Posts tagged ‘Howard Sherman’

Action 261 – Superman gives tours of his Fortress, Congorilla ends, and Streaky the Super-Cat debuts

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Great cover for Action 261 (Feb. 61). Sadly, the Superman story, by Siegel, Boring and Kaye, is not nearly as entertaining.

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Superman starts giving guided tours of his Fortress of Solitude.  He inspects the guests for hidden weapons or devices, but misses a bomb hidden in a lead thermos.

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Superman relates stories about his most dangerous foes – none of which are characters we have seen before or since.  Some Kandorians become aware of the bomb plot, but are unable to warn Superman because of a rainbow gem.  They do alert Superman in time, when the bombers cover the gem with the lead thermos lid.

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Congo Bill’s long -running series reaches the end of its run in Action Comics with this story by Robert bernstein and Howard Sherman.

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It’s not a great note to go out on.  Congo Bill accidentally rubs his ring while giving a performance, and the Golden Gorilla uses his body to run rampant.  Janu knows what is going on, and tries to calm the creature, but some hoods dressed as police take the boy down.

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It’s a lot of chaos and confusion.  Some parts are fun, and it’s a change of pace, but the switch back at the end of the story is the result of a bullet grazing the ring, which really should not have any effect at all.

The Congorilla series is not done, it simply moves to the pages of Adventure Comics.  But those stories are not that great, and the series ends within the year.

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Streaky, the Super-Cat gets introduced in this story by Siegel and Mooney.

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Linda rescues a stray cat, and names him Streaky, due to his markings.  Linda had also been experimenting with kryptonite, trying to find a cure. Streaky comes across some residue from her experiment, called x-kryptonite, which endows him with super-powers.

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The first thing he does is take vengeance on the dog that had attacked him earlier.  Supergirl discovers Streaky, and they play together for a while.

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Streaky’s powers vanish as quickly as they came.  Supergirl has no idea what caused them, and of course Streaky cannot explain.  The story leaves it open to the readers, as to whether Streaky’s powers will return.  And the readers clearly responded positively, as the cat will come across more x-kryptonite in the future.

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Action 256 – Superman sees the future, Janu becomes Congorilla, and Dick Wilson debuts

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A true classic cover on Action 256 (Sept. 59), for the Superman story by Binder, Swan and Kaye.

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Superman undergoes a scientific experiment that transforms him into a future man, the Ultra-Superman.  He can foresee the future, and even show his thoughts to others as images.  He announces four disasters that will strike, and tries to prevent them.

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Three attempts end in failure, and Ultra-Superman loses faith in his ability to change what he has foreseen, the assassination of the US president, presumably Eisenhower, although he is not named.

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But no, the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, designed to draw out the would-be assassins.  The Swan art makes this fun, and I love the cutaway on the egg-head, revealing the camera.

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Janu makes his first appearance in a Congorilla story, although Howard Sherman presents the tale as if Janu is already familiar with the animal and situation.  Janu is working as a stunt double for an obnoxious child actor on a film set in the jungle.  Janu does things for the movie like swim next to crocodiles, and Congo Bill allows this.  For some reason.

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Janu swipes Bill’s ring, and becomes Congorilla, using the ape to humiliate the actor.

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Congo Bill knows what is going on, and has no trouble with it. The director finds the apes antics cinematic, and the child star gets replaced by Janu, while Bill takes the ape role as Congorilla.

So really, the story is about them taking over a production, and making themselves the stars.

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Dick Wilson is introduced in this story by Binder and Mooney.  He sees Supergirl flying near the orphanage, and tries to figure out who she might be.

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As Linda is not aware that Dick is onto her, her carelessness leads him to suspect her.  From then on, the story is a gender reversal of the Lois Lane or Lana Lang stories, as Linda has to prove that she is not Supergirl. The odd thing is that no one yet knows Supergirl even exists.

I do love the panel where Linda super-sorts the steel from the dumbbell up her nose.

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Superman has created a Supergirl robot, and gives it to Linda as a gift, to help protect her identity.

Dick Wilson will return.  He eventually gets adopted, and his last name gets changed to Malverne.

