Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (wwh27539@mindspring.com).


Superman #189

Superman #189

Cover date: August 1966

Writer: ?
Penciller: Wayne Boring
Inker: Wayne Boring
Cover: Curt Swan & George Klein

"Krypton Lives Again"

Chapter I - Krypton Lives Again

One night at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent stood to leave and was met by Perry White's steely glance. "Pretty punctual when it's quitting time, aren't you Kent?" grumbled White. Kent put on his hat and walked towards the door. "You wouldn't want to have to pay me overtime, would you Perry?" he said with a chuckle. "Besides, I have a date with a star." Actually, with a TelStar satellite that NASA had asked Superman to repair.

Leaping skyward, Superman soared into space to repair the TelStar not knowing that beneath him millions of televisions of Metropolis tuned to the Batman TV show were interrupted with urgent news that a rogue planet had been discovered on a collision course with earth. The people of Metropolis became frantic, wondering "Where on earth is Superman?"

While repairing the satellite, Superman "overheard" the alert, and after completing the task at hand, sped off at super-speed to intercept the runaway world. As Superman approached the planet, he was immediately taken with how much it resembled Krypton. Then, suddenly, he saw that a red sun accompanied the planet, and that sun's rays immediately erased his super-powers.

With his powers gone, Superman fell to the planet's surface at an alarming rate of speed and as the surface rose to meet him, a strange craft appeared from nowhere grabbing him with a mechanical arm. Gaining his wits, Superman saw that the craft was Kryptonian, and that the words "Sky Rescue Patrol" were printed on the craft in Kryptonian. Once on the surface, Superman was even more surprised to see that the inhabitants all spoke Kryptonian, and that the clothes, homes, pets and cities were all from his former home.

Using a Skycar, the Kryptonian form of mass transit, free to everyone, Superman began searching the planet. On a large Billboard were signs advertising the natural wonders of Krypton: Rainbow Canyon, Jewel Mountain, the Fire Falls and Scarlet Jungle. With every new sight, Superman wondered if he had somehow gone through a time warp, but stopping at an observatory, the resident astronomer focused his powerful telescope on earth and Superman saw the 1966 Dodgers playing baseball in Los Angeles. There was no time warp.

After seeing this, Superman was more confused than ever. Suddenly, a thought struck him. "My father, the scientist Jor-El, must also live here in this "re-born" Krypton. I'll go to his lab for the answers to this maddening mystery." Before long, Superman was standing in Jor-El's laboratory, facing his father. Explaining his dilemma that only served to confuse Jor-El, too. "Son? From Earth? There is a family resemblance in your face," stammered Jor-El. Abruptly Jor-El turned and told Superman that perhaps the answer was in his secret files, and he began searching, giving Superman permission to look around the house. As he walked down the halls of the laboratory, Superman swelled with pride. Before him were all of the many honors his brilliant father has received for inventing Krypton's first synthetic food machine, a super-gyroscope, and invisible cloak and the horrible Phantom Zone projector.

Returning to his father, Jor-El held up a file he said would explain the mystery of the "Second Krypton" when an explosion ripped through the lab killing Jor-El and blowing Superman through a window. Outside, people passing by didn't even seem to notice. "Have they all gone off their rockers?" asked Superman. Hoping to stop the fire, Superman noticed a fire-extinguisher robot, grabbed it, aimed it's extinguisher arm at the fire and pulled a lever. Instead of water, bombs flew out of the hose, wrecking a skyscraper, and killing dozens of people. Again, the people who witnessed the catastrophe acted indifferent to the disaster.

Realizing that he could do no more there, Superman decided to go to Jor-El's home to see his mother, Lara. There was no answer when Superman called her name, so he slowly entered. Coming through the door, a young Krypto barked at him, then went to him as if he recognized him. Around him lie children's toys and using his microscopic vision, Superman saw fingerprints... fingerprints identical to his own only from a child's hand.

