Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kandor City Blues

What's up with Kandor these days? Does anyone know?

It used to be simple*. Kandor was a Kryptonian city, shrunk down and collected by Brainiac before Krypton blew up, which Superman rescued and, unable to return its citizens to their rightful size, stored in his high tech Fortress of Solitude. Then came John Byrne, who, in a quest to make sure Kal-El was the last survivor of Krypton, dammit!, erased Kandor from continuity, along with Supergirl, Krypto, and others.

But, during the 1990s, as old ideas crept back in in new forms, Kandor was reintroduced as a bottle city full of supermen from diverse planets, none Kryptonian, collected by an alien wizard as weapons to use against his enemies. Again, Superman rescued the city and saved it in his fortress, but couldn't restore the city to its proper size. And that was alright.

And then came "Godfall". Or rather, Superman #200, where Superman falls into a different timeline, effectively erasing Byrne's continuity. (Hey, live by the reboot, die by the reboot.) Or rather, a slightly different timeline, so that some stories, like Doomsday, were still in continuity, but some, like apparently the mullet he wore for three years after he came back, are not.

And the first sign of this was "Godfall," which took place in a bottled city of Kandor that had Kryptonians, AND non-Kryptonians, AND had been shrunk by Brainiac, AND worshipped Superman as a savior who had possibly abandoned them. What?! How did that happen? The Supergirl storyline where she becomes the protector of Kandor didn't clear anything up either!

Here's the thing: I don't care that one version of Kandor's history has been replaced with another ("Forget it, Jake. It's Hypertime.") I just don't like the fact that writers continue to use Kandor as a place we're supposed recognize (as recently as 52) and yet it's clearly not the place we were introduced to in Action Comics 242 nor the one we met in Action Comics 725. It has the same name and shares major features, but it has a history that is completely unknown. It just lacks exposition, and that's frustrating.

And why I care is because Kandor is a really interesting playground. Bottle cities are amazing bits of fantasy (and if you don't agree, watch The Matrix again). The idea that you can live your entire life in a city, full of people with complicated lives, yet really be trapped, is an amazing bit of metaphor. I like the irony that Brainiac was in some way right to preserve a city, saving a major chuck of Kryptonian science and culture, not to mention Kryptonians, from the annihilation of their planet. And of course, tiny Supermen is just cool.

Not that there aren't problems with the concept. As the plot of "Godfall" is predicated on, Kandor tends to get forgotten. Despite the fact that his inability to restore Kandor is supposed to prey on Superman's mind, he doesn't actually spend that much time trying to fix the problem, leaving a bunch of tiny aliens to rot. And it's hard to believe that, on a planet with Ray Palmer, Professor Zuel, and occasionally Brainiac himself (or his morally upstanding descendent, 12th level intellect Brainiac 5), it's actually that hard a problem to solve.

Nevertheless, Kandor is fun, and I think could be used to better effect if we just knew what the hell it really was.

*Okay, relatively simple.


Sleestak said...

Don't forget that before Byrne, the Silver/Bronze Age Kandor was enlarged on an alien planet and the bottle city in the Fortress was a model.

And then, I think, the model was populated by tiny alien refugees seeking a home. So the later reboots would fit, actually.

Anonymous said...

Also, in the current version of the Legion, Supergirl goes to a regrown version of Kandor populated by Kryptonians.

And in the Action Comics Annual, it said that the bottled Kandor in the Fortress was "inspired" by the Kryptonian city.

What the Hell is going on here?

Anonymous said...

I've never liked Kandor because while a bottle city is hilarious, the plot is basically why Alan Moore radically changed Swamp Thing: The story ends once the bottle is back to normal. So we end up with something like Ben Grimm, in which everyone accepts Kandor will NEVER be back to normal, which is a pretty lackluster ending.

I'd say it needs to be rexpanded post-haste, and have some new version of wackyness.
Like, I dunno, being protected by an obscure Kirby creation. Or something.


They should ret-con the mullet into something more stylish.