thelazyreader ([personal profile] thelazyreader) wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2011-01-28 01:15 am

The Day Superman Killed...

Since the Silver Age Superman has always had a strict code against the taking of life. This one principle is so central to his character that when he accidentally killed a villain in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow he immediately stripped himself of his powers and hung up his cape.

It is with this in mind that I show you what is perhaps the most controversial Superman story of all time, The Supergirl Saga, which depicted the only canonical instance where Superman ever killed someone in cold blood, and also featured the first appearance of Supergirl in post-Crisis continuity.

This was the last story in John Byrne's long post-Crisis Superman run that started with his Man of Steel revamp in 1986. It ran in Superman #21, Adventures of Superman #444 and Superman #22, respectively.

At the beginning, Superman is flying over Kansas when he gets the feeling he's being followed.

Supergirl's powers are somewhat different from Superman's, as she demonstrates by morphing her face to reveal she's actually Lana Lang. To add to the confusion, she has a firm belief that Metropolis was destroyed years ago and that Lex Luthor is the world's greatest hero. A fight breaks out over the misunderstanding before Clark starts figuring out what's going on.

Supergirl finally remembers that she's from an alternate universe, sent to Superman's Earth on a mission.

"Welcome to the end of the world, Superman."

The guy on the bottom left is Lex Luthor, with a full head of hair and a much nicer attitude. Superman finds himself in a different universe where the Earth is a barren wasteland with the sole exception of Smallville, which is protected by a forcefield designed by Luthor.

And now I must briefly explain a convoluted part of post-Crisis DC history. When DC rebooted Superman's origin after Crisis on Infinite Earth, they created a huge discrepancy with the Legion of Superheroes comics. In the post-Crisis DCU, Clark never became Superboy. But Superboy was crucial to the Legion's existence as well as a recurring character in their books. So in order to keep their stories in continuity, DC had the Time Trapper create a 'pocket universe' where Superboy existed, and stated that this Superboy was the one the Legion knew.

This pocket universe was the one Superman now found himself in, with Earth in a devastated state after Superboy vanished years ago.

Lana and Pete gave Luthor access to Superboy's Kryptonian lab, hoping that he could find a way to bring him back.

You can guess who 'Von-el' really was.

Interesting members Luthor's resistance has there, eh? Unfortunately even having the entire world united against him only pissed Zod off. He no longer gave a damn about ruling and decided to just wipe out the puny Earthlings.

Supergirl eventually finds Superman and brings him back to her world. Now he is the survivors' last hope of bringing Zod and his cohorts to justice for causing armaggedon.

Superman leads the resistance in mounting an offence against the Kryptonians.

But he fails to turn the tide. As the 'pocket universe' was a homage to the pre-Crisis DCU, these Kryptonians are much stronger than Superman. They crush the resistance and destroy Smallville.

Luthor's secret weapon is a piece of Gold Kryptonite, which, in the Silver Age, could permanently strip Kryptonians of his powers. As the Kryptonite here emits radiation at different wavelengths as compared to Superman's universe, he is immune to its effects. But Zod and his followers aren't.

Luthor dies, and thus the human race is extinct. Superman returns to the cell to face the difficult decision of dealing with the ones responsible.

And he exposes them to Green Kryptonite, killing them.

After burying the bodies, he prepares to leave when he notices Supergirl's protoplasmic form moving in the rubble. He takes her back to his Earth and leaves her at the Kent farm to recover, after which she would go on to become the 'Matrix' Supergirl. He then tells his parents that he needs to be alone for a while, to think things over.

"It is strange now to feel the wind against that face, after the hard vacuum of that other Earth. Strange to think of five billion humans going about their everyday lives, unaware of the annihilation of their doppelgangers."

"And strange, too, to know that in their eyes I am still Superman, the untarnished champion of humanity. When I know that from now on, things can never truly be the same again".


