NOTE: For the previous parts of this series refer to the following episodes:
#66: Superman In The Pocket Universe!
#69: Superman Goes Gangbusters!
Superman Fan Podcast Special Blog: Superman In Exile Checklist!, posted on April 25, 2009, lists all of the issues discussed in this series of podcasts so you can read them for yourself!
#71: Superman In Exile, Part I, Free Comic Book Day & The State Of Superman Comics!
#72: Superman In Exile, Part II & Free Comic Book Day!
#90: Superman In Exile, Part III!
Action Comics Annual #2, 1989, was published on April 11, 1989. It contained 64 pages for the cover price of $1.75, which is a big jump from Action Comics #1 in 1938 for 10 cents. Mike Carlin was the editor at this time, and the cover was pencilled by George Perez and inked by Jerry Ordway. The title of the story was Memories Of Krypton's Past. Since it was a 64 page issue several creative teams worked on several separate plot threads. Writer and penciller Jerry Ordway and inker John Statema did the Warworld/Arena story, writer Roger Stern, penciller Curt Swan and inker Brett Breeding did the Superman/Attendant Lentra story and the Jor-El flashbacks, and writer and inker George Perez and penciller Mike Mignola did the Cleric story. This issue continued the events that occurred in The Adventures Of Superman #454, May 1989, published on March 28, 1989. Action Comics Annual #2 was the first issue of Action to be released after the final Action Comics Weekly issue, #642 (discussed in episode #92), which was published several months earlier on January 24, 1989.
The spaceship that had captured Superman landed on the barren prison planet near the artificial Warworld, which was somewhat like Star Wars' Death Star. After a brief skirmish with a guard, Superman was brought to Warworld's ruler Mongul, who knocks the Man of Steel unconscious with an energy beam from a weapon on his chestplate. Superman was then taken to processing to be prepped as a gladiator for Warworld's gladiatorial contests. When he was identified as a Kryptonian, previously thought to be extinct, a slug-like Cellkeeper called for the four-armed Attendant Lentra to care for Superman until his first battle. The Cellkeeper snuck away from his duties to fly a small space shuttle to a barren asteroid, to deliver the news of this new Kryptonian to a secluded being known only as the Cleric.
Lentra helped Superman dress for the gladiator games, removing the remnants of his Superman uniform for skimpier gladiator garb. Superman wore his tattered cape as a sash, which managed to strategically cover his crotch and rear. Superman then defeats his first opponent, an alien with rock-like skin, but then saved him from death by keeping him from falling into an acid-like pool of liquid. He refused the calls to kill his defeated opponent and was transported back to his cell, to wait for his next opponent. Superman then briefly told Lentra about his origin.
The Cleric reminisced to the Cellkeeper about his own journey to Krypton, many eons ago in Krypton's past. He was a missionary of an intergalactic religion simply called the Holy Commune. He preached against the planet's tradition of cloning as a means of preserving life (as detailed in the World Of Krypton mini-series published in 1987). While he attracted the ire of the Science Council establishment, he also attracts many disciples, among them Syra and her friend Sen-M.
Superman's thoughts conveniently follow similar lines as he told Lentra about Sen-M's League Of Life, who chose natural deaths over prolonging their lives by using replacement organs from clones grown from their own cells. They considered cloning a type of slavery. Superman also told her about the terrorist group Black Zero, who twisted Sen-M's teachings to justify their attacks, and destroyed the capital of Kandor with an atomic weapon and lead to a long civil war.
He then faced his next opponent, a pig-like being with a snout similar to an elephant. Using his microscopic vision, Superman discovered that his opponent was composed of may tinier beings. He kept hitting it until they could no longer hold together. Again Superman refused to kill his opponent and was teleported back to his cell.
The Cleric told the Cellkeeper about the temple he had built for his followers. Syra entered to warn the Cleric that the Science Council had constructed a weapon called the Eradicator (which would figure prominently in future stories, but that's the subject of a future episode). She volunteered to lead a preemptive assault on the Science Council, but the Cleric's words on nonviolence failed for the first time.
Superman's thoughts were along similar lines, on his father Jor-El, who noted that the hyper-drive and Kal-El's birthing matrix resembled a "legendary machine" constructed in Krypton's fifth epoch. Lentra informed Superman that his next opponent would be Mongul's champion Draaga.
The battle was a bad time for Superman's thoughts to become jumbled as his mind is linked with the Cleric's. The Cleric learned about the genetic material taken from Jor-El and Lara and injected in the birthing matrix. Superman learned about the attack on the Science Council by some of the Cleric's more extreme followers. The Cleric tried to defuse the situation by offering to take his followers off planet. His offer was answered by an energy blast from the eradicator, activated by one of the Science Council soldiers, but it did not kill him. He was only rendered unconscious. The battle commenced and the Eradicator's operator mishandled it, causing it to fire an uncontrolled burst.
