A legendary island in the Atlantic Ocean which, according to Plato, was the site of a powerful kingdom more than 11,000 years ago before it sank to the bottom of the sea. In the Superman chronicles, Atlantis is described as a sunken city, kingdom, or continent nestled on or beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and is inconsistently portrayed either as the site of a thriving undersea civilization or as that of an extinct civilization whose inhabitants--variously referred to as Atlanteans (WF No. 29, Jul/Aug 1947: "The Books That Couldn't Be Bound!"; and others), Atlantides (S No. 139/1, Aug 1960: "The New Life of Super-Merman!"; and others), and Atlantites (Act No. 285, Feb 1962: "The World's Greatest Heroine!")--have long since perished or fled (SB No. 13/1, May 1950: "The Boy From Mars"). (TGSB)
Varying depictions of Atlantis in the Chronicles
In Superman No. 67/2, Atlantis is portrayed as the site of a thriving glass-domed subsea kingdom--characterized by "fabulous streets" and "glittering towers"--located beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean "forty fathoms below the [ocean] surface...." Populated largely by handsome, muscular men who make even Superman seem "ordinary," the undersea realm is ruled by the lovely Queen Paralea (Nov/Dec 1950: "The City Under the Sea!").
Sunken Atlantis, as it is described in Action Comics No. 230, is apparently no longer inhabited. According to Superman, "Strange experiments, conducted centuries ago on Atlantis, imparted an incredible power to that land...the ability to give super-powers, exactly like mine, to anyone subjected to its radiance!" This phenomenon produces grave problems for Superman when an "underwater earthquake [forces] a fragment of the old island of Atlantis to rise from the sea bottom" ( see Bart Wellins) (Jul 1957: "Superman Loses His Powers"). In Superman No. 122/1, Atlantis is described as the home of an extinct super-scientific race whose members were only six inches tall (Jul 1958: "The Secret of the Space Souvenirs").
In Superman No. 129/3 (May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"), however, and in more than a score of other texts (S No. 135/2, Feb 1960: "Superman's Mermaid Sweetheart!"; and others), Atlantis is portrayed as the home of a "race of mermen and mermaids" (S No. 129/3, May 1959: The Girl in Superman's Past!")--collectively referred to as "mer-people" (S No. 156, Oct 1962: "The Last Days of Superman!" pts. I-III---"Superman's Death Sentence!"; "The Super-Comrades of All Time!"; "Superman's Last Day of Life!")--who inhabit a thriving "sub-sea kingdom" (Act No. 300, May 1963: "Superman Under the Red Sun!"; and others) nestled on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean (S No. 157/2, Nov 1962: "The Super-Genie of Metropolis!"; and others).
The Living People of Atlantis
The citizens of Atlantis include Lori Lemaris, her husband Ronal and younger sister Lenora Lemaris, and the merman Jerro, who "adores" Supergirl (Act No. 285, Feb 1962: "The World's Greatest Heroine!").
According to Superman No. 129/3, the mer-people of Atlantis--who have the tails of fish and the heads and torsos of human beings--were ordinary humans in the days when ancient Atlantis existed on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. When Atlantean scientists discovered that their island was sinking into the sea, they erected a glass dome to keep out the ocean and enable their civilization to survive beneath the ocean surface. "Then, one day," Lori Lemaris once explained to Superman, "our scientists found a way to convert us into a race of mermen and mermaids--and so we truly became a new race under the sea!" (May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"). A later text ascribes this miracle of biological conversion to Atlantean scientist Nar Lemaris, an ancestor of Lori Lemaris (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!").
In contrast, another tale directly involves the Legion of Super-Heroes in the city's early fate (Adv No. 333, Jun 1965: "The War Between Krypton and Earth!"; "The Civil War of the Legion!") and states that Atlanteans were actually humanoid aliens from the planet Vrunn, eventually forced to the sea because of trace gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
As soon as the biological transformation had been completed, the Atlanteans smashed the glass dome surrounding their city and began life anew as true sea dwellers. An Atlantean sea-person is physically capable of surviving out-of-water, but "...to remain in perfect health, [his] body must be immersed in salt water at least ten hours a day...!" Walking on land is, of course, impossible for a fish-tailed Atlantean, which is why Lori Lemaris has customarily employed a wheelchair during her brief sojourns in the surface world, concealing her mermaid tail beneath a blanket so as not to arouse undue attention (S No. 129/3, May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"; see also S No. 135/2, Feb 1960: "Superman's Mermaid Sweetheart!").
