Superman questions his existence, Superboy meets Jules Verne, and Batman solves a murder. All this, and more, in the comics cover-dated January 1972.
Superman 247: A giant cluster of yellow seed pods are hurtling through space, threatening disaster to any planet it makes contact with. Since Green Lantern rings are powerless against yellow, the Guardians of the Universe declare that this is a job for Superman. To solve this problem, Superman basically creates a planet for the pods make contact with, but due to red solar energy in the area, this really wears down Superman to the point that he blacks out. While recovering in the Power Battery on Oa, the Guardians implant in his mind that he may be holding humanity back by always saving them. Fully recovered, he heads back to Earth, where he spots a child about to be beaten. Turns out the kid refuses to work because of the poor working and living conditions provided by his employer, and the employer was about to make an example of him. Superman, angered that the rest of the workers are suddenly also really to stand up to their boss now that he is there, begins to explain that they need to take care of themselves and not rely on others to do it for them, but since it has been several pages since Superman did something super, an earthquake hits. After working to limit the earthquake, he is then kind of forced to rebuild their homes, but finishes his speech anyway. And in the backup, the first “Private Life of Clark Kent,” Clark manages to talk some gang members out of killing a police officer.
This issue reprints a Superman 2966 story from Action Comics 338 (Jun 1966).
Superboy 181: While tearing down a building in Metropolis, a large metal box is found that no one can open, so Superboy is called in to lend a hand. Inside is Jules Verne, in a time machine of his creation. Since his writings have inspired so much of more modern technology, Superboy takes him on a tour of various top secret military installations to see the latest developments. Glad to see that he has made such a contribution to the future, Verne decides its time to head home and his time machine disappears in a cloud of smoke. It is later revealed that Verne was actually a secret agent in disguise, and the US was testing Superboy due to him having such a high level clearance. They think he’s failed since he showed “Jules” all those secrets and allowed him to take pics, but various clues, such as clothing that was too modern, allowed Superboy to figure things out for himself, and he used his x-ray vision to fog the film before “Jules” tried to head home. In the backup, Lana dreams about being married to Superboy once he’s a Superman, and how she’d make him get a real job, such as a salesman. But his morals wouldn’t allow him to be a very good salesman, so she decides it might not be a good idea to marry the Teen of Steel.
This issue reprints a Legion if Superheroes story from Adventure Comics 355 (April 1967).
Action Comics 408: The Argo project is a series a space flights to send 1 man to the moon, rather than a team like in the Apollo missions. The current mission was returning to Earth but has just mysteriously stopped in space for no apparent reason. With only 8 hours of oxygen left, Superman is called in to save the astronaut. However, a strange mental compulsion prevents him from going out to the space capsule, or even check on it with telescopic vision. After ridicule from the public, and a second failed attempt, Superman decides to build a ship to take him to the scene. This succeeds and he learns the astronaut is caught in some sort of energy warp that is causing him to evolve rapidly, and it was his new mental powers that kept Superman from rescuing him. After the astronaut uses his new powers to clear Superman’s name, Superman makes his rescue. In the backup, taking place back in Clark’s college days, the younger Superman is exposed to some artificially created bacteria. To keep others from becoming infected, he has to wear a special suit for 24 hours, including using a rubber mask and rubber gloves to mimic his face and hands when he’s Clark.
This issue reprints an Atom story from The Atom 9 (Oct/Nov 1963).
Adventure Comics 414: A new villain calling himself Vortex uses a tornado to steal a building. Supergirl investigates and learns that he is doing this for revenge against the owner of the building. Supergirl steps in and takes down Vortex. In the 2nd Supergirl story, little Judy, the little alien girl from a few issues ago, is kidnapped, and the kidnappers also discover that Linda is Supergirl. They use Judy to blackmail Supergirl into committing crimes for them, but eventually Supergirl finds the kidnappers. But before she can confront them, they are basically killed by Judy’s grandparents who have come to retrieve their granddaughter. After a heartfelt goodbye, things go back to normal. In the backup, Zatanna and Jeff, her manager, escape from the warriors and find the dimensional portal they can use to get home. But the ensuing battle ends with Jeff being turned to stone, and the story ends with Zatanna crying in front of the portal.
This issue reprints an Animal Man story from Strange Adventures 184 (Jan 1966).
Detective Comics 419: A man is found drowned in the river, held underwater by several gold Batman statues. While the police investigate, Batman checks out the nearby Irish festival, and discovers that the murder was set up to keep Batman and the cops too busy to deal with a drug smuggling operation. In the backup, Batgirl has realized that the stepson is innocent of the stepfather’s murder due to the fact that the shooter’s glasses did not have lenses in them (therefore, they also didn’t reflect the muzzle flash that allowed Batgirl to see his face in the first place.) Batgirl helps the cops take down the real culprit, the stepfather’s bodyguard.
This issue reprints a Roy Raymond story from Detective Comics 213 (Nov 1945), and a story from Gangbusters 61 (Dec/Jan 1947).
I’m going to probably upset some people when I say that “Must There Be a Superman?” is not what I would consider a great story. It doesn’t really have any affect on future stories, and the main point of this story is rendered moot by an Earthquake (which even Superman points out). It is a good, well told story with great art, but I don’t see it as one of the best. The backup was not great either. For one thing, the ending a rushed, and rather unrealistic. Also, it wastes story space with Superman giving smoking a try (editorial mandate maybe?).
Man, the government went to a lot of work to test Superboy. Maybe it is due to my age and being jaded by knowledge of behind-the-scene politics (remember, this is pre-Watergate), but I just do not see government agents going to this much effort in real life. The Lana story was pretty pointless, although it was nice to see that the creators remember that she exists. But, like John Byrne’s take on Lois Lane, her characterization here makes me wonder why Superboy likes her.
The Action story was very frustrating. I don’t understand why Superman didn’t even attempt to tell people that he was mentally being stopped from making the rescue. I also don’t understand why it took him so long to make a second attempt. The backup was frustrating too, since Superman could have gone into the sun to burn off the bacteria, like he has done in the past and will do in the future.
The main Supergirl story was forgettable, and the backup story felt more like a “tying up of loose ends” type a story. And the kidnappers getting killed seemed a little extreme, especially since Supergirl just lets Judy’s grandparents get away with it. The Zatanna story was rather decent, and the ending was pretty shocking. Really enjoying Gray Morrow’s artwork too!
The Batman story in Detective was well crafted. Denny introduced several seemingly unrelated characters or events, and tied them all together beautifully. And while I am proud to say I figured out who the killer was as soon as he was introduced, the mystery of how and why played out really well. The Batgirl story was also good. They really had to play up Batgirl’s photographic memory for it, but it worked.
And thus ends another trip in the time bubble. Next month, thanks to issues cover dated February usually being released in December, there looks to be at least 1 Christmas story. Should be fun!