How Could There Be a Superman Around at the Same Time as the Legion?

In Abandoned an’ Forsaked, we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Today, we learn about a Superman Legion timeline mixup!

The Superman titles were always trying out new ideas during the 1950s and 1960s. That is how we ended up with Supergirl getting her own popular back-up feature. Much like Supergirl, a lot of these feature ideas revolved around the idea of taking a basic Superman concept and putting up a variation on the idea. One of these ideas was a popular back-up feature that re-occurred in a few different Superman-related titles in 1965-67 (Superman, Action Comics and World’s Finest Comics). It told the tale of the Superman of the 30th Century, who was a descendant of the modern day Superman.

Here he is in 2965 in Superman #181 (by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein)….

In an interesting twist, this Superman is no longer vulnerable to kryptonite, but he IS vulnerable to the polluted water, so he can’t go into water.

So anyhow, it’s a fine, straightforward setup. So what was the problem?

Well, you might notice that, at the same time that these Superman comic books were coming out, DC was currently publishing ANOTHER comic book series that was ALSO based in the same exact timeline! The Legion of Super-Heroes feature was also set in the 30th Century.

Naturally, it did not make any sense for Superman to co-exist with the Legion. Why would they never run into him? Why would they even bother with using a time-traveling Superboy if they already had a new version of SUPERMAN running around? Obviously, what happened was that no one thought it was a big deal to have two different timelines set in the same time period. It was similar to how the Superman titles had their version of Atlanteans and the Aquaman books had their versions of Atlanteans. Neither worked with the other, but no one really cared. Until, of course, nitpicky comic book fans, in effect, MADE them care by both complaining about it and by having new writers who grew up on comic books and thus cared about this stuff just like the other comic book fans of the era.

Thus, when the future Superman character was reprinted in the back of 1971’s Superman #244, suddenly he is now the Superman of the 25th Century and not the 30th.

Retcon by way of editing! Very funny.

If anyone else has a suggestion for a notable comic book retcon that they’d like to see featured, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!