Because it is impossible to speak underwater, the "sea-people" of Atlantis have mastered the art of reading minds and of communicating telepathically (S No. 129/3, May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"; and others). They can perform these feats over very long distances, thus enabling Lori Lemaris to read Superman's thoughts (S No. 135/2, Feb 1960: "Superman's Mermaid Sweetheart!") or summon him by telepathy (S No. 146/2, Jul 1961: "Superman's Greatest Feats!") even while she is in Atlantis and he is in Metropolis, a great distance away. It was by reading Clark Kent's mind that Lori first discovered that Clark Kent is Superman (S No. 129/3, May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"), and, since all Atlanteans can perform this feat, it is possible that every Atlantean is privy to Superman's secret identity. Lori Lemaris also possesses the power to make sea creatures obey her telepathic commands (S No. 154/1, Jul 1962: "The Underwater Pranks of Mr. Mxyzptlk!"; and others).
In addition to being the custodians of an "ancient wisdom" long lost to the people of the surface world (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!"), the mer-people of Atlantis are a race characterized by extraordinary scientific achievements: special "Earth monitors" enable them to observe events in the surface world (Act No. 312, May 1964: "King Superman versus Clark Kent, Metallo"; and others), and an arsenal of super-scientific weaponry safeguards their civilization against attack (S. No. 158, Jan 1963: "Superman in Kandor" pts. I-III--"Invasion of the Mystery Super-Men!"; "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor!"; "The City of Super-People!"). According to Superman No. 154/2, a highly advanced "chemical plant reduces the amount of salt in the water so that the Atlantides--who once had bodies like surface-world people before Atlantide scientist Nar Lemaris transformed them into mermen and mermaids--can continue to survive in these oceanic depths!" (Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!").
At the undersea temple of Ilena, Lori Lemaris and the other Atlantean mermaids gather to worship "their mermaid goddess," whose shrine consists of a gigantic statue of a mermaid reclining atop a seashell and holding aloft, in her right hand, a torch whose crimson "flame" is composed of some sort of glowing mineral substance (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!"). Atlanteans marry as surface people do, but in the event a mermaid becomes a widow, she must make a brief pilgrimage to Heartbreak Rock—a craggy rock jutting above the surface of the ocean—a week following her husband's death to wish for renewed happiness (S No. 139/1, Aug 1960: "The New Life of Super-Merman!").
Although one text clearly suggests the primacy of "the elders" in Atlantean life (S No. 135/2, Feb 1960: "Superman's Mermaid Sweetheart!") and several portray Lori Lemaris as an ordinary Atlantean citizen (S No. 129/3, May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!"; and others), a number of later texts refer to Atlantis as a "kingdom" and to Lori as its "queen" (S No. 156, Oct 1962: "The Last Days of Superman!" pts. I-III—"Superman's Death Sentence!"; "The Super-Comrades of All Time!"; "Superman's Last Day of Life!") or "ruler" (S No. 154/1, Jul 1962: "The Underwater Pranks of Mr. Mxyzptlk!"; Act No. 300, May 1963: "Superman Under the Red Sun!").
In addition to making occasional visits there, Superman keeps track of events in Atlantis by means of the "Atlantis monitor" in his Fortress of Solitude. (Act No. 310, Mar 1964: "Secret of Kryptonite Six!"). Once every hundred years, according to Superman No. 129/3, an Atlantean is chosen to visit the surface world "to learn of the surface people's progress" during the preceding century. It was while making one of these visits that Lori Lemaris attended Metropolis University during the period when Clark Kent was a senior there (S No. 129/3, May 1959: "The Girl in Superman's Past!").
Aquaman, the costumed super-hero who is the product of a union between a lighthouse keeper and a young Atlantean woman, has, over the years, occasionally resided in Atlantis and even served as its ruler. The inhabitants of Aquaman's Atlantis, however, are completely humanoid in appearance, and the evidence of the chronicles, taken as a whole, strongly suggests that the Atlantis where Aquaman has lived and ruled is a different place entirely, or else a separate region or city of the same undersea continent.
