Reign of the Supermen #461: Superman, Last Man on Earth

Source: Action Comics #300 (1963)
Type: The real deal (since retconned), with a little bit of Red K transformation thrown in
You know, even if I know what to expect generally from Silver Age Superman stories, this one still surprised me. Published in an anniversary issue, and referenced in the Justice League animated series' two-part episode "Hereafter", I thought this was gonna be a bona fide classic. As it turns out, it's not even issue-length. Superman has to share the page count with Comet the Super-Horse.

The premise is clever though. The Superman Revenge Squad lures Superman into following them through time, much farther than he's ever gone before, to 1,000,000 A.D. where Earth's sun has turned red. And you know what that means.
And that's their revenge, they leave him there, to die, at the center of a lifeless moon, buried ali--No, sorry, that's The Wrath of Khan. They leave him on a dry, abandoned Earth, with no powers. Yeah, he'll die eventually, but wouldn't it be smarter to drop down to the planet and shoot his vulnerable ass? So Superman starts walking towards Metropolis, which still exists as ruins 1M years hence. But it's empty. Maybe the Hall of Telepathic History can help him.
You know, it's a good thing no one's left on Earth to see him wear that helmet. Silver linings. As the story goes, the sun turned red with age, and the oceans dried up completely, making humanity dependent on high-price factory-made water. The situation became untenable, so we built massive spaceships and left to colonize other worlds. In a million years! So we had a good run. Now, Superman really is the last man on Earth, so how's he gonna get out of this one? Magic?!
Wait, does that WORK? Let me check. DIOKSIS! Nope, still in the 3rd dimension. (But if you know of a story where Superman sends himself to Mxyzptlk's dimension this way, let me know.) In any case, that's not the real Mxy, he's just an android. Why?
That's right. Because in Silver Age stories, people are OBSESSED with Superman, and in the future, they'll have built his entire supporting cast as robots to walk in Superman Commemoration Parades. You'd think after 800,000+ years, there might have been new heroes to worship. And these poor androids are left behind to watch humanity take off to greener pastures. Now, Superman teams up with Perry White-bot (for company) on a quest to find the Fortress of Solitude/cigars. On the way, he's warned off dangerous mutations/evolutions, like...
STAY BACK! Balloon Beasts inflate and float away from danger! Yeah, not exactly alpha predators. And when the duo reaches Smallville (because it's apparently just north of Metropolis, update your maps), they're attacked by a Color Cat, a multicolored tiger that attacks anything with vivid colors, like Superman's outfit.
Also note the further fetishizing of Superman's supporting cast. A million years hence! I bet most people can't name all the apostles! And as the trek continues through North America, there are land-whales, giant eagles that shoot lightning bolts from their eyes, and invisible land octopi. A million years is a long time, sure, and in comics, mutation occurs more readily, but it's kind of sad that humanity was the only species on Earth NOT to evolve during that time. They eventually reach the ocean, but I can't tell you if it's the Atlantic or the Arctic. Metropolis was a sea port, but they walked to Smallville first, and they've walked a while, but Superman's beard has only grown to about Joel McHale length. And if it is the Arctic, what's Atlantis doing there?
Of course, I'm not accounting for the super-accelerated continental drift that no doubt accompanies the fauna's enhanced evolutionary rate. Sadly, no Lori Lemaris Superman Fetish exhibition in Atlantis, so let's move right along to the Fortress of Solitude (by hitching a ride on a Balloon Beast, of course). Using threads from his super-suit, Superman climbs up the rock face and crawls through the keyhole, his security systems have all broken down over time. He's hoping to get help from the bottle city of Kandor, but it's been grown and freed since he last saw it. However, there are a couple things that COULD help:
Well, if you guessed that Superman had in his possession a piece of Red K that once shrunk Krypto down to size, and that he could use it to climb aboard the left-over Kandorian rocket and fly it through the time-stream back to 1963, you were RIGHT!
Hopefully, you didn't miss the crucial step of shaving before Superman's powers came back, or he'd be stuck with a 5 o'clock shadow for the rest of his natural life. The end.
In Justice League's "Hereafter", Toy-Man joins the Superman Revenge Squad and (rather atypically) creates an explosion that throws Superman 30,000 years into the future, which is far enough to get a red sun. The fauna isn't as crazy, but he does have a rather violent fight with some nasty wolves. And Superman ISN'T the only man on Earth. He shares the place with Vandal Savage. And while back in time, everyone thinks him dead, he manages to make a return with the help of Savage's technology. The end.

8 comments:

sonofthesun said...

One of my favorite Justice League episodes. Anything with Vandal Savage in it pretty much wins. I never knew that it was adapted from a Superman story, but it makes perfect sense once you've been informed!

Brad said...

Of course, the story has a major flaw. When Superman loses his powers, Kryptonite has no effect on him.

But you can get around it by positing there's a working shrink-ray and then proceed as written

Jeremy Patrick said...

For as downright bats*** insane as those old stories are, you have to give them credit for throwing creative ideas onto every page. . .

Siskoid said...

Is that pre-Crisis canon, Brad? Under a red son, kryptonite has no effect? I bet there are stories where a red sun prevents him from using super-strong threads from his costume too.

Not that I expect air-tight continuity from the Silver Age.

Jeff R. said...

Pre-Crisis, a red sun only takes away most of his powers; a lot of the physical ones were attributed to the gravity difference. So I think that K-sensitivity would still hold under those conditions. It's only completely depowered Kryptonians (from gold-K exposure) who become immune to all types except the one that temporarily gives them their powers back. (Jewel? -X?)

Bob said...

Oddly, when this story was reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 4, it was the Kandorian shrink ray and not red K that Superman used. Someone edited the ending... but not very well, because three panels later Superman is thinking, "Now to wait until the temporary effect of the red kryptonite wears off and I'm my super-self again!"

And yes, in the pre-Crisis DC universe, kryptonite had no effect on Kryptonians without powers. That's why Supergirl's origin was modified in the mid '60s to explain that Argo City rested on a freak chunk of "anti-kryptonite" that is deadly to non-powered Kryptonians. Otherwise, there would have been a lot more survivors than Kara and her parents.

Bob said...

@Jeff R. -- In every Silver Age story I've ever read, a red sun takes away all of Superman's powers. If you can cite any stories where that wasn't true, I'd be very interested.
I do remember one Superboy story (#141, I think) in which he was on a planet with no sun -- just cold light from some sort of floating crystals -- where he lost his vision powers, flight, and invulnerability, but kept his strength and leaping abilities due to the lower gravity.

Siskoid said...

Sounds like YOU'RE the expert here, Bob! I'll take your word for it!

 

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