#165: All in the Super-Family

165.1 Last week we looked at Superman…born Kal-El…and his blood relatives. Now he is an extraterrestrial, simply because he’s not from this planet. Is he a Homo sapiens? He’s pretty much assumed to be…still, the idea that he came from a larger planet with higher gravity only goes so far in justifying his enormous strength and, at first anyway, leaping ability. It does nothing to explain literally flying, invulnerability, and certainly not X-ray vision, “heat-vision,” super breath, and all of that. So while he probably isn’t of the species sapiens, he’s undoubtedly of the genus Homo. For 76 years everybody’s  acted as if he could…um…”mate” with an Earth woman, altho I don’t believe he officially has. Officially…

165.2  Point is, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that Superman’s genetic connection to his relatives is identical to ours…which is to say, for example, he isn’t more closely related to his father than his mother, nothing like that. One thing we didn’t mention last week was that those various parallel dimensions…Earth-Two, Earth-Three, etc. …had “their own” Superman counterpart. Are you related to your alternate world counterpart? Genetically identical? You might say yes, otherwise on what basis would your counterpart be identified as your counterpart in the first place? On the other hand, maybe “counterpart” simply means being of similar status or in the same circumstances in your “world” as somebody else is in theirs…and not necessary being the “same” identical person. Guess is depends of how parallel is parallel, no?

165.3  But it can get mighty tricky…take Hyperman, alias Chester King, seen below, top row left. As told in the story “The Superman from Outer Space!”…Action #265 (6/60)…he rocketed from the doomed planet Zoron to become the resident super hero of the planet Oceania, which looks an awful lot like Earth. He is physically identical (sans uniform) to our Superman…and they use this fact in a charade to convince Lois (once again) that Clark Kent is not you-know who. Mind you, this parallel Earth-like world is still in our universe or dimension…the original Earth-One.

inset 1

165.4  But nothing is simple in the DCverse…in an alternate reality, Kal-El has a brother Knor-El, who as Ken Clarkson becomes the Superman of the United States…while Kal-El as Charles LeBlanc is Hyperman, the Superman of Canada. As Superman himself once remarked: “What th–?” At any rate, that’s “our” Hyperman above, top left…along with some other variations on a theme. Anti-Superman and Anti-Batman turned out to be Perry White and Commissioner Gordon with temporary superpowers that made them younger but also turned them evil…makes perfect sense to me. But you want more? I’ll give you more…there was really no end to the combinations and recombinations, nez pah?

inset 2

165.5  I might also mention that for a time in the early 1960s, DC concentrated a great deal on what they called The Superman Family…not literally his relatives, but rather all the important cast members populating the many Superman-related comic books. Below is a typical group portrait from about 1960…can you name everybody? Answers after today’s wicked ballsy.  BTW, Superboy isn’t included, since he is the same person as Superman, altho we do see some of his buds from the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes. Well, there were even some Superbaby stories if I recall. Anyway, I’ve included Superboy as he appeared in an unsold TV pilot from 1961, 2 years after the death of George Reeves, TV’s Man of Steel.


165.6  This “Family” idea was swiped from Superman’s major Golden Age competitor, Captain Marvel, who famously headed the Marvel Family, with Billy Batson Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel, the 3 Lieutenant Marvels, even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and Black Adam, the Captain’s evil look-a-like, who would occasionally join forces with the good guys. Today tho we’re going to look at Superman’s other family…his adopted parents here on Earth…again, that’s “our” Earth…Earth-One…all the rest of them can blog for themselves…

inset 3a

165.7  As was typical, it took several years before they settled into an official story that they were able to stick to. In Action #1, dated June 1938 but on the newsstands in April, the capsule containing the infant Kal-El is found by a “passing motorist”…he is raised in an orphanage, and is Clark Kent as an adult, with no explanation of how he got that way. A year later, in Superman #1, this origin tale is expanded to include his foster parents…seen above, left…Mary Kent and her at-that-time unnamed husband. Notice how as Clark grows older, their hair goes from white to brown…over the years they have most often been shown as gray-haired, but not always, above right.

chart 584

165.8  By Superman #53 in 1948, they are John and Mary Clark Kent…2 years later he is Jonathan for the first time, and a year after that she Martha. In response to a reader’s letter in Superman #148 (10/61), her full name is given as Martha Hudson Clark Kent. Older generations of relatives got filled in as the years progressed. Playing the Fan Logic Game, it is not inconceivable that for a time Jonathan might have been commonly been called John, and Martha known by some as Mary…such things do happen in real life after all.

