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Action Comics 370
"100 Years... Lost, Strayed, or Stolen"


Story: Unknown Art: Curt Swan and Jack Abel

On the cover, The Man of Steel faces a puzzle, for during the rocketship's trip as a baby from Krypton to Earth, he's missing one hundred years! (Holy Frequent Flier Miles, Batman!)

On the splash page, we see Baby Kal-El, who is found and adopted by a stone-age family, as an adult, he is married and has a son, as the leader of a new nation, and as an elderly, bearded man, he is seeking shelter on a planet which has experienced a nuclear war! Although these appear to be three separate imaginary tales, they are in fact parts of one story... and it is legitimate! However, The Man of Steel is unaware of these particular events in his life, for he is unable to unravel the puzzle of... "100 Years... Lost, Strayed Or Stolen!"

Clark Kent is suffering through three nights of nightmares, as he dreams that someone named Ruoua hates him, the following night in The Fortress of Solitude, he dreams of a world turned against him, making him a fugitive, and another night in his apartment, he mutters about the fantastic theory by someone named Thol! Having endured four nights of nightmares, which he can remember from childhood, Superman sets out to learn where they have come from! At The Fortress, the common link in the dreams relate to the rocket in which he was sent from Krypton to Earth as a baby! He uses the matter-analyzer to find out how old the Kryptonian rocket is, believing that he alreadly knows the answer...

The gauges do not show the rocket to be a few decades old, but rather, a little over a century! (Holy Hypertime, Batman!) Since he was in the rocket during the entire trip from Krypton to Earth, he is not a hundred years old, and the nightmares he's been having, involving people and happenings on another world are a mystery to him. While The Man of Steel may never solve this mystery, the reader is fortunate, for we see the rocket carrying Kal-El from Krypton being sent through a space-warp, which has been affected by the planet's explosive demise, and upon entering it, the rocket emerges into another universe, much different from ours! The ship heads for a planet and lands upon its surface, where its arrival is witnessed by a couple!

The rocket has landed and is gliding on the waters of a lake, where it floats for hours, and is found by a family of cave-dwellers! The cave people see that the baby must have come from the stars. He is the adopted son of Krya, and her husband, Thol! They see that the baby has hurt itself, as Kal-El's leg has scraped against a sharp rock, and in this other universe, he is not invulnerable!

Krya and Thol's daughter is not pleased to see that she has a new brother, feeling that her parents will forget about her. The ceremony of the flame is held and Kal-El is christened Sonn -- The Star Child! A decade passes, and Sonn is ten years old... and his adopted world has advanced, resembling a Graeco-Roman civilization! Thol cannot believe how far they've come from the cave-people they were when they found Sonn! They see that a devil-dragon is running amok in the square, firing eye-blasts which can turn a person evil forever! (Holy Touch of Evil, Batman!) Thol warns Sonn to stay back, but he figures that he's a smaller target than anyone else!

He manages to move fast enough to avoid being blasted, and mounts its back, then strikes its weak spot behind its head! The citizens admire his courage and are grateful that none of them were struck by the beams, but unbeknownst to them, Ruoa, Sonn's older sister, has been struck, and now feels that she has a goal in life... to torment and soon kill her own brother! (Holy Lucy Van Pelt, Batman!)

Time passes, and it's now an industrial revolution, as horseless carriage roar down the streets... and Sonn has become an adult, who wears clothing similar to that which he'll wear as Superman. His sister, Ruoa, has given him some new boots in hopes to make up for the years of unkindness she has shown him, but in reality, the boots are equipped with remote controlled jet-propelled soles in the hopes of watching her brother flounder in the air, and then go splat! Sonn is startled by suddenly being in the air, while Ruoa has never seen anything so funny! Seeing a child falling from its mother's arms, Sonn manages to guide the boots...

