Krypto #1: Birth of a Super-Pup

From: Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955)

It begins, a new era of Superman Family coverage at the SBG, the Age of Krypto! Now, with both Reign of the Supermen and Snapshots of Jimmy Olsen, the idea was to showcase variants of those characters - those Supermen and Jimmies that had been transformed into ants/turtles, came from parallel worlds, were cast in live action productions, etc. That's not what I want to do with Krypto the Super-Dog. No, this is meant to be a full-on index series where each of the Kryptonian pup's adventures is chronicled, as much as possible in order of appearance, and maybe more besides.

Krypto was given life by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Sy Barry in late 1954, the issue cover-dated March 1955, and the story titled "The Super-Dog from Krypton". The cover and splash page give the game away, but you never know. We're not technically in the Silver Age, but the Superman Family was already doing a lot of hoax stories already, and Superboy/man had been visited by many fakers before, people he only THOUGHT were from Krypton. Maybe there's a simple explanation for all this. So the first continuity appearance of Krypto is actually on page 2, as a dog about to be taken to the Smallville pound.
He's very quick to obey the dog catcher, but just as quick to leave the party... and allow all the other dogs to escape. No biggie, this is clearly a job for Superboy who collars all the other dogs efficiently and fix the truck. But the white dog who engineered the prison break is nowhere to be found, so Clark goes to work at Pa's store. While he's there, crooks rob the store and he's powerless to do anything without blowing his cover, but when the criminals head for their car, that stray dog attacks them.
A bullet-proof dog? Their bullets spent, they are picked up by the police, and Clark finds the pup gnawing at a gun.
Clearly, this isn't normal. And fans of the Dog of Steel will have noticed by now that the original look for Krypto had a pink snout and more cartoony eyes. Also, hideous claws, brrr. I wonder when the completely white look will become the norm; we'll see, I guess. Superboy goes for the dog, but it flies off. Does it have all of his powers? Super-licking, check. X-ray vision, check. Super-intelligence, check. Krypto uses the latter to sense Superboy's puzzlement and lead him to his crashed rocket ship. (At no point does he have human-like thoughts or behavior, however, that will also come later.) In the craft, Superman finds a letter written in Kryptonese that details the dog's origin.
So let me get this straight. In the craft that never came back to Krypton, there's a letter from Jor-El saying the craft never came back to Krypton. Uh-huh. Normally, that would have me doubting the story (hoax incoming?) AND Kryptonian "super-intelligence", but maybe it's psychic paper that updates its own story. Have we ever met a Kryptonian journalist? Maybe their papers update themselves with news stories. Maybe there's something ironic about Clark Kent becoming a reporter, a job that's completely redundant in Kryptonian society. But for now, we can enjoy Superboy having his very own parallel-evolved dog. Yay. But the celebration is short-lived, because that dang mutt is a menace, chasing after planes and ripping their wings out. He doesn't mean to Superboy can't really leave him unattended. Not without a big chain.
Question: Does Superboy not take normal showers, or can he only clean himself with acid and such? How does bathing your dog in lava make sense? Maybe it's the only thing that gets rid of Kryptonian fleas. WOW. Has anyone ever done a story about Kryptonian insects escaping into Earth's atmosphere? That could be terrifying. Well, Krypto breaks his chain and brings Clark a girder to throw. All well and good, but Clark is forced to get rid of it in view of Lana Lang.
It wouldn't be a Super-story of the era if the dog didn't cause secret identity problems. AND fixed secret identity problems. After a strong reprimand, Krypto gets his own cape and becomes part of a trick - along with a light magnesium ladder - to fool Lana.
And this is a role Krypto will be asked to play often over the next couple decades. But all of Superboy's time be taken up fixing the problems a super-powerful dog is likely to cause? No, because Krypto takes another runner... into outer space.
You know how much energy dogs have. So Clark is content to let the dog roam the universe - if you're wondering why Earth suffers so many alien invasions, maybe it's because Superboy's dog is always doing stuff in their "yard" - he's sort of glad he's gone. Sort of. Read between the lines, kids. The story isn't saying you should let your dog loose outside city limits. But will Krypto return? The story leaves the door wide open without committing to a permanent addition to the cast.

