Superman 315 – Superman as Blackrock

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Pasko, Swan and Adkins have a lot to cover in Superman 315 (Sept. 77), which ties up the previous tale, sets up the next one, and tells its own story as well.

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Superman and Supergirl bring Nam-Ek from the ski resort, from the last issue, to the Fortress of Solitude, freeing him from his crystal sheath, but sending him into the Phantom Zone.

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Skull operatives head to the volcano with kryptionite in its lava, seen a couple of issues earlier, in their creepy skull-ship.  Superman gets the jump on them, destroying their ship and rounding them up.

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Back at WGBS, Clark Kent is told by Morgan Edge that he is going to have a female co-anchor, something fairly new in the late 70s.  Clark is none too keen on the idea, especially as Edge refuses to tell him who is will be.  The one person it won’t be is Lola Barnett, who had defected to UBC.

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And when the UBC network is in the story, you can be pretty sure that Blackrock will be as well.  This is the third appearance of the character, and, for that matter, the third Blackrock as well.  Now able to fly on radio waves, he gets into a fight with Superman.

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But a chance collision of the Blackrock power beam and Superman’s x-ray vision winds up merging their minds.

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The new Blackrock is the nephew of Sam Tanner, the original, but as before, he is unaware of his own alternate identity.  As himself, he is a tv comedian, Les Vegas.

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And though the identity confusion actually winds up revealing that Clark is Superman on live tv, the fact that it’s a stand-up comedian who does it makes the viewers, and even those in the studio, think it’s all a gag.  Superman clears things up for Blackrock, even though that puts them back into conflict, until Superman can take the confused comic down.

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The story concludes at STAR Labs, with a teaser for the next issue, as Jenet Klyburn shows Superman the captured Skull members, now dead, with kryptonite hearts.

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Superman 314 – the death of Amalak

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The four part plague storyline concludes in Superman 314 (Aug 77), in a story by Pasko, Swan and Adkins.

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Superman gets the alien creature away from Jamie Lombard, as Amalak brings it out of its dormancy state, and it begins a monstrous rampage, tearing up a McTavish’s fast food restaurant.

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Superman does manage to chain up the beast, and pursues Amalak, tracing him to the Justice League satellite, where the space pirate has already taken down the Flash and Green Lantern.  Amalak uses the Key’s weapons, and even Amazo’s inert form against Superman, but really he could have picked a wiser spot for the battle.  Superman defeats him by using Kanjar Ro’s paralysis inducing Gamma Gong.

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Amalak tries to make Superman believe that he has caused Amalak to die by using the gong, but Superman does not fall for this.  Amalak winds up dying at his own hands, having achieved nothing.

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Between Nam-Ek’s healing horn and the removal of the alien creature causing the plague, the journalists get better.  Having come so close to losing each other, both Lois and Clark seem primed to make a commitment to each other, and indeed, Clark proposes to her.

Lois accepts, on one condition.  That Clark admit that he is Superman.

And Clark refuses.  This infuriated me, even as a kid.  Was he really planning to marry her but keep lying to her about his identity?  It makes for a heart-breaking scene, but it’s impossible to believe that there is any future between Superman and Lois after this sequence.

Superman 313 – the source of the plague

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Pasko, Swan and Dan Adkins share the third chapter of the plague story, in Superman 313 (July 1977).

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It’s not a huge surprise when Amalak fails to kill Supergirl at the top of the issue.  Superman had used his heat vision to short out Amalak’s gun.

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Perhaps Superman could have found another way, because the short-circuiting star-cannon explodes while Supergirl and Amalak are in battle, destroying his asteroid home.  Superman has brought Nam-Ek to the resort, where his horn proves effective at curing people of the plague.  But to Superman’s dismay, the outbreaks continue.

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Steve Lombard’s nephew Jamie seems to have some resistance to it, but Clark has other issues to deal with.  He ought to have paid more attention, as he winds up in a battle with a mysterious alien, who just happens to also be Jamie’s dog.

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Only then does Superman put the pieces together, realizing that the dog was at the scene of every plague outbreak.

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But the creature is not exactly a shape changer.  Rather, it has the ability to appear to people in any form it wishes, hypnotically.  So while we and Superman see only an alien, all Jamie can see is his dog, which Superman is ready to kill.

The story concludes in the next issue.

 

Superman 312 – Superman and Supergirl vs Nam-Ek and Amalak

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The picture gets clearer in the second chapter of the plague storyline, by Pasko, Swan and Springer, in Superman 312 (June 1977).

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A recap of the events of the first issue is handled by Morgan Edge, chatting with Sam Tanner, the rival television executive who hired Lola Barnett away from WGBS.

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Superman builds a wall around the resort, quarantining those within, and only then discovers that Linda Danvers is at the resort as well.  She switches to Sueprgirl, and joins him as he heads to the Justice League satellite to check on the Flash, being tended to by Green Lantern.  Hal informs them that a teleportation beam hit the resort just when Nam-Ek vanished, and they follow the trail to the West Indies.

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They find Nam-Ek, as well as Amalak, who had come across the immortal Kryptonian floating around in space and joined forces with him.  Amalak has let his hair grow out, and sprouted some facial hair as well, which makes him look much creepier than in his earlier appearances.

