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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Last updated: June 10, 2002
Superman first encountered the Eradicator in Action Comics Annual #2 (1989) during his captivity on Warworld (since story and art are shared by the entire Super-team at the time, I'm not going to indicate who wrote or drew particular issues. A trade paperback collection on the Eradicator's origins is available as Superman: Eradication! The Origin of the Eradicator.)
In Krypton's ancient past, an alien called the Cleric arrived to seek converts to his beliefs. The Cleric denounced the Kryptonian practice of using clones for spare parts, arguing that cloning does not replicate the soul and that each clone was a living being, entitled to life.
To fight the Cleric and his growing movement, the Kryptonian ruling class created a weapon called the Eradicator. The device had a golden, multi-finned base and four prongs which arose to grasp a blue orb above.
When used against the Cleric, the device emitted a beam that caused him great pain, although it did not kill him. However, when the Kryptonian using it manipulated the controls incorrectly, it caused a massive explosion.
After the devastation, the Cleric gained control of the Eradicator. Shortly afterwards, he and his followers left Krypton on his space ark, bringing the device along. Tragically and horribly, all Kryptonians died as the craft left the planet. Only afterwards did the Cleric discover a genetic link which tied the Kryptonians to their planet. In shame and guilt, the Cleric retreated into self-imposed exile, keeping the Eradicator with him.
Two hundred thousand years later, the Cleric becomes aware of Superman's presence on Warworld. The two begin to share a strange mental connection and an exchange of memories. When the Eradicator shows the Cleric that Mongul is about to kill Superman, the Cleric yells, "No! That must not happen! ... He must be saved!" The Cleric, believing the Eradicator is nothing more than a weapon, is shocked when the device transports Superman to the Cleric's asteroid (Superman #32).
The Cleric says that he has felt a change within the device and, in Adventures of Superman #455, he adds that, "now I see it to be something more -- a protector of Krypton's sole heir!" In Superman #33, he says that, "The ancient Kryptonians did develop the Eradicator for use as a weapon, but the forces contained within changed it. It has evolved into something much more! I believe it to be responsible for preserving my life over the ages... despite the darkness of my soul."
The Cleric convinces Superman to let the device heal our weary hero of his own burden (for the execution of the Phantom Zone criminals). He tells Superman to hold the device and "let it see your soul". Superman had previously used the device to transform his gladiator's outfit into his Superman uniform. Using it again, Superman and the Cleric link with each other and together relive their darkest moments. The psychic journey heals both men and the Cleric passes the device into Superman's care. As he hands over the Eradicator, the Cleric collapses, his body aging until he passes away.
Fortresses And Phantoms
When Superman returns to Earth, the Eradicator causes a number of strange incidents. In Action Comics #643, it causes a massive, silent explosion when Matrix handles it. It also creates a mental link between the two (leading to a confrontation between Matrix and Superman in Action Comics #644). The Eradicator also genetically alters Jimmy Olsen's DNA to cause him to stretch uncontrollably and painfully (Adventures of Superman #458). Two items of note about this issue are the homage to the Silver Age Olsen's occasional super-hero career as Elastic Lad and the start of Dan Jurgens' stint as a regular writer on the series.
Jurgens further explores the powers and history of the Eradicator in Adventures of Superman #459-461. The Eradicator causes more destruction when Professor Hamilton tries to examine it. Superman, deciding that the device must be placed far from human hands, drops it into a crevice in the Antarctic. But as he flies away, the device activates itself.
In Adventures of Superman #460, the device creates the Fortress of Solitude under the Antarctic ice. It co-opts two scientists, mind controlling them into acting as Kryptonians, and it begins drawing Kryptonian artifacts through a portal connected to a "Phantom Zone".
Superman links with the Eradicator and learns that it was created by one of his ancestors, Kem-L, to keep Krypton pure from alien influences. In a memory flashback, Superman hears Kem-L explain, "The Eradicator will ultimately bind every soul to Krypton -- slowly establishing by genetic manipulation a common element in our race's genetic matrix. Bluntly, if a Kryptonian should leave this planet he will die. Conversely no offworlder will be able to survive here. Once the device is activated -- this will be the way."
Into this interactive memory, Superman meets the Cleric again and learns of the device's goal to "eradicate all life save Kryptonian life." The Eradicator is introducing machinery and genetic material to convert Earth into a New Krypton. When Superman tries to interfere, the Eradicator takes control of his mind also -- causing him to temporarily forget about the device.
