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Superman 141
"Superman's Return to Krypton!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND November, 1960

Story: Jerry Siegel
Art: Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye

PART I: SUPERMAN MEETS JOR-EL AND LARA AGAIN!

While on patrol in Metropolis, Superman sees someone waving urgently at him from an observatory. Focusing his incredible vision to match the angle of the telescope, our man exclaims "Great Scott!" He flies into space trememdous speed and soon confronts a bulbous creature the size of a planet! Startled, it flashes off. Superman, not knowing if it's friendly or looking for trouble, gives chase. Straining to keep up, he flies too fast, and crashes the time barrier into the past!

He materializes yesteryear, and recognizes the nearest system... a red sun and its planet... Krypton! Moments before his powers fade, he flies to a wooded area on the planet of his future birth. Attempting to crush a rock, he confirms that the red sun has reduced him to just an ordinary man. He muses that, since space travel hasn't been perfected on Krypton... that the rocket that carried him away was merely experimental... he is now doomed to die as an adult on the same planet from which he escaped as an infant.

His wandering soon brings him within sight of... a spaceship! How is this possible? The answer becomes clear as a film director prompts him to enter the "prop" ship along with the other extras in their "space costumes." What a stroke of luck! Now he can earn a living with the crew of this sci-fi film. Inside the ship, he sees an Eva Gabor lookalike in a low-cut gown and is immediately smitten. The director assures them that the ship can't fly higher than a normal airship, and that they'll be perfectly safe. Naturally, immediately after takeoff, the rockets fail, the pilot passes out, and they're in freefall! Superman calmly switches on the emergency rockets and they land safely. Filming is halted until they can borrow a fire-breathing creature from the zoo for the next scene. Meanwhile, the extras are given a cash bonus on the spot to stay in costume for the next few weeks.

As Superman roams the streets of the nearby city, he sees the news on a giant outdoor monitor that "famed scientist" Jor-El and his bride-to-be Lara, are entering the Palace of Marriage. Supes takes a cab to the site and watches the ceremony, torn up inside because they're doomed, and incidentally because he is too. Desiring a relationship with his parents, something denied him the first time around, he shows up at their home and, introducing himself as Kal-El (El being a common surname), offers himself as an assistant to the scientist. Jor gives him a memory pillow to help him with the tests at the missile base where he works. As Supes leaves, Jor confides to Lara that he feels an "overwhelming impulse" compelling him to help the stranger. Supes passes with ease, and is assigned to Jor, who jokes that he hopes Supes won't mind a little "fatherly advice" from time to time! Supes beams, while aware that it's weird to have a father who's practically his own age.

At a dinner party that night, Jor introduces Kal to... Lyla Lerrol, the Eva Gabor lookalike, who it turns out is Krypton's most famous "emotion-movie actress." Supes leaves early, not wanting to risk an involvement that will be as short-lived as the planet, but Lyla is intrigued by the shy, handsome stranger.

PART II: SUPERMAN'S KRYPTONIAN ROMANCE!

Stubbornly burying himself in rocket-design work, Kal attempts to forget Lyla. Similarly, Lyla exhausts herself with one public appearance after another, all the while spurning wealthy and powerful men because she can't forget the young scientist in the "absurd" space costume. Yes, he's still wearing it, even days later as he visits his folks-to-be for a quiet evening watching the tube. He's nearly weepy in their presence as another guest shows up: it's Lyla. Lara is playing Cupid. The couples double-date at a gallery and then the zoo, and Lyla wonders why Kal is avoiding speaking to her. We get a look at the fire-breathing creature. Then, an escaped two-headed lion charges the couples! With Kal at the lead and Jor right behind him, they lasso its legs, bringing it down. Lyla faints from shock. Kal races to her side, she revives, and they kiss. They spend several romantic days in spectacular Kryptonian settings: Rainbow Canyon, Jewel Mountain, and the Hall of Worlds, with its miniature replaces of distant solar systems. As they kiss, we see churning lava deep in the planetary heart... erotic yet forboding. There is a mild ground quake, which passes quickly but torments Kal. Lyla comforts him, as he broods on being powerless to save those he loves.

