Superman #307 (January 1977)
"Krypton -- No More!"
Gerry Conway-Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Frank Springer (cover by Neal Adams)
Doug: This post goes out to our readers who have clamored for some Superman stories as illustrated by Bronze Age great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Today's your day. And what's more, since I chose this story because it also contains Kara Zor-el, this will be a 3-part review stretching over the next couple of months. Look for parts two and three (Superman #s 308 and 309) on Fridays in October and November. And in case you didn't notice, famed Spider-Man scribe Gerry Conway is at the helm as our author. Will he work some of that early 1970s Marvel magic, or will we walk away thinking "Of course... this is a Bronze Age DC mag."? Let's check it out.
Doug: DCs at this time had a curious layout, as the main stories were only 17 pages long. The bonus, of course, was generally a 5-6 page back-up feature. So while the headliner sort of got short-changed as compared to his Marvel Comics counterparts, the reader got a little more bang for his or her buck (or in this case his 30c). We open with the Man of Tomorrow in a bit of a sour mood and bent on wasting a factory. A figure we don't recognize, but who bears a striking resemblance to the Ray, sizzles into the panel from Stage Right. He engages Superman and then knocks our hero for a loop using numerous different powers. Claiming to be a mutant and with atomic-based abilities, he identifies himself as the Protector and makes a vow of his own: he is the champion of all polluting industries. Wait... say what? He's standing up for the environment's enemies? O...K...
Doug: Superman's dumped out of the sky and onto his red panties, and right at the feet of a Mr. Slotvik. Slotvik claims responsibility for bringing the Man of Steel to the factory; Superman replies that he only came to help. We then get a flashback over three pages that shows how Milton Slotvik had approached Clark Kent after one of Kent's news broadcasts. Slotvik knew the company for which he worked was using resources which were most likely causing employees to come down with cancer. Slotvik wanted Kent to investigate and perhaps bring some publicity to the situation. Clark suggested that maybe an impartial party should join in, and offered to contact Superman. Slotvik agreed. However, the conversation was interrupted by a "news groupie" named Terri who threw herself at Clark. Of course, Lois Lane happened by at just the right (wrong) time, jealousy emanating from her pores as she coldly addressed Clark about her plans to fix him dinner. Clark, however, exited with Terri. And then... this took a really weird turn. While on the elevator with Terri (nope, no Love In An Elevator here), Clark began to fill out the invitations to his own pity party -- "You call me a man -- but I'm really a native of a planet called Krypton -- and much as I like you, we can never be anything to each other -- any more than Lois and I! I'm an alien -- an outcast -- a loner -- and that's the way it must remain!" And he walked off in a foggy funk and left Terri wondering what the heck just happened. Me, too!
Doug: We cut back to the near-present as Superman makes an appearance at Slotvik's job site, Metro Chemical Plant. Supes is greeted by Morton Kalmbach, the president of the company. He's a smarmy sort, and offers our hero a tour. Kalmbach's attitude is one of greed and uncaring, and he admits to Superman that there's bound to be some collateral damage on the way to a healthy bottom line. Superman stops him and asks if he's admitting to knowing that what they do at the plant could be causing cancer for the laborers; Kalmbach says it's only a "socially acceptable" danger to the men. And that's when Superman went off. Once the flashback is over, Superman leaves Slotvik and flies away to the Rocky Mountains where he finds a high peak upon which to sit and brood. He thinks about the mortality of the men in danger at the plant, and then his mind wanders to Krypton... his lost Krypton. Readers are then treated to a brief backstory of Jor-el and Lara, the rocket bearing little Kal-el to Earth, the explosion of Krypton, etc. Superman's losing his cool here, and shouts to the heavens, "Hear me, world! I won't let you commit planetary suicide! I swear I won't let you die... I swear it!" I thought at this juncture the story began to take a turn down the path that Paul Dini and Alex Ross walked in their wonderful Superman: Peace on Earth treasury. But it was short-lived.
