Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Episode #30: Imaginative Stories: "Planetary" #10 & "Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta"

I have always enjoyed reading DC's "imaginary stories". While reading again one of my favorite comic book series Planetary, I came across two stories I thought would be worth exploring on this episode. Planetary issue #10, titled Magic & Loss, is a story about analogs of the infant Kal-El, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. It can be found in the trade paperback Planetary: The Fourth Man. Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta explores Clark Kent joining Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne as an underground resistance against a villanous Planetary organization. It can be found in the trade paperback Planetary: Crossing Worlds.

Planetary was created by writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday. Luara DePuy was the colorist for most of the issues. It was first published as a backup story in the titles Gen 13 issue #33 and C-23 issue #6, both cover dated September 1998. Both were published near the end of Wildstorm's time as an Image Comics imprint and before Jim Lee sold Wildstorm to DC. This story involved the Planetary field team exploring the story of David Paine, a brilliant physicist who became an analogue of the Incredible Hulk.

Planetary #1, cover dated April 1999, was first on sale February 3, 1999. The series ended with issue #26, cover dated December 2006, published on October 25, 2006. Warren Ellis has written an epilogue issue #27, and posted the first page of his script on his web site, John Cassaday is drawing the pages to this issue, but there is no information yet on when issue #27 will be published. I will definitely be buying the issue when it comes out. The reasons that there was such a large gap of time between the publication of the first and last issues were health issues with writer Warren Ellis and other professional obligations for artist John Cassaday.
Planetary is the story about an organization by the same name that investigates the secret history of the world. The field team calls themselves "mystery archaeologists". What they investigate involves archetypes of popular culture, from super heroes to pulp characters and classic adventure novels, like the various Edgar Rice Burroughs characters (i.e. Tarzan and John Carter of Mars). Their purpose is to use any advance technology to advance civilization.
The main nemesis of Planetary are The Four. They are analogous to Marvel's Fantastic Four. Instead of being heroes, The Four are villains. They are similar to Planetary, in that they investigate the secret history of the world. However, they horde any technology they find and murder anyone they find who would threaten their place as Earth's ultimate humans. There is no telling how many atrocities they have committed over the decades. Some of them are detailed in various issues of Planetary.
The Planetary organization's field team is led by Elijah Snow, who happens to have an ability that matches his name, heat extraction. He was born in the first seconds of January 1, 1900, and is over 100 years old. He doesn't act like it, and is basically immortal. He shares the same birthday with a number of other people, all of whom have various extra-human abilities. To anyone familiar with the history of popular culture these characters are different versions of familiar icons.
Elijah Snow is joined on the field team by Jakita Wagner, who possesses incredible strength and spped, and a measure of invulnerability, but she can be injured, possibly killed. She also has a pathological fear of boredom, and lives for the moments of excitement that working for Planetary can provide. We learn of her parentage in the series.
The third member of the field team is The Drummer. That is not his code name, that is his name. He has the ability to read any information, electronic as well as genetic. He can also get electronic equipment to do what he wants by using only his mind. We also learn his origins in the series.
There are also some alternate stories that were published together in the trade paperback Planetary: Crossing Worlds. It contains three comics. The first, Planetary/The Authority, involves Planetary involved in a case surreptiously with the Authority. The Authority was also created by Warren Ellis using characters most of whom he created while members of Stormwatch, a title originally created by Jim Lee. Other creative teams have since worked on The Authority in various mini-series.
The second was featured on this episode of Superman Fan Podcast, Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta, which features Clark Kent, Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne joining forces as an underground resistance to a villainous Planetary organization. In this story, Planetary is analogous to The Four than the Planetary we know from the regular title. Jakita, Drummer and Ambrose are identical to their versions in Planetary, but Elijah Snow is identical to a villain from the regular DC universe.
The third story is Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, where the Planetary field team travels to Gotham City to find and treat someone who has the ability to "jump" to alternate Gothams in different dimensions. Thus, we are introduced to all of the permutations of Batman thoroughout his history.
What makes Planetary so much fun to read is seeing Warren Ellis's and John Cassaday's versions of characters from the various media of popular culture, and how they weave them into a complex universe, or multiverse. And how they fight against The Four to make the world a better, stranger place creates a great story. If you are looking for a comic book title that is something more than fistfights between superhero tights, something that expands the horizons of the comic book form, Planetary is the perfect title to explore. It's a strange comic book world. Let's keep it that way.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Episode :29: Happy Birthday, Lana Lang!

