Who's Who in the Superman Comics
Earth-One and Earth-Two
Earth-1 lies in the mainstream dimension of the DC Universe. Here, the world is inhabited by more modern incarnations of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern. The Justice League of America is the leading super-team, and is joined in crimefighting by the likes of The Teen Titans, The Metal Men, The Outsiders, and The Global Guardians.
On Earth-1, Superman's alter ego Clark Kent works as a reporter and news anchor for Galaxy Broadcasting Systems' GBS television network and Daily Planet newspaper.
Existing in another dimension, Earth-2 is similar in history and concept to Earth-1. However, the defining difference is that the super-heroes of Earth-2 are older - as they premiered during the Golden Age of Superheroes - and many of them operated during World War II. On this Earth, some heroes are very similar to their Earth-1 counterparts, such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, others are extremely different from their Earth-1 versions, in either origins, costumes, and abilities. The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, and Robotman of Earth-2 are different from the versions seen on Earth-1. And while Supergirl and Batgirl are present on Earth-1, Earth-2 is the home of Power Girl and The Huntress. The four heroines may not be exact copies, but the pairs do share several similarities. And instead of a Justice League of America, there exists The Justice Society of America, which is the greatest super-team of its Earth.
On Earth-2, Superman is middle-aged, and has gray hair on his temples. His alter ego of Clark Kent is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Star, the leading newspaper of Metropolis. He is married to Lois Lane.
While Earth-One and Earth-Two are major settings in DC Comics of the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths
Era (circa 1955 to 1985), numerous details deserve to be pointed out for fans of successive eras:
- Earth-Two revolves around the Justice Society of America, and the Golden Age of comics. The characters are based on the way they appeared in comic books published between 1938 and 1955. In other words, the characters seen in DC Comics (National Comics and All American Comics)and Quality Comics (except for The Spirit and Lady Luck)were all likely to be denizens of Earth-Two.
- Based on their vigor and physical appearances, most of the JSAers presented in Justice League of America and All-Star Comics of the 1960s and 1970s were actually in their late 30s and no older than 49 by the early 1980s. This also applies to such characters as the members of The Injustice Society of the World.
- Although there are too many comics that featured the Earth-Two characters, the following general comics can be sought out to collectively chronicle the Earth-Two characters:
- All-Star Comics, circa 1975 and 1978
- All-Star Squadron, between 1981 and 1985
- Justice League of America - beginning in 1963, with the "annual" team-ups of the JLA and JSA
- The Superman Family, which illustrated the adventures of the married Superman and Lois Lane in Mr. and Mrs. Superman stories. Judging the depictions of Lois in these tales, she could barely be 45.
- Wonder Woman, Adventure Comics, and World's Finest Comics all chronicled adventures of the Amazon Princess. Issues between 1977 and 1979 were based on the TV series that was set in World War II. Consequently, many of the stories took place on Earth-Two. In fact, All-Star Squadron serves as a follow-up of sorts to these Wonder Woman comics.
- DC took liberties with various heroes, and placed several on both dimensional Earths. For instance, Wildcat was on both Earth-One and Earth-Two, and depicted as an older super-hero (as seen on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon TV series). In The Brave and the Bold, he was revealed to be - as both Wildcat and boxing champ Ted Grant - a friend of Batman.
- Sargon the Sorceror and Zatara the Magician, like Wildcat, were also apparently older heroes on Earth-One, although they both were introduced with the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman during the Golden Age. Yet, several super-heroes - including The Shining Knight, Robotman, Congo Bill, The Vigilante, TNT and Dyna-Mite, and Johnny Thunder - were possibly contemporary characters alongside the rest of the Justice League of America.
- Black Canary - who switched between Earth-Two and Earth-One - was eternally 35, until a later JLA/JSA adventure (circa 1983) established that the Earth-One Black Canary was really the daughter of the original.
- Of the super-villains, there were definitely two versions of Mr. and Mrs. Menace a.k.a. The Sportsmaster and The Huntress. The Golden Age couple were in the Injustice Society, and battled Starman and Black Canary in a Silver Age classic. A contemporary version of the two was introduced in The Batman Family fighting Robin and Batgirl; and were the antagonists of "The Great Super-Star Game!" originally presented in DC Super-Stars #10, December 1976.
