It is impossible to appreciate the significance of Superman/Batman #26 without knowing the story behind its creation. 26 of the most popular and talented writers and artists in comics today collaborated on this story written by Sam Loeb, the son of comic writer Jeph Loeb. Creators like Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Michael Turner, and Brad Meltzer are just some of the industry giants who worked to make Sam’s story into a beautiful reality. Sam had created this story while struggling with a rare form of bone cancer and tragically passed away before the issue was completed. Superman/Batman #26 stands as a tribute to the seventeen-year-old who was taken far too soon.
The issue focuses on Robin following the death of Superboy. The grief-stricken Boy Wonder is remembering an adventure in which he and Superboy had been sent to find the new Toyman, only to be caught in a dangerous labyrinth filled with robots. Different writers and artists worked on various sections of the story and the shifting artistic styles reflect the changing levels that Superboy and Robin ascend as they work their way through the maze. As the story develops, the complex nature of Superboy and Robin’s friendship is explored. Just as the series as a whole explores the relationship of Superman and Batman, this singular issue clearly illustrates the bond that unites their two younger counterparts. Robin and Superboy are friends and family, superheroes and peers, and the loss of Superboy is something that will be a part of the Robin character from this point on.
Superman/Batman #26 concludes with a 6 page story, written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Tim Sale, called “Sam’s Story.” This deeply moving story is about a young boy named Sam who was friends with Clark Kent back in Smallville. Sam has cancer and despite the ordeal of his serious illness, he never gives up hope and remains the one person “...who could make Clark laugh.” Sale’s artwork captures all the sorrow of Sam’s death while highlighting the hope and positive attitude that Sam kept with him always. It is powerful and inspiring and truly comics at its finest.
Superman/Batman #26 is significant for all of the reasons mentioned above but it is also emblematic of another aspect of the culture of comics. This didn’t become clear until I learned from the owner of the comic book store I shop at that DC comics had decided that all the proceeds of the sales of Superman/Batman #26 would go to the Sam Loeb College Fund, a fund set up to help aspiring writers. Jeph Loeb had called hundreds of comic stores and asked them to up their orders to help support the charity. The owner of Waterfront Comics complied by increasing his orders to 150 issues. Many of the customers purchased several copies to help show their support. It was then that it occurred to me that comics, more so then any other medium, form a community. There is an accessible line between company, creators, retailers, and fans that is rare in the entertainment world. Superman/Batman #26 is a physical manifestation of the link that connects all of the people who are involved with the medium and like a community, when one of us hurts, we all hurt.
It is impossible to understand Superman/Batman #26 without knowing the full story. This is not just a comic, but a symbol. In both the DC universe and the real world, it represents the sadness of lost friends and the heroic nature of those who can still find hope despite illness. It shows that when someone is sick, 26 creators and thousands of fans can come together as a community and family and be a part of Sam’s story.