Tag Archives: Al Plastino

Superman 205 – Black Zero destroys Krypton

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The late 60s were not a good time for the Superman books, and I find myself skipping over a lot of issue.  But Superman 205 (April 1968) has some significance worth pausing for.

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Binder and Plastino introduce Black Zero, an alien murderer who has come to Earth.  The panels meant to evoke fear over this new character I find kind of amusing, really.

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Black Zero is more than happy to brag to Superman about his great achievement, destroying Krypton.  According to Zero, he came there to kill everyone, only to learn about Jor-El’s theory about the planet exploding.  He checked it out himself, but found that the reaction had stopped.  So, he started it again, and made sure the planet blew up.

This is not the significant thing.  We only have Black Zero’s word for these events, and no real reason to trust him.  At any rate, this story was never referenced again.

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The rest of the story does not question his claims either.  Instead, it’s all about stopping Black Zero from destroying the Earth.  Jax-Ur pleads successfully with Superman to be allowed out of the Phantom Zone to help him, as he is just as mad as Superman about Zero destroying their planet.  But Jax-Ur gets shot with red kryptonite, which causes his body to transform into a snake.

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Superman finds and takes care of Black Zero’s anti-matter bomb.  Jax-Ur changes again, to a Medusa-type creature, and turns Black Zero to stone.  Superman intends to keep him, but Jax-Ur smashes Black Zero to bits, to ensure he never finds a way to become human again.

While the character of Black Zero never returns, the name does.  It will be given to various people and groups associated with Krypton.  And that’s why I wrote about this story.

Superman 198 – the real Clark Kent

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An attention grabbing cover for Superman 198 (July 1967). Bates and Plastino open the story with the cover scene, as a man claiming to be the real Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet, and uses an x-ray gun to expose Superman.

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It quickly becomes clear that this man knows a completely different Superman, one who came to Earth as a criminal adult, kidnapping Clark Kent and stealing his identity.  Superman proves that he has always been Clark, and explains that the man must have come from a parallel universe.

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He takes the man back to world, and gets into battle with the other Superman.  But midway through he simply starts trashing the city, to the point where Superman intentionally causes a nuclear explosion to destroy Metropolis.

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Superman had spotted some clues that made him realize that the Clark Kent and Superman were both androids, along with everyone else on the world.  The entire thing was a huge trap set up by the Superman Revenge Squad, with satellites forming a force barrier that not even Superman can penetrate.  So Superman simply flies out the gap the Revenge Squad left for their ship, and the Revenge Squad smash into the barrier, killing this group of them.

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Heading back to the Daily Planet as Clark, he switches the x-ray gun with a projector, and shows Lois, Jimmy and Perry White how it makes anyone look like they have the Superman crest under their shirt.

Not the greatest story, but it does fulfill the cover.

Superman 179 – the outlaw Fort Knox, and the tale of gold kryptonite

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Dorfman and Plastino helm the cover story of Superman 179 (Aug. 65), in which criminals have a big hidden bank vault of their very own, to deposit their ill-gotten gains in.

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The criminal Fort Knox is introduced at the top of the story, but then set aside as the tale becomes about Superman performing wishes randomly chosen from coins thrown into a fountain.  The bad guys have rigged the contest, ensuring their victory.

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The winner asks for the largest diamond, a ton of gold, and money from the largest bank.  Jimmy Olsen expects Superman will use word play to fulfill the requests in a manner different from the intent, and expresses his ideas to Lucy Lane, but Superman fulfills the requests at face value, to Olsen’s puzzlement.

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With the set up of the bank at the top of the story (and on the cover) it really isn’t too hard to see where this is going.  The villain takes his winnings to the bank, where they promptly turn into a knockout gas.  Superman went along with the greedy wishes simply to uncover the location of the vault.

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The fourth and last of the Tales of Kryptonite is still narrated by the once green, then red, now gold, piece of the toxic metal, but Binder and Plastino introduce a Kandorian couple as well.

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Jay-Ree and Joenne are among the Kandorians who see the gold kryptonite in the Fortress, and volunteer to risk their lives to dispose of it.  They send it into the Phantom Zone, but lose their powers in the process.  At the end of the story, they are living in a doll house in Clark Kent’s apartment, although I imagine they wound up back in Kandor eventually, as we never see them again.

