For some time now, I've been told I have 'rage issues' when it comes to the various passions roiling about in my psyche. It was as I was making a reply to a blog I frequent that I came across what might be the flashpoint of my frequent nerd rage episodes. For your amusement, I submit for the approval of the forum Superman #22, the only comicbook I've ever done violence to.
For those who haven't read this book, it was the apex of the 'Pocket Universe Saga' that ran in the Superman titles a few years back. The Crisis on Infinite Earths had fixed DC continuity forever(ahem), and the DCU settled back into a universe where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman debuted in and around 1986. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, as it turns out, not exactly. Y'see, one of the titles to continue its storylines in the wake of the crisis was a book near and dear to fanboy hearts: The Legion of Super-Heroes. Amongst their members there was a young Clark Kent aka Superboy, one of the Legion's earliest recruits and their moral bedrock and inspiration. But in the wake of the Crisis it was decreed that Superman's powers developed over a period of years and that he never was Superboy. Also, he was the sole survivor of Krypton, so adios Supergirl, Krypto the super-dog, Beppo the super-monkey, and the remaining roster of the Legion of Super-Pets.
A moment of silence for the Legion of Super-Pets. Thank you.
So you see the paradox. How can Superman have just burst onto the scene if meanwhile, 1000 years in the future, Superboy is having adventures and battling cosmic evil alongside friends and colleagues and an entire federation of worlds that's known of him for centuries as a legend and for years as an actual, factual hero? Fire up the Deus Ex Machina of course!
It turns out 'Superboy' was part of an elaborate scheme conjured up by a long time Legion villain, the Time Trapper. The Trapper used the eldritch cosmic energies created by the crisis to create a pocket universe wherein there was a planet Earth and a Krypton. This Earth was something of an idealized vision of the past (read any of the Superboy stories from the '50s and you'll have a rough idea of what we're dealing with). Every time the Legion got in the time bubble to visit their hero Superboy, they were being diverted to this alternate past. The Superboy of their legends, was just that, a legend that had sprung up around the real Superman. The Trapper then held the destruction of the pocket universe over Superboy's head to make him betray the Legion. Through some timely intervention by the 'real' Superman, Superboy came to his senses and freed his friends, fighting alongside them and having one last moment of heroism that saved not only his universe but 31st century Earth, but at the cost of his life.
Confused yet? Strap in, it gets weirder.
The pocket universe was a recreation of the Earth of the Silver Age, and as such it had much of the same tropes. In that universe there was a Krypto, a Krypton. . .and a Phantom Zone. Within the Zone were housed some of the worst criminals imaginable('KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!'), and after duping a well-intentioned version of Lex Luthor into freeing them they ran amuck on the pocket Earth, ultimately killing all life on the planet despite Lex's creation of a 'protomatter' Supergirl and recruiting Superman to help them. In the end, only Superman and the de-powered Kryptonian criminals (thanks to some handy gold kryptonite. Superman post-Crisis only had green to concern him with, whereas the pocket universe had the multicolored spectrum, the gold variant being able to strip a kryptonian of their powers permanently. I told you it got weirder). They rant and rave, swearing they'll find a way to get their powers back and then find their way to Superman's universe, where they'll happily slaughter every living thing there as well.
After some soul-searching, Superman decides to act as that world's judge, jury, and executioner, exposing the criminals to green kryptonite and having them die in slow, painful agony.
Now, a little about me. I love Superman. He is my favorite superhero character, the archetype of the entire genre, the originator and the innovator. He's a character whose adventures I've thrilled to, whose moral example served as a template for my personal development and a character I've always thought was boss since I first leaned to read via the Fisher Price read-along book SUPERMAN: FROM KRYPTON TO METROPOLIS. The Richard Donner films, the Bruce Timm animated series, you name it, I love it. And then John Byrne had Superman kill.
For the first time, I pulled away from the character of Superman, someone I'd known all my life, and looked upon him as a stranger. It was like trying to have a robot on classic Star Trek explain love. Smoke was damn near pouring out of my ears as I grappled with it.
Superman's a good guy. Good guys don't kill.
But Superman just killed those guys.
But Superman's a good guy.
But he killed them.
But he's Superman.
ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL! MUST DESTROY POUGHKEEPSIE! EX-TAH-MIN-ATE!!
I'd finished the book while waiting for my Dad at his office. I calmly and reasonably walked to the office paper shredder and deposited the offending article. And I did what anyone does in the face of such a paradox; I ignored it for the sake of my continued sanity. Thankfully the powers that be at DC followed suit and it's since been lost in the reboot/retcon shuffle.
I've developed a bit of a sense of humor about it in the years since, but at the time I was livid pissed. Yes, an argument can be made that sometimes there are some truly evil scumbags that need to be dealt with in the most severe manner possible, but if I want that kind of catharsis I'll read The Authority. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the sky is blue, and Superman doesn't kill. End of story.
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