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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My LCS has Action Comics #333 in stock for $12, but that's too much.

I'll check my back-up shop on the way home from work when I buy Jimmy Olsen #128.

My back-up shop had a much better deal, so I bought it there and read it over the weekend.

Continuing "The Duel Between Superwoman and Superboy":

After a recap of the previous issue, Superwoman sends the now powerless (she thinks!) Superboy back to the orphanage, when he ruins a little girl and a young boys chances of being adopted (because he himself wants to be adopted by that particular couple). His schemes work and he is adopted by Dr. Kean, a physicist, and his wife. Using his foster-father’s laboratory, Superboy sets out to invent a device to release Kryptonian criminals from the Phantom Zone.

Flying by to check on him, Superwoman discovers not only the device he’s working on, but also that he faked the loss of his powers. She tells him the story of Van-Dal, the worst juvenile delinquent on old Krypton, and his mother Tir-An, but Superboy admires him.

At this point, Superwoman, in her identity of Carole Zorelle, P.I., tells her assistant Jimmy Olsen her secret and asks for his help. She programs her robot duplicates to fly Gold K to Superboy, but he detects it with his protecto-belt and destroys it from a distance.

Just then, he is contacted through his Phantom Zone device by none other than Van-dal and Tir-An. The signal is not clear, thgouh, due to “too much electronic disturbance from a nearby television station!” They direct him to take his device to a nearby park, where he releases them from the Phantom Zone. Van-Dal directs his mother to create an anti-kryptonite serum by combining the sap of an oak tree, powdered limestone and the “juice” of a nearby thorn-bush. He gives this concoction to Superboy to drink but, suspicious, he refuses.

Van-Dal drinks, then demonstrates his ability to fly. Now convinced of their good intentions, Superboy takes a swig. Suddenly, everything hits the fan! “Tir-An” whips off a mask, revealing herself to be Superwoman, who immediately uses her heat vision to melt Superboy’s protecto-belt. Immediately, Superboy loses his powers. Just then, Van-Dal whips off a mask of his own, revealing himself to be Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy swoops down (using an anti-gravity belt), snatches the cup from Superboy’s hand, and dumps out a piece of Red Kryptonite.

[I feel compelled to point out at this juncture that each piece of Red K has the same effect on all Kryptonians, but can affect them only once. This piece causes Kryptonians to lose their powers temporarily, and Superwoman had previously been exposed.]

Superwoman attempts to send Superboy to the Phantom Zone, but he has just enough heat vision eft to melt the projector. Just then, Superwoman’s super-hearing detects an urgent SOS at sea. This takes her out of the picture long enough for Jimmy to beat on Superboy for a while. Unfortunately, Superboy’s strength returns sooner than expected, and he picks up a lead boulder from a nearby stream to finish him off. Doing so, though, exposes a piece of Gold Krytonite underneath, thereby removing his powers permanently. Whew!

This turn of events is not quite as deus ex machine as I’m making it sound. The lead and the Gold K ended up in the stream due to Superboy’s machinations earlier in the story to keep the little girl and the boy from being adopted, so it not only teaches Superboy a lesson in irony, it teaches readers a lesson in story structure. Then comes my favorite part: Superwoman uses hypnosis to mind-wipe him, invents an excuse to explain "Cal Ellis's" disappearance, and sends him to "a distant orphanage" powerless and with no memory. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Concerning Imaginary stories which eventually “really” “happen,” this story presages the villainization of the Superboy of Earth-Prime and his pounding fists.

On one final note, I’ve fallen into a fifty-year-old trap! I bought Action Comics #332 because I wanted to read this story, but it was continued so I had to buy #333 as well. But each of these comics has two stories, and the one about Lex Luthor which began in #332 and continued into #333 is concluded in #334!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

On one final note, I’ve fallen into a fifty-year-old trap! I bought Action Comics #332 because I wanted to read this story, but it was continued so I had to buy #333 as well. But each of these comics has two stories, and the one about Lex Luthor which began in #332 and continued into #333 is concluded in #334!

They were tricky with those continued stories sometimes!

DC’s GREATEST IMAGINARY STORIES (Featuring Batman & Robin):

I read this second (and, sadly, last) collection of “Imaginary Stories” over the weekend. The first, “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman” from Batman #122 (March 1959), is not technically an Imaginary Story at all. It is a dream, Dick Grayson’s, but it fits well with the next six stories (which are not, strictly speaking, “imaginary” either). These are tales written by Alfred the butler about a possible future when Bruce Wayne marries Kathy Kane and retires, and Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, Jr. become “The Second Batman and Robin Team.” I read some of these as a kid (reprinted in 100-Page Super-Spectaculars), but I didn’t read them all. I didn’t even know how many there were. The answer is “six” and they’re all collected under these two covers.

The next story, “The Clash of Cape and Cowl!” from World’s Finest Comics #153 (November 1965), is a proper Imaginary Story. In it, Bruce Wayne’s father is killed while working on an anti-kryptonite serum for Superboy, young Bruce jumps to a wild conclusion and sets about on a life of revenge against the one who he believes killed his dad but who actually didn’t. He even goes so far as to reveal his own secret identity to Lex Luthor, but he gets what’s coming to him in the end.

In “The Bride of Batman!” from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #89 (January 1969), Superman doesn’t listen closely enough to the Beatles’ song “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” and he, well… you figure it out. This story actually as a happy ending.

