Friday, August 03, 2018

An Eye For An Eye (DC)
Action Comics #688 When: Early July 1993
Why: Roger Stern How: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier

The Story So Far...
Guy Gardner fought by Superman's side just before he made the supreme sacrifice to stop the rampaging horror of Doomsday! So it comes a surprise when Guy returns from space to find four men claiming to be the original!

Seeking to honor the memory of Superman in his own demented way; Guy heads for Metropolis to confront one of the four heroes he's convinced must be a phony! When the visor-wearing Superman spots trouble, he defers to investigate a fire lit by Guy Gardner!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Eradicator 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Eradicator 5 (Professor)
Speed: Eradicator 6 (Mach-Speeds)
Stamina: Eradicator 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Guy Gardner 4 (Training)
Energy: Guy Gardner 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Eradicator 33 (Super)

It's got all the hallmarks of a Green Lantern/Superman main event - but if you read the marquee you know it has the potential to be a whole lot messier!

Guy Gardner is well known for his days slinging a power ring as charter member of the Green Lantern Corps (and Justice League), but it wasn't always so! Proximity originally kept him from accepting Abin Sur's ring when the alien fatally crash-landed on Earth. Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 instead, but Gardner was eventually called up from the reserves.

In more recent years his attitude has attracted a Red Lantern ring -- but back in 1993, Guy was forced to wear an accessory of an entirely different hue!

He lost his Green Lantern ring to a fight with Hal Jordan, who'd returned to Earth after a stay in space. A brief stint as a powerless vigilante saw the likes of Black Hand kicking Guy's butt [Guy Gardner Reborn #1], so he tricked Lobo into taking him to deep space to seek new powers. Their adventure took them the tomb of Sinestro, where the then-deceased villain was buried with his yellow ring of Qwardian origin! Guy took it for himself - and the rest is history!

These days we know yellow rings as the fear-fuelled weapons of an entire Sinestro Corps - but back in those days, Gardner was able to wield the Qwardian ring without issue. It functioned much the same as his Green Lantern ring, allowing for yellow energy projections, and hard-light constructs.

We saw Guy using the yellow ring during Superman and the Justice League's unsuccessful stand against Doomsday in Superman #74.

A subsequent final showdown between Superman and Doomsday would seemingly result in their mutual demise. From the heroic void would rise four new heroes claiming to be the original Superman: A hybrid cloned Superboy, a Cyborg Superman, a literal man of Steel, and today's visored son of Krypton...

Eradicator was in truth a sentient device sent into space by ancient aliens facing extinction. It was reprogrammed by Kem-L of Krypton to instead protect his planet's culture at all costs.

Centuries after Krypton's destruction, its surviving keeper, The Cleric, bestowed the Eradicator upon Superman during a chance encounter on Warworld. The construct imposed various Kryptonian influences upon Superman's life during his post-Crisis reinvention, including the new creation of the Fortress of Solitude.

When Superman had seemingly died, The Eradicator used residual energies to create an organic facsimile of Krypton's last surviving son, retaining Superman's memories from a psychic interface shared with The Cleric. This allowed the new Superman to genuinely believe he was the original article!

The genetic imitation is a convincing one, mimicking the abilities associated with Kryptonian physiology when exposed to a yellow sun. Eradicator differs slightly in his origins as a creature of solar energy, allowing him to perceive and wield energy in different ways, such as powerful blasts from his hands and eyes!

We've seen Guy Gardner handle energy projections from the Blue Beetle scarab [in Blue Beetle #1], and rip away at the yellow fear energy of Parallax [in Green Lantern #24]. Given Eradicator also has innate super-strength and durability -- those past examples may prove cold comfort!

Eradicator also favors far more harsh methods than the traditional Superman, which means Gardner won't even be able to out-do him on the bad ass meter! We've done the introductions, let's just find out how the fight went!

The Tape: Eradicator Ranking: Guy Gardner (#121)

What Went Down...
Spotting a raging inferno from his aerial vantage point, the would-be Superman descends to see if he can help. On touching down at the waterfront, he finds the licking yellow flame disappearing without a trace! Guy Gardner steps from the nearby shadows to introduce himself -- and his yellow power ring!

A massive energy fist catches Eradicator by surprise -- exploding from the dock as Gardner announces himself a "one-man Superman revenge squad!"

The blow sends Eradicator hurtling into the water! Gardner's boastful challenges are soon replaced with presumptions of a one-hit victory when Eradicator fails to emerge from the water. Gardner dives in to the harbor encased in a yellow energy field to scan for his presumed drowning foe -- but comes up empty.

The ring-protected hero deduces his impact must've driven the substitute Superman into the sediment beneath the sea -- but he's only half right! The toppled Superman returns fire with a sucker punch from beneath the muck!