Superman's concentration was broken when he suddenly heard a scream and he ran out of the house to find a woman being kidnapped. In an instant, he recognized the woman trapped in the glass cylinder as Lyla Lerrol, the beautiful actress that he had fallen in love with when he had traveled into the past and visited Krypton (Superman #141, see previous review). Grabbing a brick from the street, Superman smashed the cylinder, and caught Lyla as she fell to the ground. Holding Lyla again, visions of their love flashed through his mind... the caresses at Rainbow Canyon, the tender glances.

But, this Lyla is incensed. Struggling away from his grasp she screamed at him. "You crazy caped idiot," yelled a man running up to him. Lyla ran to Zik-Tul, the director, and threw her arms around him. "This is the man I'm going to marry," she said, kissing Zik-Tul. Looking at the crowd, Superman realized that these people were scared of him. Suddenly, Kryptonian robot police arrived, and forcibly removed him to the Psycho Observation Ward. After a quick examination, it became obvious that the physicians did not believe his story and felt that he was delusional. Strapping him into a rigid chair, they prepared to use the Mento Ray, a machine that will turn insane men sane, but would also make a sane man insane. Suddenly, the beam swung around, striking the doctors, and Superman took the opportunity to free himself.

Escaping to the street, Superman wandered to a weather control tower and was met by Kir-Du, a scientist who had known Jor-El. The scientist allowed Superman to observe him create weather, and instructed Superman to strike a particular key on the console, however when he did Kir-Du erupted in anger, telling him that he had struck the wrong key. Suddenly huge hailstones pummel the city of Kryptonopolis. Grabbing Kir-Du, Superman begged that he explain what was going on, but just as Kir-Du began to explain what had happened, a hailstone hit the tower killing the man. Realizing that there was only one way to stop the horrible weather, Superman wrapped his cape around his arm as insulation and grabbed the high-voltage power cable.

Chapter II - Krypton's Second Doom

The shock of the high voltage from the power line had knocked Superman unconscious, and when he awoke he could not believe the destruction that had been caused. In the city below, Superman walked among the many dead until he heard a voice... Lyla. "I'm alive, Kal-El," she whispered, "but Zik-Tul, my beloved fianc, perished."

Looking around him, Superman was wracked with guilt. Moving to comfort him, Lyla spoke softly. "It was fated he die. And now, Kal-El, we can continue our romance which was cut off when destiny sent you away from Krypton." Superman looked at her in horror. "But Lyla, I'm a mass murderer," he said. "But I tell you," implored Lyla, "it was destined that they all die. What's done is done. Forget the past and live for the future."

At first Superman was confused. How was it that Lyla had no memory of him earlier, yet remembered their romance now? Why had she shown no grief at the holocaust produced by the weather machine and the death of her fianc? But, with a kiss from Lyla, his mind is wiped clean. Suddenly, he was swept away to a happier time. The couple climbed aboard an arrow-mobile, and was shot from a giant bow. "If you steer through the heart, it means your courtship will be a success," whispered Lyla, snuggling close. Superman easily guided the car through the heart, to the Cloud Castle, where many couples spend their honeymoon, then on to the Grotto of Images, where prisms reflect the couple's images and multiplies their love.

From his cape, Superman pulled photos of Lois Lane and Lana Lang and showed then to Lyla, who immediately got gets jealous, but Superman tore the photos to shreds. "My heart beats solely for you," she said. Climbing back into the craft, the couple flew over the crater left when Brainiac stole Kandor and amazingly saw the wreckage of hundreds of spaceships crashed into the surface of Krypton... except one. There was one intact ship!

Superman and Lyla ran to the craft and lifted off, but the engine was defective and they don't travel far before they returned to the ground, landing at Mt. Mondru, the highest peak of Krypton. The craft crashed into the mountain slope, and slid, triggering an electronic eye. Suddenly, a giant cannon appeared destroying millions. Then a fleet of space bombers arrived, sewing even more death when the bombs create a belt of radioactivity which continues to kill the population until no one is left.

