Calling the Legion, and its special powers!

Hey, friends, you all know I get to write about comics for CBR. I'm doing research for a piece on General Zod. I keep finding mentions of a story where Superboy freed Zod from the Phantom Zone because his sentence was completed .. and Zod promptly tried to conquer the Earth, so Superboy had to fight him and send him back to the Zone. But none of those mentions cite the when and where of that story!

I have found Zod's first appearance -- Adventure Comics #283 -- which is also the first appearance of the Phantom Zone and the Zone projector. But Superboy doesn't meet Zod in that tale.

So, please help. When did Superboy first meet General Zod? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Wikipedia's page on Zod has an account of such a story, but says Superman. I can't see a story that fits the bill on DCU Guide's list. Zod escapes the Zone with other Zoners in a few.

The account might be a confusion of Zod's history with the Quex-Ul story from Superman #157 or the Ak-Var one from Action Comics #336. There's an account of the early history of the Zone here.

Otherwise, I suppose it might derive from a filler item, dialogue reference or letters page, or an article in The Amazing World of DC Comics. The other Silver/Bronze Age sources I can think of are the TV cartoons, the newspaper strip, a short-lived British digest series, prose stories in British annuals, comics done to accompany models or toys, premiums, children's books (incl. colouring books and Big Little Books), the extra stories prepared for the German market after the 1978 movie came out, the newspaper strip The World's Greatest Superheroes, and Elliot S Maggin's Superman novels.

 

As far as I can tell Zod's second appearance was the cover-story from Adventure Comics #293. The Zoner who nearly escapes is presumably him.

I've run the same research track as Luke.

I've found many references to Superboy releasing Zod after his sentence is up, from Quora to various Superman fan sites. But none have citations and most have identical wording -- clearly they have all copied from each other. I can't find an original with citation.

The Grand Comic Book Database, another reliable source, didn't surrender anything I didn't already know. Zod was introduced in Adventure #253 (where Superboy learns his story, but doesn't meet him). His second appearance was Adventure #293, where he was among the Zone escapees, but he wasn't released.

The release of Quex-Ul in Superman #157 is referred to on various sites as the first time a Phantom Zone prisoner finished his or her sentence (although the story itself doesn't). That would preclude Superboy releasing anyone. Quex-Ul had served 25 years, which is less than the 40 usually associated with Zod, which is another indication that something is wrong here. Zod could have been sent to the Zone years earlier than Quex-Ul, I suppose.

Even the usually thorough Fleischer Superman Encyclopedia was no help. It had entries on Phantom Zone, Quex-Ul, Jax-Ur, Vak-Ox and others, but not Zod (or General Zod or Dru-Zod). Evidently, the general's appearances in the Silver Age were so few that he didn't earn an entry. And, sure enough, in going through one Silver Age Phantom Zone story after another, I didn't see him very often.

There's one original source I couldn't check: a half-page text piece in Superboy Annual #1 (1964). Perhaps that's the origin of the "Superboy releases Zod" story all the other sites seem to use. Or maybe the story was related in a letters page.

When you get this far into the Silver Age weeds, I suggest setting the Silver Age Signal alight and summoning the Commander!

That scenario doesn't ring a bell with me. Usually the Phantom Zone prisoner seen the most was Jax-Ur and he escaped a couple of times and Superman released him briefly a couple of times (the Jewel Kryptonite and Black Zero stories) but Zod?

He didn't go to the forefront until the movies!

I was also puzzled by the complete lack of Zod in the Superman Encyclopedia, but upon reflection, it occurred to me that, until the first Richard Donner Superman movie, Zod had been a Superboy foe more than a Superman enemy, and the Adventures of Superman when he was a boy were largely underrepresented in that reference book.  Most of the pre-1970s Phantom Zone stories with Superman tended to feature Jax-Ur and/or Vak-Ox, with Zod either unseen or lurking unnamed in a group shot.  It seems odd that at one point Zod was considered one of the lesser Phantom Zone criminals, but that goes to my long-held theory that he wasn't an actual general (as Zod grew in popularity & stature, various Kryptonian military organizations have been whipped up to make him a general of something, but at the time of his creation, and for years after, there had been no indication that Krypton had or needed a military), but just a deluded madman who tried to overthrow the Science Council with his "army" of Bizarros (yes, the only troops that the Silver Age Zod ever led were all just imperfect duplicates of himself!)

Captain Comics said:

I've run the same research track as Luke.

I've found many references to Superboy releasing Zod after his sentence is up, from Quora to various Superman fan sites. But none have citations and most have identical wording -- clearly they have all copied from each other. I can't find an original with citation.

