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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Do Batman and Superman Have Sons or What?

In this feature we examine 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 take a look at the short-lived existence of Superman and Batman’s Super-Sons!

The characters made their debut in 1972’s World’s Finest #215, by Bob Haney, Dick Dillin and Murphy Anderson…

They were the sons of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, which caused a bit of a problem for both the son who grew up pretending to be the son of mild-mannered Clark Kent as well as the son who grew up thinking his father was a playboy…

After establishing themselves, they headed off for some Easy Rider style adventures, Hard Travelin’ Heroes style…

Here’s a good example of the sort of stuff they got into, from the next issue…

Here’s the funny thing, though. Haney specifically said that these stories were “real.” He even wrote a column in #215 saying so…

Haney brought the Super-Sons back a number of times over the next four years.

In 1980, though, Denny O’Neil wrote World’s Finest #263, which abandoned and forsaked the Super-Sons as just being a computer simulation…

Of course, this being comics, the computer simulations come to life…

They cause havoc across the country, though, leading to a really messed up ending…

Wow, that’s certainly ONE way to drop a feature DC no longer wanted. Harsh!

52 Comments

When comics dared to use imagination to go beyond the ‘realistic’ box. Those were the days.

Captain Haddock

January 5, 2014 at 11:22 am

“Join me in a little disintegration?” Wow, I will have those words etched on my tombstone.

Wow. That ending. That’s “Wonder Dog eats Marvin and cripples Wendy” levels of harsh. If I’d read and enjoyed the original stories, I’d have _hated_ that story.

Much kinder if they’d made it an Earth Jr. story. Or if the kids had figured it out for themselves and sacrificed themselves to save the world. Or… if the writer had just left well enough alone!

One other thought: Since Batman Jr.’s mother faints at the boy vaulting off the roof, can we assume she’s not Selina Kyle? :o)

The first page from World’s Finest #263 proves that Bane broke Batman’s back so bad, it was an injury that traveled backwards thru time itself!

The current Superboy is a clone of Jon Lane Kent, a future son of Clark and Lois.
So Superman kinda has a son again

That’s basically Denny O’Neil being a jerk and insulting Bob Haney, who he probably did not like.

Denny O’Neil, you fail physics forever.

Much as I love Bob Haney’s stories for their way-out wackiness, their complete disregard for the established status quo for the characters he used meant that other writers had to either ignore his stories or somehow try to explain them. A lot of his team-ups between characters who weren’t even on the same earth (without explanation) could simply be ignored, but it was harder with some of the ongoing things. How the heck is Wonder Girl in the Teen Titans as one of the sidekicks when Wonder Girl was actually just Wonder Woman as a teenager? Um, OK, someone had better give her a name and a back story. And one thing I’ve noticed going back and reading a lot of my old comics lately (because of my weekly Wonder Woman blogging) is that fans wrote in a lot demanding explanations for this stuff, so I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Neil was assigned to explain this away somehow.

So it makes sense that Clark Jr. inherits his father’s powers, but why would Bruce Jr. be able to be Batman without his father’s years of training? That’s not exactly genetic. Also, the fact that they dress exactly like their fathers is a pretty big missed opportunity to make them more visually distinct.

Basically this whole thing seems silly, even for the time.

Willie Everstop

January 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Disintegration is pretty harsh. I think it would of been better if Superman had to send his son away in a rocket to keep Earth from exploding.

I’ve got one of these “super son” stories. Can’t recall all the details – it had Kent and Wayne and their sons attending a kind of hippie encounter camp together. One thing I recall is the camp leader wanting them to dance together – the fathers found this difficult, given their American notions of masculinity, but the boys took to it. I also recall the counselor insisting on primal scream therapy, which had Clark accidentally blowing a tree out by the roots and his son repairing the damage faster than the eye could follow.

The villain of the piece was a one shot – he was a man who had attained superhuman powers through cybernetics or some other artificial means. As I recall, one of the oddities of the story was that the villain never actually interacted with Superman or his son, who were much stronger than he was. It ended when the villain went into a town and deliberately inhaled nerve gas that he had just released, saving everyone in the town and killing himself. Batman, Superman and sons arrived after all this went down and were only on hand to make speeches over the body.

