Posts tagged ‘Phantom Zone’

Action 583 – “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” concludes

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Action 583 (Sept. 86) brings to a close the era of the Pre-Crisis Superman, with the concluding half of an Imaginary Story by Alan Moore, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The entire story is one of dark foreboding, and is related by Lois Lane, now married and with a son, to a reporter, writing a story about the last days of Superman.  Many of Superman’s friends and enemies appeared in the first half of the story, and most of the villains have died.  Superman has brought Lois, Lana, Jimmy, Perry White and his wife to the Fortress of Solitude.  Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen have come from the future, knowing that this was the end of Superman, to join in the fun.  They find the Kryptonite Man, as well as a disturbing union of Luthor and Brainiac.

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Many of Superman’s friends are shown throughout the issue, trying to get through the force-field surrounding the Fortress.  Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter are shown, along with Vartox, and pre-Crisis Superwoman.

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The story is filled with heart-wrenching sequences.  Jimmy takes his Elastic Lad serum, and Lana bathes in the pool that gives her super-powers, so they can join the fight against the assembling villains.  Her super-hearing allows Lana to hear Superman explain to Perry White that it is Lois that he truly loves, but he cared too much for Lana to ever let her know.

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Lana and Jimmy both fall to the Legion of Super-Villains, while Krypto sacrifices himself to take out the Kryptonite Man.

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This is all turning far too bloody and dangerous for the villains from the future, and they flee in their time bubble.  Luthor and Brainiac are the last, but perish in the snow.

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Who was the villain that brought this all about?  Mr. Mxyzptlk, the most powerful adversary Superman has, who chose to be a pest, but has now chosen to be a destroyer.

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Superman winds up using the Phantom Zone projector to rip the 5th dimensional being in half, but he has knowingly, and willingly killed.

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Though Lois gives him all manner of justifications, Superman has violated his own code.  He enters a chamber of gold kryptonite, which permanently removes his powers, and is never seen again.

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The reporter leaves.  I was teary eyed and emotionally drained by this point when I read this the first time, but so thrilled at the end, as the baby turns a lump of coal into a diamond.  And then I really looked at the face of Lois’ husband.

I believe Alan Moore has now dismissed this story as garbage, as he is wont to do.

I don’t care what he thinks.  This is the crowning gem of the first 50 years of the character.

 

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Action 582 – Superman brings Jor-El and Lara back to life

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Boldman, Saviuk and Schaffenberger share the last in-continuity pre-Crisis Superman story in Action 582 (Aug. 86).

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After having a number of vivid dreams about Jor-El and Lara, Superman discovers that there are two other, distinct, brain-waves in his head.  He believes these two be the minds of his parents, somehow preserved within him.

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He creates clone bodies for them, and is thrilled when the brain-waves transfer from his mind into the bodies, animating them and bringing his parents back to life.  He provides them with human identities, and shows them around Metropolis, and Earth, while helping them adjust to their new powers.

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Superman brings them to his Fortress of Solitude, but when he shows them the Phantom Zone viewer, he is surprised that the villains, General Zod, Jax-Ur, Professor Vakox and Faora, are cursing him, and not his father, the man who invented the Zone and sent many of them there.

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And, indeed, his parents are not his real parents.  How the Phantom Zone villains could tell is not clear, but once Superman suspects them, they drop the act and try to kill him.  They put him in a rocket and fire him into space.

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Superman escapes from the rocket, but spots a familiar ship orbiting Earth.  It belongs to Rokk and Sorban, the compulsive gamblers from Ventura.  Frequent guests in Superman’s own comic, and World’s Finest, back in the 60s, this is their first, and only, appearance in Action.  They used some “free-floating” consciousnesses for Jor-El and Lara, but the bet at the core was whether Superman would be angry enough to kill the phonies, or not.

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The story ends as Superman takes Rokk and Sorban to the “prison planet,” (Takron-Galtos?)  Superman shows little concern about what the phony Jor-El and Lara are up to, loose on Earth, with all their powers. But the gamblers assure Superman that they will return to their non-corporeal state.

 

Action 549 – Superman joins forces with Zod and Faora

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Superman and the Phantom Zone villain team-up against the deadly Vrangs in Action 549 (Nov. 83).

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Bates, Saviuk, Colletta and Marcos do not start this issue off like a team-up, though.  Faora begins by kidnapping Lois Lane.

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Curiously, that was done not only to attract Superman’s attention, but to convince him that Zod and Faora mean him no harm.  They inform Superman about the Vrangs finding Argo City, and coming for Earth.  In the extremely distant past, as related in a “World of Krypton” tale from the 70s, the Vrangs had been the alien overlords of Krypton, until overthrown by Val-Lor.  The Vrangs have come seeking vengeance.

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The piece of jewel kryptonite, able to focus and empower the thoughts of the Phantom Zone villains, turns out to be the perfect bomb.

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While Superman is still on the Vrang ship, Zod and Faora set off the kryptonite,even though its destruction will force them back into the Zone.  This way, they can get rid of the Vrangs and Superman at once.   Except Superman sees what they are up to, and gets off the ship on time.

So the villains not only save the day, but re-imprrison themselves.

 

Action 548 – jewel kryptonite returns

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The Phantom Zone villain are back in Action 548 (Oct. 83), in a story by Cary Bates, Alex Saviuk, Vince Colletta and Pablo Marcos.