In Adventures of Superman #461, a chat with Professor Hamilton restores Superman's memory and he returns to the Fortress with a vengeance. Deciding to stop the material coming from the dimensional portal, Superman enters the Phantom Zone and meets a 'phantom' Kem-L (who describes himself as a holographic manifestation of his long-dead consciousness which was recorded by the Eradicator -- but I prefer 'phantom' because, well, it's shorter).
Kem-L explains that the Eradicator is programmed so that one family line - the House of El -- is able to control it, as they are genetically linked to the Eradicator. (Alright students, we need a volunteer from the House of El. Anyone? Anyone? How about you, Kal?)
Kem-L explains that the reason Superman has been unable to control the Eradicator so far is that he must first undergo a Kryptonian rite of passage. Passing through a vortex in the Phantom Zone, Superman is transported to Krypton's past, to meet his genetic parents moments after they have launched his rocket towards Earth.
After a brief introduction, Jor-El assists him in completing the rite - which has Superman use a ceremonial headband for a type of vision-quest to confront his savage and civilized natures until the latter triumphs.
The meeting with his parents is brief. Lara is horrified by her son's barbaric appearance, although Jor-El is quicker to accept him. Soon, Kal-El fades back to the Phantom Zone and returns to the Fortress of Solitude. This time when Superman commands the Eradicator to leave Earth alone, the device shuts itself down -- becoming just another artifact on display in the Fortress.
Day Of The Krypton Man
Life returns to normal for the Man of Steel (at least as normal as it gets for him) for several months. During this period, Clark Kent leaves his job at the Daily Planet to be managing editor for Newstime's weekly magazine. Then the Eradicator returns again to haunt Superman in the six-part story arc titled, "The Day Of The Krypton Man".
In Part I (Superman #41 - the parts are all numbered with Roman numerals), Clark is acting strangely and noticeably out of character. He refuses to see a troubled Jimmy and has his secretary lie for him. He refers to Ma Kent as "Mother" and continues to be cold and aloof when he reluctantly attends a birthday party for Lana.
Since just having Superman act like your favorite pointy-eared Vulcan would be boring, the story tosses in a number of different elements to spice things up. In Part II (Adventures of Superman #464) Lobo and his new pal Bibbo drop into the Fortress, leading to a grand old slugfest. Maxima serves much the same function in Part III (Action Comics #651). Both issues show that the Eradicator is changing Superman. Even his outfit is changed to one of Kryptonian influence.
Now calling himself Kal-El, he accepts a fight to the death with Draaga in Superman #42 and Adventures of Superman #465. Only Professor Hamilton's interference prevents Kal-El's execution of Draaga. Cutting all ties with his role as Clark, he drifts serenely back to the Fortress where he removes the Eradicator from its case and holds it up as if in worship.
The conclusion in Part VI (Action Comics #652) has Ma and Pa Kent come to Clark to try and discover the reason for his strange behaviour. Almost completely under the Eradicator's control, Kal-El's facade briefly cracks to reveal Clark's persona. When Kal-El brings his parents to the Fortress, the Eradicator tries to kill them and this is the stimulus Clark needs to restore himself and fight off the device's control.
Demanding to know what the Eradicator has done to him, it answers, "This unit has restored your proper heritage. Divest yourself of things emotional. Accept the world of Krypton." But with Pa Kent's help, Clark blasts the Eradicator and defeats it. He tells his parents, "This time its threat is truly over". To ensure its destruction, he flies into space and tosses the Eradicator into the sun.
Energy In Human Form
The Eradicator reappears the following year in a four part story that begins in the new Superman: The Man of Steel #1. The Eradicator, now no longer a mechanical device but a being made of pure energy, re-assembles itself into a humanoid form. As it travels to Earth it reviews its history and prior encounters with Superman. It also reasserts its mental connection with Superman.
When the Eradicator confronts Superman it tells him, "I have returned to show you your duty" and that Superman will either lead humans toward the Kryptonian way of life or "join this world that has tainted you in total annihilation!" The Eradicator has also begun the process of changing the sun into a red dwarf, like Krypton's sun, and causing massive global upheaval.
The confrontation continues in Superman #57 and Adventures of Superman #480 before concluding in Action Comics #667 (triangle numbers 1991: 19-22). This time, Professor Hamilton succeeds in trapping the Eradicator inside a mystical, soul-collecting gemstone from another of Superman's enemies - Mister Z. The gemstone shatters, apparently dispersing the Eradicator's energy form.
