Comics Reviews: Superman 326, Action 486, Jonah Hex 15

Superman 326-coverSuperman #326 – “A Million Dollars a Minute”– Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts right after the end of last issue, with Superman telling everyone he’s agreed to go on UBC live and reveal his secret identity to the world. Superman says commercial time is selling for a million dollars per minute and even shows reporters the contract where he agrees to reveal his identity. Lana gets all choked up and Superman suddenly comes to his senses, wondering where the hell he is. He takes off and goes to see Jenet Klyburn at STAR Labs. She analyzes the handwriting on the contract and says it’s genuine. She urges Superman to reconstruct the events leading up to his last fugue state and we get a recap of last issue, with a bunch of stuff we didn’t see. Superman started have blackouts and realizedcaptured he’d been entering a fugue state where he couldn’t remember any of his actions. Those actions consisted of writing anti-WGBS polemics around the city and culminated in him signing an exclusive contract with UBC. He investigated and was captured by Blackrock and Peter Silverstone, resident inventor at UBC. Silverstone told him his boss, Samuel Tanner was pissed off when manufacturing a superhero for UBC (i.e. Blackrock) didn’t work, so he told Silverstone to figure out a way to get Superman to come work for them instead of WGBS. Supes says he doesn’t work for GBS, but Silverstone says Tanner thinks he does, so he wants him on UBC’s side instead. Silverstone shows Superman his sonic synapse disruptor and says he used it to make Superman sign a contract with UBC and now he’ll make him sign another promising to reveal his secret identity. Silverstone says he’ll have to honour the contract, since the synapse disruptor can compel him. Supes busts loose and tackles Blackrock, tying his fighting blindcape over his head and creating a vacuum so the noise from the disruptor can’t reach his ears. But while fighting Blackrock, he accidentally starts a fire and removes the cape from his head to put it out. That’s the last thing he remembers, but Klyburn say she must’ve been affected by the sonic disruptor again and forced to sign the second contract. She mentions a contract signed under hypnosis wouldn’t hold up in court, but Superman wants to figure out a legal way to break it. He says a judge might not buy all the “fugue state” crap, plus it looks bad for Superman to renege on a contract, even an unfair one. He heads over to UBC and destroys the sonic disruptor, but it turns out to be a fake. He’s jumped by Blackrock and as they’re fighting, Supes realizes Blackrock’s power gem is the real sonic disruptor. He disarms Blackrock, then figures out he’s been fighting a cloud of cohesive particles masquerading as Blackrock. He blows the doppleganger away and heads into the studio. Tanner and Silverstone know they can’t control him anymore, but are hoping the disruptor affected him before it was destroyed, which would explain why he’s going into the studio after all. Inside, Superman appears on Lola Barnett’s talk show and starts stripping off his suit to reveal that he’s really … identity revealedClark Kent. But the feed goes out right before his secret is revealed, thanks to his heat vision on the cameras and microphones. Lola Barnett turns out to be Wonder Woman in disguise (who already knows Clark’s secret) and she uses her magic lasso to compel the crew in the studio to forget what they just saw. Supes tells Tanner he’ll show everyone the tape of him being manipulated unless Tanner tears up his contracts; Tanner has no choice but to comply. At home, Clark is surprised by a dude dressed in a snake costume, who says he’ll use the teleporter he found in Clark’s closet to send him to the heart of a red sun … which would enough to kill Superman. So Clark’s secret isn’t exposed on TV, but this guy knows it; but who is this guy? We’ll find out next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess a million dollars a minute was a pretty high ad rate back then, but it pales next to the $5 million that are spent for just a half-minute during the Super Bowl.
  • I’m not sure why Lana’s so worked up about Superman revealing his identity; hasn’t she been trying to discover it since they were kids?
  • I think Superman might be taking his “boy scout” thing a bit too far; I think most people wouldn’t care if he broke a contract that he was forced into signing under duress.
  • There’s an interlude with three guys (who speak in very sssibilant tones) breaking into Clark Kent’s apartment and finding the teleporter gizmo he hid there last issue. They also find his spare Superman suit, which he apparently just hangs in the closet. One of them appears at the end of the story and we’ll find out who they are next issue.
  • Superman says the reason his memory wasn’t wiped was so he’d come after the (fake) sonic disruptor and “Blackrock” would get another shot at him with his power stone. Makes sense, I guess.
  • Lola Barnett is obviously an analogue of Rona Barrett, the gossip columnist/talk show host.

