Monday, May 13, 2013

At least he isn't moaning about jet-packs.

Based on today's comic, and two or three others I could recall off the top of my head; I became convinced DC Comics Presents was preoccupied with the apocalypse. Kinda grim for a Superman team-up book. Maybe not every issue--#39 was a Plastic Man story I had as a kid--but the collapse of civilization, Mad Max-style aftermath, comes up in #57 with the Atomic Knights, #61 with O.M.A.C. as we saw earlier, and I'm pretty sure it's mentioned at least in passing in at least one of the Legion of Super-Heroes appearances. Back then, DC's continuity took nuclear armageddon as a given: at some point, society collapses and millions die, but humanity does get themselves more together by around the 30th Century...

That was the spirit of the time, I'm afraid. As a child, I remember being genuinely terrified of nuclear war for a while. Eventually, I decided it would either kill me outright (more or less) or I'd spend my post-apocalypse racing around the wastelands, looking for gas and fighting barbarians. Good times. However it turned out, there didn't seem to be much point in worrying about it. I don't know if today's issue would have cheered me up back then or not, though: from 1983, DC Comics Presents #64, "May You Live in Interesting Times!" Written by Mark Evanier, pencils by Alex Saviuk, inks by Frank McLaughlin.

This was a pre-Crisis tale, so there was none of that "Superman only first appeared in public five years ago" business: Supes had been around for way longer than that. When the general public knows he can travel through time, I think they might be a little too familiar with Supes. But for scientist Victor Epoch, that knowledge seemingly accelerates his mid-life crisis. Realizing he's not going to be around forever, Epoch yearns to see the future; imagining it to be a wonderland of progress, science, and culture. He builds a time-viewer, hoping to get even a glimpse of what's to come. And he gets more than an eyeful.

When Superman then returns to Metropolis, he finds large sections of it leveled, but mysteriously of old age. He also finds a calendar "that's wrong by a couple of centuries!" Meanwhile, in the future, two of Great Caesar's tiger-men chase Kamandi, the last boy on earth. But the tigers are distracted when they discover an undestroyed section of city: modern-day Metropolis! Industriously, the tigers capture several of the "human animals."

Kamandi tries to find out why Great Caesar's on the warpath, but is captured. Superman has realized past and present are colliding, but doesn't know why yet, and confronts Caesar. The tiger lord had seen the past Metropolis and thought the humans were rebuilding in his domain. Kamandi recognizes "the Mighty One," though; having seen ancient video footage and Superman's costume. Superman gets Kamandi out of there, and Caesar prepares his troops to ride and exterminate the humans.

Back in the present, Epoch checks his work, but can't determine why he can't see the future...until he goes outside and finds himself in the future Metropolis. He's a little disappointed, and that's before the tiger-men catch him. Kamandi's setting himself up for some disappointment as well, since he had been hoping Superman could save humanity; but Supes knows Kamandi's future is one of many possible ones, and he's powerless to change it.

As Superman battles the tiger-men, throwing more than a few of them into the zoo; Kamandi is captured again and thrown in with the human prisoners, where he meets Epoch. Figuring he's missing something, Supes goes undercover as Clark Kent, to allow himself to be captured, where he finds them both. By this point, Epoch's time-gyroscope is building up to an explosion, the Daily Planet/Galaxy Broadcasting building has been thrown back to prehistoric times, and the National Guard has been called in to fight the tigers. Clark "accidentally" finds a weak spot in an old wall, freeing them all, then ditches to turn back into Superman. But he ends up back with the Daily Planet, while Epoch and Kamandi try to fight their way to the time-gyroscope; they arrive just in time to stop it.

Kamandi is pulled back to his time, and says he's needed there, since the people there don't have a Superman there to save them. Epoch is glad everything is back to normal, and begins to smash his machine. Supes points out he'd be glad to give Epoch a tour of time, but Epoch thinks the future "makes today look pretty good."

This issue may have been Kamandi's last appearance until...maybe Crisis? But the video rental stores of the early 80's were full of Mad Max knockoffs; and it seems like DC should've been publishing Kamandi then.

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