Superman extra: A Small Amount of the Exciting Original Story of Superman: Last Son of Krypton

1978 was not one of the golden years of movie novelizations. Star Wars had done very well in 1976, and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind novelization in 1977 did quite a bit toward helping people understand what the hell that movie was even about.

But the movie tie-in section at Waldenbooks was fairly grim in ’78: there was Jaws 2 and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, and novels based on some unloved Disney films: Pete’s Dragon, Return from Witch Mountain and The Cat from Outer Space. And that was about it.

The one thing that could have perked up the publishing category that year would be the novelization of the long-awaited Superman film, but Mario Puzo screwed us on that, so we got this instead.

The Exciting Original Story of Superman: Last Son of Krypton was packaged as if it was the Superman novel, with a picture of Chris Reeve on the front, and a 16-page section of pictures from the film stuck in the middle. But this story had no relationship with the movie, except for the basic concept of starting in Krypton, having a couple chapters in Smalville, and fighting Lex Luthor.

When Godfather scribe Mario Puzo was hired to write the Superman script, his contract specified that he was the only person who could novelize the film, and if he didn’t feel like it, it wouldn’t happen. His script was basically unfilmable, and the movie ended up being a collaboration between four other writers, so Puzo had no interest in writing a book about it.

Instead, DC Comics writer Elliot S. Maggin wrote a 238-page exciting original story set in the current 1978 comics continuity, which means that a) Clark Kent works at a TV station, and b) there’s not much interest in the Superman/Lois relationship.

What it’s got instead is a slap-happy willingness to try anything; the plot involves the secret notebook of Albert Einstein, an enormous hypnotic alien jester, black holes, Xerox machines and a secret code based on the names of Moroccan coffee companies. Or something. I didn’t read it very carefully.

Still, if you’d like to skim along with me, here is The Exciting Original Story of Superman: Last Son of Krypton, heavily excerpted down to three sentences per chapter.

Chapter 1: KRYPTON

Criminals were, as a rule, a troublesome group of people.

The Science Council, along with the great majority of the Kryptonian people, had grown soft and complacent.

“You have the choice of sleeping or winding yourself into a frenzy.”

Chapter 2: THE FIDDLER

“Strain shmain. What else is there?”

“Pardon my simplicity,” the old man said, “but have I the honor of addressing God?”

He would get past the nurse today, but not to buy an ice cream cone.

Chapter 3: SMALLVILLE

The old man imagined what it would be like to have muscle tissues heaped one on top of the other and ground together as hard as the composition of matter whose subatomic particles had fallen in on each other.

It seemed amazing, as he walked onto the street with dusk beginning to fall, that he had received his mechanical visitor only about nine or ten hours earlier.

“Walking around Smallville is what I do for a living.”

Chapter 4: THE TRACTOR

Parker sat smiling in a way that nearly annoyed the urbanity out of Stone.

“Like what? Another one of your Communist plots?”

“I should have stayed to see what Hitler would do with me.”

Chapter 5: THE ANCHORMAN

“When they told me I was gonna be on the tube, I figured the chicks’d be climbing the walls like King Kong to get next to me.”

“Ah, that bald fruit’s not human.”

He made skin-tight outfits, especially in red and blue, a recurrent fashion among men.

Chapter 6: THE PENTHOUSE

This was the highest-paid staff in organized crime.

Every New Englander who lives north of Manchester, New Hampshire, knows there is a lot of flying hardware in the sky from somewhere other than here.

“What do you mean egg juice?”

Chapter 7: PRINCETON

Jimmy thought of himself as the last of the Vikings.

“Seen any eggheads around? When do they open the safe?”

Luthor tore off the fake hair as he plopped into his confederate’s car, laid the sealed document on his lap, and headed for the New Jersey Turnpike.

Chapter 8: THE POWER

Banks were thicker in midtown than Cadillacs in Teheran.

Superman caught the .22 shells in his mouth like jellybeans and spat them out at the three guy lines connecting the pilot to his kite.

“Jimmy called up from Princeton and everybody went bazonkas.”

Chapter 9: ORIC

Among those lingering a moment after the service to listen to Towbee were an arachnoid from Polaris, a tripedal from the Septus Group, even a humanoid.

Slavery, of course, was wrong.

“Terrans contend with rocks and sticks, with fossil fuels they’re in a fix.”

Chapter 10: THE MASTER

It stood to reason, then, that he who had the most possessions, since they could only be given and not bought, must be the most beloved by those with whom he comes in contact.

