As I recently mentioned elsewhere, the “A Cover a Day” and “A Cut From a Cover” discussions have reawakened my interest in DC Comics of the Silver Age. There’s no way I’m going to be able to acquire even a small number of the comics I’m looking for as back issues, though, so I decided to “specialize” in Imaginary Stories. The thing about Imaginary Stories is that DC was always quick to point out that they “may never happen, but then again may.” Why the modern DC wants to limit itself to a mere 52 universes I cannot explain, but given an infinite number of universes, it is virtually impossible that all of these stories haven’t “happened” by now. Some version of pre-Crisis Earth-1 exists in the multiverse (AFAIAC), and that’s where these stories are taking place or already have. Some of the stories are contradictory, but that’s where the concept of infinite Earths comes into play. And of course, some of the stories did eventually “happen” in the mainstream DCU (one way or another).

Last week, to prime the pump (so to speak), I bought the “DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories” tpb I had originally given a pass to in 2005. I hadn’t intended to comment on every story in that collection (or even any of them); it was just to put me in the mood to buy some Imaginary Story back issues on my own. In the week since I made that decision, though, the situation changed. I also bought a stack of Superman and Superman Family volumes of DC Showcase Presents, so now I have plenty of DC Silver Age stories, both “real” and imaginary, to read. I don’t know where that’s going to leave this discussion going forward, but I thought I would put it in place just in case.

What I’ve decided to do is post something on the stories in that tpb after all, then to follow it up with the first of the Imaginary Story back issues I bought on my own a few weeks ago. After that, who knows? I invite anyone reading this to review his own favorite Imaginary Stories here as well.

The Atomic War - (Captain Marvel Adventures #66, Oct. 1946): A frequent complaint I have had in the past with DC reprints is that they often reprint the same stories over and over from decade to decade. That is not the case with this cautionary tale of nuclear holocaust, possibky my favorite story in the volume.
The Second Life of Batman - (Batman #127, Oct. 1959): Technically, I wouldn’t classify this as an Imaginary Story at all. (Other editors used Imaginary Stories less often than Mort Weisinger.) Batman goes to Professor Nichols’ laboratory and dons a helmet that causes him to dream of the life he might have led if his parents hadn’t been murdered.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent - (Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #19, August 1960): The post-Crisis Superman married his Lois Lane decades ago; here’s of what happens when the pre-Crisis Superman marries his… on what I will call “EARTH-19”. (There are three more such stories I will get to when my copies of DC Showcase Presents: Superman Family arrive.

The Death of Superman - (Superman 149, Nov. 1961): I first read this one in 1988, reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told. It didn’t have much impact on me then because I didn’t have as solid of a background in Silver Age DC lore as I do now. Most of these stories require familiarity with Silver Age continuity for their twists to be meaningful.

Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl - (Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #57, Dec. 1961): This is easily the most bizarre story in this volume (at least when viewed through the lens of common sense), my favorite if the Captain Marvel one is not. Supergirl loses her memory, meets Jimmy Olsen in her secret identity of Linda Lee, and marries him the same day. When she later regains her memory, she mistakes Jimmy for Peter Parker’s Aunt May, fearing the shock of learning she’s Supergirl might be too much for him. She then sets out to make Jimmy fall in love with her as Supergirl to “lessen the shock.”

The Origin of Flash's Masked Identity - (The Flash #128, May 1962): This isn’t an Imaginary story, either; it’s a day dream. I guess the editor wanted to include a variety of stories.

Batman's New Secret Identity - (Batman #151, Nov. 1962): This isn’t strictly an Imaginary Story, either; it’s a work of fiction written by Alfred Pennyworth. It isn’t as good as the series of “Batman & Robin II” series of stories with the same premise. Those are in a volume of their own, and I’ll be looking at those at a later date.

The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue - (Superman #162, July 1963): Here’s another story that had zero impact on me when, after hearing about how great it was for years, I first read it in the aforementioned The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told. This story, like Superman getting married and the death of Superman, actually “happened” in the post-Crisis DCU. Also in the story, Kandor is restored and is relocated to New Krypton, which also “happened.”

The Three Wives of Superman - (Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #51, Aug. 1964): Superman practices serial monogamy as all of his wives die in turn. Oddly, he is not shown to reveal his Clark Kent identity to Lois while married to her. If he had, this whole story could have been avaoided.

The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons - (Superman #166, Nov. 1964): This one’s not bad. Superman’s twin sons. One super-powered and the other not, assume the identities of Nightwing and Flamebird in Kandor.

