One of the worst-kept secrets of director Zack Snyder’s Justice League is that Superman returns from the grave, following his sacrifice in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Comics fans are accustomed to superheroes coming back from the dead, so it’s no big surprise, but how he comes back is still a mystery. Of course, the Man of Steel also famously died in comic books 25 years ago, so we thought it would be worthwhile to revisit Superman’s resurrection in the comics, to see whethre any of the same machinations of his return will also occur in the film.
After Superman died fighting against the horrific monster known as Doomsday, DC Comics’ Superman titles quickly began to address how the world reacted to his death with “Funeral for a Friend.” It was a depressing series of issues, made even more so because it ended with Superman’s adopted father, Jonathan Kent, collapsing of a heart attack, right before the books then took a three-month hiatus, leaving Pa Kent’s fate a mystery. The story then picked up in Adventures of Superman #500 (the last issue written by Jerry Ordway, who was the sole remaining creator from the reboot of the Man of Steel in 1986). Pa Kent is in some version of the afterlife, where he encounters his adopted son and decides that rather than head back to his own life, he will instead risk everything to save his son. Jonathan then travels through a series of encounters with the horrors of his past (fighting in the war as a young man) and Kryptonian demons before ultimately getting Superman to agree to fight to live again. The two men then choose to forgo “going into the light” and instead try to return to the land of the living together.
Jonathan then awakens in a hospital, having seemingly been shocked back to life, with his experience chalked to a dream. However, he is convincing enough that Lois Lane flies back to Metropolis and checks out Superman’s tomb … and discovers that his body is not there!
That, of course, then led into the storyline known as the “Reign of the Supermen,” in which three of four new characters arrived, claiming they were a returned Superman, in a fashion (one of them, John Henry Irons, only claimed he was carrying on Superman’s legacy as a superhero. One of them claimed to be a cyborg version of Superman, as his original body had been too badly damaged by Doomsday. Another claimed to be a clone of the original Superman. The final one claimed that he had been changed by death into becoming more of a ruthless vigilante.