This one start with a skinny dude named Leo Morey showing up at WGBS just before air time. Leo’s in a foul mood and is looking forward to confronting someone who sounds like a real dick … three guesses who that might be. Yup, it’s Steve Lombard. Steve and Leo were roommates in college and apparently Steve was an asshole back then too, making Leo the constant butt of his jokes. But Leo’s gotten a lot stronger since then (although he still looks pretty skinny) and twirls Steve around like a rag doll before tossing him in a heap. Most of the WGBS crew find it funny (Lana finds it hilarious) since most of them have had to put up with Steve’s crap at one time or another. Steve isn’t hurt by Leo’s assault, but he’s got more bad news coming. Morgan Edge summons Steve to his office and says he has to fire him because his ratings are way down. Out in the Pacific Ocean, Superman is letting himself be chased by a new heat-seeking missile as a test for the American military. The missile performs well and Superman heads home, reflecting on his recent problems with Lois. Speaking of Lois, she’s on the way home after her Middle East assignment went bust last issue, but her plane has landed in Alaska to refuel. Unbeknownst to Lois, the two leaders (Kyamm and Ben-David) have suddenly agreed to do the joint interview she wanted. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly where Lois is (this was way before cell phones), so Perry White calls Lana in to take the assignment. I’m sure Lois won’t completely freak out when she hears that. Clark gets back in time to bid Lana farewell, although she doesn’t stop to tell him where she’s going. Clark also meets new reporter Justin Moore and finds out about Steve being fired. Meanwhile, Perry is still acting weird; now he’s dodging phone calls from his wife and it sounds like he’s keeping a pretty big secret from her. Later, Steve shows up at Clark’s place to complain about getting fired. Steve tells Clark how he made Leo’s life miserable in college (kinda like he does to Clark now) and how Leo’s come back for revenge … apparently with super-strength. Clark seems to think Steve being an asshole is just an act, but I’m not so sure. Leo tracks Steve to Clark’s place and comes busting through the wall to kick his ass again. Steve shoves Clark out the door and Clark figures Steve did it to protect him. He quickly changes to Superman and heads outside so he can make an entrance through the hole in the wall. Leo is explaining to Steve how he got so strong. Apparently Leo was a science nerd and built a device that collects solar radiation and channels it into a bodysuit that Leo wears. The suit has micro-servomotors all over it, which give Leo superhuman strength. He’s about to pulverize Steve when Superman intervenes, dragging Leo outside. Leo tells Superman his rage at Steve has been building for years and he needs to pound Steve to get back at him. Leo attacks Superman, whose body actually fuels Leo’s device, since Superman also absorbs energy from the sun. Superman realizes he can’t get too close to Leo without making him stronger, so he lures him close to a glass-fronted building. Leo is distracted when he sees himself in the windows and realizes he’s become the bully that he used to despise. Superman uses the distraction to tear Leo’s belt off and toss it into the atmosphere where it burns up. Leo loses his homicidal rage and claims he can’t even remember what happened over the last few days. I’m not sure if the belt was affecting his mind, or if he just went a little nuts temporarily. Later, Clark wishes Steve well before he leaves and it seems like he’ll actually miss the big lug. So I guess that’s it for Steve Lombard; maybe the writers finally figured he was a Flash Thompson clone (without Flash’s later maturity) and decided to cut him loose.
