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Author Topic: Superman in the Silver Age  (Read 110159 times)
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Aldous
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« Reply #64 on: March 07, 2004, 04:11:44 AM »

Quote from: "Osgood Peabody"
That is a milestone story, Aldous, and I recall reading it when it was reprinted in the back of Superman #241 (the penultimate "Sand-Creature" issue).  I think it is the first time Clark's home address is mentioned, and almost certainly inspired the '70s "Private Life of Clark Kent" feature.


It's interesting that "Superman's Neighbors" was probably the inspiration for "The Private Life of Clark Kent". I've been a little remiss, as there are at least a couple of "Private Life" stories that I really like, but I've never posted about them.

I don't own that penultimate "Sand-Creature" issue, Osgood. I have the "Ultimate Battle" of course, but so much of the saga is missing from my collection. A high-quality, unaltered reprint, trade paperback is -- as we have said before -- LONG OVERDUE!
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Aldous
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« Reply #65 on: March 07, 2004, 04:32:55 AM »

I had a feeling I'd once commented on Len Wein's 1970s update of "Superman's Neighbors," and I was right -- on page 9 of the DCMB SUPERMAN IN THE 70s thread.

Quote
[5 Feb 2002]

Superman #246. "Danger--Monster At Work." Writer, Len Wein.

Someone elsewhere on the boards said Clark was a wimp till Dean Cain's version. I'll come back to this.

I've always been a really big fan of Len Wein. An awful lot of stories of his are favourites of mine, including a great saga in The Amazing Spider-Man - and definitely including his work on Superman (amongst other things).

In this issue, Len Wein tells a neat little story about some weird algae that wanders outside its brief...

The "super-menace" part of the tale is almost a throwaway incident. Where Len Wein really lays down some depth is when he introduces Clark's neighbours. This is not the first story to investigate the people down the hall, but it is a welcome update.

(I think all the neighbours in this story appeared here for the first time. On the 5th page of the story, Clark passes Xavier's door - "Strange--he's my next-door neighbour--but in all the time he's been a tenant, we've never met!")

Mrs Goldstein along the hall tries to play matchmaker between Clark (whom she adores) and her neice, Esther.

Then Clark (a distinctly un-wimpy Clark) drops in on a sort of "Neighbourhood Watch" meeting in the Lewis apartment.

Not only is Clark un-wimpy, he is downright manly and assertive. He disagrees with the position his collective neighbours are taking on an issue, and he stands up to all of them, coming off as a sort of parent-figure.

At the conclusion of the story, Clark's position is proved to be right, and he leaves his slightly wiser neighbours with a scathing remark.

I watched some of the classic Superman (George Reeves) TV episodes as a very young kid, and although I was too small to remember it very well now (certain scenes play at the edges of my memory like a fading dream), I have the impression that Reeves' Kent was much more like the manly Wein version than the wimpy style.

Like I said above, Len Wein lays down a bit of depth in this story, and fleshes out a bit of Clark's private life (ie. the part of his life when he's not "working," whether as Clark Kent the newsman or Superman the superhero).

Good job, Len.


Did the "Private Life of Clark Kent" feature begin after Len Wein's story?

That page of the old 70s thread is quite interesting, with posts from India Ink, BuddyBlank, and Osgood Peabody.
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Osgood Peabody
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« Reply #66 on: March 07, 2004, 05:50:57 PM »

Yes, Aldous - the Private Life of Clark Kent series began in the very next issue - #247 - with a story by Denny O'Neil called "When on Earth...".   It would then begin alternating as the back-up with "Fabulous World of Krypton" for many years.

From the first page of the series: "For the first time...a glimpse at the man behind the mild-mannered facade of the gentleman reporter!  When he's not being the mighty Superman -- what is he being?  For an answer, treat yourself to this initial tale in a new series that shows the drama...the excitement...and the humanity of The Private Life of Clark Kent."

The sequence of events seems too close together to be coincidental -- "Superman's Neighbors" reprinted in #241 -- Len Wein introduces some of Clark's neighbors in #246, and the series begins in #247.
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Continental Op
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« Reply #67 on: March 21, 2004, 09:43:55 PM »

Did you know that Superman once married a woman who WAS NOT Lois Lane… and that they had a son? That his adopted homeworld was devastated by nuclear holocaust, after he was sent there from Krypton? It’s all true… NOT a hoax, or a dream, or an “imaginary story”… like it or not! Why don’t I tell you about his...


"100 Years... Lost, Strayed or Stolen!"

ACTION COMICS #370 (December, 1968)

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Jack Abel
Cover: Carmine Infantino (layouts) and Neal Adams (inks)

*******

Over the course of four straight nights, our hero suffers through a mysterious nightmare… whether he’s sleeping in his apartment as Clark Kent, or in his Fortress of Solitude as Superman. This nightmare is always the same, and though he remembers its strangely alien surroundings only vaguely, it always begins AND ends with a very familiar object: the miniature rocket ship which carried him to Earth as a baby from the planet Krypton. Determined to learn the source of his recurring torment, Superman journeys again to the Fortress, to analyze the preserved remains of the rocket with his ultra-advanced scientific equipment. He feels an odd compulsion to test the age of its Kryptonian metal… and is astonished to learn that the rocket is actually more than one full century old!

“I was in that rocket during the entire journey from KRYPTON to Earth… yet I’M not a hundred years old!”, states the super-master of the obvious. “And my nightmares of people and events of another world—how are THEY tied in with this? Will I ever solve this mystery?”

The narrator of this tale helpfully provides us with a response to this query:

NO-- there is no way for SUPERMAN to find the answer! But YOU will, reader! Sit  back, as we unravel the most baffling, fantastic story ever told about the MAN OF STEEL-- a story HE will NEVER know!”

Decades in the past, we see baby Kal-El launched from the exploding planet Krypton in his tiny rocket. Somehow, the shockwaves generated by the planetary cataclysm affect the properties of a nearby space-warp, which pulls in the miniature spacecraft, depositing  it instead into another, much different universe than the one where Krypton had existed.

The rocket streaks down to the surface of a planet, where it is witnessed by a group of primitive but human-like people, who see it as a bolt of fire from the sky. Gliding down onto the waters of a nearby lake, the rocket and its young passenger float for hours, until several of the cave-dwelling people fashion a crude raft and paddle out to investigate. Taking the alien child’s arrival as an omen from their gods, one of these tribesmen brings it to his mate, who lovingly takes it in her arms. Thus, the young Kal-El is adopted by the couple, Thol and Krya, to be raised as one of the tribe.

Somehow, due to the properties of this other universe, the baby has no super-powers, and is as vulnerable to harm as an ordinary mortal. The cave-couple’s natural daughter, Ruoa, is nonetheless very jealous of this new baby from the stars and the attention he receives from her parents. Soon, at a tribal ceremony, the Elder-Prophet of the tribe proclaims that the baby will be named Sonn… the Star-Child!

Years pass, and Sonn is now ten years of age. Incredibly, his environment now resembles the ancient Roman Empire of Earth. Sonn and his adoptive father now wear togas instead of animal-skins, and stride down wide avenues with columned temples and majestic statues. Thol marvels at how much progress his people have made in the eight short years since Sonn arrived.  But just then…

GODZILLA ATTACKS!!

Uh, not exactly Godzilla. But it is a huge, rampaging reptile-creature, firing beams of energy from its eyes at the crowds below! “By the moons of VISI!”, cries Thol. “A DEVIL-DRAGON is loose in the streets! Its dreaded EYE-BLASTS can turn a person evil for LIFE!”

The adventurous young Sonn reasons that he makes a smaller target, and tries to distract the beast by running past it, dodging its ocular energy attacks. Sonn has great agility, and manages to climb right up the creature’s scaly back, until he reaches the one weak spot it has, at the very top of its head. Putting all his strength into one blow, he manages to strike it dead, and survive as it collapses to the street below. A grateful crowd gathers around to praise him, relieved that no one was struck by the dragon’s evil-beams. But someone WAS!

Unseen by all, Sonn’s now-teenaged sister, Ruoa, was struck by the evil-enhancing energy. Her jealousy has been magnified into sheer hatred of her adoptive brother. Now she swears to devote all her life to tormenting and eventually killing him.

As time continues to pass, the inhabitants of this world begin to master machinery, and before long, early 20th Century-style automobiles are putting away down streets lined with gaslit lamps. Eventually, the world passes modern day Earth in its technology, and huge skyscrapers are built across the now-futuristic planet.  

The Star-Child has become a young adult.  By this time, he even wears an outfit that is similar to the one he is destined to wear as Superman, right down to the red cape and a symbol resembling the English letter “S” (for “Sonn”) worn across the chest of his blue shirt. (His orange-striped pants keep the coincidence from being complete, though still pretty hard to swallow.)

