Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Demon Under the Red Sun! (Part One)

Wow!  Check out the cool cover of Superman 184.  Not only are these people downright murderous, they have bad dental hygiene!  At least, the guy talking on the left side forgot to put in his uppers this morning.

Cover-dated February 1966, the tale inside is "a complete, full-length novel!"  It's written by Otto Binder -- probably after the cover was conceived.  At least, such was a common occurrence in the Silver Age.

I think it fair to say that hardly ANY story could live up to the awesomeness of this cover, by Super-Great Curt Swan.  But, in my opinion, the story is almost the goofiest-ever version of the possibilities hinted here.  And the interior art by Al Plastino is by turn pretty good, and downright silly.

To begin with, an astronaut coming back from space tells NASA of the oddest thing ever:  a planet is zig-zagging through space!  Even the spaceman knows how wacky this sounds.

(By the way, the reason Superman is wearing a watch is because it's Jimmy Olsen's signal-watch which has been given back to Superman for repair.)


Still, Superman has no doubts that our serviceman saw SOMETHING.  And, sure enough, after a game of cosmic tag, the Man of Steel touches down on this odd celestial body.  Given the splash page we saw just inside the cover, we just KNOW that nothing good can come of this.  "Look out, Superman!" we want to yell.


But does he listen to the whispers of caution?  Of course not.  Not only would this be a very short story, but what kind of hero would turn down the chance to explore a new world?

Once he carries out a super-vision survey, Superman discovers that the orb is hollow.  It is in fact a construct, created by an alien humanoid race to rescue their people from the vagaries of a sun grown toxic.  This space wanderer is like one of Heinlein's "Generation Ships."

Only problem is, the people dwelling on the surface have descended into barbarism.  The scientist-caretakers of this great space ark have all died out.  However, by means of a "last will and exposition" left behind by the last scientist standing, our hero learns all of this, just before he stucks a paperclip into an electrical socket to see what will happen.  I mean that almost literally, as you can see from the art.

Wow!  Isn't that an almost psychedelic depiction of Superman's super-shock?!?  I think it looks pretty neat.  And note that captioned arrow in the last panel of the page above.  Accidentally flipping that switch CANNOT be good news.  (Boy, if only we had an Infantino arrow-hand, that panel would be PERFECT!)

Now that he has learned the secret of the wandering world, our hero decides to survey it.  He conveniently swoops along over a teenage couple that is not only marooned at sea, but threatened by a couple of marine rejects from Pepperland.  He rescues the young people and returns them to their tribe.

That's when he is immediately challenged by the tribe's head mugwump as a an evil demon.

And that's where Part One of this novel ends, with Superman no longer feeling super.  Not only can he not lift this "only" 500-pound guy, but his hands don't even sink into the guy's gut!

I hope to continue sharing this tale with you on Friday.

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