Comics Reviews: Superman 406, Action 566, DC Comics Presents 80, All-Star Squadron 44, Infinity Inc 13

Superman 406 coverSuperman #406 – “The Fight for the Right to Be Superman” – Paul Kupperberg/Irv Novick/Dave Hunt

This one starts with a wrestler named Moe Ramboe having a dream about beating the crap out of Superman. Apparently Moe used to wrestle under the name “Superman” until the Man of Steel came along, and Moe wants his old moniker back. After beating Superman and reclaiming the name, Moe wakes up with a yell, bringing his brother Jake running. Meanwhile, Superman returns from a deep space mission and (after swinging by the sun to check out the sunspots and clean his costume) he arrives back on Earth just in time to save a jetliner from crashing. WhileSuperman accidentally beats bank robbers he’s bringing the jet in for a safe landing, Superman’s strength suddenly fades and he almost loses the jet. Back at the Ramboe place, we find out that Moe’s dreams always seem to come true, which has made his mobster brother a fortune because Moe always knows which sports team to bet on. Now Moe wonders if his dream about beating superman will come true and Jake says he’s going to make sure it does. Superman is back to normal and can’t figure out why he suddenly lost his super-strength, but the same thing happens again when he tries to stop some high-tech bank robbers. After catching them through dumb luck, Superman goes to his Fortress to check himself out. Jake Ramboe calls a Moe pounds Supermanmeeting of all the mob bosses in Metropolis and tells them he wants to unite them, with him at the top. Jake swears his brother can take care of Superman for them within twenty-four hours, so the bosses say they’ll give him the chance. Later that day, Superman feels an irresistible compulsion to fly to the old warehouse where Moe is waiting in a wrestling ring. Moe tells Superman he wants his name back and beats the shit out of the Man of Steel. But when Jake tells Moe they have to keep his victory a secret, Moe freaks out and starts roughing up Jake. The other mobsters take off and Superman, still hurting from the beat-down, challenges Moe to leave Jake alone. Moe goes afterSuperman pounds Moe Superman, but almost knocks himself out on Superman’s invulnerable body. Yeah, Superman’s strength is back. Moe tells Supes about his prophetic dreams and Superman wonders if that’s why he kept losing his strength, or if it was from flying too close to the sunspots earlier. The actual reason is left ambiguous, which kinda makes the story pointless as far as I’m concerned.

“Can You Stump Superman?” – Craig Boldman/Alex Saviuk/Karl Kesel

Superman meets challengesThis is a goofy story about Superman accepting challenges from the crowd at some charity function. Superman tells the crowd that there’s something they can do that he can’t because of a physiological difference between Kryptonians and humans, and if someone can guess it they get a free tour of his fortress. After numerous wrong guesses about what Superman can’t do (including juggling, whistling, playing music, sleeping, smelling, shaving, and sneezing), it turns out that he can’t inhale smoke into his lungs, which cigar-smoker Perry figures out. These Superman stories are getting more and more juvenile; no wonder the comic wasn’t selling well.

Action 566 coverAction #566 – “Traumas in the Bahamas” – Craig Boldman/Ron Randall/Karl Kesel