This is a special issue celebrating the 45th anniversary of Superman in comics. It starts with the aftermath of another battle between Superman and Lex Luthor. As usual, Luthor got his ass kicked and ends up in the rubble of one of his world domination machines while Superman goes to avert a separate crisis. Luthor is half-conscious but manages to summon one of his high tech robots to rescue him. Following a contingency plan that Luthor set up a while ago, the robot takes Luthor to a hidden base and puts him in a rocket. The rocket is shot into space on automatic pilot and takes Luthor to the planet Lexor, where he’s considered a hero. Luthor’s wife Ardora has been waiting patiently for his return and is overjoyed that he’s finally come back. Ardora’s pretty hot; I don’t know how Lex managed to get her. On Earth, Superman returns to the crash site to find Luthor gone. He traces the robot’s energy trail to the hidden base, which he destroys. The robot climbs from the rubble, barely functional, and activates a program that turns on a satellite in Earth orbit. As the robot expires, it thinks that Luthor will finally have revenge on Superman. On Lexor, Luthor finds out Ardora gave birth to his son (Lex Jr.) while he was away. Being a father (and hearing the accolades from the citizens of Lexor) make Luthor reconsider his life choices. He vows to stay on Lexor and be a good father and a champion to the people. For a while, that works but he just can’t let go of his hatred for Superman. Luthor isn’t sure if his hatred for the Man of Steel turned him into a villain, or if he was always evil and Superman just brought some of that to the surface. While out smashing things, Luthor discovers a long-forgotten cave full of ultra high tech machines. He figures the stuff must’ve belonged to the ancient inhabitants of Lexor and starts to cook up a revenge scheme against Superman. Back on Earth, the satellite the robot activated has surrounded Metropolis with an impenetrable force field, cutting the city off from all contact with the outside world. By exerting all the power he has, Superman manages to get through the force field, but he destabilizes it so if he were to penetrate the field again, Metropolis would be wiped out. He heads into space to check out the satellite, which he quickly determines belongs to Lex. Unfortunately, any tampering with the satellite will blow Metropolis to hell. On Lexor, Luthor has found out about the situation on Earth and tells Ardora. He says once Superman takes care of the problem, he’ll come looking for Luthor and take him away from Ardora and Lex Jr., a thought that horrifies Ardora. A few weeks later, Luthor is still helping the people of Lexor, this time by constructing a neutra-rod that reaches down to the core of the planet. The neutra-rod beams neutrons to the core, negating some stresses that were threatening to tear the planet apart. The people again hail Luthor as their saviour, but soon after a strange figure in armour (green and purple armour) appears in the sky and attacks a transport. Over the next few days, the strange figure attacks more places, leaving destruction in his wake. The government of Lexor asks Luthor to track down the miscreant, which Luthor finds amusing. Ardora asks why he’s in such a good mood and Luthor says it’s ironic that when Superman shows up he’ll face a real criminal to fight instead of Lex. Of course, we know the mysterious vandal is Lex, but when Ardora asks him point-blank if he knows anything about it, Lex lies to her. Superman shows up to grab Luthor, which gets the citizens all worked up. Lexor is a red sun world, but Superman is using a special sun-screen to keep from losing his powers. The sun-screen will rub off though, so he can’t spend too much time there without losing his powers. As he tries to get Luthor off the planet, the Lexorians blast him with an energy beam. The sun-screen is already starting to fade, so Superman is stunned but he chases Luthor to a nearby mountain. Luthor comes busting out wearing the armour and attacks. The Lexorians are shocked to see their hero is the one who’s been attacking the city lately, but seeing Superman again has brought back all Luthor’s hatred. He’s so focused on killing Superman that he doesn’t even care about losing the trust he worked so hard to gain from the Lexorians. Superman is weakening as more of the red sun rays penetrate his sun-screen and Luthor’s armour is pretty strong. During the fight, Superman deflects an energy beam which hits the neutra-rod, sending an energy surge straight to Lexor’s core. Luthor realizes the horrible truth but it’s too late; he tries to reach Ardora and Lex Jr. but the core destabilizes and the entire planet explodes. Superman survives, protected by the last of his sun-screen and marvels at the fact that Luthor’s own hate was his undoing … too bad he had to take the whole planet with him. As Superman heads back to Earth, we see Luthor clinging to a piece of the broken planet. His armour protected him but he blames Superman for the planet’s destruction and vows to get revenge.
- Ardora first appeared in Superman 168, back in 1964, and married Luthor soon after that after he saved the planet Lexor from destruction. In a later story, Superman actually hypnotized Ardora to forget Luthor’s criminal past to give the couple a chance at happiness, but Luthor ended up returning to Earth to be an asshole again.
- If you’re wondering how Superman stopped the satellite without totaling Metropolis, he wrapped his indestructible cape around it, took it out into space, and let it explode there.
- There’s a pin-up by George Perez of Luthor in his new armour; I guess Perez must’ve come up with the desgn. There’s also a congratulatory pin-up from Joe Shuster on Superman’s 45th anniversary … there was probably someone holding a gun to Shuster’s head to get him to draw it.
