Superman 1.12: Glass Houses

Everything is crystals, for some reason, so it’s honestly difficult to tell how much of this is the computer and how much is interior design. The way that you activate it is to take one of the crystals, and put it into one of the glass tubes, and then you take it out again, and put it down in a big stack of identical crystals. Every once in a while, one of the crystals turns green, if that helps. You know, they say that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but there’s still such a thing as a user interface.

As we’ve seen, Jor-El is a powerful and intelligent science wizard, but like all parents, he has a hard time wrapping up a phone call.

“You will travel far, my little Kal-El,” he says, strapping the baby into his personal spacecraft. “But we will never leave you, even in the face of our death.” The kid shifts restlessly in his car seat.

“The richness of our lives shall be yours,” Jor-El continues. “All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything that I feel, all this and more, I bequeath you, my son.” I swear, this is the end of every phone call I’ve ever had with my mother.

“You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life,” Jor-El goes on. “You will make my strength your own, see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son. This is all I can send you, Kal-El.”

Meanwhile, the kid is like, Okay, do you just want to come? Because I am not getting any younger here, and if I stick around, I’m not going to get a lot older. Maybe a little less talk and a little more altitude, Pops.

Then there’s a muffled, rumbling thud from outside, which is the planetary catastrophe version of Hey, sounds like my ride’s here.

Jor-El moves across the room towards something that for the sake of argument I’m going to call the control panel, and he touches one crystal with his left index finger and one crystal with his right index finger, and that, as they say, is that.

And from that point, everything goes exactly as planned. The Last Son of Krypton ascends in his experimental lifeboat, the world’s first crèche test dummy.

And he rises, an innocent child elevated into the infinite, on a one-way trip toward every medium that’s ever been invented. He has an honorable discharge from his origin story, and experienced his last restful moment. It’s all flying, from now on.

Oh, and he’s also the first Kryptonian infant to break through the glass ceiling. This is a typical act of destruction; it wouldn’t be Kal-El if he wasn’t smashing some kind of architecture.

And then — who could have predicted it? — the civilization made entirely of chandeliers comes to its inevitable messy end.

So that’s a wrap on the home planet, as the science council comes to the hasty conclusion that Jor-El might have known what he was talking about. To be fair, the planet’s orbit does shift a bit, so maybe we could call it a draw.

Ultimately, they died of a lack of imagination; they simply couldn’t conceive of a situation where they might be wrong. And then, avoidably, their world dies.

“Ha! Ha!” they said. “We have observed Earth people with our astro-telescopes! They are thousands of eons behind us, mentally and physically! Why, they do not even possess X-ray vision!”

“It takes a hundred Earth People together to do what one man on Krypton can do alone!” they said. “They have not the power to fly, but must walk at snail’s pace on the Earth’s surface! They cannot breathe beneath the sea!”

“Would you send us to live among such a people, Jor-El?” they said. “Death is preferable to life in such a world of inferior people.”

“We have had quakes before and Krypton is still intact!” they said. “How do we know Jor-El is not trying to frighten Krypton’s leaders away from our planet so that he may rule?”

“What you tell us is sheer nonsense,” they said. “Krypton is not doomed, nor will it ever be!”

“You have been working too hard, Jor-El,” they said. “Planets as large as Krypton do not explode!”

“If Krypton is to die,” they said, “we shall die with it.”

“Jor-El, you drive me beyond patience,” they said. “The Council of One Hundred and I have heard enough.”

And then they died, repentant and concluded. And that’s why you always leave a note.

Tomorrow:
1.13: … Except for Star Wars.


Footnote:

For anybody keeping score, the Science Council quotes in today’s post are from the first episode of the Adventures of Superman radio show, “The Baby From Krypton” (Feb 1940), The Adventures of Superman novel by George Lowther (1942), and “The Origin of Superman” in Superman #53 (Aug 1948).

Tomorrow:
1.13: … Except for Star Wars.

Chapters

— Danny Horn

13 thoughts on “Superman 1.12: Glass Houses

  1. “The world’s first crèche test dummy.” Bravo. A pun worth waiting for.

    And then there’s the most profound, insightful statement I’ve ever read: “Ultimately, they died of a lack of imagination; they simply couldn’t conceive of a situation where they might be wrong.” This, I believe, is the reason most civilizations meet their demise.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I always had the same reaction you describe to Jor-El’s lingering farewell to his son, but it does add a startling effect to what follows. It gives us a chance to see the set as a home, where the decor and furnishings are attached to memories and plans, and so we have an emotional reaction when the little ship shatters the skylight. If he’d just handled the launch operation with quiet efficiency, that would be just another bit of building material smashed.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What comic is the last panel from?
    Is this some alternate reality or canon?
    I’m not sure how being flung into space helps without gravity or atmosphere.
    Is the blonde girl Supergirl?
    Am I getting ahead of the story?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for asking — I’d forgotten to put that in, so I’ll do it here. That’s a panel from “The Supergirl from Krypton!” in Action Comics #252 (May 1959). Superman meets Supergirl for the first time, and she explains that her little neighborhood somehow survived the destruction of Krypton by………. I don’t know. It’s Silver Age logic, which means that if you can imagine something, it doesn’t matter if it makes logical sense or not.

      I included that panel here because I think that “Our street of homes is being flung free into space, saving us from the concussion that wiped out all others!” is the single best line of dialogue in all of fiction. Try saying out loud, it’s terrific. This is going to come up again.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, I did not notice that was there. It wouldn’t really fit in this post, but I guess that’s what comments are for today: when Jor-El lifts the baby and places him in the ship, you can see up his sleeve that he’s wearing a wristwatch. John E, as always, you are an amazing source of ridiculous knowledge.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “I am in a ridiculous humour,” quoth Eugene; “I am a ridiculous fellow. Everything is ridiculous. Come along!”

        Charles Dickens,
        Our Mutual Friend (1865)

        Liked by 4 people

  4. Everything is crystals, for some reason, so it’s honestly difficult to tell how much of this is the computer and how much is interior design.

    Making Krypton a crystal-based civilization was an interesting choice. I’m not sure I can think of this being done before, but it appears it became Superman canon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another thing that the Movie makes canon (at times anyway) is the ‘S’ symbol being the El family crest. In most of Superman’s comic history it was just an ‘S’ that the Kents designed.
      But some comics, mostly 21st century ones have adopted it as being a Kryptonian symbol.

      Like

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