"Strange Visitor": As the Earth dies in the far future, Rathotis, Boy-King of America, and Kamandi, the last astronaut off Earth, prepare to leave Metropolis. Before taking off, Kamandi requests a moment to say farewell to a statue of Superman, "until we return again". Rathotis questions Kamandi
Synopsis for "Strange Visitor"
As the Earth dies in the far future, Rathotis, Boy-King of America, and Kamandi, the last astronaut off Earth, prepare to leave Metropolis. Before taking off, Kamandi requests a moment to say farewell to a statue of Superman, "until we return again". Rathotis questions Kamandi's wording, as the idea of ever coming back to Earth seems impossible. Kamandi, in response, asks to tell Rathotis a story.
In 1939, Superman, Batman and Dracula storm Victor Frankenstein's castle on the outskirts of Metropolis, battling through the necrotic hordes of Frankenstein's Forbidden Army; Dracula screams that they have no chance of survival, but Superman proclaims that there is always a way, and Batman chastises Dracula for thinking there was a point in trying to deter Superman's hope. The next day, Superman speaks with Professor Potter at the Metropolis Spaceport, preparing for the launch of the ship Phaethon. Superman questions Potter's credit of him for this achievement, but Potter states that Superman is the inspiration of the mission: Superman's very existence proved humanity is not alone in the universe, and as such the world could wait no longer to see what was out there. Superman has concerns over the use of Red Kryptonite to power the ship; Potter voices his own concerns over utilizing something that could hurt Superman (who he has known since infancy), but also acknowledges the possibility presented. Going down to view the rocket launch with the Daily Star's Lois Lane, something goes wrong with the fuel: Superman leaps up to try and save the rocket, but is knocked back in an explosion, only for the craft to vanish entirely. As the rest of the ground crew mourns, Superman is only further determined: as there is no wreckage, he concludes the Phaethon has not been destroyed, making it not a tragedy, but a mystery.
Kamandi explains that this loss--in the very place where he and Rathotis stand--was the first time Kal-El knew failure, and what it was to be mortal. Rathotis asks what possible lesson there was to learn from a story of Superman failing, and Kamandi says the story is not yet over; when Rathotis asks if it is perhaps a tale of salvation, Kamandi replies it is rather one of damnation. Rathotis mourns that there could be no greater damnation than what they now go through, to see Earth turn to ashes and all their dreams with it, while Kamandi notes that dreams had been lost and empires fallen before, and that there would be a time when they could dream again, just as Superman persevered in spite of his own first failure. Rathotis asks what faith Kamandi could possibly have in Superman, when he was not there to save his adopted world, but Kamandi notes that Rathotis does not understand Superman's true purpose: that in making an impossible journey to come to Earth, he had shown Earth that such things were possible, and that he was not among humanity to save it by vanquishing its ills, but to, in never surrendering or faltering, reflect all that was great in them, and in so doing show what they could become. Rathotis still does not understand what point there is to praising the long-lost Superman as they board the ship, dismissing it as nostalgia, but Kamandi reminds him that they themselves are lost, and that in the end, there is no "I" or "you" or "him" in the grand scheme...simply "us".
In 2013, Superman meets Lois for the first time in a great while at the soon-to-be rededicated Metropolis Spaceport, as government work has kept him busy. She jokingly bemoans that he never ages, while he claims to do so at a merely reduced rate, which she dismisses. They head out together to greet cheering a cheering crowd, numbering aliens, superheroes and even gods. Superman wonders why they celebrate him above all others, and Lois says that while he may not see it himself, the world sees the best of themselves reflected in Superman, and for that they love him. At this moment, she begins to melt, as a gigantic Superman statue turns on Superman with heat vision, yelling that humanity should be beneath Superman's attention, unable to repay him for his deeds and undeserving of his very existence, and that Superman would be better served by moving on to other worlds or universes. Superman says that he sees himself in them, and realizing the nature of the threat, speaks his name backwards. The statue sighs and reveals itself as Mr. Mxyzptlk, transporting both of them into the 5th dimension. Mxy reveals his anniversary present for Superman: the Phaethon, trapped in a volatile interdimensional state as a result of the Red K fuel. Superman tries to rescue it, but finds himself caught in a distortion field that he cannot pass; Mxy explains the Phaethon is in a state more chaotic than even the 5th dimension, and that it will be some time before Superman becomes powerful enough to save them, but reaffirms that it is possible; Superman agrees that "there's always a way".
