Monday, December 04, 2017

An Open Secret, Part 3

An Open Secret
by Mark Alfred

            5)        In April, 1962’s Superman #152, Superman has agreed to wear a clock-faced medallion during a money-raising drive for the Combined Charities of Metropolis.  Unbeknownst to him, two members of the Anti-Superman gang have “fixed the clock sign Superman’s wearing so that it contains midget gimmicks that send TV color impulses to our private screen!  We’ll keep tuned in till we learn his Secret Identity!”  Just as they’d hoped, the big reveal takes place when Superman arrives at Clark’s apartment.  This disaster is remedied by a trick involving a Superman robot and false Kryptonite, enabling our hero to trap and fool the bad guys.

            6)        In May, 1967, Superman #196 tells how Clark becomes the surprise selection to play Superman, in movie star Lyrica Lloyd’s new movie.  Soon ensues a comedy of errors involving “faked, special-effects” super powers.  The light deceptive tone turns more serious when Clark falls for his beautiful leading lady.  He proposes marriage, revealing his Secret Identity, provoking her to faint – from the shock, he supposes.  But when she revives, Lyrica tells the bad news:  While on location in Africa, she contracted a rare jungle disease.  “That means ... my hours are numbered too!”

            However, she says consolingly, “I can die happy, Superman, knowing I would have been your wife ... if fate had been kinder!”  She soon dies in Superman’s arms (no Cutting Crew jokes, please), leaving the heartbroken Man of Steel to reflect, “My Secret Identity will go to the grave with her!  But that’s no consolation to me!  Goodbye, Lyrica, my dearest – forever!”
            Years before, Superboy had undergone a sadly similar experience in Smallville.  The cover story of Superboy #77, December, 1959, tells of “Superboy’s Best Friend.”  After his life is saved by the Boy of Steel, new kid in town Freddy Shaw had become a best pal for the Lad of Steel.  This friendship eventually prompted Superboy’s revelation of his Terran identity.  Freddy helped cover for some of Clark’s quick-change departures, prompting the thought, “He understands I must’ve taken care of some emergency!  It’s good to have a friend who knows your secrets!”

            However, before long Freddy developed dizzy spells which manifested a fatal, feverish illness.  At the end of this tale, Freddy had been laid to rest, and Clark sadly recalled “my first and last best friend!”

            7)  The scene:  a fifth-floor window ledge.  The players:  Clark Kent and Torpedo the mad bomber, caught in the act of planting his 29th device.  When Torpedo threatens to toss his bomb into the gathered crowd below, Kent claims an attack of vertigo, and ducks into a darkened room.  He doesn’t know that he’s being spied upon by two baddies, Maxie and the Professor.  They watch Kent closely:  “No look of fear ... no sign of dizziness ... He isn’t pale! ... Now what would you conclude ... if, in an emergency like this, Kent disappeared into that room and Superman flew out of it?”  Yes, this happens before their eyes; the Professor’s years of investigations have paid off in a big way.
            En route to jail via the Superman Express, the Torpedo vows to kill Kent, the man who tracked him down.  Meanwhile, the Professor sets into motion an elaborate blackmail scheme which includes plastic surgery to make Maxie’s face a duplicate of Kent’s phizzog.  The doctor who performs this service is one Marlene, who gloats, “My mother was Hitler’s greatest plastic surgeon ... And Mama taught me everything before she died!”
            Through a clever ruse, the Maxie-Marlene-Professor axis of evil is soon privy to not only Superman’s, but also Supergirl’s Secret Identities.  They decide to extort the Girl of Steel into robbery for them.  But the Maid of Might rebuffs them after much worry and consideration:  “Do your worst!  At least Superman can only call me a bungler, not a thief!”

             However, on their way back to town after their secret Supergirl rendezvous, and ready to reveal Kryptonian secrets, the three are slowed by a flat tire.  Maxie, the man with Clark Kent’s face, gets out and flags down a passing motorist for help.  Little does he know that the oncoming car is being driven by the Torpedo, who has broken out of the slammer to kill Kent.  One bomb explosion later, the Kryptonian Cousins’ secrets are safe.
            This twisted saga of mutilation, Nazi-esque sadism, and backfired revenge is told in February, 1967’s Action #346.

            8)        Action #340, cover-dated August, 1966, introduced “the most dangerous villain Superman has ever faced,” the Parasite.  The story begins as Jensen, a greedy, lowlife lab worker, comes upon a container marked “Radioactive Waste.”  The foolish would-be felon reasons to himself, “I heard they used to ship payrolls like this to fool crooks!”  WRONGO, sport!  The strange energy which explodes from the opened canister bathes the hapless Jensen in “strange, alien rays, which penetrate every cell of his body!”

            Upon recovering consciousness, Jensen finds that he can now absorb energy from other people.  In fact he must do so:  He quickly burns off that force, and must have more.  Jensen discovers that his leechlike abilities allow him to likewise acquire intelligence and skills from his victims.  Soon he hits the jackpot when he encounters Superman, learning the Secret Identity.  The Parasite realizes, in the mighty battle which ensues, that he might not have an audience for this world-shaking revelation:  “How can I threaten to expose Superman’s identity when I weakened everyone within hearing into unconsciousness?”  meanwhile the Man of Steel presses the battle until he falls, drained, before the malefactor ... just as planned.
            Suddenly, the Parasite’s body begins to glow; quickly it dissolves in a weird implosion of energy.  A recovering Superman reflects, “Though his parasitic ability allowed him to sap my power, his body was still mortal!  It was too frail to contain the awesome energies he absorbed!”

            Silver Age aside:  Many Baby Boomers will recall Filmation’s faithful adaptation of this Jim Shooter story, which first aired in December, 1966.  Above is a frame-grab of the Parasite just before he goes Super-nova. 
      And, what pre-teen who watched the Filmation episode can forget Bud Collyer’s doom-filled ending narration?  “He didn’t realize that an Earth man’s body was too frail to contain the super power of a man from Krypton!”

End of Part Three
See you next Monday for more!

See you Thursday with a new music compilation!

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© by Mark Alfred