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Author Topic: A Superman Storyline  (Read 733 times)

Offline Tomato

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A Superman Storyline
« on: December 10, 2018, 06:08:13 AM »
So recently Benton asked me to go through some of his DCUG stuff via discord chat, and it helped unearth a... storyline, for lack of a better word, that'd built up in my head some years ago that, while I don't necessarily have the time to make a mod campaign for, I did still want to share a summary of it with ya'll.

I should note that, when I conceptualized this storyline, it was with the idea that it'd be in a comic book, and that the pieces of it were intended to be spread out over a long period of time, with other stories happening throughout. There's a few reasons that's important, but I'll try to go into them as I go.

The overall narrative begins with yet another run in with Superman's most malicious menace, Metallo. He'd been able to steal some Lexcorp tech that enhanced his kryptonite powers, but in the end Superman was able to overcome him and thwart his latest attempt at revenge.

Later on though, when Clark Kent returns to the daily planet offices, he's suddenly hit with a wave of weakness... Kryptonite!?! At the Daily Planet!?! Several other Planet reporters look on with concern (including Lois Lane, who in my mind already knows his identity) but the wave seems to pass as quickly as it came, and a scan with his X-ray vision reveals to Superman that there isn't any kryptonite nearby, at least none with enough size and radioactivity to cause that level of reaction.

Over the next year or so of stories, that event and the overall storyline would get put on the backburner. Clark occasionally feels a bit weak at work (more a general soreness than the wave that hit him after the metallo fight), but when Lois asks him about it he reiterates that his x-ray scans show no kryptonite hidden in the offices. At the same time, interspersed in the background noise of the office is a few new names, including a "Henry" that seems to be a reporter of some kind.

Things come back around when, after yet another bout of weakness, Clark decides to ask for a favor. He convinces Batman help him to do a full sweep of the planet offices. There's still no sign of Kryptonite, but there ARE residuals of kryptonite radiation around the office. However, those traces are super faint and are not really concentrated in a way that indicates kryptonite was hidden somewhere in the planet offices. Bruce speculates that, since the tech Metallo used to enhance his abilities was stolen from Lexcorp, Metallo could have implemented a Lexcorp prototype that wasn't yet fully functional, and Clark's just been dealing with residual energy after shaking whatever it was loose at the planet. Batman agrees to look into it, but it's left unresolved for the moment.

And... I think I'll leave it here for now. As I said, the story is intended to be a bit of a slow build anyway, and I have work tomorrow. Let me know what you think so far, and feel free to speculate where it's going.

Offline docdelorean88

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Re: A Superman Storyline
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2019, 11:51:45 PM »
Don't know why it took me so long to see this but I am very very intrigued!
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Offline Tomato

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Re: A Superman Storyline
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2020, 03:47:44 AM »
Sorry for taking so long to get back to this, wasn't really up to writing for ahile, and then it'd just been so long I felt bad about suddenly posting more. But now with everything, I've got nothing but time.

(I should also note, given recent events, that this story would be set prior to Superman coming out as Clark Kent, for reasons that should be apparent as things progress).

Anyway, the random surges of Kryptonite continue for a short while after, until a particularly bad blast hits him during a Daily Planet staff meeting, and Perry suggests he take the day off and rest up. In the background, we see Jimmy Olsen comment to a random blonde reported that he doesn't think Clark has ever had to take a sick day before. However, after that, the pulses suddenly stop. Lois speculates that whatever it was must have had one final blast in it before it finally subsided.

After a few minor adventure, Perry asks Clark to go into the field with one of his newest reporters, the blonde we had seen Jimmy talking to during the staff meeting, Henry Milch. A relatively young reporter, he's worked on a few minor stories with Jimmy Olsen, but Perry thinks he could use some time shadowing a more senior reporter to cut his teeth. The story has the pair going on a fairly typical Superman romp, with Henry ending up in a very Lois Lane style predicament when they come across an off-brand Bizarro (this one isn't by Luthor and isn't even up to a normal Bizarro's standard in terms of combat, but it's still enough to be dangerous) and Henry ends up damseled. We learn that the whole thing is an attempt by Intergang to have some Superman-ish level of firepower on their side, including amassing their own stockpiles of weapons... including kryptonite based ones like what Metallo had stolen at the start of things.

A few more stories happen, including an attack by Metallo on the Planet offices (this time without the Kryptonite enhancements he had before, so the problem is more about him threatening the Planet staff, and Clark being able to get away unseen. Thankfully, with Metallo's attention focused on the usual suspects, Henry is able to get behind him and hit him with a metal folding chair. It effectively does nothing, but Metallo is distracted by his idiocy long enough for Clark to get away in the confusion and change into Superman. Henry ends the story a bit banged up, but he tells Jimmy in confidence that Lois' Superman article is what inspired to become a reporter in the first place, and he acted on impulse. He doesn't love her or anything (he was old enough when the article came out that she wasn't a childhood crush or anything) but respects her work too much to see her get hurt.

