Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Super Foe in the Mirror

What’s strange is that with one mirror-image antagonist Superman — Bizarro — already an established character, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Curt Swan would introduce another one in Superman 137 (May 1960).
And what’s even stranger than that is how well the story would work.
As with his The Death of Superman and Superman’s Return to Krypton storylines, Superman’s creator would prove he could still supply plenty of angst and depth in stories about his brainchild two decades after the Man of Tomorrow’s debut.
Here, a mysterious alien spacecraft created a duplicate of Kal-El’s space rocket on its journey to Earth. We readers forgave Siegel the implausibility of the notion that a second Superman could have been raised secretly on Earth because of the intriguing idea this unlikely event permitted him to explore: what if someone other than the kindly Kents had raised Superman?
And in the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Siegel comes down firmly on the side of nurture.
The child raised by the criminals Wolf and Bonnie Derek becomes Super-Brat, inundating a town with giant snowmen, and then Super-Bully, a juvenile delinquent who releases the big cats from Smallville Zoo just so he can bat them around.
Finally, as the adult Super-Menace, he defeats and nearly destroys Superman with kryptonite. The Man of Steel’s life is spared only because Super-Menace’s super hearing reveals that his foster parents had always loathed him and were only manipulating him to satisfy their powerlust and greed. The unloved, heartbroken energy being buries the kryptonite with his super-breath and then — as they scream and plead for their lives — explodes himself at his foster parents, destroying them as well as himself.
Ineffectual as Superman was here, I was always happy that at least one member of the Superman family immediately smelled a rat whenever Super Menace was around.
You can’t fool Krypto, folks.

1 comment:

  1. Funny that in some of Siegel and Weisinger's classic stories from this period — this, The Death of Superman, Superman's Return to Krypton — Superman is always ineffectual. That's a funny position for the most powerful man in the world to be in.