Two major debuts in Action 252 (May 1959), and though Superman is displayed on the cover, the story represented by the image is not even his!
Superman’s story, by Bernstein and Plastino, introduces Metallo. There had been an earlier version, Metalo, who faced Superboy, but that character made his only appearance before the introduction of kryptonite.
John Corben, a journalist, embezzler and thief, gets into a car accident, but is found by a benevolent doctor.
Horribly injured, John wakes to discover that he has been given a robotic body, although on the surface he still appears normal. He no longer has a functioning heart, and must be powered by a radioactive substance. Uranium is keeping him alive, but the doctor refers to another thing that could be used, before collapsing.
Corben gets a job at the Daily Planet, where he tries to romance Lois Lane.
In the evenings, he makes the most out of the strength his robot body gives him, raiding places for the uranium he needs to stay alive. The superhuman nature of the thefts prompt the media to give him the nickname Metallo.
Corben happens to look identical to Clark Kent, and also Superman (obviously), a trait never ascribed again to the character. He learns that kryptonite will also power him, and searches for it at a Superman exhibit being set up. With the kryptonite in his “heart,” Superman is powerless to stop him
It’s all a great set-up. But the story ends far too abruptly, as Metallo collapses and dies. You gotta wonder why they were so determined to prevent good villains from returning.
It was not until the 70s that Metallo came back, as Corben’s brother. In the late 80s, when John Byrne rebooted the Superman series, he brought back John Corben, and was pretty faithful to his origin.
Bernstein also wrote the Congorilla story in this issue, with art by Howard Sherman. Congo Bill is leading a trek across the desert, but finds that the fort at the oasis has been taken over by people who plan to rob the passing tourists. Apparently desert treks are really the in thing.
Bill gets imprisoned in the fort, but uses his ring to switch bodies and become Congorilla, and leads an assault on the fort, freeing himself, and the other prisoners. One of the better Congorilla stories.
And in the third and final spot, Supergirl’s series launches with the debut of her character, by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.
Superman sees a rocket crash outside Metropolis, and, investigating, finds a young girl dressed in a matching outfit. She claims to be from Krypton as well, though Superman is highly suspicious.
She explains how a chunk of Krypton, at this point containing only “a street of homes,” was ejected intact during the planet’s destruction. Her father lead the survivors in laying lead shielding on the ground, to prevent the kryptonite from killing them. There is no mention of the city being domed, the atmosphere just “came along with them.” Friendly atmosphere! The girl was born on this floating neighbourhood, but sent away to Earth after meteors pierced the lead shielding. Her parents had observed Kal-El, and sent her, in a matching outfit, to join him.
Only as her tale ends does Kara actually start using names. Her parents were Zor-El and Alura, the brother, and sister-in-law, of Jor-El. She is Superman’s cousin.
Having finally found a living relative, Superman does the tender thing, forcing her to adopt a disguise, and leaving her at an orphanage in a different city to be raised. I guess she should be glad he didn’t send her to a work house. She chooses the name Linda Lee.
Supergirl’s series would run as a back-up feature in Action Comics for more than a decade, and would see her leave the orphanage, get adopted, and move from being Superman’s “secret weapon” to a publicly acknowledged hero in her own right.