Superman and Batman- Brothers! - (World's Finest Comics #172, Dec. 1967): This story is not quite as implausible as it sounds. Young Bruce Wayne is adopted by the Kents when his parents are killed. He eventually becomes Batboy, although no specific impetus for the bat motif is provided. When Batboy fails to prevent the Kents from being killed (by Lex Luthor), he ends up fighting crime in the future with the adult Legion of Superheroes, who were apparently perfectly willing to alter their bylaws to allow a non-super-powered member based on the reputation he never had (huh?) as Batman.

All-in-all, this is a nice little collection. My biggest complaint is that the editor did not include the covers to these stories, which I’m sure played a large part in enticing many youngsters to buy the comics themselves years ago in the first place. The collection does include, however, many small-size reproductions of other “Imaginary Story” covers to stories not included in this volume. For example, one of which is the cover of Action Comics #327, which inspired me to buy it just a few weeks ago.

We’ll call this EARTH-327: It’s easy to imagine, in a world in which Superman first appeared as an adult in the year 1938 and eventuallt lost most of his powers due to Krptonite exposure, that this story is taking place right about now.

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I have this collection somewhere.  I should dig it out.

Action #327 - what a cover! Sorry Jeff, I couldn't wait for your comments, I had to know the story on this one and made my way over to Mike's Amazing World of Comics for the synopsis. Grandpa Superman and baby Kal-El ll foil a group of robots building a base on Earth for their alien masters. Being bested by an old man and a little kid proves too much for the aliens who call off their planned invasion. All this and a Supergirl back up story to boot.

That's perfectly all right, Kevin. I really hadn't planned on saying anything more about Action Comics #327 than I already have. That cover really did it's job. It made both of us buy a copy 50 years after the fact!

I went to my LCS over lunch and bought Jimmy Olsen #76 (for my Lucy Lane discussion), and I made a checklist of all the Jimmy Olsens and Lois Lanes in stock. While doing so, I noticed this cover from "The three Wives of Superman" story I memtioned above.

EARTH-51:

I fondly remember Superman Red and Superman Blue. Coming out in the Spring of 1963, it must have been one of the last Weisinger comics I read after reading Fantastic Four and pre-Spidey Amazing Adult Fantasy. I dropped comics for about six months that year, returning full-bore in September or October. The Death of Superman was, I believe, the first book length Superman story and is the only one I kept all these years. I think I'm going to get this Imaginary Tales TPB. There are a lot of gems in it.

Looking at Amazon, I see there was a Volume 2 of this Imaginary Stories collection.

There was, all Batman. I ordered it but haven't received it yet. I plan to cover that in this discussion, too, probably in a single post as I did with volume one.

I ordered volumes 1 and 2 and they have been shipped to me.

1938 Superman didn't really have all that much power to lose.

EARTH-332: I used to feel sorry for Supergirl because her cousin treated her so shabbily (in my estimation) during her formative years on Earth, but this story indicates she wouldn’t have been any nicer to Superboy had their situations been reversed. The set-up switches Jor-El’s family with Zor-El’s with one notable exception: in addition to inventing a test rocket to escape Krypton’s destruction, Zor-El also invented an enlarging ray, so that when the crucial time came, he enlarge the rocket and all three escaped to Earth.

They landed in Smallville, as one might expect, and became farmers. (Oddly, there is no mention of the Kents in this version.) At one point, Zor-El and Allura are exposed to Gold Kryptonite and lose their powers, so there daughter, Carole Zorelle, is the only super-powered being on Earth. This story is the comic book equivalent of a sledgehammer, as every other panels it seems drives home the point that this is an imaginary story. (“Yes, in this story Jimmy Olsen is an assistant private detective and not a cub reporter for the Dailey Planet,” and the like.)

Anyway, to cut to the chase, when Superboy arrives on Earth, the grown-up Superwoman treats him just as badly as Superman treated Kara in regular continuity, so badly, in fact, that Superboy fakes exposure to Gold K just to get her off his back. What’s he do next? I have no idea because the stoy’s continued. AAARGGH! I don’t know if my LCS has #333 in stock or not because I wasn’t specifically looking for it when I bought #332, but I’ll let you know.

Superwoman looks really angry on that cover.


They landed in Smallville, as one might expect, and became farmers. 

Because of course they did. 

Bet that enlarging ray came in handy in bad crop years.  "The bad news is, we only grew one potato.  The good news is, it's a doozy!"

Superboy's rocket, however, landed underwater for some reason.

{maxsmart} Missed it by that much! {/maxsmart}

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