TAC Table of Contents
Adventure of Superman
In the 1950's, there was a series in the comic books called "Untold Tales of Superman." These were stories that filled in the gaps, that touched on questions like the origins of Superman's costume and Clark Kent's glasses.
There are gaps in TAOS as well. Lois and Jimmy found out about Kryptonite when Happy King and Meldini used it on Superman. They vowed not to reveal the secret, and apparently kept it until "Superman Week" a couple of years later.
Yet at the time of "Panic in the Sky," apparently only shortly after "Defeat of Superman" and well before "Superman Week," Prof. Roberts speaks of it with obvious authoritative knowledge. Why? How did he come to know about it? For that matter, where did Meldini obtain his meteor samples, and why did he think they came from other planets?
"First Encounters" attempts to present answers to those questions. It is, therefore, a prequel to "Defeat of Superman." It also occurs several months before a previous story, "The Christmas Gift."
* * *
It was the size of Mr. Everest during most of its long journey through the cosmos. It was barely the size of a baseball after it had passed through our atmosphere and almost entirely melted down.
The mass of extra-terrestrial matter was seen by astronomers from around the world, as they studied their telescopes. The one to whom it would hold the most importance was Prof. Julian Roberts, of Metropolis Observatory.
The reason for this added importance was that the meteor struck earth only a few miles from him. He found the space rock in its impact crater, dug it out, and placed it in a wooden container, closing it. He then drove to a laboratory he maintained in the city.
* * *
The teller had just enough time to trigger the silent alarm before he raised his hands. The two gunmen, their lower faces concealed with handkerchiefs, motioned everyone to move to the far side of the room. One robber held them at gunpoint, while the other filled a sack with cash from the tellers' stations.
Clark Kent was visiting Inspector Henderson when the alarm went off. Henderson offered his reporter friend the exclusive scoop, but Clark said he would follow and get there once they had wrapped it up. Henderson had smiled, and Clark knew Bill thought the reporter was playing it safe: waiting until the shooting was over before showing up.
Actually, once Bill Henderson was gone, Clark stayed in the empty office only long enough to remove his drab gray business suit and stand revealed in the deep blue and red of Superman. The Man of Tomorrow leaped out the window, and landed just outside the bank well before the police.
The crooks were just exiting the bank when they turned and saw Superman's mighty form blocking their way. As they raised their guns, Superman smiled patiently. Wouldn't these crooks ever learn? he thought.
A dark blue car slowed behind him, stopping for a traffic light.
The crooks fired.
For the first time, Superman felt the impact of bullets. They
hurt, but didn't penetrate: like BBs from a Daisy air rifle. He
knew there would be welts and bruises where they struck,
something he had never experienced before. The sensation took him
aback just long enough for the crooks to flee to their waiting
The dark blue car turned at an intersection and disappeared.
Superman raced after the get-away car, catching it again, and this time holding it. A moment later, Inspector Henderson and a trio of uniformed officers pulled up and blocked the car with their own vehicles.
Henderson came over to a bewildered Superman as the robbers were taken away. "One thing I don't understand, Superman."
"What's that, Inspector?"
"The bank is several blocks back. Why didn't you stop the car when they first pulled off?"
Superman shook his head. "If you can explain that to me, Inspector, then we'll both know. Excuse me." Superman flew off, to return a moment later as Clark Kent.
"Well, I see you caught the bank robbers, Bill," Clark said.
"Yes, with some help from Superman; though he seemed like he needed some help himself."
"Superman, need help? You must be mistaken, Inspector."
Bill Henderson shrugged. "I don't know. Something about the way he caught the crooks just seemed odd to me. I saw the last of it, as he pursued the car and caught it. Why he didn't catch them right in front of the bank before they could get anywhere escapes me."
"Guess we'll never know," Clark said. "Is that offer of the exclusive story still open?"
"Sure. Ride back with me and I'll fill you in."
As Clark rode shotgun with Bill back to Headquarters, he wondered himself why Superman had experienced that sudden weakness. He recalled the dark blue car that had passed by him both times, but dismissed it.
Whatever it was, he hoped he learned the answer soon.
* * *
Prof. Roberts pulled his dark blue sedan onto the small parking lot behind the research building which housed his downtown laboratory. In the back seat was a wooden box containing a baseball-sized stone from the stars.
* * *
Several weeks went by and all excitement about the meteor had passed. One afternoon Perry White received a phone call.
"Mr. White, this is Prof. Roberts of Metropolis Observatory."
"Oh, yes, professor," White said. "What can I do for you?"
"I am planning on exhibiting my meteor collection at Metropolis Museum soon, and I'd like The Daily Planet to have an exclusive on the story."
