Monday, January 28, 2008

Back-Issue Tuesday

Action Comics #466(1976)
(as always, if the images appear too small, just click on them for larger versions)

Yep, another Superman cover. Get used to it; I picked up a healthy stack of silver-age Superman comics and picked up a few story arcs off of ebay, so I have Superman backissues to last me awhile. The reason I picked this one up should be obvious to anyone who can see that cover. The story I made up in my head involved Lex Luthor finally snapping, gleefully beating up small children for their halloween candy. I mean, look at that face, notice the pure unadulterated joy. Luthor's having one hell of a time.

Anyone not wanting to be disappointed is advised to just quit while you still have that glorious image in your head, because the story inside is a bit of a letdown. I've actually really been enjoying the silver age stories in the old Superman comics I picked up, but that probably has a lot to do with the writing talents of Denny O'Neil. Cary Bates is the writer of this issue, and I can't say that I was impressed much.

Action Comics #466 is actually a continuation from the previous issue, and begins with Superman already reverted to a Superboy, but luckily there's a lengthy flashback showing Superman meeting up with a 10 year old Batman and a teenaged Flash, who warn him that Luthor is gunning for him next.

I wish I had more to say about this issue, because that would mean that it had been more interesting. The rest of the story involves Superman, Flash and Batman attacking Luthor, who, in a prototype of his armored super-suit, overpowers the juvenile heroes. The fight between the four actually has some pretty cool moments, and it's a bit shocking to see Batman and the Flash die, even if you know it won't last til the end of the issue. After "killing" the two heroes, Luthor puts one of his power gloves on Superboy, forcing the young superhero to punch himself in the face repeatedly.

There's some hokey hoodoo bullshit here that I still don't completely understand, where Superboy's self inflicted beating somehow makes him realize that young Batman and Flash were, actually, robot versions of his friends. He even explains, in inner monologue, how when he used his X-Ray vision to look under his friend's cowls he saw his friend's faces because that's what he expected to see, but in actuality they looked nothing like who they were supposed to be. This is odd because it was never mentioned previously that Superboy had done that, and so it was a completely unnecesary bit of explanation that only makes Superboy seem like an idiot. And a jerk. I mean, way to respect the privacy of your colleagues, Supes.

After realizing his friends weren't actually killed by Luthor, Superboy is suddenly aware that he was never turned into a child after all, but it was only the power of suggestion! Or something like that, it doesn't really say. All that's made clear is that when Superboy makes this realization, he suddenly grows into a Superman, and punches Luthor good. The end.

One interesting thing to come out of this comic is a pretty hilarious explanation of why Luthor hates Superman;

Yes, the official history used to be that Superboy, in the act of blowing out a fire in a young Lex Luthor's laboratory, spilled some chemicals that made all of Luthor's hair fall out. This is probably the most petty backstory in comics. Fortunately DC realized this, and eventually retconned the whole thing so that, not only did Lex go bald, but Superman failed to save a lifeform Luthor had created. That's a little better. Nowadays they don't much mention a backstory between the two, and Luthor is just a power-mad genius billionare who despises Superman for being an alien and holding back humanity by always rescuing it. Or something like that. Really, it depends on the writer.

Bonus; on a slightly more unintentionally humorous front, we get a bonus one page story at the end. Part of a series entitled 'Justice For All Includes Children,' where we see Superman offer nuggets of advice about how to help kids. This issue's story was about physical child abuse, and while it isn't quite on the same level as that mid-80s Spiderman/Power Pack issue about child abuse, I still get a kick out of the father's earnest reply here.

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