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The ’70s Revisited: Action Comics #428


action_comics_0428Whatever Happened to Superman?

Story: Cary Bates
Art: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson
Editing: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October, 1973
Cover Price: 20 cents

The Plot to Kill Black Canary!

Story by: Elliot Maggin
Drawn by: Dick Giordano
Edited by: Julie Schwartz

GBS has had a new satellite launched. Superman flies into action to stop a fire raging far above easy reach of firemen, and conveniently (and extremely quickly) locates and flies in an iceberg, melting it with his heat vision to put out the fire. But the world sees just a storm cloud and rain. As Superman investigates this phenomenon, he becomes aware of the fact that everyone believes Superman hasn’t been seen in ten years–even going so far as to (as Clark Kent) do a shirt-rip on live TV…but all anyone sees is Clark revealing an undershirt. Of course, the real villain turns out to be Lex Luthor. Luthor mouths off, revealing his plan when Superman poses as a newly-assigned inmate occupying the "empty cell," convincing Luthor he’d been double-crossed and had himself been "forgotten." All’s well that ends well, right?

Meanwhile, in the Green Arrow (and Black Canary) portion of the issue, we see Ollie on the phone, declaring "Listen, Trump–when Ollie Queen says his Public Relations Agency will make your motorcycles sell…they’ll sell!" He then springs into action, recruiting Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary), and convinces her to participate in a stunt for a commercial. Later, Ollie’s made aware of a planned attempt on Dinah’s life, so he goes back into action and saves her (though she’s not at all happy about it, as he should’ve just told her what was going on). Again, all’s well that ends well, right?

Visually, this issue simply "looks like" one of Grandpa’s comics. And I’m pretty confident that that literally is what this one is–one of Grandpa’s comics, from back in the day, that somehow got mixed into stuff that wound up in my family’s garage, where I found it recently.

And that obviously makes sense–Curt Swan? Murphy Anderson? Dick Giordano? Big names I recognize from the time period and associate (particularly) with DC Comics; Swan all the moreso with Superman. And of course, I recognize the other credited names as well from the time. For where I’m at, the credits read like a roll call of classic creators, all of which have a good name to me when it comes to comics.

I’m not the fondest guy when it comes to pre-Byrne Superman comics–I was introduced to and grew up on the post-CoIE Superman, and hold that as my favorite to this day. But I also have plenty of fond memories of laying on a bed, having pulled out many of Grandpa’s comics from a cabinet, literally surrounded with more comics than I could truly hope to read in the limited time(s) I had there. For the 8-9-year-old-Me, that was a key time for me, when Superman comics were just Superman comics, and I had no clue who any of the creators were, never noticed any of the credits, and hardly even noticed any numbers or saw much distinction, say, between Action Comics or Superman or such…they were just titles on a cover, and I don’t recall ever sorting the comics to put them into numerical order or systematically reading through any given title. I just looked for the coolest-looking cover, or whichever character(s) I was interested in reading at the time.

So, I can definitely say that this issue held up to that. It’s not the craziest or silliest or most out-there story. It’s–as many such were, and particularly compared to modern post-2010 comics–a highly-compressed story. Thirteen or so pages, and I could easily see how this would be grounds for a six-issue (at least) story nowadays*.

(*As a de-compressed story, I figure the first issue would include a bit more detail of Superman doing super-feats and perhaps a bit more foreshadowing with the satellite and such, and likely end with an initial revelation/question like "What are you talking about? Superman’s been missing for TEN YEARS!"–To Be Continued. We’d then get several issues of Superman investigating the phenomenon while performing further super feats and being increasingly stressed at not being "seen" as Superman; we’d get details of it affecting him in private life, and possibly relationships with others, as he starts questioning his own sanity. There might even be one-shots or a JLA mini-series to see how other characters are reacting to a world seemingly without Superman; how their attitudes toward the hero gig are affected by believing Superman’s been missing for a decade, and so on; and maybe even a couple new characters introduced that are trying to follow in the legacy of the "missing" hero.)

As-is, it’s fast-paced, introducing the problem, exploring it, and resolving it, with little deep exploration of the implications of stuff, and we’re done start-to-finish in just this issue, half the issue.

The Green Arrow piece looks remarkably good…though I guess I shouldn’t seem surprised (yet, I was!) The character looks exactly as I like him, with the hat and goatee and such. I looked up the dates, because it felt like the Ollie from the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, but I suspect this was from just after or near the end of that run…this being 1973, while that run started in 1970.

The GA story itself is rather simplistic, and seemed a little heavy on pushing whatever dynamic it is with Ollie and Dinah. Being such a short story and characters I’m less familiar with from this time, it’s a bit short to try to dig in and analyze much…suffice it to say I wasn’t enamored with it as a singular, stand-alone story. It seems like something that would read better in a group of stories for longer context. Of course, there’s also the fact that it was a Green Arrow story when I set out to read a Superman comic. That said, I was quite grabbed by the opening with Ollie yelling into the phone to Trump.

THAT Trump.

The Liberal Oliver Queen, Green Arrow, enthusiastically doing business for Donald Trump.

What a difference 40+ years makes, right?

All in all, this issue was an enjoyable read, and a nice trip down memory lane. I’m glad to have read the issue, for myself. I’m awed at considering the timeframe, that the cover references 35 years of Superman, and here it’s been another 43 years since then…this issue is from less than HALFway into its run and Superman’s existence and all that.

Other than the Trump reference in the Green Arrow/Black Canary piece or interest in the actual reading experience of the Superman story given my lack of brevity discussing the issue, I don’t really see or know anything of this issue to make it singularly a stand-out issue or to overly differentiate it from any other issue from the early-’70s with the creative teams. Still, it’s not a bad issue, and if you find it cheaply, it’s not a bad one.

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One Response

  1. […] this is the second issue in the last few days I’ve read written by Bates (the other was Action Comics #428) and am pretty sure the co-plotter (Greg Weisman) is the same who eventually did Gargoyles for […]

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