Doug: Superman swoops onto a giant ocean-faring tanker and begins to pluck sailors from its decks. The men are whisked away and deposited on a nearby island. As Superman works, he thinks to himself that a) these are the sorts of ships that have oil spills and b) this one must therefore be about to dump crude into the ocean! His goal is to hoist the ship and put it into orbit (yeah, because that wouldn't burn up on re-entry and cause atmospheric damage...), then come back to Earth and corral any others he can find. Umm... Did Conway forget about the fuel crisis of the mid-70s? Because pulling a whole lot of supply is going to increase the demand and drive that price up, up, and away... Well, as Superman begins to gain some lift, he's suddenly attacked with ice. Yup -- the Protector wants to be sure those super-tankers can do their thing, even if it is leak all over the seven seas (remember the query I posited about Conway's scripting back at the top?). The two super-combatants get it on, with Superman again coming out on the short end and the Protector again escaping. Superman figures no worries, and surfaces to again take care of the ship. But who should be on site but his cousin, Supergirl?
Doug: Kara asks Superman what the heck he's doing, and when he tells her she becomes the voice of reason... temporarily. She barks at Clark that they have no right to interfere and that he needs to stop. He asks her if she wants Earth to end up like Krypton, and here's where the wheels fall off. Kara grabs Superman by the arm and tells him he needs to deal with the fact that Krypton didn't explode because there never was a Krypton! Superman is no alien -- he's the Earth-son of Jonathan and Martha Kent! And then she zips away, heading north. Superman gives chase, and they are very soon at the door to the Fortress of Solitude. Supergirl continues on this odd path, and once inside begins to destroy all of Superman's Kryptonian memories, including the large statues of Jor-el and Lara. Superman begs her to stop, but she just keeps going, eventually showing him the Bottle City of Kandor. Superman asks her how she would explain the fact that there are thousands of Kryptonians living in the bottle -- and she says to look again. All of the people in the city, and the city itself, is just a plastic model. Superman is about to lose his mind when Kara slaps him -- get with it and quit living the lie! She tells Superman that they are not cousins, but they are mutants. Their fathers, Jonathan Kent and Fred Danvers, were scientists working on atomic experiments. Fall-out from their efforts mutated their children. Superman's sweating now, really questioning everything. And then the Protector arrives.
Doug: Just like that -- this yahoo shows up and starts to mix it up with Superman again. And once again, Superman looks like a second-stringer. The Protector displays all the powers of Captain Atom, the Vision -- you name it -- he can about do it all. And that keeps Superman off balance until he decides to use his X-ray vision to look inside his antagonist. He notices that the Protector's heart glows just before he makes a molecular change. The Protector can sense that Superman is using X-rays against him, and so begins to transmute himself into nitrous oxide. However, at that same instant Superman switches to heat vision and WHOOM! The Protector is nowhere to be found. Supergirl asks Superman if he's all right. He says that physically he is, but emotionally he's a mess. He's excited that he's no longer an orphan, but what is his life now all about? We'll find out together near the end of October, kids!
Doug: I'm glad Edo Bosnar and others recommended that I check out some Garcia-Lopez Superman stuff. As I've said at some point around here (shoot, I can't recall what I had for breakfast yesterday!), I had the Superman vs. Wonder Woman Limited Collector's Edition when I was a kid, but have no idea whatever became of it. So I was excited to get the Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez hardcover at WizardWorld Chicago in August and recover that story. The art in this tale, as advertised, was really nice. I haven't seen enough of Garcia-Lopez inked by others yet (well, Romeo Tanghal on the Teen Titans Baxter series, but I don't recall much about it), so I cannot really comment on Frank Springer's influence. But the figurework is really done well, the panels have varied camera angles, and the story does move along. My criticism isn't with any of the visuals herein but the story. Sheesh! I don't want to sound all negative and like a broken record, but tell me this isn't a Bronze Age DC! I'm sorry, this story is more about Julius Schwartz and less about Gerry Conway. That being said, and although I thought the level of the story was again marketed to that tween-aged male, I think it does show that Conway's no slouch. Because he does sell the story -- it's ridiculous, but that's plot only. The story itself is not poorly written. And you know what? I've already read the next two issues, and it gets just a trifle sillier as we go. Stay tuned in about 30 days.