Title: Superman Annual #6 – The Feral Man of Steel, a.k.a. “The Super Necessities”
Writer: Darren Vincenzo
Penciller: Frank Fosco
Inker: Stan Woch
Colorist: Darren Vicenzo
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Editor: Mark Carlin, Chris Duffy, and Frank Pittarese
Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Once upon a time, DC Comics used to tell stories outside of their regular continuity. They called these “Imaginary Stories.” Unfortunately, the variety was a bit lacking as many of them were simply stories about who Superman would marry or who Batman would marry.
Some of these included:
- Superman splits into two people, Superman Red and Superman Blue, and turn Earth into a paradise.
- Wonder Woman teams up with her preteen and infant selves, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot. Here’s where Donna Troy of the Teen Titans originated. Unfortunately the writer who included her with the Titans didn’t know she’s supposed to be a past version of Wonder Woman. This caused… problems.
- Batman married Batwoman and have a son, Bruce Wayne Jr.. He becomes Robin II to Dick Grayson’s Batman II. Seriously, they had Roman numeral IIs on their outfits.
- Lois Lane’s sent to Earth from Krypton instead of Superman. Lois becomes Krypton Girl while nosy Clark Kent tries exposing her secret identity.
- Clark Kent Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr. are the Super-Sons, trying to escape the shadows of their dads and become heroes in their own rights.
Then they fleshed out the concept of the Multiverse, where all these different stories “That never happened” did happen.
DC primarily used this to reintroduce their Golden Age characters like the Alan Scott Green Lantern and Jay Garrick Flash as existing on another Earth (Earth-2). DC’s Multiverse included the following worlds:
- Earth-3: Home to the Crime Syndicate of America, a criminal version of the Justice League including Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman.
- Earth-4: Home to the characters DC acquired from Charlton Comics, including Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question.
- Earth-S: Home to the characters DC acquired from Fawcett Comics, including Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family.
- Earth-X: An Earth where the Nazis won World War II and they faced opposition from Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.
- Earth-Prime: Supposedly the “Real world,” home to the many writers and artists DC employed.
In the 1980s, DC wanted to streamline their continuity and condense their characters into one universe. That’s how “Crisis on Infinite Earths” happened, and at the end only one Earth remained. That didn’t stop DC from doing comics that took place outside the main continuity and that’s how the “Elseworlds” banner was born.
The first was “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight,” taking the Batman mythos and placing it within the late 19th Century. It even had Batman going up against Jack the Ripper. The first story to officially wear the banner was “Batman: Holy Terror,” featuring Batman in a world where Oliver Cromwell lived longer and thus America’s a theocratic nation.
Most Elseworlds reestablished pre-existing characters in a different time, usually the 19th Century. Others adapted famous stories and some fine tuned the setting through role reversal. Batman had the most Elseworlds titles since his books started the concept.
Some examples include:
- Batman/Dracula: A trilogy of graphic novels that pitted Batman against Count Dracula in the modern day, defeating Dracula but becoming a vampire himself in the process. Currently Earth-43 in the DC Multiverse.
- Superman & Batman – Generations: An extensive series of books featuring Batman and Superman debuting in the 1930s and aging normally. They have families and more crimefighters debut like Supergirl (Kara Kent) and Batman III (Bruce Wayne Jr.). Currently Earth-38 in the DC Multiverse.
- Superman – Last Son of Earth: A reversal of the Superman mythos. Clark Kent’s the last son of Earth rocketed to the planet Krypton and discovered by Jor-El and Lara. As Clark grows older under the name “Kal-El,” he not only saves his adopted planet but gets to venture back to his homeworld.
- Justice Riders: A weird western tale featuring Wonder Woman as a sheriff seeking to avenge the death of her hometown, Paradise. She gathers up a posse to take down robber baron Maxwell Lord. Partially adapted into the current Earth-18.
- The Metropolis Trilogy: An ingenious and gorgeous trilogy of three comics. “Superman’s Metropolis,” “Batman: Nosferatu,” and “Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon.” They adapt various German Expressionist films like “Metropolis,” “Nosferatu,” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” into the mold of the DCU.