White's usual scowl brightened. An exclusive scoop was always welcome. "Thank you for thinking of us, professor. I'm sending Clark Kent to cover it."
"Good. I'll be at my laboratory in town." He gave the address.
White wrote it down and said, "I'll get Kent in here now. Thank you again." He hung up the phone and buzzed Clark on the intercom. The mild mannered reporter entered a minute or so later.
"You wanted to see me, chief?"
"Yes. I've got a story for you." He told him about Roberts' phone call.
"Sounds fascinating," Clark said. "I've always had an interest in astronomy, the planets and asteroids. Scientists are learning more and more about these things all the time."
"That's the angle I want. Pick Roberts' brain while you're there. Find out all he knows about his meteor collection. It'll inform the public, and be good publicity for Roberts and the Museum. That way, everybody wins."
"Everybody wins?" a young voice said. "What's the prize?"
"Don't come in my office without knocking," White scolded.
Jimmy Olsen gave an apologetic shrug. "Sorry, chief."
"And DON'T CALL ME CHIEF!"
Jimmy sheepishly dragged a finger across White's desk. "Sorry, ch--. Mr. White. Hello, Mr. Kent."
A quick knock preceded the third member of the Planet trio, Lois Lane. "Mr. White... oh. Did you already tell him, Jimmy?"
"No, Miss Lane. I didn't get a chance."
"Tell me what?"
"Remember Happy King?" Lois said.
"That's the one. Someone answering his description was spotted just outside of town a few days ago."
"And we're just finding out about it now?" White growled.
"The shopkeeper who saw him didn't make the connection until today."
"He swore vengeance against Superman for forcing him to flee the country," Jimmy added.
"That's foolish," Lois said. "There's no way he could hurt Superman."
Clark adjusted his glasses as he mused silently over the events of a few weeks before, then shrugged it off. "I'm on my way to Prof. Roberts' now," he said.
"Wait a minute, Kent," Perry said. "Olsen, get your camera and go with him. I want some pictures to go along with this story."
"What story's that?" Jimmy asked.
"I'll fill you in on the way," Clark said. "Go get your gear and I'll be waiting in my car."
"Okay. I'll be right there." Jimmy hurried out.
As Clark stopped by his office to get his hat, he reflected on his coming meeting with Prof. Roberts. He had no inkling of the impact that meeting would have.
* * *
As Clark pulled his Nash onto the small lot at the rear of the building where Prof. Roberts had his laboratory, he noticed the car parked closest to the rear entrance. It was a blue sedan, and his powerful memory immediately identified it as the one that had been nearby when he had caught the bank robbers. As this car was parked closest to the building, he deduced correctly that it was Prof. Roberts'. He nodded, anticipating a possible answer to the riddle that had bothered him since the robbery.
"Penny for your thoughts, Mr. Kent," Jimmy said.
"Hmm? Oh, just thinking about meteors, Jimmy. Mysterious things, aren't they?"
"Golly, yes. I'm pretty anxious to get started."
"Well then, let's go, junior."
They rode the elevator to the third floor and came to the windowed door marked "Prof. Julius Roberts" and knocked. The professor, who made Clark think of Sigmund Freud, opened the door.
"Yes, can I help you?"
"My name is Clark Kent, sir. This is Jimmy Olsen. We're from The Daily Planet."
"Oh yes, of course. Come in." He ushered Clark and Jimmy into the office and closed the door.
The room was large, with chemical equipment on a long series
of tables at one end and several massive and forbidding looking
machines along the inside wall. If it weren't so spacious and
well-lit, it would have reminded Clark of a typical mad scientist
lab from a horror movie.
"Here is my collection, Mr. Kent. It's modest, I admit, but I want to lend it to the museum to share it with people. We're heading into the space age, Mr. Kent. Soon we may be traveling through the stars, visiting some of the places where these meteors were formed."
Jimmy was searching frantically through his camera case. "I guess I left it behind," he said half aloud.
"Excuse me, professor," Clark said. "What's that, Jimmy?"
"I had an extra pack of film. Guess I left it in the back seat of your car."
"Do you need it?"
"I think so. I only have a couple film cases with me. The chief wanted plenty of shots."
Clark grinned and tossed him the car keys. "Go ahead, Jimmy. I'll get the story first, and then you can get your pictures when you come back."
"It's a deal, Mr. Kent!" Jimmy carefully put down his camera and headed for the door with his supply bag.
"Now, you were saying, professor, that maybe some day we'll be traveling to the origins of some of these meteors?"