165.9  Where we do get into trouble is the 1942 novel “The Adventures of Superman” written by George F. Lowther…he calls them Eben and Sarah…and oddly enough, they are also called that on the George Reeves TV series…altho of the 104 episodes, Superman’s parents only appear once, in the first episode, “Superman on Earth.” It’s also Eben in the 1948 serial starring Kirk Alyn…the Internet Movie Data Base says his mom is Martha, but she is not named in the film, and neither Kent is listed in the credits. Then in the unsold 1961 “The Adventures of Superboy” pilot, they are back to Jonathan and Martha…go figure.

chart 585

165.10  We know the basics for Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Supergirl…Chart 585. Lois grew up on a farm in Pittsdale. Linda Lee Danvers lived with her adopted parents in Midvale, not Smallville…she was co-temporaneous with Superman, not Superboy…still, it could have been Smallville but it wasn’t. She initially lives in an orphanage as Linda Lee…and is Linda Lee Danvers or just plain Linda Danvers when she lives with her foster folks.

165.11  The situation with Lois’ siblings is interesting. Susie Tompkins was introduced in 1943…Lois’ sister’s daughter who comes to live with her for a spell. Susie’s parents are never mentioned, but her being “from the country” as stated below is significant, since it suggests that her father is not in show business. Meaning what? Meaning that he was not a Lane who changed his name to Tompkins…he was the Tompkins, thus Susie’s mother was a Lane…and Lois’ sister really is her sister, not her sister-in-law. In the weird world of DC, you have to nail these things down! Susie appeared in quite a few stories, rather juvenile ones as you might expect, and she disappears after 1955.

inset 4

165.12  4 years later, Lois’ adult sister Lucy, a stewardess, is introduced as Jimmy Olsen’s love interest. She is portrayed as Lois’ only sibling, and is unmarried…unless her husband and daughter Susie died and no one ever mentions it, which seems spectacularly unlikely. And with 76 years of story-telling, it wouldn’t surprise me if relatives of Perry White and Jimmy Olsen were mentioned here or there…I did a little digging, found nothing…well at some point, in some medium, Perry’s wife Alice has an affair with Lex Luthor and a son by him, Jerry White, whom Perry believes to be his son…but not Baby Boomer-era material, so easily disregarded, sez me. Non-canonical? How about anti-canonical! Next week, a bunch of Q’s get A’ed…see yez…

wicked ballsy

wicked ballsy

32 of TV’s Superman episodes, the first 2 seasons, were filmed in black and white…the other 52 were in color. Now when viewed in color, that rich blue and red suit worked fine…but notice how it looks in black and white…no contrast, the colors blend together. For the black and white episodes, everything was colored so that it would look “right” when viewed monochromatically. Supey’s uniform was brown and light blue-gray, what we used to call “cadet gray”…or was that “cadet blue”?

Speaking of the TV series, we might as well address that urban legend about the gun…that villains would empty their clips at Superman, bullets ricocheting off his chest…then in desperation, they’d throw the gun at him…and he’d duck! D’oh!


This turns out to be one of those rare urban legends that is absolutely true, altho it happened only once, in the 8th episode of the 1st season, “The Mind Machine.” And it wasn’t George Reeves who ducked, but his stunt double Dick Van Sickle. Above, (1) bad guy Lou Cranek (played by Victor Buono look-a-like Dan Seymour) should know better, but figures maybe his bullets can do what other’s couldn’t…no such luck. (2) In desperation, he winds up to hurl his weapon…(3) and altho it sails well high of the mark, Superman ducks, just for good measure.

Now throughout this scene, there is a lot of punching and jumping around…sometimes it’s Reeves, especially in closer shots…other times it’s Van Sickle…who knows, maybe he was simply a better ducker. At any event, above, lower right we compare the 2, and below that, a clearer picture of Van Sickle as both Superman and himself.

Superman Family Answers…

fasmly answeers A couple of niggling notes…Mr. Mxyzptlk’s name was originally spelled Mxyztplk, with the P and T reversed…Lightning Lad was originally called Lightning Boy…Prof. Phineas Potter is Lana Lang’s uncle as per Chart 585…and Lori Lemaris is a mermaid from the city of Tritonis, on the sunken continent of Atlantis, introduced in 1959.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved




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