§ June 5th, 2024 § Filed under supergirl, superman § 14 Comments

So I talked about the “Supergirl’s Husband” story last time, about how it wasn’t as bad as I’d recalled it being. I mean, it’s not the greatest Superman story ever told but as a weirdo hybrid of modern storytelling demands and the Bronze/Silver Age milieu in which the Super-books still existed, it remains a fascinating example of where this particular franchise stood in those about-to-be-rebooted-away days.

The previous issue, however…

…well, it’s not awful throughout, but it ends on a really sour note that affects my opinion of the whole thing.

The most notable happening in this comic is the elaborate-if-easily-foiled-by-opening-a-door computerized contraption that uses its mid-1980s A.I. to generate believable Clark dialog while occasionally telling you it’s totally fine to eat fugu liver:

This is what I mean by the Superman books still being under the long shadow of the Silver Age. The wild elements and behaviors from that period continue on, even as the genre “matures,” with plot points like “Superman’s out-there ways of protecting his secret I.D. from Lois” sitting side-by-side with attempts at more modern storytelling sensibilities.

(I recently noted online that Superman media adaptations have increasingly done away with the idea of Superman trying to withhold his secret from Lois, possibly a reflection of the fact this is no longer a thing in the comics, or more likely just out of the feeling that aspect of the relationship is outdated.)

Another element of “modernization” bringing Superman comics in parity with 1960s Marvel is some of the overly-chummy captions, that “greetings fellow kids” really, really hard:

A total slam on Bulgaria completely out of nowhere, C’mon Julie.

And I just have to bring this up, as one of the alien antagonists for this story has an annoying speech pattern, one not shared by his fellow alien from the same species that’s his partner in crime. So the dude deliberately choose to talk like this:

“I have it with me…in this file I do have it!” “As we planned! Planned it we did!” AUGH SHUT UP ALREADY

Speaking of those guys, the story generally revolves around them (representatives of the Superman Revenge Squad) invading New Krypton (the planet upon which the formerly shrunken Bottle City of Kandor was expanded) and causing some havoc. But the early parts of the issue are more explicit tie-ins to Crisis on Infinite Earths, opening with Superman’s grief over the death of his cousin Supergirl, and proceeding to fly around a bit with the Superboy of Earth Prime:

Wait, that comes later. This story features the character in more innocent times:

…before he’s whisked away yet again by a mysterious cosmic vortex that…was there an explanation for that? I seem to remember it happening in the series and folks were all “where did that come from?” and it’s been so long since I last reread it I can’t remember if there is a reason for those. If you can enlighten me, feel free.

This comic concludes with Superman bringing Supergirl’s body to her parents on New Krypton, wrapped up in her cape. And I suppose Superman did a good job of wrapping, or Zor-El is in complete denial, because he says, well….

And we close ther issue with a nice, tasteful scream of anguish…

…accompanied by the almost certainly deliberately Vonnegutian “So it goes….!” which, I mean, c’mon, there’s a reason it’s used in Slaughterhouse-Five, I don’t think that’s quite earned here. Unless it’s some form of metacommentary on Crisis‘s then-ongoing slaughter of parallel universes and the countless lives therein, in which case, Elliot S! Maggin, I salute you.

But despite that, that final panel is…urgh. Kinda gross, to be honest, with that terrible cry across the top of the image. Better to have just shown the exterior in silence, I think, but forty years on may be a bit too late to do a little armchair editing.

The whole comic very much feels like “we’d better address what’s happening in the DC Universe at large” in a book that had largely charted its own course without many interactions outside its specific character franchise. That, of course, was a common element across most of DC’s superhero line, one that I think was hoped to change with the New, Fresh Start afforded by Crisis.

Following the Crisis tie-ins the Superman line mostly went back to business as usual, until the conclusions afforded to the main ongoing titles written by Alan Moore and Steve Gerber. Then along came the Byrne reboot, which I’ll be getting back to here shortly.

14 Responses to ““EEEYAAAHHHH!””

  • Randal says:

    No. Bulgaria knows what it did.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    In defense of the Bulgaria remark, the country *was* behind the Iron Curtain at the time and decadent American comic books were most likely not distributed there. So it may be that’s what Julie had in mind, rather than being a specific dig at Bulgarians.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Still my candidate for the greatest single Superman story of all time, even if it’s an imaginary one: https://www.comics.org/issue/16546/cover/4/

  • Chris V says:

    Based on Zor-El’s reaction, here’s how I imagine events occurring before that scream:

    Zor-El: No, really. What is it? Is it a present for me?
    Superman: Why don’t you open it and find out.
    Alura: Oh goody. How fun. Open it, Zor baby.

  • DK says:

    “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” works so well in part because of the weird 1980s Silver Age still happening just in the Superman books. Moore just takes it to its logical conclusion of being in 1986 for real.

    But also at DC over in LSH and New Teen Titans you have people being burned to death and the Vigilante knocking off mob bosses but here in Action Comics we still have space aliens kidnapping Jerry Siegel, and Gee Lois Golly I’m Not Superman.

    I remember reading somewhere there actualy was a pitch for Superman right around the time of the first movie to make it a more modern Marvel-style book but nobody was willing to forcibly retire Julie Schwartz so it went nowhere.

    I want to see the parallel Earth where Chris Claremont and John Byrne do Superman from 1978-1984 (“I have possessed Lois Lane and Lana Lang BODY AND SOUL…”) and Curt Swan draws the 1980’s X-Men written by Elliott S! Maggin (“Nice try, Magneto but Professor X used his Mental Ventriquism to fool you into thinking that was the real Wolverine!”)

  • Mikester says:

    Cassandra – whoops, you reminded me I had a joke in my post I was going to go back and add a link to when I was done writing. Ah well, edited that bit out.

  • Jason says:

    The “EEEYAAAHHHH!” makes me think somewhere David Caruso is putting on his sunglasses and making a quip about Supergirl’s murder.

  • Thom H. says:

    @Cassandra: 100%. If I recall correctly, it ends in a pretty unusual way for a Silver Age story, which was surprising and delightful. The gorgeous art by Swan and Klein doesn’t hurt, of course.

    @DK: That’s some interesting comics history. I also can’t stop thinking of Superman’s heat vision as “the focused totality of his Kryptonian powers” now.

  • Aaron says:

    “was there an explanation for that”

    An inter-dimensional storm, like the ones that took Earth-1 Supes to Earth-Prime and then both of them to Earth-1 in the DC Comics Presents story before this. Looks like it takes him straight to COIE #10 and the end of the universe.

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    Mike: I’m behind the times. Have you done Vampire Superman yet.

  • Oliver says:

    “I remember reading somewhere there actually was a pitch for Superman right around the time of the first movie to make it a more modern Marvel-style book but nobody was willing to forcibly retire Julie Schwartz so it went nowhere.”

    I feel sorry for all the kids who enjoyed the 1978 Superman movie and rushed to get a comic, only to be ‘treated’ to the team of Pasko, Swan and Chiaramonte.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Perhaps the alien with the annoying speech pattern had once been a disciple of Master Yoda–but he went to the Dark Side…but did he ever ally himself with Darkseid?

  • Snark Shark says:

    “It looks like a CAPE.”

    DOES IT???
    It looks CLEARLY like a BODY wrapped in a cape. I think that guy didn’t get any of the smarts in the family.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    I took a look at the GCD and only found a few Superman comics (“Супермен се завръща”) published in Bulgaria, all reprints from the Superman Returns movie comics.

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