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Happy Miracle Monday: The Day Superman Defeated Satan

If you’ve been feeling a little happier than usual today, or didn’t want to go into work because you were filled with a sense of contentment and relief and you just don’t know why, there’s a reason for that: It’s the Third Monday in May, or as it’s known in the DC Universe, Miracle Monday!

If you’ve never heard of one of ComicsAlliance’s favorite holidays, however, there’s a reason for that. It’s a pretty obscure bit of Superman lore that even in the comics isn’t widely celebrated until the far future — which is one of the reasons I like it so much, since “a holiday from the future” is automatically better than any tother day that doesn’t involve getting presents. As to why we celebrate it, well, it’s something that no one in the story actually remembers. Pretty surprising, considering that it commemorates the time that Superman saved the world by conquering a demon.Miracle Monday first appeared in a 1981 novel of the same name by the legendary comic book writer Elliot S! Maggin, and is one of the few credits where his middle initial isn’t followed by his signature exclamation point. It’s the second of two Superman novels — a follow-up to 1978′s also-awesome Last Son of Krypton — that were ostensibly released to capitalize on the popularity of the Superman movies. Really though, despite the presence of 8 pages of black and white photos of Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Terence Stamp, Miracle Monday doesn’t really have much to do with the movies.

Instead, it’s a prose version of Superman at his Bronze Age best, and stands as one of the all-time best Superman stories ever printed in any medium.

The plot focuses on a character named Kristen Wells, a historian from the 29th Century — the year 2857, to be exact — who travels back in time and goes undercover at the Daily Planet in order to discover the origins of Miracle Monday.

Of course, in true comic book time travel fashion, Wells ends up becoming a critical part of the holiday herself. A demon named C.W. Saturn — released by Lex Luthor when he dabbles in magic and acting on the orders of the Ruler of Hell — possesses Wells and unleashes hellish power all across the world, pushing Superman to the limit with threats that are both outlandish and genuinely sinister…

….culminating in forcing Superman to physically stop a nuclear war, and then exposing his identity as Clark Kent to the world.

His goal is to force Superman to stop him by killing Wells, taking an innocent life and destroying everything he stands for. But the beautify of Miracle Monday as a story is that Superman is never for a second conflicted about whether or not he should take this action. The idea of Superman killing someone is, as the man himself says, nonsense:

Superman explaining that he’ll always be there to stop evil to a living embodiment of evil, and doing it like he’s trying to break down the simplest fact for a child, is an amazing bit of writing. And of course, in the story, when faced with someone who is truly unshakable in his convictions and willing to to sacrifice his life to do nothing but wage that never-ending battle, Saturn’s hold on Wells is broken, and Superman is granted a wish.

As you might expect, Superman’s wish is to make everything like it was, undoing all the suffering Saturn caused, restoring the lives he took, and (conveniently) getting his secret identity back. As a result, no one other than Superman and Wells remember exactly what happened. Everyone just remembers how relieved and happy they are on the third Monday in May, and they commemorate it every year.

It’s an amazing character study of how Superman works, and it also introduces some great ideas into they larger mythos of the character — like time traveling historians crowding into the woods, shushing each other and trying not to be seen when the Kents find the rocket from Krypton, which is hilarious.

The holiday itself was very rarely mentioned in the actual comics — it shows up as a celebration in the future in Superman #400 — and while the book is long out of print, I’ve seen boxes full of copies selling for a dollar each at conventions, so it’s not hard at all to find. It’s well worth picking up.

Happy Miracle Monday, everybody!

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