“You may rise up on your wheels, Carlo.”

“Trisection? But that is impossible.”

Chapter 11: THE BROADCAST

Could Olivier, Gielgud, Brando, Nicholson pull off this act as effectively?

Maybe Clark should drop-kick the building into a lunar crater.

“The momentary downpour I created was for the purpose of duplicating conditions of a thunderstorm.”

Chapter 12: THE UNVEILING

“Every law office has my voice print on file.”

Luthor obviously had B.J. by the intrigue glands.

“Napoleon did it with conquest, Supes does it with pretension, my mother did it with guilt.”

Chapter 13: THE ENTERTAINER

One day a repulsive flying lizard swooped down from the sky over Metropolis.

And in a swirl and a splash of colorful clouds Toybee leaped from the back of his whale.

Easily ten thousand people stood in Fifth Avenue, entranced.

Chapter 14: THE CROOKED PHILOLOGIST

“Like the word ‘and’ came out spelled ‘texture-consolidated-general.'”

“Does he have four arms and a mustache and speak in rhymes?”

“Who’s the best pilot not serving time?”

Chapter 15: THE CAPER

“They seem to be tacked onto the subjects of clauses like prefixes.”

Clark showed off a crude, nearly indescribable harness-and-pulley system.

Superboy equipped the building with rare chemicals and minerals.

Chapter 16: OA

Average humanoid height in the Galaxy was somewhere between two and two-and-a-half meters.

“Our wayward brother has located and induced a dream sleep upon the Earthman.”

“Have you ever tried to talk a mugger out of pursuing his vocation, Professor Gordon?”

Chapter 17: THE SOCIOLOGIST

A beam of heat vision snapped the branch of the tree and the cat fell.

Superman occasionally wondered if the only recorded incidence of Regulus-243 contamination on Earth was the death of Lot’s wife.

He glowed with life and power, and sometimes he twinkled under the sun.

Chapter 18: OLD-TIMER

“First question,” Superman’s smile asked, “are you really here or are you some kind of astral projection?”

“Was he the thief?”

He was awakened before dawn by the sound of the President of the United States brushing his remarkable collection of teeth.

Chapter 19: POCANTICO TO VEGA

“May I call you Turkey Noodle?”

“You’re telling me that this three-dimensional test pattern is your spaceship?”

“Are you telling me that Jeremy McAfee is you?”

Chapter 20: THE ARRIVALS

Four-fifths of it was liquid, primarily water and ammonia.

Cyber would have been an architect’s nightmare and a technocrat’s wet dream.

A single grain of each of a dozen spices touched to Superman’s tongue was enough.

Chapter 21: THE INTERROGATION

Even naked and imprisoned, Luthor was not to be dominated.

“When I give him something, it’s a privilege; when he gives me something, it’s a non sequitur.”

His would-be tormentors who were his companions were back again, the broom speaking.

Chapter 22: THE HOTEL

There was something like a hotel on Cyber Island.

They would all have immediately begun spewing ammonia bubbles from their feed-out orifices.

Superman didn’t stop to figure out the odds for some extraterrestrial creature’s being named Abraham Lincoln.

Chapter 23: THE SECRET

Luthor never told anyone that he took secret delight in the fact that he was born under the sign of Scorpio.

All matter was effectively the same.

This might bring him around; it would probably kill him.

Chapter 24: THE MAD DREAM

This was the day Superman was introduced to God.

He knew every cubic centimeter of his body, inside and out.

It was a man, an Earthman, also approximately.

Chapter 25: THE ATROCITY

“For a guy who once posed as a Korean guru just to attract 33,000 impressionable teenage kids to a rally in Metro Stadium and hold them for ransom…”

“Well, that only makes 399.”

“He built a time-snatcher powerful enough to manufacture duplicate planets.”

Chapter 26: COLLATE

It seemed that nowhere in the immediate Galaxy were there machines constructed which were capable of doing what Xerox machines did as efficiently as they did it.

“Are you familiar with the twenty-six brands of Moroccan coffee?”

“One guy almost as big as you, but he’s got three legs.”

Chapter 27: THIS WAY OUT

Craft were running in and out of the deck like communicable diseases.

“Listen to the pretzel-brain, he wants authorization.”

“Right. Very good. Tomorrow we learn to spell cat.”

Chapter 28: THE EDGE

John Stuart Mill read about that fast, and came close to going mad because he was incapable of turning pages quickly enough to keep up with himself.

His moss now spat out oxygen as fast as Luthor sucked it up.

