Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
DC Comics Presents #57Cover date: May 1983
"Days of Future Past"
Writer: Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn
Penciller: Alex Saviuk
Inker: F. McLaughlin
Reviewed by: Tom-EL
The story opens with a long bearded Superman in the midst of what appears to be a Metropolis that has been totally ravaged by nuclear war. He has no idea what happened or how the city came to this. A moment later he is joined by a small group of men in suits of armor. Asking them what happened, he is told by the leader about the great atomic war of 1986. One of the knights recognizes who they are talking to and tells the leader of the group that this is Superman. Superman was then questioned as to where he had been and why he didn't stop the bombings. The knights questions turn into ghostly cries of "Why did you let us die...?" At that point, Clark wakes up from his nightmare, the same one he had the night before, and a sure feeling this would not be the end of it.
The next day, news anchor Clark Kent prepares for his nightly newscast. The evening's top story focuses on an errant computer signal in the US military's early warning system that nearly sparked an American pre-emptive attack and a Soviet response. Fortunately, a Hot-Line call with full explanation was able to avert military actions on both sides. Clark ended his commentary noting there were still concerns as to what might happen if a similar situation were to arise. Believing that today's close call and his recent dreams could possibly be connected in some way, Superman flies to his Fortress. Arriving there, he dons a headset connected to the Fortress computer to monitor signals from both the Pentagon and the Kremlin. No sooner does he flip the switch on when a powerful electronic surge knocks him out of his chair. He gets up after a dazed moment and finds himself not in the Fortress, but in a place called Durvale with four men and a woman, and the men are wearing medieval knight's armor. The leader says they've been rebuilding in the six years since the war, and introduces himself as Gardner Grayle, leader of the Atomic Knights. A second later, Hercules, a friend of the knights shows up. Superman ponders whether or not this is the real future or if he is dreaming again. He notes that this Hercules is different from the one he met in the past.
A boy comes running up with a message about a radiation monster in New York City, so Superman and the Atomic Knights proceed to NYC to investigate. In New York, the radiation monster is terrorizing the city, but Superman thinks, "I've handled bigger and worse in my time." He flis in for a strike, but the creature hits him with a blast of Kryptonite breath. He falls to the ground, while the knights move in, riding their big mutated Dalmatian dogs. The Knights distract the monster while Hercules moves in and fells the monster with one blow. Superman recovers, then confronts Grayle regarding the fact that for a post-nuclear world that went through a very destructive war, all he sees are giant dogs and a radiation monster. There's no sign of war damage, debilitating diseases or even one hospital. An angry Grayle snaps back that these are brave people trying to reestablish civilization, saying, "They're the real heroes, not costumed crusaders like you!" With that Grayle grabs Superman, lifts him up and throws him some distance away, shouting, "You can just get out of my world!" When Superman recovers, he finds himself on the floor of the computer room in the Fortress. He ponders over whether or not this "fantasy world" was his fantasy or someone else's, and might it possibly foretell the fate of the world?
Superman decides to visit S.T.A.R Labs to see Dr. Marlene Herald, a psychologist who looks just like the female member of the Atomic Knight's team, whose name was also Marlene. Dr. Herald told Superman she had no memory of ever hearing anything about the Atomic Knights or a man named Gardner Grayle. Then he reminds her that once she had done a Defense Department study on the psyche of average soldiers and her case study was of a Sgt. Gardner Grayle. She remembers him, but that was before he had been chosen for a special experiment by the government to evaluate how average soldiers might react in post-nuclear war scenarios. He was placed in a sensory depravation tank and hooked up to a computer that placed him in a virtual reality world. Superman and Dr. Herald go to the abandoned military installation where the original VR experiment had taken place. The Man of Steel has to literally rip the giant metal door off to go in, but once inside, they discover Grayle still in the tank, his mind connected to a huge monitor that shows him and the other Knights fighting the radiation monster. Superman suggests that surely the original simulations were not projected to have soldiers become medieval knights fighting off monsters. Dr. Herald offers the theory that under mind depravation, the total devastation of a holocaust was too ghastly to comprehend, causing Grayle's mind to plug into latent potential mental abilities that allowed him to totally remake the scenario into a world of great adventure and heroism.