 

Action 254 – Luthor creates Bizarro, Congo Bill vs Congorilla, and Supergirl cons people

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Bizarro had been introduced in the Superboy comic the previous year, but the character died at the end of the story.  Otto Binder and Al Plastino bring the character back for good in Action 254 (July 1959).

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Luthor has acquired the plans of the machine used in the earlier story, and with the help of his assistant,Vekko, he recreates it.

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Luthor lures Superman, and uses the imperfect duplicator on him, creating a new Bizarro, who nonetheless has the memories of dying as the original.  But Luthor was expecting an obedient slave with Superman’s powers.  Bizarro runs amok right from the start.

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His invulnerability is clear to see as the military does everything, including nuke him, trying to stop Bizarro.

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Since Superman is in love with Lois Lane, Bizarro is as well.  He builds a ramshackle home for them, and brings Lois there to propose.  She rejects him, politely, insisting that she loves only Superman.

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Bizarro than has probably the most complicated thoughts of his life, as he uses the imperfect duplicator on himself, creating a perfect Superman.  He sends this one to propose to Lois, while using kryptonite to keep Superman away (as per the cover image).

Vekko, incidentally, does not appear again until John Byrne’s reboot of Superman, where he returns as Luthor’s assistant during the creation of Bizarro.

The story concludes in the next issue.

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Congorilla falls under the control of someone else in this Howard Sherman story.  A thief breaks into Congo Bill’s room while he is sleeping, and steals the ring, along with his watch and money.

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The thief has read about the ring, though he didn’t realize it was Congo Bill’s room he was breaking into.  He tries it out, and is excited to be in the Golden Gorilla’s body, which he promptly starts using for crime.  Bill has to subdue the gorilla, in the thief’s body, and then try to capture him.

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Fortunately, a rampaging gorilla is not that hard to find.  Bill wears an African mask as he hunts the gorilla-thief down.  I’m not certain why.  Who is he trying to conceal his identity from?

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Despite her efforts to prove Linda Lee unworthy, Supergirl gets taken by a foster family in this story by Binder and Mooney.

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They run a carnival sideshow, and plan to use Linda in the act, as a strong girl.  She figures that it’s  all just entertainment, so goes along with it.

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When she is whisked away before the show is over, she gets suspicious, and uses her vision and hearing powers to learn that her foster parents are using her as part of their phony strength serum scam.

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Linda uses her Supergirl powers to trick them into thinking the formula really works.  It’s easy when she just has to appear strong herself, more difficult when she has to make her foster father think it worked on him.  The couple fall for her scam, and bankrupt themselves on worthless serum.  No longer able to support Linda, they return her to the orphanage.

Action 252 – Metallo debuts, Congorilla leads the attack, and Supergirl debuts

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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!

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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.

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John Corben, a journalist, embezzler and thief, gets into a car accident, but is found by a benevolent doctor.

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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.

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Corben gets a job at the Daily Planet, where he tries to romance Lois Lane.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And in the third and final spot, Supergirl’s series launches with the debut of her character, by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Action 249 – Luthor becomes Kryptonite Man, Congorilla takes the dynamite, and Tommy Tomorrow gambles

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Binder and Plastino offer the first version of the Kryptonite Man in Action 249 (Feb. 59).

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Luthor has developed a way of ingesting kryptonite, which turns him green and allows him to emit the deadly radiation, with no ill effects himself.

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Luthor seeks out Superman, who flees when he gets exposed to his radiation. Superman attempts a number of ways to overcome Luthor’s power, but with little success.

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Eventually he develops a kryptonite-proof suit, which is cool enough to warrant a cutaway diagram.

Luthor does manage to force him to remove the suit, but with Jimmy Olsen’s help, he tricks Luthor into thinking the radiation has worn off, and Luthor takes the antidote to the serum, making himself normal, and easy to catch.

Later versions of the Kryptonite Man, the first of which being a Kryptonite Kid, who shows up in Superboy, would be permanently endowed with the green skin and radioactivity, unable to change “back.”

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Congorilla returns, once again without Janu, in a story by Bernstein and Sherman.

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A small airplane crashes high in the mountains, and Congo Bill becomes Congorilla in order to climb where no human can, and get dynamite up to a point where he can blast an easy route for rescue.

