Monday, February 17, 2020

United Planets Superwatch: A Proto-Legion


Grant Morrison has been writing the sole Green Lantern title, specifically referred to as The Green Lantern. Morrison's take on the concept is full of his usual bizarre weirdness and continuity callbacks even most die-hard fans would be unfamiliar with. The title spends time focusing on the more alien Green Lanterns as well as the vastness of outer space in the DCU. So far, the book's been a significant change of pace after the last decade or so was built around everything Geoff Johns established.

The Green Lantern #9 , released in July 2019, was the first issue of the title I felt was interesting enough to buy. Why? Because it features a cavalcade of obscure, non-GL related Silver Age characters Morrison banded together as "The United Planets Superwatch."

On first glance, many of these characters are recognizable as heroes who appeared in the Silver Age Superman Family titles. The most prominent and recognizable are none other than Luma Lynai, the Superwoman of Staryl, and Halk Kar, Mon-El's precursor from the Golden Age!

Their appearance also causes a bit of a continuity problem. The Green Lantern #9 was released about a month before Superman #14 where we apparently saw the founding of the United Planets. If so, how did these guys already exist and does that simply mean the United Planets in Superman is a collective of planets who have no idea the name was already taken? That's gonna be awkward for the Legion and Jon Kent, isn't it?


RECAP
The United Planets Superwatch debuts just as The Green Lantern ended, and they are planted smack in the middle of the ongoing struggles between Hal Jordan, the Blackstars led by Controller Mu, and the monstrous Qwa-Man of the Antimatter Universe. As such, it'll be a little tricky to explain what goes on.

The Superwatch's first appearance features most of them being taken out by a being from the Antimatter Universe, the reversed/evil reflection of the positive matter DCU Morrison explored in JLA: Earth-2. The being in question is a revision of the Anti-Matter Man, who once fought the Justice League and the Justice Society in the Pre-Crisis DCU. Hal Kar later confirms the Anti-Matter Man hospitalized many of the Superwatch's members, but so far there are no confirmed fatalities.


Marta Zappik, a.k.a. Strong-Woman of Thronn, retreats to get help while Superwoman attempts to hold the creature off. Unfortunately, Marta gets sidetracked into helping Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns of the Multiverse with a rescue mission.


The non-injured Superwatch members and several Green Lanterns try to stop the Anti-Matter Man and find Superwoman in its clutches. Before another fight breaks out, the Anti-Matter Man begins to speak and claims it's really a border patrol agent from the Antimatter Universe. And it's looking for long-time GL villain Sinestro!

The Superwatch convenes with the Green Lanterns as they find Hal Jordan and the antimatter version of  Sinestro battling the Qwa-Man. Too bad it turns out that the Anti-Matter Man isn't actually a border agent. It's referred to as a "Qwa-Master," and the Superwatch has inadvertently led it to the Qwa-Man. Hal is suddenly beamed out of the battle by the Blackstars as the Anti-Matter Man unleashes its fury on the Superwatch to get to the Qwa-Man.

During Green Lantern: Blackstars #1-3, we're shown a universe where the Green Lantern Corps has been erased from existence and replaced by the fascist Blackstars, led by Controller Mu. In the process, several of the Superwatch (Superwoman, Hal Kar, Strong-Woman, and Maxima) are now Blackstars, too. The third and final issue of the interlude miniseries reveals all this was going on in Universe-15, a dead universe that was revised thanks to the power of the Miracle Machine.

The first issue of The Green Lantern Season Two shows Superwoman, Hal Kar, and Strong-Woman of the main universe Superwatch alive and well. No telling what's happened to the rest. No other members have been confirmed to be alive or dead at this time.

Their HQ is located on Throneworld, which is known as the home-world for the fourth Starman Prince Gavyn. Gavyn himself hasn't appeared.


ROLL CALL

As a note, many of these characters have origin stories serving as inversions or homages to Superman's. They were either sent to live on other planets when their home-worlds were destroyed, or they originated from Earth.

Superwoman (Luma Lynai of Staryl) - Action Comics #289

One of the most prominent of the Superwatch so far is Silver Age Superman love interest Luma Lynai. Some will remember Luma was one of several women Supergirl tried to set her cousin up with... a woman who looked disturbingly similar to her. Yikes. Luma would've probably been THE love of Superman's life, but they could never be together. Staryl orbits an orange sun, which means Earth's yellow sun was lethal to Luma. Superman offered to leave Earth to be with her, but Luma wouldn't hear of him abandoning his duties on Earth for her.