The mysterious ray that changed the kryptonite from red to gold is credited to a nuclear reaction, which doesn’t quite make sense.  But all in all, this story is the most disappointing of the run.

Superman 174 – Clark Kent imagines he is Superman, and Mr. Mxyzptlk becomes a hero

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An interesting cover image on Superman 174 (Jan. 65), and the story, by Hamilton and Plastino, lives up to it.

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Clark Kent is stunned when a man walks into his office, claiming to be Superman, and demonstrating his abilities.  He is even more shocked when he discovers that he himself has no powers at all.

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Clark calls on Batman, wanting someone to confirm that he really is Superman, but Batman treats him as though he were just a snooping reporter.

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Clark challenges the Superman claimant’s memory, getting Lana Lang involved as he recounts an event from Superboy’s life, but the “impostor” knows everything that Clark does.  Doubting his own sanity by this point, Clark heads to a psychiatrist.  After some discussion, the psychiatrist believes that Clark began fantasizing that he was Superboy because of him being a lonely and weak teen, and that the delusion has simply grown over the years.

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Sadly, this story opts for a quick and easy “out,” as the Superman claimant turns out to be one of his robots, gone renegade.  The robot impersonated Batman, and also planted a red sun device in the heel of Clark’s shoe, to remove his powers.

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Mr. Mxyzptlk switches sides in this story, by Siegel and Plastino.

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He decides to become Super-Mxyzptlk, and follows Superman around, jumping ahead of him whenever there is trouble, and using his magic to save the day.  For a change, he is genuinely not trying to be a pest – but he is anyway.

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I do enjoy the ending, in which Bizarro pops up, joining others in a celebration of Mr. Mxyzptlk’s heroism.  He builds a statue of the imp, but of the Bizarro version he knows – Kltpzyxm.  Mxyzptlk is taken aback by the statue, which he considers insulting, but in reading the inscription gets transported back to his own dimension.

Not the greatest story, but it’s neat to see Bizarro defeating Mxyzptlk, even accidentally.

Superman 173 – a kryptonite’s tale, and Jimmy Olsen a captive

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After the great Luthor/Brainiac story a few months earlier, I’m sure many were excited about the cover of Superman 173 (Nov. 64).  I wonder how many were as thrilled after they had read it.

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Beppo, the Super-Monkey gets to appear in this book, as a new, but short-lived, series launches, “Tales of Green Kryptonite.”  Binder and Plastino follow a single chunk of the toxic rock from its creation through its first years on Earth, with the kryptonite itself narrating the story.

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After an opening sequence on Krypton, with Jor-El and Lara, we follow the rock as it lands in the African jungle.  Beppo is the first to come across it, but gets away from the substance before it kills him.  The rock gets found by Lana Lang’s archaeologist father, and brought back to Smallville.

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The kryptonite gets stolen from the museum, and Superboy has his first encounter with this specific piece, but is rescued by Krypto.

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Young Lex Luthor uses it as he works on a cure for kryptonite, as this story is set before he loses his hair and turns evil.  Though both Lex and Superboy are not aware of it, Luthor had indeed found a way to suppress the effects of the radiation.  Superboy, not realizing the situation, thinks the kryptonite must be an imitation, and throws it out the window.

An interesting idea for a series, there is another installment a couple of months down the road.

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Siegel and Forte provide the cover story for the issue, which opens as Jimmy Olsen decides to get into an alien ship that lands on the roof of the Daily Planet, requesting help from Superman.

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The ship turns out to be a trap, and Jimmy is brought before Luthor and Brainiac at their new base.  They proudly show Jimmy their statues of Superman’s and Batman’s greatest enemies, as well as demeaning statues of the Legion of Super-Heroes, shown as elderly and out of shape.  How villains amuse themselves in their spare time, I guess.

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But Jimmy is not as dumb as he seems, and clues in that this is all a giant hoax on him.  He spots that the supposed Brainiac has blue eyes, instead of green, and guesses (correctly) that the Luthor and Brainiac he is facing are really Superman and Batman.  They were trying to convince Jimmy that he takes too many risks.

 

Superman 171 – Rokk and Sorban debut, Mr. Mxyzptlk’s idiomatic curse, and Superman trapped on a red sun world

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Superman’s not doing too well on the cover of issue 171 (Aug. 64).

