Superman Dies

By: Michael Fowler

Today the Man of Steel rallied, briefly. The Kryptonite drip to his arm numbed the pain and wracked his body, but for five seconds his x-ray vision worked. He scanned the indestructible prostate tumor that was killing him. Ugh. Not unlike Bizarro’s face. But why not, when he was 95? Today also he had misjudged his super strength and turned a bedpan into a pancake. The nurses’ buzzer he had mashed into molecules days earlier. The old super powers were erratic if they functioned at all. A stronger Kryptonite drip would kill him. He thought, come on, Kryptonite.

Over the last decade his super feats had not been well received. His construction of a fence along the Mexican border with 10 billion aluminum pop cans was called a silly stunt. His solving the global warming crisis by hauling glaciers from Neptune across space had only enraged the environmentalists. The administration said it didn’t need a senior citizen to hunt down terrorists, and the vice president said the Axis of Evil — Poison Ivy, Lex Luthor, and Mr. Freeze — had been brought to justice. If he wanted, the VP added, he could go after the Penguin, who was implicated in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, but why didn’t he just retire?

His prostate cried for attention when he hit 87. He was in the Fortress of Solitude working on his autobiography, the chapter on Ma Kent’s delicious homemade fruit pies. Suddenly he felt a stabbing pain in his gut and an attack of weakness, as if a lump of Kryptonite lay close by. The pain never went away and his powers started to fail. As a nonagenarian the Geezer of Steel could hardly fly, and banged about Metropolis like a large, drunken moth. Exhausted at the end of each day, he fell in bed in Kent’s apartment. Kent, a loner, was utterly isolated. Lois had died of breast cancer in 1988, Jimmy had overdosed a year later. Perry White had been entombed since 1977. No one cared about mild-mannered Kent. In fact, no one believed in him.

The day before his ninety-fifth birthday he finally discarded Kent. He donated the reporter’s wardrobe to AMVETS and went in to work the next morning as Superman. No one at the Daily Planet raised an eyebrow. He had blown his cover years ago in a pre-cancer series of senior moments. There was the time he came to the office with his shirt unbuttoned and his big red S showing. Another time he stepped out the fifteenth-floor office window to catch a cab. A few coworkers snickered at these faux pas, but they only confirmed what everyone already knew. Never a sick day in decades, come on. Turning down medical coverage until it was mandatory, uh huh. Kent had effectively died around 1965, and Superman might just as well have been himself beginning then. But he couldn’t erase Kent from his mind. Although he typed at his desk in full heroic spandex on his ninety-fifth birthday, he didn’t talk to anyone unless they called him Clark. Two weeks later he collapsed at the copier and rode an ambulance to the hospital.

Admirers came, and sometimes he was alert enough to speak with them. Batman stumbled in on a walker. The Caped Crusader told him Spiderman lay in a nursing home with bedsores from neglect, the Green Lantern wore Depends, and Wonder Woman’s closet was full of pointy bras she’d never need again. He enjoyed Batman’s visit, but it tired him. All the celebrities and fans tired him. When Obama arrived, he turned his face to the wall. Superman instructed the hospital to bar all further visits. Superman, he told them to say, was having a bad day.

At the end the Man of Steel found no peace. The Man of Tomorrow didn’t take ‘er easy. The Strange Visitor from Another Planet couldn’t chill. Thing was, he left no legacy. There were no super kids to follow in his footsteps, and he would shortly be forgotten. It wasn’t for want of trying. Lois the lesbian had checked his advances, and then for a brief time, without any protection, and only to perpetuate his name, he had been as Wilt Chamberlain to all comers. But that was years ago, and he had heard of no youths running 3-second miles or leaping over buildings. Had he shot blanks? Was his seed incompatible with the earthly egg? Were all these human hags barren?

Dozing, Superman felt an unfamiliar presence. Opening his eyes, he found a large youth standing in his semi-private room. Brown-skinned and badly overweight, he had that signature ringlet of hair hanging over his forehead. Could it be? He was saying something. Superman thought he heard “I flew here as soon as I got word, dad.” But was this really his offspring, or some con artist trying to get his hands on Kent’s pension and the royalties to I Am Superman?

He waved the young man to his bedside. The lad waddled over. Then the Patient of Steel, with his last strength, grabbed the four-foot, 75-pound green oxygen tank by his bedside and smacked the kid’s cranium with it like Bonds hitting a homer. The guy’s head came right off.

No son of mine, thought Superman, and died.


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