This is where I'm going to leave things for this post, but worry not, I actually wrote the rest before I hit send this time. However, as I said at the end of the first post, this story is meant to be a bit of a slow burn. Not AS slow as it has ended up, but a comic storyline in this style would leave people months to speculate and do some google fu, so I want people here to do the same. As with last time, feel free to speculate and feel free to google in the meantime. I plan on posting the next part either next Saturday or Sunday, with one more part the following week.

Offline Tomato

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Re: A Superman Storyline
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2020, 11:55:51 PM »
So a few stories after we last left off, Henry and Jimmy Olsen go on assignment tracking down some reports of a string of muggings in a lower income area of Metropolis. Small time stuff, but we get some character building with the two of them in between interviews. The two work to establish a pattern of attack, but one of the victims, a former prize fighter, cautions the pair that whatever was doing this left him feeling oddly weak. Most of the other victims wrote it off as a result of the mugging itself, but as a former fighter he knows too well how he should feel after a beating, and this was something else.

Sure enough, once the pair manage to track his pattern of attack down to a central source, it's revealed that the culprit is secretly Parasite, trying to build up strength on the DL before his next confrontation with Superman. He manages to capture and knock out the pair, but not before Jimmy discretely activates his signal watch to summon Superman. Superman arrives, but due to his disguise Parasite is able to get the upper hand and start draining Superman.

It is at this point, Superman's powers drained by Parasite, that a flash of green lightning strikes the villain. Henry, having regained consciousness during Parasite's posturing, managed to free his hands from Parasite's crude restraints, and had donned a pair of gloves, from which the lightning was eminating. Parasite, having absorbed Superman's power, is particularly susceptible to this mysterious energy.

Parasite defeated, the issue ends with a menacingly framed shot of Henry standing over the weakened Superman, gloves crackling with green energy.

Aaaand, that's it for today. I know, cheap cliffhanger, but everything finally ends next week.

Offline Podmark

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Re: A Superman Storyline
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2020, 12:18:28 AM »
You have me intrigued.
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Offline Tomato

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Re: A Superman Storyline
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2020, 12:47:15 AM »
The next issue opens with Henry helping Superman to his feet, In the aftermath, we get a small exposition dump to Superman (a much simplified version that would be expanded in later issues, but I'm going to write it all out for the sake of expediency):

Henry had been taken and experimented on by a mad scientist, who went by the name Der Teufel, during his childhood. Der Teufel was trying to tap into children's adaptability, and was planning to brainwash them to serve his own ends. For Henry, he was primarily experimenting with a radioactive green substance that had been discovered in Kansas nearly a decade before. He was eventually rescued by a superhero (in my head it's one of the JSA, likely Alan, but the timeline may not 100% match) and the parents of the children opted to keep things as quiet as possible. However, his father soon learned that any sort of electric current could cause him to spark with green energy, and Henry eventually figured out he could focus that energy through lead.

Having always been an adventurous lad, Henry planned to use a pair of lead tipped gloves and a crudely modified wristwatch to become a superhero in his own right, though his father managed to convince him to wait until he was done with college before taking action. It was during his Freshman year that Kryptonite, and it's highly radioactive nature, became public knowledge thanks to one of the early confrontations between Lex Luthor and Superman. Concerned to learn he might have something radioactive coursing through his body, Henry ran some tests: while Der Teufel's experiments had mostly insulated his system from Kryptonite's radioactive properties, the energy discharge when he charged his powers was doing minor internal damage. His early experiments hadn't done too much given the limited use and his youthful metabolism, but any sort of long-term reliance in his adulthood was likely to cause him major health risks. He also discovered that a geiger counter could actually register a small amount of radiation coming from his chest, but it was at such a miniscule level it was more likely for someone to get cancer from the electric current running through most domestic homes. Still, just to be safe, he modified a few cheap tank tops so that they were lined with a super thin layer of lead.

Henry's desire to be a superhero more or less dashed, he focused his energy in his journalism career. Early on, he had taken it up because he thought it'd be a good way to keep his ear to the ground and supplement his crime fighting (I imagine there being a comedic pause from the exposition where Superman looks away and blushes) but re-reading Lois' Superman article, which he'd saved when he still wanted to become a hero himself, made him realize he could still have adventures even without a colorful costume. He'd keep the gloves and watch on him for self defense (and since his inspiration ended up kidnapped every other week, probably wasn't a bad call tbh)

Once he was finished with college, he worked on some smaller local papers until he was able to get his dream job, working for the Daily Planet. Everything seemed normal for a few months, and he was happy to be working in the same building as his heroes. He and Jimmy Olsen especially got along well, since they were both about the same age and both had a similar enthusiasm for the paper.