Does this story ring bells for anyone else? I think it was a giant-size special of some sort. I guess I just assumed that the super sons depicted in the story existed on one of DC’s many alternate Earths from that period.

Wow.

I read a few stray adventures with the Super-Sons back in the day and have fond memories of them.

Did not know of that ending though! Sad.

Well, this just got me to buy the trade collection of these stories, seeing as how I only read about half of them in single issues.

“Aw–I didn’t really want to exist anyway!”

In the day, I was big on continuity, and these stories annoyed me just by existing, to the point where I couldn’t enjoy them. (Though I kept buying, of course.) I appreciate the stories, and Bob Haney in general, much more today. But even back then I thought the story explaining/removing the Super-Sons was too much. Seriously, guys, you couldn’t just ignore them?

Cue the 52’s next controversial reboot :)

If Clark, Jr. had inherited all of Superman’s powers, computer or not, how exactly would “disintegration” work on him? Why wouldn’t it (why shouldn’t it) work on Clark, Sr.?

There was some sort of “Return of the Super-Sons” in the pulped Elseworlds 80-Page Giant back in 1999. It had something to do with the original Superman and Batman faking their deaths so Supes and Bats Jr. could learn to live outside their parents’ shadows. I don’t remember much beyond that. I didn’t really like those guys, given that they looked identical to their dads.

I always thought about buying the trade of these stories…I dodged the bullet.

Commander Benson

January 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Under the Department of Credit-Where-Credit-Is-Due, I need to point out that Denny O’Neil was not the first writer to come up with the idea that the Super-Sons were products of Superman’s simulation-projecting super-ultivac computer.

In the letter column of World’s Finest Comics # 241 (Oct., 1976), a fan wrote in, asking if the adventures of Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr. took place on an alternate Earth. At that time, the title was still being edited by Boltinoff, but it was Jack C. Harris who wrote the response:

Nope, John, that’s not the explanation. Our own pet theory (based on the fact we see ghostly images of Superman and Batman watching over their super-offspring on page 1) is that the two senior super-heroes are in Superman’s Fortress watching these adventures on the Man Of Steel’s Super-Univac after asking the question: ‘What would happen if we had sons in the hectic world of 1976?”

This explanation was validated “on camera”, as it were, in the story “My Father . . . Superman”, from Superman Family # 192 (Nov.-Dec., 1978). This tale was written by Gerry Conway.

Herein, Superman sits down before his super-ultivac and runs the question, “What would have happened if Krypton had exploded before I was born?”

As he does so, he reflects: “Batman and I once used this computer probability simulator to project what might have happened if Krypton had never exploded. (A reference to Superman # 132 [Oct., 1959]) And later, if we’d married and had sons a few years ago.”

This is marked by a footnote explaining:

At last, the true story behind the “Super-Sons” series in World’s Finest nos. 215, 216, 221, etc.!

Hope this helps.

The thing about the Super-Sons is, I’m a huge continuity buff so they go against everything I look for in a superhero universe, but I love these two characters anyway. I’m sure it’s partly that I read some of their stories as a kid, but probably also that they’re SO wrong that my mind just goes “These can’t possibly be canon” and treats it as Earth-B or whatever you want to call it.

It’s worth noting that the Super-Sons trade includes both the Denny O’Neill story and the Elseworlds story (as well as all of the earlier Haney Super-Sons stories). To me the Elseworlds story means they’ll still out there alive and well in their own unique corner of the universe.

talk about really harsh when it comes to dc getting rid of even made up offspring. of their big guns . like batman and superman. having them dump into a pit and disinagrate. that is wonder dog eating marvin crippling wendy and damian being left at an orphange and told that he died cruel

Also, and granting the absurdity of talking continuity with the Super-Sons, the point in the O’Neill about the Super-Sons never having met their mothers doesn’t really work. The mothers definitely appeared a few times, albeit with their faces obscured.

That ending… what… ?

@Andy: I think the fact that we never see the mothers nor learn their names kind of backs up the whole computer simulation explanation. Since the moms were not programmed into the simulation, keeping their faces and names obscured was the computer’s way of filling in the blanks.

