Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Review: Action Comics #358 - Supergirl Meets Superboy
It is pretty clear that in the upcoming H'El on Earth storyline that there will be conflict between Supergirl and Superboy. In fact, I think that their interactions is going to have significant ramifications in how they relate to Superman.
With that in mind, I thought I would take a look back at a simpler time, back when Superboy was 'Superman as a boy' and Supergirl and Superman were cousins fighting for the same things. I have covered the first time Supergirl met Superboy here: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/2009/11/back-issue-box-superboy-80.html
So I figured, in a Morrison-like twist, that I would review the 'other' first time the two met, here in Supergirl's story in Action Comics #358.
Superboy in Argo City was written by Cary Bates and drawn by Supergirl artist extraordinaire Jim Mooney and is one of those charming if somewhat dated Silver Age stories filled with twists, turns, and crazy plot lines.
But this story takes place in an interesting time in DC continuity. Krypton had exploded over a decade prior. Argo City is out in space and doing fairly well, to the point that families are growing. Kara is born on Argo; it is the only existence she knows. That means Superboy was active on Earth and simply unaware that a chunk of Krypton and a city full of his people were out there. Given his intergalactic jaunts and his interaction with aliens, it is surprising he didn't hear about it.
Of course, we know that Kara is rocketed to Earth as a teen and tells Superman about Argo. He can't learn about it until then.
So Bates decides to spin a crazy tale where the two cousins meet on Kara's home turf. And this unknown story is told to us when Supergirl wonders where she got that jewel she brought with her to Earth.
The story begins with Superboy out in space exploring. He finds a giant cosmic jewel and cleaves and carves a chunk to present to Ma Kent.
But while polishing the stone, he is hit over the head by a sort of space front-loader which scoops up his unconscious form. So what is this machine? And how could it knock him out?
It turns out the rock collecting probe belongs to Zor-El. He sends these things out to explore and learn about the space he is. And, as is usually the case in the Silver Age, it happened to be right where Superboy was. Being a 'Kryptonian' machine, it is strong enough to hurt Superboy.
Set on autopilot, the probe returns. And there is a young Kara, helping out her busy father by checking on things. And there inside Zor-El's machine is Superboy! I think it is sort of interesting that Zor already trusts Kara with such things. She must be pretty advanced, something we see in her adventures where she is a pretty decent scientist.
Reading this, Kara strikes me as probably 8 or 10. Superboy seems like 15 or 17. So the age difference isn't what I would necessarily expect to see given how they act in Action #252.
And, like a bad TV show, he has amnesia. He has absolutely no recollection of who he is or how he got there.
Eventually, Zor-El and Allura (hmmm ... 2 L's) come back home. Being the kindly couple they are, they take Superboy into their house. And, as Silver Age coincidences would have it, Zor decides to name him Kal-El since he looks like his 'long lost nephew'. (At this point the S-shield was just a stylized S and not a Kryptonian family crest.)
So this obviously means this is before Zor-El has discovered Earth with his space telescope and learned about Superman's existence. In fact, that second panel makes it seem like he isn't even aware that Kal has lived.
Kara and Kal become friends and even have some 'super-hero' adventures, flying around Argo in jet packs and saving some pet birds.
Ah ... these were simpler times.
Happy to have a home and a family, Superboy gives Supergirl the jewel he was going to give Ma. And so we know how Supergirl ended up with it. I mean, Supergirl has been so swell, he had to give her something.
This was also a time when Argo City actually had rockets and were tooling around the universe. (At some point, the rockets are destroyed leaving the city to drift). Zor-El keeps hoping he'll find a planet where the city can land.
The next solar system they encounter is your standard bizarre Silver Age one. After crossing the boundary, a powerful alien arrives saying that trespassers are not allowed. It will let the city go if someone will volunteer to accept the punishment for this indiscretion ... execution. Sheesh ... talk about frontier justice.
Zor-El says he'll go but Superboy shows just what a hero he is. He jumps into the death pod and gets taken away.
And then, in a classic twist, the alien decides that he doesn't want interference ... revenge ... and so he zaps the whole city with "cereb-radiance", a sort of amnesia ray. Thus, no one on Argo ever remembers Superboy existed so they can't try to avenge him. And so now we know why Zor-El and Kara don't remember ever meeting Superboy.
The aliens still take him away in order to kill him. But it turns out that where they are bringing him is a yellow sun system. Suddenly re-powered, Superboy is able to escape the death pod and his execution sentence.
Man, Argo City was that close to a yellow sun (something which they eventually do encounter).
Yet, despite regaining his powers, he doesn't regain his full memory. His time on Argo remains gone.
And so now we know why Superboy doesn't remember his time on Argo.
That is a whole lot of selective amnesia for one story. Incredible.
But that jewel remains. Supergirl has no recollection of how she got it, but remembers it from Argo. And Superman remembers carving it but can't recall despite his super-memory how he lost it! It will forever be a mystery and so the two cousins don't remember how they first met.
What a crazy story! Classic DC Silver Age!
In a Supergirl collection, I would rank this issue of moderate importance and only for the historic element of the cousins' meeting. Also, stories of Kara's childhood are pretty rare so it is a great issue to see what she was like as a school age little girl. Mooney's art has a sort of simpler feel to it in some places and even felt Ditko-esque in a couple of panels.
The issue itself will probably run anywhere from $15 to $50, and probably even more in high grade. The story was also reprinted in Four Star Spectacular #3, which sports a decent Ernie Chan cover. Probably a rarer find than the Action issue but also cheaper.
But the hook of this issue is seeing that young Kara, already intrigued with science.
Overall grade: B