Monday, May 14, 2007

Superman's Forgotten Weakness







Okay, we all know that Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite and to magic. Every school kid knows (or used to anyway) that. In the early seventies, however, when Julius Schwartz took over from longtime editor Mort Weisinger, it was decided that the man of Steel needed some new weaknesses. First they had this sort of sand Superman who was taking power away from the real guy issue by issue. Eventually, though, that storyline played out. Less remembered is the OTHER big weakness that writer Cary Bates attempted to give Supes.




In 1972’s issue 249 of SUPERMAN, we learn that throughout his life, Clark has had mysterious crying fits followed by major meltdowns. Why? Because it’s his birthday, naturally! Seems that on Krypton, birthdays were sad events that for centuries involved ritual crying jags that eventual became so ingrained that Clark continued them on Earth without ever knowing why. In this issue, he uses one of his hundred or so Krypton time viewing devices to discover all of this and then superhypnotizes himself into forgetting his birthday, thinking this will eliminate the problem but no…Thus, his depressive breakdown hits just in time for the debut appearance of Terra-Man, a not particularly well remembered space cowboy who was intended to become a major villain in the canon. The big guy is so busy bawling uncontrollably that the new bad guy almost beats him. Luckily, our hero manages to use his disadvantage to his advantage and saves the day as usual.




With marvelous art from the Swan/Anderson team (note the cameo from TV’s Archie and Edith), this story comes off pretty well but to the best of my knowledge, the birthday "curse" was never mentioned again. The issue also features Bates’ origin of Terra-Man as delineated by the unusual art team of Dick Dillin and Neal Adams! This was a good period for SUPERMAN comics but fairly quickly fell into filler stories by lesser writers.

2 comments:

Emilio Pacheco said...

I had read about it, but in a different story, one of those short, 4-page (or so) stories at the end of the book. It wasn't presented as a "weekness", though. Clark gets to work and is surprised by his colleagues singing "happy birthday". He turns his back to them to face the reader and makes a sad face, thinking (I read it in Portuguese, so this won't be an accurate quote of the original): "It may be happy on Earth, but not in Krypton." Then we "see" his thoughts about the origin of this Kryptonian tradition. And that's all there is to this story, just a filler, really. It's probably from the 70's.

Wes said...

Isn't that Andy Griffith behind Edith and Archie?