Watching the bombs continue to fall, Superman was beside himself, but Lyla was quite blas. Suddenly, one of the bombs exploded nearby causing a boulder to land on Lyla. With her dying breath, Lyla told Superman that she loved him, then flipped a small viewer at Kal-El. Superman was again upset because he could do nothing to save her.

With no reason to go on, Superman plopped to the ground, and picked up the viewer, a microfilm projector. Starting the mechanism, Jor-El appeared before him and explained that this planet was created to hide the real Krypton from a huge armada readying to attack and invade. Scientist attracted flocks of meteors to duplicate the planet, then created androids to act like the original inhabitants, with robots, booby traps, even an artificial red sun to deceive the invaders. Then the android Jor-El took over, explaining that many of the invaders were destroyed even before reaching Krypton, and those that did make it to the planet fell into one of the many traps and were destroyed. Once Krypton exploded, Krypton II drifted aimlessly through space with its sun.

Feeling tremors shake the planet, Superman realized that Krypton II was about to plunge into its own red sun. Locating one of the escape craft from the alien armada, Superman lifted off to escape Krypton II just in time. From a safe distance, he watched Krypton II fall into the sun and become consumed. Once he had reached a system with a yellow sun, Superman's powers were restored and he continued his flight back to earth. Returning to the Daily Planet office, Lois Lane hopeful that Superman would visit. "I'm his very best girl on earth, don't you think so, Clark?," but Clark and Superman cannot take their mind off of Lyla Lerrol. "Even though she was only an android, I'll never forget her, or the original Lyla."

4Story - 4: Over the years, Superman #141 has remained a personal favorite. In that story, Superman inadvertently sped through time, traveled to Krypton, met his parents and fell deeply in love. In many ways, this was a duplicate of that story with some added twists that make it a fun story to read, and different from some of the other Superman stories of that year. While the writer for this story is not credited, my guess is that Jerry Siegel wrote this tale as he did Superman #141, even though it was two years after DC again fired Siegel. For one thing, it was not credited, something DC refused to do. The story also contains many of Siegel's literary signatures. There is an amazing compassion that shows through in the love scenes with Lyla Lerrol in both of those issues, with tenderness and sensitivity that you don't often see in comic stories. This story also established Lyla Lerrol as the principal woman in Superman's life since her memory would continue to surface in a number stories of the mid-1960's. This made me think that Lois Lane never, ever had a chance of being Superman's true girl friend.

There are several other things that made me think that Jerry Siegel wrote this story. Siegel enjoyed stories in which Superman's powers were somehow reduced or eliminated (either by Red Kryptonite or travel to a planet without a yellow sun). This allowed Siegel to explore his character on a more "human level". Siegel also seemed to relish describing the details of Kryptonian culture and even though this wasn't the "real" Krypton, this story gave the reader many glimpses into Kryptonian clothing, transportation and life on the giant planet. The one thing that severely dates the story was its specific references to the 1960's. Not only did it mention the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers, but there was a nice reference to the Batman TV show, and the "Holy ..." dialogue of 1966. So, if this was not Siegel's work, then someone paid dear homage to him.

4Art - 4: If there was one constant in all of Superman's comics from the mid-1940's through the mid-1960's it was Wayne Boring's art. In twenty years time, it did not change. His style was so bold and recognizable that anyone picking up a Superman comic could immediately tell if he had drawn the story. Yet, Boring's art seems to shine when the story calls for sensitive moments between Superman and a woman. His art in Superman #141was breathtaking and his work here with Lyla Lerrol was just as beautiful.

5Cover Art - 5: Curt Swan and George Klein combined for a spectacular cover showing a confused and amazed Superman standing in a Kryptonian street, dead bodies strewn asunder and, Krypto barking at him savagely. Swan captured an amazing body-language in Superman's figure, and the horror of the murdered Kryptonians as the Red Sun sets on the horizon. It was a very strong image, combining well with the story inside.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • 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”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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