Reign of the Supermen #326: Earth-2 Superman

Source: Justice League of America #73 (1969) to Infinite Crisis #7 (2006)
Type: Alternate EarthWait, Siskoid, didn't you already do the Golden Age Superman? Yes, but the Golden Age - as it was happening - wasn't on Earth-2. Reading Superman comics from 1938 to 1986 actually feels like an unbroken chronicle, with reprint back-ups from the 40s and 50s showing up in 60s comics as if they starred the same character. The invention of Earth-2 in "Flash of Two Worlds" (1961) opened the door to DC's 40s back catalog of characters, but Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman weren't IN that back catalog. They had been published continuously through the 1950s and didn't need to be re-invented from scratch in the opening salvo of the Silver Age. So it wasn't until 1969's JLA-JSA team-up (an annual event from 1963 to 1984) that we got a Superman-2, revealing that maybe some of those early adventures really did happen on another Earth.

Except that's not quite true. To make Superman-2 distinct, they filled him with details applied only to very early appearances of Superman, details that quickly became discrepancies as the concept stabilized into the form we instantly recognize today. His name was Kal-L rather than Kal-El, for example, and his adopted parents were John and Mary Kent. Sometime, in the 40s, they became "El", Jonathan and Martha. Clark Kent-2 worked for the Daily Star, which had become the Daily Planet by 1939! Those differences distinguish Superman-2 from BOTH the Silver and Golden Age Supermen. One trick they didn't pull, and it's too bad, was to present Superman as he appeared in Action Comics #1. That costume and those powers would have served the same archival function as bringing back the JSA in these stories did. Superman-2 was instead as strong as Superman-1, and became distinguishable by a simple border around the chest emblem's "S" and some graying at the temples.

As time wore on, having a Superman who was active in the 1930s and 40s created opportunities to experiment with the Superman character. As we caught up with him later in his life cycle (as opposed to being stuck at the 29-year-old mark), Superman was allowed to marry Lois Lane, and Clark Kent became editor of the Star. Visibly (and gracefully) older, it only gave more gravitas to his role as the JSA's patriarchal superhero. And this in turn led to him becoming a symbol. In Crisis on Infinite Earths, he left the fast-amalgamating DCU, a farewell to the multiverse that allowed him to exist separately from the main feature. In Infinite Crisis, he returns and dies in battle against Superboy-Prime, himself a symbol of the "new comics", more violent, shocking and fan-driven. It was DC's future destroying its past and became a metaphor for the next five years (cue the New 52). Might it also have been a symbol for the Siegel lawsuits? A threat and a warning of "we don't use your stinky old Superman so shove off!" dressed in decapitation and dismemberment? Or don't comics writers think about these things before putting pen to paper?

3 comments:

Craig Oxbrow said...

Some do, some don't.

And now I look at it, what the hell kind of car is that? It's like a touring Beetle...

Siskoid said...

Who knows what Earth that this is from? It was a Crisis. Cars will live, cars will die...

Craig Oxbrow said...

That car will certainly die. A lot. It's like the Rory of cars.

 

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