Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Tyrant Superman!

Ripped from the pages of the Daily Planet comes the latest instalment of Three-Part Thursday!

Superman #172, cover-dated October 1964, featured this three-part tale that was NOT an Imaginary Story nor a Dream! Yes, Superman lost his powers and had to choose a replacement from Kandor to carry on the S-Shield, in this fine story by Edmond Hamilton, with Curt Swan pencils and inks by Klein & Moldoff.

Great splash page, eh? Plain ol’ Clark Kent looks up just in time to see the new Superman fly overhead. Y’know, now that I think of it, I think Ar-Val looks a little like Mr. Swanderful himself! What do YOU think? Compare this photo of Curt Swan in his Army fatigues with this shot of Ar-Val.

In Part I of our story, events fly fast and furious. A meteor long ago spotted by Jor-El and discovered to be deadly even to super-beings in passing near Earth. Since Superman daren’t leave Earth unprotected should he fail in his mission to change the meteor’s course, he must select a … successor!

After a competition of wits as well as brawn between two Kandorian candidates, Superman selects his last-resort replacement, a fellow named Ar-Val.

The unthinkable happens! Superman averts the meteor, but it robs him of his powers. He struggles to Earth and his Fortress with just enough strength to summon Ar-val, ho now becomes … the new Superman!

Check out the great, emotionally moving art on this page, where Superman fights the meteor back into space. Man, you can tell that Supes is a-hurtin’!

As Part II opens, Clark has resigned himself to Ar-Val’s replacing him. But then the newswire reports that Luthor has escaped prison, and Clark remembers how Luthor had vowed to kill Lois and Lana in revenge. But when Clark begs, kneeling, for Ar-Val to rush to protect the women who love the old Superman, he’s rebuffed. Ar-Val basically says that his job is to punish crime, not prevent it!

Yet Luthor, aided by Brainiac, has acquired the means to exact his terrible revenge, while Ar-Val spurns even Jimmy Olsen’s plea in Kal-El’s behalf. Jimmy then uses his Legion of Super-Heroes Time Monitor to contact the Legion. Using a weird device across time, they are able to temporarily charge Superman with the powers of Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and the Invisible Kid, while Jimmy hands over some Elastic Serum.

Soon the old Superman has taken off in the Daily Planet’s Flying Newsroom in search of his most dangerous foes, the Brainiac-Luthor Team. And soon he discovers that even his borrowed super-powers can’t help him as he is trapped.

Part II ends with the fiends boasting of their murderous plans to a drugged, captive Kal-El, while Ar-Val is busy building arches and statues all over Metropolis to glorify his own status as the New Superman.

Remember, this is a true story, not an imaginary what-if story!

Part III opens with the smug Ar-Val preening before another self-congratulatory monument to himself. In a move to ingratiate himself even more to Metropolis, he takes a gaggle of reporters on a show-off tour, when Jimmy Olsen easily spots how Ar-Val has used his powers to create emergencies to “fix.” In exchange for Jimmy’s silence, Ar-Val agrees to follow up on Jimmy’s and “old” Superman’s suspicions – just as Lois and Lana are captured by Brainiac and Luthor!

When Ar-Val swoops down with Jimmy, Brainiac is prepared with a Kryptonite javelin! But with a frantic burst of strength, the “old” Superman breaks through his drugged state to dive in front of the missile, giving his life for Ar-Val.

The infuriated new Superman quickly mops up the devilish duo while Jimmy and Lois mourn Kal-El’s loss. But then, in Brainiac’s lab, Ar-Val discovers the device earlier used by Brainiac to cure Luthor of a bullet wound incurred during his jailbreak. “This apparatus,” says Ar-val, “resembles the ‘Healing Ray’ used by Kryptonian surgeons! Let’s try it …”

And, miracle of miracles, Kal-El is healed!

In a tragic dénouement to the tale, Ar-Val snags the merely mortal Kal-El and hauls him to the Fortress, where the remorseful new Superman has decided how to repay the former Man of Steel for his own egotistical shortcomings – failings which nearly led to the deaths of Lana, Lois, and Kal-El himself. It’s a strange power transfer involving huge amounts of electricity at a certain frequency.

Tragically, the power transfer, while restoring Kal-El’s powers, also turns the atoms of the donor – Ar-Val – to stone. Superman bursts his bonds to try and stop the procedure just in time to hear Ar-Val’s final words of apology: “I wanted to be a great Superman, like you … I failed, but this will make amends …”

So, like all serial adventures, this one ends with the status quo restored, but only after sending compassionate readers through an emotional wringer.

After all, who hasn’t seen a friend in trouble and been powerless to help? Who hasn’t felt inadequate after seeing somebody else doing a job WE once could do? And who among us hasn’t shown off a bit when given the chance?

May we learn our own needs for humility before we become petrified with shame!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ho-Hum, It's Conduit

In the issue or two leading up to the first appearance of Kenny Braverman, aka "Conduit," we were assured that this guy was evil, really nasty, bad as bad can be, a nemesis who's been Superman's enemy for years, a super new deadly foe, on and on ...
Then he appeared and hung around for a couple of issues, and flaked.
Just another thud-in-the-pan.
Kinda like Madeline Kahn said in Young Frankenstein, "All you men are all alike. Five or six quick ones, and it's over." Or something like that.
Anyway, I don't think we'd seen hide nor cable of Conduit again!
Tomorrow: the return of Three-Part Thursday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Befitting a Man of Steel!

Here's the card for the "regular" STEEL figure, with accompanying caption describing John Irons' tumble into history.

Is it just me, or does the last sentence describing Irons' character just *reek* of "How do we talk about him and tiptoe around the whole race thing?"
I mean, he's a great scientist and a tough guy with a strong sense of right and wrong. He's proud and protective of his niece.
Maybe it's just the word "man" in the sentence. As if we thought he was girly or something.
Maybe it's just me.
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© by Mark Alfred