Superman #345 (March, 1980)
“When Time Ran Backward!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Curt Swan
Inker – Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40
I’ve come to the conclusion that if you were to pick up a random DC Comic dating between 1975 and 1985, you’ve got about a 95% chance that it was written by Gerry Conway. That’s not a bad thing at all… I mean, I knew he was prolific… just didn’t know he was quite this prolific!
Based on today’s subject matter, I was considering writing this entire piece backwards. Luckily for me and anyone reading, I quickly dismissed that thought as… well, stupid.
We open with Superman stopping a flaming satellite from reentering the atmosphere. It is the NEWS-I Satellite… the first orbiter set to actually control the weather. Superman catches it and intends to return it to S.T.A.R. Labs so they can diagnose just what went wrong with their ridiculous device.
Upon landing, Superman gets a crazy case of the chills. There’s a purple haze around everything… and suddenly, just as the cover promised… time appears to go in reverse! We watch as Superman returns the satellite into orbit, and flies backwards to his news anchor position at WGBS.
Time continues moving backward as Clark relives his day in reverse. It isn’t until he gets outside his building… before a work day he finished long before, if you follow. He realizes that time isn’t behaving normally, and wills himself to think forward again. He believes that whatever is going on with the time stream has less of an effect on him due to his propensity to travel through time, both now and when he was a child due to his affiliation with the Legion of Super Heroes.
Upon realization… and mental refocusing, the Metropolitan landscape appears to change. Suddenly Clark finds himself standing on barren land… which immediately causes him to realize that the “chronal layers” have been peeled away from Earth. Must be some of that Super-Intellect at play here… because I’m all sortsa confuzzled.
Now, this is where I get even more mixed up. Somehow, Superman is able to return to Metropolis… however, now we’re in the early 1960’s. He tries to consider just who his foe will be, and comes up with Chronos… before quickly dismissing the thought. This, is far out of that sap’s league. Luckily for Superman he finds himself right in front of a spacecraft armed with several vacuum-looking bits that are “stealing time”. Oy.
What’s a man of steel to do in such a situation? If you said crash through the wall of the spacecraft, give yourself a pat on the back. Inside we meet a bearded alien and his big green pincer-bot… that we’re not supposed to realize is a robot at this point. The beardo ensures Superman that they have come in peace (famous last words) and that they are whatever the time equivalent to astronauts are… chrononauts? Anyhoo, they were struck out of space-time by some cthulhu-beast and had to siphon time away from Earth for their very survival. Superman’s all “Get your own time!” before thinking that he may be able to help his new pals.
The beardo has his (shhh) robot, Koman-Ta show Superman the damage that had been done to their craft. While investigating the wreckage, Superman notes the presence of on board gun-turrets. This makes him question the “peaceful” nature of these strange visitors. At this point, Superman has decided he’s had just about enough of the chrononaut’s B.S., and just chucks the time vacuums into space. Attaboy!
Koman-Ta doesn’t take too kindly to this affront, and pounces on Superman. This is yet another one of those Superman images I dig because it kind of looks like he’s dancing with a bad guy. Anyhoo, the bot blasts him with a burst of glowing energy… and our main man gets kayoed.
Some time (?) later, Superman wakes up laying on the streets of Metropolis. He finds that things are rather peculiar, ever since he tossed the time-vacuums into space… rather than time returning to normal, it just stopped flat. Speaking of flat… well, Superman is now a being in 2D space. Koman-Ta’s blast was of chronal energy… which somehow trapped Superman in a cross-section of Earth’s time line… ooookay.
He decides to track down the baddies… which, I gotta say… is probably a good start. He breaks the time-barrier and travels to the when and where the craft is currently hanging out. He (literally) slips inside. Beardo commands Koman-Ta to blast Superman again… which is a much harder task with his newly flattened form. Superman then… punches Koman-Ta’s head clean off its body. Hey, guess what guys and gals… it was a robot… the. whole. time.
The bearded buddy decides now is as good a time as any to spill the beans about his real purpose. His people along with a rival-time race have been at war for ages. His ship was damaged in a battle, not by a shoggoth beast. Superman takes pity on the poor fool, and offers something of a compromise. First however, the Bad Beard’s gotta set Earth time right.
Superman uses the time-accelerator to set things right, and then throws our alien buddy “sideways” through time so that he can warn his people about what’s to come. We end just as we started… with Superman holding the NEWS-I Satellite atop the S.T.A.R. Labs building.
The cover of this issue promises a “mind-shattering story”, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t deliver. What a whack out little story this was.
While I was prepared for some time shenanigans from the cover copy, I really wasn’t expecting Superman to be taken out of 3D space. I’m gonna have to research to see if the concept of the 2D Superman was ever revisited. Sounds like something right up Grant Morrison’s alley.
If I were handed this comic book during my youth, I’d have used it a the reason why I avoided DC and stuck with Marvel. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just could never get into the bad guys that the DC heroes fought. I mean, why would I get invested in random aliens #1000 and 1001, when I could read about the X-Men battling Magneto or Apocalypse?
In my more mature (heh!) state, I can see the appeal of these one-off disposable stories. They can be as fantastical as they needed to be, and ramifications did not necessarily need to be followed up on. In my bloggy-reviewer state, I can absolutely appreciate these one-off tales… they are so much easier to just pop in on and write about than their interwoven brethren.
You may have noticed by now that I’m not really talking about the book… there’s a reason for that… there’s really not a whole lot to say. I had a great time reading it, and though parts of it made my head hurt, thought it was a heck of a fun little story. The writing and art were both what we’ve come to expect from late pre-Crisis Superman. Not exceptional, but good comfortable comics.
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