Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #141

Superman #141

Cover date: November 1960

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Penciller: Wayne Boring
Inker: Wayne Boring
Cover: Curt Swan and Stan Kaye

"Superman's Return To Krypton"

Part I: Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again
On patrol late one afternoon, Superman notices Professor Galsworthy, a noted astronomer, frantically waving his hands outside his laboratory. After he lands, Galsworthy rushes Superman inside and the two confirm the professor's observation. Speeding into space to the edge of the solar system is a gigantic creature, as big as a planet. Streaking off, Superman reached the creatures and approached to investigate. However, as Superman closes in the creature suddenly reverses its flight and speeds off at incredible speed.

In an attempt to follow the creature, Superman streaks off, flying faster and faster until, amazing even himself, he crashes through the time-barrier. As things come to clarity, Superman sees a giant planet before him... one orbiting a red Sun... and he realizes that he has somehow arrived at Krypton before it exploded. Under the red sun, Superman's powers begin to fade and he strains to make a difficult landing on Krypton's surface finding that all of his powers are gone. Suddenly it occurs to him. "Since I can't fly away under my own power, I'm trapped here on Krypton! I'll perish when this world explodes."

His panic is broken by some loud noises, and looking through the brush, Superman sees a space ship looming above him. Since Krypton had no space travel prior to his being sent to earth, he investigates to find a Kryptonian movie crew on location filming a science fiction film. Even on Krypton his costume appears odd and he is mistaken for a movie extra and is told to board the ship. As he enters the cramped space he faces a hauntingly beautiful woman, sitting at the center of attention, who slowly turns and stares at him. "Don't be nervous," shouts the director. "This space ship is only a prop and can't really fly higher than any normal airship. You'll be perfectly safe."

The make believe spaceship shudders, lifts off then suddenly goes out of control and begins to fall back to Krypton. Acting swiftly, Superman switches on the emergency rockets. "If I still had my super-powers, I'd have done something more spectacular," he thinks. After the ship lands, Superman cannot help but stare at the beautiful woman who only casually glances back at him as if he weren't really there.

The director announces that production will be shut down for a few days until they can borrow a fire-breathing space creature for an important scene. In the mean time, they will pay the actors to wear their "space" uniforms wherever they go as publicity for the film. With no cash, Superman agrees, and makes his way to Kryptonopolis. Among the throngs of people, Superman has to keep reminding himself that he is actually alive on Krypton. But the biggest surprise occurs when a viz-screen lights up and announces "Here we see the famed scientist Jor-El and his bride-to-be, Lara, entering the palace of marriage! Soon they will be man and wife."

Locating a jet-taxi, Superman speeds to the Palace of Marriage and proceeds down a hallway to the ceremony. Along the way, Superman stares in awe. It is a Kryptonian custom to place statues of the parents of both sides along the halls of the Palace and even a stranger notices his resemblance to several of his ancestors. As if in a dream, Superman watches his mother and father marry, then leave for their honeymoon. It occurs to him to introduce himself, but decides that he would spoil the moment if they knew what the future would hold. Instead, Superman checks into a Sky-Hotel and spends a sleepless night watching the hustle and bustle of normal Kryptonian life. "I've got to escape from this doomed world! But how? How??"

Several days later, he makes a decision. "I want to be with my mother and father. Somehow I must become their close friend without revealing my real relationship to them." First Superman builds a gadget, which resembles an earth gyroscope, then uses this as a pretense to go to Jor-El's home. Suddenly he is standing face-to-face with his parents. After a few awkward moments, Jor-El inspects the device and tells the young man that he has promise finally asking Superman his name. Before he can think, he blurts out, "Kal-El", but because El is a common ending for a Kryptonian name no one questions his answer.

Explaining that he wears his odd costume because he had been an actor, Superman confesses, "I'd much rather be an assistant to a great scientist like you." Jor-El tells his son that the missile base where he works is holding application exams tomorrow and provides a memory pillow to help Superman study for exams while he sleeps. The next day, Superman passes with flying colors and is assigned to Jor-El.

Very soon afterwards, Jor-El invites his new assistant to a dinner party and there he sees the actress that was on the movie set. "I'll bet her initials are 'L.L.'", Superman says to Jor-El. " Of course you know her initials. Who doesn't? Lyla Lerrol is Krypton's most famous emotion-movie actress," laughs Jor-El. "Astonishingly, every girl who ever meant anything to me has had those initials," thinks Superman. The night passes with flirtation, furtive glances and admiration from afar. Finally, Lyla speaks and Superman melts. "Tell me about yourself, Kal-El," asks Lyla. But Superman is reluctant to reveal his secrets, and makes a quick excuse to exit, hail a jet-taxi and leave. Lyla rushes out and stares at the jet-taxi speeding away. "He's deliberately avoiding me. Now he interests me more than ever," thinks Lyla.

