Tag Archives: Denny O’Neil

Superman 254 – Billy Anders gets Superman’s strength, and where did the baby go?

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Superman 254 (July 1972) contains absolutely the worst editorial decision ever made about Superman.

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O’Neil, Swan and Anderson have Superman come to the aid of some sketchy aliens, who zap him with a ray, though it has no apparent effect.

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Returning to Earth, Superman finds that any force he exerts rebounds on him.

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Superman goes to check on Billy Anders, and finds that he has been bonded to his lynx.  If they are separated, the boy falls back into a coma.  Then one of the aliens shows up.  He explains what his former comrades were up to, and offers to help.  The explanation is long and stupid, but not as bad as the result.  He uses a machine to store Superman’s strength inside Billy.

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Superman can access this strength by mentally visualizing a lynx, which connects him with Billy.

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After a successful test run, Superman proclaims that he, the boy and the lynx are now partners.

The idea behind this was along the lines of the Sand Superman.  Reducing Superman’s power level to make him more “relateable.”  Cause really, there were so many children who simply weren’t enjoying Superman stories because his powers were not being stored inside a boy and his lynx.

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Soooo much better in every way is the back-up, as Len Wein and Neal Adams execute a charming Private Life of Clark Kent story.  Clark is asked by a neighbour to look after her infant daughter for a few minutes, but the child promptly disappears out of a locked room.

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Clark is completely mystified.  There are no big villains or clever schemes, no magic or space warps.  But how did the baby get out of the room, and where did it go?

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After searching the building, Clark returns to find the girl right where she had been in the first place.  He keeps his eye on her this time, and sees how she sneaks out through a pet door.

Just a perfect little tale.  No lynx needed.

 

Superman 253 – Billy Anders and his pet lynx debut

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One of the more irritating characters to be brought into the Superman’s books at this time was Billy Anders, a young boy who lives in the same apartment building as Clark Kent, and who owns a pet lynx, introduced by O’Neil, Swan and Anderson in Superman 253 (June 1972).

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The story also brings back Ferlin Nyxly, who has been searching for either his old magical harp, or some other equally powerful artifact.  He has gone out into the desert, where the harp was found, and comes across an odd alien building.  This place exists somewhat out of phase with reality, and Superman has a difficult time finding it later in the story.  But Nyxly gets some new armor, and a slingshot weapon, and goes seeking vengeance on the hero.

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An absurd sequence of events results in Billy acquiring a mental link with his pet lynx, although the boy himself gets injured and is bedridden.

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Superman goes to check on the comatose boy, and finds that Billy is able to communicate through his cat, letting Superman know about Nyxly’s new weapon.

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Superman bests Nyxly, and finds the alien building, encountering a fading image of the Martian Manhunter.  This loosely leads into their team-up story in the following issue of World’s Finest.

Billy Anders and his lynx will stick around for a couple of years, to my dismay.

Superman 247 – the Guardians of the Universe manipulate Superman, and the Private Life of Clark Kent debuts

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One of the more interesting Superman stories, from this or any era, occurs in Superman 247 (Jan. 72), as the Guardians of the Universe make Superman question his role on Earth, in a story by Elliot S Maggin, Swan and Anderson.

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The Guardians enlist Superman’s help in stopping a destructive yellow wave of space stuff, though Superman winds up needing to be rescued at the end of the mission.  Green Lantern Katma Tui brings him to Oa to be healed.  This was all part of a greater plan by the Guardians, to implant within him the idea that he is not really helping human civilization advance.

After subliminally giving him this idea, they converse with Superman, and raise the notion again.

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Returning to Earth, Superman winds up in the middle of a fight between Mexican immigrants and their field boss.  Everyone wants Superman to fix their lives, and he realizes that doing so is really of no help.  But then an earthquake strikes, and he knows he has to jump into action.

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The village gets devastated, and Superman rebuilds it, but insists that they have to deal with the rest of their problems by themselves.

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The Guardians, who have been monitoring all this, pat themselves on the back for making Superman less certain of himself and his role as a hero.

The story does raise some questions that are not easy to answer – but also shows the Guardians in a particularly manipulative light.  One that would come to characterize them more and more over the next couple of decades.

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O’Neil, Swan and Anderson introduce a new back-up series in this issue, the Private Life of Clark Kent.  These are stories that centre on Clark, and for the most part have him dealing with issues that cannot be fixed by becoming Superman.

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In this case, he goes out to find and help the younger brother of a secretary at WGBS, who has gotten involved with a deadly street gang, and has to kill for his initiation.  Jimmy Olsen tries to talk sense to the kid,  but just gets beaten up.  The hoods attack Clark as well, after his speech about rising above such things, and he rolls with it, letting himself appear injured, to see is his words had any effect.

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He is pleased to find that they did, as the boy refuses to kill an innocent man simply to join a gang.

The Private Life of Clark Kent would continue sporadically in this and other Superman books, eventually getting a regular spot in the pages of Superman Family.

 

Superman 242 – Superman vs the Sand Superman

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O’Neil, Swan and Anderson conclude the Sand Superman storyline in issue 242 (Sept. 71).

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The Chinese war-demon, brought to life by the entity from Quarrm, is joined by two bums as he beats on Superman in a junk yard.  The entity has no comprehension of this world as yet, and the bums become its partners.

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Jimmy Olsen, Diana Prince and I Ching find Superman, and bring him to the hospital.  His invulnerability is gone, to they are able to operate on him, and he did sustain brain damage when attacked with I Ching.

