lyla lerrol

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The Chronological Superman 1960:

Superman returns to Krypton in the pages of Superman vol.1 No.141, in a story which serves primarily to give the Man of Steel a doomed, lost love in the Kryptonian movie star Lyla Lerrol (also Ler-Rol).

The book-length adventure takes Superman on an interesting emotional journey. Accidentally arriving in Krypton’s past, in the vicinity of its power-sapping red sun, he barely makes it safely into his home planet’s atmosphere before his store of super-powers dissipates. Mortal and trapped on a world marked by fate for destruction, Superman at first works feverishly to assist his father in developing the technology to save the world and its inhabitants. It’s only when he finds true, invigorating love with the beautiful, mournful Lyla that he accepts the inevitability not only of the planet’s destruction, but his own as the unfortunate dupe of destiny. 

Superman’s – or, given his reduced circumstances, should we call him Kal-El – romance with Lyla is of a completely different stripe from that which he experienced with Lois Lane. As I mentioned in a previous post, 1959 is the year when Superman developed something not unlike a sex drive, engulfed in a passionate affair with the Atlantean mermaid Lori Lemaris. Now, he’s again wrapped up with a beauty from another world, and his assumed chastity is thrown to the wind. 

At this point in continuity, Lois has been recast as a constantly lovesick schemer, engaged in a battle of wits with Clark/Superman to not only prove his dual identity but to convince/trick her bulletproof paramour to tie the knot with her. And yet, in those stories involving their romance, it’s a perfunctory sort of affection. Lois and Superman are familiar with each other, and the audience is exceedingly familiar with them. 

Which is why exotic beauties are suddenly dropped in Superman’s lap (and, for her part, why Lois is frequently wooed by other super-men. Apparently there’s something about the woman which makes her irresistible to the invulnerable). Since the status quo is a romance between Lois and Superman, and tying the knot between the two anywhere except within the confines of an imaginary story would completely disrupt the core premise of the relationship (and bankrupt a whole marketing goldmine), it falls on other alliterative beauties to add some spice to the book.

And Lyla’s relationship with Kal-El is spicy indeed. Observe the above panels, complete with metaphorical churnings within the core of ill-fated Krypton. Superman is completely in the thrall of Lyla’s beauty, and he succumbs to expressions of ardor which he’s never shared with Lois. Maybe it’s the threat of death that’s encouraged him to act out with such abandon. Maybe it’s his heart speaking truly for the first time. Who knows, he’s made up, anything’s possible.

A couple of other thoughts about Lyla Lerrol; It seems to me that she was based on the also-alliterative Marilyn Monroe, minus the beauty mark. I’m only guessing, so if someone has a definitive answer or a better guess, please let me know.

The other thought is that this is the confirmation of the feminine structure of Kryptonian names. Men of Krypton generally have a single first name, often one syllable, and then their family’s surname (Van-Zee, Jor-El) while women have a frequently two-syllable first name and then their father’s name (Kara Zor-El, Lara Lor-Van). Supergirl was, obviously, the first Kryptonian woman to sport the structure. Twice makes a precedent, and all that … 

“Superman’s Return to Krypton!” from Superman #141 (1960)
Written by Jerry Siegel
Art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye

“On through space rotates Krypton, toward its inexorable rendezvous with a cruel destiny, but at the sky palace, two pairs of lovers propose a toast, gallantly unafraid…”

“Superman’s Return to Krypton!” (not to be confused with “Superman Returns to Krypton!”, the 1949 story wherein Superman traces a Kryptonite back through time and first learns where he came from, which is a nice story itself, albeit definitely no longer canon after the advent of Super-Memory) is a genuinely great, classic Superman story.

The setup is that due to a freak accident, Superman ends up hurled into the past, landing on Krypton some weeks or months before it explodes. Since he doesn’t have superpowers on Krypton, he can do nothing to prevent or escape the coming destruction, and instead takes the time to hang out with his parents, get to know the world where he was born, and to fall in love with a Kryptonian actress named Lyla Lerrol, with whom he shares many makeouts:

It’s all incredibly bittersweet and surprisingly touching, as Superman finds a happy, passionate life with Lyla and his parents, all the while knowing it’s going to end violently and soon.

I’ve excerpted the pivotal moment above, as the four of them celebrate in the face of certain doom.

Of course, just before the explosion, Superman is hurled away from Krypton in another freak accident, but somehow that just makes it all the more sad.

I would highly recommend giving it a look, along with everything else I’ve been reading through lately. There’s great stuff, and the stuff that’s terrible is at least terrible in interesting ways. You can find them for cheap in the Showcase Presents: Superman (as well as Superman Family and Supergirl) volumes, in which this story is collected in Vol. 2.

If everyone goes out and reads those I’ll seem less weird for being fascinated by these things, and that’s really my goal here.