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Silver Age September – Superman’s Sad Return to Krypton

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

Today we take a look at the story behind the sad return of Superman to Krypton in the excellent Superman #141 by Jerry Siegel, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye…

Enjoy!

Just a little while back, I wrote about how Jerry Siegel’s Silver Age work on Superman is often over-looked due to his, you know, CREATING Superman, which is a shame as his Silver Age work on Superman was often excellent. The last time around, I featured the imaginary story about the Death of Superman. Today, just EIGHT ISSUES earlier, in Superman #141 (with art by Wayne Boring), we see a “real” story involving Superman traveling through time and “returning to Krypton!”

The comic opens up with a simple enough premise, Superman is sent to check out an alien creature and in a slight fracas, he is sent back in time. He ends up on a pre-exploded Krypton. Robbed of his powers by Krypton’s sun, Superman ends up getting involved as an extra in a science fiction film (where he catches the eye of the female star of the film)…

I love how Siegel insisted on keeping Superman in costume the whole story, so he comes up with the “stay in costume” gag. It is a clever bit.

Superman seeks out his parents and he finds that they are drawn to him as he is to them…

The memory pillow is also a clever bit.

Superman’s mother tries to set Superman up with the actress from his film, Lyla Lerrol (LL, of course), and while Superman is drawn to her, he’s determined not to get too attached to her (good luck with that, Supes!)…

You really should get this story just to see the page I omitted following the page above where Superman and Lyla’s making out gets its own half-page/multi-panel spotlight.

Siegel and Boring really milk the drama for all the pathos they can. Just check out this page…

You can really feel just how brutal this must be for Superman, no?

So Superman decides that he can’t help but NOT try to help his father save the people of Krypton. They finally come up with the idea for a space ark. The only problem is WHERE the space ark is built…

With everything looking grim, Superman interestingly enough basically decided to accept his fate in this brilliantly executed final panel by Siegel and Boring…

Of course, just when he accepts his life (and death), Superman discovers that fate has other plans for him.

Get the full dramatic ending (plus the awesome making out spotlight) and read the full story in the collection Superman in the 60s, available wherever comic book collections are sold!

14 Comments

Lyla was a great character, a good and believable match for Supes which makes their falling in love believable and bittersweet.

Have had this issue for close to 30yrs (not bad since I’m only 40), really was the first time I began to appreciate the then-previously-hated work of Wayne Boring. Every kiss in this issue is rendered perfectly. Good call.

What’s great about this story, and so much of Weisinger/Siegel’s best Superman stories, is that it mines the deep seam of pathos with the character. We always think of Marvel making the innovation with superheroes with problems, but really it was superheroes with mundane problems. Superman really is a tragic figure– capable of being the mightiest man on Earth but helpless against the vicissitudes of life: he can’t save his parents, he can’t save his adoptive parents. He can’t stop Luthor from turning evil. Weisinger’s Superman loved to be able to turn the screws on the character, find new ways for angst. And it works brilliantly when they do it.

And on a completely different note, I always found it interesting that in “The Man Who Has Everything” by Moore and Gibbons, it has Kal-El and Lyla married, even though she should be, what, 20 years older than him? Either it’s a ‘tell’ that Superman’s in an illusory world, or it turns out Kal-El has a Mrs. Robinson thing going on…

nice pick when i finaly got a hold of the issue i felt super mans pain over him knowing he was going to see krypton destroyed and he could do nothing to save any one. plus also falling in love with lyla knowing the romance is not to last. with the end of krypton.

This was really good. Nice pick. I usually think of Weisinger Superman as really awful but it’s enlightening to see that wasn’t always the case. Not sure what the ratio of bad to good was, but it does seem at least that when it was good it could be REALLY good.

What’s great about this story, and so much of Weisinger/Siegel’s best Superman stories, is that it mines the deep seam of pathos with the character. We always think of Marvel making the innovation with superheroes with problems, but really it was superheroes with mundane problems.

I dunno, 90% of the time Weisinger’s Superman problems seem pretty mundane too. Especially given how absurdly overpowered he is. He could even create solar systems! Yet his biggest dilemma is usually coming up with convoluted ruses to dupe his friends “for their own good.”

