SUPERMAN: UNKNOWN COSMIC BABY?
An alien craft burns through the upper atmosphere of Earth, its exterior a fiery orange due to air friction. It plunges, yet its course remains unchanged thanks to a sophisticated guidance mechanism no human being could comprehend. A correction by the system sets it to final descent and the craft shudders as it contacts the soft crops and soil of a well cultivated field, forming a rut of mangled earth in its wake. Then silence.
A mature couple appears near the edge of the craft, unsure how to proceed. There is not another soul present for miles around, they may well be the only ones to bear witness to this fantastic event. A child’s cry ushers them forward. A young lad awaits the childless couple. They return to an isolated farmhouse, the couple cradling their newfound son. All would be well…
… save for the fact that the military is awaiting them. They had tracked a UFO, the alien child’s craft, entering the Earth over the mid-western USA. The subsequent investigation led them to the crash site and the couple’s home. They confiscate the child, and so begins the probing, testing and inevitable servitude.
Striking how Superman’s origin could easily take a turn for the worse. Yet there it is. Marvel’s Supreme Power series introduced Hyperion (essentially their Superman clone) in such a manner. Hyperion, a lost starchild confiscated by the military, was a government secret weapon, until he discovered his life was a lie and rebelled.
This obviously wasn’t a concern for 1938’s Superman, for he would have crash landed in the early 1900s. There wasn’t a sophisticated radar net then. Telegraph wires were the norm, telephones an ultramodern convenience, and pictures were generally motionless. It’s entirely conceivable for a UFO to land in sparse farmland completely undetected.
But after 1947’s Roswell incident, that all changes. People “Keep watching the skies” in hopes of spotting an extraterrestrial. A lack of trust between nations leads to NORAD and satellites and a host of other spying/surveillance technology. One can now find thousands of videos and home movies of UFOs. For our modern age Superman to exist, some method of circumventing this net must be concocted.
So, how is it Superbaby’s spaceship went unnoticed, thereby allowing him to have a relatively normal upbringing that would turn him into the pinnacle champion of Earth, Superman? The resulting answer depends on who you ask.
This is why I find two paperback novels so very interesting. Superman: The Never Ending Battle by Roger Stern (2004, Pocketbooks) and Last Sons by Alan Grant (2006, Warner Books) each provide a recap of the Man of Steel’s origin, and more importantly (in this article’s case anyway), an explanation. And oddly enough, each book has a different explanation.
Mr. Stern’s book focuses on a plot of weather manipulation by the terrorist Kobra, prompting Clark Kent to ask his parents to retell his arrival. They detail how a bright light shot across the sky as they prepared for an oncoming storm, prompting them to hop in the truck and check it out. By the time they return with Clark the first flurries fall, and Kansas is subject to the monster of all blizzards, a blizzard that kept the Kents from going to town for 5 months! The locals just thought Martha gave birth to Clark in the interim. (pp. 250-255)
Fair enough, a blizzard would hamper any official recovery efforts, and dense, turbulent weather can impede some tracking systems. I’m not sure how often Kansas suffers through blizzards though.
Regarding Mr. Grant’s book, he has Superman travelling deep into space to rescue the Martian Manhunter from Lobo. Flying through a meteor belt at one point, Superman recollects how he arrived on Earth in a meteor storm as well (p. 150). The meteors were remnants of his destroyed planet that followed his craft and rained destruction on the earth, a handy distraction for his own landing. This also provides a plausible reason for the presence of kryptonite on Earth, though I believe this idea was covered in a Superman comic. For the life of me, I can’t remember the issue.
There they are, two plausible explanations, and yes, if you stretch it, one could combine them and have a meteor shower and a blizzard at the same time. Such a scenario would seem rather apocalyptic, however, something contrary to what Earth’s champion represents (although more akin to what the human race represents, I suppose).
We could even throw in super-advanced stealth technology while we’re at it, except that wouldn’t explain how Ma and Pa could spot the craft’s arrival so easily.
It’s just odd that DC wouldn’t choose one story and stick with it, with alterations over the years as necessary. For instance, sometimes the baby Supes crash lands during the day (most obvious are the Superman movies and Smallville), sometimes during the night (the final issue of Chronos keeps popping in my mind, I have no idea why), and there’s rarely a lick of snow.
I guess the only consistency is that the US army never comes calling. Thank goodness for small favors, I suppose.