Superman #307 (January, 1977)
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Inker – Frank Springer
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.30
Got us a real humdinger today. A crazy as all get out late-70’s issue of Superman. I mean, just look at that great Neal Adams cover.
Supergirl ain’t butterfinger’ing Kandor either… she’s smashin’ those suckers on purpose! Let’s find out what this is all about!
We open with Superman destroying a Vinyl Chloride plant. He’s literally punching the machinery inside! We see that he is being pursued by a flying fella who looks as though he’s wearing a glowing-white version of a Kree uniform from Marvel Comics.
Vinyl Chloride production was discovered as having a carcinogenic effect on factory workers in the late 1960’s. Sometime during the mid-70’s, BF Goodrich Chemical released information about how even with limited contact with the stuff, several of their workers developed cancerous tumors on their livers. This story being written (or at least published) in 1977 tells me that this was still a newsworthy issue… in fact, it still is to this very day… OSHA has very strict guidelines in regard to exposure to the compound.
Anyhoo… the two engage in battle, and we learn that the pursuant Kree is actually a mutant called the Protector (not that one), and he has the ability to change his body’s chemical make-up. When attacked head on, he transforms his body into a diamond. Oh, and he can also fire “light-lances” from his crotch!
Superman is down, but not out. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts, flashing us back to yesterday, when he’d first heard about this chem-plant. A factory worker by the name of Slotvik approached news anchor, Clark Kent to whistle-blow on his company. Clark offers to “tell Superman” to check it out, and Slotvik leaves happy.
We get an odd scene where Clark is approached by “tv-star groupie” Terri Cross. She entangles her arm and Clark’s, while Lois looks on sternly. She was going to make Clark some Beef Bourguignon (with ketchup?) for dinner.
The scene gets odder yet, as Clark and Terri get into the elevator. While inside, Clark begins feeling really sorry for himself… his internal monologue is wildly unpleasant. He thinks about how he’s an alien outsider, and how he is destined to forever be alone. Weird stuff here. When they reach the ground floor, Clark just… walks away from Terri, without a word. Leaving her (and the reader) standing there like “huh?“.
We bounce to the following morning where Superman hits up the Chem-Plant for a tour of the facilities. He is greeted by a Mr. Kalmbach (don’t call it a kalmbach?), the President of Metro Chemical. They talk up the potential cancer risk their plastic production causes… and Kalmbach’s kind of a jerk about it, claiming that he’s pleased by the bad press they’ve received of late… and referring to the cancer as an “acceptable risk” that insurance will take care of. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore environmentalist… but even I’m furrowing my brow at this clown.
Superman reacts… how should I put this… strongly to this conversation… bashing desks, flying through walls and heat-visioning some machinery. This is where our flashback ends. He bids the whistle-blower adieu, and takes his leave.
He heads to a summit in the Rocky Mountains, where he sits and thinks about how he’s already had one home-planet destroyed in his lifetime… he will not allow history to repeat itself. He’s shouting to the heavens… I mean, he really feels strongly about this.
Moments later, Superman flies over an oil tanker… uh oh… He snatches up every last passenger and plops them off on a nearby island… if we can even call it that. It’s like one of those cartoons… tiny mound of land peeking out of the ocean with a couple of palm trees on it. Wonder if they brought any reading material…
With the passengers safely out of the area, Superman turns his attention to the tanker itself. Since tankers could cause oil spills that would disrupt the marine (and other) life… he’s just gonna chuck the thing into orbit. I’m tellin’ ya… he feels pretty strongly about this.
With the tanker hoisted above his head, he is blasted by the icy ray of the Protector! We learn that Pro is powered by pollution! Is that kinda like renewable energy? If so, he just might be more environmentally-minded than Superman! Anyhoo, the battle rages both under and over the sea until Protector bores a tunnel at the bottom of the ocean.
Rather than giving chase, Superman again turns his attention to the tanker. When he emerges from the drink, he is surprised to find his cousin, Supergirl there waiting for him. He is even more surprised when she refuses to help him hoist the tanker… and he’s even more surprised when she tells him, now get this, there’s no such thing as Krypton… and there never was.
Supergirl takes him to the Fortress of Solitude to set him straight. Upon arrival she takes it upon herself to destroy the statues of Jor-El and Lara… and the Bottle City of Kandor! Before she does, though, she makes sure to show Superman that there were never any people in Kandor… just miniature dolls!
She then directs him to the video screen, and shows him footage of Jonathan Kent and Fred Danvers working together in an atomic laboratory. Kara and Clark aren’t aliens… they are in fact, mutants! Children of the Atom, even!
Before Clark can truly process the news, the doors are blown off the Fortress by our old friend, the Protector! Superman grumbles about how this clown picked the wrong time to reengage and proceeds to hit him with everything but the kitchen sink. He x-ray visions his chest, and finds that Pro’s heart emits a slight glow just before he adapts his molecular state, and uses that to his full advantage.
After the battle, Supergirl (who suddenly appears to care about Clark) asks him how he’s doin’… Superman looks as though he’s about to cry… he’s no longer an orphan, but he still doesn’t feel as though he has a home. He questions if his nightmare is just beginning… and I’m hoping that there’s more to this story than it being a bad dream… and we are [to be continued…]
This story has a one-page second feature about child abuse… truly a relic that must be shared!
Was that crazy, or what? Such a strange story. Of course, hindsight being what it is, it doesn’t really have all that much impact… but, wildly fun and “out there”, nonetheless.
I would have to assume that Superman is under some form of mind-control… or he’s dreaming (or attached to some sort of projection machine). I’m almost glad that the resolution isn’t included in this issue… it allows it to stand on its own weird-wobbly legs.
Superman actions throughout the first half of the issue were pretty extreme. I’m not surprised he’d be for a cleaner environment (it’s not like he’s gonna be anti-environment), but his reactions here are crazy severe… which kinda lends to him being under some sort of control or this all just being in his head. Supergirl being written as so cold and aloof adds more to that speculatory end as well.
Our villain here… whoo… the powered-by-pollution Kree lookin’ Protector… who can shoot beams of light from his crotch, no less. Nuts! I think I saw the word “mutant” more in this book than any other DC books I’ve read! Not only is the Protector a mutant… but so are Superman and Supergirl!
This was an incredibly fun read… kind of like if Superman somehow wound up inside an episode of the Twilight Zone. I love the way he attempts to process the information that Krypton is nothing more than a figment of his imagination… his defense mechanism against dealing with his true parentage and history. I bet some twenty-odd-years later, this would have made a really fun springboard into an Elseworlds story! There’s just so many ways you can go from here.
Definitely worth checking out if you happen across it. This was one that I just happened to snag from the cheap-o’s some years back. Not sure if it’s collected anywhere, and honestly I really couldn’t imagine that it would be… **UPDATE** It has been brought to my attention from our pals over at Bronze Age Babies (who reviewed this issue in 2013) that is issue has in fact been collected in an amazing looking hardcover! Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez collects this story and many more awesome Bronze Age Superman tales!
(Lotsa) Interesting Ads: