Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Action Comics #314Cover date: July 1964
"The Day Superman Became The Flash"
Writer: Edmond Hamilton
Penciller: Al Plastino
Cover: Curt Swan
Reviewed by: Tom-EL
The story opens with Superman making his patrol around the world when he passes over a remote island. Just then an arrow passes by him that he recognizes as a siren arrow, so he looks down on the island and sees five of his friends from the Justice League of America.
It was Green Arrow that shot the arrow to get his attention, and with him are Aquaman, Batman, the Flash, and the Atom. Superman notices that the five are smiling at him rather cryptically. Aquaman explains to Superman that while he was patrolling the ocean, he discovered a video-tape device with a message for Superman. Superman asks who the message is from and Aquaman tells him, "It's from Jor-El of Krypton, your father". Superman seems skeptical that it came from Jor-El since the planet exploded right after his father rocketed him toward Earth. Aquaman tells him to play the message for himself, and Superman agrees, stating that if it was truly from Krypton it would have changed into green kryptonite.
The tape plays and the video-recorded picture appears in the air. It is Jor-El and he begins telling his story, explaining that the tape player was mounted on the outside of the rocket. Superman concludes that the tape player must have detached from the rocket when it came into Earth's atmosphere and fell into the ocean. Jor-El then begins his narrative. He recounts the story of Krypton's coming destruction. In the beginning, he wondered if he still had sufficient time to build more rockets like the working model he had already built. Lara informs him of a scientist named Zahn-Zar, who just built a computer that has the ability to forecast the future, so Jor-El goes to see him. Zahn-Zar says to him "No machine can forecast the future exactly, but this computer, if fed sufficient data can deliver an audio-visual projection with a high probability of accuracy". First Jor-El asked the machine if there was still enough time to build more escape rockets. The computer shows a visual of the rockets falling over as the destruction begins. It tells him that there's a 98% probability that Krypton will explode before the rockets can be finished. At that point, he decided to focus on the question of which planet he would send the rocket with Kal-El.
The first planet was called Xann, and he fed the data into the computer. The machine then began to tell him the story of Kal's life on planet Xann. This planet had a yellow sun so Kal would have super-powers. The catch is, this is a planet of giants and when Kal-El reaches his full adult size, he would only be the Xannian equivalent of six inches tall. A couple adopts him, but growing up he feels that while people act nice to him, he can tell that really they feel sorry for him due to his small size. Because of his powers, he decides to become a crime fighter, but to protect his identity, he wears a costume. The red and blue costume looks a lot like the Atom's costume with a red cape. As this story comes to an end, Jor-El can see that even though Kal would be a hero there, because of his size he could never lead a normal life on this planet.
Next he gives the computer the data on a planet called Valair. This planet also has a yellow sun so Kal will have powers, but it is completely covered by water, there is no land on the surface of the planet. Jor-El thinks to himself, "With his super-powers, Kal-El could live under the seas". On this planet, he becomes a hero wearing a familiar green and orange costume. As time goes on, he begins piling up huge rocks underneath the sea, until finally they reach the surface. On this little artificially made island, Kal-El sits there remembering air, land, and sky. Jor-El can see that he won't be happy there, so he feeds in the data on the third planet.
The planet Ntann is a primitive planet that resembles the Earth during the middle-ages, the difference is it has a red sun. Again, Kal-El is adopted by foster parents who train him in the use of bow and arrow. As an adult, Kal decides that it should be possible to build better bows and arrows, which he does, including a "lasso-arrow" and a "star-arrow", useful for signaling at night. Because of his inventiveness, the leader of his village wants Kal to join him in an attack with these trick arrows on a neighboring village. Kal wants no part of that, but his village militia is bent on attack, so he uses an alarm arrow to warn the other village of the impending attack. He knows he can't stay in his village now, so he walks off into the sunset knowing he will be living alone. Seeing that on the screen, Jor-El knows he must put in the data for the next planet on the list.
This is the planet Saruun, another red sun world, but with a difference. This world has a giant satellite between the planet and the sun, causing a constant eclipse leaving the inhabitants forever in unending night. On this planet he is adopted by a lawman who intends to bring up his foster son and train him to become Saruun's greatest lawman. Kal goes through years of intensive training from his father, and then finally says "I'm ready to use all you've taught me to enforce the law". His father tells him that he will need a disguise, and suggests that he wears a costume in the theme of a "Diro", a small black flying creature of that planet. Soon, the new lawman of Saruun's greatest city goes into action wearing a blue and gray, cape and cowled costume. The Diro is hailed as "the terror of evil-doers". Jor-El watches this story unfold, and while he is impressed that his son would become a great lawman, he decides that he can't condemn his son to live forever in darkness. Now only two possible planets are left for consideration.
