Posts tagged ‘Neal Adams’

Action 425 – Superman vs a moa, the Atom begins, and the Human Target at the circus

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A really great, if generic, cover for Action 425 (July 1973), the first of two consecutive issues to contain three stories, instead of what had become the normal two.

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Cary Bates and Curt Swan are joined by Frank Giacoia on this odd little tale, in which a man finds and kills the last moa on Earth.

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The man seeks out and finds the moa’s egg, and brings it back to Metropolis with him.  He falls deathly ill, and the egg hatches a super-powered moa, which gives Superman a lot of trouble.

He traces the location of the egg, and finds a contaminated swamp, which gave the moa its powers, and also caused the man’s disease.  Though with the knowledge of its source, it can be cured.  Superman builds a special reserve for super-moa, which lives out its life in unpublished obscurity.

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The Atom’s rotating series begins here, moving from Detective Comics, with a story by Maggin and Dillin.

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Jean Loring is defending a client who insists he was framed for a gold theft by the thirteen men from Zurich who secretly rule the world.  That is to say, the International Jewish Conspiracy, but the story neatly avoids that racial element.  Jean doesn’t quite know what to do with her honest but clearly deluded client.  The Atom investigates, and discovers organized crime behind the theft, using the man’s conspiracy theory as a decoy.

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The ending is, in retrospect, somewhat cruel, as Ray Palmer denies any sort of rational explanation for his disappearance at a critical moment (when he switched to the Atom).  Jean Loring had only recently recovered from a bout with insanity.  Toying with her sense of reality was not wise of Ray.

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Of the three stories in this issue, the Human Target is the only one to be the opening chapter of a two-parter, by Wein, Neal Adams, and Giordano.

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Chance is hired to impersonate a high wire walker, after a series of accidents at the circus.  The man absolutely does not want Chance to impersonate him, but his manager insists.

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The cliffhanger sees the Human Target facing off against the man he is supposed to be, rather than the one trying to kill him.

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Action 364 – no cure for Superman

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Another Adams cover on Action 364 (June 1968), as Dorfman, Andru and Esposito continue the Virus X saga.

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Superman gets out of the cliffhanger from last episode, simply by doffing his clothes, and appearing to Lois as Superman.

Luthor announces that he is able to cure Superman’s disease.   He was the one who created it, after all.  His men produce the infected cat, which Luthor’s cure works on.  He demands a million dollars.

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Luthor gets his money, but it’s all a scam.  It was not the same cat.  Luthor just wanted to hold out the cure, and then laugh in Superman’s face.  Asshole.

Supergirl plans to send Superman into the Phantom Zone.  Jax-Ur and Professor Vakox protest, not knowing if the plague would spread to them and others in the Zone.  Superman agrees, and tricks Supergirl into entering Kandor, and then seals her in.

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Feeling death approaching, Superman makes a farewell speech, wearing a mask to look the way he wants to be remembered.  Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are at the funeral, but neither had major roles in this tale.  Superman is fired into space to die.

The story continues in the next issue.

Action 363 – Virus X

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Dorfman, Andru and Esposito take their storyline up a big notch with the second chapter, in Action 363 (May 1968), with a superb Adams cover.

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We learn that the ventriloquist who has hypnotized Clark Kent has also purchased a serum from Lex Luthor. This is Virus X, a horrible Kryptonian version of leprosy.  This is what Clark is to use to kill Superman.

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Clark Kent breaks into his own apartment, and spills the serum on himself.  It takes effect immediately, though at first it only turns his hands a leprous green.

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Superman quarantines himself, but Luthor makes a broadcast, revealing that Superman has been infected with Virus X.  No one is sure if it can be passed to humans, but a cat brushes up against Superman, and catches the plague.

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Superman is dressed as Clark when the disease spreads to his face, just as Lois Lane shows up at his door…

The story continues in the next issue.

Action 362 – the Head of Hate, and Supergirl on trial in the future

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Leo Dorfman is joined by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, as a long-running story sets off in Action 362 (April 1968).  It is amazing that, even with Neal Adams doing the cover, that huge head still looks awful.

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The villain in this tale is a ventriloquist. His brother was captured by Superman but died in prison.  He has a dummy of his dead brother carried around by his men, and refuses to acknowledge that he is dead.

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The Ventriloquist’s plan is to use one of Superman’s friend to kill him – and has Clark Kent kidnapped.  He has built a hypnosis machine out of a broken Superman robot – the huge head.

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To further induce Clark to kill Superman, he shows him the supposed corpses of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, and claims that Superman killed them.  Of course, these are just more dummies.  But Clark behaves, as the story reaches its ending, as if he is ready and willing to kill.

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Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger have Linda become an exchange student in this story.

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To Linda’s surprise, she winds up being sent to the 40th century. I wish the story followed the 40th century resident who was exchanged for her, but it doesn’t.

Supergirl is considered a great villain in this era, and she winds up arrested and put on trial.  Robin shows up to act as her defense, with a really lame explanation of how he got there.

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But that’s ok, it’s not really Robin.  It’s a descendant of Mr. Mxyzptlk, who drew Linda to his century, and made everyone think she was a villain, all for his own amusement. But Linda had caught on, when he flew as Robin.  Exactly how that convinced her that this was a descendant of Mr. Mxyzptlk is not clear, but she does trick him into saying his name backwards.

 

Detective 600 – Blind Justice concludes

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Sam Hamm, Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin bring the Blind Justice storyline to a conclusion in Detective 600 (May 1989).

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Bruce got badly injured in the last issue, and is recuperating.  He finds he needs someone to stand in for him as Batman.  Again, this all sort of foreshadows Knightfall, but without being immersed in the Batman characters.

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So Jeanne’s brother steps in to play Batman, with Bruce using the scientific augmentation thingy to help and advise him.  But this is where the story just goes too far off whack for me, as everyone is lying and scheming and playing each other, and the story just gets far too convoluted.

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Jumping 40 or so pages of plot twists, the climax has the brother, dressed as Batman, fighting the Bonecrusher guy, but both are being manipulated by the silly machine.  Bruce does his best to save the boy, but the fight costs both men their lives.

Jeanne blames Bruce, and leaves.  He is cleared of the spy charges, which are hardly relevant by the time that plot is resolved.  And he tosses out the augmentation device.

Honestly, until I started writing this up I never noticed the similarities with Knightfall.  I simply didn’t enjoy this story, and didn’t think too much of it.  But now I am fairly convinced that this lead to the later, better, tale.

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The issue ends with a number of pin-ups by various artists.  Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Keith Giffen and Mike Zeck, among others, do excellent and moody renderings of Batman, but it’s the final one, by Sergio Aragones, that crowns them.

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