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Action Comics 327
"The Three Generations of Superman!"


Story : Unknown Art: Curt Swan

(Originally Reviewed On 10/15/01)

On the cover, the son of Superman watches in horror, as Grandpa Superman laughs and watches his grandson play leapfrog, and crashes through a brick wall, for in this time, Superman has aged and retired, Jor-El II is his successor, and Kal-El II is his impish grandson! (Holy Family Ties, Batman!)

On the splash page, Superman is now in his old age, with his son continuing on as his successor, while he is living life in quiet retirement, and his grandson, Kal-El II, shares an adventure with Grandpa, who is delighted to see his grandson fly and lift him by his beard,.to the displeasure of Kal-El's father, who believes that his father is indulging his son too much. (Jor-El II lacks the "S" curl of his father)

In the future, folks still look up in the sky and see the flying figure of Superman, but in this unknown age, it is the son of Superman, with Kal the grandson of the original Superman, who enjoys his grandfather's stories. (As many of us still do) When asked by his son if Kal had been bothering him, the elderly Superman says no and was delighting in telling the boy about times before he had retired. In his opinion, although Jor-El has equaled his father's fame, he hasn't topped it, and Jor-El regrets that repeated exposures to Green Kryptonite weakened his father so that he had to retire. (Plus all those family titles would exhaust even a man of steel...) The following day finds young Kal asking his grandfather about why he went by the name Clark Kent, which he tells his grandson was the name he used to protect his loved ones from criminals, a phrase which Kal is unfamiliar with. Grandpa Superman tells the young boy about those who would break the law and who stole, and in order to uphold the law, it was he who had to deal with them!

Criminals such as Luthor and Brainiac were very dangerous, but as time passed, folks learned better and crime disappeared, jails were emptied, and prisons were torn down, to be replaced by hospitals. His story told, Kal leads his grandfather into the backyard where they play crooks and lawmen, where he is to chase Grandpa Superman, whose powers are weakened, and his grandson's are at full strength. Kal's mom sees her son whirling his grandfather and tells the young boy to be careful.

When Kal's mom leaves, Grandpa Superman offers to play catch with Kal, who reluctantly agrees, and before he knows it, Grandpa must catch a massive boulder, which even he is barely able to hold onto. Jor-El arrives on the scene and tells his father not to spoil Kal, who regrets not having any fun. Telling his wife that he must attent to a mission in space, Jor-El listens as his father offers to watch over Earth in his absence, and tells him not to spoil Kal oversomuch. The next day finds Kal without a playmate...

Flying over the futuristic city of Metropolis, Kal goes on patrol and wonders if he will ever have any of the adventures that his grandfather did? He sees a group of oddly-dressed men carrying away steel girders, and using his telescopic-vision, he sees that the men are wearing masks, as well as stealing the girders, which makes them crooks, and has him heading home to tell his grandpa! Grandpa Superman is reluctant to believe that there are any criminals left and figures that Kal must have imagined it, knowing that his stories may have made quite an impression on his grandson.

Kal insists that he did sees the men steal, as well as wear odd clothes and masks, which makes Grandpa figure that the boy must have seen some industrial workers, but all the same, he asks Kal to lead him where he first saw them. At the construction site, Grandpa Superman notes the deep impressions of the workers' footprints, and knows that no ordinary workmen could have done this! (Holy Steelgrip Sharkey, Batman!) Using their telescopic-vision, grandfather and grandson soon spot their construction of a new fortress, with Grandpa Superman determined to unmask them. Using their x-ray vision, neither he nor Kal are able to penetrate their disguises, which no doubt contain lead, and Grandpa Superman knows that honest men would never hide their faces, and it seems that crime has returned! (Gee, I hope that Kal's Uncle Batman didn't hear that one!) Ordering his grandson to stay back, Grandpa Superman soars towards the mystery men...