“Rebirth” – Marv Wolfman/Gil Kane
This one starts a few months back, before Superman’s encounters with the Omega Men and Lord Satanis. Superman is contemplating his lot in life, wondering if his powers put him too far above humans to really connect with them. He’s also trying to figure out his relationship with Lois, which has been a bit rocky lately. He heads into space to stop a nearby star from going nova, since the radiation could affect Earth. On the way, he passes Brainiac’s world ship (which threatened Earth in Action 530) where Brainiac is trapped. In trying to contain the nova, he accidentally creates a black hole and barely escapes the gravity well. Superman heads back to Earth for a rest and we see Brainiac on his ship. Apparently, he orchestrated the nova to capitalize on the energy so he could free himself from the ship, but the black hole overloads him, turning his body into pure energy. The energy floats through space, encountering a long-dead world populated only by computers, which Brainiac’s essence mines for data. His consciousness moves to other worlds, gleaning what it can, and ends up going through the black hole Superman created. That sends Brainiac’s essence back in time, then forward again where it ends up back inside the world ship. There, Brainiac’s consciousness gestates for months, slowly rebuilding a body for itself … but this time it’s a robotic body, part-organic and part-machine. Brainiac remembers his grudge against Superman and begins a long-ranging plan by attacking Systus 2, a nearby planet. Brainiac lays waste to the planet, prompting them to call for help. Superman gets the signal about Brainiac’s attack (interrupting a date between Clark and Lana) and heads to Systus 2 to help. When he arrives, the Systians attack him and he realizes they must be working for Brainiac, even though they’d always been honourable people before. He breaks free but gets hit with a missile that takes away his super-powers. The Systians beat the shit out of him and Brainiac tells Superman the missile contained concentrated red sun rays. Superman is shocked when he sees Brainiac’s new robotic form, which is ready to finish him once and for all. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if Brainiac succeeds.
This one starts with a father dragging his kid to the circus. The kid is sure it’ll be boring as hell, but a couple of surprise guests promise to liven things up a bit … Robin and Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny. Robin and Ralph put on quite a show, which the crowd loves (although the kid is still bored, being more interested in playing a handheld computer game that looks a lot like a DS). Clark Kent is on hand too, reporting on the circus when three goofballs in yellow costumes show up to disrupt proceedings. They call themselves the Intangibles, which is apt since they’re apparently as incorporeal as ghosts, slipping right through Clark. The Intangibles cause havoc inside the big top and Robin has to use gas to subdue an escaped tiger. Ralph prepares to halt an elephant’s charge, but Clark has changed to Superman and grabs the pachyderm before it can do any damage. All three heroes try to apprehend the Intangibles, but they can’t lay a finger on them. Even Superman’s various visions (heat, telescopic, microscopic) are useless, although we see another Intangible elsewhere, gathering data as Superman uses each type of vision. The Intangibles finally get bored and vanish, leaving the three heroes mystified (although the Intangibles managed to get the attention of the kid in the audience … I guess criminality is exciting). The three heroes try to figure out what the Intangibles wanted, since they didn’t actually steal anything; Robin points out that they did get publicity. Ralph wonders how they could walk on solid ground if they were completely intangible and Superman mentions he didn’t detect any heartbeats, so maybe the Intangibles were just illusions all along. Out in California, we see the Intangibles with a woman named Trish (who dresses like a Hollywood producer). Apparently, the Intangibles were stuntmen and special effects techs and decided to cash in. They built a machine to “steal” Superman’s various vision powers and modify them so the Intangibles can now turn incorporeal for real. The intangibles also have a grudge against a film series called Astro Wars (which I’m assuming is the equivalent of Star Wars, since Return of the Jedi would’ve been coming out around this time) because they did the effects and got very few accolades. Superman uses his vision to track the holograms’ energy and Ralph and Robin figure show biz people must be involved, so they head for California.