This story was heavily criticised at the time, with many readers outraged that Superman had violated a moral code he had held for over 50 years. After Byrne left succeeding DC writers tried to downplay this story, and Superman was haunted by this event for many years, at one time even exiling himself from Earth because of it.

Presumably because of the controversy this story was not collected in trades, so finding it was pretty hard. But it was worth it; it was a good story, and something to think about.
silverzeo: (Default)

[personal profile] silverzeo 2011-01-27 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Well... bats did use a gun at the end of the world...
starwolf_oakley: (Default)

[personal profile] starwolf_oakley 2011-01-27 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
They were able to use this to good effect in the "General Zod from Polkistan" in ACTION COMICS during Joe Kelly's run. That Zod was going to be a Kal-El from another parallel universe. He was changed to a Russian with superpowers who somehow was contacted by the ghost of the Zod from this story.
pyrotwilight: (Default)

[personal profile] pyrotwilight 2011-01-27 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
That WAS fun.
silverzeo: (Default)

[personal profile] silverzeo 2011-01-27 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
basically he was a space baby (being conceived in a space station that was trashed by Kal-El's spaceship entry)

[personal profile] psychopathicus_rex 2011-01-28 06:34 am (UTC)(link)
I wish they'd just stuck with that version. It was creepy as hell, and had nice thematic connections to Superman. Instead, we got... hmm... how many Zods have we had now? Four? Five? Sixteen?
silverzeo: (Default)

[personal profile] silverzeo 2011-01-27 10:51 pm (UTC)(link)
This the pocket universe made by Time Trapper right? In which the "Superboy" existed while the real Clark's powers were still building up, and died to save the Legion... surprise he didn't made a come back to fight Prime in Legion of 3 Worlds since they share the same origin.
kenn_el: Northstar_Hmm (Default)

[personal profile] kenn_el 2011-01-28 01:53 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, because a pocket universe doesn't violate the 'no parallel universes' rule. My head hurts. (And why not just create a pocket universe Kryptonian Kara, rather than the convoluted Matrix being? It's like with Donna. Byrne just never goes with simple.)

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freezer: (Bummer)

[personal profile] freezer 2011-01-28 12:53 am (UTC)(link)
I admit that I was a fan of Supes doing this... But I was also under the impression that he broke out the kryptonite in a desperation move to save what was left of humanity. The "You're too dangerous to leave around, even depowered" rationale seems... weak.

[personal profile] psychopathicus_rex 2011-01-28 06:48 am (UTC)(link)
Well, no, actually, that may in fact be the deciding factor here. They may be depowered, but they brag that this won't last long - and the hell of it is, they may well have been right. If this was more or less the Silver Age world that they came from - well, there were more ways around Kryptonite back then than there were... were... other things, I dunno. The point is, there were PLENTY of stories where one Kryptonian or other got zapped by some non-lethal variety of Kryptonite and found a way around its effects - and remember, this was back when super-INTELLIGENCE was also supposed to be part of a Kryptonian's powers. The chances that they would indeed have found a way to counteract the Gold K and carry out their threat were pretty high, and if they did so and found their way to the main DCU, they could quite easily do the same thing to it that they did to the pocket universe - or at any rate, kill millions of people before they were stopped. Superman couldn't take that chance - both for what they'd done and for what they might yet do, they HAD to be killed. (Also, one may theorize that without Lex around to maintain the forcefield, it would have sputtered out eventually, and if Zod and Co. were still alive and powerless in there, they would have died a horrible death. This way, Supes was sparing them that - death by Kryptonite was not fun, but it's probably better than death by asphyxiation.)

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fifthie: tastes the best (Default)

[personal profile] fifthie 2011-01-28 01:15 am (UTC)(link)
This is pretty awful for the reasons WW killing Max Lord was awful, but moreso. The meta half-awareness is screamingly obvious.

What really gets me is how he says how Zod's way is the "easy" way, but then turns around and buys into Zod's view by saying how killing them will be the hardest thing he's ever had to do.