The Sand Superman winds up fighting the War-Demon, although he is surprised to find himself doing so, and wonders if he has also acquired the values, as well as the powers, of Superman.

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The bums find out that convincing a Chinese war-demon that he is an unstoppable force of destruction can wind up having a downside, when the creature feels it no longer needs any guides to tell it what to do.

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The entity can sense the two Supermen, and wants their energy.  He bursts into the hospital, and brushes past both Wonder Woman and I Ching.

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Together, the two Superman are able to overcome the war-demon, and the entity abandons that form and drifts away.  Then its down to the two major players, and a fight to the death, with I Ching as referee.  Their match winds up devastating the area that they are fighting in.

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I Ching wakes them both – their fight occurred only in their minds, in a trance state he put them in, in order to see how damaging a battle would be.  The Sand Superman decides to return to Quarrm, and simply vanishes.

While overall this was a good storyline, and it was great to see Superman vulnerable, the ending felt a little weak.

Though the Sand Superman never returns, this story is retold, in a way, in a Superman special in the early 90s.  And, as I just discovered, the Sand Superman DOES return, in the Superman vs Shazam special a few years later.  Always sincerely love it when someone draws attention to something I missed (or in this case, have not yet read).

Superman 241 – Superman’s trance cure

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Superman 241 (Aug. 71) is the first to expand to the larger size issues.  But the back-up features, aside from the occasional Fabulous World of Krypton stories, are all reprints.

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O’Neil, Swan and Anderson continue from where the previous issue left off.  The bad guys from that story are still lying on the floor of the apartment, but of no interest to I Ching or Superman.  I Ching evokes Superman’s astral form, which hunts out the Sand Superman, and draws back it’s energy from it.

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Superman seems back to normal power-wise, but his actions and behaviour verge on the bizarre, and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman has no powers either in this era) gets worried about him.

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She and I Ching head to Metropolis, and I Ching traces the whereabouts of the Sand Superman.  He knows what the creature is, an ethereal being from Quarrm, who has taken Superman’s form.  When Superman drew his energy back, he did not get all of his intelligence. Added to that, he suffered a severe blow to the head when the goons burst in and attacked him and I Ching. The Sand Superman is now dying, only one will be able to survive.

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In a somewhat pointless sequence, the three of them break in to Morgan Edge’s apartment.  This is primarily so that we can see the shadowy man trapped behind the one way mirror, a teaser for a storyline that will play out over the next few months, though primarily in the pages of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.

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As the story comes to a close, another entity from Quarrm takes over the body of a Chinese war-demon on a parade float, and captures Superman.  This one is able to drain his powers as well.

The story concludes in the next issue.

Superman 240 – the help of I Ching, and the perils of Kryptonian time travel

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Superman is having a rough time in issue 240 (July 1971), thanks to O’Neil, Swan and Anderson.

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Superman comes to help out at a burning building, and though he helps evacuate those trapped inside, he does not have the strength to prevent the building from collapsing.  The criminal element in Metropolis has also started to notice that Superman is not up to par, and are getting more aggressive.

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Wonder Woman’s new mentor, I Ching, pops by to help out, and offers to put Superman into a trance, so his astral body can seek out a solution to his problem.

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But the mob gets wind up this, and show up, attacking both Superman and I Ching.  Superman is so drained that his invulnerability is gone, and only his costume saves his life in the fight.  He wins, but considers this the most difficult fight he was ever in.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Cary Bates and Mike Kaluta share the Fabulous World of Krypton tale in this issue, which deals with a devious criminal plot.  A young scientist steals a number of devices through the course of this story.

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His overall scheme is not clear at first, but eventually we learn that he is scheduled for a time trip into the past, to an era when Krypton was ruled by a military dictator whom he admires.  He plans to stay in that era, and profit of his “futuristic” devices.

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But he uses an illusion-caster on the voyage, to make himself look like the dictator.  This affects the time trip, and sends him 50 years into the future, instead of the past.  But 50 years in the future Krypton no longer exists, and he perishes in the void of space.

Honestly didn’t see that ending coming.

 

Superman 238 – the Sand Superman won’t help, and the origin of Krypton

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The Sand Superman is prominently displayed on the cover of Superman 238 (June 1971), but his role in this O’Neil, Swan and Anderson story is much smaller than in the previous issue.

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The bulk of the story deals with a terrorist with a “gun” powered by magma from the Earth’s core.  Lois Lane winds up becoming one of his hostages, intentionally, to get his story.  Superman is finding it difficult to deal with the powerful weapon on his own, and asks the Sand Superman for help, as their combined power would be equal to what Superman used to have.  But the Sand Superman is not human, and has no interest in Superman’s concerns.

And despite his cover appearance, the above page is his only real scene in the story.

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The remainder of the tale has Superman beating the bad guy anyway, but finding it more difficult than normal, and needing to resort to subterfuge.  But he is not nearly as bitchy to Lois in this one.

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This issue contains the first Fabulous World of Krypton story that does not feature any established characters.  Cary Bates and Gray Morrow focus on two schoolteachers, and the story they relate about the founding of Krypton.

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Explorers from two different alien worlds discover Krypton at the same time, and come into conflict with each other.  Things are all war oriented while they are in their space suits.

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But once the masks are off, it suddenly turns into a romance.  Nauseatingly, he is named Kryp, and she is named Tonn.  Gag.