is that the ship had not yet been depicted on the page by the time this issue saw print.
What do you think, readers? Did you notice this back when you were reading comics in the ’90s or are you as surprised as we are to still be noticing new, little details in the art 20 years later?