A Tribute to the of
I almost feel guilty continuing to crank out these reviews in light of recent events. To say it's been a trying few weeks would be an understatement, of course, and while I didn't lose anyone in the tragedies, in a very real way, we all lost someone, not to mention the intangibles that have been talked about by people far more eloquent than myself. If you're so inclined, I hope you'll join me in praying for those who have been taken from us, for the survivors and especially for the leaders of nations at this very difficult time. God bless them all.
Still, I've found comfort in the routine and so the show, as they say, must go on.
I'm going to veer off course just a bit this time. I still have a handful of comics from my childhood collection and as I've mentioned before, my heyday was actually more in the Bronze Age. The issue I've selected for this effort comes from that era, six years after the end of the Silver Age. The story seems somehow appropriate at this point in time. I hope you'll agree. America was about to celebrate the Bicentennial and DC Comics was celebrating the Tricentennial issue of Superman with a special imaginary tale (just like they did for issue #200, available in the archives here at the Silver Lantern) titled, "Superman, 2001!" This edition was written by Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin and hit the streets in June of 1976. Art, cover (+ original black & white art) and interior, was done by the incomparable Curt Swan along with Bob Oksner and the final duo producing this effort was Julius Schwartz and Bob Rozakis as co-editors.
The basic gist of the story was to take the world's most famous super hero and introduce him to Earth in 1976 instead of 1938 (thought that's not exactly right, since he showed up in Action Comics #1 as a full-grown man) and to have him reach manhood under different circumstances and in a very different world. In the process, our writers and editors tried to peer into what seemed like the far-flung future, some 25 years away. Much like Arthur C. Clarke in his landmark tale, "2001: A Space Odyssey", not much of what they foresaw hit the mark, but it's fun to see their view of the year 2001, particularly from the vantage point of being in that very year now. The prologue begins on the doomed world of Krypton and in a few panels shows the familiar saga of baby Kal-El being placed into the experimental spacecraft by Jor-El and Lara, his parents and then blasting off into space as the chain reaction destroys his home world. From this point the well-known origin story is altered. The date is February 29, 1976 and a UFO is spotted by the orbiting Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft. The message is relayed to mission control and aircraft carriers and their accompanying vessels steam toward the anticipated splashdown point in the international waters of the North Pacific. One team is from the United States Navy. The other is from the Soviet Navy. Each carrier deploys a helicopter with a diver, each determined to claim the alien spacecraft for their respective nation. Unfortunately in their eagerness to be first, the aircraft collide and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Thomas Clark, the diver and sole survivor, is thrown clear, successfully laying claim on the rocket for America. Next stop, a top-secret, maximum security military complex where the ship is subjected to scientific testing. The Super-Laser proves ineffective on the structure and when a hatch abruptly opens revealing a small child directly in the path of the laser, the scientists are astounded at his invulnerability and his multi-lingual request for food. The child soon flies through the wall of the laboratory and finds the commissary where he promptly goes through a stack of groceries. As the brass observe the child, they begin to discover the extent of his abilities, to include super strength, x-ray and heat vision and a mastery of all earth languages courtesy of teaching machines aboard the spaceship. General Garrett has a uniform made for the boy from the blankets in the ship by using his heat vision and gives him the code name of Skyboy, thus explaining the red "S" emblem.
Meanwhile, back at the United Nations, in classic cold war fashion, the Soviet Union is demanding that the U.S. either confirm or deny the rumored existence of the alien, insisting that he belongs to all nations. Rather than bore the readers to tears with the nuances of statecraft, the writers wisely segue to a glimpse of the futuristic U.S. in 1990, with such wonders as super-sonic aircraft (greatly resembling spacecraft) taking off and landing from huge floating seaports away from land; a new Empire State Building a full mile high and an impenetrable dome in place over the White House. The current resident of said White House is, by the way, a woman and she's recently revealed to the world the existence of Kal-El, prompting the Soviet Premier to demand anew that he be made a ward of the U.N. As these events unfold, we're whisked away to an unidentified Third World power who is plotting to take advantage of the unrest that is emerging. The leaders of this unknown state anticipate a third world war in which they could emerge to pick up the pieces.