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Tommy Tomorrow and Brent Wood head to a gambling asteroid in this story by Binder and Mooney. I was half expecting this to be, arguably, Ventura, the gambling planet that would be featured in later Superman and Legion of Super-Heroes stories.  But it is not.  It is clearly an asteroid, and the games are not nearly as cool as those on Ventura.

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Tommy tries his luck on a couple of the unusual games, losing Planeteer money his is supposed to be transporting, to the dismay of Brent.  The story climaxes during a space bingo game, as Tommy proves how the games on the asteroid are rigged, and shuts them down.

Considering that Ventura is shown to be a gambling planet both in the present, and in the future, it seems the gambling asteroid was a shady knock-off from the start.

 

Action 248 – Jimmy and Clark in prison, and Congo Bill becomes Congorilla

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Congorilla gets to share the cover of Action 248 (Jan. 59) with Superman.  This is only the second time Congo Bill has been represented on the cover of this book, despite a run of over 15 years.

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The Superman story, by Finger, Boring and Kaye, has Clark Kent investigating a secret base on an island, which turns out to be run by a former Nazi.  Jimmy Olsen has tagged along, and he is captured and imprisoned, along with Clark.  Jimmy isn’t much use in the story.  He is around largely to make it more difficult for Clark to change to Superman and back.

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The Nazi is building a spy satellite.  Superman saves Jimmy from being executed, but they just stick him in the rocket that will launch the satellite.

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Superman rescues Jimmy.  Before he rounds up the Nazis, he makes them think their satellite would not function, so as to ensure no one else repeats it.

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Robert Bernstein scribed this Howard Sherman tale, as the Golden Gorilla returns.  He is the living god of a tribe, lead by the chief Kawolo.

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As Kawolo dies, he passes a sacred ring on to Congo Bill.  This ring, when rubbed, allows the wearer to switch minds with the ape.

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Congo Bill accepts the ring, but doesn’t really believe the tale.  When he gets trapped in a cave-in, he gives it a chance, and it works.  In the Golden Gorilla’s body, he digs his Congo Bill body out.

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The movie producers are after him, and briefly cage Congorilla – the name given to the merging of the Golden Gorilla’s body with Congo Bill’s brain.  Bill manages to escape, of course.

Janu does not appear at all in this story.

Action 226 – Superman fights a glass thief, Janu joins Jungle Joe, and Space Billboards!

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Another not-quite-but-sort-of Bizarro character is featured in Action 226 (March 1957), by Binder, Boring and Kaye.

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A giant, white, monstrous alien is found buried in the Earth, and brought back to Metropolis to be displayed.

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Luthor attempts to kill Superman, firing a synthetic kryptonite bullet. It misses the hero, but hits the monster, and the radioactivity brings the creature out of its dormant state.  It promptly goes on a rampage, but an unusual, collecting broken glass along the way.

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The creature also displays powers that are similar to Superman, although sometimes backwards, like flame breath instead of cold breath.

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In the end, it turns out to be a perfectly rational alien, who had crashed on Earth, and was suffering greatly due to our climate.  Superman helps send him back to his ice world.

Luthor’s appearance in the story is so minor, but is one of the things that does make this reminiscent of Bizarro.

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Congo Boy and Janu meet Jungle Joe, a Tarzan-like character, in this Howard Sherman story.

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When Congo Bill falls ill, Janu starts to hang out with Jungle Joe instead.  As Bill recuperates, he becomes openly jealous, and wants to prove to the boy that he is just as good as Joe.

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Jungle Joe turns out to be one of the raiders who had been causing them problems, and he had no interest in Janu, aside from taking him away from Bill to make the man miserable. He almost kills Janu, but Congo Bill intervenes and saves the boy.

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Binder and Mooney created this Tommy Tomorrow story, about billboards in outer space, that makes me laugh so much.  It’s not played for comedy, I just find the space billboards idea hilarious.

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Defacing planets is all in a days work for these guys – although Tommy has to step in to help, after the billboard creator is wounded by thieves.

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Eventually Tommy picks upon the colourful clue the artist left on his last work, and captures the attacker.

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