In the Imaginary Story “Clark Kent’s Super-Son”, a rare combination of green and red and gold kryptonite robs Clark Kent of his super-powers as well as his memories of ever being Superman. He goes on to marry Lois Lane and they have a son, Clark, Junior, who inherits all the mighty abilities that his father once possessed. Ten years pass and while the world continues to wonder over the fate of the missing Man of Steel, Clark and Lois dedicate themselves to training their super-son in the proper use of his super-powers.
However, as veteran Superman fans knew, there were others who were aware that Clark Kent had been the Man of Steel. This would have torpedoed the premise of the story---except for the ridiculous manner in which editor Mort Weisinger and writer Otto Binder hand-waved it away. A “seventh impossible thing” which the readers were expected to swallow. Instead, they choked on it.
Despite that, correspondent Fraser Sherman wanted to know how the story ended. Well, the story ended with the second Superboy’s first triumph. But getting there was something of a wild ride. It twisted and turned quite a bit too, as you’ll see.
And I guess standard convention requires me to insert a big, honkin’ SPOILER ALERT! here. If you want to enjoy the rest of the story on your own, now’s the time to click back to the main page.
Following the premiere of the documentary Once There Was a Superman, the plot again skips ahead a few more years. The now-teenage Clark, Junior has mastered his super-powers, to the satisfaction of his parents. Before the boy can get too smug, though, Clark exposes him to a chunk of green kryptonite. Junior’s agonised reaction confirms his father’s suspicions.
“I was afraid of this,” says Clark. “Somehow, Junior has acquired Superman’s weakness to kryptonite!”
And once again, neither he nor Lois grasps the true impart of such a thing.
It’s a restless night for Clark. Discovering that his son has a fatal weakness puts a grim spin on their plans for Clark, Junior being the next Superboy. Unable to sleep, Kent turns on the television and discovers that the Late, Late, Late Show is running Once There Was a Superman. Flopping down in an easy chair, Clark views the old footage of Superman, not knowing, of course, that he’s actually watching himself.
One of the old clips has Superman demonstrating how his robots respond to his voice commands. The Man of Steel’s voice crackles over the soundtrack, “Robot number three . . . come here!”
Suddenly, Clark is startled by the sight of Superman himself flying into his living room. Kent is half way to the telephone to call the Daily Planet night editor with the scoop of the century when the Man of Steel cuts him off.
“But, master . . . I’m only a Superman robot!”
The automaton reveals his mechanical innards. With sputtering thoughts, the astounded Clark puts the facts together. The sound of Superman’s voice on television, uttering the command “Robot number three . . . come here!”, activated Superman Robot № Three, standing dormant all this time in the secret closet in Kent’s apartment.
(Yes, he and Lois and their son have been residing in Clark’s old apartment for at least fifteen years, now. Apparently working for The Daily Planet doesn’t pay squat, top reporter or not.)
Kent discovers the secret closet and the lead chest containing his irradiated Superman costume, which is enough to pry the memories of his other identity out of his sub-conscious. He recalls everything now. He is Superman.
Unfortunately for the youngsters reading this back in ’67, this was only the first part of a two-issue tale. It would be a whole month until they discovered how Clark Kent’s life would change with the revelation that he was Superman. Whatever they guessed might happen next, the fans probably weren’t prepared for what came in Superman # 194 (Feb., 1967) and the second part of “the greatest Imaginary Story of them all . . . . “
The story picks up at daybreak. After breakfast, Clark and Lois drop Junior off at his Little League game. (“Be careful not to use your super-powers and wear your glasses!”) On the drive back, Clark is about to reveal the truth to Lois when they are suddenly abducted and brought to the hidden stronghold of---Lex Luthor!
Even Superman’s long absence has not quenched Luthor’s hatred. Determined to learn the Man of Steel’s secret identity, he exposes the couple to a truth gas, certain that Lois, as Superman’s girl friend, was aware of his civilian identity. She, of course, was not, but Clark is compelled to reveal the truth---that he is Superman, rendered powerless by the weird fused-kryptonite.
Deciding that killing his helpless foe outright would be too easy, instead Luthor uses a “super-hypnosis machine” to brainwash Lois Kent into killing Clark. He slips a revolver into her purse and sends them out, back in their car, with the knowledge of their kidnapping erased from their minds.