The Last Son Of Krypton
In 1993, after the death of Superman, several new characters appear to claim the Superman legacy, including one who is referred to as the Last Son of Krypton. In "Born Again" from Action Comics #687 (written by Roger Stern with art by Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier), the robots at the Fortress of Solitude work to recreate their master.
The robots' conversation is purposely vague as to who they are retrieving, with comments such as, "his essence dispersed following dysfunction of the corporeal body". The humanoid energy form that emerges recognizes his surroundings as "my Fortress" and says, "I remember a battle". Reviewing tapes of Superman's battle with Doomsday (he has the robots create a bank of monitors) and entombment in Metropolis, the being heads off for the memorial seeking the "real power [that] must be in the body!"
On touching the body in its casket, great energies ripple and the Last Son of Krypton stands before the casket in material form and bearing Superman's face. The body is different, in that it can sense electrical circuitry and send energy blasts. The eyes are overly sensitive to light, forcing him to wear a visor.
Back at the Fortress, the Kryptonian notes that he can no longer absorb energy directly from the sun and must channel it through a regeneration matrix that "has insured that the heart of Krypton's last son keeps beating!"
Wearing a black uniform with a blue centre stripe, the new Superman does not hesitate to use violence and to take the life of a criminal. When Lois finally meets him, she finds him to be cold and hollow. She finds that he has memories of Clark's but he tells her that, "Kent is gone. There is only Superman now."
During the "Reign of the Superman" arc, we learn that the Last Son of Krypton is the Eradicator -- reconstituted by the Fortress it created (Action Comics #690). The Eradicator's physical merging with Superman's body and his placement of the body in the regeneration matrix played important roles in Superman's eventual resurrection.
The Eradicator was again rendered discorporate by the Cyborg's attack on him and by the destruction of Coast City. The Eradicator returns to the Fortress and, to restore itself and assist Superman, draws all available energy -- destroying the Fortress in the process (Action Comics #691).
The Eradicator plays a vital role in the final confrontation. When the Cyborg uses deadly kryptonite radiation to attack Superman, the Eradicator absorbs the blast and alters it, channeling it into Superman to restore him (Superman #82).
Eradicator: Super Hero
The Eradicator's ruined and apparently mindless body is delivered to STAR Labs. In Action Comics #693, the body is examined by several scientists, including Dr. David Connor. Connor is a grumpy bugger whose problems are compounded by a nasty recent divorce and incurable cancer. He explains that the Eradicator's body has apparently restored itself, but that there is still no sign of any brain activity.
Connor's illness causes him to stumble against the controls to the chamber containing the Eradicator's body and in the resulting explosion, Connor's mind apparently merges with and assumes control of the Eradicator's body.
The Eradicator's face is now older and scarred, but otherwise the body is still powerful. Over the next period, he joins the misfit team known as the Outsiders (in their self-titled book) and occasionally joins Team Superman as the black sheep of the family (such as in the "Trial Of Superman" arc).
Eradicator: The Miniseries
In 1996, the Eradicator was given his own three-part mini-series, written by Ivan Velez with pencils by Roger Robinson and inks by John Lowe. The Eradicator has been suffering from strange delusions that have been causing him to react violently.
In Eradicator #1, Superman confronts the Eradicator amidst the ruins of a Metropolis street. While undergoing tests at STAR Labs, Connor has another outburst, decimating the lab. Deciding to destroy himself in order to protect others, he first decides to make his farewells.
The first farewell he makes is to Lana Lang, whom he calls "my first love, my first playmate, my first best friend". Lana, of course, has never met him. Connor tries to sort out his memories, saying "I ... that wasn't me. I -- oh God. What am I doing? Forgive me", and then flies away.
He next visits his ex-wife and two sons -- whom he hasn't seen since before his death and re-birth. In a jealous rage over seeing her with another man, he smashes into her apartment. However, somehow he has failed to recognize the other man as her brother. When his son asks if he is really their father, he is unable to reply and thinks, "I don't have the strength to tell him that cruel a l-- a lie?"
His confusion is compounded by a voice inside him, angering and cajoling him. A portal opens before him and he follows the voice towards it. Stepping through he finds himself apparently transported to a mythical Krypton -- complete with Thought Beasts and Flamebirds.
In Eradicator #2, a lovely young lady calling herself Faora tells him that they are merely programs and that, "this is a virtual world. Almost real. But not quite." He is both drawn to and repelled by Faora. She tells him that he absorbs "essences and information ... feelings like a sponge. You aren't alive. You aren't human. You've been experiencing different thoughts and memories, but none of them are yours. They're from those whose essences you've absorbed. Kem-L, the alien Cleric, Superman ... and finally David Conner. But you're none of them. You are simply the Eradicator". However, while distracting him she tries to drain him of his energy.
