Posts tagged ‘Robert Bernstein’

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.

 

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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.

 

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.

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