The Grand Comic Book Database, another reliable source, didn't surrender anything I didn't already know. Zod was introduced in Adventure #253 (where Superboy learns his story, but doesn't meet him). His second appearance was Adventure #293, where he was among the Zone escapees, but he wasn't released.

The release of Quex-Ul in Superman #157 is referred to on various sites as the first time a Phantom Zone prisoner finished his or her sentence (although the story itself doesn't). That would preclude Superboy releasing anyone. Quex-Ul had served 25 years, which is less than the 40 usually associated with Zod, which is another indication that something is wrong here. Zod could have been sent to the Zone years earlier than Quex-Ul, I suppose.

Even the usually thorough Fleischer Superman Encyclopedia was no help. It had entries on Phantom Zone, Quex-Ul, Jax-Ur, Vak-Ox and others, but not Zod (or General Zod or Dru-Zod). Evidently, the general's appearances in the Silver Age were so few that he didn't earn an entry. And, sure enough, in going through one Silver Age Phantom Zone story after another, I didn't see him very often.

There's one original source I couldn't check: a half-page text piece in Superboy Annual #1 (1964). Perhaps that's the origin of the "Superboy releases Zod" story all the other sites seem to use. Or maybe the story was related in a letters page.

When you get this far into the Silver Age weeds, I suggest setting the Silver Age Signal alight and summoning the Commander!

I can't find anything either. I did an image search on Google for Zod and Superboy with no luck. Just found the same things already mentioned.

Even as a kid I thought it was odd that General Zod wore a hat similar to Earth generals when no one else seemed to wear hats. 

Dave Elyea said:

until the first Richard Donner Superman movie, Zod had been a Superboy foe more than a Superman enemy, and the Adventures of Superman when he was a boy were largely underrepresented in that reference book. 

That's sharp. He appeared in Supergirl stories also (a little more, in fact); but DC Indexes only lists two appearances before 1977 which weren't Superboy or Supergirl stories. They are World's Finest Comics #199 (DCU Guide says he was also in #198), and the "Fabulous World of Krypton" story in Superman #233.

The 1977 story was the last part of the Faora Hu-Ul multi-parter, in which Superman fought all the Zoners together. After that he was often seen with the contemporary Zoners. In some stories Zod, Faora and Jax-Ur appeared as a trio.

Thanks, guys; it's not just me. I thumbed through Fleischer forwards, backwards and sideways, and couldn't find a reference to Zod anywhere. But as noted above, Zod wasn't a player in the comics pages until Superman II, the movie.

I also consulted The Essential Superman Encyclopedia by Robert Greenberger and Martin Pasko. That book does have an entry for "ZOD, GENERAL; AKA DRU-ZOD." With respect to my question, it states:

" When the time was up, Superboy used the Phantom Zone projector to release him, but Zod returned the favor by attempting to conquer Earth. They battled for a time, although the Teen of Steel was more experienced in the use of his powers and managed to return the would-be conqueror to the Phantom Zone (Adventure Comics #283, April 1961)."

This may be where all those other websites copied the information we keep seeing elsewhere, but it's wrong. Yes, Zod's first appearance was in Adventure Comics #283, but I've read it and none of those events transpire in that story. Maybe some other story, but not that one.

In that Adventure #283 story, a box of Kryptonian artifacts drops out of the sky and lands in New Mexico, near one of Professor Lang's archeaological digs. Superboy is summoned, and breaks the box open and examines the contents. Among them is the Phantom Zone projector and a "thought helmet" that helpfully gives the background. Using the helmet, Superboy sees a couple of criminal trials on Krypton and miscreants being sentenced to the Zone. Zod's appearance takes all of three panels, and we don't even see his face in two of them!

This is not the first error I've found in The Essential Superman Encyclopedia. I'm a bit surprised that something with Marty Pasko's name on it is so shoddy, although I gather Greenberger did the heavy lifting.

Michael Fleischer's The Great Superman Book (reissued as The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes : Superman - Volume 3) is definitely more trustworthy. Its biggest drawback is that it covers 1938 to 1978 and stops there. Greenberger has to cover those 40 years and the next 35, and concisely describe all the things that occurred as a result of the Infinite Final Identity Crisis Flashpoint at Zero Hour in the Brightest Day after The Darkest Night. And Greenberger's book has more and nicer illustrations, some in color. But that doesn't excuse the sloppy content.

Thanks, fellows. I will put out the call to Mr. Silver Age and Commander Benson and hope that we are talking about a story that actually exists. I'm starting to doubt that it does.

I also did image searches and found the same Adventure Comics panels over and over. As you say, if the Commander or Mr. Silver Age don’t pull a rabbit out of the Zone that story may not exist. If it does, my money is on that text piece. I don’t own that Annual and haven’t found it on the Internet.