There is one Solomon Grundy, who manages to continuously hop between dimensions, and frequently faces Superman. It is unknown if there are actually two versions of Vandal Savage. It would appear that the Earth-Two incarnation can traverse between dimensions. Yet, for the origin of The Forgotten Heroes, in which it is established that The Immortal Man and Vandal Savage are eternal enemies, that would infer the existence of an Earth-One Vandal Savage. Perhaps it is this version who repeatedly challenges Superman in the 1980s.
- The existence of an Earth-Two Aquaman was never acknowledged... until the last remaining issues of All-Star Squadron published in 1985.
- It is unclear if the Earth-One Wonder Woman actually operated during World War II. Given modern comic books and their tight continuities, Wonder Woman defies all logic. Many comic books clearly infer that the Earth-One Wonder Woman did indeed operate during the Golden Age. Frequent reprints and more modern stories refer to such. For instance, the original Cheetah dies of old age (or natural causes). The Super Friends cartoon and comic books infer that Wonder Woman began her career years prior to the founding of the Justice League. And... many Teen Titans fans note that Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) was an infant when Wonder Woman rescued her from a fire and adopted her as a sibling. At the very least, one can assume that the modern Earth-One Wonder Woman was indeed active as a super-hero during the 1940s/Golden Age.
- In the modern times of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Earth-Two Superman - this writer maintains - was perpetually in his 40s. If you look at the early appearances of the Earth-Two Superman, he is virtually identical to the Earth-One version. The Justice Society themselves are around their late 30s when Larry Lance dies (look at his tombstone). Therefore, I maintain that going into the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the JSA's average age was no older than 49. The senior citizen look, adopted by several artists around 1984 and their appearances in Infinity Inc., was only utilized to accentuate their ages, and not an actual determination of their ages. Remember, Mr. Fantastic and The Thing were World War II veterans themselves. If only we all could share the aging of comic book characters!
Who's Who in the Superman comics (1950s - 1980s)
The decade of the 1950s proved to be a bountiful and definitive period of time for the Man of Steel. Core elements of the Superman Legend would see the light of day, while those concepts and ideas which were introduced in the 1940s, would be expanded upon. This is the decade that would produce the definitive Superman who would be in print for more than 30 years, and pave the way for the Superman storyline all fans follow today.
Let's begin with Superman himself. Introduced in 1938, Superman would usher in a Golden Age of comic books, and become the first super-hero in existence. But during his early years, his powers took time to be completely defined by the writers and artists working on him. His look was also in a state of flux, as the original Superman, as illustrated by co-creator Joe Shuster, was clearly a man of average height and build - but a man of superhuman might. Artist Wayne Boring would come along afterwards, and be the first to depict Superman as a big, brawny Man of Steel.
Other elements were in a state of change as well: originally starting as a reporter for the Daily Star, Clark Kent would ultimately work for the Daily Planet. The city of Metropolis, the main setting for Superman's adventures, was also slowly developed. And of course, there are the villains! While the Ultra-Humanite and later Lex Luthor emerged as super-villains, the bulk of Superman's enemies were less than super, and many of them were more comical than cunning.
The 1950s changed Superman forever! America and the world were shaped and improved by modern technology. Ironically, the science fiction elements which pioneered Superman - yet were minimally used under the stewardship of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, now became the core essence of Superman's storyline. Interplanetary escapades, futuristic adventures, and cosmic characters finally had a role in the Superman saga. Beginning in this decade, fans were introduced to true super-villains, whose origins stemmed from the greatest aspects of science fiction. Whether it was the imperfect imitation of life known as Bizarro, or the ultimate green-skinned, alien invader Brainiac, fans were finally given true super-villains for which Superman could prove his might. And then there was Krypton! Long gone as a planet, its impact upon Superman was expanded in ways never expected, but greatly appreciated. Chunks of kryptonite proved poisonous for Superman, and provided Lex Luthor with a new weapon with which to conquer the Ultimate Champion of Justice! And even though Superman was the Last Son of Krypton, he wasn't the only man to outlive Krypton's destruction, as General Zod, Jax-Ur, Mala, Quex-El, and several other villains would prove, and serve as evil counterparts of the Man of Steel. And Superman was not alone, as a hero from Krypton: Krypto the Superdog and Supergirl would join the Man of Tomorrow in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way!