"Yes. You see, I have a theory that some meteors --- not all, you understand, but some --- come from exploded planets. It's believed that the asteroid belt in our own solar system is the debris of an exploded tenth planet." He showed him several specimens, relating how he had found them and why he thought they may have originated as parts of lost worlds.
"So some meteors may be the remains of destroyed planets?"
"Not everyone believes that, but I certainly wouldn't put it outside the realm of possibility."
"Why do you say that?"
Prof. Roberts grinned. "That brings me to my latest find, and possibly the greatest discovery I've made." He placed his hand on the gray metal box at the end of the row. "It's really a story that starts a long time ago.
"A number of years ago several of my colleagues as well as I saw an explosion in space. We all came to the conclusion that what we saw was the destruction of a planet. Some, including myself, had done spectroscopic analysis of the phenomenon. There was a peculiarity to the radiation given off by the explosion."
"There was an old magazine article I remember reading about that explosion," Kent said. "The planet was called Krypton."
"That's the name given to it, yes. I had made color photographs from my spectroscope of the radiation." He opened a file folder beside the box. "Here is one of them."
Clark studied the photograph. The predominant color was a luminous green, but it gave off other distinct shades as well.
Prof. Roberts placed his hand on the box. "This box contains what remains of the meteor which crashed just outside of town a few weeks ago. I've encased it in lead because of its strange radiations." He showed a second photograph in the file, almost identical to the first. "This is from the spectrographic analysis of the meteor."
Clark's eyes widened from behind his glasses. "They look the same."
"They are. This meteor was a result of that catastrophic explosion."
"You mean this is a fragment of that destroyed planet?"
Prof. Roberts nodded. "Yes." Leaning closer he said, "This is a fragment of the extinct planet Krypton."
Clark began to grow uneasy. Deep inside his mind some spark of familiarity glowed like a candle in a void.
"You seem nervous, Mr. Kent."
Clark adjusted his collar and swallowed hard. "I'm all right. Go ahead, professor."
"This box is made of lead to seal in the radiation. When
I lift the lid you will see what makes this such an important
"Now, see an actual piece of a shattered world from the depths of space."
He started to lift the lid.
Clark suddenly felt dizzy, and clung to the table for support.
"Golly, why do you have the lights off?"
The professor closed the lid.
Jimmy had returned with his extra film.
Clark was greatly relieved but still woozy.
"Are you all right, Mr. Kent?" Jimmy asked.
"Yes. Yes, Jimmy, I'm fine. I think some fresh air might do me good, however. The fumes from some of those chemicals must have gotten to me."
"Of course. I'm sorry, Mr. Kent," the professor said. "Sometimes I forget."
"I have what I need for my story. Tell you what: Jimmy, why don't you take your pictures while I go back to the car to jot down some notes."
"Okay, if you're sure you're all right."
Clark put his hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "I'll be outside if you need me. Professor, thank you for all the information you've given me. It will make a great story for the Planet."
Clark felt better with every step he took across the room and finally outside. He took a deep breath.
There was something about that meteor; something about the planet called Krypton. They struck a chord in some distant memory.
He thought back to when he was twelve and Ma Kent told him how she and Pa had found him in a rocket which landed near their farm. He had known from then that he had come from some distant world and had often wondered what planet it may have been. He had also read the article about the explosion of Krypton and remembered that the name even then had produced a weird effect upon him.
Was this, then, the secret to his origins? This piece of cosmic rock might be from the very planet that gave him birth. He may be the sole survivor of Krypton.
He had to know. He had to come back to the professor's lab.
* * *
Later that afternoon Prof. Roberts' phone rang. "Hello?"
"Professor, this is Superman."
"Superman! And what may I possibly do for you?"
"I would like to meet with you about your meteor collection. Clark Kent told me about it."
"Yes, of course. I'd like to show it to you before I pack it for shipment to the museum. Say about seven this evening at my laboratory?"
"I have a friend, Prof. Lucerne. He has an office in my building and I'm sure would also wish to meet you. Is that all right?"
"What I have to say to you is to be in the strictest confidence."
"You may trust Prof. Lucerne as you already apparently trust me. We know how to keep secrets."
"Good. Then I'll see you both at seven."
* * *
It was about ten minutes before seven when Prof. Lucerne arrived at Prof. Roberts' lab. He had only been there a moment when there was a knock on the door.
A small man with a thick horseshoe of white hair at his temples and the back of his head, peering through wire-rimmed spectacles, entered the room.
"What do you want, Meldini?" Roberts asked.
Prof. Meldini also had an office in the building. He had come from Europe mysteriously a few months before. None of the other scientists in the building liked him, including Roberts and Lucerne. There seemed to be something unsavory, nearly sinister, about him. "I saw my colleague Prof. Lucerne working late and noted that he came here. Is there a late meeting of which I was unaware?"
