Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Search Of...

Emailer Jason writes of his search for a particular story from his youth:

But I've been trying to find one Superman story in particular, based only on a vague recollection of its plot and a very vivid image of a single illustrated frame. I'm wondering if what I remember might call to mind any particular issues.

In the story, the Man of Steel is powerless and on another world (probably one with a red sun, but I can't really remember). In the frame I recall so vividly, he takes of the top of his uniform and washes it in a stream, noticing as he does that the colors run in the rushing water.

Figure late 1950s to late 1960s for the timeframe. The part about Superman taking off his shirt made me think of Superman #164, which features Superman and Luthor bare-chested on the cover slugging it out in the ring on the red sun world of Lexor. But Superman's colors don't run in that issue, nor do they in the major Lexor stories in Superman #168, and Action #s 318, 319, 332, 333 or 335. I also checked Superman #184 and Action #370 after Jason mentioned that the story featured a pre-modern society element (either a primitive culture or a planet that resembles earth's pre-history). No luck. Anybody? Bueller?

Update: Commander "Ferris" Benson found it! In Action #262, Clark, Lois, Perry and Jimmy are transported into another dimension, where Superman lacks his super-powers. On the tenth page of the story, there's this sequence:

While we're on the subject of quests, here are two of my own:

One from the mid-60s has the Fox and the Crow battling as usual. The Crow slips a letter under the door of the Fox, but his "hand" was muddy and so the Fox thinks he's gotten a "Black Hand" letter. I remember it because I asked my dad what a Black Hand letter was and was astonished that he didn't know (Dad was my Wikipedia).

I've picked up dozens of Fox & Crow issues over the years and never found that story; I've even purchased the (shudder) Stanley and His Monster issues at the end of that run.

Update: A longtime buddy checks in with the answer to that one: Fox & Crow #86:

In case you're wondering, a Black Hand letter is defined in Wikipedia:
Typical Black Hand tactics involved sending a letter to a victim threatening bodily harm, kidnapping, arson, or murder. The letter demanded a specified amount of money to be delivered to a specific place. It was decorated with threatening symbols like a smoking gun or hangman's noose and signed with a hand imprinted in black ink; hence the Sicilian name 'La Mano Nera (The Black Hand) which was readily adopted by the American press as "The Black Hand Society".

The other is a Baby Huey story from the early 60s where Papa is looking for help with his crossword. He needs a 16-letter word for "a ringing in the ears" and Baby Huey promptly replies "tintinnabulation".


Commander Benson said...

I can answer your correspondent Jason's question, Pat.

The story he is recalling is "When Superman Lost His Super-Powers", from Action Comics # 262 (Mar., 1960). Robert Berstein was the writer; Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye handled the art.

As the tale relates, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent are in Mexico, covering the discovery of an Aztec temple. When the foursome enter the king's tomb, they are mysteriously transported to a primitive world in another dimension. Here, Kent discovers, to his dismay, that his super-powers (along with the super-properties of his costume) are gone. He is an ordinary mortal.

However, when Jimmy activates his signal-watch, he feels---for whatever reason---that Superman has to respond. Since Clark was stung by a giant bee upon arrival, he tells the others that he feels weak and takes refuge in a cave until he recovers. Then he switches to Superman.

The Man of Steel realises that, without super-powers, he cannot return them to Earth. So he persuades them to remain and use their adventures there to make a story for the Daily Planet.

During this time, Superman is forced to make it appear that he has super-powers, to reassure the others and to keep Lois from suspecting he is Clark Kent.

Over the course of the tale, the Man of Steel employs several strategems to make it appear he still has his super-powers. At one point, Lois decides to go back and check on Clark, and Superman has to beat her back to the cave where "Clark is recovering."

In order to do so, he has to take a short-cut across a massive web spun by a giant spider they encountered earlier. From that encounter, they learnt that the spider is attacted by the colour purple. So Superman doffs his shirt and cape and dips it into a near-by lake.

The warm water causes the colours of his clothing to run, and the red and blue combine to make purple, distracting the spider.

This story was reprinted in Superman (Giant Annual) # 183 (Jan., 1966).

Hope this helps.

Pat said...

Great job, CB! That indeed looks like the story in question. :)

KF said...


Fox and the Crow 86.