Monday, January 9, 2017

Here There Be Super-Dragons

You might think that a winged, fire-breathing dragon from the planet Krypton would give even Superman pause.
You’d be wrong.
The last surviving snagriff arrived to menace Metropolis in Superman 78 (Sept.-Oct. 1952), having been injected with what amounted to an experimental immortality serum by Superman’s father, Jor-El.
Although more powerful than Superman, the super-beast posed no direct threat to him because it was distracted by its insatiable appetite for metal, a side effect of the serum.
That appetite proved fatal when the creature swallowed six atomic bombs and was vaporized.
Or was it?
In Superman 142 ( Jan. 1961), an identical Kryptonian monster — now called a flame dragon, not a snagriff — attacks Earth, but is disempowered by Superman’s red kryptonite, frozen by his super-breath and hurled into eternal orbit somewhere beyond Pluto.
Enter the son of the flame dragon.
When an egg left by the frozen creature hatches in Superman 151 (Feb. 1962), the Man of Steel is able to carry the young beast into the prehistoric past, where it will be at home and won’t menace humanity. In the process, fangs strong than steel injured his hand.
And there’s a good illustration of how frustrating Superman stories sometimes were for readers in the 1960s.
Instead of a battle between Superman and a truly formidable monster (which is what we wanted to see), this story turned out to be yet another secret identity puzzle, with Lois Lane determined to prove that Clark Kent’s hand was visibly injured, just like Superman’s.
As for the flame dragon, he ended up starring with Titano the Super-Ape in a knock-off of King Kong Vs. Godzilla in Jimmy Olsen’s Monster Movie (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 84, April 1965)
How the mighty were fallen. 

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