- Kingdom Come: THE Elseworlds, a beautifully written and illustrated masterpiece by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. It’s about a DCU where Superman went into seclusion, causing an extremely unrepentant and vicious breed of “Superhero” to emerge. When these so-called heroes accidentally destroy the state of Kansas, Superman comes out of retirement and forms a brand new Justice League. Unfortunately, Superman’s presence may cause more harm than good because of the volatility of the current generation. Not to mention the response of certain other interested parties hiding in the shadows…
In the early 1990s, DC spent an entire year doing “Elseworlds” annuals for most of the ongoing series they had at the time.
I intended to start this year off with a series of recaps about the “Elseworlds” annual. This was gonna tie in with the fairy tale theme over on Point Horror. As you can see, it didn’t happen. But since this one got finished anyway there’s no reason why it shouldn’t go up.
CHAPTER ONE: TIGER, TIGER
Sir Richard Francis Burton narrates how K’l’l of the Wolves fought against Khan the tiger. Richard’s associate asks how a mere man defeated a bloodthirsty animal unarmed, but Richard realizes he’s gotten ahead of himself.
It started many years ago when a “Shining egg” fell from the sky into the jungle. M’r’r’ the she-wolf heard the cries of a child deep in the forest, and followed them to where the “Egg” crashed. M’r’r discovered a wailing infant she dubbed a “Man cub.” M’r’r wasn’t alone though and rescued the man-cub from Khan the tiger.
She nursed the child alongside her own cubs, but then came the day he had to be presented to the pack. No one except for M’r’r and her mate spoke for the child, so Khan saw his opportunity. He proclaimed any newborn denied acceptance to the jungle pack must be abandoned to die. At the last second Jahd Bahlja, the black panther, leaped from the shadows and spoke for the man-cub. Khan’s super pissed at being thwarted a second time from claiming the cub’s life and he grew to hate him.
M’r’r and her mate named the man-cub “K’l’l,” which means “White skin” in their language. K’l’l thrived in the jungle, learning their laws and how to live as the animals do. He knew what to do, what to eat, how to make friends, and how to recognize enemies.
Khan made his first strike against K’l’l when he was searching for fruit to eat. Luckily, Jahd Bahlja intervened and rescued the boy, although K’l’l was left with a scar on his face. Nevertheless, life in the jungle was always an adventure for K’l’l, and as he got older he became stronger AND smarter. His skin grew impervious to harm and he was just as strong as Hathi the elephant. He was even able to astonish his pack with tales of his exploits which, at the time, was an unknown concept to the wolves.
When K’l’l was old enough, Jahd Bahlja decided to warn him of the most dangerous beast in the jungle. He cautioned K’l’l to stay away from “The Smoke Tree,” because at its base is the animal called “Man.”
In reality, the “Smoke Tree” was a series of fires in the camp of Sir Richard Burton and his associate Sir John Ellis. The two were leading an expedition in the jungle, which led to the “Day of First Encounter.”
On that day, some of Richard’s men returned from their hunting party and decided to play a game. They’d pick increasingly difficult targets and dare the others to fire. Richard and John were so focused planning the day’s journey they hadn’t noticed…
Until one of the men shot M’r’r’ as she tried to protect her cub.
And unfortunately for all of them, K’l’l heard his mother’s cries.
Richard and John were outraged at the senseless shooting and waste of life, especially since one of their men got killed by M’r’r before she died. Richard’s gonna make sure someone would pay for this, but didn’t realize K’l’l’s carrying out the punishment.
K’l’l burst through the trees in a berserker rage trying to find his mother’s killers. Richard noticed nothing hurt K’l’l; bullets bounced off his bare skin! He threw the workers around like they were straw! He seemed capable of reducing guns to molten slag by looking at them!
John was closest to M’r’r’s body, so K’l’l assumed he killed M’r’r and grabbed John’s throat. Somehow, Richard managed to stop K’l’l from killing John and still has no idea how he did it. When he looked into K’l’l’s eyes, Richard felt like he saw every single animal he’d ever encountered looking back at him. K’l’l dropped John and picked up M’r’r’s body to head back into the jungle. But it was more like K’l’l flew!
CHAPTER TWO: Lord of the Wolves
Richard and John retreated to establish a more substantial expedition to find the “Jungle Man.”