The other two glanced at each other.
"Yes. Superman said he wanted this kept secret. Meldini would sell out his grandmother if there was any money in it."
There was the sound of a rush of wind and the windows blew open at a gust of super-breath. Superman landed in the room.
Introductions were made around and Superman asked his first question.
"Kent told me about your meteor collection. I need to know more than you told him."
Prof. Roberts led them to the cases and boxes that contained the stones from the stars. "I believe most meteors are pieces of asteroids or even planets that, through some cataclysm, have been destroyed and their remains scattered about the heavens." He showed Superman the same samples he had shown Clark, telling in more detail his theories about their origins. He did not yet show him the sample in the lead box.
When he was done Superman stood silent a few moments.
"Is there something you wish to tell us?" Roberts asked.
"Yes. This is something I've never told anyone, and I want you both to swear you will not repeat it."
Both men agreed.
"I have long known that I came from another planet. The couple I call my parents found me in a rocket that landed in a field. Though I was raised as an earthman my birth was upon some distant world perhaps beyond this star system."
The professors were astonished, but Lucerne frowned and nodded with a growing understanding.
"That would explain your powers," he said.
"I have often wondered if it might," Superman replied.
"What prompted you to come and see my exhibits, Superman?" Roberts asked.
"It was the possibility that you may actually have in your possession a piece of my home world."
Their astonishment was even greater.
"Why do you think that?"
"Kent told me of your most recent find. You said it may be part of an exploded planet called Krypton."
"Somewhere deep in my mind memories of my infancy remain. Just shadows and a few words, but hearing the name Krypton brought some of it back. I believe I may have come from Krypton."
"Then the rocket that brought you here originated on Krypton?"
Superman nodded. "That may indeed be the case."
"All we know of the planet is that it exploded long ago," Roberts said.
"But if Superman is indeed the last child of that world," Lucerne said, "there are some surmises we can make."
Superman frowned in interest. "Such as?"
"Your powers: your great strength, your ability to fly, your heightened senses. We know some things about the worlds in our own system, and from that we can make deductions about possible other planets. For example, if there is life on Jupiter, our largest planet, then they must be far more powerful than us."
"You mean because of the greater gravity," Superman said.
Lucerne nodded. "Remember your basic science: all matter is composed of molecules, which in turn are made up of atoms. Beings on a planet as large as Jupiter would have to be of a denser molecular structure than those of us on earth. That would give them greater strength, extraordinary abilities. And someone from Jupiter who found his way to earth would be even more powerful."
"The same would be true if an earthman were to go the moon," Roberts said. "The lesser gravity permits him to perform tremendous feats."
"Then you think Krypton may have been a planet the size of Jupiter?" Superman asked.
"Or even larger," Lucerne said. "On such a planet the people would have advanced so far beyond us as to become a race of supermen."
"That explains much," Superman mused.
"A world with a gravity many times our own requires a people whose molecular structure is extremely dense, giving them greater strength and speed, the ability to make a mere step into a high leap. The influences of living under another star might lead to the development of greater senses. Hearing becomes enhanced, and the eyes become sensitive to a wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum."
"So my eyes sense X-rays that are in the atmosphere?"
"Yes, and can focus and use them to peer through objects."
"But there are also times when my eyes radiate with that power."
Lucerne shrugged and nodded. "Perhaps it's stored and later reflected out again, in the form of heat or other energy."
"I've become so accustomed to my abilities I'm not even aware of how some of them work."
"Much of it is probably instinctive, inherited from your ancestors."
"Would you like to see the meteor I believe to be from Krypton?" Roberts asked.
Superman seemed to hesitate before finally saying "Yes."
Roberts gestured for Lucerne to turn out the lights. Only street lights and the glow of the moon faintly illuminated the laboratory.
Roberts slowly opened the lead box.
The meteor inside glowed with an eerie green radiation.
Superman stood over it and suddenly felt the same weakness that had come over him several weeks before. He clutched the table for support but slipped to the floor.
Roberts dropped the lid, and Lucerne rushed to switch on the light.
The two professors knelt beside Superman.
The Man of Tomorrow lay unconscious on the floor.
After a few moments his eyes fluttered. He tried slowly to sit up and leaned upon one elbow. He shook his head to clear it.
"What happened?" he asked.
"It was the meteor," Roberts said. "The one I believe is from Krypton."
Superman gradually regained his feet. "Why did it have such an effect upon me?"
Lucerne thought a moment. "There is something called the Delphinian Theory."
