Friday, March 30, 2012

Superman #200

I believe this was the last of the Imaginary Stories published in Superman; it may have been the last anywhere in Weisinger's domain.  (Correction: My commenters note that there were several Imaginary Stories after this one, including in Superman). Note that rather oddly there is no cover hype about this being the 200th issue.  This is somewhat strange; only  a few months later DC would publish Batman's 200th ish with great fanfare.

In the story, Jor-El, Lara, and Kal-El survive the destruction of Krypton.  Brainiac, who's a good guy in this story, shrinks Kryptonopolis instead of Kandor, in order to save it, but is unable to do the same for the rest of the planet:

Krypton explodes before that happens.  And the element which powers his enlarging ray has also burned out, so he cannot expand Kryptonopolis on another uninhabited planet until he finds more.  So the El family ages, with little brother Knor coming along a few years later to become a buddy for Kal.

Eventually Brainiac finds the expanding element, but before he can use it his ship is hit by a meteor and crashes on Earth.  Fortunately, he had transferred a little of the element to Jor-El, who realizes he can enlarge one person to send out to the planet to become its protector.

And so, Kryptonopolis has a contest to see who will become Superman:
The contestants are eliminated one by one, until only Kal and Knor are left.  Note in particular that this segment echoes the origin of Wonder Woman, who was selected to take Steve Trevor back to the USA in a very similar competition.   In the finale, contrary to the cover scene, both men have to battle robots:
But Knor succeeds just before Kal can blind his robot, and so Earth ends up with the little brother, who goes to work for the Daily Planet as Ken Clarkson.  His initial outing, foiling a jailbreak, goes successfully, but the next time around some aliens are prepared:
Fortunately Kal managed to synthesize some of the expanding element, and so he tries to rescue Knor.  And when the aliens expose him to the Green K, we get a surprise:
Of course, if you're paying attention, you're probably wondering why the Green K killed Knor, but had a Red K effect on Kal.  It turns out that Knor was just rendered immobile by the Kryptonite.  When they both recover from the effects they send the aliens packing, and afterwards, Kal heads northward:

There is a note at the end of the story saying that just as this is Superman's 200th issue, it's the 100th anniversary of Canada being a "United Federation" (actually a Dominion).

Comments: Overall the story seems a little light, with few of the twists and turns that usually took place under Weisinger's editorship.

As noted earlier, there is not a lot of hype about the 200th issue, unlike the forthcoming Batman #200, which included a long conversation between two Bat-fans, a reprint of the first page from Detective #27 and a cover hyping the "200th Smash Issue".  There is some mention of it in the letters page:
But Chet Barker's math is wrong; at that point it was over 29 years since Action #1.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trivia Quiz #46: Answers

1. Before Doc created the six famous Metal Men (Gold, Mercury, Iron, Lead, Tin and Platinum), with what substance did he create an earlier robot?
Doc Magnus created his first robot out of Uranium. Unfortunately, it proved unstable.

2. Which of the six Metal Men listed above was created first? In the first Showcase tryout (#37), Doc was shown dancing with Tina, the platinum robot. Afterwards, he created the other five Metal Men.

3. What Metal Men opponent was created out of photo-molecular energy siphoned from the Aurora Borealis? The Sizzler, a creation of Doc's nemesis, Professor Snakelocks, had that unusual constitution.

4. Who created the recurring villains, the Gas Gang? Doc Magnus himself created them.

5. Who was the first Metal Man to "die"? As shown in that original Showcase #37 issue, Tin biffed it: In fact, all of the Metal Men "died" by the end of that issue. Of course, being robots, they were pretty easily resurrected, faulty responsometers and all.

Fraser came, he saw, and he kicked butt on this quiz, getting all five answers correct. I had hoped to stump the experts with the first question, because it did not come in the Metal Men's own mag, but in Brave & Bold #55, a team-up between the elemental robots and the Atom.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Trivia Quiz #46: Metal Men

1. Before Doc created the six famous Metal Men (Gold, Mercury, Iron, Lead, Tin and Platinum), with what substance did he create an earlier robot?

2. Which of the six Metal Men listed above was created first?

3. What Metal Men opponent was created out of photo-molecular energy siphoned from the Aurora Borealis?

4. Who created the recurring villains, the Gas Gang?

5. Who was the first Metal Man to "die"?

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Brave and the Bold #54

It's interesting that Robin, who had been around for 24 years at that point, gets third billing on this cover, although you can tell pretty easily that he's going to play a crucial role in the tale, given that "What chance do you have?"

