DC Histories: The Bottle City of Kandor

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the lost city of Krypton, Kandor.

Superman: Kandor - DC Collectibles Print (2012)

In 1958, Superman ran into the alien Brainiac for the first time. Brainiac was an intergalactic villain, obsessed with gaining more knowledge of the universe. Towards that end, he went across the stars, shrinking down various alien cities and keeping them aboard his ship. When he arrived on Earth and attempted to steal our greatest cities, Superman took notice. After getting inside Brainiac’s ship to free the stolen Earth cities, Superman discovered the unimaginable: A tiny Kryptonian city in a bottle.

Years earlier, before Krypton exploded, Brainiac arrived on Superman’s home world. There, he shrunk the city of Kandor and kept it aboard his ship. Before any Kryptonians could figure out a way to track down Brainiac to save their stolen city and its shrunken population, Krypton exploded. The Kandorians remained trapped on Brainiac’s ship for years until Superman came along. Once he learned of Kandor, Superman removed the city from Brainiac’s control and deposited it in his Fortress of Solitude.

From Action Comics (Vol. 1) #242 (1958)

Unfortunately, Superman had no way to enlarge the last city of Krypton. The technology that Brainiac used to shrink the city was unique and outside of Superman’s knowledge base.

Even though their city now rested on Earth, the Kandorians didn’t develop super powers like Superman did. Brainiac had made their environment as close to Krypton as possible. With the gravity and sunlight approximating that of their home planet, they remained normal Kryptonians. That also meant that anytime Superman was able to shrink himself and enter Kandor, he too was powerless.

Having a tiny city full of tiny Kryptonians led to some great Silver Age Superman stories. It also lead to some silly ones. In the 1960s, the Superman line of books had very dream-like qualities. Events happened just because it would be interesting if they did, no matter how stretched the readers’ suspension of disbelief became. For instance, there was a Kandorian named Van-Zee who was a dead-wringer for Superman. Occasionally, Van-Zee would leave Kandor, become enlarged, and help Superman either fight a villain or protect Superman’s secret identity of Clark Kent. When Lois Lane and Van-Zee’s wife accidentally traded places one day, Lois discovered that Van-Zee also had a twin brother named Dik-Zee who walked around all day in a Superman costume. Of course, Lois was smitten.

From Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #21 (1960)

Another series of Kandor stories detailed the adventures of Superman and Jimmy Olsen’s time in the city. During an investigation into the origins of a super-powered gang of thugs, Superman and Jimmy entered Kandor. Finding themselves unwanted by the people within, Jimmy and Superman took on secret identities to allow them to further their inquiries. Naming themselves after rare Kryptonian birds, Nightwing and Flamebird were born.

From Superman (Vol. 1) #158 (1963)

Due to Superman’s lack of powers in Kandor, the pair became an off-brand Batman and Robin duo with jet packs. They even had a Nightcave, whatever that means. Why Dick Grayson chose to name himself after Superman’s secret identity on Kandor is still a mystery to me. Years later, Van-Zee and his young assistant would take over the Nightwing and Flamebird identities in the pages of Superman Family.

Over two decades after Superman first discovered Kandor, he finally developed a process to enlarge the entire city at once. While it had been common practice to enlarge small groups of people, a bigger enlargement had never been tried. In 1979, he and Supergirl were present as Kandor was finally restored to its former glory. It was decided that an empty planet which revolved around a red sun would be the perfect place for the Kandorians to revive Krypton.

From Superman (Vol. 1) #338 (1979)

Unfortunately, Superman had miscalculated. While the people survived the transformation, the city of Kandor itself crumbled to bits. Superman had single-handled done more to destroy Kryptonian artifacts than any other person. But, the Kandorians had survived and began to remake their city.

Shortly after Superman returned to Earth, he built a model replacement of Kandor to rest in the Fortress. He failed to tell this fact to the rest of the Justice League so, when Wonder Woman gave Superman a birthday present of a Kandor model, it made things momentarily awkward.

From Superman Annual (Vol. 1) #11 (1985)

Shortly after getting that birthday present, the Crisis on Infinite Earths hit. Superman’s past was rebooted and a new series of Superman tales began. This time, Superman was truly the last survivor of Krypton. Now, there was no Krypto and no Supergirl. Even when a Supergirl eventually showed up, she wasn’t Kryptonian. It certainly meant that there was no tiny city full of Kryptonian survivors. However, that didn’t mean there was no Kandor. In 1995, Kandor came back into continuity. It was just a slightly different city.

