Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (email@example.com).
Superman Annual #11Cover date: 1985
Writer: Alan Moore Penciller: Dave Gibbons Inker: Dave Gibbons Cover: Dave Gibbons
"For The Man Who Has Everything"
As the red sun sets, a weary figure makes his way home through the city. After a long day at his excavation of Kandor Crater, he will spend his evening watching a new episode of "Nightwing and Flamebird", then read his children another story of the Scarlet Jungle. He opens the door to his living quarters to be greeted by a loud, "SURPRISE!". "Happy birthday," says his wife Lyla. Around him are his friends and family. Kal-EL smiles. He is at peace.
It is February 29th. That strange little day added every fourth year to allow the calendar to catch up with itself. "Leap Year". It is also Superman's birthday. This year, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin meet outside of the giant door to Superman's Fortress of Solitude to take Superman his presents. As they climb the steep ice to the entrance, they barely notice that the door is already open. Inside, Superman stands rigid as a statue. Attached to his chest is a large plant, seemingly growing through his costume. Studying him, the three friends see that he is still breathing. The pupils aren't contracting," says Batman. "He must be cut off from just about all sensation. He's in a world of his own...."
"Kal, why are you still staring out of the window?" asks his wife Lyla Lerrol. Amid the happiness, there is still a note of sadness. "It would have been nice if my father had been here tonight," sighs Kal. "All over a stupid argument over politics."
The next day, Kal-El visits his father, and is surprised to find Jor-El associating with the Sword of Rao sect, a group supporting the Old Krypton Movement. Bitter at being forced to resign from the science council for predicting the end of Krypton, the bitter man sees Krypton torn by drugs and racial strife and argues that the only solution is to return to the ways of "Old Krypton". Kal is so disappointed by his father's fatalistic beliefs that he can take no more. Turning to leave, Kal sighs. "Father, sometimes I wish you were right. I wish Krypton had exploded after all." In response, Jor-El angrily smashes one of the crystal trees growing on his balcony.
"I think it's safe to assume from those wrappings that Superman received this thing as a gift, but how?" ponders Batman. Wonder Woman and Batman surmise that once a year Superman utilizes a teleportation channel, and perhaps some world has sent him this plant as a gift not knowing it would harm him. Behind them, a voice booms. "That's exactly what happened... except for one or two minor details." Turning, they face Mongul. "Firstly, I knew precisely what it would do to him. Secondly, it was not intended as a token of gratitude."
Amazed by the giant, yellow figure, they can only listen as Mongul speaks. The "flower" is called the "Black Mercy", part plant and part fungus, which feeds on the victims' bio-aura. In return, the plant provides the victim with the illusion of their heart's desire. The victims could shrug off the plant; they simply don't want to. When finished with his explanation, he turns to the heroes. "Now, which of you would it be polite to kill first?" Looking at each other, Wonder Woman calmly walks forward, leaps into the air and smashes her fist into Mongul's chin. Falling back to the floor, Wonder Woman clutches her hand in pain. "Thank you," says Mongul reaching for the Amazon, "I think that's answered my question."
Rushing to the hospital, Kal-El finds Allura, Zor-El's widow sobbing hysterically. Kara has been critically injured by a group of protestors who feel that the Phantom Zone is an instrument of torture and should be outlawed. Since Jor-El invented the Zone, the House of El has become increasingly unpopular. Rushing to a vid-phone, Kal calls Lyla, and tells her that she should pack and take their daughter Orna with her to her parent's living quarters for safety. Kal tells her he will bring Van-El, their son, and join her in Atomic City as soon as possible.
Hurriedly trying to escape the city, Kal and Van climb into their floater, but are stopped by a crowd filling the streets. A Justice Officer flashes them, insisting that they stop to allow the Sword of Rao parade to pass.
After smashing Wonder Woman through a wall of the Fortress, Mongul follows her into the room. He is amazed at her durability, and wonders if she is the Kryptonian's mate. Finding a weapon, she blasts Mongul with full power. After she releases the trigger, she is startled to see Mongul still standing. Mongul smiles and again smashes the Amazon into a wall. "Superman? Kal? We're in serious trouble here, old friend," says Batman. "You've got to wake up."
"Excuse me? Can I get my floater through here, please?" asks Kal-El. But the throngs have clogged the street and there is no way to pass. In amazement, Kal stares at the podium, where his father, Jor-El, speaks of establishing the old ways. Anti-Phantom Zoners scream in protest. Realizing the danger, Kal turns the floater around, and heads away from Kryptonopolis, away from Atomic City, toward Kandor Crater.
Standing on the site where Kandor had been reduced and put into a bottle, Kal begins to cry, Van, he begins, something is wrong. "You're my son. I was there at your birth and I'll always love you, but...I don't think you're real."
"His eyes are starting to water," says Batman.
"Father, you're scared, you're talking funny. I want to see mother," says Van-El.
"One of the coils is loose," says Batman "It's slackening his grip on him."
"Van? Oh my son," screams Kal, "I'm losing you once more..."
With a mighty yank, Batman pulls the plant off of Superman's chest but it quickly attaches to the Caped Crusader's form.
