Superman 242 (September 1971)

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The Pseudo-Superman story comes to its close with Superman choosing to be de-powered. It’s a strange move, since he’s still really, really powerful. Maybe not Silver Age powerful, but he hadn’t really been doing those feats during the rest of the issues… it’s a little confusing. It’s an effective scene, but it doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny.

Similarly, Superman’s decision to fight Pseudo-Superman to the death… again, shouldn’t he have tried to work something out with him.

It’s a good close though. O’Neil fits tons of story in–most of the issue focuses on these two bums slash crooks who “kidnap” an inter-dimensional being and use it to beat up Superman and terrorize the world in general. Some great art on those pages.

The beating up Superman scene is particularly rough to read, since it’s all so vicious.

The final scene’s a little anticlimactic though.

CREDITS

The Ultimate Battle!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. The Girl Who Didn’t Believe in Superman!; writer, Bill Finger; penciller, Wayne Boring; inker, Stan Kaye. The World’s Mightiest Weakling!; writer, Otto Binder; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bernard Sachs. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

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Superman 241 (August 1971)

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I guess Wonder Woman wasn’t much of a draw back in the early 1970s because her guest appearance is a surprise (there’s no mention on the cover) and she’s practically in the issue more than Superman.

Following up on Superman’s epiphany from the previous issue (he’d prefer to live a normal life), Wonder Woman’s Indian sidekick convinces him otherwise. It’s only a couple pages, but it’s effective, maybe because O’Neil’s dialogue for Superman is so desperate.

But then there’s the subsequent problem (where Wonder Woman takes over). Superman has super-brain damage and is acting like a (well-intentioned) goofball. It’s almost like they have him do Silver Age things, then deal with the “real world” consequences.

The sand double gets a solid explanation here, along with a goofy name: Pseudo-Superman.

The reprint back-ups are cute, but out of place for the serious–if humorously handled–feature story.

CREDITS

The Shape of Fear!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. Superman’s Neighbors; writer, Bill Finger; penciller, Wayne Boring; inker, Stan Kaye. Superman’s Day of Truth!; writer, Leo Dorfman; penciller, Swan; inker, George Klein. Editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 238 (June 1971)

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Superman finally decides he can’t go around on half-power–but there’s a great butt shot from Swan on the first page for the ladies when he’s leaping instead of flying–at the end of the issue. His sand-double has been sucking his powers away and worse, the sand-double isn’t willing to help as Superman has to save the planet.

It’s kind of a neat way to agitate a situation (it starts as a ransom demand, but then there’s the atom bomb being dropped into the earth’s core) and O’Neil’s of the crisis is excellent. His devices to distract from Superman when Superman’s off page getting his plan together… not so excellent. They’re okay, but basically just standard “Where is Superman?” scenes with the supporting cast.

The back-up Krypton story has nice art from Gray Morrow, but it’s a lame Adam and Eve as sci-fi story.

CREDITS

Menace at 1000 Degrees!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. A Name Is Born; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Gray Morrow. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 237 (May 1971)

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Here’s a packed issue. Superman even comments on it–he rescues a rocket, Lois crashes, there are killer ants, his sand-double is around, he’s a carrier of some strange space bug–it goes on and on. O’Neil fits it all in with barely any room for anything else. Only when Superman decides he’s going to leave Earth (it takes him a panel, not an interconnected eight issue story arc), does the story take a breather.

There’s a particular moment, with Superman sitting out in space, waiting, basically, for Lois to die. He’s sacrificing her for the greater good (fear of infecting the rest of the planet with the space bug). It’s a very strange moment, because Superman’s given up. The solution appears, deus ex machina, to Superman; he doesn’t even try to save Lois.

Add in Swan’s odd head shots (they all look taped on) and the issue’s problematic.

CREDITS

Enemy of Earth; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 235 (March 1971)

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The issue ends with Superman in Metropolis Stadium attempting a heart-to-heart with his sand-double. It’s a really awkward moment, since the Colosseum’s full of people. O’Neil doesn’t get a single reaction shot in this sequence, after getting them in an opening action sequence at the Colosseum. It’s off. I mean, Lois should have a reaction, shouldn’t she?

There are other weak points to this issue–Morgan Edge being the J. Jonah Jameson of the DC Universe is problematic, regardless of if he’s just stooging for Darkseid–but there’s a lot of good stuff too, like Superman waving at a crowd of people to say hi to Lois. Or just O’Neil’s plotting, which allows for these nice action sequences without them taking over the entire issue before the big finale.

It’s solid, unspectacular.

O’Neil’s Superman seems way too nonplussed too, given the sand-double and losing his powers.

CREDITS

Sinister Scream of the Devil’s Harp!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 234 (February 1971)

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Ok, here’s where it’s a little hokey. Both stories actually (there’s another history of Krypton back-up, which has a goofy villain reveal at the end). O’Neil has Superman trying to stop a volcano, but he doesn’t want to trespass on the land to do so. While I kind of get O’Neil making it “real,” he also makes it absurd. The villain’s the landowner who’s shooting his fleeing employees… pretty sure, even in 1971, you weren’t allowed to murder disobedient employees.

Otherwise, it’s a solid enough story. The sand-Superman is really creepy, Superman worrying about doing his newscast while fighting the volcano is amusing (though there’s a big plot hole when he talks, as Superman, and he’s still got his news commentary microphone on).

Nice artwork. Lots of thought balloons again, this time explaining how Superman’s thought process for combating the volcano.

Unfortunately, the back-up’s pretty weak overall.

CREDITS

How to Tame a Wild Volcano!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. Prison in the Sky; writer, E. Nelson Bridwell; artist, Swan. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 233 (January 1971)

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What a pleasure it is to read a Superman comic book where he’s not supposed to be perpetually thirty-one or whatever goofy age DC pins on him. The more mature Clark Kent, here becoming a television personality as the Daily Planet goes through changes, brings something else to the comic. I hate to sound like Joe Quesada, but a married Superman has different sensibilities.

The superhero antics–opening with a Kryptonite event–are a lot less sensational than the modern comics–it’s Superman versus gangsters. Gangsters in jets, but gangsters. The real boon to these scenes is the artwork. Curt Swan’s action sequences are fantastic. Even with O’Neil’s tight script–somehow, he gives Superman a lot of thought balloons but never makes them overbearing–it’s Swan who makes the issue feel like an experience.

And then there’s even a cute backup story featuring Jor-El and Lara getting together.

CREDITS

Superman Breaks Loose; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. Jor-El’s Golden Folly; writer, E. Nelson Bridwell; artist, Anderson. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

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