I wasn’t reading DC comics in 1978, but “The Last Batman Story…?” (Batman #300) presents an interesting look at the near future (not just Batman’s, ours) with artwork by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano. It’s an interesting story in its own right, but it’s the two-page epilogue that really makes it.

That’s it for DC’s two Imaginary Stories collections, but there’s plenty of fodder for future volumes, including these (plus many, many more):

Samson, Hercules and Superman
The Super-Panhandler of Metropolis
The Son of Jimmy Olsen
Lana Lang as the Wife of Superman
Lana Lang's Romance with Superman III
When Lois Lane Hated Superman
Lois Lane's Outlaw Son
The Lawless Lois Lane
The Musical Murder of Superman
Lois as the Bride of Batman
The Super-Family from Krypton
Lois Lane, the Supermaid from Earth
If Luthor were Superman's Father
Lex Luthor is Clark Kent's Brother
The Death of Lois Lane
Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
Superman 2001
The Sons of Superman and Batman
Superman's Perfect Crime

Not sure of the title but one of my favorite imaginary stories had Kal-El being adopted and raised by a gangster and his moll wife resulting in Superman as super crook. I read it in an 80 Page Giant so the story must have originally appeared in the late Fifties.

doc photo said:

Not sure of the title but one of my favorite imaginary stories had Kal-El being adopted and raised by a gangster and his moll wife resulting in Superman as super crook. I read it in an 80 Page Giant so the story must have originally appeared in the late Fifties.

I did a little digging and found the story in question. It was a book length tale in Superman #137(MAY60). The title was "The Two Faces of Superman." It involved baby Kal-El and his rocket being duplicated en route to Earth. The duplicate baby is adopted by a gangster and raised to be a criminal. I'm pretty sure I read it when it came out. It was reprinted in 80 Page Giant (AUG64)

As time permits, I've started working my way through volume 1 of DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories.

I was pleasantly surprised that our own Mr. Silver Age wrote the introduction, and that he pointed out that comic book stories are not all imaginary stories.

The Death of Superman: It had been years since I read this. It's still one of the greatest imaginary stories.

Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl: It was a little odd that Linda, upon regaining her memory, thought it was a good idea to have Jimmy fall in love with what he thought was a different woman (Supergirl). What if he said he was dumping her for Supergirl? It was still odder that, even though they are shown sleeping in separate beds, Jimmy never found out that Linda's brown hair was a wig until she revealed herself as Supergirl..

doc photo said:

Not sure of the title but one of my favorite imaginary stories had Kal-El being adopted and raised by a gangster and his moll wife resulting in Superman as super crook. I read it in an 80 Page Giant so the story must have originally appeared in the late Fifties.

That was from Superman #137 (May 1960), which doesn't actually have a title. In the story, Baby Kal-El's rocket encountered a "giant space ship from another universe" that zaps the rocket with a beam that creates a duplicate of the rocket and its contents -- and an energy duplicate of the baby. This energy duplicate was found by the gangster and his moll wife who raised "Super-Menace" to be the opposite of Superboy and, later, Superman, in every way. Super-Menace was raised in secret, but wore a Superman costume and a domino mask.

When this story originally ran, it wasn't labeled an Imaginary Story. It was called one after the fact in that 80-Page Giant, Superman Annual #1 (1964). 

If you'll forgive me, the reprint issue was 80 Page Giant #1. This was a monthly reprint series that replaced the annuals. After #15 the issues were numbered as part of the feature's title.

According to the GCD #1 the issue was originally advertised as Superman Annual #9, and the cover was prepared before the decision to make it the first issue of 80 Page Giant. So the cover says "Superman Annual", and the "Giant" from the annual logo ("Giant Superman Annual") was turned into the "burst" with "80 pg. Giant". The indexer notes the outlines of the original letters can be seen on its base.

The Super-Menace story originally appeared in Superman #137 (May 1960). Mr Cronin says DC started doing ""imaginary stories" proper... about a year after this comic" and suggests it inspired them. This is probably a reference to "The Death of Superman!" from Superman #149 (Nov. 1961), but it wasn't the first imaginary story. A series of imaginary stories, labelled as such, commenced in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #19 (Aug. 1960).

The Lois Lane series was preceded by the start of the Batman II and Robin II series in Batman #131 (Apr. 1960; fantasy stories written by Alfred), and a book-length story about Superman's life if Krypton had not exploded in Superman #132 (Oct. 1959; a projection by Superman's super-computer).

The claim in the title of Mr Cronin's article that imaginary stories were invented to retcon the Super-Menace story isn't defensible. I take it the title was his editor's misunderstanding of Mr Cronin's article, which only suggests it inspired the idea.

Superman Annual #2 (1960) had an item "How the Super-Family Came to Earth from Krypton" which included Super-Menace's creation as an episode on Superman's way to Earth. The bit about the asteroid is a reference to "Superman's First Exploit" from Superman #106 (Jul. 1956), reprinted in Superman Annual #1 (1960).

The GCD doesn't say 80 Page Giant #1 labelled the Super-Menace story an imaginary one inside the issue. The cover blurbs it as a story about "If Superman had turned to crime". The story sort-of explores that theme, since Super-Menace is Superman's double; but only sort-of. 

The GCD includes the 80 page giants from #G-16 (Justice League of America #39) in its gallery for 80 Page Giant Magazine. The issues from #G-57 (Lois Lane #113) are galleried under Giant. In both cases you have to go to the galleries for the titles the issues appeared as part of for their contents.

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