This is confirmed in January 1979, when Aquaman's home city is identified as Poseidonis, one of the two principal cities of Atlantis (DCCP No. 5: "The War of the Undersea Cities").
Aquaman's sidekick Aqualad also lives in this city (Act No. 272, Jan 1961: "Superman's Rival, Mental Man!").
Appearances of Atlantis in the Chronicles
In July-August 1947 Superman journeys to sunken Atlantis in order to obtain "an insoluble synthetic invented by the Atlanteans" for use as bookbinding material by Barney Vellum (WF No. 29: "The Books That Couldn't Be Bound!).
In November-December 1950 Superman has an adventure in the Atlantean realm of Queen Paralea (S No. 67/2: "The City Under the Sea!").
In July 1957, after an "underwater earthquake [has] forced a fragment of the old island of Atlantis to rise from the sea bottom," Superman finds himself confronted with a dual dilemma: exposure to the Atlantis fragment has temporarily endowed unscrupulous seaman Bart Wellins with super-powers, and, in addition, has temporarily multiplied Superman's own powers " a thousandfold," to the point where Superman cannot even control them (Act No. 230: "Superman loses his powers").
By November 1957 Clark Kent's eyeglasses have become contaminated by a bizarre somnabulism-inducing radiation emitted by a relic recovered from sunken Atlantis, with the result that, for a time, Superman becomes a sleepwalker while in his Clark Kent identity and, as Superman, suffers complete amnesia concerning the thoughts and actions of his alter ego Clark Kent (S No. 117/1: "Clark Kent, Man of Mystery").
In July 1958 Superman journeys to the ruins of sunken Atlantis to obtain a "flying-saucer ship" made of pure gold, one of a series of so-called "space trophies" which the Man of Steel gathers for inclusion in a time capsule which the Metropolis Museum plans to bury in the ground as a gift for the people of the fiftieth century A.D. (S No. 122/1: "The Secret of the Space Souvenirs").
In February 1960 Superman has a loving reunion with Lori Lemaris and visits the Atlantis inhabited by Lori and her fellow mer-people for the first time in the chronicles (S No. 135/2, Feb 1960: "Superman's Mermaid Sweetheart!").
In July 1960, over the objections of her husband Ronal, Lori Lemaris sets in motion an elaborate and somewhat foolish scheme designed to trick Superman into proposing marriage to Lois Lane. (S No. 138/3: "The Mermaid from Atlantis!").
In August 1960, Superman sets in motion an elaborate charade designed to make Lois Lane believe that he has decided to marry Lori Lemaris and live in Atlantis so that Lois will feel free to accept the proposal of marriage made to her by Brett Rand (S No. 139/1: "The New Life of Super-Merman!").
In July 1961, in response to an urgent telepathic summons from Lori Lemaris, Superman races to Atlantis to rescue the sunken kingdom from being destroyed by "a new super-atomic, underwater depth-bomb" being tested in the area by the U.S. Navy (S No. 146/2: "Superman's Greatest Feats").
In October 1961 Lori Lemaris indicates that she and her fellow Atlanteans intend to use a hoard of gold from a sunken Spanish treasure ship to fashion solid gold statues of Jor-El and Lara as a surprise gift for Superman in gratitude for his past efforts in aiding Atlantis' mer-people (S No. 148/3: "Superman Owes a Billion Dollars!").
In February 1962, when Superman proudly announces Supergirl's existence to the world, the citizens of Atlantis commemorate the occasion by unveiling a gigantic undersea statue of a mermaid Supergirl (Act No. 285, Feb 1962: "The World's Greatest Heroine!").