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Superman encases Nam-Ek in crystal, leaving the horn exposed, intending to cure the people infected with the plague.  But Amalak has managed to get the drop on Supergirl, temporarily blinding her, and holding her at gunpoint (with a star-cannon that will actually kill her).

Superman leaves, bringing Nam-Ek to the resort as Amalak prepares to kill Supergirl.

The story continues in the next issue.

Superman 311 – the worst convention ever

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Pasko, Swan and Frank Springer begin a four part story in Superman 311 (May 1977) that will build to forcing Superman to make decisions that he would rather not deal with.

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Usually I try to post the pics in the same order they appear in the book itself, but in this case I’m changing it up a little to make it easier to summarize this story, which is a bit more complex than usual.  So I’ll start by showing the mysterious alien and his pet, Jevik, whose roles in the tale only become clear in later issues.

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A big journalism convention is being held in Central City – the same location Lois Lane is considering moving to, with her relationships with Superman and Clark Kent both being pretty rocky right now.  Steve Lombard is along as well, having brought his nephew, Jamie, who he has been looking after.  The convention is taking place at a ski resort, which is sort of odd, as Central City is invariably shown as being in the prairies.  Jamie finds a stray dog, and quickly adopts him.

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Iris Allen, the reporter wife of the Flash, shows an uncharacteristic streak of jealousy, and is a real bitch to Lois, who she seems to consider a threat to her marriage.  Barry Allen is none too pleased with Iris’ outburst, but then, the two of them are soon to start having marital troubles in the Flash’s own book.

A mysterious plague breaks out at the ski resort, inspired by the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak that had occurred the previous year in Philadelphia.  And to the great surprise of Superman, he discovers that Nam-Ek is also there.

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The story briefly recaps the World of Krypton tale that had introduced Nam-Ek, a Kryptonian scientist who had killed a protected animal, the rondor, to get it’s illness-curing horn.  He devised an immortality serum from it, which transformed his body, and also made him survive the destruction of Krypton.  Nam-Ek attacks Superman, and when the Flash tries to help out, sends the speedster shooting into space.

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In his fight with Nam-Ek, Superman dumps a volcano on the guy, only to find that there were traces of kryptonite in the lava.  With no sign of Nam-Ek, Superman believes that he has killed him.  But we do see that at least the Flash is safe, having been rescued by Green Lantern.

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Superman had assumed that Nam-Ek was somehow the source of the plague, but when Lois Lane collapses, he realizes that he was wrong.

The story continues in the next issue.

Superman 310 – the brother of Metallo

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A new version of an old villain gets introduced by Pasko, Swan and Blaisdel in Superman 310 (April 1977).

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The criminal organization Skull is back in this story, as Superman stops their raid on STAR Labs.  Albert Michaels, the head of that institute, gets saved by Superman, but we see later on that he is actually working with the thieves.

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Clark Kent learns that Lois has been considering moving to another city, and she comes over to his apartment to discuss their relationship.  She admits that she does not feel that she is being fair to Clark, as he is her second choice, after Superman.  Their heart-felt, if bizarre, conversation gets interrupted by Morgan Edge, who calls to tell them about Steve Lombard’s kidnapping.  Superman uses his heat vision to lock Lois into the bathroom, where she remains for six hours, to her great displeasure.

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Lombard is merely being hung out as bait for Superman, who meets the new Metallo, the brother of the original, transformed by Skull and given a synthetic kryptonite heart.  Nice powers, shame about the face.

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The synthetic kryptonite hurts Superman, but not so much that it incapacitates him, and he takes down Metallo, who appears to die simply through force of will. In fact, he is not dead at all, but Superman does not realize that.

This new Metallo comes back in a few months, and will remain a significant foe of Superman until Crisis on Infinite Earths.

 

 

Superman 306 – Bizarro’s new powers

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Bizarro is back with a vengeance as his team-up with Toyman continues in Superman 306 (Dec. 76), by Pasko, Swan and Oskner.

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Superman manages to get away from the Toyman, although Bizarro is still hot on his tail.  But Superman is able to calm him down enough to find out why he is back on Earth.  Bizarro believes that he has seen his world destroyed, and so has come to Earth to destroy Superman’s world and friends as well.  Or make new Bizarros.  He doesn’t seem to mind which.

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But Superman has to show Bizarro that the duplicator ray at the museum that he intends to use is a fake, a mock-up.  Bizarro takes this as a personal insult, and uses his heat vision to…freeze Superman?

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Bizarro then kidnaps Lois (gee, how retro) and bring her to the Fortress of Solitude where he can use her to make a new Bizarro Lois.  Superman follows, furious, as Bizarro made no effort to protect Lois against the elements and speed, and almost killed her.  Bizarro now has flame breath, instead of cold breath, and Superman begins to put all the pieces together.

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In an action I am certain would not work, he takes Bizarro back to his landing place, and hits him really hard, which reverses his flight to Earth. It was, indeed, Bizarro who crashed into the Coliseum, not Superman.  And the meteor impact that gave Bizarro the hallucination that his world was destroyed has also permanently altered his powers.

The Toyman, now all regretful and depressed over his murders, once he learned that Bizarro was the one who trashed his stuff, turns himself in.

Looking at this story now, I see so many many plot holes, but as a kid it was my introduction to Bizarro, and I just loved it.