Posts tagged ‘Robert Bernstein’

Action 312 – Clark Kent becomes Metallo

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Bernstein, Swan and Klein conclude Superman’s reign as King of Earth in Action 312 (May 1964).

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Clark attempts to infiltrate Superman’s palace, disguising himself as the former hero.  It’s not a bad idea, and the costume’s bulletproof nature saves him from being killed when he is challenged by two suspicious policemen.  He does get critically injured though, and almost dies.

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Clark is saved by Lori Lemaris, after a fortunate fall into the water.  She brings him to Atlantis,and informs him that he needs surgery.  Clark thinks about John Corben, and the operation that turned him into Metallo, which gets recapped for a couple of pages.  Immune to kryptonite as Clark, he asks Lori to have the Atlantean doctors turn him into a Metallo.

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Clark manages to approach Superman, and reveals the kryptonite in his chest.  As he lays dying, Superman explains that he was not really evil.  He had spotted a belligerent alien race approaching Earth, and took on the king stuff in order to scare them off.

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Then, in a particularly lame ending, the effect of the red kryptonite wears off, and the two become one again.  The Metallo body parts fall away.  Superman convinces everyone that he wasn’t really evil, and everyone believes him.

Good story.  Bad ending.

Action 295 – Superman goes berserk, and Lena Thorul debuts

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The Superman Revenge Squad are back in Action 295 (Dec.62), in a story by Bernstein, Swan and Klein.

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As with most plots of the Revenge Squad, it’s kind of dumb, and uses amazing technology.

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They have the ability to take over Superman, and make him do anything they want.  Although having him eat kryptonite is discussed, they opt instead to have him become hated by all those around him.  He goes on a rampage at the Daily Planet, attacking Perry White, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

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But Superman knew what they were up to, and cued Perry in during his rampage.  They put “Plan P” into action.  “Plan L”, for Lois, had recently been shown in her book, and Jimmy Olsen’s”Plan P” is set up by this tale.  The Superman Emergency Squad wind up taking out the Revenge Squad, while Superman just hangs out, apologizing to everyone.

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Lena Thorul makes her first appearance, in this story by Dorfman and Mooney.

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Lena has recently moved to Midvale, and makes quite an impression on the Danvers when she accurately foresees a bridge collapse.  Linda learns that Lena had long wanted to join the FBI, but was rejected.

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Invetigating why, Supergirl learns a secret that not even Lena, or the FBI, know.  She is really Lex Luthor’s little sister.  Her psychic powers were acquired as a result of one of Lex’s experiments.  After he turned evil, the family left Smallville. Lena’s parents were killed in a car accident, after anagramming their last name.  Lex knows who Lena is, though.  He discovers that she has joined a group of bank robbers, as the FBI don’t want her, and enlists Supergirl’s help to turn away from a life of crime.

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It turns out Lex has nothing to worry about.  Lena had joined the robbers only to infiltrate them, and capture them, in the hopes of proving herself to the FBI.

Supergirl decides to keep Lena’s identity a secret, even from her.

Action 291 – Superman changes vulnerabilities, and Supergirl heads to the altar with Mr. Mxyzptlk

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Bernstein and Plastino remove Superman’s kryptonite weakness in Action 291 (Aug. 62).

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We see a suspiciously coloured red ray hit Clark Kent, just before Lois tosses him a chunk of kryptonite.  To his surprise, it has no effect on him at all.

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As the story goes on, he finds himself weakened by diamonds, and later gold.  His vulnerability keeps changing.  Eventually the red ray is revealed as having shot red kryptonite at him, which had the effect of altering his weakness.

A bit too much red kryptonite this year.

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Mr. Mxyzptlk sets his sights on Supergirl in this Siegel and Mooney story.

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Supergirl comes to the aid of a crashing airforce jet, only to have the pilots turn into Bizarros.  This is due to Mr. Mxyzptlk, who further amuses himself by turning all of Midvale into Bizarros.

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When Mr. Mxyzptlk’s romantic gestures towards Supergirl are rebuffed, he attempts to win her over by bringing her parents back to life. Zor-El and Alura seem to be genuinely there, not just apparitions created by the imp.  To Supergirl’s horror, Zor-El givse his permission for the marriage.