The saving grace to me is that Clark regretted it, acknowledged it was wrong and vowed never to do it again.

silverzeo: (Default)

[personal profile] silverzeo 2011-01-28 02:45 am (UTC)(link)
Well, for the the world's sake, he is the only person there who could delivery the right justice to the three.... he didn't took pride in it, it was a job that needed to be done....

[identity profile] 2011-01-28 03:24 am (UTC)(link)
I think he was referring to the fact that Zod using his powers to kill and murder was the easy way, and that executing them was the hardest thing Superman ever had to do.

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arbre_rieur: (Default)

[personal profile] arbre_rieur 2011-01-28 02:06 am (UTC)(link)
See, here's something I don't get. Even if he felt it was necessary to kill them (and that's problematic on its own), why use kryptonite of all things? Wouldn't that be a painful death? Couldn't he execute them more humanely?

[identity profile] 2011-01-28 03:25 am (UTC)(link)
Five billion dead, I'd say that a few minutes of suffering is what they deserve at the very least.

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fifthie: tastes the best (Default)

[personal profile] fifthie 2011-01-28 10:01 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a good point and it's weird that I never considered this before.

I think the reason I never considered this before is probably the same reason the scene was written the way it is which is just that having had Superman decide to execute these Kryptonians, it just seems like Kryptonite is obviously the way he would do it. But you're right, that really doesn't account for the fairly brutal implications here.

I guess another part of it would be that this is another case where extreme pain becomes somehow dismissable because there's no visible violence or source of pain. Like how people can brush off the victims of taser use because there aren't any external wounds, or how people will say that sleep deprivation doesn't count as torture because there's no direct violence applied. So yeah Superman's course of action here is definitely one where it seems like the less-violent approach, but is actually the much more vicious one.

I can't really argue that, if Superman had to execute anyone, it wouldn't have been the more humane choice to go with say... a series of necksnaps?! (lol)

schala_kid: Slowpoke Flash (flash)

[personal profile] schala_kid 2011-01-28 06:16 am (UTC)(link)
Interestingly enough this story was reffered to in Superman #666 by Rakkar the nothing, a Kryptonian Demon from Kryptonian hell which got destroyed when Krypton blew up (but Rakkar escaped). Rakkar tells Kal that because there were no Kryptonians left to do evil, he shriveled and wasted away....That is until Kal-El killed and stained his soul which let Rakkar thrive and feed off him. Superman denies his claim because this story happened after Infinite Crisis and Superboy-Prime punching so that event got erased from existence. But it is interesting to note that while Clark doesn't remember (and for him that never happened), it still happened because gods, demons and other supernatural beings (Like Death and the Endless) remain unaffected by the Crisis and any reality-altering events.

So they are aware of everything you did before that, and apparently those who are in the Haven and Hell business still count it towards or against you (which sucks if you're Catholic because you can't repent for something you forgot you did and seriously how does that work).

Anyeay here's the page in question

A little context for the "I never murdered anyone before tonight" comment. The Demon makes Clark go bad in a dream and he pretty much kills everyone on his dream (his supporting cast and villains too), of course it was all planned by him and the Phantom Stranger so everything was ok in the end and Clark didn't corrupt his soul.
arbre_rieur: (Default)

[personal profile] arbre_rieur 2011-01-28 06:39 am (UTC)(link)
That or the creative team was planting the seed for some kind of untold tale.
richardak: (Default)

[personal profile] richardak 2011-01-28 07:39 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for posting this. This is my all-time favorite Superman story. I remember reading it at summer camp when I was a kid, and being thrilled and amazed when he killed them. They definitely deserved it, and it would have been wrong of him not to kill them. I can't understand why this was controversial, and it pissed me off when later writers tried to make it seem like this was some terrible thing he had done or even tried to retcon it away. To me, this will always be Superman's finest hour.
arbre_rieur: (Default)

[personal profile] arbre_rieur 2011-01-28 07:57 am (UTC)(link)
Even Byrne, who wasn't originally planning to leave after this story, planned to give Superman a lot of angst and regret over this, culminating in his decision to never do anything of the sort again. He's said in interview that he was trying to create an origin story of sorts for Superman's vow to never kill.

