Saturday, March 3, 2012

Argo City - Silver Age

Argo City seems to be poised to play a key role in the current Supergirl's origin. What happened to that Argo City? How did it survive? What was Zor-El's plans? How did Kara's pod find its way to Earth? Who set up the star gates that lead from Argo to Earth? How did everyone die? And where are all the bodies? So many mysteries still to be solved/

With Argo City in a place of prominence in Supergirl's origins yet again, I thought I would go back and look at the various Argo Cities that have been seen in DC Comics, and how the city's fate has been tweaked and changed with the various incarnations of Supergirl. And that means taking a look all the way back to 1959's Action Comics #252 and Supergirl's first appearance.

Initially in the Silver Age, it is simply luck that keeps Argo City intact when Krypton explodes. And luckily enough a 'bubble of air' was ripped away with that planetary remnant.

And among the survivors are Zor-El and Alura. And there was enough technology intact to keep the survivors alive.

Unfortunately, the same reaction that turned Krypton to Kryptonite happened with Argo City. The very ground became toxic.

Again, as luck would have it, Zor-El kept rolls and rolls of hammered lead in his lab. The ground was completely covered with the lead, shielding the citizens from the deadly K-rays.

And so, time went by and the Kyrptonians were pretty happy.

Kara was born on the city and grew to be a young girl. (This differs from the last two incarnations of Supergirl where she is born on Krypton and therefore technically older than Kal.)

And then ... further tragedy. Meteorites hammer the city, puncturing the lead shielding. Unable to make repairs, the city seems doomed to a slow death.

The radiation poisoning is a slow decree of death. With time on his side, Zor-El cobbles together a rocket in hopes of rocketing Kara away to safety. Alura uses a 'super-space telescope' and discovers Earth. She also sees a telecast of Superman performing his usual heroics. During that, Alura learns that Superman is from Krypton thus making Earth the perfect landing place for Kara.

Fitted with a S-shield suit so Superman will know Supergirl's heritage, Kara is placed in a rocket and sent to Earth.

And that's that. For all we know, Argo is still floating out in space, a city on a giant chunk of Kryptonite.

Almost 5 years later in Action Comics #309, the Argo City story is slightly tweaked. I wish I could scan in panels, but I don't own the issue and the black and white 'math paper' scans from the Showcase Supergirl Vol. 2 don't come out well.

In this retelling of Supergirl's origin (which culminates with Zor-El and Alura being alive in and ultimately freed from the Survival Zone), Supergirl uses a special light telescope to see into the past. There she learns that Zor-El had erected a weather safety dome over Argo City and that is why the city remains intact. It also explains the city's intact atmosphere.

The ground still becomes Kryptonite but in this instance it is Anti-Kryptonite, a rare form of Green K which effects non-super-powered Kryptonians. (Kryptonite had become a muddled device back then and standard Green K did not effect depowered Kryptonians at that point.) Again, the land is covered in lead.

Zor-El then fits the chunk with rockets in hopes of propelling the city to a safe place. And, indeed, he takes it to a yellow sun system where the citizens become super-powered. But Jer-Em, a religious zealot, thinks it is an abomination for the citizens to have powers. He sends the city back to a red sun system while simultaneously destroying the rocket system. For his crimes, Jer-Em is sent to the Phantom Zone. The meteor shower again happens and the citizens die while Kara is rocketed to safety. At this point, in desperation, Zor-El tries and succeeds in sending  himself and Alura to the Survival Zone, a dimension akin to (but not) the Phantom Zone.

But the ultimate fate of Argo remains the same ... as a dead city floating in space on a chunk of Green K. Per the Superman Encyclopedia, the Vrangs find Argo City in Action Comics #548 and Mr. Mxyzptlk crashes it into Metropolis in DC Comics Presents #97 (an issue I own and will now need to reread). But I still like the idea of it just out there, a sort of floating gravestone for Krypton.

Next ... the new Argo as seen in Action Comics #869.


Anonymous said...

There has been speculation over the years that the Argo City origin for Supergirl was derived from an unproduced 1957 Superman movie script that was to star George Reeves called "Superman and the Secret Planet". In it, Kryptonian survivors living in sealed bunkers within asteroid fragments menace the Earth with their super powers.
The whole of the Argo City asteroid origin bears the stamp of Otto Binder's writing, he loved convoluted & contrived sci fi plot elements in the Superman mythos. And that is the main flaw with the Silver Age Supergirl's origin, it is contrived and convoluted and had to be revised several times over the short it didn't make much sense as science fiction.
But then again, there is a slight connect-the-dots quality to Supergirl's origin as meta context, she had to be younger than Kal El and related to him so that the character didn't supercede Lois Lane who was then headlining in her own comic. Kara couldn't live with Clark Kent (her only relation) as that would complicate his I said, connect the dots.
People forget though, that she was at the time an enormously popular addition to the Superman mythos, (She is in and out of all his stories on a regular basis and starring in her own back up feature as well) moreover the Superman books were the gold standard in sales back in those days, so a convoluted origin could be safely overlooked.
If DC could conjure up ONE TENTH of the sales Superman rang up in 1959 they'd revive the dopey "Bubble of Air", X-Kryptonite origin and Streaky the Supercat in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Kara did visit the remnants of Argo City (SUPERMAN FAMILY# 8?)when Universo tricked her into recovering a weapon designed by Zor-El kept in the household which he planned to use against the Legion.

Anonymous said...

My own personal opinion is that the S-TAS origin which is a crib from Power Girl's Bronze Age Earth II origin makes a lot more sense for Supergirl. It simplifies things, allows the family connection to be maintained and adds the weird age difference to the Kal Kara relationship.
BTW it was I, John Feer who wrote the first post in this thread, the long discourse on Argo City.
Forgot to sign my masterpierce as it were.

John Feer

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I had forgotten about the Superman Family #207 story. So I might have to do a second Argo City Silver Age post! So thanks for the reminder!

And I think the first Argo City origin is a simple one, consistent with 50s Sci-Fi. I am glad it was updated and made more plausible later on.