Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Superman Gets Sick: The Last Days Of Superman

Sure, Superman is more powerful than a locomotive, but even though he can handle the biggest threats and largest menaces....there are things that can stop even a Superman.

Amazingly, it could be a miniscule microbe that could finally spell doom for the Man of Steel, leading into...."The Last Days Of Superman", the comic being covered today.

Superman #156 (October, 1962) was by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein, with Swan/Klein giving us the cover.

Superman's Death Sentence

It all started innocently enough, with Jimmy Olsen calling in Superman to have him stop a collision between a space capsule and a green meteor.  Superman deflects the meteor to the ground, saving the capsule, but Jimmy Olsen the Daily Planet photographer and Superman go to investigate.  At the crash site, Superman reads Kryptonian writing on the meteor, telling that it contained samples of Virus X, a plague that had been released on Krypton years before (and Superman recalled as a baby, hearing of this from Tharb-El, and how he treated the virus and sent it into space).  Superman buries the meteor with a boulder, as a wind blows from the direction of the meteor towards Superman.  As Superman approaches Jimmy Olsen while he takes pictures, Superman feels ill...and thinks he might have caught Virus X! 

Going to an Earth doctor, the doctor says he has no way to check Superman in any meaningful manner, but that his increased heart rate and sudden weakness lead him to believe Superman has less than 30 days of life left.  Superman leaves the hospital and his Daily Planet friends, and contemplates how to better the world, enlisting Supergirl's help to gather others, as Superman has his robots construct an isolation chamber around him (as Superman feels weak when talking to Jimmy Olsen).

The Super-Comrades Of All Time

As Supergirl recruits more help, including Krypto the Superdog, Lori Lemaris of Atlantis, the Legion of Super-Heroes (except for Brainiac 5, who mysteriously won't join in) and the Kandorian Superman Emergency Squad to perform many duties to make the Earth better and to keep the planet safe from threats that will menace the planet after Superman is gone, Superman gets another bout of weakness as Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane visit Superman in his self-imposed exile in the desert.   The heroes find ways to stop a rouge planet from eventually crashing into Earth as well as stopping a cloud of space fungus that would kill all plant life on Earth should it have reached our planetary orbit.  All this activity has stressed out poor Lois Lane, who faints from the pressure, with Jimmy Olsen taking her back to Metropolis in the Flying Newsroom, only to come back to find Superman has left his cell. 

Annoyed by the lack of participation by Brainiac 5, Supergirl heads back to the future to confront the intelligent Legionnaire, finding he had not turned to evil like his ancestor (and Superman foe, Brainiac), but instead was working in the lab to find a cure...but was unable to find one on Earth.

Superman's Last Day Of Life

Jimmy Olsen goes searching for Superman, as Supergirl helps the Legion and Superman's Robots in clearing space in Antartica, preparing to melt its ice to allow the land mass there to be inhabited by humans.  Superman had gone back to Smallville to contemplate the loves of his life: Lois Lane, Lana Lang and Lyla Lerrol of Krypton, then to Gotham City to say goodbye to Batman and Robin, then carves a message in the moon, revealing his identity (and hope for the world), before returning to his isolation chamber in the desert, where Jimmy and Lois help the now weakening Superman.  Supergirl, Lori Lemaris, Krypto and the Superman Emergency Squad stop an Atlantean monster before going to meet with the Legion and Superman.  There, Supergirl decides to go back to Krypton to find Tharb-El and see if he had found a cure.  On Krypton past, Supergirl overhears Tharb-El tell of an element 202 which would kill the virus, but Kryptonians as well; so he exposes his sample of the virus to the element, and sends it into space. 

Wait....Tharb-El killed the sample before it reached Earth?  Then, why is Superman dying?  Mon-El (at the time, a silent resident of the Phantom Zone) provides the answer....a small piece of Kryptonite had logged in Jimmy Olsen's camera, and made Superman sick every time Jimmy came near (the virus was never active or infectious).  Finding the Kryptonite, Superman recovered (and Supergirl and Krypto erased Superman's alter ego message on the moon).

So, it appears hypochondria is a surprising weakness of Superman's... ...amazing how the power of the mind can make one weak.  Still, it pays to be vigilant, as, for a run of Action Comics in the #360s, Superman would encounter Virus X again...and be infected, but that's a tale for a different time!

This full length tale from Superman #156 has been reprinted many times, including in the Limited Collectors' Edition C-52 (October, 1977), Superman in the Sixties (1999) and in Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2004).


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