The two remaining planets are almost identical in their development and technology. The difference is, planet Gangor has a red sun, and planet Earth has a yellow son, so Jor-El considers Gangor. The computer shows him that Kal will be adopted by another couple, of which the father is a scientist. Kal grows up to be a brilliant scientist like his father, and then they work together to develop an energizing force that, if perfected, will give everyone super-energy. The two decide to test it on Kal, so he decides to try it out by seeing how fast he can run. First however, he will put on a special protective suit he has prepared. The suit looks like Superman's costume, except with touches of the Flash's costume including red cowl, yellow boots, and lightning bolts on the forearms. He starts running at super-speed and the suit works as it is supposed to. Running at this speed, he notices how everything else appears to move slowly, even trains and planes that cannot keep up with his speed. Kal then thinks "I'll open up and see how fast I can go". At that point, catastrophe strikes when Kal's super-speed carries him off the ground and up into the atmosphere. He begins to both freeze from the altitude and strangle from the lack of air. Jor-El can see how this scenario is going to end and so he thinks "There's only one world left to try - Earth!" Of course, the computer shows him that Kal will become Superman, Earth's greatest hero and Jor-El knows which planet is the only choice available to him.
The video-tape comes to an end with Jor-El saying "So, my son, this record will explain why we sent you to Earth. If the computer is correct, you'll be a great hero there". Superman comments on how strange were those other lives he might have lived. Aquaman points out to Superman how strange it REALLY is. He tells Superman that on each world, he would have been like each one of the JLA members. He says, "Do you realize what you were? You were a one man JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA!" Superman's facial expression in response to that statement seems to suggest it has only just now dawned on him the real irony of what they've all just seen.
The second story is part one of a Supergirl story called "Supergirl's Tragic Ordeal". It's about Supergirl's foster parents, the Danvers, agreeing to go to Kandor so that Zor-El and Allura who are in Kandor, can come out and spend time with Kara. This is necessary because it seems Allura is literally dying of a broken heart from not seeing their daughter. Silver age fans will recall that at times the means of entering Kandor was by the "exchange ray" which meant that for a Kandorian to enter Earth, an Earth person had to exchange.
Story - 4: Prior to this story, Edmond Hamilton wrote a story for Action Comics #223 (December 1956) called "The First Superman of Krypton". In that story, a video-tape diary that Superman found told how Jor-El temporarily gained Superman-like powers while he was on Krypton. According to Michael E. Grost of the Classic Comic Books website, that story embodies one of Hamilton's favorite themes: a character, such as Jor-El, taking on the career of another character, Superman. This story is a variation of that same theme, another video-tape, telling about Superman taking on another character, in this case, five members of the Justice League.
First of all I want to say that I've always liked this story, truly I have. Maybe that's due in part to the fact that I am also a Justice League fan, and there is a sense in which you could call this a Justice League story. It's not indicated to be an imaginary story, but as much as I liked it, the story really only works for me if I think of it as one of the things that differentiates the silver age Superman from the others (modern, golden age, Earth-2, Kingdom Come, etc.). The reason for that is this, the premise of this story seems to be contradictory to what has been a basic point of Superman Kryptonian history, that runs as a common thread through nearly all his incarnations. I am aware that across the years, Superman's story has been, depending on the writer, re-invented, re-imagined, even re-booted, but despite the tweaks and do-overs, it was generally part of that story that planet Earth was the one and ONLY planet that Jor-El considered suitable to send his son. The fact that Kryptonians looked like Earth people, and the powers Kal would have from the yellow sun and lesser gravity made it the only real choice out of all the planets across the galaxy that Jor-El could have chosen. I still remember the conversation between Marlon Brando and Susannah York in "Superman: The Movie"... Lara - "But why Earth Jor-El? They're primitives, thousands of years behind us." Jor-El - "He will need that advantage if he is to survive." Evidently the silver age Jor-El saw things a little differently.
This story posits the idea that Jor-El actually had a selection of planets to choose from, some with yellow suns, some with red, and one that is all water. How great would it be to have a computer that could show you with a high degree of probability what the future holds? It ends up that out of all these planets, Earth is the only one that seems to have little Kal having a happy life as an adult. On the other planets, he would have gone through life as a "loner" which according to Grost, loner characters is another theme of many of Ed Hamilton's stories. The planet where Kal is six inches, the all water planet, and the all night planet strike me as venues that Jor-El should have foreseen the eventualities without needing to watch it play out on a computer screen. Still, over the years, I've discovered a story doesn't have to be logical or even perfectly fit continuity to still be fun.
Art - 4: Al Plastino pencilled this story, I have no information on who inked it. I have a hard time giving more than a 4 rating to any artist other than Curt Swan and two or three others, but that's just me. Plastino's work is solid in this story, and the shocked expression on Superman's face in the final panel looks to me to be just the expression that Hamilton wanted to convey in this story.
Cover Art - 4: It's not an elaborate cover, but I thought Swan did a good job in a Carmine Infantino-esque way to convey Superman moving at super-speed. I liked the Superman/Flash costume mix as a means of generating interest in the story. The cover is a bit misleading in that it has Superman saying "I've lost my Superman powers and gained those of the Flash -- But I can't control my speed!" Apparently they didn't want to give away the true nature of the story. Yes, I know, slightly misleading information on the cover is nothing new to more than one DC comic cover during the silver age.
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 LaneŠ DeadŠ 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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