Back in the mid 1980’s, DC decided to reboot its SUPERMAN character; giving it to John Byrne to write and illustrate. This created an odd situation concerning the existing SUPERMAN continuity and books in the pipeline. One of those titles was DC COMICS PRESENTS in which SUPERMAN had traditionally appeared with another DC character. The title was cancelled and editor Julie Schwartz gave the final issue to Steve Gerber to write. I got the assignment to pencil. I don’t think anyone in publishing or editorial gave a hoot what was in it.
With no one paying attention, Steve turned in an absolutely nutty script in which the Phantom Zone was revealed to be a living being made of of billions of dead souls. I don’t know what was going on with Steve at the time, but it was written in a wildly disjointed style: “Again the self is pierced and again and again–and the begin time is now and now is the begin time and the else-ones multiply like– HATE! Fingers (what are fingers) gouging (what is gouging?) into faces (what are faces?) into–COWARDS! WHY DID YOU PUT US TO DEATH? …death was the begin time…” and came in pieces; three or four pages at a time. Julie was fretting, Steve wasn’t returning his phone calls and the whole project was wildly late so I hammered the pencils out in record time so Bob Smith could get them inked.
I never got to meet Steve, so I don’t know if he was consciously referencing the Jungian SELF in his depiction of the Phantom Zone, but the connection is unmistakable with his Phantom Zone SELF being a gigantic heart shaped diamond, and I played it up as time allowed. Since it wasn’t my finest hour in terms of the art job, I thought I’d never see the story again, but yesterday I received comp copies from DC for a SUPERMAN VS ZOD tpb that includes it. And Amazon.com is showing a special Steve Gerber collection from DC that uses it as well. Good news for me, as DC does a fine job of paying royalties on old Work For Hire material. And good news for Steve Gerber fans. As crazy as the script was (and as rushed as my part was) I think the story was direct from Steve’s heart.