However, whenever he spotted another hero of his, Clark Kent, he seemed to be avoiding Henry (Clark was subconsciously trying to get away from the source of the Kryptonite). This finally culminated with Kent nearly passing out during that Planet staff meeting from part 2. When Jimmy mentioned to Henry that he'd never seen Kent sick like that, Henry put two and two together: the low level of radiation might be too small to affect humans, but Superman, who was known to be weak to the stuff, was likely more susceptible. Add to this Superman's long established history with the paper, and it wasn't hard to put the rest together. As such, he started wearing the lead vest under his clothes.

And... that's the end. Obviously the character would continue to be explored in a long form format (as would other plotlines, like the Intergang stuff), but that's where this arc would basically end.

To address some lingering questions some might have:

-If Jimmy and Henry are the same age, why has Jimmy been around since the beginning and Henry hasn't? Isn't there a timeline hiccup there?

Eh, not really. Jimmy's been working for the planet since he was 16/17, and he's become the most experienced Photographer the planet has, and he's also a pretty decent reporter despite his lack of a formal education. In fact, I'd surmise that's why Perry paired the two together: Jimmy's learned from the best at the paper, and pairing the two balances any writing shortfalls Jimmy has as well as Henry's own lack of experience working in such a large paper.

-If Henry had powers this whole time, and kept the tools to activate them with him, why didn't he use them with Bizarro or Metallo?

In contrast to Superman, Bizarro is usually empowered by Kryptonite. In fact, it was actually Henry being in close proximity that awoke the proto Bizarro. Even if he didn't already know that, the lightning isn't super accurate: with the two in close quarters, he'd be just as likely to hit Clark/Superman.

Similar issues with Metallo. It's possible that he could overload Metallo's system, but it's also possible the lightning would supercharge him. Additionally, both Lois and Clark were right there, and even if he didn't hit them if Metallo was touching them they could get caught in the attack. However, knowing Clark was right there, and was likely trying to get away to change to Superman, Henry was able to cause a big enough distraction to let Superman do his job.

-What about all the other stuff, the Kryptonite device, the Intergang plot, the stuff with Metallo?

Mostly red herrings, at least in this context. Obviously that stuff would be expanded in later stories, but the main purpose here is to obfuscate the Henry Milch stuff as much as possible, and provide other possible reasons for the early story stuff.

-Where did this idea come from?

So for those who didn't google fu it like I suggested (or, like me, have some culture and actually listened to the Radio serials) this series is very loosely based on the Atom Man story from the Superman radio serial. Heinrich Milch, who later used the pseudonym Henry Miller, was Nazi who volunteered to become a living weapon after the fall of the Nazi party in WW2. A scientist, Der Teufel, had bought a piece of Kryptonite, and used it to turn Henry into a living Atomic bomb. His abilities allowed him to shoot Kryptonite lightning out of his hands, and he infiltrated the Planet to perhaps discover Superman's identity, given his clear connection to the paper. In a similar manner as above, Heinrich realized Superman was Clark Kent, and lured Clark into a trap. Superman escaped, and eventually confronted "The Atom Man" in about as titanic a clash as they could manage over radio. Superman beats him by eventually depleting his powers (they could run out) and I think he died during the confrontation, but the one wiki page I found doesn't go past the origin.

The idea here started as a way of bringing the character into a modern context (I feel he's super underrated as a classic Superman villain, predating both Metallo and Kryptonite Man). However, with both those villains around, plus the internet being what it is, I realized that it'd actually be far more interesting narratively to play on expectations. His name, Henry Milch, combines his American pseudonym and his original name, and alone would be enough for eagle eyed fans to put the pieces of Superman's bouts of weakness together. At that point, with Henry getting more and more spotlight as the book goes on, the source would be more widely known, and fans would expect this to be the return of a forgotten Superman villain in a modern context.

And then, with everyone expecting the inevitable confrontation, the rug gets pulled out from under them. From then on, we have a dynamic shift with Henry: On the one hand, he seems a decent enough guy, a possible hero in another life. On the other though, his powers seem almost tailor made to attack Superman, despite his claims that they were given to him in childhood. Is he a long term plant by Luthor, or Intergang? Superman might come to trust him, but Lois would probably be far more suspicious, and mirror the doubts of the audience. That dynamic would be interesting to play with, because he actually looks up to her more than Superman.

Now, I personally would never write him as anything but a good man, but the door to him being evil the whole time would also never be FULLY closed. The idea is to keep things open for another writer to change things up how they want later. I just think the lingering question is more narratively tantalizing, because once the source is known, the fan base is always going to be waiting for the moment he turns.