Downward soars the elderly man of steel, who is struck by one of the workers, and the punch sends him flying for half a mile, where he is about to collide with a hard surface, and his invulnerability not what it used to be, such an impact could cripple him, but Kal catches his grandfather in time! Grandpa and grandson compare notes on the mystery marauders, whose strength is too much even for Grandpa Superman, but Kal suggests that they use trickery instead.

Grandpa Superman smiles at his grandson and Kal is overjoyed at teaming up with his grandpa to catch crooks! Having seen the footprints, Grandpa Superman knows that the crooks can't fly, having walked with the girders, but then thinks of a way to imprison them! With the aid of his grandson, Grandpa Superman shapes a stone block with their bare hands, and then use their heat-vision on the wooden waste scraps within the fortress, which makes much smoke, but no harm, and in moments, the masked workers head inside to put out the fire, while the duo move with the stone block to jam it into the door, while they call the authorities, but Grandpa Superman is unable to bear the burden...

The stone block lands with a thud, which alerts the masked workers, who emerge from their fortress, as Grandpa Superman orders Kal to fly away, while he follows him, but Grandpa Superman is caught by them, and attempts to go down fighting as to not disgrace the Superman name. (Is such a thing possible?) Kal arrives to haul his grandfather out of harm's way, with Grandpa Superman's hand tearing one of the worker's uniforms off, revealing circuitry, and the true nature of these mechanized marauders!

Once in hiding, Grandpa Superman theorizes that the automatons are controlled via radio-waves, and by the unearthly metals they are composed of, the elderly man of steel knows that they come from a distant planet, as well as the fact that they can be beaten! Kal is given instructions, while Grandpa makes plans to use the minerals and materials he will gather. Kal's actions are observed on a monitor by the aliens who sent the invasion-machines to Earth, and which were designed to construct a fortress base for the conquest of Earth, and are intrigued by Kal's actions. Grandpa Superman uses the materials to construct a jamming-ray generator, and the aliens, having seen this, order their machines to stop him! The machine men head off to destroy the jamming generator, while Grandpa Superman has completed his work and is about to turn on the machine, Kal warns him about the approaching machine-men!

Grandpa Superman tells Kal to fly with the generator out of their reach and turn it on, while he barely manages to make headway against them! The generator is activated and emits a low hum which freezes the marauders in their tracks and ends their threat, leaving Grandpa Superman to deactivate their internal mechanisms and disconnect their circuitry so that the jamming ray is no longer needed, actions which impress Kal very much, as he sees the very essence of what made him known as Superman! The aliens are mortified, their plans undone by an old man and a child.

Upon returning home, Grandpa and Kal are greeted by the returning Superman and his wife, who wonder where the two have been. When Kal tells his father about their adventure, Jor-El reassures his son that there are no longer any criminals whatsoever, to the dismay of Grandpa, who stands there in disbelief. Jor-El tells his father that the tales of his adventures have gone to Kal's head and now the boy is imagining all sorts of things, after his promise not to spoil his grandson, one which grandpa vows to uphold. As Jor-El tells his wife that their son will forget those imaginary adventures, Grandpa Superman shares a knowing wink with his grandson, who barely manages to stifle his laughter.

The Super-Family that plays together, stays together. Grandpa Superman and his son wear the distinctive red and blue, while grandson Kal wears it as a playsuit.

Grandpa Superman has such a long beard which would make Charlton Heston's as Moses look like a goatee.

The elderly man of steel is obviously delighted and grateful that his grandson is eager to hear tales of his adventures as Superman, no doubt as much as those of us who savor those tales, as well.

It's unknown what happened to Grandma Lois or Lana for that matter, or Jimmy Olsen or Perry White.

One wonders if this Superman has a Fortress of Solitude, with robots to handle emergencies in his stead?

Between Grandpa's experience and Grandson's enthusiasm, they make for a winning team.

The fact that Jor-El doesn't want his son to be spoiled by tales of catching crooks and such makes me wonder how well this Superman would cope in his father's time, and if the legacy of Superman can easily be transferred... naaahhh!

This Review Is Dedicated To Bob Hughes

Steve Chung
"The Three Generations of Review"