Captain Comics said:

As you say, if the Commander or Mr. Silver Age don’t pull a rabbit out of the Zone that story may not exist. If it does, my money is on that text piece. I don’t own that Annual and haven’t found it on the Internet.

I do own a copy of Superboy Giant Annual # 1, and just to be thorough, I checked that short text piece on the Phantom Zone villains.  It consists of a listing of all the Phantom Zone villains that had appeared in Superboy [italics mine] stories to date, with a one- or two-sentence description of each's history behind his name.  The General Zod entry says nothing about him being released from the Zone at all, either by accident or design.

I've never come across a Silver-Age story in which Superboy freed General Zod for any reason, and particularly not because his time in the Zone was up.  "The Super-Revenge of the Phantom Zone Prisoner", from Superman # 157 (Nov., 1962) was presented as a moral quandary for Superman:  a Phantom-Zone prisoner has served out his sentence, but Superman releases him, the prisoner will acquire super-powers on Earth and will be able to terrorise the world.  What will the Man of Steel do?  (For some reason, the logical alternative of releasing Quex-Ul in Kandor never occurs to Our Hero.  It will, later, to the Kandorians themselves, though.)

Since this moral dilemma was the keynote of the issue, Mort Weisinger could not have presented this situation in an earlier (real-time) Superboy story; else Mort would have inserted a footnote or a bit of dialogue in Superman # 157 stating something to the effect of "The Man of Steel faced a similar dilemma once before, when he was Superboy". And it's doubtful that Weisinger would have used the same moral-choice gimmick a second time as an earlier (in-fiction) but later (in real time) adventure of Superboy.

The closest thing I can point to with regard to Superboy releasing Phantom-Zone prisoners on purpose is the story "The Raid from the Phantom Zone", from Superboy # 114 (Jul., 1964).  The Boy of Steel freeing the Zone prisoners is the subject of the cover and is memorable.  But, as the tale within relates, his release of the villains is all a dream induced by exposure to red kryptonite.  And in any event, General Zod does not appear in the story.

I suspect, based upon the fact that all of the mentions of Superboy releasing Zod after he served his time are identical, or nearly so, in wording, that this is one of the more pronounced examples of the Internet's predilection for "misinformation begetting misinformation".  Someone published the erroneous or misinterpreted info about Superboy having freed Zod, and then subsequent writers too lazy to do thorough research simply took it as gospel.

I don't know where the original writer of that factoid (in the actual meaning of the word) got his information, but if he had any comic-book reference, it was probably of post-Crisis vintage, because I don't even recall a Bronze-Age tale in which General Zod was freed from the Zone because his time was up.

Actually, Weisinger was quite prone to recycling storylines, plot points & moral dilemmas in his stories, as long as they were published roughly ten years apart, on the theory that anyone who read the first story would no longer be reading comic books when he published the retread.  He clearly didn't see us coming.

As for Pasko & Greenberger's book, I noticed several errors, and at least a couple instances of stories being described as almost exactly the opposite of what they actually were (at least one of Superboy's assorted one-shot guest heroes was described as having visited him on Earth, when in fact, Kal-El had traveled to that hero's planet in the actual story).  Part of the problem is that Fleischer's books used the conceit that all of the published adventures of Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman had all happened to those individuals, as opposed to various dimensional counterparts of same, so while he told us which Two-Face stories involved Harvey Kent, and which Harvey Dent, he declared the latter name a "chronicler's error", as opposed to a dimensional divergence.  The more recent set of DC Encyclopedias opted to sort various incarnations and eras of the characters to an assortment of different Earths, and tried to impose an official continuity on things instead of simply reporting on the stories as they were published.  As a result, it's a less than ideal reference material for anyone who can't actually crosscheck the actual issues cited.

Commander Benson said:

The Boy of Steel freeing the Zone prisoners is the subject of the cover and is memorable.  But, as the tale within relates, his release of the villains is all a dream induced by exposure to red kryptonite.

This is a point to be aware of when one is looking up the appearances of a character. Online lists might not include appearances from imaginary stories, dream sequences or reminiscence cameos, or parallel Earth versions or impostors.

Are you sure this is a Silver Age story? It sounds quite a bit like the epic novel-length saga running through the New Krypton, World of New Krypton and War of the Supermen extra-special crossover special with a cherry on top in 2008-9.

In a nutshell, Alura frees Zod to help lead New Krypton, and he goes to war against Earth (long story), so  whatever version of Superboy it is ultimately sends him back to the Phantom Zone.

Tracking hero histories is a thankless task, because often origins are retconned to include details from 2010 in a 1966 story. And nobody likes to annotate, the fools!

-- MSA

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