As if summoned, the Cleric's presence comes forward to counter Faora's efforts and to explain the Eradicator's history. The Cleric says that his people created the device. As their world was slowly dying, they sent machines to preserve their culture and teaching, to learn from other worlds and to link their far-flung colonists. "You were an instrument of life. There was nothing of an Eradicator in you."
However, when a group of the Cleric's people arrived on Krypton, a small militaristic faction slaughtered them to begin a great purge. Velez paints a dark picture of Kem-L as one of the faction's leaders who destroyed the Cleric's people, altered records and killed sympathizers, "further insuring that future generations need never suffer our pollution".
He states that Kem-L took one of their devices, twisted its original functions and "made you into a weapon of hate and destruction. All that would matter to you was the preservation of Kryptonian culture and ideals ... or rather Kem-L's twisted vision of what was Krypton."
However, the Cleric credits the device for fighting the "influence of your program ... it was this goodness inside you that could not destroy me. It was that love that allowed you to help me preach to other Kryptonians".
It is this dichotomy that has created a schism within the Eradicator as "Faora" reveals itself to be the evil part of the program, "as Kem-L's true heir". The program wants to absorb the Eradicator's essence and in so doing gain tangibility to escape the Phantom Zone and enter the material world. In anger, the Eradicator sends all of Kem-L's programming to his twin"You take his influences ... his corruptions ... his skewed and cruel visions ... take them all!! I'm done with them."
Unfortunately, in doing this he also allows his dark half the means to enter the real world. To lure the Eradicator, the evil monster takes David Connor's family hostage. Although the Eradicator wins the ensuing battle ("I took back whatever held him together and blew him to kingdom come. The composite is nothing more than a memory now. A memory I'll have to live with forever"), it is at the expense of his wife's life.
Although the Eradicator has by now mentally accepted that he is not really David Connor, and that he merely absorbed the human's essence at the moment of Connor's death, he discovers the true nature of his being again when he absorbs the essence of Connor's ex-wife.
At the mini-series end, the Eradicator vows that his future is now linked with that of humanity and that as a measure of atonement he will spend his life to protect them. He is unable to offer any real comfort to the Connors' orphaned children. He philosophizes that "I will always be my own fortress of solitude."
The miniseries presents a much darker view of Kem-L than his helpful phantom Superman met in Adventures of Superman #460 and it ties the history of the Eradicator to the Cleric and his race in a way that is hard to reconcile with the original story in Action Comics Annual #2. That story made no reference to any prior arrival of the Cleric's people and leaves the impression that the Cleric was a solo missionary to Krypton. The Cleric also showed no recognition of the device in the earlier stories. Had his people created it, one would expect him to recognize it or at least not to be surprised centuries later that it is more than just a weapon.
An annoying aspect of the mini-series is that, in the last two issues, Connor's name is incorrectly but consistently referred to as Conner and his wife's name changes from Maria to Sarah.
Pickiness aside, I enjoyed the story and it does give the Eradicator a more complicated nature that could illuminate a struggle between its original nature as an emissary and teacher and its reprogrammed nature as an eradicator (hey -- maybe he can show up for a chat with Hal Jordan in the Spectre series). ;-)
The Eradicator returns a few years later in Superman: The Man of Steel (issues #95-98). Mark Schultz plays up the conflicted nature of the Eradicator as he waivers between anger and confusion before deciding upon continuing on the path of a hero. However, to prevent Brainiac 13 from taking control of the "evil" side of his programming (trapped in the ruined Fortress of Solitude), the Eradicator reluctantly merges both sides of his programming. He then leaves to exile himself in space, asking Superman to pass on his love to his (David Connor's) children.
The unstable Eradicator returns in Superman: The Man of Steel #114 babbling warnings of a destroyer coming towards Earth (a prelude to the Our Worlds At War arc and the villain Imperiex). When the Eradicator's impassioned pleas turn violent, Superman confronts the Eradicator and confuses him with the memories of the "alternate Krypton" Superman encountered in the Phantom Zone (as if the poor fella doesn't have enough identity problems). Superman finally traps the Eradicator in the freezing liquid of an absolute zero chamber.
The Eradicator is freed and Jokerized in Superman: The Man of Steel #119. Heading to the Fortress of Solitude to access the Phantom Zone and deal with the alternate Krypton, he is stopped by the combined efforts of Krypto the super-dog and Superman and left trapped inside the Fortress.