According to the web site, July 17 is the accepted birthday of Lana Lang. She is one of the famous, or infamous, "LL's" in Superman lore. Lana first appeared in Superboy #10 (September / October 1950). She was created by writer Bill Finger and artist John Sikela. Lana was a friend of teen-aged Clark Kent at Smallville High, and lived next door to the Kents. Her father was an archaeologist. Like Lois Lane, Lana tried to prove that Clark Kent and Superboy were the same.
Lana rescued an insect-like alien who was trapped under a tree near Smallville. The alien gave Lana a "biogenetic" ring in appreciation. It gave her the ability to use insect-like powers, including arachnids). She created a yellow and black costume and called herself Insect Queen. As Insect Queen she had adventures with Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and eventually became an honorary member of the Legion.
The Earth-2 Lana Lang was slightly different. Her family moved away from Smallville when she was a young girl, and never met the young Clark Kent. She only met Clark Kent when she joined the Daily Star newspaper as a TV critic. She became Insect Queen when her archaeologist father gave her a mystic amulet. The ancient origin of the amulet was a gift to a Pharaoh to use as a weapon against locust hordes that threatened ancient Egypt. The amulet activated at the sound of insect wings, and the sound of Superman's flying was close enough to that sound that Lana's amulet turned her into Insect Queen. After her first clash against Superman, the Ultra-Humanite gained control of her and kept her from breaking the spell that would have returned her to normal. Superman found an antidote that Lois used to help Lana break free from the Ultra-Humanite's control. She would go on to help Superman as needed. The Earth-2 Lana Lang was phased out of existence during the Crisis of Infinite Earths.
The Earth-1 Lana Lang died in Action Comics #583, part two of the story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, which concluded fifty years of Superman continuity and prepared the way for John Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series. She regains her powers by bathing in a sample of the pool of radioactive water that gave her powers similar to Superman in the past. She was killed by the Legion of Super Villains. Saturn Queen telepathically learned the source of her powers, Cosmic King transmuted those radioactive traces to common body chemicals and Lightning Lord electrocuted her.
John Byrne introduced Lana Lang again in Man of Steel issues one and six. In the final sixth issue we learn that Clark confided in Lana after Pa Kent explained to Clark how the Kents found him. Instead of getting a marriage proposal Clark flew Lana around the world and said goodbye, because he needed to use his powers to help the world. In the years that take place between the first and last issues Lana aimlessly wanders through life, before she returns to Smallville to rebuild her life in her childhood home. Unlike her pre-crisis version, Lana does not move to Metropolis nor begin a career in journalism. She lives and works in Smallville.
Lex Luthor notices her in crowd scenes of many filmed scenes of Superman's exploits, as he has employees searching for Superman's secret identity. Lana is kidnapped when she innocently visits the Kent farm as Luthor operatives are breaking into the Kent home for information on Superman. In Metropolis Lana is tortured for information about Superman. Lana braveley keeps the secret of Clark's secret identity, and she is dumped alone on the city streets. Lana and Clark continue their friendship.
She still hopes that Clark will fall in love with her, but her dreams are dashed when Clark and Lois fall in love. After Clark and Lois visit Smallville together, Pete Ross convinces Lana that Clark has eyes only for Lois. This is confirmed to Lana when Clark tells Lana his true feelings. After Pete Ross takes a job for one of the Kansas senators in Washington, D. C., Lana falls in love with Pete, and they eventually marry. Upon the death of his boss, Pete is appointed as his replacement in the Senate.
Lana and Pete have a boy they name Clark. He is born eight weeks premature when a car accident induces labor for Lana. Brainiac, in control of Doomsday's body, kidnaps the infant in an attempt to clone a new body for himself, bringing the baby to full term through his efforts before Superman rescues baby Clark.
Pete Ross becomes Lex Luthor's running mate when Luthor campaigns for President. After Luthor's election, Lana eventually becomes First Lady when Luthor is forced to resign and Pete takes office. Pete and Lana eventually drift apart, and briefly reunite when they are threatened by Ruin, the villain exposed as a now insane and evil Prof. Hamilton. Lana and Pete divorce. Pete and young Clark move to Smallville and Lana eventually becomes CEO of Lexcorp, after Luthor is forced to resign from his company and becomes a criminal renegade. The Insect Queen returned in Superman #671 - #673.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Episode #28: "The K-Metal From Krypton"!