"What is that?"
"When you were a child on Krypton, you drew strength and power from the soil of your planet. The explosion transformed the very matter of that world, so that the resulting radiation is now harmful to you."
"What we have here is a new element, unknown to earthly science," Roberts said. "It should have a name."
The three thought for a moment.
"It should be named after my home world," Superman said.
Roberts nodded. "Then I have a name for it: Kryptonite."
"And we must all keep its existence secret," Lucerne said.
"I will substitute one of my other specimens for the Kryptonite before sending the collection to the museum. The real Kryptonite will remain in my safe, in its lead box."
"And I will return later to completely dispose of it. Thank you, professor. And you too, Professor Lucerne. I've learned a great deal about my origins and my powers from the both of you tonight."
He shook hands with them and with a running leap flew out the window.
"It's late," Prof. Roberts said. "I'll find a replacement for the Kryptonite tomorrow."
"Yes. Come, I'll treat you to dinner."
The two friends locked the door to the laboratory and entered the elevator.
* * *
Several minutes later the door to a rest room opened and Meldini stepped out. He had listened at Roberts' door during the meeting. The words were not always clear, but he had heard enough to deduce that one of the meteors in Roberts' collection was harmful to Superman.
Meldini cautiously slipped over to Roberts' door. Using a tool he carried in his pocket he picked the lock and entered. A penlight cast its tiny beam over the room. He dare not turn on the main light but he found the switch for a desk lamp which he flicked on.
He surveyed the collection of meteors. One of the few words he had heard clearly was the newly coined name for the substance contained in one of them: Kryptonite. Meldini, too, was familiar with the story of the lost planet. However he could not be certain that it was indeed the meteor labeled as originating with that planet which had weakened Superman. He had to take samples of each of them.
A stack of small envelopes lay on the desk. Meldini took several of them and crossed to the meteor display. He took his pocketknife and carved small pebble-sized pieces from each meteor, dropping them separately in each envelope and scrawling a quick identification before sealing them shut.
He came to the last one and opened the lead box. The baleful green glow of the radiation illumined his face, made him seem some denizen of a darker world.
He nicked the meteor with his pocketknife as he had the others and a chip fell into the waiting envelope. He sealed the envelope and wrote a word upon it: Kryptonite.
Meldini hid the envelopes in his pocket. He turned off the lamp and slowly opened the door just a crack. The hall was empty. He entered the corridor and threw the latch, locking the door behind him.
Meldini smiled as he rode the elevator down. Happy King had sworn vengeance against Superman. He would surely pay a high fee to the man who gave him the means to bring it about.
* * *
The next evening Superman returned to Prof. Roberts' lab and took the lead box containing the Kryptonite. His scientist friend had already replaced it with another meteor fragment. Roberts was prepared to claim a theft if the ruse was discovered.
Superman's leap carried him up, up, away from the city and far into the night sky. Above the clouds the stars shone with the clarity of crystals set in ebony.
He slowed, stopped, and held the box a moment. Finally with all his strength he cast the box containing the Kryptonite meteor back to the stars from which it had come.
Momentum carried it far from the earth. Superman watched it disappear into the black void.
He allowed gravity to recall him into its pull and soon he had broken through the cloud layer and was flying once again toward Metropolis.
His ears caught a stifled cry for help and he traced the sound to an alley not far from The Daily Planet. A woman was being threatened at gunpoint and a thug was reaching for her purse.
The Man of Steel landed behind the crook.
"Didn't your momma tell you it's not nice to pick on women?"
The thief spun around and fired his gun at Superman.
The bullets only left their familiar tossed-pebble taps as they bounced from his chest. Superman smiled.
A well-calculated punch and the man was out for the count. As the beat cop, Tom Murphy, took over Superman waved good-bye and flew skyward. He circled and entered the window of The Daily Planet store room, confident that the threat of Kryptonite was over.
* * *
Meldini rang the doorbell at a certain house in the country that he knew well. A thin weasel of a man answered.
"Oh, it's you. What do you want this time?"
"I have some material in my possession," Meldini said, "that will greatly interest Mr. King."
* * *
Stephen L. Brooks is a lifelong Superman fan who "discovered" the character through the George Reeves series. His other heroes include The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and The Shadow and has written stories of each which appeared in fanzines several years ago. Born and raised in Baltimore, he lives in a suburb of the city with his wife Vicki. He is the author of the mystery novels, The Raid and The Raid II: Back to School, both of which are available from Amazon or can be special ordered at your local bookstore. He has notes and outlines for many more Lost Adventures of Superman, and invites others to offer suggestions or try their own hands at truly making The Adventures Continue. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"