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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So HOW Old Are Superboy’s Parents?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at how the age of Superboy’s parents changed and how that affected some previously written stories…

Our story begins with 1963’s Superman #161, where Leo Dorfman and Al Plastino tell us the whole (ridiculous) story of how Ma and Pa Kent died.

It starts with Superboy taking them on a super-style trip to the Caribbean…

Uh oh, what’s in the chest?

Makes sense, right?

Well, while there, they eat some tropical fruit. They return to the present and get quite sick…

After going through exhaustive attempts to save their lives, it is finally too late…

Blaming himself for the fruit they ate in the past that supposedly gave them their illness, Clark spirals with guilt…

But then he discovers something interesting…

They were dead as soon as they opened the chest! It had nothing to do with Clark…

Note that they never would have been there to open the chest if Clark had not taken them there, but let’s overlook that, don’t want to give Clark any more guilt issues!

Okay, so in Superboy #145 in 1968, Otto Binder, George Papp and Frank Springer give us a fairly meta-fictional look at Superboy, as an alien is using video of Superboy he took from a far-reaching telescope and pretending that it is a fictional show…

But (I presume, just like the Superboy books), people complain about how old Superboy’s parents are. He decides to fix it…

Long story short, his parents are de-aged (as well as some of their friends, so it doesn’t draw attention to just the Kents)…

However, if they’re now de-aged, how could they die when they were so old?

So in one of the most literally examples of “writing over” a story, 1970’s Superboy #165 reprints the Superman tale, only with some changes…

Other reprints got similar treatments at the time.

In Action Comics #500, the edits in Superboy #165 were themselves abandoned and forsaked as the life story of Superman in that issue (by Marty Pasko, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte) show that the Kents’ youthful appearance DID wear off…

Thanks to Graeme Burk, Michael and Commander Benson (who made an extensive comment you should read in the comments section) for their head’s up on the Action Comics issue. I believed it was revealed that the de-aging wore off, I just couldn’t recall WHERE.

40 Comments

isn’t there a story in the 70s in which Pa Kent comes back to life and he looks old?

Are the Kents in Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow? I don’t remember.

This itself was undone (I think in Action 500), when it was established that the de-aging wore off shortly before they died (before the events in the tropics happened), and ignored the reprint of the story altogether!

It was explained in Action Comics 500 that the serum wore off about a month before the Kents took their fatal trip to the Caribbean.

I just think of the very first Superman story ever done. In that, it ended with Ma and Pa Kent being dead, and Clark saying he’ll be a hero to honor their memory. I’m sure that was all considered Earth-2 stuff, since I also remember the Kent always being a part of Clark’s life.

Was the 1963 story trying to riff off the Uncle Ben aspect of the Spider-Man origin (“Oh woe is me, I’m responsible for the death of an older man who has brought me up as if he was my parent!”)?

Too bad that alien planet couldn’t just cast John Schnedier and Annette O’Toole.

That’s so weird. As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I definitely think of Jonathan and Martha Kent as the white-haired old couple, so at least some of the reprints I read most have kept them that way. And the versions I grew up reading in Superboy comics looked exactly like the white-haired versions, only with as-yet-ungreyed brown hair. (Like here: http://images.wikia.com/marvel_dc/images/f/f1/Superboy_v.2_01.jpg) The young couple shown above I’ve never seen before in my life.

Commander Benson

August 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

A few years back, I addressed the problems created by the “youthenising” of Ma and Pa Kent, back in Superboy # 145 (Mar., 1968) . . . .

(Since I am just going to reprint my original article, some of this will mention things already addressed by Mr. Cronin above.)

As established, when Jonathan and Martha Kent found baby Kal-El and the rocket which had borne him to Earth, they were in their 50’s—or for simplicity, “the middle-aged Kents”. At that time, Jonathan was a farmer and he and Martha lived in a remote part of the county.

About the time when Clark Kent was old enough to attend school, Jonathan sold his farm, bought the general store, and he and his family moved to Smallville. By the time Clark began his career as Superboy, the Kents were in their 60’s, or “the old Kents”. and whenever a Superbaby story appeared, the Kents were depicted, since it was roughly a dozen years previous, as “the middle-aged Kents”, appropriately.

