Superman #257 (October, 1972)
“Superman Battles the War-Horn!”
“The Greatest Green Lantern of All!”
Writers – Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin w/Neal Adams
Pencils – Curt Swan & Dick Dillin
Inks – Murphy Anderson & Dick Giordano
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20
Being as though I am an avid “cheap-o bin” diver… I don’t always come to the surface with pristine copies. Such is the case today. If you look at the cover (just over Superman’s head), it looks like a vendor re-priced this issue at a nickel.
That might annoy some, however… I can’t help but to find it kinda charming. I love the idea that this issue has a little bit of “story” to it. Plus, the way the price was rubbed out, it almost looks like Superman is wearing a cute little wizard hat… so, it’s got that going for it too.
Anyhoo, today we’re discussing a pretty important issue… and, get this, the important part comes in a back-up! A The Fabulous World of Krypton back-up, no less… and those are usually the worst!
Let’s get to it!
Our story opens with Lois, Clark, Jimmy and Perry enjoying a day out at the Metropolis Pier. It’s been awhile since they’d all been together… as this is shortly after Morgan Edge swooped in and took over. After a long-overdue lunch, the foursome are witness to a strange glowing humanoid form careening into the water. Clark ushers the rest into a cab (using the city ordinance of only three passengers to a cab) to “legally” sneak off and “supe up”. He destroys a bit of the pier in the process, but it’s not like we’re keeping score or anything.
In the drink, Superman comes across a… well, rather generic looking DC alien. The kind of alien that would drive me directly into the waiting arms of a Marvel comic. Anyhoo, he has a strange apparatus on his back, which we soon learn is his “war-horn”. He uses it to whip up an underwater torrent which sends Superman off.
The water jets actually carry him thousands of miles over to the western coast of Africa!
As he makes his way back to the States, we shift scenes to a pair of children playing “monster” in the woods… and no, that’s not a euphemism for anything (shame on you for thinking that is was). Anyhoo, they run into… War-Horn, who scares them off.
Clark returns to the Galaxy Building, and Jimmy shows him some film of fish acting weird. Also, the report of a pair of young fellas reporting having seen a hulking alien figure. Well, I dunno about “hulking”, he looked a bit more lanky to me.
Clark rushes off to “supe up” and next thing we know, he’s in a forest that had recently burned to ashes. He then gets a “mental chill” that tells him War-Horn is near. Never knew Superman had a “spidey-sense”, but whattayagonnado? Either way, War-Horn is hanging out underground… just like the cover, only without the boys clutching Superman’s legs.
War-Horn bursts from the ground, and uses his… uh, war-horn to surround Superman with earth… from which erupts a volcano. This being Superman, such a thing isn’t terribly effective. He socks War-Horn in the mush, causing him to attempt to flee.
As Superman gives chase, he finds himself entangled in some vines. After shaking them off, he comes across a camper… who claims that he is responsible for the forest fire. Ya see, he struck a single match… and “whoosh” – the whole forest went up. Superman decides to engage his Infra-Red vision, which reveals… precious little Nitrogen in the air.
He deduces that War-Horn’s mission is stealing Earth’s atmospheric Nitrogen… and, get this… it turns out, that’s exactly what he’s here to do! War-Horn then surrounds Superman with a storm-cloud… claiming, if he were to break out of it… the resulting thunderclap would deafen everybody on Earth. Also, the only way to stop War-Horn… is to kill him!
Rather than risk “stepping out”, Superman just freezes the cloud with some Super-Breath. He then creates a hail stone… and pelts the geek in the chin with it. With War-Horn on the ropes, Superman reels back and readies himself to deliver a fatal blow!
Before the punch connects, however, the (actual) war horn activates and whisks War-Horn (the alien) back to wherever the hell he’d come from. Ya see, that was exactly what Superman had hoped would happen… the device would do anything possible to protect its wearer. Kinda risky… but, it did the job. And honestly, worst case scenario if it didn’t… we have one less generic murderous alien in the DC Universe.
On to the back-up… which, to me, is actually this issue’s “main event”. This is one of those (very few) important ones… which really adds to the lore of both Superman… and the Green Lantern Corps. We open with Tomar-Re preparing for his retirement. Before he is deactivated, however, the Guardians of the Universe have assembled to finally tell him the story of a certain planet he had been responsible for overseeing.
That planet, of course, was Krypton. The Guardians speak of a Kryptonian specimen who would make the finest Green Lantern… the offspring of a scientist named Jor-El and an astronaut named Lara.