Over the decades, Luma's remained a slight niche interest for Superman fans. She had a cameo in "The Kingdom: Planet Krypton" #1 among many other characters who didn't exist in the current continuity. Geoff Johns referenced her twice in his writing, first as a possible mother of Power Girl in JSA Classified, then again as a lackey for Ultraman of Earth-3 in Justice League.


Hal Kar of Thoron - Superman #80


Formerly named "Halk Kar," Hal debuted eight years before Mon-El in a story incredibly similar to Mon's first appearance. As the Golden Age counterpart of Mon, Hal was initially delegated as a resident of Earth-2 in the Pre-Crisis Multiverse.
A series of misunderstandings led Superman and an amnesiac Halk Kar to believe Halk was Superman's brother. Halk turned out to be something of a braggart who kept insisting he handle things for his "Little brother," despite mounting evidence he was in fact weaker than Superman. Superman went along with this because he didn't want Halk to feel bad.

An electrical shock jolted Halk's memories back and revealed that he was not *from* Krypton; he only visited Krypton just before it exploded. The radiation from the aftershock of the explosion knocked him out in his space ship and he spent years in suspended animation.

Hal Kar remains the most vocal of the Superwatch and is either the leader or thinks he's the leader. He proclaims himself to the Champion of Thoron, annoying Hal's fellow Green Lanterns.

Strong-Woman (Marta Zappix of Thronn) - Green Lantern #32

Formerly Strong-Girl, Marta's one of the few non-Superman related characters among the Superwatch. Marta originated from a Silver Age Green Lantern issue, where she was only referred to as Strong-Girl as a member of Thronn's Honor Team.


Marta's so far been the most visible and motivated of the Superwatch due to her previous association with Hal Jordan and she ends up lending a hand while Hal needs to help out the Green Lanterns of the Multiverse with a rescue mission to Earth-15.

Marvel Maid (Lea Lindy of Terra) - Action Comics #272

A counterpart of Supergirl who existed within the same universe as Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El, from a bizarre world that's an uncanny reflection of Earth. Marvel Maid's biggest distinction is her role as Terra's premiere superhero while her cousin Miracle Man was kept secret from the public at large. The whole thing was a reversal of Superman and Supergirl's dynamic in her early stories.


Logi and Quisto of Durim - World's Finest #124

A boy adventurer and his super-powered pet ally. Logi received his abilities from strange meteor rays, which also empowered Hroguth, his former teacher and future archenemy. Logi immediately believed they should use their powers to protect Durim while Hroguth wanted to do whatever he felt like doing.


Hroguth traveled to Earth upon learning it's a prime location to mine for copper, a rare element on Durim and capable of stripping Logi of his powers. There's naturally some confusion when the alien adventure and his trusty pet encounter Batman, Superman and Robin, but the World's Finest help Logi turn the tables on his archenemy and Hroguth's the one who loses his powers in the end.

Regor (Winki Lamm of Uuz) - Superman #58

One of a few reversed Superman origin stories we'll be seeing among this cast, Regor was rocketed from Earth to the sunless planet of Uuz where he gained superpowers as an adult.


He apparently had a Lois Lane-like lover and eventually reached Earth to get Superman's help in dealing with criminals trying to exploit Uuz's lack of a sun. The story ended with Superman apparently building Uuz a sun from scratch, with no mention as to what ecological devastation this might've inflicted on a civilization that adapted to cold weather for so long.

Who says climate change isn't real?



Vartox of Valeron - Superman #281

You wanna believe I've never watched Zardoz?

The one member of the Superwatch who's had the most appearances since his debut, Vartoxx actually hails from the Bronze Age Superman titles and later became especially prominent in Power Girl comics.

Describing Vartox is like, um, well... can one even describe Vartox?



Okay. Vartox got into some shenanigans with Superman after he became infatuated with Lana Lang. He encountered Power Girl after most of Valeron was rendered sterile and needed her help to find a way to replenish his people's reproductive pool. He reappeared in Harley Quinn & Power Girl, once again seeking Power Girl's attention.


Super-Male (Irn Brimba of Soomar) - Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #41

Jesus that name is a mouthful.

Once again we have another Superman-esque character getting into romantic escapades with a Lois Lane knock-off, though it initially seems in this case the Lois Lane character can't stand him. With that eyesore of a costume, I can't blame her.


Power Boy (Zarl Vorne of Juno) - Superboy #52


One more Superman knock-off origin story, this time with yet another Earth kid rocketed to another planet. Only the big twist is this kid originally came from Atlantis!