His secretly-evil sister still remains determined to humiliate him. One day, she presents her brother with a new pair of boots as a gift, and demands that he try them on ...right out in the middle of the street. Once he has them on, she whips out a remote activation device, and the boots emit jet-propelled force that sends him soaring uncontrollably into the sky. Sonn zooms through the air, between the skyscrapers of the futuristic metropolis, unable to direct the path of the jet-boots. But suddenly, he sees a young boy fall out of a nearby window and plunge towards the street. Concentrating all his willpower and amazing coordination, the flying Kryptonian manages to take over the direction of the jet-boots, and swoop beneath the boy to catch him in his arms... just in time. He even gains enough control to perch the kid on top of his shoulders and take him for a fun sky-ride over the city! As she spots her hated brother and the overjoyed child flying overhead, Ruoa is enraged. Instead of making her brother look like a fool, she has made him into a super-hero!

Later, Sonn visits his father, Thol (apparently now the leading scientist of this world), in his laboratory. After finishing a thorough scientific examination of his adopted son, the aged Thol has a startling revelation. He tells Sonn that he has found “a field of unique radiation emanating from your body! This proves my theory!”

“25 years ago, when we found you, we were a primitive, barbaric people! Now, just a generation later, our civilization has advanced to the brink of MANNED SPACE TRAVEL!”

“You CAUSED it! The unknown energy your body keeps radiating has permeated our WHOLE WORLD! It has speeded up our MENTAL EVOLUTION to an INCREDIBLE extent! As long as you live, son, we’ll keep on advancing! Who knows how far we’ll progress!”

Once the rest of the world learns that it was Sonn who made all their technological wonders possible, he becomes a world-wide celebrity. Crowds cheer him on as a ticker tape parade is thrown in his honor. Soon after, he marries a beautiful young woman named Lasil, in an elaborate ceremony where the priest joins them symbolically with a linked golden chain. The former Star-Child only gets more and more popular, until years later, he runs for Proctoror of his nation, and is elected in a landslide. Sonn, Lasil and their young son Vol go to live the White Estate as their new official home.

Through it all, Ruoa is still obsessed with destroying her brother. In a hidden laboratory, she manages to isolate a “living element, based on the energy emitted by the devil-dragons”. She plans to use it in gaseous form to infect the entire planet, turning it from a paradise of Sonn’s making into a world of hellish evil.

Almost as if it were alive, the element suddenly ruptures its storage tank and flows out before she is ready to release it. With no time to escape, Ruoa is saturated by its full power, and collapses to the floor. Even as she lies dying, she is content that the world will soon grow wicked, and Sonn will be the one to suffer worst.

The vile element spreads across the entire planet, bringing greed, aggression and strife wherever there had been none before. Neighbors fight with neighbors, criminal gangs form to prey on merchants, and the leaders of the military declare wars.

Finally, the living evil has done its work so well that a horrible nuclear holocaust erupts, and whole cities are vaporized by atomic fire.

Sonn goes on television to broadcast to the wounded dregs of society that are still left, appealing for an end to the senseless violence. But no one will listen… the people now resent him as a meddling alien, and hate him for making possible the weapons that caused so much death. A crazed mob chases Sonn through the ruins, and he realizes that trying to reason with anyone is useless. When he tries to sneak back to the White Estate, he is horrified to see his wife and son captured by a vigilante mob.

Truly alone, Sonn is forced to wander the world as the ultimate outcast, hunted day and night as a fugitive by greedy mobs with attack dogs. He spends more than forty long years on the run, becoming a decrepit, starving old man. His colorful costume is in tatters, and he clings feebly to life, until one day he has no more strength to go on.

Trying to make his way in search of food, Sonn collapses to the ground in the desolate wilderness. But then a hovering search-craft appears overhead and lands nearby. The man who emerges and runs up to him is not an enemy… instead, it is his now middle-aged son, Vol, who lifts him tenderly into the hovercraft and brings him back to a secret laboratory.

Sonn awakens to find Vol strapping him into a strange glass-enclosed chamber. He recognizes Vol and calls out to his offspring.

“Yes, dad! Don’t try to talk!”, answers Vol. “If my apparatus functions properly, you and our civilization will get a second chance! Because I’m your son, I was IMMUNE to the evil that overran the world! My scientific know-how has advanced enough for me to create this REJUVENATION BOOTH! It will make you YOUNGER! And as it does so, our civilization will DEVOLVE at the same time!”

Vol activates the machine, and within moments Sonn has been reduced to a crying infant. “Don’t cry, Dad! I haven’t much time!” says Vol, knowing that his mind will soon devolve as well. He brings the Kryptonian infant into the next room, where the miniature rocket that brought him to this world is ready to be launched again. It had been saved all these years, including the blankets within, and Vol has restored and refueled it. He places his de-aged father within, and says his final goodbyes as he sends it roaring into the night sky outside. Vol hopes that it will reach its original destination, as those left behind on this world can evolve again, at their own rate.

The rocket flies back through the space-warp and emerges into its native universe. But Vol has already all but lost his once great intelligence. He stares out of his crumbling laboratory and mumbles “Father gone! He ride to sky in great metal arrow!”

The child who was once called  both Kal-El and Sonn, the Star-Child, descends to the planet earth in his rocket, as his true father Jor-El had planned. But how can this be, after a lifetime has passed him?

“Simple… time is DIFFERENT in the other universe… a YEAR there is roughly equivalent to a MINUTE here… so, after less than TWO hours in the space-warp, little KAL lands near SMALLVILLE… to be found by the Kents…”

As these two passing motorists see the rocket crash to Earth nearby, we learn that for Superman this is…

THE END… AND THE BEGINNING!













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Aldous
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« Reply #68 on: March 27, 2004, 04:30:00 AM »

I can't put my finger on exactly why, but that seems like an unusual story for Cary Bates to write. I have never read the comic, but I enjoyed your review. I'm trying to picture the Swan/Abel art... I'm not such a great fan of Jack Abel, and I'm trying to think of other examples of when he inked Swan.

But it's an interesting adventure, and it does beg the question:

Once the Man of Steel has tired of a long career here, and Lois has lost her youthful attractiveness, should he move on to yet another dimensional world where he can make a fresh start? You know, he figured that world was his true home... He thinks the same of Earth, of course. But maybe he's still not quite where he's meant to be, and he's simply marking time (without knowing it) on this primitive, warlike little globe...

There's also a continuity blip to consider... Why did the rocket age more than a hundred years...? By rights it should have aged an extra couple of hours at most...
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India Ink
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« Reply #69 on: March 27, 2004, 07:41:40 PM »

I have read that story--not when it was published, but more recently, having gotten a back issue of it.

It's a grand failure.  You can see Bates pushing himself, trying to come up with a way to tell stories about Superman that go beyond the regular set of Metropolis stories.

It's more like a trial run for some of the better Bates stories.
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India Ink
Aldous
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« Reply #70 on: March 27, 2004, 09:59:34 PM »

The retro, post-Krypton/pre-Earth origin stories are tricky to pull off. You can't just dash them off willy-nilly.

You've touched on a reason why I think I like "Super-Showdown at Buzzard Gulch" so much. It's Cary Bates going "beyond the regular set" of Metropolis, but in such a way that Superman retains his entire supporting cast, cleverly transposed, in pretty much their traditional roles.
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India Ink
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« Reply #71 on: March 28, 2004, 12:41:28 AM »

In a lot of ways Cary Bates was like Alan Moore--but without the fannish adulation of millions.  Like Moore he wanted to push the concept, to see how far he could stretch it and what he could do with it.  He didn't totally tear it apart--the way a Frank Miller of John Byrne might do--he just wanted to open up the possibilities.

In doing so he sometimes broke the rules.  There are rules that can be broken and there are rules that can't be broken.

A rule that shouldn't be broken for Superman: violating the basic structure of the origin story.  The origin depends on its simple structure--easily understood and related.  It can be added to at both ends--what happened before the fateful Krypton day/night when Jor-El sent Kal-El off in a rocket ship from the exploding planet (stories of Jor and Lara as young lovers are okay--Jor flying off the planet and visiting Earth between his visit to the Science Council and actually launching the rocket wouldn't be okay)--or what happened after the rocket landed on Earth (Einstein getting a message from Jor-El is okay, but Kal-El's rocket being discovered by Russian scientists and the baby being studied in a secret lab before the rocket and child are returned to that farmer's field for Ma and Pa to find wouldn't be okay).

There were stories which added to the reasons why Krypton exploded--like some renegade scientist planted a bomb at the planet's core.  In my view these were wrong because, the essence of the origin is that Jor-El is a wise and noble scientist who knows the truth, though everyone else but Lara doubts him.  If the reasons for Krypton exploding are not as Jor-El thought, then Jor-El isn't so wise--he isn't the guardian of truth.

I believe there were one or two stories that fiddled with why Barry got his Flash powers--like the thunderbolt was actually some extraterrestrial imp.  This also is wrong.  Some embellishments to origins are okay--Batman's father wearing a bat costume to a masquerade party--others are wrong--Batman having a mentally challenged brother who was put in an institution by his parents.

One of the reasons why the Bates addition to Kal-El's journey is wrong is that it must never be mentioned again.  If every time a writer thereafter had to relate the Superman origin by mentioning the fact that on its way the rocket went to this other planet, yada yada, it would violate the simplicity of the origin.  Therefore it can't be mentioned--therefore the story is apocryphal and trivial.
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India Ink
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