The Guardians had received word of Krypton’s pending doom… however, were helpless to stop it from happening. All they could do is send a member of their Corps, Tomar-Re out Krypton way to delay the inevitable long enough for the Kryptonians to realize the danger and colonize on another planet. Why they couldn’t just tell the Kryptonians themselves… I dunno.
In fact, our friend Tomar-Re doesn’t know either! Though, he deduces that if the Guardians got involved and facilitated the Kryptonians safe passage, it would do irreparable damage to their culture/way of life… or something. Anyhoo, Tomar-Re is tasked with gathering the element known as Stellarium… which, will somehow delay Krypton going boom. There are apparently nine “Krypton Years” left.
On Krypton, just as the Guardians had predicted… a certain scientist realized the extreme danger the planet was facing. He prepared for a planet-wide evacuation via a Space-Ark. Unfortunately, Brainiac stole it (along with the City of Kandor). Around this time, Lara gave birth to the “Star Child” we all know as Superman.
At this point, the rest of the science council decided that Jor-El was just a kook, and they weren’t going to waste their time chasing the doom he foresaw. One of the jerks is even yawning in Jor’s direction.
Back with Tomar-Re… as he exhausts a sector’s supply of Stellarium, he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn’t even realize that a nearby star (called Ariel) was just about to go nova!
This would render Tomar-Re temporarily blind. He’d use his radar-guide to attempt to remain on task, however, with the state he was in… it wasn’t exactly a direct flight back Krypton way.
Then, just as his sight returns… the first thing he sees is, the destruction of the planet Krypton!
The Guardians continue their tale… Tomar-Re was left in a state of shock which took several days to recover from… during which time, the Guardians themselves were responsible for guiding Kal-El’s spacecraft to Earth. Geez, the gall of these guys, taking the credit for everything.
We wrap up with Tomar-Re of Xudar being retired with honors.
Well, that first story was kind of a stinker, wasn’t it? Just Superman versus a generic alien. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it now… it’s stories like this that kinda slid DC Comics into “second place” for me growing up. Very little stakes… just some alien with an apparatus who makes a one-off appearance, never to be seen again.
Why would I read this instead of a Marvel book… where the heroes were fighting villains we actually had an investment in? Well, that’s neither here nor there, I guess. Over at Marvel these days, I can’t recognize the heroes, let alone the villains.
The Nitrogen thievery feels like something out of the Silver-Age (especially the page of Superman looking at the “spectrum”). Though, I mean, this was only 1972… not so far removed from the silly sci-fi Silver-Age. Superman risking actually murdering War-Horn was about the only sorta interesting part of this one. Overall, a skippable affair… really not much more to say about it.
Now, although the opener was skippable… the issue overall most certainly isn’t… because, mark this date down, because a back-up finally delivered!
I have always loved the idea of Tomar-Re being (tangentially) involved with the last days of Krypton. I feel it’s a little thing that adds so much to both the lore of Superman and the Green Lantern Corps.
It also answers a few questions. If the Green Lantern Corps has representation in every sector in the known universe, it would stand to reason that Krypton would be in one of those sectors. It would also stand to reason that the Green Lantern Corps would somehow be involved with their plight, even in just a “clean up” effort.
What I don’t quite understand is why the Guardians couldn’t just offer their assistance to the people of Krypton. We get kind of a weak answer in that it would somehow hurt Kryptonian culture… but, that feels like a complete cop-out. In fairness though, we are working within the constraints of a story that happened. It’s not like we can have a story where the Corps actually intervenes and either A) Saves the Kryptonians or B) Fails the Kryptonians.
So, within the story constraints, I feel like they did the best they could. A temporarily blinded Tomar-Re is unable to deliver the time-buying Stellarium… and so, Krypton goes boom. When we think about it though, Tomar-Re very likely did buy Krypton just enough time for Kal-El to be born, and blasted in the approximate direction of Earth… so, we actually have him to thank for Superman’s arrival on Earth.
Not sure I’m buying the Guardians taking full credit for “guiding” Kal-El’s ship to Earth… but, whattaya gonna do? They always seemed like self-important jerks… and this is just another log for the fire.
Overall… this is one I’d suggest tracking down. The opener was just kinda “there” (though, it’s got Curt Swan on art, which is nice). The backup is really what you’re grabbing this one for though. Not only is it an excellent story, but it’s also got some fantastic Dick Dillin art. The back-up has been reprinted a number of times, most recently in Superman: The Many Worlds of Krypton. This issue is also available digitally.