The next day, at the base, Jor blurts to Kal a theory that's driving him insane, that internal forces are going to blow the planet. The only hope for the population is space ships! A fleet of space ships to take them all to Earth, which can support beings such as they are. On a view screen, Jor points out its cities... New York... Metropolis. Pointing (as if randomly) more or less at Kansas, Kal asks the name of a town that Jor unhesitatingly identifies as Smallville. It seems there's a "nice young couple" he's been observing there... Jonathan Kent and Martha Hudson. Kent, a shy farmer, has been courting Martha, but has been getting competition from Halliday, a "smooth" banker who's arrived recently. Jor continues that Halliday is actually a swindler who's hidden stolen bonds inside a statue of himself that stands before the bank! Jor swears Kal to secrecy re: Krypton's impending doom. The next day, focusing the powerful telescope viewer again at Smallville, Kal learns when a police patrol will pass before the bank, then carefully aims an explosive needle missile, fueled by scientist Ken-Dal's secret formula of rare elements. The needle-missile and a freak lightning bolt strike at the same moment, blowing the statue to bits. The cops are surprised to see not only stolen government bonds, but a "wanted" poster, revealing Halliday to be a fugitive confidence man! Halliday, stolen proceeds in hand, flees in his roadster, but Jonathan gives chase in his model "A," catching up to him and, as the villain attempts to pull Martha along as a hostage, knocks him to the ground with a right hook. Jonathan, obviously pumping adrenalin, proposes the following moment. Martha, giddy at his sudden manliness, and who was only talking to Halliday to make him jealous, accepts. Kal reflects that his intervention was probably unnecessary, as things were apparently fated to be.

However, Kal suddenly has to wonder if fate can't be changed, and proposes to Jor that they use Ken-Dal's formulation to power a space-arc. Further, Kal persuades Jor to provide him "certain" materials and 50 engineers. In no time, they've built Robo, a super-robot that can duplicate many of Kal's former powers: super-strength, x-ray vision and super-speed. Jor regrets that, since it too is made of rare materials, only one Robo can be built. Soon, the colossal ark takes shape. Ken-Dal comments that the fuel's elements are so rare that only one trip to Earth will be possible. Jor expresses hope that Earth has the same element, so that many trips back and forth will be possible before the explosion. Once the ark is completed, Jor announces his theory via a huge monitor in the public square and offers the off-world journey. Soon, in a nearby city, Kal, Lyla, Jor and Lara watch from their small flyer as thousands of humans and animals advance (in orderly fashion) into the ark. Silently, Kal rejoices... when suddenly, a ray stabs down from the heavens. The city vanishes! Gritting his teeth, Kal realizes he should have known this would happen when Ken-Dal insisted the rocket be built inside his city of Kandor. And indeed, we see that Brainiac has shrunk Kandor small enough to fit inside a 5-gallon water bottle. Kal broods, as the flyer darts away, on the ghastly irony that the escape ship he engineered will end up on Earth, but only because it was abducted before it could be used. Doom is inevitable.

INTERLUDE: HOUSE ADS : Action #270, "Superman's Old Age;" Adventure #278, "Supergirl in Smallville," plus Congorilla, plus Aquaman with Aqualad; Lois Lane #26: "If Lois and Lana had super-powers, which one would Superman marry? The Battle between Super-Lois and Super-Lana!" Plus, a story that takes place in "the miniature Krypton city" of Kandor! Also, news about the coming Superman Annual #2: following the "complete sell-out" of the first release, it will be followed with a higher print run of an All-Menace issue. It should be noted that these "annuals" came out at six-month intervals, a pretty good indicator that they were a sure thing.

PART III: THE SURPRISE OF FATE!

