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Friday, May 15, 2020 

When Silver Age Superman traveled in time

The Polygon website's writing about Superman's history with time travel, claiming the story in focus from Superman #141 preceded 1985's Back to the Future by a quarter century. But, they also claim:
This sort of contrivance was the bread and butter of superhero stories of the era, and to the modern reader it can take a little getting used to. Of course, there were some other reasons why Superman made a pivot from champion of the people to scifi adventurer. But keep in mind that the term “hard science fiction” was an extremely new concept in 1960, and that Superman was born out of a pulp scifi tradition that prized story over exposition. Questions like “Wait, Superman can just travel through time whenever he wants to?” will not be addressed! The point is to enjoy the possibilities that open up when Superman can travel through time essentially at will.
Oh, please. Maybe he didn't deal as often with the kind of society-based issues as seen in the Golden Age, but it's not like he wasn't still a champion of the people anymore. Actually, shouldn't that be champion of the "little guy"? Indeed, that was a theme in the Golden Age, and it's not like it didn't exist even afterwards, or, it's not like superheroes proceeding into the Silver Age didn't deal with organized crime anymore. It's just that sci-fi elements became more prominent by then, written alongside adventures involving mobsters to battle. Come to think of it, even in the Golden Age, there were sci-fi elements, and Superman's adventures are where the Ultra-Humanite, initially a basic mad scientist human who later became an adversary of the Justice Society/League, made his debut, and later on took up some odd forms like gorillas, though he was replaced early on by Lex Luthor as Superman's most notable adversary on Earth.

As for story over exposition, well doesn't that hint at what I've been stressing many times, the importance of making the finished product entertaining and giving real thought through talented scripting? Funny how a site that's otherwise been an apologist for the mainstream's awful publishers can make the case for importance of story in a time when political correctness has ruined everything, bringing it all down to a ridiculous position that it's simply no longer enough to tell a good story.

Tales like the Silver Age adventure in focus are what really make for great reading. Too bad sites like these don't have what it takes to really make the case for that.

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When they talk about Superman having been a champion of the people, they don't mean only that he fought mobsters. In his early adventures, he stood up for the wrongfully convicted, for miners facing unsafe working conditions, for women abused by their spouses, not just for storekeepers having to pay protection money. This was the tail end of the Depression, and his enemies included the greedy mine owners, not just the gangsters.

What made the return to Krypton story a good one, despite all the scientific absurdities that even a lot of young kids would recognize, is that it had strong human elements - a doomed love story, a recognition of that instinctive bond between parents and child - and that ambiguity about whether it is possible to challenge fate. It must have been a good selling issue, because it spawned imitations; Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson both time traveled back to Krypton to find romance in the years that followed, Lois trying to seduce Jor-El away from his bride-to-be Lara and Jimmy finding someone new.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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