The awesome power of the blow sends Gardner hurtling from the sea to the sky! His air-filled energy field protects him from the devastating impact, and allows him to level out in the sky above -- but the trouble is far from over!

Eradicator rockets out of the water and straight for Gardner with a two-fisted strike! The deadly new Superman has little time for Gardner's childish presence!

The brawling heroes fight inland, where they smash through an overpass before crashing down to Earth. The Eradicator is first to emerge from the rubble as Gardner contemplates his short fuse.

Intent on regaining the offensive, Guy forms a golden suit of armor and lance, but barely has time to wield them before the stand-in Superman launches him airborne with another super-punch!

The incredible punch sends Gardner flying uncontrollably across the Metropolis skyline! He sheds his armor, smashing through jutting chimneys and water towers on a strategic trajectory towards trouble!

A simple energy field protects Gardner from harm as he crash lands into an old abandoned gas station! The scene was carefully selected by the analytical Eradicator, having spied signs of a biker gang before falling into Guy's trap!

The impact destroys the gang's bikes and gives Eradicator a chance to quiz Guy on his reasons for attacking. The gang attacks before a response is given, but Eradicator's brutal and violent methods soon appeal to Gardner's sensibilities.

The ring-slinger's suspicions that this Superman is phony are replaced with admiration and excitement for the Superman he'd rather have around. Gardner presumes a near-death experience has opened the last son of Krypton to more extreme methods than the past. Something Eradicator isn't so sure is good.

The Hammer...
There's an argument to be made that Eradicator had the upper-hand as clear aggressor, but he opts for the talking option to bring the fight to a non-combative conclusion. Gardner agrees to leave Metropolis. All done.

Action Comics #688 leaves us with an inconclusive result between Guy Gardner and Eradicator, but also establishes a sense of further understanding the two characters through their similarities - and differences...

Both ultimately address the same problem from a different angle. Namely: the perception that Superman and his boy scout moral code are outmoded in modern times. The heroes of Reign of the Supermen offer a distinctly nineties twist on the core concept, but it's an issue that still dogs Superman today.

Eradicator's "Last Son of Krypton" walks a line between indulging extreme violence, but also looking like a massive nerd with safety goggles, and off-brand Star Trek unitard. The design was a bit of a misfire, but his hardline crime-fighting successfully explored a Superman who isn't always holding back.

When Gardner abandons suspicion in favor of endorsement, Eradicator develops reservations for the underlying aggression of his actions. He sees his violence reflected back through Gardner's obnoxious and irrational use of power, and questions what it means to misuse the S shield for aggression.

There was a monkey's paw aspect throughout the Death of Superman, and Reign of the Supermen storylines. Eradicator functions very much as a 'be careful what you wish for' scenario. A lesser facsimile of the genuine article.

Guy Gardner essentially existed as a timely counterpoint to the whole archetype of Superman. He was a trash-talking loudmouth in the mode of 80s and 90s action heroes. A 'shoot first, ask questions later' hero occupying a precarious space between outright parody, and testosterone-fuelled power fantasy.

It's easy to appreciate the sweetness of such a perennial butthead taking umbrage with what he believes to be an impostor. There's no attempt to reframe the tense differences between Gardner and Superman, but he isn't a completely one-dimensional character. He didn't particularly like Superman, but he respected his sacrifice, and honored his legacy. Redeeming qualities.

I've always been pretty happy with a Superman who's a stand up kinda guy, which was probably why the whole thing was wearing thin by this point. It's never been a secret Steel was the byproduct I enjoyed most, but in digging through the ruins, I'm gaining more appreciation for the whole. In particular, the way existing elements like Eradicator and Hank Henshaw were made use of.

It's amazing to reflect on how brief the whole thing was. Superman is fighting toward his death in Action Comics #684, cover dated December 1992. He's back among the living by Action Comics #691 (September 1993), having left only two issues starring Supergirl, and four Eradicator.

With the Reign of the Supermen heading to DC animation, and DC Comics announcing new comics set in the aftermath of Death of Superman, it looks like there's going to be a lot more opportunity to reflect on this time in history.

As always: you can join me on this nostalgic trip by using the Amazon link provided to check out the collected Reign of the Supermen! All shopping via the link helps support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost!

Find more featured fights past, present, and future by diving into the Secret Index! Every battle is catalogued in order of publisher, series, and issue number.

For a more daring route, check out links littered throughout this post, or character tags below to discover more from your favourite characters and creators! You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook for daily fights inspired by the topics of the day!

Winner: Draw
#119 (+2) Guy Gardner
#415 (new) Eradicator

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