Alas, Adventure Comics didn't publish letters pages back then, but we can probably infer a good reaction from readers based on the fact Krypto would return just 4 issues later when such letters would technically have been published.

I'm not a dog person, but I AM a Krypto person. Who's with me? Those that are, see you next Saturday!


Anonymous said...

If I ever get a dog I'm totally naming it "Eartho", just so I can see how people react to the explanation.

Side note on whether the Silver Age had "started" yet ... there was a period in the late 40s, I think, when Superman and Superboy comics couldn't agree on the essentials. In "Superman" Kal-el got his powers from evolution, in "Superboy" he got his powers from gravity. In "Superman" Clark didn't start fighting crime until adulthood, in "Superboy" he obviously was at it as a kid. That kind of thing. So, the later explanation of Earth-One and Earth-Two was not only a convenient explanation of different Flashes and Green Lanterns, but of pronounced discrepancies between "Superman" and "Superboy" comics running concurrently.

Siskoid said...

That tracks for Silver Age as continuity sure, but if we're talking Silver Age as an aesthetic, then the Superman books were a bit ahead of the curve.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty sure you were speaking to aesthetic; I just find it interesting that the split had already occurred long before Barry and Jay were racing to save a bricklayer.

I say Jor-el never liked Krypto and deliberately miscalibrated his rocket. The note was his way of trying to come across like less of a jerk while inadvertently confirming it.

Siskoid said...

Well, why the hell are we house-training a puppy when the planet's about to blow up?!

Tim Knight said...

Krypto was in the running for our dog's name when we were getting ready to have a puppy. As Rachel was doing all she could convince me it was a good idea, I was given the honour of choosing a name (even if she retained the power of veto).

And my shortlist was all very geeky.

Although Krypto was one of my favourites, Rachel admitted she didn't "get it" as a name. In the end - and because the puppy was a girl - we went for Alice... as in my favourite book, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Krypto is still in the bank though, should we ever get another puppy ;-) I just love the idea of being in the garden or the park and shouting: "Krypto! Come here, boy!"

Tim Knight said...

Oh, and she does have a "Superman" vest outfit (no cape, though)

Brendoon said...

always loved this era. I've still got this story in a big, yellow pages sized digest(complete with yellow pages.Strangely they haven't changed colour with age).
The comic book humour of the time was great stuff... it seemed to show across the board, even Popeye strips had the same kinda gags.
To compare: British mags like Beano had a higher "drollness" factor where the characters would all guffaw at the end of each caper, but this DC stuff from the US was pleasant, respectable and quite gentle, it's a nice thing to return to after several decades of dark heroes and black humour.

Siskoid said...

Tim: Was she a white dog, at least?

Brendoon: Good point about the "comic strip gag" humor of a story like this. It's a collection of bits about a super-strong dog. Hadn't thought of it that way before.

Tim Knight said...

Black with white socks and muzzle. Of course, if we'd found a white dog of her breed, it'd probably have ended up being called Snowy (from Tintin).

LiamKav said...

I'm a dog person and quite like Krypto, but I do also have a lot of sympathy for the Marv Wolfman/John Byrne thinking of "It's hard for him to be the Last Son of Krypton when his cousin, his enemies, an entire city and his blasted dog all keep showing up."

wordsmith said...

Superman encountered realio, trulio Kryptonians in "Three Supermen from Krypton" in Superman #65 (Jul-Aug, '50) in the story that served as the basis for the movie "Superman II"; the story is reprinted in "Superman in the Fifties" (2002), a trade paperback your readers can pick up at Amazon for $14.95 or more.
"Superman in the Fifties" also contains "The Super-dog from Krypton", which you can read for free at the "Superman Through the Ages" website, along with scores of other Superman related stories--just type in "", and don't type in the quotes.

