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Comic Book / The Jungle Line

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Beside him lies the fragment of a shattered world. Before him lies the sunstruck highway. The Man of Tomorrow is heading South to die.

The Jungle Line is a Superman story written and illustrated by Alan Moore and Rick Veitch and published in DC Comics Presents #85 (1985). It was the second Superman story produced by Moore, between For the Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.

Clark Kent attends a press conference where it is announced the discovery of a species of alien fungus which had become adhered to a meteorite and somehow survived the rigors of space. As listening to the lecturer, Clark suddenly feels dizzy and suffers a brief hallucination. A quick search for information confirms his suspicions: that alien organism is a Bloodmorel, a species of parasitic Kryptonian fungus whose spores permeate the skin and settle in the bloodstream, causing fever, hallucinations, bouts of incapacitation, chronic fatigue, and eventually almost certain death.


Soon Superman starts experiencing the first symptoms: his powers turn on and off at inopportune times, he feels overwhelmingly exhausted, he suffers hallucinations and has nightmares. Examining the Bloodmorel's sample provides no clues for a cure, and Superman assumes he is going to die.

Nevertheless, he wants to die alone to spare his beloved ones from the pain, so he buys a second-hand car and heads towards the South, believing he will not be in danger of being found by any super-hero.

He is wrong, though, because the South's swamplands are frequented by a very unusual protector.


Tropes found in this story:

  • Badass Boast: Superman delivers this line while he is struggling with his nightmares:
    Superman: You won't trick me that way. You want me to give up. Is that it? Well, it won't work... I'm Superman. I go down fighting!
  • Bad with the Bone: As fighting fever-induced hallucinations, Superman grabs a skeleton's giant bone to defend himself with.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Swamp Thing goes into Superman's mind and finds him fighting hallucinations caused by the Bloodmorel's infection. At the beginning, Superman mistakes him for another enemy, but Swamp Thing convinces him that he is a friend, and he must stop fighting if he wants to beat the disease.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: One of the creatures which inhabited Krypton's Scarlet Jungle is an anaconda-sized, ant-headed green caterpillar.
  • Brought Down to Normal: During the early stages of Bloodmorel infection, Superman's powers go away and return at irregular intervals. Superman gets so worried that he decides against flying back to his home.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Superman wakes up screaming from a nightmare where his dual identities are arguing.
  • Dem Bones: During one of his hallucinations, Superman is attacked by the skeletons of some species of mammoth-like Kryptonian beast.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Superman cannot find any cure, so he resigns himself to die, and heads towards some lonely place where he can lie down and wait for death.
  • Determinator: Deconstructed. Superman almost gets killed by the Bloodmorel because he is unable to give up. He keeps fighting his hallucinations, unaware that the harder he fights, the higher his fever climbs. There are hints that the Bloodmorel amplifies this, as Superman needs Swamp Thing's help to calm down enough to survive.
  • Dying Alone: Superman seeks dying alone to spare his beloved ones from seeing him pass away.
  • Endangered Species: Bloodmorel, a Kryptonian species of fungus native to the Scarlet Jungle, becomes extinct after this story.
  • Fingore: Swamp Thing enters Superman's mind to calm him down. Unfortunately, when he taps on his shoulder, Superman spins around, and mistaking him for an enemy, grabs his hand and crushes his fingers.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: "Superman gets infected with a seemingly incurable alien illness" is a recurring plot which had been previously used in The Last Days of Superman (1962) and The Leper of Krypton (1968), at least.
  • The Ghost: Overwhelmed by his hallucinations while walking out of a car crash, Superman screams the names of Kara and Lois, but otherwise they are not seen.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: After saving Superman's life, Swamp Thing leaves quietly as Superman is sleeping. When Superman awakens, he believes he has overcome his sickness out of sheer willpower, and he flies off. He never finds out that he (and probably the whole world) was saved by Swamp Thing.
  • Hallucinations: Bloodmorel Fever causes strong hallucinations. As driving to the South, Superman sees visions of the Scarlet Jungle -Bloodmorel's native environment- spreading around him, and a giant skull of some Kryptonian tusked beast filling the -red- sky in front of him.
  • Imagine Spot: Clark Kent considers flying back to his apartment despite his malfunctioning powers. Then he imagines himself free-falling from several hundreds of meters and decides to take the subway instead.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Clark Kent's super-senses malfunctioning cause him to walk in on one couple making out in a storeroom.
  • Lap Pillow: After successfully bringing down his fever, Swamp Thing rests Superman's head on his lap as he falls asleep.
  • Man on Fire: Clark Kent's clothes catch fire when his car crashes out of the road and starts burning. Superman stumbles out of the wrecked vehicle looking like a veritable human torch.
  • Mundane Utility: After overcoming his illness and getting his powers back, Superman uses a broken glass and his heat vision to shave his stubble.
  • No-Sell: Believing he is fighting another hallucination, Superman attacks Swamp Thing, but the latter calmly heals and regenerates all his wounds as talking Superman down. A blast of heat vision through his midsection? It will heal. An exploded hand? It instantly grows back.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Bloodmorel is not attempting to kill Superman. It is only a mindless fungus trying to survive by spreading its spores in the only way it knows.
  • Off-Model: Superman has pointy ears for some reason after he wakes up from a nightmare.
  • Pointy Ears: One mistake on the artist's part has Superman sporting pointed ears in one panel.
  • Punched Across the Room: As fighting his hallucinations, Superman punches Swamp Thing several dozens of meters away.
  • Riding into the Sunset: After saving Superman, Swamp Thing walks back into the jungle as the morning Sun rises in front of him.
  • Secret Identity Identity: As feverish, Superman suffers hallucinations comprised of two figures, similar to a Good Angel, Bad Angel, one of whom thought he should accept it because death comes to us all, while the other one insisted that he had a duty to fight it off. The defeatist appeared as an empty suit with glasses hovering above it, and the fighter as an empty Superman costume. Both referred to him as "Kal" and to each other as "Clark" and "Superman". At the end he wakes up, insisting he invented both of them, and neither are real.
  • Sensory Overload: Clark loses his super-hearing, and then it returns suddenly and "deafeningly" while he is crossing the street and passing by several sources of strident noise: a boombox, a drilling machine, a kid shouting…
  • Shaving Is Science: Superman bounces his heat vision off a broken mirror glass to shave his stubble after waking from his fever-induced coma.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Superman fights his hallucinations furiously, unaware that the strain is increasing his fever, until Swamp Thing convinces him that the only way to beat the Bloodmorel's illness is to not fight it. Superman starts calming down and relaxing, and his fever comes quickly down.
  • Shirtless Scene: When Superman wakes up from one nightmare, his bedsheet slides downwards, lying bare his muscular torso.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Superman's nightmares mockingly tell him he will finally die like all Kryptonian creatures, but Superman tells them off.
    Monster Bird 1: "Kal-El? It's not good running, Kal-El... You've been running for more than twenty years, Kal-El... Running from the death of your planet."
    Monster Bird 2: "You should have died on Krypton, Kal-El, as you were meant to. You know that, don't you?"
    Giant Worm: "Now, after all these years of running, your destiny has finally caught up with you... Here, Kal-El... Here in the Scarlet Jungle!"
    Superman: "Leave me alone! You're all dead!"
    Bone Beast 1: "Extinct is the word, Kal-El."
    Bone Beast 2: "We're extinct, like all Kryptonians..."
    Bone Beast 3: "Come and join us. Take your place in the shade of these broad crimson leaves... FOREVER!"
    Superman: "Stay back! All of you! Stay back from me! I don't belong here! I'm not dead... I won't rot here with the rest of you! You can't keep me here! Don't you know who I am?"
  • Sorry to Interrupt: After walking in one couple of co-workers making out in a storeroom, Clark Kent hastily apologizes and leaves.
  • Sue Donym: Clark Kent -birth name, Kal-El- buys a secondhand car under the name of Cal Ellis.
  • Survivor Guilt: The infection gives Superman, among other things, a deadly high fever, and causes him to hallucinate the dead biosphere of Krypton, haunting him for having survived while everything else died.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: As Superman is hallucinating on the brink of death, he speaks about Lois and Kara.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: Superman fans refer to this story as "The Jungle Line" or "Jungle Line" interchangeably.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Swamp Thing tries to communicate with the Bloodmorel, but the memories and sensations are too strong. Suddenly, he finds himself in an alien high-gravity red world, and he is forced to pull back because the vision is overwhelming his mind.
  • Toothy Bird: One bird species inhabiting the Scarlet Jungle were big, purple, red-crested avians who had tooth-like serrations on their long beaks.