Part II: Superman's Kryptonian Romance
Both Superman and Lyla put their energy into their work in a hope of forgetting the other person. At party after party, Lyla turns down the wealthiest men on the planet because she cannot forget the man in the "absurd space costume." Several days later, Superman visits Jor-El and Lara, and there are odd feeling between all of them. "I can't explain it, but I have the strangest feeling whenever I see Kal-El," says Lara. After some idle conversation, the doorbell rings and Lyra Lerrol unexpectedly enters. "Lara, when you invited me to drop in, you said nothing about another guest." Immediately Superman realizes that his mother is inadvertently playing cupid, but he does not mind.

The two couples decide to go to a mind-art center where a mento-ray freezes the artist's mental images and places them on a canvas. Then they all travel to a Kryptonian zoo where they see the fire-breathing creature the movie company plans to borrow for the film. Even though he is very attracted to Lyla, Superman is determined not to fall in love with her. Not knowing this, she is hurt that he seemingly avoids her when all the other men of Krypton throw themselves at her feet.

Amid the confusion of the moment, a two-headed beast suddenly escapes. Jor-El and Kal-El spring into action, teaming up to lasso the beast. Once the beast is captured, Superman sees that Lyla has fallen and rushes to her side. Carefully he takes her into his arms, and unable to stop himself kisses her passionately, much to the glee of Jor-El and Lara.

In the days that follow Superman and Lyla are inseparable as they explore the wonders of Krypton. From the beauty of Rainbow Canyon, to the spectacle of Jewel Mountain, the two notice no one except each other. The only thing that can disturb two hearts beating as one is a sudden, dramatic earthquake and far beneath the surface of Krypton, a chain reaction begins that will be the undoing of the planet. Lyla sees the concern in Kal-El's face. "What torments you, my love? Tell me! Let me help you," she implores. But no one can ease the pain of knowing that he is helpless to save the ones he loves.

The next day, Kal-El greets a haggard Jor-El at the missile base. Jor-El confides to him that he is positive that Krypton will be destroyed by an internal explosion, and that he hopes to convince the Science Council to fund a project to build a fleet of space ships to evacuate every inhabitant to a planet he has been studying... Earth. Together they use a super-telescope and view New York, Metropolis and a town called Smallville where they watch a young man named John Kent save a beautiful woman named Martha from Snark McGill, the confidence man.

Quickly, the two scientists direct the construction of a huge space arc using Robo, a giant robot. With permission from Ken-Dal, they formulate a fuel which will power the ship, and once the ship is complete, Jor-El invites all those who wish to leave to join him. Lara, Kal-El and Lyla head off to Kandor to board the ship, but as they approach a beam crackles through the air reducing the city to a miniature treasure inside a bottle. Staring through the glass bubble of Jor-El's speeder, Superman sees only a hole where Kandor had been. Since Ken-Dal and Robo were both in Kandor, "and Ken-Dal never revealed the secret of his rare fuel to anyone else. Another arc can't be built in time. We're all... doomed!"

Part III: The Surprise of Fate!
Several days later, Superman and Lyla sit under the radiance of Krypton's three moons. Even knowing that the end is near, Superman realizes that Lyla loves him for himself... an ordinary mortal. "If I'm doomed to die here on Krypton, I'd be a fool to waste our last days being miserable," he thinks. Together, they go to Jor-El's home and announce that after Lyla finishes shooting on her next movie, they will marry. Once the pair have left, Lara tells Jor-El that she had a dream in which they had a son who became Kal-El. "If we do, I'll name him Kal-El... after our friend."

The next day, Jor-El takes Kal-El to the Gold Mountain to determine just how much time they have. Earthquakes rumble beneath their feet, and boulders crumble under the strains of the planet putting them in dire danger. Finally the tests are complete and they prove the worst. Krypton will soon be totally destroyed.

Hurrying back to the Missile Base, Kal-El receives a message to return to the movie set for the filming of the final scenes. He calls Lyla, and she is ecstatic. "In a day or so, we'll get married immediately!" she screams with pleasure. That night, Lyla and Superman dance under the stars at the Sky Palace, a nightclub which floats high above Krypton. Everyone can see how much the couple are in love, and Jor-El toasts them. "Love like theirs and ours will always exist in the Universe," says Jor-El. "To this moment," says Lyla, "To the four of us," says Lara, ..."No matter what tomorrow brings," adds Kal-El.