In Hollywood, a guy who looks suspiciously like George Lucas is carrying the only completed print of Astro Wars 3 when the Intangibles show up and steal it. That’s not the only thing they steal … the Intangibles lift numerous items around Hollywood (including the ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz) totaling over $25,000,000. (Their sexy accomplice now goes by the name Sherry, but I’m sure it’s the same woman they called Trish earlier … editorial mistake, I guess.) Before the thieves can celebrate too much, the three heroes show up, literally tearing the roof off the place. One of the Intangibles blasts Superman with a gun derived from his vision powers, hoping it’ll turn the Man of Steel intangible. It doesn’t, but it does fuck up his sight so everything is distorted, like those beer goggles you buy at fairs. Superman can’t see straight and walks right through the wall. He flies off to find a cure, leaving Ralph and Robin to tackle the Intangibles. The crooks can’t be touched, so Robin and Ralph’s attacks are useless, but the Intangibles can touch them and proceed to beat the shit out of them. Superman flies through the sky, almost running into a jet. He flies out to the sun and stares into it (don’t try this at home, kids), which is basically a really intense form of eye drops. Back in Hollywood, Robin and Ralph realize the obvious … if the Intangibles can hit (or kick) them, they must be wearing special gloves and boots. Robin ropes one guy’s gloves, rendering him harmless, and Ralph removes another’s boots, causing him to sink into the floor. Without their gloves they can’t touch the controls to make themselves tangible again, which means they’ll starve if they don’t surrender. Superman comes back and borrows one of the gloves to turn the Intangibles tangible. Before he can deck them, the leader faints, showing what a wimp he really is. I don’t know what happened to their good-looking accomplice … maybe she got away, although something tells me the Intangibles will rat her out as soon as possible. (Or maybe she used the ruby slippers to go to Oz …)
Last issue, Travis Morgan and Shakira found themselves in the outside world, Australia to be specific. But since time moves differently in Skartaris, Morgan realized they were in a future Australia, after some kind of disaster that drastically reduced the population and caused mutations in some humans. He and Shakira were headed for Antarctica to get back to Skartaris, when they stopped at a farm to look for horses. Unfortunately, the owner cornered them with a rifle, thinking they were “muties”. Shakira turns into a cat and distracts the woman long enough for Morgan to jump her. He tells her they’re not muties (though Shakira changing into a cat seems to belie that) and even hands over his guns as a sign of trust. The woman (Lisa) takes them to her heavily-fortified farm and introduces them to her husband Dan. Dan finds Morgan’s name intriguing, asking if he was named after the “famous one”. Morgan tells them he’s been out of touch for a while and asks Dan (who’s something of a history buff) to tell him what’s been going on since the Vietnam War. Apparently the devastation on Earth wasn’t caused by a nuclear war, as Morgan had suspected, but by pollution. The oceans eventually became toxic, fucking up the food chain, and the land could no longer support crops. Earth was basically dying. (Dan doesn’t say what the current year is, but it’s some time after 2089.) But in 1972, the passages to Skartaris were discovered at the Poles, so by the time Earth became uninhabitable, there was a plan in place to move people to Skartaris. Most governments (pushed by the United Nations, which apparently had actual power in this future) went along with it and a quota system was set up, enforced by UN troops. Those left behind ended up having to work their asses off to survive in the devastate landscapes and some people mutated from the toxic environment. Dan says people settled in Skartaris (where there was a legend about a heroic outworlder named Travis Morgan, hence Dan’s recognition of the name) and got along fairly well. But recently, overpopulation has been pushing Skartaris’s resources, so the government offered benefits to couples who were willing to return to the outer world. Dan and Lisa are one of those couples, pioneers trying to take back the world their ancestors came from. Dan says there’s a supply shuttle that comes from Skartaris every six months, but it was just there so it won’t be back for a while. Morgan considers telling them about himself and where he’s from, but decides not to. He trades a gun for a horse and he and Shakira continue their journey south.
Barren Earth – “The Mulge” – Gary Cohn/Ron Randall
Last issue, Jinal and Skinner kidnapped the head of the council and talked a leader of the Harahashan (lizard-like desert dwellers) into meeting with them so they could show both leaders what they’d found … a huge underground source of water. Jinal was hoping the two sides would stop fighting once they knew there was water enough for all, but old grudges die hard. Now the sides are arguing about who gets first access and who should build the conduits. As Jinal puts her diplomatic skills to use, Skinner and Renna step outside to marvel at the fact that the two sides are cooperating at all. They watch as groups of humans and Lizards build a conduit from the caverns to the desert above. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to forget their grudges: Renna and Skinner have to stop a human and a Lizard from fighting and screwing up the whole deal. Jinal is getting frustrated too and talks to the Lizard leader Barasha (the one who saved her life a few issues back), who reminds her that old hatreds die hard. In the tunnels, something starts pushing through the walls, freaking everyone out. The workers are unarmed (to keep them from killing each other if tempers rise), so Skinner and Renna are the only ones with weapons. A bunch of weird red-skinned fungoid creatures bust into the cavern, tossing spore bombs that blind everyone. They’re called the Mulge and they aren’t there to kill but to capture … which they do to several workers. Despite Barasha’s warning, Jinal throws herself into the fight, exhorting everyone—human and Lizard—to push the Mulge out. They succeed but the Mulge blow up the tunnel behind them. Jinal is congratulating everyone on working together to fight the Mulge and asks what they are and where they come from. Renna says she should ask Skinner since he’s a Mulge expert, but they soon realize Skinner is gone … taken by the Mulge.