Didn’t these two have an appearance in Elseworlds 80-Page Giant?

@Fury: Hmm, you did at least see their hair and the dialogue in the World’s Finest story suggests no mothers period, but I acknowledge it’s a bit open to interpretation. Still there’s the matter of the Elseworlds story.

If DC gave out No Prizes, here is what my explanation would be: being an Elseworld, Earth-B exists in Hypertime outside of the Pre-Crisis multiverse and subsequent universes/multiverses. Somehow the computer Superman and Batman used actually brought Superman Jr. and Batman Jr..from their own world to Earth-1, but this caused them to have partial amnesia and also created a rupture in the space-time continuum, hence the various disasters on Earth-1 around them. When they entered the disintegration pit, rather than dying they simply returned to Earth-B, thus repairing the space-time continuum. After that, they may have forgotten about the Earth-1 experience or it may simply be that enough time had passed by the time of the Elseworlds story that they weren’t dwelling on it. Undoubtedly they had many other strange adventures in the meantime and the Earth-1 excursion may have just been an interesting footnote from their perspective.

Ah, the sorely missed artists of my youth…

Dick Dillin, Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano: thanks again for all of the great stories!

I have a bunch of these World’s Finest issues. Generally I like this type of Bronze Age goofiness from DC, but the Super Sons just seem lazy to me. They have the exact same names, both in costume and out, as their dads and the exact same costumes as their dads. And the exact same powers, (although they mention that Clark Jr only has half the powers, but half of Superman is still basically Superman.) Why not just have it be stories of Batman and Superman as teenagers if they wanted that teen angle? There never really seemed to be a point to these stories to me.

But even so, I find the story by O’Neil to be a bit harsh. As Derek mentioned that’s a Wonder Dog level of over the top. Maybe this was Geoff Johns’ favorite comic as a kid. It would explain a bunch of stuff.

I interpreted the “No mothers” thing the same way FuryofFirestorm did. The fact that they’re always obscured or in shadow is because there was never any specifics programmed in. I think it’s also a bit of a meta message to the reader commenting on the way the mothers were always drawn unidentifiable.

I believe that’s Henry Scarpelli inking that first story…if the credits on the page you reproduced can be trusted. Sure doesn’t look like Murphy Anderson to me.

The explanation may be harsh, but I’m choosing to disregard that story along with the others.

Did Haney ever go on record about his ambivalence towards continuity? Was he lazy? Opposed to it? Something else? At one point I think someone proposed “Earth-H” to hold all of his out of continuity stuff.

Jazzbo: Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. were constantly in conflict with their fathers, Superman and Batman. At that point Alfred wasn’t as much defined as a father figure for Bruce and neither he nor Jonathan Kent were superheroes, so having it just be Superman and Batman as teens would have given the stories a completely different flavour. I would argue that was the real point of the series: youth vs adults, particularly where superheroes were concerned.

In fact come to think of it, that’s probably the biggest flaw in the O’Neill story: Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. were not exactly prone to obeying their elders nor were Superman and Batman all that bloodthirsty at the time. It would have been more in character for the older heroes to tell the teens that they SHOULDN’T jump in the pit and then have the teens respond by the self-sacrifice.

Good on O’Neil for destroying a particularly heinous Haney idea with extreme prejudice.

Man, I really enjoyed these stories! I remember reading them when they were originally published. It wasn’t hard for this reader at the time to just make the assumption that these stories were taking place on one of DC’s multiple earths.

These were fun stories at the time for their time.

By the way, here are the details for anyone wanting to buy the trade: Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super-Sons. ISBN 978-1-4012-1502-6.

Collects the Super-Sons stories from World Finest Comics #215-216, 221-222, 224, 228, 230-231, 233, 238, 242, 263 (what the trade calls “the Buzz-Kill”) and Elseworlds 80-Page Giant #1. 255 pages.

I recommend the multi-bookstore site Bookfinder to find the cheapest copy including shipping.

Happily the cover credits Dick Dillin as well as Haney. His drawings of obviously 1970s fashion despite the series supposedly taking place decades in the future only added to the fun.

