The latest issue of Batman/Superman that dropped this week was good. I really like the idea of this arc, presenting Superman with a villain so personal and vile as to be his equivalent to the Joker. It’s actually an interesting concept that brings a Batman element over to Superman, giving both of the characters a new point of reference with each other. Greg Pak is writing a book where he has both characters’ voices down and now he’s really starting to experiment with them by seeing what applies to both characters and what can apply that hasn’t been tried out yet. Adrian Syaf is also drawing a pretty good looking book with interesting action scenes without neglecting the character acting angle. The problem with this issue is something so absolutely minor that it shouldn’t even matter. That’s the trick of this, though, because it does matter.
They killed Regan.
Regan is a character that before this issue had only appeared in All-Star Superman #10 as a young woman ready to attempt suicide only for Superman to dissuade her by reminding her just how strong she really is. He doesn’t forcibly stop her. He just tells her the truth: her psychiatrist was on his way to meet her and she’s stronger than she thinks she is. When they hug, you can feel a strong sense of catharsis that even now is bringing tears to my eyes when writing about it. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely may have produced the best and most important page of comics that I have and will ever see.
So when I’m reading a Superman comic and the name Regan shows up, it has an added sense of weight to it. In Batman/Superman #17, the mysterious villain preying on Superman has targeted three people, only one of which he is able to save, whose lives were saved by him in order to hurt him. I think this was handled well. There’s a lot of talk about the effects that deaths in certain places can have on the world and how part of Superman’s job is finding a way to console/pacify people during trying times through his presence. One of the targets was a high-ranking official in the fictional middle-eastern country of Kahndaq and Superman is shown taking action after his death to preserve the peace he spent his lifetime working for. The other target that was executed was a young pop star and Superman attends a vigil held in her honor. The only problem is that Greg Pak decided to make that character’s name Felicity Regan.
It’s not just the name, this Regan is specified as a young woman whose suicide was prevented by Superman. We find out that the resilience that Superman’s assurance brought her helped Regan to become an international pop star that helped positively shape the lives of young people with similar depressive disorders. A character mentions her daughter going off her meds and keeping knives after hearing of Regan’s death. This was clearly a character that had a massive impact on the world in which she inhabited. However, her role was bigger than that and that’s what makes this decision so tone-deaf.
It could have been any other name of any other person whose life was positively impacted by Superman. Instead, Greg Pak did the smart writer’s trick of picking a name that would allow readers to bring in their own emotional attachment in order to enhance the material. It’s a smart decision before you look at the reality of killing Regan. As someone who deals with depression and has been suicidal, Regan’s story helped me a lot. It was this perfect little capsule of all the love and care that Superman has for humanity and it continually inspires me to do better and to be better. It’s done this for a lot of people as you can tell from it being one of the most widely circulated pages of
a Superman any comic since its release. You can just google “Regan All-Star Superman” and read the testimony of people that have been positively impacted by this perfect, life-affirming page. This page and these characters have prevented actual suicides and shaped the world in a real, lasting way.
Killing Regan tugs at the heartstrings because readers familiar with the character will have that attachment but it would have done that anyway without the name because the writing of that sequence was so strong. All that’s really been done is lessen a perfect moment. It’s my genuine fear that the next time I read All-Star Superman that I won’t be reminded of the resilience within me that has been bolstered by that page. Instead, I may reach the page and remember, “Oh yeah, she’s dead now.” And to reduce such an important, life-changing character like that to another point of continuity, another woman fridged to further a man’s pain, is something I just can’t wrap my head around.
I would like to emphasize that this is not a call to harass creators. Greg Pak has proven himself to be a great writer and a good person. He does not belong at the wrong end of a smear campaign.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please seek help. You can call this number at anytime for assistance: 1-800-273-8255