K’l’l spent weeks mourning his mother’s death. When Jahd Bahlja finally found K’l’l he had grim news. Seems Khan was making a move for power in K’l’l’s absence and a number of wolf cubs were turning to his brutal methods. Khan boasted if anyone wanted to challenge his right to authority, go right ahead. So far, no one’s had the balls.
K’l’l snapped out of his stupor and met Khan’s challenge. Khan was looking forward to this for years, ever since he was first thwarted trying to take K’l’l’s life. Only one of them would survive this fight. It was an arduous battle, and it says something how Khan’s claws were sharp enough to pierce even K’l’l’s impervious skin. But thankfully, K’l’l proved the victor and took Khan’s life.
Amidst K’l’l’s victory cry, the wolf cubs who sided with Khan fled now that their leader’s dead. But K’l’l wasn’t finished with Khan. Jahd Bahlja watched as K’l’l sharpened two stones (a method taught by the monkey Bandar) into tools to skin Khan’s pelt. K’l’l took Khan’s fur, claws, and fangs, the things which earned him fear in the jungle, to wear for himself. With this, K’l’l swore to avenge his mother’s death at the hands of those men and wants to skin THEM too. Yikes.
Jahd Bahlja decided now was the time to shed light on K’l’l’s origins. The panther brings K’l’l to the spot in the jungle where the “Shining Egg” laid dormant for years. K’l’l looked inside the ship and pulled out a strange looking symbol. Placing the symbol around his arm, K’l’l wore it as a reminder of the pack which birthed him. But for now and forever, he’s K’l’l, Lord of the Wolves and son of M’r’r.
While this was going on, Sirs Richard and John were in Bombay, India putting together their new expedition. When who should Sir Richard run into but that American spitfire, Lois Lane. Seems Lois heard about the “Wild Man” and was putting together an expedition of her own.
Lois offers to introduce Richard to her guide, but Richard knows the man and chases him off. He insists Lois combines her expedition with his and John’s. As Richard runs after Lois’s ex-guide to “Chat” with him, Lois muses her plan worked perfectly. Sir John’s flummoxed; Lois’s previous guide’s purportedly one of the worst blackguards in Bombay. That’s why Lois hired him, knowing Richard would’ve immediately agreed to join forces the moment he saw the guy.
That’s such a Lois Lane thing to do, holy shit.
After Lois’s group joined up with Richard and John’s, we learn of Lois’s history with Richard. Yet he still refers to her as “Miss Lane” despite she’s not even British and he knows she detests the term “Lady-like.” Lois and Richard knew each other long before Richard met his wife Isabel. Richard describes Lois as headstrong, independent, infuriating, and irresistible.
Seems about right.
Unfortunately while on her morning swim, Lois discovers there’s ANOTHER expedition looking for the Wild Man. And who’d have guessed it’s led by that creep Lex Luthor?
Lex’s delighted to see Lois, especially considering she’s swimming in the nude. Lois informs Lex she’s traveling with Richard Burton to get the skeeze to turn around so she can get dressed. Still, since Lois figures they’ve “Bumped into” each other, Luthor might as well join his group with their’s.
Lois introduces Luthor and his guide Diablo (Oh that’s not foreboding at ALL) to Richard and John, and they make plans to continue their journey. The next several days were uneventful, until one night some of Luthor’s men got twitchy and tried to steal some of his belongings…
While one of them made a move on Lois.
The men heard Lois’s screams and armed themselves to rescue her. Turned out to be unnecessary while Richard saw Lois make quick work of her attacker like nothing. Because it doesn’t matter what universe it is, she’s LOIS FUCKING LANE.
Lois appreciates Richard’s efforts while Luthor’s super pissed about what these guys tried to steal. Luthor retrieves a box containing a green, glowing jewel, a “Star Gem” he found in Africa.
Yes it’s supposed to be Kryptonite.
- What Luthor Says Happened: He discovered an African tribe that worshiped the jewel and, after teaching them the ways of the civilized world, was given the gem as a gift.
- What Really Happened: Luthor’s men shot up the village and stole the gem.