I have the set of their original appearances. The stories haven’t aged well. But I love Dillin.

Aside from the dubious “Yes, the Super-Sons are real, it’s just they don’t show up in any other comics” logic, I never cottoned to them. The youth-in-revolt angle always felt forced, like a lot of “relevant” comics from the late sixties.

But that said, yes, O’Neil’s handling of them and their disposal was way over the top.

Bloody hell, they couldn’t just say it took place on “Earth-J”?

I read and enjoyed many of these as a kid. I simply assumed they took place in an alternate Earth or an “imaginary” story, the same as I assumed for all the Haney weirdness. Really, once you accept Earth-1 and Earth-2 (which were well established by that point), the concept of additional alternate realities didn’t boggle my young mind. If someone from Earth-1 met someone from Earth-2 in a Haney team-up, I just assumed it was Earth-16 or something, rather than demanding that it be “explained.” If it was too weird to reconcile, I classified it as an “imaginary” story, even if that wasn’t explicitly stated (those were also VERY well established by this point). My recollection is that I classified these as “imaginary,” and my head did not explode.

I may get the trade just to walk down memory lane.

I just read the Saga of the Super Sons collection, and come on people…these stories are TERRIBLE. I have as much love for goofy silver age stuff as anybody (I certainly read tons and tons of it), but these stories actually made me angry because of terrible plots and bad characterizations, and really, really, really obnoxious writing.

What Dennis O’Neal did completely thrilled me, I think I put the book down to applaud. It’s so clear from his story that he despises those characters, just like I did, so it was hilarious to watch them gleefully kill themselves.

I remember reading the Dennis O’Neil story in 1980. No disrespect to Haney, but I always lumped the Super-Sons stories in with the Batman stories I read, like the story Alfred wrote about Batwoman and Batman getting married, Dick becoming Batman II and Bruce and Kathy Kane’s son becoming Robin II. Still, comics should be fun, and I think John Byrne tackled the whole thing – maybe not as well as Haney, but I really enjoyed the Superman & Batman: Generations series.

I’d love to read stories about how Batman and Superman got married and had sons to carry on their legacies.
Would they have adopted? Used surrogate mothers? Used Kryptonian technology to blend their DNA together in artificial wombs?
I… what? They had wives?
A likely story. They spent so much time together, they didn’t have time for girlfriends, except as beards. :)

I love the explanation of “Your mothers? Pfft. Not important so we didn’t program them in.” You can’t tell me that if they’d actually fancied, say, Lois Lane and Selina Kyle they wouldn’t have programmed them in for a lark. Not when they’re already spending hours watching TV and playing Super Sims. :)

AirDave, I really liked Generations. I’m not a Byrne fan, but he did a great job in that one.

To be fair to the “corny, terrible, lousy writing”, DC at the time in the 70’s were tailoring and writing their stories to the “younger kids” not the teenager/young adult/adult audience that Marvel had as their target. Stan Lee had said many times that they wanted to write stories that appealed to an older mind, not childlike stories that DC tended to fall back on.

The weirdest part of all these strange stories might be Batman saying “It’s fun running the simulations on your super-computer!”

It wasn’t indicated that the mothers didn’t exist or that the kids had never met them. Only indicated that the kids couldn’t “remember” who they were/what their names were/looked like….. Since that wasn’t programmed in. It was “sure I remember my mother, she was…. um…..” It’s like if you read a story, you only know the part that was written, you can’t know any details that weren’t “programmed” in.

This seems like a candidate for Superdickery.

“This seems like a candidate for Superdickery.”

Oh yes!

The disintegration pit had a percentage of dangerous Kryptonian elements, so it would have killed Superman. Or at least, disintegrated him.
I thought the stories were poorly characterized. Everyone over-reacted to any ‘generation gap’ thought or statement and the Sons were way too serious and angry. Realistically, it would take an entire life of nonstop effort to get out of those fathers’ shadows.

I read a number of the “Super-Sons” stories when they first came out. They were pretty harmless and seemed to be aimed at making the heroes relevant to the early 1970s. I never took them seriously, and I don’t remember how they were eliminated as shown in the above story (which actually isn’t a bad explanation)…

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