Superman 134: "The Super-Outlaw from Krypton"

After a long hiatus, I thought I'd share an interesting story from
early 1960 --- one of those early Silver Age Superman tales from Otto
Binder that consolidates elements previously introduced in the past
year and a half of Weisinger myth-building --- sort of a "stepping-
stone" if you will. I find these types of stories fascinating in
retrospect, as we see elements like the Fortress, the Kryptonian
heritage, and Supergirl begin to emerge in a new light.

Without further ado:

"The Super-Outlaw from Krypton"

From Superman #134 (Jan. 1960). Cover by Curt Swan & Stan Kaye. Story
by Otto Binder. Art by Wayne Boring & Stan Kaye. Edited by Mort

Our story begins with a disturbing splash page of our hero dislodging
an entire skyscraper and hurtling upward with it laughing mockingly,
while its inhabitants peer out of their windows and question the Man
of Steel's sanity. As the story begins, we see Superman answering an
SOS from an ocean liner about to strike an iceberg. He makes an
unorthodox rescue by ripping the Transatlantic cable from the ocean's
bottom and using it to tow the liner in to port. The ship's captain
is grateful, but puzzled by Superman's method, observing that the Man
of Tomorrow has callously disregarded the fact that it will cost
millions to repair the cable.

In the following days, we see this pattern repeated - Superman
diverts a meteor from a town, but it crashes into a dam, causing
massive floods. He rescues some castaways from a giant sea creature,
but leaves them marooned on an island. His behavior becomes
increasingly more bizarre, as he seemingly adopts this sea-creature
as a pet and takes him through Metropolis, leaving behind a trail of

The officials of Metropolis are becoming concerned. Although there
has been no injury or loss of life from these incidents, they are
nonetheless alarmed by Superman's behavior. They call upon an expert
named Dr. Peabody, and it is his opinion that the Man of Steel has
lost his marbles and must be subdued immediately! They call out for a
world-wide kryptonite search, as they know that is the only way he
can be captured.

Back at the Daily Planet, Lois is convinced that Superman can't be
behaving this way, and that it must be one of his robots
malfunctioning, while he's away on a mission. She sets out to prove
her theory, and with the help of Jimmy's signal-watch, lures the Man
(or robot?) of Steel to a lab, where he is bombarded by "100 billion
volts of man-made lightning", enough to short out any electronic
device. But alas, Superman shrugs off the fireworks, and mocks
Lois, "Did you think I was a robot? Now you know the truth! I'm

Our hero then flies to a mountaintop, and yells "My plan is
working ... I'll keep on smashing, destroying, until I've achieved my
goal!" He then creates even more havoc - using his super-breath to
blow hurricane winds through a tunnel, creating a massive car pile-
up - yanking a subway off the tracks and swinging it wildly through
the air. Again, there are no fatalities, but the world is left
wondering what Superman will do next.

Has the Man of Steel gone off the deep end? We'll find out in Chapter

As we begin Chapter 2, Superman continues running amok - now filling
in the Grand Canyon with gigantic boulders (!!). But at last, an
explanation comes for his bizarre behavior - this Superman is an
imposter! As we read on, we find that the real Superman has been
observing what's been happening from Kandor via an "ultra-scanning
screen". He then recalls the events leading up to his current

A week before, Superman visited his Fortress to make a routine check
of the bottle city, and during his inspection of the air hoses, was
surprised to pick up via super-hearing a voice screaming to him for
help from within Kandor itself! As the Man of Steel trained his
microscopic vision on the stranger, he revealed himself to be a
scientist named Kull-Ex. Keeping Superman distracted with his story,
Kull-Ex then trained his "exchange ray" on the Man of Steel, and the
two instantly traded places! In fact - their costumes were exchanged
also, as Kull-Ex gloated to Superman, who now watched via the screen
in dismay as he realized his super-powers are gone under the
influence of the Kryptonian city's gravity.