As I said above, Superman stories of this period were pretty goofy and this is a prime example. Not only do they bring back the Popeye knock-off, Captain Strong, but they really lean into the whole Popeye schtick, with characters based on Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and the Sea Hag. Basically, Captain Strong is an old sailor who found some alien seaweed (or something) called sauncha that gives him super-strength when he eats it (like spinach does with Popeye). Unfortunately, sauncha turned out to be addictive and it made Strong go nuts, like the world’s worst ’roid rage. So now Strong has sworn off sauncha and settled down with his woman, Olivia. Anyway, Lois and Clark go on a cruise on a restored sailing ship called theon the cruise ship Fantasia, which is owned by J. Wellington Jones, a rich dude who’s always scarfing down sandwiches. Captain Strong and Olivia are on the cruise too and Strong says he has a vested interest in the ship. As they sail past a small island in the Bahamas, someone watches them from shore and orders the Sea Hag (sorry, I mean the Witch of the Sea) to attack the ship. She sends a whale to smash the ship and Clark (who left his Superman suit in his cabin) has to jump in the water and pound the whale. When Strong sees him, Clark zips to the galley for some spinach and dumps it all over himself, convincing Strong that it’s Clark fakes out Captain Strongsauncha and that it gave him super-strength. Strong believes it, but decides he’s the guy who should be eating sauncha and starts chomping down the spinach like crazy. Clark has to use his super-strength surreptitiously to cover his own secret identity when Strong (who thinks he has super-strength now because of the “sauncha”) tries to push the ship. Lois asks Strong why he came on the cruise and Strong shows her a diary of an old sea captain who claimed to have found the Fountain of Youth on one of the islands. Superman uses his x-ray vision to see a thirty-year old photo stuck inside the diary that shows Strong exactly as he looks today. After weathering a hurricane (thanks to Superman’s secret help again), Strong figures out which island supposedly holds the Fountain of Youth. Strong, Olivia, Wellington, Lois, and Clark go ashore and Strong gets separated from them.Strong pounds the Superman simulacrum They’re caught by the Witch and Strong, who tie them up. Clark uses his heat vision to explode the Witch’s potion and Strong throws it into the Fountain, destroying its magic. Strong suddenly ages about forty years and Clark realizes he’s actually Captain Strong’s father, who found the Fountain and has been living on the island for the last forty years. (It was Strong Senior in the photo Clark saw.) Strong and son are reunited and it turns out Strong has been banging the Witch for the last few decades, kept young by the Fountain. The Witch taps Clark’s strength to create a Superman doppelganger, but Strong downs some spinach (still thinking it’s sauncha) and pounds the simulacrum. The Witch crumbles to dust (being about 500 years old) and Strong invites his father to return with him to civilization. This story is pretty goofy, but Ron Randall does draw a pretty sexy Lois (who spends most of the issue in a bathing suit).

Molly gets an autograph“With Love From Superman” – Mindy Newell/Howard Bender/Bob Oksner

This is a sweet little story about a bunch of kids who collect autographs and a girl named molly who wants to join their club. They tell her she can join if she gets Superman’s autograph and Molly has all kinds of daydreams about how she might accomplish that. In the end, she sends Superman a letter (to the Daily Planet) telling him about her life as an orphan before she was adopted. That resonates with Superman and he drops by the autograph club, burning his signature onto Molly’s autograph book with his heat vision.

DC Comics Presents 80 coverDC Comics Presents #80 – “A World Full of Supermen” – Paul Kupperberg/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This continues the story from Legion #8, where the five Legionnaires (Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, and Chameleon Boy) lost in Limbo stepped through a Stargate expecting to get back to 30th Century Earth. Unfortunately, the Stargate deposits them in another featureless dimension … well, almost featureless; they encounter a floating city encased in a plastic dome and realize they’re being drawn toward it by a tractor beam. Ultra Boy flies down to investigate, concluding the city is just like Metropolis in the 20th Century. Before he can find the tractor beam, he’s knocked out by Superman. The Man of Steel (who’s completely silentSuperman attacks the Legionnaires but has red, glowing eyes) attacks the other Legionnaires, who take shelter in a lead bubble whipped up by Element Lad. Three of the Legionnaires exit the bubble but run into three more Supermen. We see that it’s Brainiac who’s using this ersatz Metropolis as a headquarters. Brainiac is still recovering from his defeat in Action 546 and wonders if he can use the Legionnaires against the “Master Programmer” and his supposed minion, Superman. Yeah, Brainiac is still kinda addled. Meanwhile in the real Metropolis, the real Superman almost gets his ears blown out by an ultra-sonic frequency and zooms off into space to track the signal. In Limbo, the Legionnaires fight Legionnaires smash robotsback against the Supermen, discovering they’re actually sophisticated robots. After smashing the robots they regroup, unaware Brainiac is watching them and making plans to use them against the real Superman. The Legionnaires explore “Metropolis”, wondering if it’s some kind of training ground for people preparing to fight Superman. They fight off some more robots and retreat to the Galaxy Building to regroup. The real Man of Steel follows Brainiac’s signal into Limbo and finds the fake Metropolis. He follows a gaggle of Superman robots to the Galaxy Building, where they attack the Legionnaires again. Naturally, the Legionnaires assume the real Superman is a robot and Ultra Boy starts pounding him, knocking him out before he has a chance to explain. (How could Ultra Boy knock Superman out? Apparently, SupermanUltra Boy pounds real Superman is feeling weaker for some reason.) Brainiac appears and relates how he’s been manipulating the Legionnaires (goading them to attack Superman and now preventing them from attacking Brainiac himself) before trying to dissolve Superman’s body into molecular form. Element Lad points out that Brainiac’s metal body is smoking, which distracts Brainy long enough for Superman to recover. Brainiac teleports away and Element Lad explains that he used his powers to turn part of Brainiac’s metal skin to smoke. Superman thanks the legionnaires for their help and they head out to look for a way home.