Joey Chill reaches for the woman's pearls, but Thomas Wayne steps between them and quickly disarms the man. The thief is led away, and the child is safe in his mother's arms. A darkness lifts, a terror that had lasted forever... is gone. Batman is content.
"Batman, please wake up," yells Robin. Behind him, he feels a presence. "Who... did this... to ME?" asks Superman. Looking up, Robin tells him that it was a big yellow guy. Screaming Mongul's name, Superman speeds off faster than the eye can follow. Hearing the scream, Mongul knows that he has little time to react. The wall explodes behind Mongul and a 400 mile-an-hour wind slams into him like a steam hammer as big as the world.
With patience, and diligence, Robin slowly removes the plant from Batman's chest using the same gauntlets Mongul had used to control the entity. Making sure that Batman is safe, he heads off to join the fight, carrying the plant with him.
"Do you understand what you did to me?" Superman asks. "Perfectly," whispers Mongul, smashing Superman through the ceiling into a room filled with alien beasts. Grabbing Superman by the neck, Mongul pronounces gleefully, "Happy birthday, Kryptonian. I give you... oblivion." Superman's eyes glow red. "Burn," whispers Superman, and flames shoot from his eyes. His heat vision sears Mongul's flesh and the yellow giant screams in pain.
Smashing Superman with all of his strength, Mongul says, "You should have stayed in whatever happy fantasy the Black Mercy granted you..." "Happy?" asks Superman. "HAPPY?" screams Superman. Suns explode from Superman's eyes, and titanic blows that would crush mountains are exchanged. Both creatures are indestructible, yet each is injured. Both are irresistible, yet neither can gain an advantage. And, surrender is not a possibility.
Smashing through the floor Superman pins Mongul. Raising his hand to deliver the deathblow, Superman sees the statue of Jor-El and Lara holding Krypton aloft. A thought, a memory, a dream... His hesitation was just enough for Mongul to regain his composure. "How stupid of you to hesitate like that," says Mongul. The taste of victory burning on his lips, Mongul pulls back his fist for the final blow, "not a mistake that I'll make..."
From above comes a small voice. "Uh, excuse me," says Robin. "But I think that this is yours." Lifting up the gauntlet, Robin drops the Black Mercy, which lands squarely on Mongul's chest. Looking upwards, Mongul incinerates Robin with the touch of a switch, then turns his attention to Superman, ripping his head from his shoulders. He is content.
Superman stands, looking at the still, quiet body of Mongul. "It's over," he says.
After checking to see that all are safe, the group sits, staring at Mongul, propped against the wall. "What will you do with him, Superman?" asks Robin. I think I'll drop him in the black hole on the western spiral arm of the galaxy, Superman replies.
Still, it is Superman's birthday and Wonder Woman hands him his present. Wonder Woman tells Superman that a Paradise Island gem-smith made an exact duplicate of Kandor to replace the one that was enlarged. Again, moving faster than the eye can follow, Superman speeds into the Kandor room to hide the real bottle city, and returns to graciously accept Wonder Woman's gift. To his surprise, she puts her arms around his shoulders and kisses him passionately. "Mmmm. Why don't we do that more often?" asks Superman.
Batman lifts his gift, a newly cultivated rose called "The Krypton", however in the battle it has been crushed and destroyed. Holding the dead plant in his hand, Superman says, "Perhaps its for the best," and the group turns to continue their celebration elsewhere.
When they leave, the only living thing left in the room is Mongul, propped unceremoniously in the corner. In his mind, Mongul strolls through the defeated. His enemies are dust beneath his feet. The greatest powers of the cosmos kneel before him and kiss his hands in tribute. The stars run red with blood, and the nubulae echo with the screams of the dying. Mongul is content.
Story - 5: This is truly one of the Superman masterpieces. Of all the stories ever written about Superman, this one best captures the internal conflict that is Kal-El. If only Krypton had not been destroyed, Kal-El's life would have been so different. But it did explode, and that act thrust Kal-El into places he would never have gone, roles he probably would never have even imagined and enemies that would never have paused to give a second glance were he not the last son of the dead planet, Krypton. Alan Moore has received international acclaim for his work in comics, reaching his peak with the Watchmen. This story is masterfully crafted, with well-defined characters, excellent dramatic conflict and wonderful references to older stories. A must read for all Superman fans!
Art - 5: Dave Gibbon's work has been widely praised and this story does nothing to deflate that opinion. The pacing and page designs are well thought out and wonderfully executed. The drawing is very sound and consistent. And, this story has one of my favorite panels in all of the many Superman stories. When Mongul reaches to kill Superman his eyes full with fire and he whispers, "Burn". The intensity of that panel still shakes me. It is a window into Superman's psyche that few have tried, and only Gibbons has succeeded in showing. It is also fun to look in the background of each panel for the interesting things that Moore and Gibbons leave to tease us with.
Cover Art - 3: As good as this story is, the cover is merely average. From the cover, you can tell the protagonists and the villains, but the design and message seem rather mediocre compared to the drama inside.
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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