Thursday, August 6, 2015

Superman Depowered! In 1971!

The Truth has been working its way through the Superman titles for the last couple of months, showing us a Superman trying to come to grips with a new reality. His secret identity has been revealed. He has been depowered. He feels betrayed by friends. He is wanted by the police. He vacillates between angry and happy.

Suffice it to say, it has been an uneven ride so far.

In the last issue of Superman, the issue ends with a weird being grabbing Superman. It seems to be this interaction which is the cause of his depowered state.

Blog friend Martin Gray, of the Too Dangerous For A Girl comic review site, came up with the brilliant correlation between this scene and storyline to the classic Kryptonite Nevermore story arc from the early 70's.

In that arc, a being from the dimension of Quarrm rips its way into the world and slowly drains Superman of his powers. It was a Denny O'Neil's attempt to freshen up the Superman mythos. Kryptonite was changed to iron. Superman was ratcheted down to 2/3 of his power. Clark became a TV personality. Things were going to be different.

Could that energy creature from Superman #42 be a 'Sand Superman' for a new generation.

Kryptonite Nevermore was released in 1971. That's 44 years ago!

Nowadays people learn everything about upcoming comics from the web, devouring interviews, previews, and social media.

Back then, the way to tell people that things were changing in comics were in comics themselves.

So sit back and enjoy the low-tech way the 'soft reboot' of Superman in Kryptonite Nevermore was announced to the world.

"A new year brings a new beginning for Superman 1971"

In a nice one page review, we get the briefest review of all Superman history.

The first panel reminds people that Superman started out with modest powers. Jumping not flying. He could be hurt by anything more powerful than a bursting shell.  Then we get the connection - he is depowered.

Then we learn about his life as Clark going from Daily Star to Daily Planet to WGBS.

I can only imagine the outrage back then if social media existed.

I love the fact that the ad also included the larger Superman family and gave them some publicity as well.

Supergirl, the headliner in Adventure Comics at the time, gets her little sliver of coverage touting her whole new look.

Of course, since Superman was being depowered in his own book, Supergirl couldn't maintain all of her tremendous powers. Within 2 months of the Kryptonite Nevermore, Supergirl had ingested her own depowering pill, and was using a Kandorian exoskeleton to be a hero.

Still, the idea of linking Kryptonite Nevermore to The Truth is brilliant. We'll have to see if it plays out!


Nobile said...

Do we need to say that the whole depowering thing, although egregiously played, was a total failure and got forgotten the very issue after the arc ended? :-) Even Clark's blue suit came back in a year or so (but Maggin sneaked an explanation about that in one of his stories).

But the WGBS stayed, and it was not that bad, furtherly, the overall tone changed and that was for the best.

Anonymous said...

I still need to check this Kryptonite Nevermore story out for myself if you and Mart say it's a good Superman story. But I believe the difference regarding why this story handled the power reduction better than Truth is currently comes down to the extent that Superman's powers were lowered. O'Neil did try to cut back on the ridiculous feats of the Silver Age where Superman could tow planets, fly fast enough to travel through time and sneeze entire solar systems away but he still had his full powers, albeit to a lower degree. He could still perform amazing feats beyond those of mortal men when the Sand Superman sapped Superman of a third of his power.

In contrast, Truth has basically reduced Superman down to a street level low tier power level where Spider-Man and Luke Cage could probably give him trouble in a fight. Hardly inspiration to see such a powerful character reduced to so little. And according to the Wikipedia entry, Maggins and other writers gave Superman much greater powers in response to fans wanting more cosmic Superman stories.


Nobile said...

It's not exactly like that. In the O'Neil arc, Supes gets progressively depowered as the sand creature grows more powerful, till he *totally* lose his superpowers. Then Wonder Woman's mystical friend of the time (also created by O'Neil) restores half of his power and Superman confronts with creature. Long story short, the creature leaves, but Supes doesn't want the other half of his powers back in the end, so one expects him to be strongly changed.

Next issue opening: Superman is in deep space and survives a star going nova at close range without a scratch (courtesy of Cary Bates).

What was left of the initial project was a strongly reduced abuse of gimmicks like red/green K, time travel, crazy science and supercriminals, but the fact that Superman was depowered was NEVER mentioned again.
It was part of a trend of "unsuperheroizing" character that involved Wonder Woman, also, and even Batman! In #217 Bruce Wayne basically becomes a private eye that employs Batman as the final option Tony Stark-style, but that was changed as well in a few issues.