“Hey, Hot Pants, I’m talking to you.”

Chapter 29: CHAOS

Every real estate office belonging to the Master filled up with life-supporting, business-stopping foam.

A new age was born here and now.

It made the rest of the trip disguised in an illusion of an infrared wave.

Chapter 30: RETRIEVAL

Luthor set about reaching a billion years into the future for a collection of Xerox-style copies of the dead husk of the planet Oric.

There were nineteen Orics in the sky, and Superman felt quite useless here.

… and the pyramid had no point.

Chapter 31: THE COINCIDENCE

“And what’s more, the whole cockamamie world is wired for sight and sound.”

“What the sizzling suns do you think you’ve been keeping me from doing all these years?”

Was the station simply running a tape of yesterday’s news for some reason?

Chapter 32: THE TAKEOVER

The twentieth floor was naked like a ghost town.

“He has four arms and a large mustache.”

He had no disguise to drop but his madness.

Chapter 33: IN MY FATHER’S EYES

The reporter flexed every boulder-shaped muscle on the surface of his body.

No one in the entire television operation had been capable of thought since Towbee’s takeover of the broadcast media.

Around him, Superman heard titters, then chuckles, then laughter, then guffaws.

Chapter 34: RESTORATION

“How should I know what I’m going to do?”

“What the flying moonballs do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m pretty much flushed with a victory over a would-be despot whose coming was apparently foretold eight billion years ago.”

Chapter 35: THE GIFT

“My role in the whole thing was just that of Superman’s tool to take the would-be conqueror off guard.”

“Jimmy Olsen, Lola Barnett and Pelé are going to judge my Bloody Mary against your mother’s wonderful soft drink.”

There it was, written in Kryptonese.

Monday:
The reviews are in…
1.96: Mixed Messages

Chapters
Movie list

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Superman extra: A Small Amount of the Exciting Original Story of Superman: Last Son of Krypton

  1. Oooooooooh; this is absolutely hilarious, but as a fiction writer I shudder. There appears to be much to mock at in this book, but could someone get a similar effect by taking three carefully chosen sentences per chapter out of my excellent novel? I’m torn between saying I don’t want to know and I should try it myself..

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I actually bought this book and remember reading it in 1979 in Iowa – 1979 was the year of one of the longest on-going blizzards in history. Many, many school days missed. Our debate team was snowed in outside of Ames, Iowa – we stayed several nights at a truck stop called Boondocks, USA. And I was reading this Superman novel at the time.

    The two things I remember about it – one was probably one of the most poetic descriptions I have ever seen about our star/sun in space, our solar system, our planet. Somehow the description zeroes in on Superman, who is nude and in some kind of suspended animation state in some kind of spaceship where he is being studied by Luthor. (Luthor wonders about the glasses and business suit he found in Superman’s cape, but somehow never makes the Clark Kent/Superman connection?)

    Of course, the reference to Superman nude sent my 17 year old imagination flying in many directions. Danny, is this sequence somewhere in “The Mad Dream” chapter (24 or 25?).

    Years later, I tried to re-find this poetic description of our solar system and could not find it. Eventually I got rid of the book.

    The other thing I remember was a description of a sociological/psychological “lethargy” or an inability to problem-solve, as a result of Superman’s advent in the world. I recall Lois was being interviewed on a talk show, with a prominent psychiatrist/theorist/talking head. She described how, now when she is trapped inside a cave and there’s a cave-in, instead of doing anything to rescue or help herself, she just waits impatiently for Superman to rescue her. This “inability to problem-solve” sets up a hero-dependence of sorts.

    Are these just my conflated memories of this book? Danny, does anything I describe her sound remotely familiar? Maybe I should try to find this book on eBay or Amazon and re-read it for myself. It was an interesting read, but had absolutely no relationship to the movie.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I thought I’d try to track down the passage in question, and I frankly think Danny is underselling the entertainment potential of this book. Consider the following chunk of Jimmy O’s inner monologue:

      “The guy from Newark, of course, wanted to know if there were free drinks for the press. Jimmy remembered his asking that same question at that Alcoholics Anonymous convention last year. Creep.
      ” Apparently, no one knew what Einstein had left in this vault. Everyone figured it might be pretty valuable or the greatest genius of the twentieth century wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of locking it away for twenty-five years. Geniuses were pretty weird guys, though. People thought Luthor was a genius, and no one ever knew where he was coming off. And Superman had to be a genius. Talk about crazy lifestyles. A secret fortress carved out of a mountain in the arctic; everybody said he dressed up as a normal guy during the day and went around sniggering at people who couldn’t fly. All the time chasing after gangsters and flash floods and waving at the tourists. If Jimmy were a super-powered alien, he thought, he wouldn’t waste time piddling around on Earth. There was a Universe out there.”

