austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

You're gonna be mine, I know it, we'll do it in style

Next is the fourth lost Superfriends adventure, the surprisingly disturbing and deeply immoral The Krypton Syndrome.

The Krypton Syndrome opens with a Vaguely Catlike Starship struggling to escape a black hole; the Arslycans had volunteered to collect Kryptonite asteroids. Superman warned them dropping them into a black hole was dangerous, because Superman doesn't know how black holes work. Superman, in the potent yet funny Supermobile, loses his grip on the Arslycan starship and falls through the black hole, causing him to discover he's near Krypton, on the last day before its destruction. Superman has spent about nine years of his life in the last day of Krypton's existence.

At the Krypton Council of High Jerks, Jor-El is making his case for immediate evacuation and is, as always, sounding like a stark raving looney. Superman bursts in, refusing to say who he is or where he's from, but promising that Jor-El is absolutely right, which works to make sure they're both raving nutters. Krypton starts breaking up, and Jor-El gets ready to launch Kal-El. Superman watches this touching goodbye and realizes with the Supermobile he can dive deep into Krypton's sun and keep it from exploding by putting a capsule of antimatter in the core. Having saved Krypton, Superman waves bye to his parents and himself, flies back through the Black Hole, and makes for the Hall of Justice.

Superman isn't very bright. There are people not even reading this essay who know where this is going, but he doesn't suspect. He arrives to find the Hall of justice destroyed and Robin, buried under rubble, surrendering. He doesn't know Superman. Robin reports the Legion of Doom has enslaved the Earth and wiped out all the Superfriends except Robin, which must be part of a scheme to destroy Robin's self-esteem by showing how he's not nearly as valuable a superhero as Zan, Jayna, or Rima are. Incidentally, the Legion of Doom makes no actual appearance; neither does anybody else on the alternate Earth. Painting the background cels for the destroyed Hall of Justice must have eaten up their budget for guest appearances.

Superman, being not quite as bright as the slowest member of the audience, finally realizes that with Krypton not destroyed, Kal-El didn't go to Earth, so he zips back to Krypton and swipes the antimatter so as to undo what he did. Yes, Krypton will be destroyed, but at least the Earth will be saved. ``Moments later, Superman returns from the past'', chatting with Wonder Woman over the invisible Jet's not quite invisible TV set, and they agree it was only seconds for them but ``a lifetime'' for Superman.

Well. Now and then the Superfriends would hit, probably by accident, on a great moral question, and usually they would piddle it down their legs, as in this case. Time travel opens up plenty of fine moral quandaries for people to stumble into, too, and the idea of having to choose one of two worlds to save ought to be a great one. But there's no getting around it: Superman here deliberately and knowingly destroys Krypton and the unknown billions of people living on it (I mean here that I don't know what it is; I'm confident the comic books have given several dozen inconsistent answers about its population) in order to free the Earth from the Legion of Doom's tyranny, which tyranny by the way the Earth fell prey to and was saved from about thirteen times in the Challenge of the Superfriends series alone.

The issue ought to have some weight, some heft, at least to inspire some thought. Instead it's looked into and dismissed almost without a glance. Yeah, it's cool to see Superman whipping up alternate timelines and zipping them back into nonexistence, but if Superman is supposed to stand for justice at any point then killing every person on Krypton in order to free Earth from supervillain domination is really hard to count as justice. At a minimum, for example, he could have tried talking Jor-El and Mrs Jor-El into sending Kal-El to Earth anyway, citing his essential role in saving a planet. Maybe it wouldn't have worked, but boy would that ever be the minimum effort to make. (It would still leave room for objections on moral or ethical grounds, but at least they'd be ones that didn't involve having Superman specifically act to cause the deaths of every living being on Krypton.)

It gets all the worse if you go into fanboy mode since: Superman has run into enough time-travel modes, some of them involving the Supermobile, that he should be able to defeat the Legion of Doom before its alternate-history takeover of the Earth, particularly since the alternate Legion would have no idea who this Superman was, and with Krypton un-exploded there wouldn't be the case where one out of every five rocks in the universe is Kryptonite. That's assuming there would be a Legion of Doom when we know, actually, that Lex Luthor was key to its creation and, hey, no Superman, no Lex. Also no Bizarro or Brainiac, but to balance that out, no Toyman either. Of course, Superman was also essential to the founding of the Superfriends, so it's not clear there'd be one of those in a Kal-El-free history.

So in short: it's a fairly cool setup, but manages to somehow be a greater outrage than the plainly evil Star Trek: Enterprise episode ``The Communicator''.

Trivia: United Fruit bought all its machetes from the Collins Company of Collinsville, Connecticut, the ``world's greatest machete maker''. Source: Bananas: How The United Fruit Company Shaped The World, Peter Chapman.

Currently Reading: McKinley, Bryan, and the People, Paul W Glad.

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