Thursday, October 04, 2007

Number 1 in a Great New Series!

Yes, friends, beginning today, it’s …

Today we look at a “Great Three-Part Novel,” written by SF great Edmond Hamilton and penciled by Curt Swan. On the cover, it’s called “The Invasion of the Super-People,” but on the inside splash page, it’s given the more descriptive moniker, “Superman in Kandor!” This is Superman 158, cover-dated January, 1963.

Our story begins with incredible multiple robberies of scientific labs around the world. Crimes committed by men with … super powers! Superman interrupts a group of super-thieves, only to be beaten to a standstill by multiple attackers who … speak Kryptonese! Accompanied by his pal, newshound Jimmy Olsen, the Man of Steel makes the obvious deduction and heads to his Fortress of Solitude. They find its door torn off from … the inside!

In the space of a few pages, Jimmy and Superman shrink themselves with Brainiac’s ray, parachute into Kandor, and meet Nor Kann, a longtime friend of Superman’s father, Jor-El, on Krypton. When Superman attempts to reason with the Kandorians they turn on him, pulling down his statue (like Stalin’s or Hussein’s) and hunting Supes and Jimmy with telepathic hounds.

Why is Superman suddenly the most hated man in Kandor, the last city of Krypton, his homeworld? Find out in Part II!

The second chapter of this three-part novel introduces “The Dynamic Duo of Kandor!” Yes, this tale introduces the names Nightwing and Flamebird to the DC universe.

By something similar to self-hypnosis, Jimmy and Superman divert the telepathic hounds and manhunting party of Kandorians, and discover from Nor Kann why the Man of Tomorrow is so vilified. Turns out a Kandorian scientist named Than Ol has not only supposedly discovered a way to enlarge Kandor, he’s used this method to enable those super-powered raiders to steal supplies from Earthly scientists.

Several Kandorians have started a rumor that Superman knew of this process all along, but has been deliberately NOT restoring the Kandorians, for fear they might compete with him or overrun Earth. Not only does Superman not trust them, he fears his Kryptonian cousins, public opinion says.

While Superman worries about the safety of Than Ol’s process, Nor Kann leads him and Jimmy underground, where the aged scientist uses his resources to set up his friends with uniforms and flight-belts. Soon Kal-El of Krypton is garbed as Nightwing, and the fiery redheaded Olsen takes flight as … Flamebird! They overpower one of Than Ol’s men and Superman discovers a horrible secret about the enlargement process.

To learn more, he goes undercover to Than Ol’s lab, disguised as Van-Zee, a member of the Superman Emergency Squad of Kandor. But Kal-El is recognized and knocked unconscious, thus ending Part II.

Jimmy and Nor Kann plan a clever ruse, leading a squadron of the Superman Emergency Squad to Than Ol’s lab, demanding “the evil Superman.” When the Man of Steel is produced for trial, he is “kidnaped” by Van Zee (disguised as Nightwing) and Jimmy (Flamebird) Olsen. Jimmy and Superman quickly escape the bottle into the Fortress, and from there they flee their Kandorian pursuers by escaping into the Phantom Zone.

Thus is the cover scene enacted: Jimmy and Superman float helplessly, silently, in the Phantom Zone, mocked by Krypton’s immaterial criminals, while renegade Kandorians enlarge themselves and take the bottle city to an open area on Earth, there to restore it to its original size.

Meanwhile – whew! – a timer on the Phantom Zone projector kicks in and Superman and Jimmy rematerialize. The Action Ace shows Mr. Action just why Than Ol’s process is so dangerous, by enlarging a tiny model of the Eiffel Tower, outside the Fortress.

Superman explains that the process produces enlargement by spreading apart the atoms of any given body. But, after three hours, anything so enlarged disintegrates completely, its atoms losing cohesion. The enlarged Eiffel Tower becomes a mere eyeful of dust!

Soon Superman tracks down the now-enlarged once-capital city of Kandor, and tries once again to convince the ringleaders of their danger. Still stinging with jealousy toward the Man of Steel, they hunt him down with Green Kryptonite missile launchers, and are prepared to propel him into a Green-K pit when, just in time, “the dream suddenly turns into a nightmare … for the people of Kandor!”

Yes, the three hours have begun to run out, and Superman just has time to re-shrink the city to safety. Yes, they’ve been “saved by Superman, after we distrusted him, pursued him, tried to kill him!”

The final two panels of the story show Jimmy and Superman watching via telescreen as the grateful Kandorians unveil a new statue to replace the old one – this time featuring Nightwing and Flamebird!

And the story closes with the Man of Tomorrow repeating his vow to someday find a way to restore Kandor to its original size.

Great art, great additions to the Superman Mythos, great story, great use of the strange world of Kandor. Yes, an auspicious beginning for Three-Part Thursday!
I am so grateful that I was growing up and reading comics in this Silver Age of Superman!

Write and tell me what you think! Suggest other Great Three-Part Novels of Superman’s past!
Tomorrow, as a denoument, we'll look at another fascinating Super-Feature to be found in this issue!


Allen Ross said...

Good overview. I believe that story is going to be reprinted soon in the Kandor TP.

My choices for best three-part stories are probably popular with others too:

Superman #141 (November 1960): "Superman’s Return to Krypton"

Superman #149 (November 1961): "The Death of Superman"

Superman #162 (July 1963): "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue"

Mark Alfred said...

I agree, although the next story I feature is a different imaginary story than "Death of" or "Red-Blue."

Thanks for visiting!

Tamara said...

I loved finding reprints of those Nightwing and Flamebird stories when I was a kid. I especially loved how tacky the Flamebird costume was. Great stuff.

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