Once “The Fantastic Faces” turned “the old Kents” into “the young Kents”, this created an awkward situation, especially for new readers. Whenever a Superbaby story appeared at this point, “the young Kents” were depicted as “the middle-aged Kents”. This was accurate, but undoubtedly confused new readers, who might not understand why the Kents of twelve years previous looked older than what they did “now”.

At first, DC tackled this head on. Besides periodically explaining the Kents’ rejuvenation, such as in “the Superboy Legend” pages of Superboy # 175 (Jun., 1971), the next Superbaby story—“The Day Superboy Blew Up the World”, from Superboy # 167 (Jul., 1970)—depicted the Kents accurately as “the middle-aged Kents”, despite the curious inversion of their ages (with a footnote attached to explain it).

As time went by, though, the Superboy writers got lazy and the flashback tales began depicting the Kents of Superbaby’s time as “the young Kents”, as in “Superbaby’s New Family”, from issue # 192 (Dec., 1972) and “Big Race for a Mini-Hero”, from issue # 196 (Jul., 1973). This is a prime example of the common mistakes in continuity that rankled a long-time fan like me. This kind of error was unexcusable; it didn’t require the writer to undertake arduous, time-consuming research—just a basic knowledge of the character he was writing. And if the writers of these stories didn’t catch it, editor Murray Boltinoff should have—he was aware of that Superbaby’s parents should have been “the middle-aged Kents”; he edited the Superbaby tale in # 167, mentioned above, that got it right.

But that wasn’t the only thing bothering long-time readers. Immediately following the appearance of “The Fantastic Faces”, older fans wrote in, pointing out the significant tale “The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent”, which had appeared ‘way back in Superman # 161 (May, 1963). This story, telling of Jonathan and Martha’s deaths and the events just prior to it, showed them as “the old Kents”. The faithful wanted to know how DC accounted for that.

Then-Superboy editor, Mort Weisinger, explained in the letter column of Superboy # 148 (Jun., 1968) that a side-effect of the Caribbean fever plague contracted by the Kents was to counteract the youth serum, returning them to their actual physical age. This was not completely convincing, however, since there were a few scenes in “The Last Days . . . ” that took place before the Kents were infected with the plague, and they were “the old Kents” in those panels, too.

Probably because of that, DC tried to re-write continuity when “The Last Days . . . ” was reprinted in Giant Superboy # 165 (Jun., 1970). In an attempt to make it look like it was “the young Kents” after all who succumbed to the fever plague, an editorial brush was taken to all the panels showing the Kents, deleting their eyeglasses and turning their white hair a light brown.

This didn’t really go over with the fans, either, since the redrawing didn’t go to the Kents’ physiques, which were still shown as portly. Thus, all the redrawing did was make the Kents of reprinted “Last Days . . . ” look like “the middle-aged Kents” of Superbaby’s time.

Throwing up its hands in frustration, DC just ignored the whole thing for a long time. Then, in Superman # 327 (Sep., 1978) editor Julius Schwartz and writer Marty Pasko came up with the solution that should have been obvious all along.

In this story, “The Sandstorm That Swallowed Metropolis”, Superman goes up against the master criminal, Kobra. In order to hold the Man of Steel at bay, Kobra reveals that he has plucked Jonathan and Martha Kent—“the old Kents”—out of the time stream a week before their deaths and is holding them in a time-suspension bubble. On page 10, Pasko provides the answer which was right in front of DC’s face, as Superman remarks:

“They died over a decade ago! And part of me has grieved ever since! It was a terrible blow—because I expected them to live much longer! They had been rejuvenated by an alien youth serum . . . but shortly before I turned 18, they began to age again—proving the effects of the serum had been only temporary!”

As noted by Mr. Burk and Michael above, the explanation that the youth serum had worn off “during the summer following [Clark’s] graduation from high school” was iterated in “The Life Story of Superman”, from Action Comics # 500 (Oct., 1979).

Hope this helps.

Action Comics #1 shows baby Kal-El being raised in an orphanage. When did the Kents and Smallville come into the picture in the first place?