Another part of Superman history detailed in Gerard Jones' book, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began to lose control of their creation with the rejection of their story The K-Metal From Krypton. The web site is an excellent resource to learn everything you might want to know about this obscure story, never published in Superman comic books.The site includes scans of copies of original lettered and inked pages originally done by the Shuster Cleveland studio. A history of the discovery of the script is included, as well as a modern recreation of the story by modern artists, done in the art style of the 1940's. There is more information in this web site than can be shared on a thirty minute podcast. Another source of information about this story can be found in back issues of Alter Ego magazine issues 26, 30 and 37, and is attributed on the web site. Back issues can be ordered at
The story The K-Metal From Krypton was intended for Superman #8 (January / February 1941). The story would have introduced kryptonite to Superman lore, and Superman would have discovered for the first time what it felt like to lose his powers. Kryptonite would have had a different effect on humans, giving them powers as it took away Superman's. Also, Lois Lane would have learned Clark Kent and Superman were the same person about fifty years before she eventually did. And their relationshipo would have certainly evolved in a different direction.
The k-metal web site conjectures that editorial director Whitney Ellsworth would have read this story. He was involved with the Superman radio show, and later with the Adventures of Superman TV show. It leads you to wonder if Ellsworth got the idea for kryptonite for the radio show (where kryptonite first appeared) from this unpoublished story.
This was the beginning of the shift of creative control of Superman from Siegel and Shuster to the DC editorial staff. DC editors also rejected Jerry Siegel's version of Superboy, feeling that a slightly mischievious character was beneath Superman's reputation. DC introduced their version of Superboy in More Fun Comics #101 (January / February 1945). Probably the last straw was when Jerry Siegel was inducted into the army. DC Comics began hiring Superman writers to work directly for them. By the time Jerry Siegel was discharged from the army, he faced a different relationship with DC than befor WWII.
The first evidence of this story's existence appeared as copies of four pages of the script in Jim Steranko's History of Comics, vol. I. In 1988 Mark Waid found a blurred carbon copy of the script in a dusty box in the DC library archive. He recognized the story after having read Steranko's book. Waid retyped the script, exactly as Siegel had written, even with typos, on the same model typewriter that Jerry Siegel had used. In 1994 he showed the script to Alex Ross. After their mini-series Kingdom Come Ross decided his next project should be to illustrate the script, as close to the Shuster style as possible. When DC editors rejected this project he went on to create Superman: Peace on Earth.
The poeple involved with the k-metal web site took on the project themselves. The people involved are: Tor Kinick, Angel Criado, Peter Jones, Bob Rivard, Shane Foley, Randy Sargent and John Bogdanove (the artist of the monthly Superman: Man of Steel comic book).
After studying copies of the original pages, members of the web site conjectured that probably the whole staff of Shuster's Cleveland studio worked on the story.
Along with the recreated pages, still in progress, the web site includes scans of copies of the original pages: 1, 5, 7-9, 11-13, 15, 20, 21 and 23.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Episode #27: Happy Birthday, Joe Shuster!

