In early 1999, the Executive Director of the the Doris Day Animal League, where I worked as Director of Communications, asked me to produce a comic book promoting humane values to children for DDAL’s sister organization, the Doris Day Animal Foundation. As the newly appointed Director for this program, which I named Comics for Compassion, I reasoned that a message from some never-before-heard-of “Captain Be Kind to Animals” character of my own creation would not have the same impact as one delivered by an established superhero. Therefore, I suggested that we approach DC Comics about getting Superman to be our spokesperson.
I contacted DC Comics and the next thing I knew, I was living a fanboy’s dream*–actually sitting in the company’s New York City headquarters, discussing the details of commissioning a custom comic book in which the Man of Steel would promote our message to young readers. Even harder to believe was the creative team that was chosen for the comic book: writer Mark Millar and artists Tom Grummett and Dick Giordano.
Superman for the Animals was published on January 12, 2000 (I based the title on an environmental-themed comic book DC had published in 1991, Superman for the Earth). I had offered enough input to the story during scripting that I was actually credited as Creative Consultant in the comic book (it was my idea for Superman to save the cat who was thrown off a bridge by some kids, which became the scene depicted on the cover). DDAF commissioned 75,000 copies and DC polybagged about 16,000 of those as a free bonus with a number of kid-friendly comics titles they released that same week. Over the next year or so, I distributed the remaining copies to parents, teachers, scout leaders, and humane educators across the country. After I had given away DDAF’s last copy, we decided to approach Marvel Comics about our next Comics for Compassion project.
* Another high point of this process was getting to go to the annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, to meet guest of honor Alex Ross. I went there to discuss the possibility of the Comics for Compassion program using one of his paintings (it was the frontispiece he did, featuring an elder Superman and the Legion of Super Pets, for the Graffiti Designs limited slipcase edition of Kingdom Come). Ultimately, DC Comics only gave us permission to use it as part of a presentation we made to other animal protection organizations soliciting their sponsorship to help pay the production and publishing costs of the comic book.