The Mutt:
As I recall, The Kents left the baby Kal El at the orphanage and later adopted him, thereby explaining how they had a son. Later stories had them stranded at the farm for several months during a series of blizzards.
Hey, Brian!! A sequel Abandonded storyline?
And no noted that Chris Claremont “borrowed” the reality tv / alt universe story for X Men?
Just saying…
And didn’t DC decided that Superboy would “now age” along with hid Adult alter ego, rather than having him a teen in the 1930’s and Superman in his late 20’s in the 1970’s?

They did a sequel to the Kent-death story in the 1980s (I think) where Lois and Lana get infected with the same disease and Superman realizes that once again he’s going to watch two people he loves die. It was good, especially the scenes with a gloating Luthor.

Fraser that issue has an excellant cover if I recall.

Commander Benson

August 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

“And didn’t DC decided that Superboy would ‘now age’ along with hid Adult alter ego, rather than having him a teen in the 1930?s and Superman in his late 20?s in the 1970?s?”

You’re speaking of the one-page revisioning that appeared at the end of Superboy # 171 (Jan., 1971).

Here, DC was re-engineering Superboy/man’s history to free itself from a corner into which the Boy of Steel had been painted.

Because Superman had debuted as an adult in 1938, presumably, his rocket from Krypton had landed on Earth c. 1915-20. After it was established that he had had a career as Superboy—in More Fun Comics # 101 (Jan.-Feb., 1945)—following the established time-line meant that his adventures as the Boy of Steel had to take place in the mid-1930’s.

Now, much of the time, the Superboy writers and artists ignored the time differential and depicted the Boy of Steel’s adventures as taking place in the then-contemporary era, despite the obvious time anomaly. In Superboy # 71 (Mar., 1959), the letter column published a missive from a reader complaining about such anachronisms as the atomic bomb appearing in Superboy stories. Editor Mort Weisinger responded by pledging that the Boy of Steel’s proper past era would be properly depicted. From then on, the vintages, styles, and dècor of the 1930’s was consistent in all Superboy stories. If an earlier story was reprinted, any post-1930’s elements were redacted or redrawn.

The problem was, by now, Superman, whose adventures were always contemporary, had progressed through the 1940’s and ’50’s and was heading into the 1960’s. By giving his boyhood a fixed point in the ’30’s, it grew increasingly difficult to explain his lack of ageing. The perpetual youth was even harder to explain in those ordinary Earthlings who were known to be his contemporaries in boyhood, such as Lana Lang.

Somewhat typical of Weisinger, he stuck to his guns and kept Superboy in the 1930’s. After he retired in 1970, Murray Boltinoff took over editorship of Superboy, and when he got his sea legs with the character, he addressed the time problem head on. Hence, the one-page piece in Superboy # 171.

As the text for that piece stated:

Since Superman was created full-grown in 1938, his youth had to take place earlier! But, as time went on, Superman stayed the same . . . while Superboy remained in a time slot not of his own making! So-o . . . we decided to rescue him!

And, from now on, he’ll tag along behind the eternally 29-year-old Superman . . . and “stay with it” as the years roll on!

In other words, the adventures of Superboy would always be set approximately fifteen years earlier than whatever the current year was.

This one-page piece revised something else, as well. It escaped a great many fans at the time, and in the two generations since, most do not even realise that it was ever otherwise.

This piece was the first to establish Superman’s age as a perpetual twenty-nine. Before that, Silver-Age stories had placed him in his thirties—Superman # 180 (Oct., 1965), Superman # 181 (Nov., 1965), Lois Lane # 62 (Jan., 1966), et al.

Hope this helps.

Commander Benson, I salute you.
I was in my early teens back then and you state everything my aged memory dredged up.
There were so many archaic Superboy stories prior to the revision. Bonnie and Clyde, a robot crushing a candlestick telephone. Thank you for confirming my thoughts.

interesting how dc after deciding the kents died of a disease due to time travel by super boy decided then to revive them and have them age back wards only to die again. the same way over and over. and superman having to fell guilt that he could not help his loved ones. back and forth . wonder when dc finaly decided to let the kents be around when super boy was growing up .

Commander Benson

August 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

“Commander Benson, I salute you.”

Thank you, sir. I try, in my own small way, to serve.

Commander Benson

August 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

“interesting how dc after deciding the kents died of a disease due to time travel by superboy . . . .”

Ah, but you see, the Kents did not die because Superboy took them through time into the past. They had already been exposed to the Caribbean fever plague virus, in their own time, when they dug up Peg-Leg Morgan’s chest, while on vacation.

