Tag Archives: Brainiac

Superman 299 – so many villains

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Superman 299 (May 1976) concludes the four part Mr. Xavier story, by Bates, Maggin, Swan and Oskner, and was also the third issue of Superman that I bought.  The big grouping of villains on the cover appealed to me, and even though I had not read the previous three issues, I found the story completely fulfilling on its own, and would start collecting Superman regularly from this point on.

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Xviar has teleported all the villains eitherout of jail, or to Earth, scattering them around the globe to send Superman running (or flying, I guess) hither and yon, too busy to figure out that the alien’s plan to destroy the Earth is reaching its culmination.  The villains seem to have no issues with being shuttled around either, and are more than happy to work together, which leads me to think that Xviar is mind-controlling them to a degree.  Superman first has to deal with Terra-Man, the now Toyman, and the Prankster in Egypt.  Aside from a cameo in an issue of World’s Finest in the 60s, this is the first time the Prankster has appeared in twenty years.  Not that he gets to do much.

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With the Inter-Gang boss about to go free, Superman decides to become Clark Kent one last time, to testify at his trial.  He grabs a spare suit from his offices at WGBS, and heads to the courtroom, only to find that he has not lost his powers when dressed as Clark.

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Before he can follow upon that, he has to race off again, this time to deal with Lex Luthor, the Parasite and Mr. Mxyzptlk.  Luthor shows none of the animosity towards the Parasite that he had the last time, even though the Parasite once more messes up his plans, which is what leads me to think that Xviar is controlling them.

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After disposing of them, Superman has time to think, and, analyzing his Clark Kent clothes, sees that they have been infected with some alien tech that serves to nullify his powers.  Only someone who had access to his apartment could have done this, but who?  Meanwhile, we see that the energy Superman is expending in fighting his foes is being harnessed by Xviar, and Superman himself is the weapon with which he plans to destroy the Earth.

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Brainiac and Amalak, who are fairly similar anyway, are the next villains that Superman has to deal with, as the story nears its conclusion.

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Xviar, ready to be taken back to his home planet, seems to be in a trance as Superman checks the various suites in his building, and finds the alien tech.  He figures out that Mr.Xavier is behind his power loss, but does not seem to have put together the entire plan.  The story builds the suspense quite well as Superman faces off against the Kryptonite Man, the adult version of the Kryptonite Kid that he had faced as Superboy.  But when Superman hits Kryptonite Man with a punch that ought to destroy the world, nothing happens.  Beneath his costume, Superman was wearing the power-nullifying Clark Kent clothes, and took down Kryptonite Man with nothing more than normal human strength, which dissipated the built up energies.

Mr. Xavier gets sent to a galactic prison, and is never seen again.

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The story has a bit of a downer ending.  Superman is Clark Kent again, but this means that he is back to being meek, giving in to Steve Lombard and Morgan Edge, and losing the admiration of Lois.  But that’s the price of being a hero.

I would say this is by far the best Superman storyline to date, and I am amazed that these tales have never been reprinted.

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Superman 271 – the first DC comic I owned

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It is easy for me to determine that Superman 271 (Jan. 74) was my earliest DC comic, simply because I had no other issues printed before 1975.  At this time I was only 8, and most of what I bought was Richie Rich, Uncle Scrooge and Sad Sack.

Something about the cover grabbed me, and I’m pretty sure I know what it was.  The idea of holding and crushing an entire city in one’s hand.  I blame disaster movies.

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At any rate, I started off thinking Morgan Edge was a really great guy, because in this issue, Maggin, Swan and Oskner put him in the spotlight, softening his image significantly.  The WGBS staff are on strike,and though Edge personifies management, he agrees that the worker’s demands are valid, as he explains to Clark Kent and Steve Lombard as he crosses their picket line.

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Then he gets into some broad comedy, attempting to helm the newsdesk himself for that day’s broadcast.

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Then the action gets going.  Brainiac is back, his first appearance in these pages since the 60s, although he had appeared the year before in Action Comics.  He now has jets on his boots, enabling him to fly, and force beams from the knob things on his head.  He has also created a mirror of Metropolis, coming down onto the city from above.  When Brainiac’s Metropolis touches the real one, both disintegrate.