An excellent resouce to learn about the life of Joe Shuster is the book Men of Tomorrow:Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones. the book has been published in a new paperback edition with some updated material.
Joe Shuster (July 10, 1914 - July 30, 1992) was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada, the son of Jewish immigrants. His father Julius came from Rotterdam, South Holland The Netherlands, and his mother Ida was from Kiev, Ukraine. As a youth he worked as a newspaperboy with the Toronto Star. When he was ten years old the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At Glenville High School Joe met and became friends with Jerry Siegel. As teens they published a science fiction fanzine which contained a story whose main character was a villain, The Reign of the Superman. Afterward they reworked the character. A Superman comic book was planned to be published by Consolidated Book Publishers. They only published one issue of the comic book Detective Dan and backed out of the Superman deal, and out of the comic book field.
Jerry and Joe had their first success with Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, one of the comic book publishers that eventually merged to form DC Comics as we know it today. His New Fun Comics was the first comic book to contain original stories in place of comic strip reprints. Thier first sales were the musketeer swashbuckler Henri Duval and Dr. Occult in issue #6, October 1935. Later successes were Slam Bradley, Federal Men, Calling All Cars (Radio Squad) and Bart Regan, Spy.
The Toronto Star newspaper and building was the inspiration for the Daily Star, the original name of the newspaper that Clark Kent got a job at. Because of the many newspapers called the Star, the name of the Metropolis newspaper was changed to the Daily Planet. Shuster's memories of the Toronto skyline also served as a model for the Metropolis cityscape.
There were several inspirations for Clark Kent: Shuster himself, Harold Lloyd and Walter Dennis, a journalist and science fiction fan who sent Jerry Siegel a picture of himself.
Joe Shuster always had weak eyesight, and during his time on Superman his vision got worse. Joe was classified 4-F, physically unable to serve in the armed forces because of his vision.
After Jerry and Joe lost their 1948 lawsuit, their last creation together was Funnyman, a mischevious clown crime fighter. Unfortunately it was an immediate flop. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never worked professionally together again.
It is thought that Joe did some work for Charlton comics, but there is no firm proof. He lived with his brother in Forest Hills. After the settlement in the 1970's Joe moved to an apartment in Southern California, near his old partner. Joe's last newspaper interview was with the Toronto Star in April 1992, three months before his death.
In 2005 the Canadian Comic Book Creators Award Association established the Joe Shuster awards, to honor achievements in comic books by Canadian creators, publishers and retailers.
The Toronto Star building that inspired Joe Shuster was built in 1929. It was 22 stories tall and was torn down in 1971 afterToronto Star's new building was completed, having 25 stories. On the site of the old Toronto Star building now stands First Canadian Place, Canada's tallest skyscraper at 72 stories. It is home to the Toronto headquarters of the Bank of Montreal.

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Episode #26: Metropolis, Illinois

