Reign of the Supermen #263: H.G. Wells' Superman

Source: Superman: War of the Worlds GN (1999)
Type: Elseworlds1938... Superman debuts, as does his secret identity as a journalist. 1938... Orson Welles' adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds plays on the radio as simulated news reports, causing panic. Can you see where this is going?

Roy Thomas used the radio transmission as a backdrop for his Secret Origin of the Crimson Avenger, DC's first masked hero, as well, so no surprise that the era is meticulously researched. Clark Kent meets with Daily Star editor George Taylor, the guy who used to have Perry White's job, (but also a reference to radio producer Davidson Taylor?) and gets the job that will land him in front of a Martian tripod (along with Lois Lane, getting her very first shot at serious journalism).

As scripted, the Martians fry the first greeting party we send them, but you can't fry Clark Kent when he's Superman! All you can do is blow his business suit away and reveal his secret identity on his first day at work. What's this world's Lois Lane going to do for a hobby? But it's not like Superman has much tome for a day job, not with a war on. With his 1938-level powers, it's all he can do to save lives and property, even as the Martians start to cut a swathe of destruction across the Earth. There are plenty of victims including Lex "glass is half empty" Luthor who (some would say "only") gets his hair burned off.
Poor George Taylor - the guy who LIKED getting called "Chief" by Jimmy Olsen - isn't so lucky.

As you might expect, Luthor goes over the deep end and betrays Earth to the Martians. He runs experiments on a captured Superman, whose alien physiology my yet prove the key to immunizing the Martians to the so-called "Earth flu" that is slowly killing them. Of course, when they have no more need of him, they try to eat him, so be changes sides AGAIN and frees Superman from his shackles. The final battle spells the end for the Martians, but also for Superman, who sacrifices his life to find a way to disrupt the Martians' technology, something Dr. Luthor could use to turn the tide against the Martians not yet dead from the plague.
As the rebuilding begins, new leaders emerge to replace the murdered ones, and the countries we came to know as the Axis develop along more democratic lines, while Britain and the U.S. take a harder, more fascist route (with among others, Lex Luthor - married to Lois Lane, no less - acting as vice-president). H.G. Wells' socialist hopes and fears dutifully inserted into the story.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I have long ago gotten rid of my Elseworlds, but I have kept this one. Its a great book.

Martin Gray said...

I love this book to bits, it's a wonderful melding of two great stories.



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