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Superman does all he can to stop Brainiac, but cannot make physical contact with the deadly version of the city, nor get through Brainiac’s force-field.  He does send a message for help to someone, though.  But it seems too late as we, and Brainiac, see the cities come together in destruction.

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But as the ending reveals, after Brainiac has been captured, the image Brainiac’s sensors received was not reality, but a broadcast be Morgan Edge, of a model of the city being disintegrated against its mirror.  But even at 8 years old this really confused me, as Superman and Edge are standing right next to the model they are referring to – which has not been destroyed.  That mystified me for many, many years, until I was old enough to realize the fault was the comic’s, not mine.

 

Superman 172 – the replacement Superman

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There’s a new Superman in town in issue 172 (Oct. 64).

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Hamilton, Swan and Klein are the creative team on this tale, which sees a comet with gasses deadly to all, even Kryptonians, approach the Earth.  Superman knows he may not survive the encounter with it, so he recruits a potential successor from Kandor, Ar-Val.

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Superman diverts the comet, and survives his contact with it, but loses his powers.  The panels of Clark Kent grieving as he hears the crowds cheer his replacement are excellent.

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Ar-Val proves to be pretty useless as Superman, simply wanting the glory of it.  He ignores Jimmy Olsen, who warns him that Brainiac has busted Luthor out of prison.  Luthor got shot during the breakout, and Ar-Val simply insists that Luthor must be dead.

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Superman wants to step up, but has no powers.  Jimmy Olsen provides him some of his elastic serum, while Legion of Super-Heroes members Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Invisible Kid temporarily charge Superman with their powers.  As he is no longer allowed to wear a Superman costume, he dons a really awful “Former Superman” costume.

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It is fun to see the hero formerly known as Superman fight Luthor and Brainiac with a wildly different set of powers.  But the villains get the best of him in the end.

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Ar-Val finally shows up, but the Former Superman winds up sacrificing himself to save him.

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Ar-Val finally realizes what a washout he is, and with the aid of Kandorian scientist Nor-Kan, he revives Superman, using his life force, but winding up turned to stone.

Superman indicates at the end that he wants to find a way to revive Ar-Val, but this never actually happened.

 

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.

Superman 167 – Luthor learns Brainiac’s secret

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A great cover on Superman 167 (Feb. 64), as we reach the apex of the 1960s Superman stories, in this issue and the following one.

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It’s Hamilton, Swan and Klein who reveal new information about Brainiac, and set up a number of characters, places and events that will have long repercussions.  Luthor breaks out of prison, and invents a scanner that allows him to learn about alien worlds.  He winds up tuning in to Colu (although the planet is not named in this story), and learns that Brainiac is not an alien, but an android, created to be the operative of the Computer Tyrants.  To help disguise his mechanical nature, the Tyrants provided him with a son.  Only called Brainiac 2 in this story, the boy, Vril Dox, runs away from Brainiac at the first opportunity.

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Luthor heads to the planet where Superman has imprisoned Brainiac and frees him, revealing that he knows Brainiac’s true nature.  He also takes advantage of this to implant a bomb within the android’s computer brain, to prevent Brainiac from turning on him.

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Together they scour the galaxy gathering resources for their new device to kill Superman.  While doing this, they stop off on the planet where Luthor is considered a hero, now called Lexor in his honour.  Luthor meets a woman who is very interested in him.  Her name is given as Tharla in this story, but she will later be called Ardora.  They also pass Brainiac’s world, and see a monument to the revolution that overthrew the Computer Tyrants.  Although not stated in this story, it was Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) who lead the revolt.

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Returning to Earth, they hit Superman with a shrink ray, and toss him into a bird cage.  He escapes by using his Clark Kent clothes as a rope ladder, while Brainiac decoys Luthor into sitting in front of a mind control machine.

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Brainiac forces Luthor to remove the bomb he had implanted, and also wipes his mind of the knowledge that Brainiac is an android.  Keeping that a secret is so important in this story, which is a bit odd, as soon everyone will know about it anyway.

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While the villains do succeed at putting Superman into a deathlike trance, they wind up getting captured by the Superman Emergency Squad and taken to Kandor, where they are prosecuted by Nor-Kann.  Although they are both sentenced to the Phantom Zone, they bargain their way out of it, promising to bring Superman back if left to go free.  They keep their word, and are allowed to head off into space, with Luthor returning to his new hot babe on Lexor.