As they drive along a lonely mountain road, the hypnotic suggestion planted in Lois’ brain kicks in. She pulls out the pistol and points it at her husband. Though he no longer possesses his super-powers, Clark still has the reflexes sharpened by years of adventure. He throws himself out of the car just as Lois fires.
The bullet misses Clark, but the driverless car, with Lois inside, smashes through the guard rail and careers off the mountainside into a ravine. Mrs. Kent is turned into a sack of bone chips.
Not the result Luthor was hoping for. But after Lois’ funeral, the conniving rogue switches to “Plan B”. And, boy, is it a complicated piece of depravity. The OpPlan would read something like this:
Step Two: After Clark leaves to check out the tip, Luthor breaks into the Kent apartment and, thanks to his knowledge that Kent was Superman, locates the secret closet storing the Superman robots. With one of his super-scientific gizmos, he takes control of one of the robots and has it assume Kent’s identity.
Step Three: Luthor returns to his hide-out and activates a special programme he installed in the Kent robot. Clark, Junior, believing the robot to be the real Clark, is stunned when his “father” tells him that he deliberately killed Lois in a jealous rage over discovering that she was secretly in love with Lex Luthor.
Step Four: Per Luthor’s electronic instructions, the robot paralyses Clark, Junior with the chunk of green kryptonite and escapes, flying to Luthor’s hideout. Luthor orders the robot into a locker.
Step Five: Luthor returns to the Kent apartment and rescues Clark, Junior from the kryptonite. Telling the boy that he has reformed, he “confirms” his suspicions that Kent, Senior murdered Lois. Luthor transports the weakened Junior to his base and tells him to hide. The villain tells Junior that he is going to trick Clark into a confession.
Step Six: The real Kent finally arrives at Luthor’s hideout. He discovers Lex on the floor, writhing in “pain”, claiming to be mortally injured by an accidental explosion. With his “dying breaths”, Luthor tells Clark that he and Lois were secretly in love and shows Kent doctored “evidence” to prove it.
Step Seven: When Clark momentarily gives in to feelings of jealousy, Luthor activates a hidden device which amplifies the emotion, sending the reporter into a violent rage. As Luthor has planned it, Clark’s angry rants will convince Junior, watching from concealment, that Kent killed his mother.
Step Eight: Clark grabs one of Luthor’s weapons, a vapouriser gun, and fires it at his arch-foe. Junior emerges and intercepts the beam. Then the grief-stricken lad snatches up his father and hurls him into a thousand-foot-deep pit.
Whew! With so many twists and turns, one almost expected Luthor to whip off a plastic mask, revealing Rollin Hand underneath.
What actually happens is Luthor, reveling in his defeat of Superman, reveals to Junior that the whole thing has been a set-up and the kid was dumb enough to fall for it. The only thing left to make his victory complete is to kill Junior with that piece of green kryptonite that he kept handy.
Before Luthor can do so, the Superman robot reappears and snatches the green k from the villain’s hand. The robot is no longer under Luthor’s control---the evil programming has been undone---but its circuits aren’t normal again, either. Determining that Luthor is a threat to mankind, the Superman robot uses the vapouriser ray to disintegrate the bald-headed fiend where he stands. While Junior is still standing open-mouthed at that, the robot atones for its own crime of killing by triggering its self-destruct charge.
So that leaves Clark Kent, Junior an orphan, and not exactly the sharpest candidate to be the new Superboy, right?
Mort Weisinger was always big on serving the readers a plateful of grief in his Imaginary Stories. Regular characters usually got killed off right and left. Because only in Imaginary Stories could he get away with it. So veteran fans wouldn’t have been thinking too far afield in expecting such a downbeat ending to this one.
Instead, Mort and Otto opted to deliver a somewhat happy finale. As it turned out, Clark, Junior wasn’t the doofus that Luthor had assumed. And there was a bit of luck, too.
Finding a Superman robot dressed as Clark Kent had made the lad suspicious, so he checked it out with his X-ray vision and discovered Luthor’s tampering. Junior then removed the evil programming from the circuitry, enabling the robot to reveal the entire insidious plot.
The boy had only pretended to attack his father. When he hurled Clark, Senior into the pit, he secretly cushioned his dad’s fall with a burst of super-breath. (Granted, Junior was caught looking when the robot zapped Luthor into dust motes, but, hey, the kid was still learning.)
Junior retrieves his father from the pit and the story ends on a happy coda as Clark deems his son ready to assume his new career as the second Superboy!