Metropolis, Illinois is on the very southern tip of the state, on the shore of the Ohio River. It would make a very long road trip from Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan. According to the 2000 census, Metropolis had 6,482 residents, and is the county seat for Massac County. Here in Lake County, Florida, the town of Eustis I live in had 17,683 residents by the census. The nearby town of Umatilla, where I grew up has 2,502 residents, so Metropolis is somewhere in between. It is more like the fictional town of Smallville, than its comic book equivalent. The Massac County High School mascot is the Patriot, and the Massac County campus of the 5-County Vocational Syestem is also located in Metropolis.
On January 21, 1972 DC Comics declared Metropolis, Illinois as the "Hometown of Superman". On june 9, 1972 the Illinois State Legislature passed Resolution 572 declaring the same thing. This year, 2008, was the 30th anniversary of the annual Superman Celebration, held from Thursday, June 12 - Sunday June 15. A 15-foot Superman statue stands in front of the Massac County Courthouse, and the Metropolis newspaper was renamed the Metropolis Planet, after the newspaper in the Superman comic books. Harrah's riverboat casino and hotel is another nearby attraction.
According to the official city web site, it is believed Native Americans originally inhabited the area. French soldiers were the first Europeans to go to the area in 1757, when they built Fort Massaic during the French Indian War. They abandoned the post after the war. The British found only burnt ruins, believed to have been destroyed by the Chicasaw. During the Revolutionary War, in 1778 George Rogers Clark and his "Long Knives" regiment entered Illinois through Massac Creek. Gen. Washington ordered the fort rebuilt in 1794, and the post was manned for the next 20 years, until the New Madrid earthquake of 1811-12. In 1803 Lewis and Clark also camped at Fort Massac as they prepared for their Corps of Discovery. Metropolis was platted in 1839 about a mile north of the fort site. One of the city founders was a merchant who transported goods on the Ohio River. He picked the city site, high above the river, in hope that the city would develop into a transportation hub. The Illinois legislature formed Massac County in 1843, and Metropolis became the county seat. During the Civil War, union soldiers used the fort site as a training ground. The DAR rallied efforts to purchase the 24 acres surrounding the fort site in 1903, and in 1908 Fort Massac was officially declared the first state park. Every October over 100,000 visitors go to the Fort Massac Encampment, for a festival with mock military battles, fife and drum corps, period costumes, crafts and food.
The Metropolis Museum originated with Jim Hambrick, who originally lived in California. According to the web site he began his Superman collection in 1959, when his parents bought him a Superman lunchbox. Since then he has amassed a collection of over 100,000 Superman items. He began operating a traveling Superman exhibit at county fairs. In 1985 he decided his collection belonged in Metropolis, Illinois. It took over a year to pack, and eight years to complete the move. The museum opened on Superman Square in 1993. The museum is behind a Superman souvenir and collectible store. The museum displays 20,000 items, spanning seven decades in comic books, serials, television and movies. there are props and costumes for the various supporting characters as well. Jim hopes to eventually expand the museum to display his entire collection.
The city of Metropolis planned to build a 1,000 acre $50 million Amazing World of Superman theme park, complete with a 200 foot Superman statue. The oil crisis forced the cancellation of those plans. The Limited Collectors Edition presents Superman oversided treasury ediion, published in 1974, contained drawings of the proposed park drawn by Neal Adams. In 1986 the city raised #1,000 to raise a seven foot Superman statue, which unfortunately became the target of vandals. The city raised $120,000 in 1993, through the sale of engraved bricks at $35 each, to raise a 15 foot, 2 ton bronze statue in full color. That same year Merv Griffin's Riverboat Casino opened.
The 2008 Superman celebration featured Allison Mack of Smallville, Ned Beatty of Superman The Movie and Superman II, Noel Neill of the Superman serials and the 1950's Adventures of Superman TV show from season two through the rest of the show's run (and who celebrated 60 years of first portraying Lois Lane in 1948), Superman artist Murphy Anderson, Michael Eury, author of The Krypton Companion, Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, Eddy Zeno, author of Curt Swan: A Life In Pictures, and other writers and artists.The Celebration also included a baseball game between the Metropolis Marvels and the Smallville Metoers, 1940's costume Hollywood Ball, an artist's alley, Q & A's, music, food, a fanfilm competition and autograph sessions. The official celebration website is

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Episode #25: Happy Birthday, John Byrne!