(And less we forget when A couple of years later O'Neil made Superman able to use his powers only through a crippled boy that thelepatically communicated with him through a lynx...)

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I remember all of those issues. The Sand Superman stories were collected in those pricey DC Classics that are like over-sized Archives. I'll buy it on Amazon when it is cheap enough, as it is a pretty decent story. This was the era of 52 PAGES ONLY 25 cents era, so it was great reading Golden Age reprints.

Maybe it was editorial edict to just have the storyline forgotten. There's a great column on CBR called Forgotten Love, where someone writes about a specific storyline that is forgotten within months, the best example being Grant Morrison's NEW X-MEN.I'll have to check to see if Sand Superman was covered in a column.

The other thing about Kent going to WGBS was seeing the business suits of the 1970s. Clark wearing an ascot or striped suit Almost everybody with long sideburns. Like adult versions of Archie comics of the day.

Anonymous said...

@Nobile I see, so I-Ching can also restore superpowers? Shame he didn't do that for Wonder Woman. Anyway, I do find it odd to hear from you that the status quo got changed so quickly. Wonder why it didn't stick. Thanks for the context on that story.

Anj said...

It isn't a great story but it has it's moments.

I don't think the Truth is a carbon copy. But it is interesting to see the depowered Supes play out here.

And lastly, I love that the Sand Superman absorbs some of Superman's conscience as well, wanting to be a hero at the end.

Anonymous said...

Depowering was Denny O'Neill's go-to when he was DC's Rising Young Man....He did it to Wondie then Supes. How come no one ever depowers "Batman"....? Bruce Wayne loses his fortune at least sheesh!
The Sandman Superman was a pretty spooky storyline as I recall but like Supergirl's on-off super-powers essentially abandoned when other writers came on board....


Martin Gray said...

Excellent post, and thanks for reminding me I never read the whole storyline. Hardback ordered!

Martin Gray said...

Oh. Nobile, that Lynx business, wasn't it daft? I'm not looking up, but I bet that kid was called Billy. That was when DC seems to have 'The Kid Who ... Superman' every other month.

Anonymous said...

Love me that Swanderson Superman art though.....


funny cartoon for kids said...

There was a movie in the making last i heard similar to that female superman...

Nobile said...

@Wayne Allen
Yeah, I checked on Abandoned Love or Abandoned and Forsaken and similar, but I think Brian never directly addressed the case, which is strange. And yes, sideburns and suits :-D, they disappeared as Anderson left for other titles and Oksner and Blaisdell came to ink. In an issue (S295, I think) Maggin hilariously adds a note stating that Clark's suits do not ignite whe he flies plainclothes because they are coated with a special fireproof substance that incidentally dyes all his suits blue!
(No explanation given for his always red/grey regimental neckties)

Nobile said...

As I mentioned above, Batman WAS "depowered" as Bruce Wayne. The same issue that sends Dick off to Hudson University splitting the dynamic duo also sees Bruce leaving his Manor, sealing the cave and abandoning all his gadgets, including the Batmobile. He moves with Alfred to Gotham only bringing the batsuit with him and establishing the Wayne Foundation (it all happens in, like, three pages!)
The foundation was a small office under his bachelor apartment where he directly met people "asking for help". No secretaries, no staff, no meeting rooms. In a couple of pages Bruce becomes a sort of private eye that DIRECTLY investigates the cases, resolving to Batman only in the final panels. The "millionaire playboy" aura quickly fades away, and it's clear that it was meant to be forgotten shortly.

The story was written by Frank Robbins, but it did not last, either. Yes, Bruce stayed in his fundation throughout the seventies, but he quickly reverted to his classic millionaire status, and the "helpdesk" stuff disappeared in a few issues. Then the batcave resurfaced, both under the manor and under the Fundation building, and the Batmobile (in a more somber version) was re-introduced as well as the other gadgets.
It was O'Neil himself who restored most of the classic Batman look with his Man-Bat and Ras Al'Ghul arcs.

Anonymous said...

Way off topic, but Superman looks so darn sexy in the image with him falling to Earth. That hot super backside looks ripe for action.

Sorry to any that take umbrage with my comment, but that's the way I see it.

Martin Gray said...

Even were there any reason to have a problem with a perfectly valid observation, you deserve a pass for your great vocabulary – umbrage!