Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Episode #121: Reign Of The Supermen Week I: The Eradicator!

After the Death Of Superman storyline in the early 1990's, DC introduced another story involving four possible replacements for the Man Of Steel, or were one of them Superman himself? When these four Super Candidates first appeared, DC did a very unusual thing; they published each of their first appearances in one of the then four Superman titles. That wasn't so unusual, but the fact that all four issues were published on the same day was. The Superman titles, cover dated June 1993, all appeared on the shelves on April 27, 1993. The first of the Supermen to appear, according to the triangle numbers on the cover, was Action Comics #687 (Triangle #12). The first of the new Supermen to appear was first known as the Last Son of Krypton, but came to be known as the Eradicator.

Mike Carlin was the editor of the Superman line during this era. The four introductory issues each had a variant, or deluxe cutout cover. For Action Comics #687 (Triangle #12), the artists for the regular cover were penciller Kerry Gammil and inker Jackson Guice. The artist of the deluxe cover was Jackson Guice. The story, Born Again, was written by Roger Stern, pencilled by Jackson Guice, inked by Dennis Rodier, lettered by Bill Oakley and colored by Glenn Whitmore. This issue, and the other issues introducing the Supermen, were reprinted in Superman: The Return Of Superman trade paperback and The Death & Return Of Superman Omnibus hardcover. A later storyline involving the Eradicator was collected in the trade paperback The Day Of The Krypton Man.

For more information about the origin of the Eradicator, go to episodes 103 & 104 of this podcast:

Also check out episodes 42 & 43 of the From Crisis To Crisis podcast:

The Eradicator first appeared in Action Comics Annual #2, 1989. It was originally shaped like the post-Crisis birthing matrix from John Byrne's Man Of Steel #1. The Eradicator was a device created by Krypton's Science Council to be used against the alien Cleric, who preached against Kryptonian society's use of cloning to extend their lifespans. The Eradicator was used against the Cleric, but it did not kill him. By the end of the story the Cleric took possession of the Eradicator because he did not trust it in the hands of Krypton's leaders. He kept it for eons until he gave it to Superman.

After the Man of Steel returned to Earth, the Eradicator was the cause of some bizarre occurrences. In Adventures Of Superman #458, September 1989, it transformed Jimmy Olsen into a post-Crisis version of Elastic Lad. Unlike his silver age counterpart, Jimmy found this transformation very painful. When Prof. Hamilton was able to discover that the Eradicator was the source of Jimmy's problems, Superman sealed the device in a piece of scrap metal using his heat vision and disposed of it in a deep Antarctic crevasse. In Action Comics #646, Superman returned to the South Pole to fight a giant alien snail-like creature. The battle loosed the Eradicator from its container.

Superman's Fortress of Solitude returned to the post-Crisis Superman era thanks to the Eradicator, in Adventures Of Superman #461, December 1989. Superman learned that his family line was linked to the Eradicator through his ancestor Kem-L, who invented the device. Superman battled the Eradicator, which knocked out the Man of Steel. But when he awoke, Superman found that the Fortress had been transformed into a Kryptonian museum, with the Eradicator as one of the exhibits.

The Man of Steel thought his problems were over, but the Eradicator would attempt to control Superman once again during The Day Of The Krypton Man story, in Superman #41, The Adventures Of Superman #464, Action Comics #651, March 1990, and Superman #42, The Adventures Of Superman #465 and Action Comics 652, April 1990. This story was reprinted in the now out of print trade paperback Superman: Eradication!. At the end of the story Superman took care of the Eradicator once and for all by throwing it into the Sun. Or so he thought.

The Eradicator transformed itself into a humanoid figure inside the Sun, in the pages of Superman: The Man Of Steel #1, July 1991, published on May, 14, 1991, in the story The Return Of The Krypton Man. He fought Superman again in the following issues: Superman #57, The Adventures Of Superman #480 and Action Comics #667. Superman defeated the Eradicator again, this time with the help of Prof. Hamilton, who used the mysterious gem of the villain Mr. Z.