Rathotis asks what reassurance the story of Superman's failure is supposed to be, but Kamandi says that in persevering, Superman allowed to give the weight of his failure power over him. Activating the Red K fuel engines of their fleets crafts--another gift, in a manner of speaking, from Superman--Kamandi concludes that Superman's very existence proves that endings are only clean slates, chances to begin anew, and that though they will never see it for themselves, Kamandi holds faith that Superman will find a way to redeem his failure. In the distance, Superman watches as Earth explodes.
In 1926, Clark Kent prepares to jump from his house to the barn with the help of Krypto, but his mother Martha spots him mid-leap and prepares to lecture him. He says he can't be hurt and is about to remind her that she told him not to stop improving himself, but Jonathan yells from a distance for Clark to listen to his mother, to Martha's amusement.
Billions of years later, at the end of time, a masked Superman regales the dying god Anu with the tale of Kamandi and Rathotis. Anu says his time is soon to come, and apologizes that Superman will be forced to face the end of creation alone, but Superman merely replies he feels privileged to witness the end of creation and the birth of the new universe to come; Anu remarks that Superman's hope, even in the face of oblivion, may truly be his greatest power as he himself passes. The masked Superman flies off, and telepathically contacts "Superman Null" at the center of creation, where it has been holding back the wave of entropy that will end the universe. The masked Superman meets with the other "Super-Sentries", extensions of the prime Superman's consciousness, merging for the first time in millennia in order to accomplish their final task. Reunified, Superman finds himself confronted with a shade of Lois Lane, who remarks that no matter how much time passes, Superman has never changed in his basic nature, and encourages him to save the day one final time. Outracing the now uncontrolled waves of entropy, Superman tears a hole in the fabric of reality to reach the Phaethon, which in its pocket dimension has only undergone 5 minutes of time since 1938. Superman grabs the craft and approaches the oncoming wave of entropy: as the astronauts realize that enough time has passed that Earth is gone, Superman assures them that he has remained for them, and that no matter what the new universe brings he will never leave them, as they fly together into the unknown.
Appearing in "Strange Visitor"
- Vlad Dracula
- Professor Potter
- Lois Lane
- Mr. Mxyzptlk
- Martha Kent
- Jonathan Kent
- Anu (Dies)
- The Super-Sentries
- Super-Sentry MCMLXIII
- Super-Sentry MMCIX
- Professor Frankenstein (Mentioned only)
- Frankenstein's Monsters
- Lex Luthor (Flashback only)
- Bizarro (Flashback only)
- Darkseid (Flashback only)
- Brainiac (Flashback only)
- Mongul (Flashback only)
- Atomic Skull (Flashback only)
- Amazo (Flashback only)
- Castle of Victor Frankenstein
- Fortress of Solitude (Flashback only)
- Kandor (Flashback only)
- Fifth Dimension
- The Superman of "Strange Visitor" notably resembles the original Superman in appearance and power when seen in 1939, and although his costume changes into the traditional Superman uniform later in the story, the sleeves of his outfit remain the same.
- It is noted in 2013 that the world is celebrating 75 years of Superman, meaning both that he began his career in 1938 (the year of the publication of Action Comics #1), and that the Superman of "Strange Visitor" shares the year of his 75th anniversary with the fictional character of the real world.
- Kryptonite is also referred to as K-Metal, a reference to the unpublished Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster story "The K-Metal From Krypton".
- The masked Super-Sentry is mistakenly referred to as both number MMXCIX and MMCIX.