Action 486-coverAction #486 – “Superman’s Time-Killing Trip” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Vince Colletta

This one is obviously a filler issue. Superman is bored and decides to take a jaunt into the future. He lands in the middle of a fight between some humans and aliens on one side and some so-called “Halflings” on the other. (No, they’re not hobbits.) Supes is wounded by a ray gun and realizes he’s gone so far forward in time that Earth’s sun is now red, meaning he’s lost his super powers. But without his powers, he can’t travel back in time, so I guess he shoulda been more careful, huh? The alien (named Kampto) heals his wounds and Supes finds out that the Rigellians have been on Earth so long they’re considered Terrans. Superman tells them his story and Kampto shows him a time capsule from Superman’s time that contains a portable computer that the Terrans call the Oracle. Kampto explains his race came to Earth a long time ago and integrated really well. When Terran-Rigellian hybrids (aka the Halflings) started being born, they were treated like shit and rebelled, taking over the planet. Red sun energy made them stronger, so they ringed the sun with satellites to turn the yellow sun red. They thendestroying satellites started wasting everyone else on Earth and that’s been going on for 1200 years. Superman asks about the ships the Rigellians arrived in and it turns out they were used as shelters. Superman uses the pocket computer to restart the ship and they fly up to destroy the satellites around the sun, turning it yellow again and giving Superman his powers back. Superman tells the Terrans to pound the Halflings, but “watch how you treat them afterward”. How inspirational. They give him the pocket computer as a gift and he comes back to his own time. When he gets back, it turns out WGBS is burying a time capsule—what a coincidence! But the capsule doesn’t contain the pocket computer, so Clark tosses it in and drives himself crazy pondering the ontological paradox of which came first, the present-day computer or the future computer?

Noticeable Things:

  • When Superman travels forward in time he says he’s still on Earth. There’s no sign of Metropolis though, so either it was destroyed or he’s somewhere else on future Earth. Or maybe they were in what’s left of Metropolis, since the time capsule was found there.
  • Gerry was obviously trying to make a statement with he “Rigellians are Terrans too” thing, but he kinda fucks it up by having the Terrans be vehemently anti-miscegenation. Superman even recognizes it, but ignores it, saying “I’m a fighter not a sociologist” … something Leonard McCoy would never justice
  • Not only did the Rigellian ship still fly perfectly, it apparently had pretty good shields to protect them from radiation as they destroyed the satellites.
  • There’s a back-up story of “The Secret Life of Lex Luthor”. Luthor wants toLuthor get his nephew a birthday present, so he busts out of jail and runs from the cops while trying to deliver it. The cops get him, but his nephew gets the present, which turns out to be a Superman cape. The punchline is that the nephew would’ve preferred Batman.





Jonah Hex 15-coverJonah Hex #15 – “Sawdust and Slow Death” – David Michelinie/Vicente Alcazar

This one starts with a masked man in the center ring at the circus shooting six bottles out of the air at once. I think we all know only one guy who’s that good a shot, don’t we? Yup, Hex has joined the circus. Some drunk challenges Hex, but he shoots the gun out of the guy’s hand and the ringmaster (Pike) has his boys take the drunk out and pound him, after assuring the audience it was all part of the show. The circus owner, Sally Colter, comes out riding a bunch of horses and doing tricks. The freak show (or “special people” as they call themselves) come out to join her. Sally’s act concludes with an armless knife-thrower (he uses his teeth!) flinging knives at a tied-up Sally. Of course, none of them hit. We get a flashback to Hex joining the circus not long before; he’s still on the lam for the killings he didn’t do. We learn that Sally is nice and Pike is an assholeSally's act who likes to torment the lions. As Sally’s act finishes, we see some of the freaks going into town and robbing a store. Sally is telling everyone how much she appreciates them over dinner when the freaks return and we find out Pike is the one who got them into robbing places, which they’ve been doing for a while now. He told them he’s slipping the money in with the gate receipts to keep the circus from going under, but of course he’s been keeping all the money for himself, wiring in to an account back East. The next day, Hex saves the dwarf Paco from a runaway wagon. They roll into a new town and that night, Pike (still poking the lions) is ready to send Paco out on another job when he sees a sheriff coming out of the big top. Pike goes to ask Sally what’s up and she says the sheriff is investigating a string of robberies in the towns the circus has played. poetic justiceSally says she’ll ask the circus folk if they know anything and, knowing they’re more loyal to Sally than to him, Pike kills her and plants part of Hex’s mask in her hand. The freaks find Sally and come after Hex, tying him to the wheel and letting the armless dude throw knives at him. Before Hex can get skewered, Paco comes in with the wire transfer records that he found in Pike’s tent. They realize Pike has been playing them and free Hex, who says it’s time Pike got what’s coming to him. Later, as Pike is sneaking out of the camp, Hex uses his deadly marksmanship to herd him into the lion’s cage. The freaks lock him in and let the lions in, saying it’s payback for Sally’s death. I guess he shouldn’t have poked those lions so much.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure why so many Silver and even Bronze Age comic stories involve circuses. I guess circuses (and carnivals) used to have a vaguely sinister quality about them, and were looked on as less than respectable since they moved from town to town with no permanent roots. Acting troupes once had the same stigma, and the Romany still do.
  • The freaks regard Hex as one of them, presumably because of his scarred face. He doesn’t seem thrilled by the comparison.
  • I’m not sure why Paco went through Pike’s tent. There wasn’t really any reason for him to suspect Pike.

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