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by Robert Greenberger
While Superman may be the world’s greatest superhero, he is also a science fiction concept, dreamed up by two fans of the pulp magazines then becoming popular in the 1920s. Those same pulps verified inspiration to an entire generation of young readers who wound up toiling in those same dime magazines before graduating to comic books. As a result, they brought their boyhood enthusiasm to figuring out the kind of world Krypton was and how its destruction gave us a savior.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the 1950s before fan turned agent turned editor Mort Weisinger began exploring what life on Krypton need to have been like. There were looks in the first retelling of Kal-El’s origins in 1949 and bit by bit, we learned of the world’s culture and technology, its heroes and villains, and its blindness to its destruction.
Superman: The lots of Worlds of Krypton
With SyFy’s Krypton series coming, DC has gone back to the archives to collect lots of of the seminal stories about the planet in Superman: The lots of Worlds of Krypton. This is a variant of a similarly titled collection, now out of print, but gives us the best stories.
Weisinger’s fellow fan and partner in the Solar Sales agency, Julie Schwartz, inherited the man of Steel when Weisinger retired. He right away made a decision to add back-up stories, starting with a feature called “World of Krypton”, indulging his interest in straight SF and giving rising writers and veteran artists something fresh to play with.
In Superman #233, the popular issue where kryptonite was temporarily removed as a threat, the first using was from E. Nelson Bridwell and Murphy Anderson, recounting the fateful meeting of scientist Jor-El with astronaut Lara and a fateful rescue mission that sparked their romance.
Denny O’Neil, who was writing the lead feature at the time, gave us one with Dick Giordano in issue #236 wherein Superman entertains Black Canary and green Arrow with the cautionary tale of the man who first learned that Krypton was doomed.
Superman #238, one of the few times “World of Krypton” is pointed out on a cover
Two issues later, Cary Bates partnered with gray Morrow for the cutesy story of how space explorers Kryp and Tonn both arrived on what became Superman’s homeworld. A stronger story from Bates and Michael William Kaluta followed in issue #240.
The series took a break until Superman #248, when Marv Wolfman and Dave Cockrum teamed up for a story describing the founding of the terrific city of Kryptonopolis. Then, in issue #257, came the best of the lot, one that tied Krypton into the greater DC Universe. In a story co-written by Elliot Maggin and Neal Adams, we see popular green lantern Tomar-Re stand before the Guardians of the Universe, ready to retire. He told of his one regret, not being able to save Krypton from destruction, indicating the child the corps figured out was destined to be the greatest green lantern of them all, would die. He was assured by his masters that fate saw to it a child survived, who became a champion for all worlds. The Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano art is superior and there’s a reason this one has been heavily reprinted through the years.
Finally, Maggin and Dillin returned for #266 connected earth to Krypton with a probe from Atlantis arriving on the far-off world. and when Superman family was turned into the first dollar Comic, Paul Kupperberg, Marshall Rogers, and Frank Springer welcomed the new format with a story of Jo-Man, who broke a tyrant’s power and brought peace to Krypton 4000 years earlier.
World of Krypton #1
It falls to Editor E. Nelson Bridwell to sift through the bits and pieces of lore Weisinger and his writers sprinkled through the years and weave them together to form a a lot more coherent narrative about the world’s final years. This was the kind of thing Bridwell excelled at and he turned over the treasure trove of data to writer Paul Kupperberg for a three-part story created for showcase in support of the impending Superman II feature film. When the DC Implosion of 1978 shrank the line, the nearly completed story had nowhere to go until publisher Jenette Kahn green-lit the company’s first miniseries.
World of Krypton was written by Kupperberg with uncredited layouts from his older brother Alan, pencils by Howard Chaykin, and inks by Frank Chiaramonte, under covers from Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. We see all the familiar faces from Jor-El and Lara to general Zod and Jax-Ur with cameos from Lar Gand (Mon-El, Beppo, Krypto, and baby Kal-El).
The world of Krypton #1
After John Byrne revamped Superman and the entire mythos, the hero’s 50th anniversary was approaching so he wrote three four-part miniseries starting with The world of Krypton in 1987. Under covers from Byrne and Walt Simonson,the story explores his far different take on Kryptonian society. at a time when cloning had replaced natural reproduction, a woman named Nyra used one of her clones to marry her kid Kan-Z. The breach of law ignited a millennia-long war which is depicted by Mike Mignola and Rick Bryant. We see Jor-El revisit this history, which inspired him to seek out his own mate, but also tipped him off to his world’s impending destruction.
The latter miniseries is tonally different than the a lot more optimistic sci-fi fare of earlier generations but it also shows the range of ways Superman’s homeworld has grown and progressed through the years. No doubt the SyFy series will present an even a lot more alien version of the planet but this volume will make for a fine reading companion.
Superman: The lots of Worlds of Krypton