Richard brings Lois back to her tent, and the two start to have a discussion about their past relationship. Lois insists she’s fine and doesn’t like being treated like she’s helpless. Richard reminisces on when they first met, back in London. But the moment Richard wonders if they could revisit old times, Lois gives him a reality check.
Lois reminds Richard their past romance ended because he sought adventure and glory, but chided HER for doing the same. She politely declines revisiting old arguments when Lois realizes the ground is shaking. It’s a stampede!
Guess who’s back for some unfinished business?
CHAPTER THREE: Civilization!
As the animal onslaught on the camp raged, K’l’l singled Richard out with help from Jahd Bahlja. Lois, armed with a rifle, watched in horror as K’l’l swatted everyone else away to focus on killing Richard. Despite seeing K’l’l’s strength, Lois was brave enough to approach the Lord of the Wolves and make a calm, honest plea for mercy.
In spite of not understanding Lois’s words, K’l’l knew the look in her eyes and dropped Richard. Richard, John, and Luthor watched in silent amazement as Lois calmed K’l’l down and tried communicating with him. Lois was able to get K’l’l to pronounce her name (as best he could) so he tried expressing HIS name. Since “K’l’l”‘s more of a growl than a word, Lois stretched it out and turned it into “Clark.”
Because it’s a Superman story so of course she did.
Nevertheless, the word “Clark” got a smile of approval from K’l’l so it didn’t bother him.
The next few days Lois did her best to educate “Clark” in the ways of the modern world. He was surprisingly a quick study, though Luthor wasn’t impressed. That changed when Clark learned about fire.
Clark’s immunity to fire wasn’t the only surprise in his arsenal, as Lois learned the next morning. Out on her daily swim, Lois’s shocked to see Clark literally FLOATING above the water. Thought at this point, she admits it’s not much of a surprise. Lois figures she’s the first human woman Clark’s even seen naked and figures “What the hell.” She gets a laugh imagine how much Luthor would freak if he saw the two of them.
Lois didn’t have to imagine for long when Clark brought her back to the campsite.
Sadly for everyone, the gears in Luthor’s nasty little head began turning and he formulated a plan. He invited Lois to share dinner in his tent (complete with a goddamn chandelier and bearskin rug). To discuss Clark, of course. Luthor feigns interest in Clark’s welfare, proposing he can help Lois indoctrinate the wild man in the ways of the world. To seal the deal, Luthor offers Lois his Star Gem and proposes marriage.
Lois, naturally, turns Luthor down like she’s done several times before. Not just because he’s Lex Luthor, but because she’s fallen for someone else. Since Luthor’s a “Nice guy” he flips out at the thought of Lois loving “That filthy man-ape.” Because Luthor doesn’t understand “No means NO” he threatens to destroy Lois before she ever touches Clark again. And for good measure, promises to kill, stuff, and mount Clark’s corpse for all to see.
Because Lex Luthor’s all about class.
Clark’s superb hearing alerted him to Lois’s distress as Luthor forced himself on top of Lois. The Lord of the Wolves ripped the tent open, appearing like the fucking Grim Reaper as he hoisted Luthor off Lois. But something strange happened as Richard and some of the workers entered the tent. Clark, close to the Star Gem, lost his energy and fell to the ground. Lois realized it was Luthor’s jewel and asked Richard to help Clark get away from that green rock. Richard promised to deal with Luthor later, but now Luthor knew what his advantages were.
Later that night, Luthor got his workers to stage on ambush on Richard’s group. Lois and Sir John (still injured from the animal attack) were held prisoner while Luthor subdued Clark with the Star Gem. Luthor couldn’t help but gloat about using his jewel to control Clark AND Lois. Not that Richard will still be alive to see any of that, mind you.
While Richard’s tied to a tree, Luthor explains he’s gonna turn Clark into a spectacle for all of London to see. Once they’ve amassed a proper audience, Luthor’s gonna use Clark to KILL the Queen of England and take control of the British Empire!
With his grandstanding out of the way, Luthor caps off his departure by stabbing Sir John through the chest and setting the camp on fire. Luthor bids Richard a cheery “See you in Hell,” and Richard swears to hold him to that.
Clearly Richard escaped the jungle since he’s narrating the story, but doesn’t divulge the details yet.