      Not finding naked Superman. There’s a naked Lex in Chapter 22:

      “‘Identify yourself, humanoid,’ the grotesque face demanded.
      “‘Where am I? Am I inside the pyramid? Am I still on Oric?’ Even naked and imprisoned, Luthor was not to be dominated. He was used to incarceration and the attention it brought.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The Season 2 Batman TV episode with Liberace playing twins (!) as the guest villain(s) had Bruce and Dick off on a fishing trip at the beginning, and they didn’t tell Commissioner Gordon or Chief O’Hara. They called the Batphone – either no answer or Alfred said that Batman was indisposed. They put up the Bat signal and no response. Commissioner Gordon says to Chief O’Hara: “This is a moment we’ve been dreading.”
      “What’s that, Commissioner?”
      “We’ll have to take care of it ourselves,” says Gordon with great gravitas.
      A Batman reference to the hero-dependence and its attendant sociological problems as mentioned in the first Superman novel.

      OK, I decided to see if LA Public Library had “Superman: Last Son of Krypton” by Elliott S. Maggin. No, they don’t, but they do have a 1981 novel entitled “Superman: Miracle Monday” by Mr. Maggin himself, which says it is part of Warner’s Series of Superman Novels.” Who knew that Maggin wrote more than one and there was, at one time, a “series”?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, “Miracle Monday” was published as a tie-in for Superman II. I believe that’s the entire “series of Superman novels” — if they were hoping for a never-ending series of novels like Star Trek, then I guess the sales did not support that hope. I’ll have a post about “Miracle Monday” during Superman II…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I went with several friends to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 and we all knew what it was about before, during and after the movie. I’m pretty sure we were all people.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame of great Danny Horn posts, along with the best of the “Satan’s Favorite TV Show” posts from Dark Shadows Every Day. The pictures of cheapie Superman merch are the perfect accents and offsets for the excerpts.

    I was about nine when this book came out and I loved it. I remembered two bits. One was the sentence about Jimmy Carter brushing his “remarkable collection of teeth.” The other was an exchange between Luthor and some guy telling him about US intelligence spying on the West Germans. The exchange must have been originally written for another character and not fully redone to fit Luthor. He reacts to the story sputtering “But– they’re our ALLIES!” To which the guy says, “What, you think they tell us their state secrets?” Luthor is an extreme cynic who wouldn’t be shocked by any tale of duplicity, and an extreme egoist who doesn’t identify with any nationality, so that response is doubly jarring from him. I wonder if Maggin thought he’d be able to use Miss Teschmacher and had her saying that in an earlier draft, then reassigned the line to Luthor in a last-minute rewrite after the bad news came from the legal department.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Elliott Maggin: I’ve got all these boffo ideas for Superman stories, but I can’t get them past the CCA. Whatever shall I do?

    Jenette Kahn: I need someone for the novelization of the Superman movie.

    Elliott: I’ll do it!

    Jenette: You can’t use anything from the movie itself.

    Elliott: I’ll do it!

    Jenette: It will probably get tied up in court and never see print.

    Elliott: I’ll still do it!

    Jenette: You have three weeks.

    Elliott: I’m on it, boss!

    Jenette: Nobody else would touch this assignment.

    Elliott: I’m your guy!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Oh, wonderful! A bonus blog!

    “But this story had no relationship with the movie…”
    I thought, like a Marilyn Ross Dark Shadows novel.
    Then I read the quotes.
    Nothing like Marilyn Ross.

    This really has me by the intrigue glands.
    I feel like such a Turkey Noodle for asking, but how does one travel in an illusion of an infrared wave? Is this that metaverse thing I’ve been hearing about?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “I didn’t read it very carefully.”
    That’s perfect, since it looks like the author didn’t write it very carefully either.

    In the immortal words of Norman Mailer: “Oh man! Oh God! Oh man! Oh God! Oh man! Oh God! Oh man! Oh God! Oh man! Oh God!”

    “Criminals were, as a rule, a troublesome group of people.”
    So that’s why Kryptonian justice is so far ahead of humanity.

    “You have the choice of sleeping or winding yourself into a frenzy.”
    Well there’s the end of the movie. Lois slept while Superman wound himself into a frenzy.

