Tag Archives: Cary Bates

Superman 300 – the Superman of 2001

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Superman 300 (June 1976) is the one and only appearance of an alternate Superman, who lands on Earth in 1976, in a story by Bates, Maggin, Swan and Oskner.

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While the story will vary greatly from the established Superman lore, the Krypton opening, with Jor-El and Lara firing off their son in a rocket, is basically identical.

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The US and the Soviets both race to intercept the incoming alien craft in a destructive competition.  It’s an American, named Kent, who winds up getting to the rocket first.

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But the boy is raised in secret by the military, and though he adopts the identity of Skyboy, his existence is not known to the world at large.  Meanwhile, we see that in this world, by 1990, there are buildings a mile high and impenetrable domes.

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When the president of the US decides to reveal Skyboy’s existence, this sparks a nuclear war with the Soviets.  But Skyboy destroys all the weapons.

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As a result by 2001 there are all manner of advances that our world never achieved, like floating chairs and holographic tv (although we’re pretty close to that one).

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Changing his name to Superman, he makes his public debut, revealing that he had prevented the nuclear war.

It’s not a bad story, but it’s really only an introduction.  And with no further appearances, a somewhat irrelevant one.

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.

Superman 298 – a world without Clark Kent

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The cover of Superman 298 (April 1976) is somewhat deceptive – really, it would have been far more appropriate for the issue preceding this one, as Superman leaves his Clark Kent identity behind in the third part of the Mr. Xavier story, by Maggin, Bates, Swan and Oskner.

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Superman is trying to decide which of his two lives is the more important, and intends to spend the week entirely as Superman, even though this means ditching Lois Lane, just as their relationship has begun to get serious.

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And he sticks with it, even though Morgan Edge is upset over Clark’s disappearance, and the Inter-Gang boss might wind up going free if Clark is not there to testify at his trial.  But it’s Lois Lane’s concern that affects him the most.

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We learn that this crisis of conscience is exactly what Xviar and his bosses were counting on, as Superman is so distracted with his personal life that he fails to realize what Xviar is up to.

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Superman defeats Solarman, a one-shot baddie, but is that worth letting the Inter-Gang boss go free?

The story concludes in the next issue.

Superman 297 – the heroism of Clark Kent

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Maggin, Bates, Swan and Oskner continue with the Mr. Xavier storyline in Superman 297 (March 1976).

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I likely ought to have mentioned that the previous issue brought back Inter-Gang, the criminal organization that once had ties to Darkseid and Apokolips.  Those days have passed, but the mob is back, and proud enough of themselves to have a big sign with their name on it at their headquarters.

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Clark has decided to live his life as a normal human in this issue.  But with no other identity to hide, he now feels no need to act all meek and humble, and is more than capable of standing up to Steve Lombard when he tries to muscle in on his date with Lois Lane.

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Lois is quite taken with this new, self-assured Clark Kent, and after almost 50 years, things actually get hot and heavy between them.

As a side note, this issue also has the first time that Clark Kent tries Beef Bourguinon, which will, (with ketchup) become his favourite dish.

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The absence of Superman has emboldened the criminal element in Metropolis.  Actor Gregory Reed has a small role in this story, dressing up in his Superman costume to bluff some felons into surrendering.  Clark feels somewhat ashamed of this, and decides that there is no reason he cannot put his years of experience to use as Clark.

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And so, with the help of an anti-gravity device, Clark bursts in on an Inter-Gang meeting, and takes down the entire group by himself.  He may not be able to fly, but he knows how to maneuver in zero gravity, unlike the gang members.

As for Mr. Xavier, he gets new instructions. Kill Superman.

The story continues in the next issue.

Superman 296 – the secret of Mr. Xavier

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Bates, Maggin, Swan and Oskner begin a four part story in Superman 296 (Feb. 76), which explores the different sides of Clark Kent and Superman, as well as paying off the mysterious Mr. Xavier set-up.

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Xavier is really Xviar, an alien who landed on Earth at around the same time the infant Kal-El did.  But Xviar is not here for the benefit of mankind.  An ageless alien, he has access to extremely high tech gear, but is following orders from his far off commanders. It is made clear that he is behind the changes that Superman experiences in this issue, though exactly what he has done is not yet explained.

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Clark himself is unaware that anything has changed with his life, when he dives in front of a speeding cab to save a careless Steve Lombard.  The cab hits Clark, and sends him flying.  Lois Lane is on the scene, and impressed with Clark’s heroism, and worried about his obvious injuries.  Clark, unconscious, is taken to the hospital, and is amazed when he wakes to find an IV in his supposedly invulnerable arm.

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At first he believes that he has lost his powers, but later finds that that is not exactly the situation.  When he is dressed as Superman he maintains all his abilities, but when dressed as Clark he is merely human.

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A Xviar reports on the success of his plan, Clark wonders if this is a sign that he should give up being Superman.

The story continues in the next issue.

Superman 294 – Superman vs Brainstorm

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Brainstorm was an under-utilized Justice League villain, who had not appeared in ten years when Bates, Swan and Blaisdel resurrected him for Superman 294 (Dec. 75).

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The story begins as Clark Kane tapes a newscast, relating how everyone on Earth vanished.  As Superman believes he will be able to solve whatever caused this, he sets up an explanation as to how both he and Clark Kent were off planet at the time.

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Brainstorm lures Superman by pretending that he has killed Clark Kent.  Obviously, Superman does not fall for this, but he goes anyway, to understand just how Brainstorm pulled off getting rid of everyone.  It turns out he simply dreamed them away – which means he must have been wearing his big thinking cap helmet while sleeping, as that is what amplifies his powers.

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Playing off Brainstorm’s own lie about killing Clark, Superman gets back into that identity.  Brainstorm’s mental blasts are intended to kill a human, so they fail to affect Clark.  Although he potentially exposes his identity in capturing Brainstorm, as he suspected, the villain simply believes that Superman disguised himself as Clark.

It’s actually one of Brainstorm’s better stories, which says a lot.

It’s also Brainstorm’s one and only appearance in the 1970s.  He returns in the early 80s in Superman Family.

Superman 283 – Superman’s new secret identity, and Mr. Mxyzptlk goes to Washington

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As the cover of Superman 283 (Jan. 75) implies, Bates, Swan and Oskner give him a new secret identity in this issue.

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Although we follow the life of Chris Delbert, the reason for this new identity is not made clear until the end of the story.

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It turns out that Superman is being blackmailed by a prominent scientist, who has been monitoring him, and threatens to expose him identity unless Superman flies him to Mars.

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Superman seems to go along with this, but apparently abandons him on the red planet.  But then, it simply turns out to be a new amusement park.  The scientist tries to expose the Delbart identity, but of course the man does not really exist.

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More fun is the Mr. Mxyzptlk story, by Maggin, Swan and Oskner.  It had been fully five years since we had seen them imp.

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But now he is back, and causing chaos in Washington DC, as he brings the various statues there to life.

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And though Superman does trick him into saying his name backwards, forcing him back to his dimension, he admits (to himself at least) that he missed “the little creep.”  Good thing, as he would be back within the year.