Monday, August 08, 2005

The Immortal Superman

Written by Cary Bates and drawn by Curt Swan, The Immortal Superman is a 3-part story that took place over issues 385-386 of DC's Action Comics, featuring Superman. In an arc referred to variously as The Immortal Superman and Home For Old Heroes, Superman travels 100,000 years into the future to capture a bank robber. It is amazing that the people of thousands of centuries to come had no way to see inside a locked cash vault, but were able to send a messenger-robot into the past to locate Superman, requesting help only he could provide. In fact, that was a theme over the next few issues (once again DC sneaks in the social message that everyone has something to contribute) as he saves the future societies using his primitive wits.

The twists in this story come from Superman being a victim of the Time Trapper. Not only was he unable to retun to the past, for every year he traveled forwards in time, he also aged physically. While he superficially appeared older he was still a powerful Superman, only more so thanks to future medical science and the rays from a group of heroes who each have 25 super-powers. During his trip he became invulnerable not only to kryptonite, but also mystical witch dogs from Tozz.

Superman really likes that chain busting trick doesn't he?

Since Superman is unable to go back in time he has no choice but to keep traveling forwards. Dissatisfaction with the era he was visiting plus the search for a means back home prompted him to keep going forwards.Now keep in mind this is the pre-Crisis Superman, who went around in time as a normal person walks across the street and with considerably less difficulty. Heck, even Krypto and Comet, the Super-Horse could go to the future and back on a whim. Unfortunately every succeeding era was more dissapointing and useless to him than the one before. Without Lois, Superman is really a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.

By the end of the third part of the arc he was over 1 million years old and getting pretty damn grouchy.

The aspect of an undying Superman was interesting to explore, as a young fan I always assumed he was immortal anyways. He's invulnerable. He has a super-immune system that repairs damage. His body powered by radiation from a star, he could conceivably live until the heat-death of the universe. I figured that eventually Superman would have evolved as a form of aging into a race similar to the Guardians. That would have been interesting.

During his layovers in the future, there is a scene where a depressed Superman looks up his past to see what happened to his old friends. He discovers the world finally figured out that Clark Kent was Superman. Lois married the actor who played Superman in films (that's creepy), Jimmy Olsen wrote a book (probably with a ghost writer, because Jimmy is a dumbass) and Perry White worked at the Superman museum (get a life, old man!). In another scene, Superman is exiled to an Old Hero's Home and passes time carving statues of his dead friends out of wood as his peers play biggie-sized super-checkers.

Geez, obsess much?

When giant robots want to throw the far-future dead Earth in the galactic trash-bin because it is an eye sore (I'm not kidding), Superman rebuilds it from scratch. After cleaning the planet up Superman then re-populates it with people kidnapped out of a small primitive tribe from another world (again, not kidding!). In the final part of the story Superman is suicidal, but unable to end his own life due to his invulnerability and ethics. When injured by a Luthor-created weapon that had been hunting for Superman for 1 million years he was upset when his life was saved.

...and get those para-kids off my space proto-lawn!

By this point the Time Trapper has disappeared from the story after proclaiming Superman would never be able to get home again. Apparently in classic super-villain style, after taunting Superman one last time he lost interest in keeping track of what the super-guy was doing.

Really, the Trapper would have had better results if he put Superman in a cell monitored by one sleepy, incompetent guard who sat beneath a grill that fed air to the room from unsecured 4-foot wide ventilation shafts.

After a lot of whining Superman eventually got home by going so far into the future he circled back into his own timeline, living his life over in a series of vignettes until he settled into his proper era.

The pre-CoIE Superman pretty much had the universe as a playground, an idea that the Silver Age creative teams used often. This concept was also touched upon by Alan Moore and John Byrne in his Generations series. I always enjoyed the idea that the fabric of the DCU was a thing of weak gauze as far as Kryptonians were tear through or weave anew as they saw fit.


1 comment:

  1. Just so you know, the wrap-around time gimmmick was used in a Jasper Fforde novel, too... One of the Thursday Next ones. (Sorry, just a random observation.)


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