    “He would get past the nurse today, but not to buy an ice cream cone.”
    I would love to see this for a short story writing contest. Everyone has to use this as the first line of their story. Isn’t this a scene with Ray High in Pete Townsend’s “The Boy Who Heard Music?”

    “He made skin-tight outfits, especially in red and blue, a recurrent fashion among men.”
    I’m just as glad the movie didn’t include that.

    “Luthor obviously had B.J. by the intrigue glands.”
    That would’ve given the movie an R rating right there.

    ““Like the word ‘and’ came out spelled ‘texture-consolidated-general.’”
    They finally fixed that bug in Windows 98.

    “A beam of heat vision snapped the branch of the tree and the cat fell.”
    Mixing and matching from the plots of the first two movies, I see.

    “sometimes he twinkled under the sun.”
    27 years before Twilight!

    ““First question,” Superman’s smile asked, “are you really here or are you some kind of astral projection?”
    If you don’t mind my dumb question, how can a smile ask a numbered question?

    “He was awakened before dawn by the sound of the President of the United States brushing his remarkable collection of teeth.”
    Everyone needs a hobby.

    “Even naked and imprisoned, Luthor was not to be dominated.”
    33 years before 50 Shades of Grey!

    “There was something like a hotel on Cyber Island.”
    Then again, there was something like a point to this book.

    “They would all have immediately begun spewing ammonia bubbles from their feed-out orifices.”
    The rating just went to X right there.

    “Luthor never told anyone that he took secret delight in the fact that he was born under the sign of Scorpio.”
    Scorpios are so secretive that way.

    “It seemed that nowhere in the immediate Galaxy were there machines constructed which were capable of doing what Xerox machines did as efficiently as they did it.”
    Accept no duplicates.

    “… and the pyramid had no point.”
    So this book is a pyramid scam.

    What if there is a dramatic double reading with a paragraph from this book, and then a paragraph from “The Eye of Argon?”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “‘It seemed that nowhere in the immediate Galaxy were there machines constructed which were capable of doing what Xerox machines did as efficiently as they did it.’
      Accept no duplicates.”

      Unfortunately, getting tech support in the Andromeda Nebula is a real bitch. They’ll be there in 235,072 years on Tuesday sometime between 8 am and 6 pm.

      Like

  7. There’s an old saying that goes “If you give a loaded gun to a chimp and he shoots somebody, you don’t blame the chimp.” Similarly, if you assign Elliot Maggin to write a novel and it turns out to be a piece of incomprehensible crap, you don’t blame Elliot Maggin.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is an unholy combination of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, opening the Bible at random, picking a line with your eyes closed and using what you get to buy stocks, and an acid trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I reread this novel last year and found it madcap and inventive; I don’t believe you should judge any work based on the seemingly random extraction of 3 sentences per chapter without the benefit of context (yes, I concede that it’s somewhat choppy and has too many chapters.

    Goddess of Transitory, the word for “opening the Bible at random, picking a line with your eyes closed and using what you get” is “bibliomancy”. You’re welcome.

    Danny Horn, I’ve really enjoyed your analyses and look forward to more. Gotta run.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really liked the idea that Jor-El had some kind of planetary survey to identify the most intelligent human, so that he then appeared before Albert Einstein as a hologram (ok, kind of like Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan) to herald the advent of his son. And Einstein then goes to where the rocket will land (Kansas, as in the movie, IIRC, when the comics had never placed Smallville in Kansas) and arranges for the unsuspecting Jonathan and Martha to be there at the time. It was charming.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have this book in my library and love to re-read it once in a while. It comes across as a way for Maggin to get out some of the ideas he always wanted to put in the comic but DC threatened to call the men in white coats to come for him if he did. One of the things I love the most is that he amps up Superman’s powers as far as they’ve ever gone. It’s exactly the contrary approach to Superman that others took, such as when they tried de-powering him in the early ’70s, or when the Animated Series of the ’90s felt it was necessary to de-power him even more in order to tell effective stories (the live-action series all did this too).

    Maggin seems to be thumbing his nose at these uninventive thinkers by turning Superman’s powers up to 11. So he is completely invulnerable and can fly many times faster than the speed of light, so what? The book still gives him challenges to overcome, including a Lex Luthor whose IQ is also turned up to 11. The fight with Towbee where he appears in Clark Kent’s TV studio amidst all the crew and immediately opens up a black hole, giving Superman milliseconds to find a solution before everyone is killed, is particularly memorable. I highly recommend finding this colorful book if you can.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s