John Byrne was born on July 6, 1950, at West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England to Frank and Nelsie Byrne. His parents lived with his maternal grandmother during his earliest years.
In the article A Personal View on the inside back cover of Man of Steel #1, John Byrne reminisced about his first exposure to Superman. It wasn't in the comic books, but on television in 1957. The TV show was The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves, in the episode Superman and the Haunted Lighthouse. After his family moved to Canada in 1958, John was first exposed to American comic books, particularly the Superman family of titles. His first Marvel comic book was Fantastic Four #5, whic introduced Doctor Doom.
In 1970 John Byrne enrolled in the Alberta College of Art & Design, but left in 1973 without graduating. Some of his earliest comic book work was done for Charlton Comics. His forst color comic book work was the story Rog-2000 in the back of the title E-Man, a robot character he created. He drew a series of licensed comic books for Charlton after that, and co-created, with Joe Gill, the post-apocalyptic s/f title Doomsday +1, also for Charlton. This was my first exposure to John Byrne's art. Even in this early stage of his career, I was hooked on his artistic style, regardless how he might personally cringe after looking at this early art (as a lot of comic book artists seem to do).
John Byrne's early Marvel work included the titles Iron Fist, The Champions and Marvel Team-Up. During this time he began working with comic book writer Chris Claremont. John Byrne began working with Chirs on X-Men #108 (December 1977) through #143, when he left the title as both men increasingly saw the characters from differing perspectives. John then had a brief run on Alpha Flight, a group of Canadian super heroes noted mostly for including what became Marvel's first gay super hero Northstar. Next was The Incredible Hulk 314-319, which he left because of editorial differences with Editor-In Chief Jim Shooter.
Byrne's most famous Marvel work was on Fantastic Four #232-293 for the next six years. He followed that up with his most famous work at DC, relaunching Superman. He began with the six issue mini-series Man of Steel, then an new Superman #1. Byrne wanted to combine the original Siegel/Shuster character and the Fleischer cartoon series. In Byrne's version the public was not aware that Superman had a secret identity. As a safeguard Superman vibrated his face at super speed so that clear photographs could not be taken of his face. Clark Kent kept a weight set in his apartment to explain his physique, and while he was mild-mannered Clark certianly was no wimp. John Byrne left DC after two years after differences with the DC editors over Superman's direction.
Byrne returned to Marvel and, after brief runs on Star Brand and the West Coast Avengers, started Sensational She-Hulk for eight issues. This title was known for breaking the "fourth wall". Jennifer Walters knew she was in a comic book, and in one scene, when she was late for an appointment, instead of hailing a cab, simply stepped into the next panel. He left after eight issues because of conflicts with the editor, but returned on issues 31 - 50 under a different editor.
In the early 1990's John Byrne moved to Dark Horse Comics. His most famous Dark Horse title was Next Men, which looked at how super powers would affect those who had them. For instance, one woman who was invulnerable had no sensation of hot or cold, and her hair could slice your fingers off if you tried to grab it, as one unfortunate character did. Another character, who had superhuman strength, was almost invulnerable because of his dense muscle structure, but he could be hurt. A super fast character had muscular legs slightly over proprotioned to his small frame. Another character with vision powers had eyes that were a little larger than normal and had no white to his eyes showing, his pupils were so large. This series lasted for thirty issues.
Babe was a She-Hulk like character for mature readers, and Danger Unlimited was like the Fantastic Four, or DC's Challengers of the Unknown, who battled an alien invasion of Earth.
In 1992 he worked with science fiction writer Larry Niven on DC's Green Lantern: Ganthet's Tale. Later he wrote briefly for some of the X-Men titles but left again over editorial differences. From 1995-1998 John Byrne worked on Wonder Woman, and in the late 1990's did Spider Man: Chapter One, before Ultimate Spider-Man became a more successful reprise of Spider-Man's origin. He did X-Men: The Hidden Years for 22 issues.
Beginning in 2000, John Byrne did three mini-series under the title Superman / Batman: Generations, as well as runs on Doom Patrol and Blood of the Demon. He returned to Superman in Action Comics, working with writer Gail Simone from issues #827-835, as well as All-New Atom #1-3.
John Byrne is currently working for IDW Publishing as the writer and artist on Star Trek: Assignment Earth, which follows Gary Seven, his cat Isis and secretary Roberta, from the Star Trek episode of the same name.