Two months after Luthor’s power move, Clark indeed became a spectacle in London. Luthor slowly acquired more wealth and prestige with every show “The Wild Man” put on, keeping Lois by his side as incentive. On this night of all nights, the next show’s audience featured none other than Queen Victoria herself.
Caged with Jahd Bahlja and some of the other animals, Clark’s kept in submission by a staff adorned with a cutting from the Star Gem. Luthor has Diablo escort Lois to their private box in the theater, reminding her if she makes a move he kills Clark. It still mystifies Luthor why Lois has ANY feelings for Clark when Luthor’s about to become king of the world.
Luthor explains Clark’s got a special assignment for this show. Displaying a picture of Queen Victoria, Luthor wants Clark to kill her in front of everyone when the proper signal’s given. Luthor figures, with Clark’s power at his command, he’ll have no one to stand in his way. And to make sure Clark follows orders, Luthor threatens Lois will pay if Clark fails.
The show went on as usual with Clark astounding the audience through feats of strength and invulnerability. The audience was thrilled AND terrified a single man could do such things. Luthor gave the signal only instead of Queen Victoria, Clark flew towards Luthor! Because that last threat on Lois was too much for Clark’s patience.
Luthor fought back, pulling out a sword engraved with pieces of the Star Gem and slicing Clark’s chest. As Clark fell back on the stage, Luthor grabbed Lois and ran like a coward. Clark’s descent broke loose Jahd Bahlja and the other animals, who quickly turned on their captors as well. Too bad the fighting knocked over the large fire display on stage, which let loose a surge of flames on the building. Luthor’s forced to flee to the roof with Clark AND the Royal Guard on his tail, ordering Lois to move it while Clark freed the other animals. Ordering his tribe NOT to harm any humans in their escape, Clark then followed after Lois and Luthor.
Clark burst through the ceiling screaming Luthor’s name. Luthor, in his panic, pushed Lois off the side of the building! While Lois hung on for dear life, Clark attempted to save her only to get blocked by Luthor. Swinging his sword, Luthor screamed at Clark to beg his “Pagan gods” for mercy when an old friend showed up to settle a score.
Richard reveals he got out of the fire WITH Sir John, who survived Luthor’s murder attempt. Sadly, John’s wounds eventually did him in before they left the jungle. With Clark still weakened and Lois hanging by a thread, Richard engages Luthor in a duel as the fire burns around them. Lois managed to help turn the tables by telling Richard to get Luthor’s sword away from Clark. Seeing an opening, Richard jammed his blade through Luthor’s chest and the bastard fell into the fire.
Free from the green gem’s effects, Clark started to get up just as Lois started to fall! Richard watched as Clark, faster than a speeding bullet, dove after Lois.
Clark rescued Richard before the theater collapsed, while Richard wondered how to explain this to the Queen. Victoria’s actually super grateful Clark saved her life and a few days later she officially knighted him “K’l’l, Sir Clark of Kent.” As a bonus he got all kinds of swag like titles and land and shit.
Which brings us to the present as Richard recaps his story to young Rudyard Kipling. After the knighting, Clark married Lois and they went on many adventures with Richard. It was thanks to Clark the British Empire (and Western Civilization) went through a renaissance and now encompasses a third of the Earth. Which actually is EW.
Nevertheless, Clark’s family spearheaded total reform in the areas of architecture, human rights, AND ecology. Together with Lois, they have three children who’ve all inherited Clark’s fantastic abilities.
Richard’s sure the world is in safe hands with them around.
Knowing what I do now about British Imperialism I have to say that last bit about Britain’s expansion is gross. But at least they mentioned Clark and Lois’s hand in reforming human rights for the better, so HOPEFULLY that’s something.
I’m kind of super loving Ma Kent is presented as an actual she wolf, which is fitting since Martha Kent’s a badass in her own right.
As a side note, while no one’s revisited this world in later stories there’s currently an Edwardian era Earth in the DC Multiverse. It’s an updated setting for “Gotham by Gaslight” plus a Wonder Woman Elseworlds called “Amazonia.”
I’ve often hoped they might incorporate a version of this Superman in Earth-19 instead of a generic steampunk counterpart.
Hope you guys enjoyed this first Elseworlds review and I hope you enjoy the others that are coming.