I consider this the best Superman story from the 1960s, rivalled closely by the one that comes next.

Superman 162 – Superman Red/Superman Blue

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The cover of Superman 162 (July 1963) insists that Superman Red/Superman Blue is the greatest Imaginary Story of them all.  And you know, it just might be right.

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Dorfman, Swan and Klein open this tale with Kandorians acting like total dicks.  They summon Superman, and list off his failures, including not enlarging their city.  Among his other “failures” is not wiping out all crime on Earth.  You gotta feel sorry for the children of these people.

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But Superman takes it all to heart, and with the aid of Supergirl, uses a variety of coloured kryptonites in an experiment to boost his powers.  It has the result of splitting Superman into two identical beings, Superman Red and Superman Blue, named for their costumes.

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With twice the super-brain power, they have no trouble coming up with a cure for kryptonite, and enlarging Kandor on a new planet, terraformed to be just like Krypton.

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With the aid of Supergirl and Krypto, the two Supermans help Lori Lemaris and the Atlanteans move their entire city to a new planet, without ever having to leave a giant waterspout.

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Then they create satellites to beam goodness and peace into everyone’s minds, stopping all wars.  The Superman Revenge Squad and Brainiac are both affected, and decide to leave Earth alone, while Luthor reforms, cures blindness, broken bones and baldness, and gets re-united with his sister Lena.

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Even Mr. Mxyzptlk is affected, and decides to never return to this dimension.  With the list completed, and nothing much else to do, the two Supermen turn their minds to romance.  With the kind of ease and harmony that characterizes this entire story, one is in love with Lois, and the other with Lana.

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So they have a double wedding, which turns into a triple one, when Lucy Lane proposes to Jimmy Olsen.

Superman Red and Lois head to the new Krypton to live out their days, while Superman Blue stays on Earth with Lana.

The story does tease a sequel, asking which couple is happier, but I think it’s a good thing none ever came.  This is the ultimate happy ending story, the “goal” that all the Superman stories from this era are striving for.

But the concept would live on, and was re-worked with the electric Superman in the late 90s.

Superman 150 – remembering Krypton, Lois vs Lana to the death, and everyone forgets Superman

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It’s Superman – the attention hog on the cover of issue 150 (Jan. 62).

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Siegel and Plastino open this issue as many characters observe a memorial day, marking the anniversary of Krypton’s destruction.

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Krypto builds himself a Doghouse of Solitude in outer space.  This has nothing at all to do with the main story, but it is the first time we see this location, which will pop up periodically over the next couple of decades.

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After building the doghouse, Krypto joins Superman and Supergirl in the Fortress, where they remember the destruction of Krypton, and their origins.  The Kandorians in the bottle participate as well, recalling how Brainiac shrunk and captured them.  The Phantom Zone prisoners are shown, with Superboy’s enemy Dr. Xadu having a cameo.

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Bizarro and Bizarro Lois are shown on their world, joining in on the festivities to mark the cataclysm.

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Superman, Supergirl and Krypto head into space, and gather up enough material to build a full scale replica of Krypton.  Then they populate it with androids of everyone who had died, including their parents.

This planet, later called Rokyn, did return a few times.

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The feud between Lois Lane and Lana Lang reaches a breaking point in this story by Bernstein and Schaffenberger.

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The sparring between the two women gets physical, and they publicly challenge each other to a fight to the death.  They even recruit Jimmy Olsen as the referee.  Of course, they do not really plan to kill each other.  They intend that Jimmy will use his watch to signal Superman, who will come to end the fight, by announcing which of them he chooses.

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But Superman suspects that the women are up to something, so he uses robots of Lois and Lana, making each of the women think that they actually had killed the other one.

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When Superman brings the two together, they turn on each other, and the fighting begins anew, taking both over a parapet – but these are just robots as well.  The women guessed that Superman guessed that they were up to something.  Oh, my.  The weird and twisted games these people play with each other for our amusement.

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Siegel, Swan and Boring conclude the issue with the cover story, in which no one remembers Superman.  Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White all know who Clark is, but not Superman.

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Superman tries to show off his powers, but finds rocket jets on his belt, and springs on his shoes.  Of course, this is really all that is needed to indicate that Mr. Mxyzptlk is behind it – as he was in the 1940s story this is adapted from.

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Once Mxyzptlk’s role is revealed, the story reverts to the name game.