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Rokk and Sorban make their debut in a story by Dorfman and Plastino.

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They demand that Superman murder an innocent person, threatening to destroy the Earth if he refuses.

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Superman decides that the best way out is to kill himself, there by saving the Earth.  He crawls into a cave full of kryptonite, but the aliens transmute it into ordinary rock, and insist that he kill someone other than himself.

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While all his friends know about the situation, only Lana Lang tries to take action, entering a chamber that will slowly kill her by turning her to crystal.  Jimmy and Lois Lane just stand around feeling sorry for Superman, as he cures Lana.

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Superman pulls off faking the murder of Clark Kent, but the aliens are also aware of his other identity.  But the game is up, anyway.  Superman learns that the two had placed a wager on whether he would actually kill, and his refusal to do so wins the bet for Sorban.  They mention that they are from Ventura, the pleasure planet, also called the gambler’s planet, a location also used in Legion of Super-Heroes stories.

Superman is just glad the whole thing is over.

Rokk and Sorban return the following year in the pages of World’s Finest.

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Siegel, Swan and Klein bring back Mr. Mxyzptlk for another round of silliness.

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In this story, Mxyzptlk places Superman under a magic spell that makes any idiomatic phrase come true is some fashion, so when he says he is as hungry as a horse, a hungry horse suddenly manifests.

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Much of the story consists of these idiomatic “jokes,” until Superman tries undoing the magic by saying his name backwards.  In this case, he has to say “Le-Lak,” though in other stories, “Namrepus” works as well.

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The cover story, by Hamilton and Plastino, closes out the issue.  Superman is aiding a scientist by flying out instruments to monitor a distant planet, but the planet’s sun turns red while he is there, trapping him and leaving him powerless.

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Superman falls victim to the cavemen inhabiting the world, losing his costume to them.  Much of the story details his simple survival, with no powers, on this alien world.

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Astoundingly, the scientist is able to construct a rocket to bring him, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen out to the planet, where they rescue Superman.  Considering this planet orbits a distant star, there must be some heavy space warp or teleportation devices on the ship.

Superman 170 – the John F Kennedy story, and Lex Luthor courts Lara

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Despite the absurdity of the cover scene on Superman 170 (July 1964), there is actually no need for it to be an Imaginary Story.

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The issue opens with the delayed story that has Superman working for John F Kennedy on his program for improving the health of American youth.  Bill Finger and Al Plastino put this story together, and it was pulled because of the president’s assassination.  At the request of Johnson, the story was run in this issue, despite Kennedy having died.

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Lana Lang is doing a television special on how Americans are behind Europeans when it comes to health.  Apparently nothing has changed in 50 years.  Kennedy gets Superman to promote health among the youth, and he does so over the next few pages.

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But eating well and working out is not just for the young, and Clark Kent has to fake weakness as Perry White puts the Daily Planet staffers through their new health regime, despite the complaints of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

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The health program serves Clark well when the staffers get trapped during a hike, and Clark can claim its Kennedy’s workout program that has increased his strength enough for them to escape.  Supergirl cameos, along with her fan club, and Jimmy Olsen’s.

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Now for the cover story, by Siegel, Swan and Klein.  Luthor escapes from prison, and decides to head back in time to Krypton, woo and win Lara, and by doing so prevent Superman from coming into existence.

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The plan works pretty well at the start.  Luthor claims to be the hero of the planet Marlat, with some faked movies to back up his story.

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He wins the trust of the Krytonians when he warns them about Brainiac coming to steal Kandor. No one believes him, until it happens.  But once it has, the council are happy to listen to Luthor.

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Lara is quite taken with him, despite being engaged to Jor-El.  Luthor arranges for Jor-El to get trapped while on an exploration, and quickly wins over Lara.

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They get to the wedding ceremony, and Jor-El is racing frantically to stop them, as if this were The Graduate.  But fate intervenes, as Luthor’s anti-gravity device wears out, and he collapses under Krypton’s higher gravity.  He has to admit that he is really from Earth.  Once he has admitted being a liar, they brain scan him, and find out that he is from the future, and send him back to Earth.

So really, there was no need to make this an Imaginary Story, outside of making the reader think there was a possibility of Luthor’s plan succeeding.