Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #332 and #333

With Supergirl #51 coming out today, I thought I would post another Supergirl vs Superboy story from the long box. Action Comics #332 and #333 included a two part imaginary story looking at what would happen if Supergirl landed on Earth first and needed to train Superboy. It is drawn with the usual loving art of Jim Mooney. Unfortunately, I cannot credit the writer because I cannot find who wrote it anywhere. If anyone knows, please pass on the information.

I don't usually review two issues at once but as this is one story, I felt it merited one post, so get ready for lots of scans. As for me, I have always enjoyed this story. Supergirl fans have always wondered how she didn't get bitter after being thrown in an orphanage by Superman back in the Silver Age. Here we see how Kal-El, without the nurturing care of the Kents, would respond. And it isn't pretty.

In this imaginary universe, many things play out differently than they do in the standard DC Universe. So here, Kara is born before Kal. And it is Zor-El who is the scientist who realizes that Krypton is going to explode. Jor-El is the El brother who lives in Argo City and creates their atmospheric dome.

Zor-El also gets ignored by the Science Council and so begins taking matters into his own hands, building a prototype rocket to get him and his family to safety.

Unlike the usual origin story, the rocket that Zor-El builds is big enough for everyone. Zor-El, Alura, and Kara all survive the destruction of Krypton and make a new life for themselves on Earth, ironically on a farm near Smallville.

There Kara grows up as Carole Zorelle. She has a career as Supergirl in her youth.

These imaginary stories are always interesting to read to see the small things the writers included as wrinkles in the continuity.

Here we see that Carole adopts the 'glasses to hide my secret identity' that Superman did. We also see that without the accident that robbed him of his hair, Lex Luthor grows up to be a good scientist and model citizen.

But the writers also felt that the death of Superman's parents was an important enough element of his origin to keep that in 'Superwoman's story. So it is shown earlier in the story that Zor-El and Alura are accidentally exposed to Gold Kryptonite and robbed of their powers. They subsequently pass away from an epidemic which strikes Smallville.

With nothing keeping her in Smallville, Carole moves to Metropolis. There she begins a career as a private detective (rather than a newspaper reporter).

In the meantime, the fate of Argo City plays out as it did in the 'real' DCU. Meteors crash through the dome ripping the lead flooring covering the Kryptonite ground, dooming the inhabitants.

Jor-El builds an escape rocket for his son Kal-El. Having viewed Kara's adventures from afar and realizing Kal would have family and powers, Jor-El sends his only son to Earth.

In a scene reminiscent of Action Comics #252, Kal bursts from the rocket in his Superboy outfit and meets Superwoman. After some introductions, the cousins rejoice in having family again.

Much like Superman did to her, Superwoman decides to tuck Kal away in the Midvale Orphanage as Cal Ellis until he becomes more acclimated to Earth's customs and his powers. And now Superboy must use a wig to hide his secret identity just like Linda Lee did.

Unfortunately, Superboy doesn't like being cooped up in the orphanage. He wants action! He barely hides his secret identity at the orphanage and almost releases a slew of evil beings into our universe while fooling around in the Fortress of Solitude. He also plays with some lead covered Gold Kryptonite marbles that Superwoman keeps there in case she needs to use them as weapons against other Kryptonians. All this tomfoolery is enough to raise the ire of even Superwoman.

But this Superboy isn't the repentant good boy we are used to. He thinks Superwoman is jealous of his powers and presence. And so he decides to embark on a quietly malevolent mission to destroy Kara.

The first part of his plan is to lull Superwoman into thinking he has lost his powers. He pretends to be exposed to Gold Kryptonite while performing an unauthorized experiment.

Superwoman, thinking he has truly lost his powers, is sad at the turn of events but also knows he brought it on himself by continuing to do things he shouldn't have.

I love the evil look on Kal's face as part one ends. Now able to 'hide in plain sight', Superboy will continue to plot Superwoman's downfall.

And so we move into Action Comics #333 and part two!

Part of Superboy's plan is to get adopted by someone with access to a science lab so he can continue to his nefarious plans.

When Dr. Keans comes to adopt someone from the orphanage, Cal does what he can to sabotage their efforts to adopt someone other than him. That includes smashing a young girl named Diane's dolls making it look like she has a destructive streak. It makes Diane so sad she throws her toys in the lake vowing to never lay with dolls again since they blocked her adoption.