Switch scenes again to an aging 5-star general being driven to a secret military installation concealed in the face of a canyon cliff in Arizona. General Garrett has come to talk with Skyboy about the developments that have placed him in the world spotlight. Moments after the General's arrival, the unthinkable. Notification of a missile attack being launched from the Soviets at the United States. Interestingly enough, on the other side of the Iron Curtain, a similar warning is being blared and each leader calls for massive retaliation. We soon learn that the real cause behind the events is that unnamed Third World power who has successfully sabotaged the radar systems of both countries to show attacks that are false. Within moments, however, a red and blue clad figure is racing through the skies, intercepting the death dealing projectiles and blocking destructive laser beams. Military headquarters at both locations report destruction of the warheads, to their great surprise. The teen-aged Skyboy then heads for the seas to intercept Polaris missiles being launched from submarines and manages to avert a bio- chemical attack on the California coastline by creating a vortex that takes the poisonous cloud out of the atmosphere. Flying away from his mission, Skyboy's thoughts are about his future. "I've stopped a war...a war that began because of me! As President Wiener said...it's up to me to decide my fate..and there's only one course of action I can take!" Soon the President and Premier are discussing disarmament and Skyboy has disappeared. We soon see him, though, at the cemetery where General Kent Garrett has been laid to rest. A determined young man makes a civilian identity for himself on the spot using the General's first name and the last name of the diver who found his rocket and he vows to never use his super-powers again, discarding his uniform into the waters off the nearby coast.
Time inexorably marches on and it's now New Year's Eve on Times Square, where the new century is beginning. People tune into their Tri-vision, which looks a bit like an old Star Trek transporter booth, as they hover in their easy chairs. I couldn't help but smile as I looked at the remote control. Only about seven options available on it and my clicker is much smaller. The text in the next panel proclaims "Around the world, a huge communication linkup makes possible a 24-hour news network hosted by an anchorman." I wonder if Ted Turner read this comic? The anchorman, of course, is a grown-up Clark Kent, wearing the natty garb of the day, which looks quite a lot different from a suit. Somehow he manages to look dignified in a bright yellow ascot, too. He reports that in honor of the new millennium, the huge metropolitan area from Boston to Washington, encompassing New York and Philadelphia has merged into one great city called "Metropolis." A late breaking bulletin then takes us to Times Square where a weird figure, perched atop the massive digital clock is making a proclamation. Decked out in a purple colored costume, this four-armed humanoid has his features obscured by a hood and a set of opaque goggles. Moka, as he calls himself, has come to demand the allegiance of humankind as the unseen savior of the world during the crisis in 1990. We then see that his rhetoric is coming from that mysterious Third World headquarters. He is an android and the goal is to rule the world, under the secret agenda of his creators.
Clark Kent is troubled by the events unfolding and thinks to himself "The people of Earth are hungry for heroes and the worst thing that could happen is for them to fall into the hands of a boastful super-thug who claims to be a god! Somehow I knew that I couldn't escape my destiny! I was never meant to hide behind the clothes of an ordinary man--I must be what I was born to be--a Superman!" With that he reclaims his uniform and flies off to confront Moka. After a brief but titanic battle in which the android is reduced to rubble, the Man of Tomorrow addresses the assembled crowd. "People of Earth--I owe you all an explanation! Listen to me...do not fear me! It wasn't this plastic container who saved the world from a holocaust...it was someone who wanted you to look not to heroes and false gods for salvation...someone who has enough faith to know that your salvation is within you...all of you!" He then flies away, confident that he has reassured people of their own inherent goodness and wisdom. A statue is erected in his honor on the same place atop the clock in Times Square and as Clark Kent passes it one day a small boy asks if he thinks they'll ever see Superman again. The reporter has only this to say: "The world is on a pretty steady course these days...but if it's unfortunate enough to need a hero again...I'm sure he will return!" That's how this issue closes and while I believe it to be a worthy successor to its Silver Age heritage, it isn't part of that era, so I'll dispense with my usual rating this time.
Again, I thought a few of the parallels were interesting and enjoyed seeing the projections for this year of 2001 from 25 years ago. I certainly hope our future will continue to be promising and may God bless America, especially at this time.
Please share your thoughts at email@example.com and please join me again in about two weeks for the latest installment of The Silver Age Sage.
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