Superman really is a tragic figure– capable of being the mightiest man on Earth but helpless against the vicissitudes of life:

Lots of Marvel people have this problem.

he can’t save his adoptive parents.

Spider-Man can’t save Uncle Ben. Tony Stark can’t save the old Asian guy who helped him invent his armor. Captain America can’t save Bucky.

He can’t stop Luthor from turning evil.

I don’t see how that is any more or less mundane than what Marvel characters have to deal with.

I agree Weisinger could pull some great angst and pathos out of Superman’s dilemmas. I just don’t see how the angst and problems of Marvel characters is so much more mundane on average. Most of the time Superman’s dilemmas involved finding ways to string Lois along.

You know, there’s something I dig about Boring’s Superman design. That first image’s second panel in particular just looks neat.

@Graeme: Good catch on For the Man Who Has Everything. Reading it out of context Lyla’s presence in the story just seems arbitrary, but with this story in mind Moore’s choice makes a lot more sense.

(The animated adaptation replaced her with a composite of Lois and Lana, which, in that universe, worked better.)

It’s not that Marvel characters don’t have those problems. It’s that they also are dealing with the rent, their love life, their social standing– it’s those sorts of everyday things I term as ‘mundane problems’.

But with Superman, it’s the juxtaposition of the big powers and the gut wrenching histrionics and angst that makes it so great.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of silver age Superman is laughable. No argument here. But the best of it uses the pathos of the character in some meaningful way. And one thing I don’t think I stated well is that Weisinger and Siegel started doing that before Stan and Jack showed up on the scene with the Fantastic Four. I think it’s a precursor to Marvel, not something they did better or instead.

Dude, Silver Age Superman (especially 145-165) is still the finest example of the superhero genre.

Especially people who downright dismiss these as silly and old fashioned need to either grow out of their “Sturm und Drang” phase (ends usually after your 25th birthday) or need a few pointers online to appreciate the innocent pathos unfettered by any kind of self-conscious industry, what were having nowadays. Writers like Binder and Siegel let their imagination run completely free, all the while defining their own superhero emotions and logic.

The thing is, the really good Silver Age Superman stories were in Superman. Most of the Superdickery seems to have been in Action Comics. I don’t know why, but that seems to be how it breaks down. I suppose DC might have wanted to put the good stuff in the book named for the character, whereas Action was an anthology title with back-ups, so they put the less inventive, more humdrum secret identity shenanigans in that book.

Man, that was some pretty exciting Boring artwork!

Pretty, exciting, and all Boring! I love the giant Jazz Robots rocking out in the last panel’s background. Playing a drum on its head, what a crazy robot!

Loving this. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the old Wayne Boring comics I’d see reprinted. Superman always seemed to have this barrel chest that went all the way down to his barrel waistline, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why he was always flying into the room SIDEWAYS. But the years have mellowed my opinion of him, and today I’m old enough to appreciate one of the greatest Superman artists of all. He was doing a lot more than I could ever have imagined.

I absolutely hate when people categorize Silver Age stuff as laughable, and I’m 21 years old. I’m not some old dude who remembers this form when he was a kid, I read the Superman in the Sixties TPB like a year ago and loved all of it, particularly this story. The only problem is that the dialogue is bloated at times, but the emotions are realistic, the drama is there.

It pretty much goes back to what Morrison always says about how it doesn’t matter how powerful Superman is, his heart can be wounded. I am a huge fan of an All-Powerful Superman and I don’t think it takes away from the character even in the slightest.

Future Editions: I am huge huge fan of Jerry Seigel’s Tales of the Bizzarro World stories, you will not find a better laugh anywhere, especially in the Bizarro dictionaries and the introductions to those stories. On the other side of the coin, ‘The Story of Superman’s Life’ is a great example of an early Superman origin story, also by Jerry Seigel. Its a fun read mostly because you can stack it up against all the other million retellings of Superman’s origin (it fairs pretty well).

Is it me or does this version of Superman look a helluva lot like Charlie Sheen,at least facially? Sheen’s chest is likely shrunken and tubercular….

I always forget how romance driven Silver Age Superman was.

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