That was the emotional dènouement of the story: the Boy of Steel believed that Ma and Pa Kent contracted the deadly disease because he had taken them back through time. At the end, much to his relief, Superboy discovered that his foster-parents had contracted the fever plague already, before he took them into the past, and nothing he had done had caused that.

Chad, I believe it was John Byrne who decided to keep the Kents alive into Clark’s adulthood.

Smallville exists in a time bubble where it is always the 1950s, and had a population of gangsters that would make the Soprano’s jealous.

Oldman 56, you are explaining how later writers have dealt with Superman’s babyhood. I’m wondering when the Kents first appeared. Was it on the radio show?

Commander Benson is awesome.

And I’m blanking on the Mutt’s question. I can’t think of when the Kents came in to things. D’oh!

I have a Superboy issue from around the time the de-aging took place (ah, I was confused at first, now I see we started with a SuperMAN issue and the de-aging was in SuperBOY), and I hadn’t ever heard of the de-aging before that. I’ve always seen the old people.

That Superboy I have is pretty good…for I Love Ya… I’ll have to send an email.

Commander Benson

August 13, 2012 at 2:37 am

“I’m wondering when the Kents first appeared.”

Mutt, I had initially let your question go—primarily because the evolution of the Kents within the Superman mythos is a bit complicated, and I was hoping someone else would tackle it. Since no-one has, I’ll address it now and try to simplify things a bit.

The first appearance of the Kents occurred in an expanded sequence depicting Superman’s origin from Superman # 1 (Summer, 1939). Only Mrs. Kent is identified by a forename—“Mary”.

The Kents’ next significant appearance came, in all places, in George Lowther’s novel, The Adventures of Superman (Random House, 1942). Here, they were named Eben and Sarah Kent.

Superman’s adoptive parents returned to the fore next in “The Origin of Superman”, from Superman # 53 (Jul.-Aug., 1948). Here, they were given the forenames of “John” and “Mary”. (This would be the source for ascribing the names of John and Mary Kent to parents of the Earth-Two version of Superman, after the parallel-Earth concept was established in The Flash # 123 [Sep., 1961].)

It isn’t until the dawn of the 1950’s that we get to the meat of your question, sir. The character of Superboy had debuted in 1945, in More Fun Comics # 101, and from there, the Boy of Steel’s series progressed to Adventure Comics, starting with issue # 103 (Apr., 1946). For five years’ worth of Superboy stories, the Boy of Steel’s foster-parents had never been addressed as anything other than “the Kents” or “Pa” and “Ma” Kent.

It wasn’t until the tale “Fake Superboy”, from Adventure Comics # 149 (Feb., 1950), that Pa Kent was given the forename that he would bear for the rest of his comic-book existence—“Jonathan”.

As for Ma Kent, in “Superboy’s Problem Parents”, from Superboy # 12 (Jan.-Feb., 1951), she was given the first name “Marthe” (with an “e”); however, with her next appearance—“The Girl Who Was Scoop-Crazy”, Adventure Comics # 161 (Feb., 1951)—she became “Martha” Kent, and would remain so from then on.

As for the first time Superboy’s boyhood hometown was named “Smallville”, that’s an easy one.

The name “Smallville” debuted in “The Stunts of Superboy”, from Superboy # 2 (May-Jun., 1949), and was used consistently from then on.

Hope this helps.

So Superboy can travel back in time a couple hundred years to find out what happened to Pegleg Morgan, but he can’t go back in time a few days to prevent his parents from dying?

By the way, I think there was a Legion of Super-Heroes story in the 80s that retconned, or attempted to retcon, the death of Superboy’s parents. There was some story where Superboy is with the Legion and is exposed to a strange disease, and shortly after that he goes back to his own time. One of the Legion comments about how he goes back in time to just before his parents died, or that his parents died of a similar disease (I don’t remember exactly), but the implication was that Superboy brought the disease back in time and that’s what killed them. I believe the story was part of the Great Darkness Saga, or it was part of the early Baxter series (I know Superboy appeared in an issue of that).

Commander Benson

August 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

“So Superboy can travel back in time a couple hundred years to find out what happened to Pegleg Morgan, but he can’t go back in time a few days to prevent his parents from dying?”