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[personal profile] too_real 2011-01-28 07:53 am (UTC)(link)
2 questions
1) is this the supergirl that stuck around all the way until Peter David? How weird.
2) I've been wondering about the timeline on Byrne's Superman...
for instance, in terms of post-crisis origin stories, Batman:Year One was a flashback, taking place about 10 (give or take, I know) years ago.
Meanwhile, the Wonder Woman reboot was set in the "present day," meaning that she was a newer hero.
Did Superman: Man of Steel take place 10 yrs in the past and then flash forward, or were Byrne's run and the following successive?
I always thought Man of Steel was a flashback until I was reading about the Clark/ Lois relationship, it seems to flow pretty clearly post-Crisis.

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icon_uk: (Default)

[personal profile] icon_uk 2011-01-28 09:22 am (UTC)(link)
There was an interesting issue of the "World's Finest" maxi-series which dealt with the repercussions of this, with Superman coming to see Batman (for their first annual meeting since Jason was killed) and admitting that he had killed Zod and co, just AFTER he'd given Batman a long spiel about killing never, ever being the right thing to do, even with the Joker.

Must see if I can dig it out, it's a good issue,
calvision: (madame medusa the rescuers)

[personal profile] calvision 2011-01-28 03:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Luthor's reaction made me laugh. "Who the devil is this supposed to be? Your sister?" Yeah, I know, damn these multiplying superheroes. But it could be worse, Lex--your nemesis could have been Batman.
rickperry: (pic#me)

[personal profile] rickperry 2011-01-29 04:14 am (UTC)(link)
Supergirl later gets into a relationship with Lex who was in a new body posing as his son. I find that funny.
cherrybomb: (Default)

[personal profile] cherrybomb 2011-01-28 04:30 pm (UTC)(link)
WOW those are a lot of two-page spreads. They're all gorgeous though, but if you play the 'take a shot every time you see a two-page spread' game...yeah.

[identity profile] 2011-01-28 05:01 pm (UTC)(link)
A JLA issue that tied in with Day of Judgement actually addressed the killing. From what I remember, both Superman and Batman defended his actions. Superman said he would even do it again!
bluefall: Wonder Girl facepalming (facepalm Cassie)

[personal profile] bluefall 2011-01-28 07:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, Jesus, really?

Just when I thought the Sacrifice fallout couldn't have made those two look worse.

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[identity profile] 2011-01-28 08:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm kindfa surprised how no one's noticed that the planet dying was as much the fault of their planet's Lex, as it was because of the Phantom Zone villains. The entire time, Lex had the ability to depower and then (one presumes) execute them.

Lex's ego helped kill an entire planet. Even as a good guy, he's kinda a dick.
richardak: (Default)

[personal profile] richardak 2011-01-28 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
True, but it's interesting to note that mainstream-continuity Lex Luthor has almost always been portrayed as being determined that he himself must be responsible for Superman's defeat. No one else is allowed to kill Superman; when Superman died fighting Doomsday, Lex was furious. So it's consistent that this pocket-universe Lex should likewise be determined that he himself must be responsible for defeating the Phantom Zone Criminals.

To put it another way, this is essentially supposed to be the Silver Age Lex Luthor if he had never met Superboy and never seen Superboy destroy his artificial life-form (and make Lex bald), which was the event, in Silver Age continuity, that made Lex hate Superboy (and later Superman, of course). Preventing that event would not change Lex' whole personality.

Actually, it's interesting to note that the artificial life-form Lex created in the Silver Age was a protoplasmic creature. It just occurred to me that this version of Supergirl is essentially that creature.

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brilliantnova: (Default)

[personal profile] brilliantnova 2011-01-29 05:18 am (UTC)(link)
and from this we eventually had the birth of Linda Danver/Mae.
I miss that version so much