Otto Binder and Al Plastino tell a tale in Action 247 (Dec. 58) that is so awful, it has become one of my favourites from this era. Allow me to share its dreadfulness.
The story starts off all right, as Clark hears an unusual noise, and sees a time bubble appear, carrying his dead adoptive parents, the Kents, looking just as they did when he was a child. They explain that they went on this time trip as a secret, back when he was young. Clark is overjoyed, and very unquestioning.
Superman takes them around, showing them his Fortress of Solitude. They see the room dedicated to Jor-El and Lara, and are a bit saddened, until he shows them that he has duplicates of them as well. Superman just loves his robots.
Lois Lane drops by, and has dinner with the Kents. Pa Kent gives her his approval, and this has all felt pretty heart-warming up to this point. Pa Kent makes an excuse so that Clark can get away and become Superman. It reminds me a lot of the first part of a story from the early 80s, The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent.
But then we discover that these two are phonies, not the Kents at all. They just more or less guessed at Clark’s secret identity as Superman. They are wearing make-up, which Clark never noticed, even at close range, over a long period of time. Lana Lang and her father, Professor Lang, make their first appearances in Action Comics in this scene, although it’s in a photograph being viewed by the con artists.
The phony Kents get in their “time bubble”and ROLL IT AWAY! Superman sits there, completely clueless. It’s happening right next to him! He doesn’t even need super-senses, just peripheral vision!
After they have gone, he finally clues in to the con.
They attempt to blackmail him. Superman defeats them using a combination of robots and super-hypnosis, a really quick and easy and LAME resolution.
It was only when I started writing this entry that the similarities with the Miraculous Return… story came to mind. I now think that story was a really successful re-write of this one.
Space Alcatraz has been referred to in many Tommy Tomorrow stories, but this tale, by Binder and Mooney, is the first to show it, as Tommy gets sent there himself.
Despite his record and achievements, Tommy is sentenced to the prison ship when diamonds go missing.
As with most Tommy Tomorrow stories, the plot is there to hang a number of odd science fiction creatures or machines or places on. This one is no different, as we see a variety of methods of imprisoning strange aliens. There is another brain in a jar, this one deprived of its robot body.
Tommy framed himself in order to get into the prison, to try to find out the identity of a crime lord, the Unknown. The Unknown has been enlisting prisoners in his master plan, even though they do not know who he is. It turns out to be the brain in a jar, getting them to build him a new robot body. Tommy ends that scheme, and returns to his command.