As the story begins, the teenagers in the town of Hatton Corners are rebelling against their parents.  They want a new clubhouse, and petition the trio of super-lads shown above to help them. But when the Teen Titans (a term not used in this book, although this is obviously the beginning of that group) arrive, they find that the kids have split the scene, leaving a note explaining that it was because the adults weren't hip to the music. Robin immediately realizes that it is a forgery:
No teenager would use the word "fellows" either.  Kid Flash and Aqualad go search for the missing teens, while Robin stays in town.  A twister suddenly appears and the Boy Wonder hustles the people into the bank vault for safety, but there is no room for him.  He clings to the door, but the twister tears him loose.  Fortunately Kid Flash comes to the rescue:
We get our introduction to the villain of the story:
 The adults have begun to miss the kids, and they explain the background. Stikk's ancestor leased the land for the town centuries ago with a very curious rental price: One passenger pigeon feather per year, or else the labor of one of the town's youth.  At the time it seemed like a ridiculous bargain, as there were plenty of passenger pigeons but Stikk had suddenly appeared demanding back rent for the prior 50 years.  Since the passenger pigeon was extinct, there was no way the town could comply, and so he has put them to work erecting a monument to himself:
The kids are starting to appreciate their parents as well:
Mr Twister goes off to renew his powers.  Kid Flash helps the kids finish their tower:
Robin follows the villain to an old Indian cave, where the secret of Mr Twister's magical staff is revealed to be a potion.  Meanwhile, Aqualad has discovered that the island on which the kids are trapped is resting atop a thin stalk of rock.  He commands some whales to move it away, getting gratitude from the teenagers and a little jealousy from Kid Flash:
You can see the Marvel influence there; prior to this the DC superhero teams had the "all for one and one for all" attitude.  Mr Twister takes out his anger on the town with Earth, Fire and Water.  The Earth arrives in the form of a dust storm that Kid Flash sweeps out of town.  The Water is a flood, but Aqualad has a solution:

But after Mr Twister kayos those two, how can Robin stop a rain of fire?  Easy, just rope the staff that gives the villain his powers:
Comments: It never is explained why the town now gets out of the requirement to pay rent to Stikk.  The story is entertaining, if a little wince-worthy in terms of the teenage lingo.  Writer Bob Haney would struggle with that for years to come.  As noted above, there was no indication at the time that this was intended as a tryout for the Teen Titans as an ongoing series; that would have to wait until a year later in Brave & Bold #60, when Wonder Girl joined the group.  Competent artwork by Bruno Premiani; I especially like that scene with Kid Flash building the tower.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Superman #173

The opening story is The Untouchable Clark Kent.  The premise for the story can be gleaned just from this opening panel:
The former Hollywood star who can't get a role anymore is something of a cliche in DC comics; those of you with long memories may recall that the villain in the original Clayface story in Detective #40 had a similar motivation. And spotting the inspiration for the tale isn't difficult either; the Untouchables TV show had just finished its successful run on TV.

Babson is still wacko, and thinks that Clark is John Dillinger and Lois his moll.  He recruits them into his gang at the point of a gun.  They head to his hideout, which turns out to be where the old movie company that Babson worked for has a cache of weapons.  There are several sequences that follow where Clark has to protect both Lois and his secret identity.  For example:

Hmmm, super-aiming must be another one of those superpowers that time forgot.  But when he breaks the window with his first blast, Lois convinces herself that Clark didn't actually shoot out the candles, but that the draft from the broken window did it.  The solutions get even more elaborate:
Of course, that doesn't explain Lois' first question about how he could make a bomb.  With the pest now out of the way, Superman/Clark goes into action.  Knocking out Babson with some gas, he:
Now, using the power of mental suggestion, he convinces Babson that they actually pulled a robbery, at the end of which Clark/Dillinger engages in a little gratuitous violence:
This shocks Babson out of his delusion.  Clark explains that he must have dreamed the whole thing while under the influence of the knockout gas.  He and Lois are still impressed with his acting abilities, and Clark manages to get him a job on TV, where he wins an award for his portrayal of a judge.

The second story is the first of the Tales of Kryptonite series that I discussed several years ago.  This was an exceptionally wacky set of stories told in first person from the standpoint of a chunk of Kryptonite.  You can get an idea for the stories from this panel:

Green K that not only thinks, but even tries its hand at telepathy.

The third story is the cover feature, and it's a doozy.  The stage is quickly set:
 You can see the fly heading rapidly for the ointment right there.  Jimmy muses as he flies to the distant galaxy:
Heheh, always the optimist, that Jimmy!  It turns out that it was a trap set by Luthor and Brainiac, who had planned to project the Man of Steel into the Phantom Zone.  Initially they're inclined to do the same to Jimmy or to shrink him into nothingness, but then Brainiac gets an idea:
Jimmy's odic ancestroid genes are indeed vulnerable, and so the only question is who gets to do it.  Luthor and Brainiac engage in a contest to see who can destroy the most worlds, with the winner to get the honor of inflicting Fate Z on the cub reporter:
Mwahahahaha, we're so evil! Luthor makes a great comeback to win the event.  But Jimmy manages to escape from his cell and when the villains return he uses a metal transmuting machine:
Yep, Luthor is actually Superman in disguise, and he's been teaching Jimmy a lesson.  Jimmy figured it out when he noticed that all the spectators at the world-destroying event were sweating, but Luthor didn't perspire at all.  And he realized that Brainiac must be Batman because:
Except, of course as we all know, you can't see Batman's eyes through his cowl; he's got some sort of covering on the slits that lets light in only one way.

One thing that I did find very amusing in this story is that while Batman and Superman are just presented pictured normally in "Luthor's" rogues gallery, Superman apparently couldn't resist poking some fun at his old buddies the Legion of Super-Seniors:
And the cover scene? Superman knew that once he revealed himself, Jimmy would realize that scene of him changing into Clark Kent was just another part of the gag.  Great kidder, that Superman!

Overall comments: This issue features pretty much the entire Superman lineup of creators; the stories are written by Leo Dorfman, Otto Binder and Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Curt Swan, Al Plastino and George Papp.  It's an entertaining issue, if a little too much on the goofy side.

Update: Robby Reed covered the Tales of Green Kryptonite story in this issue a month or so back.