Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super SonsPublished: December 2007
Reviewed by: Bruce Kanin
Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons is a soft cover compilation containing primarily various WORLD'S FINEST stories starting with #215 (1973) and ending with #263 (1980). There is also a story from the rare ELSEWORLDS EIGHTY PAGE GIANT (1999).
All of these stories concern the sons of Superman and Batman. Yes, in World's Finest #215, the offspring of the two world's finest heroes were introduced! Only in the wild and wacky 1970s - after the somewhat sedate Silver Age had drawn to a close - could something like this be hatched.
Was it a hoax? A trick? A dream? Perhaps an imaginary story? A parallel world? Well, maybe it was all of these - but it really was never clearly stated until perhaps the end of the run. For all intents and purposes, Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr., as they were named, appeared to exist in a continuity that was effectively the same as that of the "mainstream" Superman and Batman. Bob Haney, who wrote virtually all of these stories, never revealed just where these superhero sons fit in.
Continuity questions aside, and despite some implausible situations and dated dialogue, the compilation is a joy to read. As well, consider this: Superman and Batman were well-known and well-established for decades even as of 1973. Although interesting stories continued to be churned out in the 1970s, both characters were, in effect, part of the Establishment. With their sons, however, new situations could be explored that would not have made sense for their fathers, e.g., riding a motorcycle to "discover" America; hitting on groovy chicks (!); running a storefront community center to help those in need; and so on. Effectively, Haney could put Superman and Batman - albeit in the guise of their sons - in situations that possibly connected better with a younger audience than the super-dads did.
Moreover, he took advantage of a situation with regard to Superman, Jr. having an Earthbound mother (neither mom was identified, nor were they all that pertinent to the stories) in that his powers were approximately half of his father's. Whereas the Superman writers, over the years, made the Man of Steel all but omnipotent, Superman Jr. was weaker and somewhat vulnerable. This made him more of a sympathetic character - and - elevated the excitement factor in that you really didn't know how badly he'd be affected by a bomb, bullets, fire or other threats. There was no need to have Kryptonite conveniently show up in order to slow him down.
Some of the highlights in Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons are as follows:
The initial story, "Saga of the Super Sons", has Superman and Batman agreeing to let their sons prove their worthiness as super-heroes by pitting them against a crime boss - in a make-believe city. What's incredible is the way Superman creates the faux metropolis, by using space and time - and an earthquake fault. It's so far-fetched, it's just plain brilliant.
"Cry Not for my Forsaken Son" tells about the Super-Sons helping someone their age who has two fathers - a foster-father he rejects, and a biological father that he wants to emulate - until things turn out to be not what they seem. It's an enjoyable story that puts both superheroes to good use and leads to a satisfying conclusion.
"In the Angel with a Dirty Name", Bob Haney reaches back to the Silver Age to great effect: the daughter of Lex Luthor and Adora (of the planet Lexor - introduced in the classic SUPERMAN #164 "The Showdown between Luthor and Superman"), uses an unsuspecting Superman, Jr. to free her father from prison so that they can both escape to her home planet. Not surprisingly, Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr. end up on Lexor in order to bring Lex Luthor back to Earth.
An interesting side-note about this story is that Luthor's daughter puts on a show for prisoners. The show is about two biblical characters, Gog and Magog - names that figure prominently much later in the classic DC KINGDOM COME saga.
In "Final Secret of the Super-Sons", we learn what appears to be the truth about the Super-Sons and their "continuity". It appears that all along, the two junior superheroes have been characters in a super-computer simulation run by Superman in his Fortress (with Batman watching on, as well). In this story, the only Super-Sons story not penned by Bob Haney (this one is by Denny O'Neill), an accident causes the sons to "escape" the simulation into the real world. However, as their existence is impacting the real world in a very bad way (causing disasters wherever they go), the two junior heroes are convinced by their would-be fathers to destroy themselves. The potentially wistful moment at the end is rushed, almost as if DC wanted to quickly get them over with once and for all.
There is one last story from the aforementioned ELSEWORLDS EIGHTY-PAGE GIANT which rejoins Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr., along with their dads, but it is a forgettable entry.
Despite the redeeming aspects of the super-sons saga, silliness abounds. It's silly that the sons are given the same superhero names and secret ID names, albeit with the suffix "Junior", as opposed to just giving them new names, e.g., Brad Kent and Phil Wayne. It's inconceivable that Robin appears to be the same age as Batman, Jr. (even Commissioner Gordon is still going strong). This would suggest that, soon after donning the Bat-costume, Bruce Wayne found time for a wife and immediately fathered a child! So much for his playboy image!
Moreover, whereas a Superman, Jr. makes some sense, why would there be a Batman, Jr. at all? It was Bruce Wayne who wanted to avenge criminals. His son should be on a different track. But the Bruce Wayne, Jr. in these stories not only dresses up as Batman, he behaves like a playboy.
The artwork is generally good to very good. Dick Dillin, best known as the successor to Mike Sekowsky on the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, did most of the pencils. Sometimes he is aided and abetted by Murphy Anderson, and the results shine. "The Girl Whom Time Forgot", a story that could have easily featured the Super-Dads instead, boasted none other than Superman's premier artist, Curt Swan, doing the pencils. Unfortunately the inks were by Tex Blaisdell, whose work was not as focused as Swan's other artistic comrades such as Anderson, George Klein, Stan Kaye and others.
Bottom line: despite the "hip" language from another era, the contrived plots and the implausibility of even having junior versions of Superman and Batman around, Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons is a worthy addition to the shelf of any fan of Superman, Batman and the WORLD'S FINEST series.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - The Mightiest Team in the World
- Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - Superman's Lost Brother
- Superman 3D (1953) - The Man Who Stole the Sun, Origin of Superman and The Man Who Bossed Superman
- Superman #87 (February 1954) - The Prankster's Greatest Role
- Superman #88 (March 1954) - The Terrible Trio
- Superman #89 (May 1954) - Captain Kent the Terrible, Superman of Skid Row, and One Hour to Doom!
- Superman #91 (August 1954) - The Superman Stamp and Great Caesar's Ghost
- World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes
- Superman #115 (August 1957) - The Midget Superman!
- Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse
- Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - The Super-Duel in Space
- Superman #123 (August 1958) - The Girl of Steel
- Superman #127 (February 1959) - Titano the Super Ape
- Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - The Menace of Metallo and The Supergirl From Krypton
- Superman #129 (May 1959) - The Girl in Superman's Past
- Superman #130 (July 1959) - The Curse of Kryptonite!, The Super-Servant of Crime!, and The Town that Hated Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The†Downfall of†Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois Laneä Deadä Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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