He succeeds in catching the child in mid-air, then takes the happy child on a sky-ride, to the dismay of Ruoa, Sonn is a hero, and he has mastered the boots! Visiting his father's lab, Sonn is examined, and an infra-red beacon shows that he is surrounded by a unique field of radiation, which validates Thol's theory that 25 years ago, they were a primitive folk, until they found him, and now, they are on the brink of manned space travel! Sonn was the cause of it, for the radiation has caused the inhabitants' mental powers to evolve at an incredible rate! Ruoa monitors the conversation and seeks to use this discovery against her brother!

When the inhabitants learn that Sonn is responsible for their advanced state, he becomes their hero, and soon, he takes a wife. Time passes, and Sonn has become Proctoror... or President of this nation, and wins! He tells his son, Vol, that they are to live in The White Estate,which is the official home of the reigning Proctoror.

Ruoa plots her brother's death, and has found a living element, which is based on the emissions of The Devil-Dragon, which will turn the entire planet evil, but this element has broken out of its tank, hitting her with its full power! Ruoa is killed by the radiation, which begins to spread, and soon, people squabble over land, the crime federation robs businesses which refused to pay tribute to them, and nations have gone to the brink of atomic war!

Only Sonn has been unaffected by the element, and seeks to persuade the people to abandon their warring ways, only to be denounced as an alien, and is blamed for their situation, for without him, there would be no atomic weapons! He is chased, but manages to elude his pursuers, and at The White Estate, he sees his family being arrested in his absence. Sonn is now a fugitive outcast with a price on his head! The Man From Krypton has managed to stay alive and ahead of the hunters for forty years! Low on food, he must trap some more, and hope that he continues to avoid being spotted!

One day, the running stops, as he can no longer find the strength, and is found by a space car driven by his son, Vol! Sensing his irregular pulse, Vol knows that his father does not have long. At his home, Vol tells his father that he and their civilization will receive a second chance, and being the son of Sonn, he, too was immune to the spread of evil which infected their world! Vol has used his scientific knowledge to create the rejuvenation booth, which will make Sonn younger, and devolve their people at the same time! Sonn is once again Baby Kal-El, and Vol tells him that he has a long journey ahead of him, which he must help his father to undertake before his brain devolves!

In the next room, the rocket Kal-El was found in has been kept, along with the blankets and clothes after all this time! The turbo-engines have been refueled, and Vol has plotted the course needed for the rocket to reach the other universe! Vol bids his father farewell, and hopes that he reaches his original destination, while those on their world can evolve at a normal rate, once they have become cave people again! The rocket emerges from the space-warp and is back in the solar system, while Vol is dimly aware of his father's departure, now having reverted to cave-man state. The rocket enters Earth's atmosphere, just as Jor-El intended, and one wonders how this can be when 100 years have already passed since Baby Kal-El left Krypton? Time ran at a different rate in the other universe... a year there equals a minute in our world, so after spending two hours in the space-warp, Kal-El and the rocket are found in Smallville by Ma and Pa Kent! An end and the beginning!

When Superman says that a funny thing happened to him on his way to the forum... errr. Earth... he means it!

A fun cover by Neal Adams, in which The Man of Steel has a mystery on his hands, and the green hand of fate takes hold of Baby Kal-El's rocket,which has escaped Krypton's destruction, creating "Superman's Lost Century!"

A trio of imaginary tales? No! They tie into the same story, which may be considered one of the early examples of what we would call today, the "retcon." One part retro, one part con!

On its way to Earth, the rocket and its precious cargo was duplicated by a weird ray from a passing alien ship, creating the being who would be known as Super-Menace!

The story reminds me of Frost And Fire, by Ray Bradbury, where the inhabitants' life-span lasted a week, rather than their civilization evolving at a fantastic rate.

In his book, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Stephen King has an ending which echoes the fate of Vol in one of his short stories.

Interesting that the Devil-Dragons didn't evolve, as the people did in this other universe.

To echo Marlon Brando's line from the first Superman movie, "The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son." In the case of this story's ending, this is quite true.

This Review Is Dedicated To The Fine Folks On The SAR List.

Steve Chung
"Superman's Lost Review!"