No—because it wouldn’t work.

First, because DC established as early as “The Impossible Mission”, from Superboy # 85 (Dec., 1960), that history in the DC Universe—or at least the part of it that’s within the Superman mythos—is immutable. Once a thing happens, nothing can be done to undo it.

Second, as shown even further back, in “The Town That Hated Superman”, Superman # 130 (Jul., 1959), et al., whenever one travels in the past of his own lifetime, the time-travelling version of himself becomes a phantom, invisible and immaterial, unable to affect anything that takes place.

Thanks, Commander Benson. It seemed like it would be weird to show Superboy as a time-traveler, yet he can’t just travel in time to save his parents.

Now, since Superboy can’t travel back within his own lifetime without becoming a phantom, can he travel back to before his lifetime, find Pegleg’s chest, and decontaminate it? Or does that still interfere with the first story you mentioned?

Commander Benson

August 13, 2012 at 9:29 am

“Now, since Superboy can’t travel back within his own lifetime without becoming a phantom, can he travel back to before his lifetime, find Pegleg’s chest, and decontaminate it? Or does that still interfere with the first story you mentioned?”

You’ve hit in squarely on the head, John. But before I elabourate on your answer to your own question, let me provide a little background.

The inflation of Superman’s super-powers had always caused scripting problems for writers. Each time the Man of Steel’s super-strength or invulnerability pushed the envelope a little further, that meant the writers had to struggle a bit more to come up with foes sufficiently mighty to challenge Our Hero.

But extending the Action Ace’s super-speed to permit him to break the time-barrier opened up not a can, but a whole fifty-gallon drum, of worms.

The first time Superman was shown to be able to pierce the fabric of time was in “Autograph, Please”, from Superman # 48 (Sep.-Oct., 1947). By 1949, he was doing it with regularity, two or three times a year or more. This evoked questions from the readership similar to the one you raised WRT the Kents. Why couldn’t Superman go back and fix an earlier mistake, the fans asked.

For most of that time, Whitney Ellsworth, then-editor of the Superman family of magazines, was free to ignore these kind of questions, because such fan mail was kept strictly in house. But after Mort Weisinger replaced Ellsworth as editor, he instituted the “Metropolis Mailbag” letter column, beginning with Superman # 124 (Sep., 1958). This was the first DC title to carry a letter column. (In the 1940’s, when Weisinger had been an editor of science-fiction pulps for the Standard Magazine chain, letter columns were a regular feature, and Mort had found the interaction with the fans tended to instil greater popularity for the titles.)

But a letter column was a two-edged sword; now, Mort had to publish many of the fans’ questions and concerns—particularly, if a large amount of mail addressed the same topic—that, before, could have been quietly swept under the rug.

One of those early biggies was “If Superman can travel through time, why doesn’t he go back and prevent the destruction of Krypton?”

That led to the time-travel “rule” that appeared in “The Town That Hated Superman”. The Man of Steel couldn’t save Krypton because that was in the past of his own lifetime, and if he did go back, he would become an invisible phantom. (The fact that Krypton was in a red-sun solar system was a non-issue at the time; the yellow-sun influence on Superman’s powers did not become part of the mythos until 1960.)

O.K., responded the fans—maybe Superman can’t save Krypton, but surely he could go back in time, to eras before he was born, and prevent terrible tragedies. Why doesn’t he go back and save the Titanic from sinking or prevent the Great Chicago Fire or stop John Wilkes Booth from killing Abraham Lincoln?

Weisinger got enough of this sort of letter that he had to print one or two and then address the matter. This he did, by taking one of the very examples that readers raised—the assassination of President Lincoln—and publishing a story, “The Impossible Mission”, in Superboy # 85, establishing that history could not be changed, no matter what the Man of Steel did to alter it.

Some folks mistakenly interpret this as some sort of pre-destination; in other words, that in an attempt to change the past, Superman is somehow compelled to act in a way contrary to his own intentions. Actually, that is not the case.

What the DC time-travel rule that history is immutable actually prescribes is, no matter what actions Superman takes in the past to alter a historical incident, some confluence of events will occur to undo what ever the Man of Steel does or perhaps even forestal him entirely.