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Episide # 24: Superman #300, June 1976, "Superman 2001"

The only reprint I have been able to find was in Best of DC #19, December 1981. Superman 2001 was another "imaginary story". To commemorate this special issue of Superman, co-writers Cary Bates and Elliott S! Maggin retold Superman's origin as if he landed on Earth today, in this case the bicentennial year of 1976. What makes this alternate story of Superman's origin so interesting is how different it is from traditional continuity, yet haw much Superman satys the same.
Instead of growing up in a loving foster home in a midwestern small town, Kal-El grows up on secret U. S. military bases as the Pentagon's secret weapon. Yet the young Skyboy, his military codename instead of Superboy, proves himself a world hero and not just government propertywhen he averts nuclear war himself. When the U. S. and USSR, this is 1976 after all, are tricked by a third world power, Skyboy captures every nuclear missle at super speed. He gathers them together and hurls them into the sun. When the general who served as a father figure to Skyboy dies immediately after the end of the averted nuclear war, the young superhero turns his back to superheroics and even throws his costume into the ocean. Taking parts of the names of the general and the U. S. diver who claimed his rocket years before, Skyboy becomes Clark Kent and embarks on a career as a television journalist. When a strange four armed man appears on Times Square in 2001, claiming to be the hero who saved the world from nuclear holocaust, Clark Kent is forced into action, this time as Superman, to defeat this fraud, and take his place as a hero for the enitre world. And he shows what makes Superman such a hero, when, instead of dominating the world as a ruler, inspires humanityto rise to the best of their potential.

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Episode #23: Action Comics Annual #6, 1994, "Legacy"

DC Comics' Annuals for the summer of 1994 all bore the header "Elseworlds" above the title. This was an updated version of DC's "imaginary stories" of the 1960's through the mid 1980's. This annual was originally published on July 19, 1994. The cover showed bluecoated colonial soldiers dead or injured on the ground, with a floating man bearing the familiar Superman "S" on his scarf. He ripped the colonial flag. The only reprint I could find of the story was in the out of print trade paperback, Superman/Batman: Alternate Histories.
The cover was drawn by Mike Mignola, and the story was written and drawn by John Byrne. The opening page was the familiar exploding planet of Krypton, with one lone rocket outracing its destruction. Only the sole survivor is not baby Kal-El, but an adult Gar-El. His rocket lands on Earth in colonial times, just before the Revolutionary War. He becomes a member of British royalty, and singlehandedly captures the would-be revolutionaries at Independence Hall by carrying the entire building to London. The men inside are hung for treason and the entire world becomes a crown colony as Gar-El becomes the "Soverign". HIs great-great grandson is Kal-El, who through successive generations of intermarrying with humans, has no superpowers at all. The modern world Kal-El lives in is a strange melding of still colonial era dress with modern technologies like internal cumbustion vehicles. Gar-El has unwittingly re-created the stagnant civilization he left on long dead Krypton.
An underground resistance movement does exist, and Kal-El seeks to join it as he has increasing doubts about his elder's reign. We learn his father Jor-El was killed by the Soverign for voicing his own dissent. Kal-El is captured by an unknown gang and taken to a secret location, where he learns that the resistance leader is none other than Lois Lane of the Daily Planet. Kal-El proves his loyalty by infiltrating the Soverign's palace dungeion to a secret vault containing a piece of kryptonite. He takes it back to the resistance cell, and then back to the Soverign's palace. He baricades himself in Gar-El's bedroom as he attempts to reason with him. Kal-El is killed by a sniper when he is seen as a threat to the Soverign's life. When guards find the lead box with the piece of kryptonite in it, Gar-El's eyes are finally opened when he realizes that Kal-El could have assassinated him but instead tried to reason with him. Gar-El takes Kal-El's body into space, to bury him in the sun, and then to fly into deep space, finally freeing Earth.
I have always enjoyed DC's "imaginary stories" from childhood, and all of the "Elseworlds" annuals I bought during this year of 1994 made a summer full of fun reading. The plot twists in this particular annual, intertwined with American history, made for a riveting read that has not dimmed after reading it again fourteen years later. The story reads as if it could have been written yesterday.

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