He also frames another orphan to look as though he robbed the orphanage. With no other 'viable candidate', the Keans adopt Cal Ellis.

And, as planned, Cal has access to Keans' lab and now is able to design weapons and plan his attacks on Earth.

Superwoman however has kept her eye on Kal-El and sees him using his powers and drawing up plans for a Phantom Zone projector. Kal plans to release the criminals and rule over all of Earth.

Superwoman calls him a juvenile delinquent like teenage Kryptonian criminal Van-Dal who ran amok with his equally evil mother Tir-An. Van-Dal? Juvenile Delinquent? I love the Silver Age.

And here is one of my favorite panels, with Superboy declaring war on his cousin.

It turns out that Superwoman has some plans in place of her own. There was no Van-Dal or Tir-An. Superwoman made them up to try to get close to her cousin. Then she and Jimmy Olsen dressed up like the criminals and faked being released from the Phantom Zone by Kal-El.

A skirmish ensues with Jimmy using red Kryptonite on Kal without much effect.

However, suddenly, Kal seems to lose his powers.

Again, dripping with irony, it turns out that one of the marbles he used to sabotage Diane's dolls was one of Superwoman's Gold Kryptonite marbles. And the river they were fighting at just happens to be the river that Diane threw her dolls into. (See the doll under the boulder in the panel above.) The doll had the Gold K marble embedded in it. Kal got to close and lost his powers.

Without powers, Superboy is much less of a menace. However, less of a menace is still a menace. Superwoman decides to take matters into her own hand, mind-wiping 'Cal's' memories and dumping the amnestic boy back in an orphanage.

Well, that was a crazy turn of events. One thing I like about this story is that it shows just how important the Kents were in raising Superman. Without their guidance, he easily became a super-villain. Another thing is that it shows just how graceful Kara is. Despite being subjected to similar events (orphanage, hiding powers, etc), she did not become jealous or evil.

It is an interesting imaginary story and a unique look at the Supergirl origin story. I would rank the issues as medium importance in a Supergirl collection. But be prepared to shell out somewhere between $25-40 an issue and that is in fair to good condition. The covers here are my covers scanned, so you can see the condition I own.

Still, it was pretty fun to read.

Overall grade: B/B+


Saranga said...

i think i prefer this turn of events for Kara. i'd like to see this superwoman be involved in the jla.

Anonymous said...

I've always loved this two parter, for it's proto-feminist subtext. It clearly shows that Kal El is a sexist oinker who won't take orders from a woman.
Even when that woman is older and more experienced and much wiser...
How often in the silver age is the female hero ever depicted as being better than the male hero on grounds of experience and ability?
Think about that...
Of course only in an "imaginary story" could such a plotline ever be followed to it's logical conclusion.
It was the 1960's after all.
Also demonstrates that Kara no more wanted to be a single parent to Kal El than Kal El wanted to be single parent to his cousin...hence the orphanages.

John Feer

Gene said...

Gee, I wonder if Jeph Loeb read this before he reintroduced Supergirl in 2004? ;)

I had no idea this story existed, and it was a treat to read about it here. Thanks again Anj!

Another imaginary tale that I liked was when Clark dreamed that he had retired (due to old age) as Superman and Supergirl took over as Superwoman to protect Metropolis.

TalOs said...

Yet another "oldie but goody" Supergirl 2 parter fave back issueof mine too being spot lighted here! :D

Anj said...

How often in the silver age is the female hero ever depicted as being better than the male hero on grounds of experience and ability?
Think about that...

Thanks for the post and the good point.

In many of these early stories it is clear that the creators had a love and respect for the character of Supergirl.

Anj said...

Another imaginary tale that I liked was when Clark dreamed that he had retired (due to old age) as Superman and Supergirl took over as Superwoman to protect Metropolis.

Ooh ... I like that one too!

Maybe some day I'll review.

Darci said...

The GCD lists Leo Dorfman as the scripter.
Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I didn't like it, honestly. At the beginning it amused me that Kara sent her cousin to an orphanage. Superman always gets lambasted by the orphanage, and still his cousin does the same thing...

But then Kara turned out to be more stern and harsher than Superman ever was, and often she came across as a jerkass with zero patience or tolerance. And Kal became first bratty and then evil.

Honestly, it feels like character-bashing on the part of the writer and superdickery on the part of both characters.