Action Comics (Vol. 1) #725 (1996) Cover

An alien magician named Tolos was to blame this time. He created a bottle city called Kandor that he filled with beings whose powers he wanted. Superman freed this bottle city from Tolos and brought it to Earth. This Kandor was filled with every kind of alien except Kryptonians.

That changed with Superman: Birthright. Once again, Kandor was a Kryptonian city. To make this new version of Kandor jibe with the most recent version, it was revealed that various other races also lived on Kandor now. It was still a melting pot. During a fairly incomprehensible story, the new-on-the-scene Kryptonian Supergirl and Power Girl entered this version of Kandor to hunt down a person claiming to be Superman. For some reason, the pair decided to dress up as the old Superman and Jimmy Olsen characters Nightwing and Flamebird.

From Supergirl (Vol. 5) #7 (2006)

From what I can tell, this is the version of Kandor in which Booster Gold hid to stay out of Skeets’ way in 52. Unfortunately, readers weren’t shown much of the inside of Kandor this time, but we did get a pretty great reveal of Booster saving the city.

From 52 #37 (2007)

Shortly thereafter, Kandor was thrust into the forefront of the DCU. After learning that all of the various versions of Brainiac that he had seen were only probes and automatons, Superman came face-to-face with the real thing. While aboard Brainiac’s mothership, Superman again discovered the city of Kandor. Remember, those original Silver Age stories weren’t canon anymore. This was Superman’s first time finding Kandor on Brainiac’s ship. After defeating the villain, Superman removed Kandor and brought it to the Fortress of Solitude. However, unlike the Silver Age which had Superman keeping the city in its bottle form, Kandor suddenly began to enlarge itself. Without Brainiac’s control, the city went back to its natural state.

From Action Comics (Vol. 1) #870 (2008)

Now, a pretty big question arises from this storyline. If this is Kandor, what was that tiny city gathering dust in the Fortress of Solitude? Luckily, Lex Luthor had the answer to that one. It was just some other galactic city that knew of the original Kandor by way of legend and had taken its name for unexplained reasons. These things happen out in space, apparently. This new Kandor was the real deal.

From Action Comics (Vol. 1) #871 (2009)

Along with the city itself came 100,000 Kryptonians now living on the North Pole. Because they were near a yellow sun, all of these Kryptonians had the same powers as Superman. This began the epic ‘New Krypton’ story that lasted for over a year. General Lane, Lois’s father and world class xenophobe, was wary of so many super powered beings on his planet, so he began to try and remove them from the equation. When several Kryptonians were implicated in the deaths of police officers, events came to a head. Realizing that peaceful cohabitation between Kandor and Earth didn’t seem to be in the cards, Alura, Supergirl’s mother and leader of Kandor, launched the city into space and created a world around it. New Krypton was born and was immediately put into perfect orbit around the sun.

From Action Comics (Vol. 1) #873 (2009)

Even the removal of Kandor from Earth did not dissuade General Lane from plotting against the alien presence in his solar system. He still kept up his efforts to destroy the revived city.

Back on New Krypton, the people felt they needed a military leader to deal with various intergalactic threats. So, they sprung General Zod and his followers from the Phantom Zone where both Jor-El and Superman had placed them. Superman himself decided to stay on New Krypton to keep an eye on his homeworld and attempt to keep things from spiraling out of control. He would fail at that goal.

From Superman: War of the Supermen #0 (2010)

While Kandor was distracted by a new attack from Brainiac orchestrated by General Lane, Lex Luthor upgraded Reactron, a prisoner of Kandor. Reactron had a yellow Kryptonite heart that could sap a Kryptonian’s powers for 15 seconds and had fought against the city on a few occasions. Luthor turned Reactron into a human bomb which blew up the entire planet, killing all of the innocent men, women, and children of the species. The warriors of Kandor were out in space during the explosion and were thus spared the death of their loved ones.

From Superman: War of the Supermen #1 (2010)

That’s where Kandor ended before Flashpoint: just another set of floating asteroids and rubble.

Kandor has already returned in the New 52. Once again, it has been shrunk down by Brainiac and was rescued by Superman. Instead of immediately growing, as it did in 2008, it once again rests in the Fortress of Solitude. Not much is known about this version of Kandor yet, but it appears that we’ll get more information soon.

Action Comics (Vol. 2) #8 (2012) Cover

While my favorite version of Kandor has remained the Silver Age tales with their literally-anything-can-happen vibe, my recent reading of the complete New Krypton storyline caused me to rethink that position. Those New Krypton stories are very enjoyable and a compelling read. Written by writers like Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates, and Greg Rucka along with art by the likes of Gary Frank and a host of others, these stories are well worth your time.