Superboy and Power-Boy briefly teamed up, but Superboy couldn't stay close to him. It turned out Power-Boy was literally allergic to Superboy.

Seems the angst of losing his best friend made him grow that goatee.

Vidal - Adventure Comics #260

The other adopted son of the Kents. Vidal was a member of a different intergalactic space police agency who'd been investigating Superboy. Seems Vidal's organization wanted to lend Superboy a hand and find him a family on Earth he could live with. Vidal went undercover as orphan "Allan Greene" and was temporarily given a home by Jonathan and Martha Kent while Clark was on vacation. Vidal concluded the Kents would make a wonderful family for Superboy, and Clark would make a great foster brother.

...the kid means well, but whoever gathered that intel is being overpaid.


Aeorman and Windlass of Marr - World's Finest #163

A boyfriend-and-girlfriend superhero duo who met Batman and Superman during an Intergalactic Hero Convention. The issue of World's Finest they appeared in was written by Legion scribe Jim Shooter, as were a couple of other characters on this list. However there's not much to say about these two, other than Windlass apparently knows how to sew.

Hyperman (Chester King of Oceania) - Action Comics #265

Yet another Superman origin knockoff, Hyperman was born on the doomed planet Zoron and rocketed to safety on the planet Oceania. He originally fought as Hyperboy while a teenager. He moved to the city of Macropolis as an adult and got work as a reporter alongside Lydia Long.


In his original appearance, Hyperman died after Superman found out he'd been unwittingly exposed to a fatal substance called Zoronite. Superman covertly manipulated Hyperman into giving up his superhero identity so he could finally marry Lydia, allowing him to spend his last year with the love of his life before he died. Obviously, Hyperman's still alive in this continuity.


The name Hyperman's been used at least three times in other DC comics. In one Imaginary Story, Kal-El used the name Hyperman while his brother Knor-El became Superman. Neil Gaiman referred to a comic called "Hyperman" in The Sandman: A Game of You, and Hyperman's the fan-given name to Superman and Wonder Woman's adult son in The Kingdom.

Hyperboy and Hyperdog (Kirk Quentin and Klypso of Trombus) - Superboy #144

Surprisingly, these two have no real connection to Hyperman aside from the similarities in names, but Morrison and Sharp position the three together.

Hyperboy and Hyperdog are actually part of an entirely separate Hyper Family, including Kirk's parents, on their home planet of Trombus. The Hyper Family shows what would've happened if Jor-El and Lara escaped from Krypton alongside Kal-El and Krypto. Yet Hyperdad and Hypermom haven't been invited to join the Superwatch. Rude!

Maxima-Matrix of Almerac - Action Comics #645

Probably the most well-known member of the Superwatch by so far one of the most underutilized in The Green Lantern. Maxima's well known among Superman fans as a recent addition to his entourage of allies and enemies, a warrior from the planet Almerac who sought after Superman as her ideal mate.


Maxima's been both a member of the Justice League and the Superman Revenge Squad, and originally died during Our Worlds At War. In the post-Flashpoint DCU there have been a couple of very conflicting versions of Maxima in Supergirl and Superwoman, with this being the latest rendition of the character. There's no telling if she's one of the previous two Maximas, or if this is a brand new version.

Solarwoman(?) - Superman #298

This one was kind of tricky until another website pointed out how the helmeted woman next to the green-masked guy appears to be a female version of a character called Solarman.

Dyno-Man of Sorrta - Superman #206

A friend of Superman whom Superman supposedly murdered, until it turns out he'd been framed by Dyno-Man's archenemy and he only killed an android.
Kurt Busiek mentioned Dyno-Man and his planet being destroyed in an issue of JLA. Clearly that's been undone.

The only other member who can't be identified clearly at this point is the bug-headed individual wearing a variant of Superman's costume. Superbug?

5 comments:

  1. Wow. Good to see some of these characters again. Especially Halk Kar, whom I took a look at in a "twice-told tales" review and Luma and Hyperman. The "Power Boy" story was later recycled as "Mighty Lad" in Superboy 85.

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  2. Love that name "Dr. Chill"! I just got the first trade of "The Green Lantern", and am looking forward to reading it even more now.

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    1. Well Ken these guys aren't in the first trade.

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    2. Oh I know, but it's nice to know there is something "Legion-esque" to look forward to down the road.

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  3. I read almost all these stories/characters either in original or in reprint. But Vidal from Adventure #260 has a special place in my heart. That is the very, very first comic I ever owned.

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