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Supergirl is at the altar when her father proposes a pre-wedding toast.  He has spiked the drink with truth serum, and forces Mxyzptlk to say his name backwards.  This causes him to vanish, along with the effects of his magic – specifically, Zor-El and Alura.

But were they really dead?  The story never clearly states that.  Laying the groundwork for what is to come.

Action 286 – kryptonite ketchup, and Lex Luthor kills himself

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Robert Bernstein, Curt Swan and George Klein tell a story in Action 286 (March 1962) about a group of villains, but not the ones you expect.  Electro makes his second and last cover appearance.

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The Superman Revenge Squad make their first adult appearance, following their debut two months earlier as the Superboy Revenge Squad in Superboy.  These are a group of aliens who spend an awful lot of time coming up with ridiculously complex methods of exacting this revenge.

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In this story, they capture Krypto, and try out a variety of red kryptonite meteors on him, until they find one that induces nightmares.  In Krypto’s case, being tormented by Streaky and Titano.

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So the leader uses an invisibility ray on himself, comes to Earth, and puts the red kryptonite into a bottle of ketchup.  Yes, he does.  Because Clark, Lois and Jimmy all ordered the exact same lunch.  So Superman eats his kryptonite burger, and starts getting nightmares.

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The Revenge Squad are monitoring all of this.  Their monitors are truly amazing.  Not only can they see anywhere on Earth, they can even broadcast Superman’s dreams.  Jimmy is staying overnight at the Fortress of Solitude.  For some reason, he is sleeping directly in front of the door to his room.  Perhaps he really wanted to sleep under the big statue of himself.  But couldn’t Superman have provided something better than fold-up cots?  Anyway, I’ll just leave the mention of Superman quivering.

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So Superman has his first nightmare, meeting descendants of Lana Lang and Pete Ross, who have gotten married, and lead an attack on him.

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Superman’s second dream is even better, with the villains from the cover – Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Electro, Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen pitting him against Supergirl.

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Supergirl gets sent to the Phantom Zone, and earth gets destroyed, Superman wakes up freaking out and upset.

While it’s true that the cover image is “just a dream,” at least the story never pretends otherwise, and the dreams are actually part of the plot against him.

The story concludes in the next chapter.

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Supergirl begins a new phase of her career, operating in public, in this Siegel and Mooney story.

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After some pleasant homey stuff, as Linda and Dick Malverne watch tv together while the Danvers look on approvingly, the story shifts over to Lex Luthor, who escapes from prison.  While the story does not directly address the Lesla-Lar Supergirl that Lex had met, his certainty that Supergirl is really a robot seems to be the conclusion he has drawn from this.

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He intentionally draws out Supergirl, but she proves to not be a robot, and Luthor winds up fleeing.  He has a death-ray, which he winds up shooting at himself when the car swerves.

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After a somewhat obligatory stop in Atlantis, with Lori Lemaris and Jerro floating around, Supergirl picks up some rare elements, and brings Luthor back to life.  He is not grateful.

Action 284 – Superman becomes a baby, and Supergirl becomes a mermaid

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Bernstein, Swan and Kaye have Superman intentionally regress to being a baby in Action 284 (Jan. 62).

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The story opens as Clark Kent reports on a phony medium.  But he is surprised when a hand leaves a ghostly message for him.

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Because of this message, which the reader does not see, Superman uses some red kryptonite to revert to being a baby.  He retains his adult intelligence and speech, though.  A few pages are spent as he continues to act as Superman, having to prove that he really is who he claims to be.

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Eventually we discover that Mon-El sent the message, warning Superman about a gap opening in the Phantom Zone, which gets a long explanation/introduction in this story.  Jax-Ur and Professor Vakox appear.  Jax-Ur had been introduced in the pages of Adventure Comics a few months earlier, while this is the first appearance of Vakox, as well as the first time the Phantom Zone has been shown in Superman’s time period, as opposed to Superboy’s.