In July 1962, during a period when Superman is periodically seized by an overpowering compulsion to commit evil acts, the Man of Steel demolishes the shrine of Atlantis' mermaid-goddess and is on the verge of annihilating the mer-people by destroying the vital chemical plant that regulates the amount of salt in their undersea environment when Supergirl, summoned to Atlantis by a desperate telepathic call from Lori Lemaris, arrives on the scene to repair the chemical plant and prevent Superman from wreaking further destruction (S No. 154/2: "Krypton's First Superman!"). (See Mag-En)
In October 1962, when Superman is believed to be dying of an incurable malady, Lori Lemaris and the mer-people of Atlantis join forces with Krypto the Superdog, Supergirl, and the Supermen Emergency Squad to carry out one of the gigantic super-tasks that Superman hopes to fulfill as his final legacy to humanity , viz., the injection of a colossal sea monster—which has been growing to ever more titanic size due to the stimulation of undersea radioactivity—with a special "shrinking formula" so that it will not one day become so terrifyingly gargantuan that it menaces the safety of the Earth (S No. 156, Oct 1962: "The Last Days of Superman!" pts. I-III—"Superman's Death Sentence!"; "The Super-Comrades of All Time!"; "Superman's Last Day of Life!").
In November 1962 Lori Lemaris and her fellow Atlanteans help Superman locate and recover a space capsule that has recently fallen into the Atlantic. The recovery of the lost space capsule is one of the stunts that Superman performs while posing as the genie of Aladdin's magic lamp as part of his scheme to apprehend a notorious "international spy" (S No. 157/2: "The Super-Genie of Metropolis!"). (See Professor Von Schulz)
In December 1962, during a period when Superman is suffering occasional bouts of mental instability inflicted on him by members of the Superman Revenge Squad, the Man of Steel maliciously gives the Moon a super-powered shove which, in addition to causing massive tidal waves on Earth, produces devastating tides on the ocean floor and wreaks disaster in the undersea realm of Atlantis. Once the insane episode is past, however, Superman restores the moon to its proper location in space and repairs the damage to Atlantis caused by the temporary dislocation (Act No. 295 "Superman Goes Wild!").
In November 1963, when Clark Kent has lost consciousness and almost drowned after an encounter with Red Kryptonite has temporarily robbed him of his super-powers, it is the Atlanteans who revive him with "a new form of artificial respiration" after Aquaman finds him and brings him to Atlantis (S No. 165/2: "The Sweetheart Superman Forgot!"). (See Sally Selwyn)
In March 1964 the mer-people of Atlantis are menaced by a "deadly spotted plague" which threatens to decimate their entire population, but the plague victims are ultimately cured by means of a rare "spore antidote" native to Krypton's Scarlet Jungle (Act No. 310: "Secret of Kryptonite Six!"). (See Jax-Ur)
In the spring of 1964, after exposure to Red Kryptonite has temporarily transformed Superman into two completely different people, a super-powered Superman and a non-super Clark Kent (Act No. 311, Apr 1964: "Superman, King of Earth!"), and Kent has been mortally wounded by a policeman's bullet, it is "the skilled surgeons of Atlantis" who perform the "delicate operation" necessary to save Kent's life (Act No. 312, May 1964: "King Superman versus Clark Kent, Metallo"). (TGSB)
One account tells that millions of years ago, the Earth was colonized and fought for by a renegade band of Kryptonians and the ancestors of citizens of Atlantis, as Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes later discover (Adv No. 333, Jun 1965: "The War Between Krypton and Earth!"; "The Civil War of the Legion!"). This chronicle ties the Legion to the transformation of Atlanteans to mer-people and for sinking the city itself into the sea. It also differs in stating that Atlanteans were, in fact, alien colonists themselves - from the planet Vrunn.
In January 1979, it is clarified in the chronicles that there are two primary sections of Atlantis. One is the city of Tritonis where the race of mer-folk including Lori Lemaris, her husband Ronal and Jerro live. Aquaman comes from a different Atlantean city with a considerable population, Poseidonis (DCCP No. 5: "The War of the Undersea Cities"). Equally adapted to life underwater, residents of Poseidonis do not possess the fish scales and other exterior anatomical features of the mermaids and mermen of Tritonis.
In November 1984, Superman meets the Atlantean sorcerer Arion, a time-traveler from an era long before the sinking of Atlantis (DCCP No. 75: "Partners in Time!").
A 1985 chronicle of Superman's early career suggests that Clark Kent may have met Lori Lemaris a few months earlier than previously thought, while still calling himself Superboy. Clark's roommate Billy Cramer insists that Clark talk to him about his relationship troubles with Lori—not suspecting the root of the problem is, of course, that Lori is a mermaid who can not stay on the surface-world (SSY No. 3, Apr 1985: "Terminus").
(See also Pacifo)