Dog Days of Summer

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One month ago I published my 1979-birthday-gift post, listing all the comics my friend ‘Rice gave me for my birthday that year. As noted at the time, several of those titles I remembered right off the top of my head. Then, using the pub dates of those titles as a guide, I did some online research to refresh my memory regarding the rest. I’m pretty sure I got ‘em all, ultimately, but there was one comic I was on the fence about: DC Comics Presents #14 (Oct. 1979). I’m fairly sure—but not completely sure—that I purchased this one for myself, but it does fall into the pub range of books ‘Rice gave me, so it could have been among the haul he so generously bequeathed me.

So what the heck, let’s cover it in its own post right now. As it turns out, it’s an interesting read with both historical and personal significance.

“Judge, Jury… And No Justice!”

Right from the start, we get a most interesting premise courtesy of the cover. As Superman and Superboy are actually the same person (just at different points in their life/lives), Jimmy Olsen is correct when he points out that Superboy will be effectively killing himself should he kill Superman. So how is this story even possible? Writer Paul Levitz and the art team, Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano, are about to show us.

This was not the first time Superman met his younger self. Or maybe not, anyway. The first time (maybe, possibly) was Superboy #47 (March 1956), a story I first read when it was reprinted in Super-Team Family #5 (Jul. 1976). I say “maybe, possibly,” because as detailed in this recap, the whole thing may have just been a dream of Superboy’s.

In DCCP #14, the key plot point that makes it all possible involves Superman’s childhood friend, Pete Ross, and his newfound hatred for the Man of Steel. This hatred is born out of Ross blaming Supes for the loss of his son (which happened in the previous issue), and has to do with time travel and time paradoxes and honestly I’m getting a headache just thinking about it, so let’s skip the details.

So Ross gains access to one of Luthor’s old labs and discovers two inventions that he think he can use to destroy Superman: one is a time machine and one is a device that allows the user to swap bodies with its target. Thus Ross was able to bring Superboy out of the past and transfer his mind into Superboy’s Kryptonian body (while trapping Superboy in Pete Ross’s all-too-human body.) As the adult Superman is a bit distracted by how he’s even able to interact with his past self, Ross/Superboy waylays him and he ends up in the compromising situation we see depicted on the cover. (I’m tempted to ask how Superboy was able to handle the kryptonite chains that are used to hold Superman, but much like the time travel nonsense mentioned earlier, I’m going to spare myself the headache and just skip over this too.)

Of course, Superboy (in Ross’s body) eventually frees himself from the ropes that Ross used to bind him, but he’s still powerless. After searching through his old, secret basement headquarters, he finally comes across an item that just might save the day: a whistle. Not just any whistle; it’s a dog whistle.

A very, very special dog whistle.

Cutting back to the adult Superman, we see that the “jury” Ross/Superboy has assembled—Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, and Steve Lombard—refuse to find Superman guilty of any crime. Ross, clearly in major jerk mode at this point, decides he’s going to kill Superman anyway, but with the last of his strength, Supes manages to break his chains just before he’s blasted by that kryptonite bazooka. The effort leaves him completely spent, however, so now he’s helpless and completely at the mercy of the insane Ross/Superboy.

COULD THIS TRULY BE THE END FOR OUR MAN OF STEEL? IS THERE NO ONE LEFT TO SAVE HIM?

As Ross is about to get more kryptonite to finish off Supes, the DOG OF STEEL arrives to save the day!

What was behind Krypto’s impeccable timing? Supes figures it out rather quickly.

After he’s freed from what remains of his kryptonite shackles by his friends, Superman reverses the brain swap between Ross and Superboy and sends his past self back to his proper time. There’s still the issue of what to do with Ross, but that’s something that belongs to future stories.

Not the deepest or neatest of stories (time travel plots do tend to get messy), but a very emotionally satisfying ending, particularly for yours truly.

The Personal

I love dogs. It’s been a while now since I had one to call my own, but for the first thirty years of my life I always had a dog. Even now, after many years without one in my life, if one were to try and define who I am, “dog person” would still have to be written into that definition somewhere.

This love I have for dogs made it easy to love Krypto as a kid. And the idea seemed perfectly logical to my childish sensibilities—if there’s a super man, then there could be (perhaps even should be) a super everything else too, right? A super boy, super girl, super cat, super mouse… and naturally, a super dog. I can’t even remember where I first encountered Krypto in the comics because it feels like he always existed in my mind, even before I ever bought my first comic book.

Fun fact: As mentioned many times previously, I had aspirations of working in comics when I was younger and even produced my own self-written and self-drawn comics as a kid. With Spider-Man being my favorite superhero and my love for dogs being so great, I naturally wanted Spidey to have a Spider-Dog sidekick, so I made him one. I named him “Webster”—I thought I was so clever.

If I had to guess where I first saw Krypto in the comics, the logical answer would seem to be Superman Family, as that’s where you would see him with some regularity back when I was getting started as a comics fan. But my favorite Krypto appearance was his star turn in the back-up story of Action Comics #467 (Jan. 1977), “A Superman’s Best Friend Is His Superdog” by Bob Rozakis and Curt Swan. The story begins with Superman putting Krypto in charge of protecting Metropolis while he’s busy elsewhere, and the second he’s gone Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up. Mxyzptlk always made Supes miserable and getting rid of him was usually quite the effort, but Krypto runs him out of town without too much trouble.

The more I talk about Krypto, the more sentimental I get. There’s definitely a blogpost with him as the star at some future point here, assuming I live long enough.

The Historical

The best resource I could find on the web for Krypto appearances was at the DC fandom page, and it verified my own memory. Aside from his appearances in the pages of Superboy (where the stories take place in the past, naturally), flashbacks in Action Comics #500 (Oct. 1979) and DC Comics Presents #67 (Mar. 1984), and in a dream sequence in Superman #420 (Jun. 1986), Krypto has no other proper, then-present-day appearances in the regular, pre-Crisis DC Universe until the legendary “last” Superman story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore. (Which, as we all know, was merely an “imaginary” story.)

Or to put it most simply: DCCP #14 was the last time we’d see Krypto together with his adult master, Superman, in the old, original DC continuity.

Did I mention I love Krypto the Super-Dog? Whenever I saw him on a comic book cover as a kid, I would buy that comic if at all possible. I think I have just about all of his Bronze Age appearances, but my Silver Age collection still has some holes. Anyone care to join me in a letter-writing campaign to get DC to publish all of Krypto’s appearances in an omnibus? I can’t be the only one dying to read this.

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