In “The Impossible Mission”, Superboy zips back to 15 April 1865 to prevent Booth from shooting Lincoln. Once arriving in Washington on that date, however, he enters what he believes to be a hotel room the President has taken for privacy. Instead, he discovers that it is actually occupied by an adult Lex Luthor, who has fled through time, to the same era, to avoid capture by Superman.

Luthor exposes Superboy to a piece of red kryptonite which completely paralyses the Boy of Steel for twenty-four hours. Thus, he is helpless to save Lincoln, or even inform Luthor of his purpose in being there.

(Notably, Luthor himself has forgotten the significance of that particular date, until he sees the mortally-wounded Lincoln being carried across the street. Instantly, he grasps Superboy’s reason for coming to that day in the past and, wracked with guilt, departs in his time machine.)

After the effects of the red k wear off, Superboy is free to return to his own era, as well. And as for why doesn’t make a second trip to 15 April 1865 and this time, avoid the whole Luthor business, now that date has become part of his past lifetime. Since he existed physically on 15 April 1865, if he goes back to that date again, the “second” Superboy will become a phantom.

Occasionally there would be other stories to illustrate this approach to history being immutable—“The Army of Living Kryptonite Men”, from Superboy # 86 (Jan., 1961), for one.

So, to take your suggestion—that the Boy of Steel simply go back in time before his own lifetime, find Peg Leg Morgan’s chest, and decontaminate it, thereby saving his parents—it simply wouldn’t work because history had already established that the Kents would die. Something would undo whatever efforts Superboy undertook in the past. Perhaps, after after Superboy decontaminates Morgan’s chest, another pirate, also marooned on the island because he carried the Caribbean fever plague, would find the chest and recontaminate it, again.

But it wouldn’t matter what Superboy did in the past to remove the threat of the chest, some confluence of events would put a chest containing Peg Leg Morgan’s effects and contaminated with the fever plague on that island for Ma and Pa Kent to find—because history says that’s what happened.

Hope this helps.

Michael Sacal, the story that you were thinking of is from Action Comics 507-508 from 1980. An alien who owed Pa Kent a favor created an alternate world in which he was still alive in the “present.” The changes didn’t affect Superman but the rest of reality changed so that there were letters, photos, and other people’s memories that said that Pa Kent had been alive all this time.

In my opinion, two of the best things John Byrne did were to get rid of Superman’s Superboy career and keep his parents around. After all, most people in their twenties and thirties still have living parents, and it added to the supporting cast and improved characterisation.

Just to be persnickerty, there was also “Eben” and “Sarah” Kent, the names given to Clark’s parents in the 1942 George Lowther novel.

But just checking, didn’t the 1950s TV show keep the “Eben” and “Sarah” for their origin episode?

As I remember it, the letters section commenting the issue where Superman first fought Kobra mentioned that it solved the dilemma by having Kobra bring them from the past and Superman thinking about how the youth serum wore off.

@John: you are thinking of a history of the Great Darkness saga indeed.

It has Saturn Girl thinking about how the Kents died of a brain disease that is remarkably similar to the one afflicting Lightining Lad at that time. Somewhere around #295 of the 1980s series.

I don’t think much of a suggestion that Superboy brought the disease to them was made, but it did retcon the tropical disease away.

(Late to the game)

One problem with the Kent’s death is that Superboy had been retconned with all of Superman’s power, super intelligence, time travel, intersellar speeds etc.

So when Clark Kent says ‘I can’t find a cure’ we have to assume he tapped a lot more resources than the average teen.

So I thought the line in the LSH was to establish that the Kents died of something really, really nasty that even 30th Century science could not cure. A neat bit of continuity patching.

I know that I’m coming into this discussion really late but re: Superboy/Superman and time travel. Wasn’t there a Superman story from the 1950s/1960s showing him going back to the past and actually changing history a few times? When returning to his own time Superman notices a side portal to the main time stream. He realizes that while his own timeline remained the same, he had created a parallel earth with a divergent history reflecting his changes. Ergo, he couldn’t change history, at least in his own timeline.

Commander Benson

April 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm

” Wasn’t there a Superman story from the 1950s/1960s showing him going back to the past and actually changing history a few times?”

Yes, but you’ve got one key fact wrong.