A special thanks to Conor for giving me the lowdown on the New 52 Kandor. I’ll catch up with the latest books someday!


Jeff Reid feels bad for Kandor. They just can’t catch a break. Help Jeff catch a break by following him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

    You should write the Frommer’s Guide to Kandor.

    I loved the way Grant Morrison handled the city and its people in All Star Superman.

    • mrshock13 says:

      That is actually the only version in recent memory that I’ve enjoyed regarding the city of Kandor. I don’t know why, but the whole New Krypton storyline just didn’t sit with me for whatever reason. I haven’t enjoyed a mainstream Superman book for a while. Even Morrison’s current Action Comics storyline has been strange. The changes to the Superman mythos didn’t really help, as it seemed like nobody still has any idea on what to do with the character.

      I do thoroughly enjoy the All-Star Superman story, along with a handful of other stories in and out of continuity. I didn’t enjoy anything that came out of the result of the Death of Superman arc, and still don’t. I haven’t found a Superboy story that I’ve enjoyed, and whatever few books I end up picking up just seem like another unnecessary stain on the storyline. I know I’m probably in the minority in what I’m saying, but if anyone can really recommend a great, RECENT, superman storyline, I would love to read one.

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      I’m not sure how recent you want the story to be, but Chris Arrant did a list of great Superman stories in his article Superman: Where Do I Start?

    • mrshock13 says:

      Woah, many thanks Mr. Reid.

      I forgot to say, though, that I really liked this article. Caught me up on material that has been pretty prevalent throughout the history of Superman. Entertaining read, so thanks!

  2. Djinn says:

    Booster saved the non Kryptonian Kandor in 52 #37, never got that issue but….SPOILERS……………..wasn’t that bottle smashed in The Third Kryptonian story arc and was just speculated that they could be dead or not because Kandor didn’t really exist in the bottle but it was another dimension hence…….

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      You’re probably right. It’s been a while since I’ve read the Third Kryptonian storyline and I couldn’t get my hands on it prior to writing this article. In any case, the New Krypton storyline came right on the heels of that story and completely brushed it away in terms of continuity. Still, I wish I could have included it here.

  3. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    “Flarking Nerf-Herdereress”!! Solid gold! Supergirl just got served.

    Great stuff as always Jeff. I had no idea Kandor had such a roller coaster of a history. I also didn’t know that Brainiac didn’t appear til 1958. I thought he’d been around since long before that. Learn somethin knew every day.

  4. JesseCuster says:

    I have always thought a film based on Braniac/Kandor and meshing it with Supergirl origins would make for commercially viable Superman flick.

    Think about it in a franchise movie business sense .. Superman fights Brainiac, who controls an army of robots/androids (big action scenes w/ Superman VS Brainiac Clones), then discovers Brainiac’s motivation is to collect cultures and destroy their planets, and discovers he is not the last living Kryptonian since Brainiac has Kandor. Somehow, in the middle of all this, his cousin is freed from the bottle city of Kandor and becomes Supergirl (a jumping point for a spin-off Supergirl film). In modern terms, perhaps instead of ‘shrunken bottle cities’, we can invent some techno-babble about digitized cities on a laser disc (lol)…. or actually, the data/storage crystals like Kryptonians use, repurposed by Brainiac to ‘store’ digitized cultures… where the people are in stasis (never grow old) and in a perpetual ‘Matrix’.

  5. That year of New Krypton was really quite spectacular. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  6. mikegraham6 mikegraham6 says:

    @Jeff I seem to remember the Nightwing/Dick Grayson name thing was addressed in the Nightwing: Year One arc. I think Dick met up with Superman after quiting as Robin and Supes was the one who suggested the name Nightwing. It’s been a while since i read that arc, so i could be wrong though

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      It makes sense that someone would have tried to explain it at some point. I’ll keep an eye open for that miniseries as I’ve not read it. I suspect the real story is that Marv Wolfman just liked the name, saw that it wasn’t in use, and then slapped it onto Dick in the pages of New Teen Titans.

  7. JDC JDC says:

    D’you think Superman ever pretended to be Godzilla with Kandor, just to freak them out? He must have.

  8. kennyg kennyg says:

    How do they get air in that bottle? Wouldn’t they eventually suffocate?!

  9. Dave Withnall Cheezdog (@dww84) says:

    I believe Batman and Superman went into Kandor as Nightwing and Flamebird once!

    Also, the city had a bunch of helpers called the “Superman Emergency Squad”, which was a group of miniature Kandorians dressed as Superman who’d fly out to help him was in trouble.