During the Return Of Superman story, the Eradicator was almost killed by the Cyborg Superman in Superman #80, August 1992. The Eradicator barely returned to the Fortress of Solitude to rejuvinate. In issue #82 he seemed to have been killed when he shielded Superman from kryptonite gas in the final battle against the Cyborg Superman, when the Man of Steel's powers were restored.

The Eradicator would be resurrected in the pages of Action Comics #693, when he merged with the terminally ill S.T.A.R. Labs scientist David Conner. His later appearances came when I was out of comics for a few years at the beginning of the 2000's, so I used some of the information available from Wikipedia.The Eradicator would briefly become a member of the Outsiders in their title, which I did not read. In Superman: The Man Of Steel #'s 95 & 96 (December 1999/January 2000) the original Eradicator program in the Fortress of Solitude once again tried to brainwash Superman. The humanoid Eradicator merged with the Fortress program and left Earth for a time.

He would return to Earth during the Our Worlds At War storyline, which was published shortly before I returned to reading comic books, with the opening of a new local comic book store. The last reference to the Eradicator in the Wikipedia entry was in the pages of Outsiders #26, vol. 4, as a representative on New Krypton.

In Action Comics #687, the story opened with a group of Antarctic scientists going back inside their installation after seeing strange lightning among the southern lights. Under the ice, in the Fortress of Solitude, a red energy globe discharged energy. A glowing humanoid form emerged from the energy globe. The death of Superman was recapped, and the energy form flew from the Fortress to Superman's tomb in Metropolis. He touched Superman's body and we were led to believe he merged with Superman's body. He discovered a tunnel inside Superman's tomb, but found the light inside the tunnel was too bright for his now sensitive eyes He then returned to the Fortress.

Bibbo, a Hob's Bay dockworker decided to do his part to take Superman's place. In his apratment, he donned a Superman sweatshirt, red boxing trunks over his sweatpants, and red boxing shoes to patrol his part of Metropolis.

At the Fortress, the Superman-like figure stood before a regeneration matrix, which was the source of his power. His abilities were more limited, with no more vision powers. To protect his eyes from light he wore a protective visor. On kryptonian viewscreens he watched news reports from around the world of various disaters and crimes.

At the center of both editions of the issue, as in the other three titles introducing the Supermen, was a mini-poster. This one featured the Last Son Of Krypton.

Some of the Fortress robots put a red cape on this new Superman, and he flew to Metropolis, and got busy right away. He stopped a bank robbery and threw one of the thieves through a wall. He also critically injured a carjacker, sunk a drug trafficing boat and tied a cat burglar to a 7th story flagpole. This new Superman was a lot more ruthless than the original Superman.

News reports began to be broadcast that Superman's tomb had been found empty. Lex Luthor II watched the reports from his office in the LexCorp tower. He wanted Happersen to find out everything there was to know about Superman's missing body. At this point the Matrix Supergirl barged into Lex's office demanding to know why he didn't tell her about this new Superman. Lex informed her that he didn't want to worry her, and that reports seemed to indicate there were four different Supermen. After Supergirl left, Lex ordered Happesen to find out if Superman was still dead, or if her returned to life.

This new Superman saved a small passenger plane from crashing into Metropolis, and set it down in Simon-Kirby Riverside Park. Lois got out of a taxi and briefly interviewed the new Superman, before they were surrounded by a crowd, similar to the scene near the end of John Byrne's Man Of Steel #1. This time, the new Superman carried Lois to the roof of a building where they could talk in private. Lois thought he looked like Clark but acted colder. He told Lois details only the real Clark/Superman would know. Before he flew away he told Lois that Clark was gone, only Superman remained. Lois was crushed. If he was telling the truth she had lost Clark again.

Next episode: Reign Of The Supermen Month Week II: The Man Of Steel!

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