At the set of "The Space Explorers" the director sets up for the final shot with the space creature borrowed from the zoo. Kal-El sees Lyla and slips behind her, "may a lowly extra kiss Krypton's loveliest, most glamorous star?" Lyla turns, but as their lips meet they both sense an impending doom. "Suddenly I'm afraid," whispers Lyla. "I don't know why! I feel as though something awful were going to happen."

Almost on cue of the premonition, a camera falls striking the fire-breathing creature who leaps past Superman into the fake space ship. As the creature leaps against the rocket tubes, its muzzle falls off allowing super-powerful flames to erupt into the tubes, propelling the prop into space above Krypton. Lyla stares screaming. "Kal-El's in there." But in an instant the ship is out of site. "I'll never see Kal-El again! Never again...ever!" she sobs.

Inside the ship, Kal-El is helpless and can only look through a porthole as Krypton fades to a speck. Ultimately, the ship is attracted by the gravity of a yellow sun, and with his powers restored, Superman leaves the confines of the tiny ship. "If I return to Krypton, I will lose my super-powers again. Fate cannot be changed. It's impossible for me to save Lyla or my parents," laments the man of steel.

Using his incredible super-speed, Superman smashes forward in time, and as he emerges he is just able to avoid a swarm of Kryptonite meteors, all that remains of the once mighty planet Krypton. Heading back toward earth, his thoughts return to Krypton and Lyla. This memory is not one he will soon forget, but seeing Metropolis brings him to reality and makes him think of his other life, and other friends. "It's good to have a second home," he thinks.

5Story - 5: This story was written by Jerry Siegel, and has arguably been called "one the best comic story of the 1960's". How Siegel came to write this story is rather complicated, though. Everyone knows that Siegel and Shuster created Superman, and sold the character to DC for the paltry sum of $800. Over the years, the Siegel/Shuster team had been well-paid for their work, but still they did not actually own their character and in 1945, while Siegel and Shuster were both serving in the military, DC launched a Superboy comic without consulting, or compensating, either of the creators. When they returned from the service, Siegel and Shuster successfully sued DC for compensation and supposedly received $100,000 from the company, but that was essentially the last straw. When their contract came up for renewal in 1948, DC refused to re-sign the team. Not only were they "fired", but DC took their names off of the credit for the strip.

From 1948-1958 Siegel and Shuster struggled, all the while still fighting unsuccessfully to retrieve their rights to Superman. Their only success was a short-lived syndicated strip called "Funnyman." Approaching poverty, it was Siegel's wife Joanne who went to editor Jack Liebowitz and basically begged for work. DC agreed to hire Siegel as a writer, but stipulated that he would receive no credit and get no special privileges. Even though his "baby" had been changed substantially over the years, Siegel wrote some of the more memorable Superman stories from 1958 until 1964, including the first "imaginary" story, The Death of Superman (Superman #149) and this story. Uncreditted, Siegel also wrote most of the Tales of the Bizarro World, many of the early stories about Supergirl (including the one where she revealed her existence to the world) and created many of the Legion of Super Hero's primary characters and villains, not the least of which was introducing Mon-El into the Legion. Unfortunately, Siegel made the mistake of asking for better treatment by the DC editors and was immediately dismissed.
This story is a wonderfully crafted, albeit sentimental and ironic tale, that not only delved into life on Krypton but introduced another in a long line of women in Superman's life with the initials "L.L.", the hauntingly beautiful Lyla Lerrol. There were also two themes that would appear again several years later. The first involved a woman that fell in love with Superman as a mortal, for himself, and not for the incredible powers he possessed (specifically Sally Selwyn in Superman #165 and #169). The second revolved around the fact that while Superman could travel in time, he was helpless to actually change history. This tale covered the gamut of emotions and did it with great skill.

5Art - 5: Overall, from start to finish, I feel that this may be Wayne Boring's best work on the Superman character. Not only is this full of strong-jawed, heroic men, beautiful women, alien cities and space ships, but it is empathetic to the Superman character and the situation he finds himself in. It is also very touching to see the tender way Boring depicts Lara, Superman's mother, in such a reverent way.

5Cover Art - 5: The cover to this book was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. It is a wonderfully emotional shot of Superman approaching Jor-El and Lara's home on Krypton. Jor-El and Lara are sitting in front of the house when they see an odd man they somehow recognize. The faces and the poses are perfectly crafted to illustrate both the confusion and irony of that situation.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • 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”




Compilation Volumes


Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.