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General Zod, Jax-Ur, Professor Vakox (in this story, rendered Va-Kox), and Faora have been tracking the one piece of jewel kryptonite, and find it.  Concentrating their powers on it, Zod and Faora manage to escape to Earth, along with a couple of no-name villains.  We do not see what happens with Jax-Ur and Va-Kox

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At the same time, an alien race finds the remains of Argo City, and enter it to explore.  They lean of the existence of Superman and Supergirl, and decide to head to Earth.

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While the Phantom Zone villains prepare to attack Superman, he is busy dealing with some street hoods operating with Kryptonian technology.

The story continues int he next issue.

Action 500 – the life story of Superman

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Action 500 (Oct. 79) is an oversize special, which does a good job of providing a fairly comprehensive story of Superman.

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Bates, Swan and Chiaramonte choose a big public tour of a new Superman pavilion as the framing device for the tale.  The various rooms give focus to different parts of the story.

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There is also a machine at the exposition which draws out Superman’s memories, so that people can enjoy his grief as he recalls Jor-El and Lara, and his early life on Krypton. But a mystery villain is making use of the device, channeling the memories into a Superman duplicate he is creating.

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The creation of the Phantom Zone is referenced, as well as Krypto on a test rocket.

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The Kents are shown, finding the boy and raising him, both through his Superbaby phase, and later Superboy.

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The story often uses exact swipes of scenes and images from earlier stories.  The death of Pa Kent duplicates the first telling of the event.

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As does the farewell message from the people of Smallville.

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Clark Kent’s life in Metropolis is shown, getting the job from Perry White at the Daily Planet, and working with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.  Morgan Edge’s takeover is related, with Steve Lombard making an appearance.

Supergirl gets her own room in the pavilion, and a montage of her career.  Other aspects are really downplayed.  The Legion of Super-Heroes appear, in their current line-up, in the Superboy room, but are not talked about.

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Still, Lori Lemaris does make it into the triptych of his loves, along with Lois and Lana.

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The villain room is the most notable – for its absences.  Aside from Luthor and Brainiac, only the Toyman and Parasite are shown.  Brainiac has his story told in depth, as it relates to Kandor.

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The mystery villain turns out to be Lex Luthor, which is not that much of a surprise.

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And the duplicate gives himself away when he relates Luthor’s origin from Luthor’s own, very slanted, view.

As a story, this leaves something to be desired.  But as a Superman compendium, it works.

Action 492 – Superman kills his own future family

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In Action 492 (Feb. 79), Bates, Swan and Chiaramonte take Superman on a mystifying journey through his future life.

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Superman encounters an anomaly in space, which sucks him in.  He then believes that he is waking up back on Earth, but we know that this is some psychological game being played on him.

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He experiences a death-trap set by Luthor, with Lois and Lana in separate capsules shot into space.  He saves Lana, but Lois dies.  General Zod, Jax-Ur and Faora are behind this, hovering at the sides of the hallucinations as minor characters.

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They keep taking Superman further into his future, and have him believe that he enlarged Kandor.  Having every event be a bad one might make him realize he is being played.  I like that touch.

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We see that the villains are really still in the Phantom Zone, and Superman is having his life drained by the anomaly.  This line-up of Phantom Zone villains, Zod, Jax-Ur and Faora, is the closest that had appeared in the comics, to the Phantom Zone villains in the movie, about to come out, General Zod, Non and Ursa.

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They make Superman imagine a future in which he and Lana are married, with children.  And Superman kills them all accidentally with a space virus.  This is meant to prompt him to kill himself, but that is what takes him out of their trance.  He would never willingly kill, not even himself.

Free of the anomaly, he leaves the Phantom Zone villains to curse fruitlessly.

Action 473 – Superman vs Faora

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Bates, Swan and Blaisdel conclude the Faora story in Action 473 (July 1977).

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Supergirl gets concerned when there is no word from Superman, despite Faora running wild in Metropolis.  She finds a note in the Fortress, explaining that he has gone into the Phantom Zone, and other information that the reader is not privy to.

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Faora gets into an argument with Steve Lombard, and is about to kill him when her greater scheme kicks in, reversing the Phantom Zone, releasing all its captives, while sending everyone on Earth into the Zone.  Steve actually thinks he has died, until Jimmy Olsen explains the Zone to him.  Batman and Green Lantern are also shown to now be phantoms, while Jax-Ur, General Zod, Kru-El and Professor Vakox enjoy their new freedom and solidity.

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Faora takes dominance over the other Phantom Zone villains through her use of psychic bolts, but one Zone escapee is immune.  It’s Superman, who figured out her bigger plan, and took precautions, including entering the Zone himself.

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Superman is now stuck fighting against a number of similarly powered Kryptonians, and finds himself overpowered.  Faora is about to kill him when the switch happens again.  Bad timing!  Superman rigged the projector to reverse Faora’s actions, sending the prisoners back into the Zone, and releasing the humans.

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With one exception.  The old man who still, after all this, believes Faora is his dead wife Katie.  He gets to join her in the Zone.

From now on, Faora would be a regularly appearing Phantom Zone villain, almost always included when three or more are shown.  But not the old man.  We never find out what happened to him.

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