Another part of Superman's legend was Superboy. Introduced during the 1940s as a younger, mischievous version of Superman, the 1950s would reveal Superboy as a champion in the making, a truly youthful incarnation of the Superman we would know and love. Instead of protecting the big city of Metropolis, Superboy defended the little town of Smallville. And fans would come to know how instrumental Jonathan and Martha Kent were as foster parents, instilling key virtues to their adoptive son, who upon their passing, became the Superman of legend. The Legion of Super-Heroes, which was introduced in the pages of Superboy, would become a franchise itself, yet still a vital portion of the Superman saga.
By the time the 1970s came along, the world of Superman was greatly established. The biggest change to come was that Clark Kent, always a prominent reporter for the Daily Planet, was moved to television, where he became a news anchor for the Galaxy Broadcasting System. Media mogul Morgan Edge was introduced, and he was characterized as an overbearing blowhard, constantly barking out orders to his employees - including Clark Kent. The Superman comics proved to be ahead of the times, as Edge was the first of fiction's most prominent media barons, as his Galaxy Communications owned both the GBS national television network, and the Daily Planet newspaper. Morgan Edge would predate the mainstream popularity of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, and other multimedia moguls - men who would play a big part in the American entertainment industry throughout the modern era of communications. S.T.A.R. Labs, another part of Superman's world, was introduced during this period. Existing as an independent research laboratory, dedicated to mastering science and technology, S.T.A.R. Labs served as a major set piece, where Superman would always go to, if ever, he needed exta help and advice from scientists.
The villains of the 1970s and 1980s would be just as determined to challenged Superman, as well. Many of them were cut from the same cloth as the super baddies of the 1950s and 1960s, but these guys were good enough to leave a lasting impression on readers. The Parasite, Terra Man, Mongul, the Atomic Skull, Lord Satanis and his estranged wife Syrene, and even classic DC Comics foils Solomon Grundy and Vandal Savage would prove to be persistent pest for Superman to swat at. Even Lex Luthor and Brainiac would enhance their appearances by the 1980s, with Luthor now wearing an advanced suit of armor, and Brainiac becoming the ultimate form of cyberlife.
And let's not forget Batman. Superman #76 (May-June 1952), debuted the world's finest team-up, as DC Comics' two greatest super-heroes finally united to fight crime. From there, the duo would routinely unite in World's Finest Comics, and become lifelong friends - sharing secret identities and passes to the Fortress of Solitude and the Batcave. Together, Superman and Batman would battle classic menaces such as the Moonman and the Composite Superman. And between his team-ups with Batman and the formation of the Justice League of America, it was clear that Superman was the leading hero, as others looked onto him for helmsmanship and guidance. Superman was far more than the clean-up hitter for the Justice League of America, as 1970s and 1980s comics would illustrate. With his work in the JLA, Superman was exposed to more super criminals who would step up to the plate against the Man of Steel. Such villains as Amazo, Dr. Light, Kanjar-Ro, Hyathis, Brain Storm, and the Queen Bee would all spill over from the pages of Justice League of America, and into Superman and Action Comics, and become instant members of Superman's Rogues Gallery.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, this is the era which Superman Classic will cover. This period of time exposed generations of readers to prominent people, places, and things that mattered in the realm of Superman. Even today, as John Byrne served as the catalyst for 1986's relaunch of the Superman legend, the characters introduced - though slightly altered - have stayed with Superman's storyline. And as we move further into the 21st Century, writers and artists are reaching back into this era, to cull colorful storylines and characters now seen in Superman comics. With Superman Classic, the Superman Homepage wishes to immortalize the Man of Steel from a bygone era, whose popularity and fame inspired millions of readers, and served as the basis for several cartoons, live action television shows, and the reknowned Superman movies released between 1978 and 1987. We hope Superman Classic will recall fond memories for some, and introduce new fans to things that made Superman and his world so fun, so thrilling, and have had a lasting legacy on comic books to this day.
Many thanks to Derrick Lyle Coleman current writer and updater.
Please email me (Steve Younis) with any comments, corrections, omissions, praise :) or any questions you might have about Superman Classic.
The listings are displayed as follows:
- Surname, Firstname - Text describing the character, place, object, etc...