Siskoid said...

The Byrne era kind of makes this project doable within a reasonable time span.

wordsmith said...

Liam, I could never understand why it was so important to think of Supes as the Last Son of Krypton in the first place, given how many enjoyable stories were written about his fellow Kryptonians of various species.

Brendoon said...

I fondly remember the bottle city of Kandor. I guess Supes could head back to a Kryptonian restaurant and browse Kandorian department stores til his heart's content. Musta made things a LOT easier too.

" if we'd found a white dog of her breed, it'd probably have ended up being called Snowy"

Of course, Siskoid, being French Canadian probably knows the canine alcoholic tippler by his original name, "Milou". (I bet you cringe every time we mention him by his ex-pat de-poll name "snowy.")

Ahem, anyhow, Snowy was a wire fox terrier with short curly hair, Krypto's more a short straight haired type o' dawg.....

Brendoon said...

Dang, I put reference to Tim's name before his quote, but I musta used forbidden HTML characters, his name disappeared.

Re Kandor: I can imagine supes whipping into kandor with a bundle of his indestructible Kent suits and superman capes for the kandorian laundry!
P'raps he goes to the Kandor branch of Macy's for a new suit after a particularly rough battle...

Brendoon said...

Re: (wordsmith)
"I could never understand why it was so important to think of Supes as the Last Son of Krypton"

Besides, the last son thing didn't have to be a permanent condition, just to serve as part of the evolution of his character. It's quite likely he was the last surviving infant to have been *born on the planet*, other survivors might have been born earlier or born after the destruction of the home, ie in Kandor or Argo,and therefore aren't direct sons or daughters of Krypton. Another aside, Supergirl and Krypto at least don't interfere with his "ultimate heir" status,being a gal and a dawg.

LiamKav said...

I guess a lot of it comes down to how "unique" you think each hero should be. I have no problem with lots of Robins, for instance, but I think there should be one Batman (although stories with a temporary swap are okay. I loved the DickBats and DamienRobin series, for instance). Likewise, I think that having multiple Hulks running around is detrimental to the Bruce Banner character (although I also like Jen Walters, so I am obviously inconsistent and should not be listened to).

I guess some of it is an age thing. My first real experience to Superman was the Lois and Clark series, which is pretty heavily Man Of Steel inspired. I tend to be a bit turned off by versions that place Krypton as an ideal or something to strive for. I like the version of the character that makes him human rather than alien. The more debris there is from Krypton floating around, the harder that is.

It probably doesn't help that I've never really had an idea of what Supergirl is like. Although I've enjoyed what little I've seen of the new series, so maybe that will become "Supergirl" in my head.

As I said, I quite like Krypto. I think it's more the bottle city of Kandor that I have an issue with. It's an entire city of his people, but he can never grow them because then there are thousands of Kryptonians running around on Earth, so it has to exist as a permanent failure that he ignores 99% of the time.

(Also, most of the time Clark meets a Kryptonion, they turn out to be a bastard. Superman II is both a reflection of that and cause going forward. It's also fairly terrible, which doesn't help.)

Brendoon said...

It's definitely an age thing. I read 50's and 60's reprints right thru the early seventies, so when "superman the movie" came and Krypton turned out to be a white place covered with what amounted to angelic hosts I was shocked.(I wonder if they played Bill and Ted's most famous themes and were "excellent to one another"?)
The version of Krypton I was used to had a LOT of colour, it had tropical jungles filled with exotic creatures as well as lava this and crystal that. Being a 1970 baby in New Zealand where we survived on reprints certainly locked me in a specific time warp...

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I'm very much NOT a dog person, and never have been. (Thanks to allergies, never will be). Not that I've got anything against dogs, mind you- I just know they're not for me.

But Krypto is the best. Heck, the whole 'Our Worlds at War' event is one of the less-memorable entries in DC's epic-event-filled modern history... but the single issue with Krypto, where for a moment it looked like they'd killed him off? That was a genuinely upsetting/tragic moment, and a great issue.


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