You’re recalling “Superman’s Greatest Feats”, from Superman # 146 (Jul., 1961). The whole thing gets started when Lori Lemaris asks the Man of Steel to go into the ancient past and prevent Atlantis from sinking. Superman knows that history is immutable and making such an effort is the virtual equivalent of that classic feat involving a bodily function and a rope. But Lori bats her big browns at him and the gallant goof gives it a shot, anyway.

Quick like Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, Superman pierces the time barrier and emerges just before Atlantis goes under. He makes a valient effort to keep the continent on the surface, fully expecting some caprice of fate to mess things up. Therefore, he’s dumbfounded when he actually succeeds in preventing Atlantis from sinking.

Figuring it was just a one-in-a-billion fluke, the Metropolis Marvel tries a few more things at which history says he should fail. He saves some Christians from being devoured by lions in the Roman Colisseum. He rescues Nathan Hale from the gallows. He saves Lieutenant Colonel Custer and the Seventh Cavalry from massacre at the Little Big Horn and he prevents John Wilkes Booth from killing President Lincoln.

Finally convinced that he can actually change history, for his last trick, Superman decides to save the population of Krypton from dying when their planet blows itself to smithereens. He builds and dispatches a fleet of space arks to Krypton, just in time to evacuate everyone on the planet before the big blow-up. The arks arrive on Earth and the Man of Steel can hardly wait to see his real parents, Jor-El and Lara, again.

However, when Jor-El and Lara emerge from their ship, she is carrying baby Kal-El.

Superman realises that something is seriously wrong, since he cannot exist in two places at the same time. So he returns to the present to see how the history books have recorded his feats. At the nearest library, he is startled to learn that the history hasn’t changed at all—Lincoln was still assassinated by Booth, Custer and his men were wiped out, and the Christians became lion chow. Nothing was changed.

The Man of Steel heads back into the past, paying a bit more attention to where he’s going this time, and he discovers a peculiar warp in the time-stream, that shunts him into a parallel universe. He realises the same thing happened when he first came back through time to prevent Atlantis’ sinking. The laws of physics are different in this parallel universe; here, history can be changed.

It also explains the existence of baby Kal-El among the Kryptonian refugees. That Kal-El is native to this universe; he, Superman, is not.

The Man of Steel barely has time to ponder the implications when the very fabric of reality begins to weaken. His presence in this foreign universe acts in a way similar to anti-matter; if he remains, both universes will cease to exist. So Superman enters the time-barrier and returns to his own Earth-One universe, instants before the bizarre warp repairs itself.

There was nothing in the tale about creating a divergent time-stream or anything of the sort. Superman just happened to blunder into a universe where history could be changed.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the info. Obviously I mixed up the Superman story with another SF tale about divergent timelines and parallel earths.

Since you’re a big Superman fan – or a least pretty much an expert – maybe you could verify this memory I have related to Supes and time travel. I seem to recall a LOC to the Superman editor (or maybe it was a Superboy editor) from a reader who asked why didn’t Supes go back to the time of Jesus. After all, he had met Samson and Hercules so why not Jesus? The editor dodged the issue and more or less said there was some sort of disturbance around the period when Jesus walked the earth that prevented Supes from witnessing any of the events in the Bible (New Testament).

And getting way off topic…. I also remember a letter from a reader who said his face was disfigured in an accident and he wanted to have plastic surgery to look like Superboy. The editor said he was willing to help and so the reader should contact him. Some time later the reader wrote in and apologized for the hoax.

And getting way off topic…. I also remember a letter from a reader who said his face was disfigured in an accident and he wanted to have plastic surgery to look like Superboy. The editor said he was willing to help and so the reader should contact him. Some time later the reader wrote in and apologized for the hoax.

Yeah, we featured that one awhile back in Comic Book Legends Revealed. Hilariously bizarre.

Brian:

Speaking of bizarre…

Did you happen to see my comment over at “The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Cap is Now Drug-Free…Or Is He?” I mention how Ted White in his CA novel said that Steve Rogers was turned into a superman with “mind-controlling” LSD 25. You talked about “The Great Gold Steal” in Legends #93 but the excerpt you used skipped over the LSD part. I can send you other links that talk about it – and IF I’m really motivated, I could dig out my copy and scan the LSD mention for you. Maybe you could revisit the novel in Legends but with the LSD angle.

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