Superman had to reduce to infant size in order to penetrate the Zone through the gap.  With the help of Supergirl and Krypto, they seal it.

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Supergirl’s red kryptonite transformations continue, in this Siegel and Mooney tale.

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Linda winds up with two heads, but spends her time at a carnival, where she passes as one of the freaks.

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After a brief red kryptonite induced hallucination, in which she gains death-vision, Supergirl undergoes her third and final transformation, into a mermaid.  That has its advantages, as she heads down to Atlantis to spend time with Jerro.  This story also introduces Lenora, Lori Lemaris’s sister, who is in love with Jerro, although he has no interest in her.

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When the mermaid effect passes, Supergirl is surprised to discover that her immunity to kryptonite has also vanished.  Superman explains that it was all part of one of Mr. Mxyzptlk’s spells, which faded when he went back to his home dimension.

But more importantly, Superman informs her that he is finally ready to reveal her existence to the world.

The story concludes next issue.

Action 281 – the doctor who went to Krypton, and Krypto shows his intelligence

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The cover story of Action 281 (Oct. 61) is an odd, and unbalanced tale by Bernstein and Plastino.

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The story begins on Paul Pratt, a thief who has a device that allows him to travel huge distances instantaneously, which he uses to create unshakable alibis for his thefts.

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He even brags to Superman about what he is doing!  Clearly, this guy will be the centre of the tale.

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Nope. Instead, it swings over to introduce an Earth doctor, who was working on a method of cross-planet communication.  He reached Jor-El, and together they devised a way to teleport him to Krypton.  Jor-El hoped to work with him to evacuate more Kryptonians to Earth. Where they would presumably rule like gods.

While he was there, baby Kal-El fell and injured his ankle, which the doctor treated.

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Then, back in the present, the man explains that he suspects Pratt is using a variation of his teleportation machine.  Superman then rounds up Pratt.  He likely could have done this anyway, without the doctor and his backstory.  The doctor never appears again.

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Lesla-Lar’s evil schemes suffer a set-back in this Siegel and Mooney tale.

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While Superman is still clueless about Lesla-Lar impersonating his cousin, Krypto figures it out the first time he encounters her – by her different scent.  Good dog!  Krypto sees that the real Supergirl is in Kandor, where she has been enlisted to play herself in a movie.

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Krypto even manages to work a ray that switches the two women back to their proper place.  Who’s a good boy?

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Superman then takes Supergirl, who once again has no powers, to the past. Her powers do return in a time period before she lost them.  For science reasons, I expect.  Anyway, Superman leaves her for a while in Salem, where he helpful actions get interpreted as witchcraft.

Superman brings her back to the present, hoping that the recharge would stick. But once again, Supergirl is left powerless.

The story continues in the next issue.

 

 

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.

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 251 – Superman gets old, and Tommy Tomorrow ends

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Oh, Superman has a big white beard!  Hey, kids, get your helicopter out of my sky!

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In Action 251 (April 1959), Robert Bernstein and Al Plastino have Clark Kent act a bit like Lois.  Upon interviewing a scientist, who is about to test a longevity formula, Clark downs it himself, to see the effects.  But oops!  The scientist messed up the formula, and it will induce aging – or super-aging!

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So Clark wakes up as an old man, and learns that it will take three days for the effects to wear off.  Even as Superman, he finds himself substantially weakened.

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His robots will not respond to his aged voice, but his beard remains invulnerable, and cannot be cut.

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So he spends the remainder of the story stopping criminals by pretending to by quasi-mythological characters, like the Old Man of the Sea, or Father Time.

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Supergirl gets a full-page ad promoting her series, which will begin in the following issue.

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In a not-unrelated event, Tommy Tomorrow gets his final story in Action Comics, courtesy of Otto Binder and Jim Mooney.

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Tommy, Brent and the other Planeteers are desperately trying to stop a deadly space amoeba, but it’s malleable nature makes it impossibly to contain or destroy.

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Tommy saves the day, and the galaxy, by freezing it solid from the inside.

As billed in the subscript, Tommy Tomorrow’s series moves over to World’s Finest Comics, making room for Supergirl.  Very polite of him.

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.

 

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