One of the more interesting Superman stories, from this or any era, occurs in Superman 247 (Jan. 72), as the Guardians of the Universe make Superman question his role on Earth, in a story by Elliot S Maggin, Swan and Anderson.
The Guardians enlist Superman’s help in stopping a destructive yellow wave of space stuff, though Superman winds up needing to be rescued at the end of the mission. Green Lantern Katma Tui brings him to Oa to be healed. This was all part of a greater plan by the Guardians, to implant within him the idea that he is not really helping human civilization advance.
After subliminally giving him this idea, they converse with Superman, and raise the notion again.
Returning to Earth, Superman winds up in the middle of a fight between Mexican immigrants and their field boss. Everyone wants Superman to fix their lives, and he realizes that doing so is really of no help. But then an earthquake strikes, and he knows he has to jump into action.
The village gets devastated, and Superman rebuilds it, but insists that they have to deal with the rest of their problems by themselves.
The Guardians, who have been monitoring all this, pat themselves on the back for making Superman less certain of himself and his role as a hero.
The story does raise some questions that are not easy to answer – but also shows the Guardians in a particularly manipulative light. One that would come to characterize them more and more over the next couple of decades.
O’Neil, Swan and Anderson introduce a new back-up series in this issue, the Private Life of Clark Kent. These are stories that centre on Clark, and for the most part have him dealing with issues that cannot be fixed by becoming Superman.
In this case, he goes out to find and help the younger brother of a secretary at WGBS, who has gotten involved with a deadly street gang, and has to kill for his initiation. Jimmy Olsen tries to talk sense to the kid, but just gets beaten up. The hoods attack Clark as well, after his speech about rising above such things, and he rolls with it, letting himself appear injured, to see is his words had any effect.
He is pleased to find that they did, as the boy refuses to kill an innocent man simply to join a gang.
The Private Life of Clark Kent would continue sporadically in this and other Superman books, eventually getting a regular spot in the pages of Superman Family.