Several evenings later, the kids, resigned to their fate, are necking again. Lyla treasures each moment of their perfect love, and Kal is cozy with the knowledge that she loves him for the ordinary man he now is. The pair announce to Jor and Lara their intention to marry at the finish of the film. When they depart, Lara confides to Jor a dream she'd just had... a dream in which they had a son... who grew into their friend Kal-El! Obviously, the dream means she hopes their son can grow into someone just as wonderful. Jor is now rededicated to creating a perfect space ship. The next day, he and Kal head to Meteor Valley for seisomographic readings to indicate what time may be left, past a volcano that spews (Selegue alert!!!) common, worthless gold, then past the Fire Falls, where the planet's inner fires cascade freely. As they set up their equipment in the Valley, a quake strikes, dislodging boulders and opening a fissure, within which they take refuge. It subsides before long, but is a taste of what will come: quakes of increasing violence culminating in the planet's explosion. Back at the base, Kal finds a message waiting: a note to report back for the shooting of the film's final scenes. He, Lyla, Jor and Lara take in an anti-grav nightclub that night and the four lovers toast the moment, "no matter what tomorrow brings."

The next day, on the movie set, the spaceborn Fire Creature is brought carefully around. All are warned that if it gets angry and the muzzle comes off, they'll all be finished! At the director's prompt, Kal enters the ship first, just as an accidentally overturned camera slams into the space creature! Infuriated, it bolts after Kal and then plunges into the fake rocket chamber. As it slams into the metal tubes, the muzzle breaks free and its flame roars through the tubes, propelling the ship up and out of sight in moments. Lyla, teary-eyed, intuits the truth, that she'll never see Kal again. Aboard ship, hurtling rapidly away from Krypton, Kal reflects on the fact that, just as he resigned himself to dying with Lyla and his parents, he gets off the planet after all.

Later, far out in space, a yellow sun draws the ship near, and Kal, now Superman again, bursts free. He has a moment of hesitation: if he returns to Krypton, he'll lose his powers and be faced with the impossibility of changing fate. Meanwhile, Earth needs him. So, he crashes the time barrier and exits in present day, and is immediately threatened by Green Kryptonite meteors in his path. Truly, his parents and Lyla are gone. As Earth comes into view, he knows he'll always treasure this return to Krypton, but feels already as if it were an incredible dream. Up ahead lies his friends and second home, he thinks, as the story limps to a close.

While other Kryptonians, including some criminals as well as Supergirl and the Bottle City of Kandor, have bee introduced by this time, I believe this is the first story that gave Superman (and us) any actual knowledge of Krypton. Jewel Mountain and the other topographical details gained immediate permanent status in Kryptonian lore.

Boring put a lot of thought into all the Kryptonian cityscapes. There's no way to know what Siegel might have asked for, but we see buildings that look like `50s perfume bottles, others with classic Greco-Roman lines, and homes at the height of modern style. Lyla, in a Wayne Boring world of rugged, determined people, is particularly lovely, and inked with more than usual sensitivity. This story brought a lot out of the artists.

The fine Curt Swan cover shows Jor and Lara in the traditional outfits. In the course of the story, Boring takes the opportunity to show the couple at work, at home and at semi-formal occasions with different outfits. Jor wears the classic green-yellow-and-red with a somewhat more military cut than Swan depicts, as well as a more casual, open-necked version with puffy sleeves. Lara is not seen in the yellow minidress; Boring obviously prefers floor-length gowns, off the shoulder. Around the house, in a club, at the zoo... drop-dead elegance for both Lara and Lyla. Meanwhile, Smallville appears to be in the Hoover administration, with tall, rounded cellulinte shirt collars for the men and a frilly dress for Martha (she looks about 18, with a bow in her brown hair.) Jonathan drives a Model-A Ford, and Halladay sports a straw boater!

Putting aside Jor's inexplicable interest in Jonathan and Martha's romance... perhaps he chose them at random to be unwitting English language and culture coaches?... we again face the suggestion that Earth is so close to Krypton that it can be viewed in real time. More recently, Scott McCloud did an exceptionally shocking bit in Superman Adventures wherein Krypton's location is determined and Supes focuses his long-range vision on it just as it explodes. Considering the speed of light, McCloud's implication is that Krypton was roughly 29 light years from Earth. Here we have it: validation of the theory of the expanding universe.

Once Superman bursts from the prop spaceship at story's end, there's no mention of the Flame Creature's presence, or fate. Perhaps the yellow sun energized it as well and it's still out there somewhere.