DC Special Series #26, Summer 1981

This is a bit of an odd thing. Very late in the day DC apparently decided to give the tabloid format another go, and, with the original Limited Collectors’ Edition title having long since died, they switched the catch-all DC Special Series to the format.And so, Superman and His Incredible Fortress of Solitude is a 64-page, oversize spectacular drawn by Superman stalwart Ross Andru (with, unfortunately, incompatible inks by Romeo Tanghal), and scripted by Roy ‘The Boy” Thomas, who had recently jumped ship from Marvel.

As you might expect with Thomas writing this is a bit of a continuity-fest. A worldwide tv broadcast is interrupted by a space-born threat from a new villain called “Dominus”. While saving the world from Dominus’s meteor, Superman is momentarily thrust one hour into the future. There, he helplessly witnesses a massive explosion that destroys the Earth!

Back in the present, Superman heads for the explosion’s epicenter, which turns out to be none other than his Fortress of Solitude. For the next umpteen dozen pages the Man of Steel wanders around his “Sanctum Sanctorum” (uh, Roy…?) desperately trying to find what will be the cause of the fatal blast one hour hence. As he explores the various rooms and exhibits, he recalls events from his past — each of which is helpfully labeled with its original appearance (praise be to editor, Len Wein). Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that too much research went into this, as most of the flashbacks refer to Action Comics #407, a comic that was less than ten years old at the time.

The ending features possibly the most ludicrous, contrived, and continuity-heavy denouement ever seen. It is seriously bonkers, relying on a chain of coincidences that even the script calls ” a billion-to-one”! And the true identity of Dominus surely comes as a surprise to no one.

This pre-Crisis Superman continuity was quite, quite mad really. Here’s Superman, with his secret house in the Arctic, that’s filled with rooms dedicated to all his pals. Lois has a room full of statues, as does Jimmy, Batman, and even Perry White! Superman even opines that he’s sorry he hasn’t yet gotten around to building a room for Captain Marvel! Then, even madder, there’s an exhibit he’s erected that features all of his hero friends standing next to their secret identities — just imagine what a newspaper hack would do with that! But, hey, Supes has thought of this: if it should be discovered by an unauthorised person, the exhibit will disappear off into an alternate dimension — or explode… Now that’s security!

Later, as Superman muses about a plan to rescue some of the Earth’s population with a giant space ark he’s built — just in case — we see his mind’s eye view of this in action. With Earth blown to smithereens, Superman has saved all his super-hero pals and hardly anyone else apparently. And they’re a bit light on the distaff side too: apart from Wonder Woman and Supergirl, it appears that Lois Lane is going to carry the burden of repopulating the planet alone!!

Dominus himself is an exceedingly camp figure, dressed in red leather bondage gear, complete with mouth gag, constantly lording it over his… er, friend, “Roger”.

Still, daft as it is, it’s enormous fun. Thomas doesn’t seem entirely happy scripting the Man of Steel, but, overall, as a throwaway piece of comics entertainment, it’s fine. Andru’s art is solid, though Tanghal’s inks are perhaps a bit too slick in places. The double-page spreads that pepper the story’s conclusion, and depict the end of the world, are spectacular, and the tabloid format helps their impact enormously.

For more on the wonderful Tabloid/Treasury format check out Rob Kelly’s brilliant Treasury Comics site.

Note too that this edition has no UPC bar code, it’s instead replaced by the “Collector’s Edition” blurb on the back cover. This would indicate it was intended for the recently created direct sales market and/or for overseas sales (the UK, for example, usually had direct sales editions on sale at the news agents).

©2009 DC Comics