Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to bend steel in his bare hands! Kal-El may have been the first, but he wasn’t the last. Heck, he wasn’t even the last Superman! Welcome to Ten Things: Ten Kals-El!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with An Amateur Comics Historian and being rocketed from a dying planet, Presents:
TEN THINGS: TEN KALS-EL!
10) SUPERMAN (Earth-F)
The first adaptation of the Man of Steel, debuting in the fall of 1941, the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons were an immediate phenomenon. The very first short was nominated for an Academy Award, thanks in part to the much-higher-than-normal budget of $50,000 per short. If we’re being pedantic, this Superman (designated as the Earth-F version in 2019) is a little bit of a cheat for this collection, as he was never identified as Kal-El or Kal-L, nor did he seem to know anything about Krypton. So early in the hero’s history are they that even Ma and Pa Kent aren’t part of the tale yet, as this Superman grew up in an orphanage.
All 17 of these cartoons are now in the public domain, and are well worth checking out for their high-quality animation.
9) KAL’AMITY (Earth-41)
A member of Nimrod Squad, heroes of Earth-41, Kal’Amity is one of the silliest Superman-alogues out there. Debuting in the pages of Multiversity, Nimrod Squad is a composite parody of Image Comics’ Youngblood and the Justice League, with Kal’Amity standing in for Combat, as you can tell from his trademark impossible, life-threatening shoulder pads.
Honestly, for a seldom-seen visual gag character, he’s unexpectedly cool.
8) SUPERMAN (Earth-Broadway)
Originally created for a 1966 Broadway run (which a mere lasted three-and-a-half months and ended up being one of the biggest flops on the Great White Way up to that time), It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman! was… uhh… something. Featuring several musical numbers, the show’s original cast included future Alice star Linda Lavin, with the 140-plus live performances making actor Bob Holiday the longest-reigning Clark Kent in history, until Tom Welling broke the streak with Smallville. The version of Superman seen here is actually from a 1975 television special that compressed the show, but removed a very racist Asian criminal gang.
It also features Lesley Ann Warren of Clue fame as Lois Lane, so that’s fun.
7) SUPERMAN RED (New Earth)
After losing his solar-energy-based powers during The Final Night, Superman developed the ability to turn to pure energy. Donning a special containment suit, he returned to action with a whole new power set, but a battle with The Toyman split him into TWO Superman. Superman Blue was thoughtful and measured, while Superman Red was rash, impulsive, and honestly quite immature. He got along well with Risk of the Teen Titans (which is a huge black mark on his character) but his willingness to act in the heat of battle made him an effective hero in his own right, but his hot-headedness is atypical of most Kal-Els throughout the multiverse.
6) THE SERVANT OF DARKNESS (Earth-1)
The first Servant of Darkness was the legendary hero Lyrissa Mallor, an ancestor of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Shadow Lass. The second went toe-to-toe with Superboy himself, overpowering the Teen of Steel and flummoxing the Legion’s most powerful members. Eventually, it was discovered that he/it was a corrupted clone of Kal-El himself, transformed by his hidden master’s torture into a bleak shadow of the hero of legend. It ended up being a major clue as to the identity of the Big Bad, as the glee taken in corrupting heroes of the past led the Legion to realize that the villain was also from the past, which led them to realize they faced Darkseid himself.
5) REFLECTO (Potential Future of Earth-1)
And hey, speaking of the Legion, the hero called Reflecto was first glimpsed during an adventure of the Adult Legion, a team even further in the future than Superboy’s teen pals. One of the deceased Legionnaires memorialized in the team’s headquarters, Reflecto later popped up in the lives of the younger Legion. His appearance came immediately after the loss of Ultra Boy in battle, leading Phantom Girl to believe that he was actually her lost beau in disguise. When Reflecto was unmasked, metaphorically speaking, the team found that he wasn’t Ultra Boy, but an amnesiac Superboy! Of course, Superboy was possessed by Ultra Boy at the time, so Phantom Girl wasn’t exactly wrong.
I’ll be honest it’s not one of the team’s finest moments.
4) SUPERMAN (Earth-Rao)
Another not-quite-Kal-El, this Superman is in truth a young man named Raja, who was blessed with his powers by the Hindu god Haruman. (Presumably, that’s why his emblem is a letter “H.”) After seeing his parents killed, Raja grew to adulthood, putting on his costume to bring the murderers to justice, something he does with very un-Superman-like brutality. When all three traitorous killers are dead, Raja marries his lady love, Jaya, to live happily ever after. Coming out in 1980, Superman is ostensibly an Indian adaptation of the first Christopher Reeve movie, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao’s take on the Man of Steel is far less beloved.
I will say it’s amusing that both the lead actor and the writer share the name Rao with the sun god of Kryptonian myth.
3) KAL-EL (Planet Valair – Hypothetical)
When Aquaman’s pet octopus found a strange film canister in the ocean, he convened the members of the Justice League, only to discover that it was a Kryptonian artifact. The recordings showed a series of predictions by Krypton’s super-computer of what might happen to baby Kal-El on each of the six possible worlds he might be rocketed to. This particular prognostication showed what might happen if Kal landed on the ocean world of Valair, becoming a full-on Aquaman clone, right down to the orange-and-green costume. Though he fit in just fine, something inside him longed for the open sky, leading Jor-El to choose Earth instead.
2) COMPOSITE SUPERMAN-BATMAN (5th Dimension)
While dealing with the cosmic level threat of The Joker and Mxyzptlk, Superman and Batman are merged together, not only with one another, but with more than a dozen alternate versions of themselves. Forced to battle a parody of Marvel’s Ultimates, the heroes gain a deeper appreciation for one another and redouble their own heroic efforts, defeating the cosmic threat…
…just in time to get thrown into the nonsense that was Infinite Crisis. But, “Wayne-El” was still there for one, brief shining moment.
1) SUPERMAN (Superman’s Earth)
At the end of the third season of The Adventures of Superboy, circa 1991, an injured Boy of Steel was thrown into an alternate reality where his future nemesis Lex Luthor was a noble surgeon, fighting to save his life. He also met his own doppelganger, a retired Kal-El who actually arrived on Earth in the 1930s. This Superboy grew into a Superman, eventually retiring from the hero biz. After donating his blood to save his young counterpart, Superman worked together with friendly Luthor and Superboy to stave off the threat of the evil Lex. This Superman is played by Texan actor and possessor of legendary superhero physique Ron Ely. who played both Tarzan and Doc Savage earlier in his career, and made a picture-perfect sixtyish Superman.
Once again, this week’s topic, Ten Kals-El, is all me, but feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra to suggest a topic of your own! There’s always more Ten Things madness on my Twitter or check out the full Twitter archive here! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, if only because we’re running out of planets to be rocketed away from. Either way, the comments section is below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!