Kull-Ex then completes his impersonation by molding a life-like
Superman mask in the Fortress "chem-lab", and takes off on his
mission of destroying the Man of Steel's reputation. Now the big
question puzzling Superman - why does Mr. Ex have it in for him?
Thanks to a pre-recorded tape left by the Kandorian scientist,
Superman hears of the origin of Mr. Ex's vendetta against the El
clan. Back on Krypton, years before Kandor's abduction by Brainiac,
Kull-Ex's dad, Zell-Ex, was working on an invention that would
revolutionize transportation - an all-purpose vehicle capable of
land, sea, air, or underground travel. But before he can finish the
project, fate intervenes - an artificial wind generated by one of
Krypton's weather-control devices blows his blueprints out into the

Some time later, Zell-Ex finished the invention, but as he entered
the patent office, much to his dismay he finds that another scientist
named Jor-El beat him to the punch. Zell-Ex is convinced that Jor-El
quickly put together his model after finding the wind-blown
blueprints and accuses Jor-El of thievery, but Jor-El insists he came
up with it on his own. To compound the injustice in Zell-Ex's eyes,
the product is mass-produced and became so commonly used on Krypton,
it became known simply as "the Jor-El", just as the Ford car on earth
was named after its inventor!

Zell-Ex swore revenge on his nemesis, but was never able to carry it
out. Brainiac shrank Kandor and its inhabitants, and Jor-El perished
when Krypton exploded. But then, by a strange twist of fate, it is
none other than Jor-El's son that rescues the bottle city and brings
it back to his Fortress. Shortly thereafter, Zell-Ex, on his death-
bed, solemnly commissions his son to carry out his revenge against
the hated El survivor.

Superman, having now been filled on Kull-Ex's motive, is convinced
that his father is innocent, but is baffled as to how to prove it. He
finds a "Jor-El" vehicle conveniently handy and attempts to dig
through the bottom of the bottle to escape, but finds that Brainiac's
glass is impervious to the drill. He next attempts to use the vehicle
to fly through the air tube that pumps in the city's air supply, but
is blown backwards as the inward flow is too powerful. Dejected,
Superman returns to Kull-Ex's apartment and observes to his horror
that angry mobs have broken into the Superman museum and are in the
process of bringing down his statue! The Man of Steel has now become
so villified that, at his approach, mothers carry their children
inside to hide in storm cellars! And, perhaps the final blow, even
Lois, Jimmy, and Perry at the Daily Planet are convinced that
Superman is evil and must be avoided.

At an isolated mountaintop, Kull-Ex brags of his victory, and as
Superman helplessly watches from Kandor, he now realizes his
reputation has been shattered, and he'll now be remembered as
history's blackest villain. And even if the Man of Steel could
somehow escape, how could he avoid a world-wrecking battle with his
super-powered opponent?

How will Superman get out of this one? Stay tuned for the final

As Chapter 3 begins, Superman glumly sits in Kull-Ex's lab on Kandor,
watching on the screen a group of workers boarding up the Superman
Museum in Metropolis with big signs reading "Closed Permanently"! But
meanwhile, a new player emerges on the scene... in Midvale, orphan
Linda Lee listens in disbelief to the radio bulletins from
Metropolis, and decides to take matters into her own hands ... "I'll
change to my Supergirl costume and find out the truth!"

Using her telescopic vision, the Maid of Steel tracks the faux
Superman to Egypt, where he's in the process of stacking the pyramids
and the Sphinx like toy blocks. She urges him to come to his senses,
but Kull-Ex is caught off-guard by this super-powered female upstart.
Apparently, Supergirl was a secret even to Kandor during this phase
of her career, as Mr. Ex mistakes her for a fellow Kandorian escapee.
Supergirl immediately realizes that this fellow is an imposter. After
a brief recap of her true origin (presumably to accomodate the
reader, this being her first appearance in the Superman title), Kull-
Ex, underestimating the super-powered teen, in turn fills her in as
to his true origin. Supergirl immediately takes off for the Fortress
to rescue her cousin, but Kull-Ex taunts her "Go ahead, silly girl!
You'll find out it won't do you any good!"

Having been previously filled in by Superman as to its location,
Supergirl quickly gains entry to the Fortress and attempts to pluck
the Man of Steel out of Kandor with a pair of tweezers(!!) (Rather
humorous when you think of how routine going in and out of the bottle
became later). With the aid of her microscopic vision, she pinpoints
him and gently picks him up, remembering that he is no longer
invulnerable. Once outside the bottle, Superman regains his powers,
but being the size of a gnat realizes he is still at a huge
disadvantage. However, he hits upon a plan and whispers it to his
cousin. Supergirl leaves the Fortress to carry out her part, while
Superman remains behind, sure that Kull-Ex will soon come to gloat
over him.

