Terra-Man makes a big debut in Superman 249 (March 1972), getting two stories in the issue, the second of which is a solo origin tale.
Bates, Swan and Anderson also give cameos to a couple of people who sure look like Archie Bunker and Edith, from All in the Family, a new show at the time of this issue.
While the introduction of Terra-Man is the main plot of this tale, there is also a subplot about Kryptonian birthdays, and the trauma they cause. It’s odd, and doesn’t honestly fit too well in the rest of the story. A World of Krypton tale the following year would expand on these teary eyed birthday celebrations.
But frankly, when Terra-Man comes flying in on his horse, who cares about the rest of it?
Although his look, manner of speech and weaponry all have an old west feel to them, Terra-Man is actually using extremely high tech alien weaponry, which just resembles antiques.
Superman does an impressive upside catch-the-bullet-in-the-mouth trick, spitting it back into Terra-Man’s gun, causing it to explode, and allowing him to capture the villain. In old west style, Terra-Man stays quiet for much of this story, and we learn very little about him in this first story.
But that’s ok, as the second story fills in all we needed to know. The following issue sees the return of Terra-Man as well.
Bates is joined by Dick Dillin and Neal Adams, an odd combination, for the origin story of Terra-Man. He really is from the old west, the son of a bandit, and a criminal from a tender young age.
His father tries to rob an alien spaceship. Gotta give the guy credit for guts. The alien kills the boy’s father, but then essentially adopts him, raising him on his travels. The boy gets implanted with a device that allows him to exist in the vacuum of space, and captures and breaks a flying horse, also able to withstand the vacuum.
As he grows up he becomes an accomplished intergalactic thief, finding ways to turn the alien tech into the western themed gear he loves so much. When he returns to Earth, he finds that far more years have passed on that planet than he has experienced. One of those faster than light slows down time things.
He also kills the alien who raised him. He remembered his father’s dying scrawl, even though it took him years to comprehend it.
An excellent origin story, and an interesting new villain for Superman.