That bit of information helps Superman put it all together. When Gardner Grayle was able to reprogram the computer, it didn't stop with only that one computer. He effectively broke through the firewalls to more computers, including the Pentagon, the Kremlin, and even his own super-computer at the Fortress. Grayle's subconscious wants to make his version of the post-nuclear world into a reality. However, the other part of his mind is reaching out to Superman through his dreams, in the hope that he could prevent a possible World War 3. Superman moves to pull the plug on this simulation, but is stopped by four large Knight robots, the leader having Grayle's voice. Dr. Herald informs Superman that Grayle has been aware of the robot project, and his love of the legend of King Arthur apparently must have inspired his Atomic Knight dreams. The four robots, now under Grayle's mental control, team up to stop Superman. He puts up a fight, but one robot hits with a blast of red-sun vision. The fight turns into a stand-off, with Dr. Herald attempting to totally shut down the computer. One of the robots grabs her to stop her, then Superman yells out to the Grayle robot "He's going to MURDER the woman you love!" The Grayle robot then moves to fight the other robot who it turns out is the personification of team member Doug Herald. Dr. Herald shouts out, "Douglas Herald is not my brother... he's my husband!" That stops the Grayle robot in his tracks, a moment later, a ten-second countdown begins. Superman realizes he has 10 seconds to stop the third world war from becoming reality. His fingers race at super-speed across the computer console to stop the countdown and avoid the launch. At minus 1 second... the countdown stops.
Superman and Marlene together are able to open the tank and revive Gardner Grayle, who asks "What's going on, is the war over?" Realizing that he very nearly caused a world war, Dr. Herald reassures him that it wasn't his fault, he was only a pawn. Grayle however, is not as easy on himself. He reasons that the entire project was misguided from the beginning. The project should never have been about theories on how to survive a post-atomic world, but rather working to see that a war that might cause an atomic holocaust world is never allowed to start. And, he further says, "the countdown is on."
Story - 4: Mishkin and Cohn generally worked together as a writing team on their stories, and are probably best know as the creators of the DC characters Amethyst and Blue Devil. Before I reviewed this story, I researched what I could find on "The Atomic Knights". They were written by writer John Broome and appeared in every third issue of Strange Adventures, from issues #117-160 between 1960 to 1964. In their continuity, the Earth went through World War III, a Hydrogen war during the year 1986. The stories took place in the early 90s. Army Sgt. Gardner Grayle and the Atomic Knights wore medieval suits of armor that were impervious to the post war radiation as well as their enemy, the Black Baron's energy weapons. Aside from the original Strange Adventures stories, this story presents the idea that there is an Earth-1 Gardner Grayle, and those Atomic Knight stories in his case were virtual reality dreams from a STAR Labs experiment that went south, rather than a story that had Superman crossing into a parallel universe where the knights actually existed. However, the story does at one place connect to the original silver-age version. While in New York City, Superman remembered Gardner Grayle telling him that once before in New York the knights had encountered people who, due to radiation, had devolved into cavemen. This is a direct reference to the AK story in Strange Adventures #123 (12/60) "The Cavemen of New York". They were really reaching back into the DC archives to come up with the Atomic Knights, so I guess it made more sense to do the story this way and it did have a sort of science-fictiony feel to it. It rated only a 4 with me because I thought the Kryptonite breath and Red-Sun vision angles were a little hokey, and Grayle's anti atomic war speech at the end, while well meaning, was a little preachy. Otherwise it was an interesting story.
Art - 4: To be honest, I have not read that many DC stories where Alex Saviuk was the artist, but I wish I had. I understand after a few years with DC, he ended up spending more time at Marvel doing the art for Spider-man stories. Having very little exposure to his work, I can say that he did a fine job on this story. The penciling of the characters and backgrounds is very good, but good in a way that tends to remind me of other good DC artists, as opposed to seeing it as his distinctive style as I would if it was Swan, or Anderson, or Carmine Infantino. It gets a 4 only because (IMHO), the inking lacked in certain places. Now it very well might be because of the way the inker wanted the light to appear, it might have been intentional, but it didn't look quite right to me.
Cover Art - 5: Alex Saviuk, either on his own or in collaboration with Curt Swan, also did several DCCP covers. On this cover, the best thing about it is his excellent Superman which to me looks like a mix of Swan and Neal Adams.
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!
- Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Spring 1978)
- 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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