Sure enough, the super-imposter arrives, and mocks the "super-bug",
pointing out that the exchange ray won't work without the
element "Zenium", which doesn't exist on earth. Superman is swatted
away by Kull-Ex, but spying that Supergirl is about to put his plan
into action he begins distracting his foe by momentarily weakening
him with kryptonite stored in a lead box for experiments. Kull
quickly turns the tables by trapping the Man of Steel inside the lead
box, and Superman realizes his life is now in the hands of his young

Suddenly the observation dome of the Fortress slowly begins to open
(Yes, I don't remember the Fortress having one of these either, but
we'll let it slide). Kull-Ex is stunned to see the Earth receding in
the sky above him! While he was distracted, Supergirl, with an assist
from Krypto, dug out the whole blamed Fortress of Solitude and flew
it out into space! The object of this super-excavation soon becomes
evident as Superman weakly observes to Kull-Ex that they've overtaken
light-rays from Krypton, and he can now observe what really happened
before its destruction.

Kull-Ex observes to his astonishment that while most of his father's
blueprints did get blown out the window, the most important page
unknowingly wound up in his young hands, which he proceeded to then
doodle on and later feed to an animal at the zoo! Jor-El having been
exonerated, Kull-Ex immediately revives Superman and vows to set
things right upon their return to Earth. He also spots some Zenium in
a passing meteor, and grabs it to power the exchange ray back in

Amazingly, in the space of a mere 4 panels, the status quo is
restored. The entire world watches a telecast of Kull-Ex confessing
his impersonation, and we see a shadowy figure in the White House (an
obvious silhouette of President Eisenhower), saying, "What a relief!
Kull-Ex's confession clears Superman's name!" Superman carries a
nugget of the Zenium back to Kandor, and the exchange ray returns he
and Kull-Ex to their proper sizes. Kull-Ex swears to Superman he'll
devote his life from now on to scientific research, and the Man of
Steel rather compassionately, given the circumstances, lets it go at
that. The final panel shows Clark Kent watching as the Superman
statue at the museum is being put back in place, and all is once
again right in the Weisingerverse. (And though it's not mentioned, I
can personally vouch that the Grand Canyon is once again free of
boulders, so presumably the Man of Steel cleaned up the mess left by
the misguided Mr. Ex!)

That's it - a rather wacky story, even by Weisinger's standards, but
one of those hidden stepping-stones of the Silver Age. The Fortress
and Kandor are both given a prominent role. Supergirl, just 8 months
removed from her debut, gets her first guest appearance in the
flagship title. Superman gets some new insight as to his father's
past in another flashback to Krypton. Even Krypto, who had just a
couple of previous appearances as an "adult", gets in on the action
here. And I believe this may be the one and only time someone was
extricated from Kandor by a pair of tweezers! 

This tale is probably the last time that Superman's powers were
attributed solely to the lesser gravity of earth. I suspect that even
the kids writing in to Mort at the time would be skeptical that
gravity alone could cause the Man of Steel to be totally powerless in
Kandor. 2 months later, in Action #262 (Mar. 1960), a story
called "When Superman Lost His Powers" had Clark and his pals
transported to another world where the Man of Steel was powerless -
but now it is implied that this power loss is due to the planet
having a red sun, like Krypton, adding yet one more element to the

Another milestone in this tale is the name "Kandor" is finally and
firmly established.  Although the name was dropped once in the
bottled city's debut in Action #242, in subsequent appearances it was
referred to generically as "Krypton city", or "the city from
Krypton".  In fact, in World's Finest 100, "the Dictator of Krypton
City" (Mar. 1959), its citizens are even referred to by Luthor
as "Kryptonites"!?!

Since Superman's Kryptonian family name was El, Uncle Mort thought it
was cute to conjure up other Kryptonians with alphabetic surnames
like Kull-Ex in this story.  In fact, Van-Zee (or Van-Zed, for our
friends abroad), would debut in Lois Lane just one month later!

One other little oddity about Superman 134 - it is the only Superman
issue from 120 to 150 that has never had any of its contents
reprinted. Since this spans about a 4-year run from the prime
Weisinger years of 1958 to 1962, I find it rather odd that Mort or
ENB never saw fit to include it in any of the numerous annuals and
giants of the Sixties and Seventies.