All-Star Squadron 44 coverAll-Star Squadron #44 – “Night and Fog” – Roy Thomas (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Arvell Jones/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with some downtime events: Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle catch a train to Philadelphia; Jim (Guardian) Harper hangs out with the Newsboy Legion and watches Scrapper participate in a boxing match, while several other All-Stars look on; and Rex (Hourman) Tyler shows up (in costume) to pick up Danette (Firebrand) Reilly for a date. Hourman gets a surprise when Sandra (Phantom Lady) Knight answers the door wearing Firebrand’s costume. Firebrand is wearing Phantom Lady’s skimpy outfit, but before you start thinking this is some kind of key party fetish thing, it turns out they’re going to a costume party at Danette’s father’s place, so she and Sandra decided to wear each other’s outfits for fun. Hourman thinks that’s funny until he finds out he’s expected to switchcostume party at Ed Reilly's place costumes with Sandra’s date, Jonathan (Tarantula) Law. Danette’s father is Emerald Ed Reilly, an Irish-American steel magnate, so his place is pretty fancy and the party is quite sophisticated. He even hired Tommy Dorsey and his not-too-famous-yet vocalist Frank Sinatra as the musical act for the party. Danette introduces her friends to her father, who spouts some vitriol about how much he hates President Roosevelt and the British before heading off to another room to cool off. Rex and Danette go out to the balcony for some romance and run into a strange-looking couple who seemed to appear from nowhere … although there is a lot of fog outside. The weird couple goes to Fog threatening to kill  Edsee Ed Reilly in his study and we find out they’re Germans called Night and Fog (with the power to control darkness and fog of course). Turns out Emerald Ed was sabotaging the war effort by slowing down production in his factories so the British wouldn’t get the supplies they needed. But once America entered the War, Ed decided he didn’t want to be a traitor to his own country. But Night and Fog have other ideas; they want Ed to continue sabotaging things, but Ed says he’s not going to cooperate any more. Fog dangles him out the window, but Ed won’t give in, so Fog drops him. The All-Stars come in (having put on their proper costumes again after getting suspicious of Night and Fog) and Firebrand flies out the window to catch her father. She grabsAll-Stars fight Night and Fog as Firebrand tries to save her father him but can’t slow his momentum and they end up slamming into a ledge halfway down the building. Night and Fog’s powers take the All-Stars by surprise and they kick Tarantula and Phantom Lady’s asses. Hourman pops a Miraclo pill (even though he’s supposedly sworn off them) and it kicks in just in time for him to save Phantom Lady from being tossed out the window. Night uses her darkness power against him, which seems to work kinda like Cloak’s power at Marvel, pulling Hourman into a darkness that seems endless. On the building ledge, Firebrand wakes up but her father is near death. He tells her Firebrand goes wildabout his collaboration with the Nazis and makes her promise to stop them, then he dies. Firebrand freaks out and blasts back into the penthouse, threatening to kill Night and Fog. She’s so pissed off she almost sets the whole place on fire and while she’s reabsorbing the flames, Night and Fog get away. Firebrand passes out from the effort and Hourman keels over too, from the after-effects of the Miraclo pill. Later, Firebrand covers for her father with the cops, saying the Nazis killed him because he was providing armaments and war materiel to the Allies.

Noticeable Things:

  • Nacht und Nebel (German for Night and Fog) was a decree issued by Hitler on December 7, 1941 that ordered all anti-German political activists and resistance members to be eliminated. I guess Roy came up with Night and Fog as a literal personification of the decree, since they explain to Ed Reilly that their job is to deal with anyone who gets in the way of Germany winning the war.

