In 1940, Superman creators Siegel and Schuster came up with a story that would have changed Superman mythology and chronology – if its publishers had not banned it from publication. In The K-Metal From Krypton, much of the story elements that would take decades to slowly develop over many different books by many different authors, are already present. Superman learns that he is from another planet, Kryptonite is introduced some 10 years before it was used in the radio show and, most importantly, Lois Lane finds out that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same. This possibly would have had consequences for the complete superhero genre.
The original story is currently being reconstructed by the wonderful people at Superman Through The Ages. It’s a collective work of an impressive size, with a whole legion of artists contributing. At the moment they are at page 15, with eleven more in the making.
Calling this story the most important story fo all time may be a bit hyperbolic. However, in a way it does embody the question that every adult comic fan asks himself now and then, namely what would have happened to comics if they had been allowed to mature into a full fledged medium, like film, instead of being stuck in a hero-vs-baddie rut, and branded an infantile medium. Alex Ross is quoted from Alter Ego, saying :
Only two years into the development of the character, this story would have ended the love triangle that has been considered fundamental to the Superman legend for 60 years.
This would have been a turning point in super-hero reality. It’s not only the simple idea that Superman shared his identity with Lois. It’s that Jerry Siegel was taking steps to evolve the archetypal super-hero story beyond the repetitive dramas created by this personal obstacle, which kept the characters’ relationship from maturing.
It certainly would have freed us from newspaper articles about “Zam-pooweeh, comics are not for kids anymore”…