Superman cleared his thoughts enough to rally against Draaga, to Mongul's admiration. Superman's thoughts returned to the Cleric's reminisce to the Day Of Intolerance, as the battle was referred to in the annals of Kryptonian history. Sen-M, not part of the attack, flew in a Kryptonian vehicle to the scene of the battle looking for survivors, only to find many dead and wounded bodies, among them the lifeless Syra. The Cleric recovered and took possession of the Eradicator, not trusting to leave it in the hands of Kryptonians. He took his followers off planet in his space ship, except for a small group of followers who would serve as apostles of the Holy Commune on Krypton, led by Sen-M.
Superman continued to battle Draaga while these thoughts bounced around his mind. His father Jor-El, Marlon Brando style, informed his son about the Clone Civil War, inspired by Sen-M's writings in spite of his non-violent beliefs. Jor-El spoke of a legend that Sen-M himself was a follower of an alien holy man who was lost to history.
The Cleric furnished the final details of his Krypton mission. Too late he discovered the fatal link that his followers had to their home planet, as they all died once the space ship left the atmosphere. The Cleric examined their bodies to discover the reason they died. In Superman's mind, Jor-El explained that Kryptonians had a genetic flaw that would cause them to die if they left the planet. He took some treatments so that his son would be free from this flaw, his last gift to his son before Krypton's doom.
The Cleric could not return to the Holy Commune after such a disgrace to the faith. He banished himself to this same asteroid, kept company only by the Eradicator. He realized his destiny was to reunite the last Kryptonian with this relic of the long lost history of the planet.
Superman's thoughts cleared enough so that he could rally one final time to defeat Draaga at last. When Superman defied Mongul's order to kill Draaga and take his place as champion, Mongul decided to go to the arena and kill both of them himself. That story would be continued in Superman #32, which would be published the following week. The conclusion of the Superman In Exile storyline will be detailed in next week's episode.
In the back of Action Comics Annual #2 were Who's Who entries for the Matrix Supergirl and Cat Grant, and George Perez's recreation of the cover of Superman#1 from 1939, which would serve as the cover for Action Comics #643 as it returned to monthly publication.
The final feature was a two page article written by George Perez, titled How I Spent My Super-Summer Vacation, which included some character development sketches by Jerry Ordway and Mike Mignola of the gladiator Superman, Cleric, Cellkeeper and Lentra.
George's reminisces began at the Superman Expo, in Cleveland, Ohio, which took place on June 16, 1988 to celebrate Superman's 50th birthday. He had agreed to Superman editor Mike Carlin's offer to write a new Superman title. The offer appealed to George because of his interest in writing comics, which he had done for a year at that point. George met his idol, artist Curt Swan (lucky guy), as well as the current Superman creative team. They gave George an overview of the current storyline as they began a discussion about where a good jumping on point for George would be, and how his book would have its unique vision different from Jerry Ordway's or Roger Stern's.
Perez recalled the introduction to the 1950's Superman TV show:
- strange visitor from another world who came to Earth.
- mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.
- Truth, Justice and the American Way!
He felt Roger Stern's title explored the idea of "Truth, Justice and the American Way". Jerry Ordway put an emphasis on the "mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper" with his emphasis on Clark Kent. George decided that he would focus on the "strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth", and Superman's Kryptonian heritage. Superman reminded him of Bob Hope. What could they have in common? Both are American icons, but Superman came from Krypton and Bob Hope was born in London.
George explained this to the rest of the creative team and they bought into the idea and began brainstorming., which led to the basic premise of this annual. After another meeting a few months later George developed the basic plot, a talent he developed while working with writer Marv Wolfman on the classic DC title The New Teen Titans. Fellow writers Roger Stern and Jerry Ordway fleshed out their parts of the story and the artists drew their parts of the story. When Jerry Ordway inked George Perez's pencils for the cover he was the first inker to do so in four years.
Ordway would mover over to Superman as writer/penciller, George would plot and ink The Adventures Of Superman and also layout the art for Action Comics for co-artist Brett Breeding. However Geroge Perez's run on the Superman titles would be even shorter that John Byrne's, lasting only from Action Comics #643, July 1989 through issue #652, April 1990, a nine month span. He would return as a contributor for the special Superman: The Wedding Album, December 1996.
Next Episode: The fifth and final episode on the Superman In Exile storyline, exploring Superman #32, The Adventures Of Superman #455, Superman #33, The Adventures Of Superman #56, and Action Comics #643.
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