Infinity Inc 13 coverInfinity Inc #13 – “A Thorn Grows in Paradise” – Roy Thomas/Don Newton/Joe Rubinstein

This one starts with four of the Infinitors (Jade, Nuklon, Silver Scarab, and Fury) flying to a remote island they found on an old map belonging to the JSA. Star-Spangled Kid is in New York, clearing up some legal matters related to the new team, so these four decided to take a mini-vacation to a tropical island. For Hector (Silver Scarab) Hall and Lyta (Fury) Trevor it’s a romantic getaway, and for Al (Nuklon) Rothstein and Jennie-Lyn (Jade) Hayden it’s just a nice trip. As soon as they land, Hector and Lyta head off to find a secluded lagoon for some lovin’, while Al and Jennie go forAl gets an eyeful of Jennie a swim. Al’s a bit freaked out when he realizes Jennie isn’t wearing a swimsuit and she hopes he doesn’t think she was coming on to him. Al takes off and Jennie goes for a walk (after using her powers to conjure up a classic Dorothy Lamour sarong to wear) and finds footprints on the supposedly-deserted island. Meanwhile, Al finds Hector and Lyta and is freaked out all over again when he finds out they’re not wearing bathing suits either. Yeah, Al is a bit of a nerd and we’ll see in future issues that he has trouble connecting with women. Later, Jennie brings a woman to the campfire; turns out she’s a botanist named Rose who’s been on the island for years, studying the local flora. They start telling scary stories and Rose comes up with a doozy, about how she and her Rose's scary storysister were doing research on this very island with a professor named Hollis. Rose’s sister was studying a strange thorn and ended up being transformed into a monstrous figure calling herself Thorn and terrorizing the natives. Rose admits that she doesn’t even have a sister, but the recurring nightmare brought her back to the island to try and exorcise the dreams. Rose returns to her hut and later that night, Jennie is dragged from the camp by a long vine. Al wakes up when she screams and goes after her as Nuklon, running into Thorn, who says she’s looking for her sister Rose. Nuklon tries to stall, but Thorn pins him to a tree with thorns. Silver Scarab and Fury show up and get knocked out when Thorn manipulates a giant tree branch with her mind. Nuklon uses his intangibility power to phase free of the vines around himThorn going nuts and then turns his body rock hard to blunt the giant branch’s attack. As he rips the branch apart, Thorn reacts as if she feels the pain and the vines she was controlling let go of Jade. Nuklon and Fury uproot the tree Thorn was controlling and Silver Scarab lights it on fire. Thorn freaks out and jumps into the fire, disappearing with a pop like a bursting seed pod. The next day, the Infinitors head back to civilization, bringing Rose with them, still wondering who Thorn was and why she claimed to be Rose’s sister. Now I’m sure most of you have realized that Rose and Thorn are the same person with two distinct personalities, but the Infinitors haven’t figured that out yet, so they’re in for some surprises in future issues.

3 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Superman 406, Action 566, DC Comics Presents 80, All-Star Squadron 44, Infinity Inc 13”

  1. I remember when this issue (of Action) came out. Looking back on it, it was quite daring in how Lois was drawn (in a swimsuit). I really liked Captain Strong! I always thought that the goofy stories were the best. However, perhaps I was in the minority. Did I tell you that in the past couple years, I finally started collecting post-Crisis comics? Well, there are a LOT of letters to the editor saying how much they enjoyed the new stories and that the old ones were stale, boring and childish! Unless DC cherry-picked the letters, I guess I was one of the few that liked those best (or maybe the readers that liked them were like me and stopped collecting when the Crisis happened, so they weren’t around to lend their voice and opinion

    By the way, I want to thank you for refraining from using foul language in your Action comic review this time!

    1. Yeah, I thought Lois’s swimsuit was kinda hot (that’s why I included the scan) and quite contemporary-looking at the time. I haven’t read any Post-Crisis Superman stuff, but the last couple of years before Crisis just seem jam-packed with stories that would fit better in the Silver Age. I don’t mind the occasional goofy sidetrack, but a steady diet of Mxyzptlk, Ambush Bug, and Yellow Peri gets on my nerves.

      1. I would call it “daring”, not “hot” to draw her like that. It isn’t the kind of images young men should be dwelling on.

        I am sorry if the Silver Age stories get on your nerves-that is actually my favourite era of Supes comics!

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