With War of the Supermen over, Superman and Supergirl could be considered new orphans again. Their home world has once again been destroyed and they are left without family and friends.
With the 'new orphan' idea rolling around in my head, I thought I would dig deep into the recesses of the back issue box and review Superman #144's 'The Super Orphans from Space', dated April 1961.
Written by Superman creator Jerry Siegel and drawn by original Supergirl artist Al Plastino, 'Super Orphans' is one of three tales in the issue, but the only one I will review.
The book opens with a half splash teasing the story. Space police are arresting Superman for accidentally destroying Earth. I love how Superman states he won't resist the authorities and will do whatever they ask of him.
I'll sing Plastino's praises later but I think his art shines here. You really get a sense of movement in Supergirl and Superman. Sometimes artists draw great figures but there is no sense of motion, they seem frozen in amber. Here you get the sense of how the cousins are moving as they fly.
The cousins are spending an afternoon in the Fortress relaxing and on the look out for any emergencies. As they contemplate ways to try to enlarge Kandor, an alarm warns them that an airplane is approaching the Fortress.
Since they wish to keep the location and existence of the Fortress a secret, they need to make the plane leave the area. Superman comes up with an idea. Grabbing the red capes off Supergirl, Krypto, and himself, he quickly makes 'danger flags'. These flags warn the airplane crew that there is no safe place to land in the area and so they fly off. Quick thinking Superman!
After retrieving the capes, Superman returns to the Fortress. There he tells Supergirl how he came upon a mysterious device when he was exploring a space sargasso of wrecked ships.
Not knowing exactly what it is, Superman begins tinkering with it.
Unfortunately, the device turns out to be some sort of Doomsday device. It explodes and destroys Earth. Again, Plastino's art shines here. Superman flinching from the explosion feels right. Krypto's head is hung in sorrow. And Supergirl looks as though she is being thrown by the force of the explosion.
That was some machine!
In the most curious part of the story, the remnants of Earth become Earthite (like Krypton became Kryptonite). Moreover, they take on the same green glow and actually can harm the cousins much like Kryptonite can. They need to fly away from Earth's site.
Now why Earthite should have an effect on Kryptonians, I can't explain.
Even if accidental, Superman has to answer for destroying Earth and killing all its citizens. He is brought to trial by an intergalactic court and found guilty of mass murder. Feeling extreme remorse for his actions, Superman accepts his fate.
He is not subjected to a death penalty though. Instead he is de-powered by a ray the police have.
When Supergirl and Krypto try to help Superman, they are also shot with the de-powering ray and are forced to share his sentence ... being exiled to a wild and violent planet.
Seriously ... why Supergirl and Krypto are lumped into Superman's crime I have no idea. That doesn't sound like justice. And I don't think trying to help their cousin is such a heinous crime either. Nevertheless, Kara now is powerless and put on the planet with Kal.
While Superman is out fishing for dinner, Supergirl and Krypto are attacked by a lightning monster. When Supergirl refuses to abandon Krypto when he gets his paw stuck in some rocks, she meets her end.
What the heck! Poor Supergirl! She gets treated as an accomplice to Superman's crime and then gets fried!
Fortunately, just as that happens, Superman, Supergirl, and Krypto awaken from a fugue state in the Fortress. Earth is unharmed. So what happened?
Luckily, the citizens of Kandor were watching everything from the bottle city. (By the way, I love the emergency warning machine's categories. If the Daily Planet deserves its own button, I wouldn't want to work there.)
Turns out the whole thing was a red Kryptonite induced mass hallucination!
When Superman went to retrieve the capes, it was just as a red Kryptonite dust cloud swept over the area. And since the capes are red, the dust was camoflaged. Now why Superman didn't see red dust on the white snow ... I have no idea. Since red Kryptonite effects Kryptonians all the same, they all had the same hallucination.
Based on this encounter, Superman decides to examine the mysterious device off-world.
I was lucky enough to find a truly beat up copy of this issue at a comic store for $8. I am glad I didn't pay more. As I was scanning, the pages literally began to crumble. Still, it is pretty nifty to own an issue with that creative team, especially Plastino!
As for the story itself, it is standard Silver Age silliness. I don't know if I necessarily like the treatment Supergirl got in the story even if it was only a hallucination. To be honest, I don't know if it is worth hunting down for a collection. Purchasing one in any decent sort of condition would cost a pretty penny. This story was reprinted in Supergirl Showcase Vol. 1.
Overall grade: B (mostly based on the star power of the creative team)
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