Thursday, May 29, 2008

Episode #16: Superboy's Pal: Pete Ross

The creators of the comic book character Pete Ross are credited as comic book writer Robert Bernstein and artist George Papp.
Robert Bernstein (d. 1988) began his comic book career in the mid 1940's and worked for a variety of publishers. His work for DC Comics was mostly on Superman and Aquaman. Beginning in 1959, along with comic book artist Ramona Fradon, he reintroduced silver age comic book readers to Aquaman and established most of his lore of the era.
George Papp (1916 - 1989) is credited as co-creator of two silver age DC Comics characters. With editor Mort Weisinger he is credited with creating Green Arrow, and with editor Whitney Ellsworth created Congorilla.
Pete Ross was introduced in Superboy #86 (January, 1961, on sale November 17, 1960). The cover featured the first story of the issue, The Army of Living Kryptonite Men, reprinted in Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes vol. I. Pete appeared in the second story, The Boy Who Betrayed Clark Kent. Pete's family had just moved into Smallville, and he was the new boy at Smallville High. Over time he becomes friends with Clark, who worries that having a close friend might threaten his secret identity. As the story progresses Pete begins to take mesurements of both Clark and Superboy. The story concludes with Clark's secret identity safe, as Pete merely wanted to cast Clark in a play about Superboy. He did not suspect Clark's double identity.
Pete Ross does discover Superboy's secret identity in Superboy #90, Pete Ross's Super Secret (July 1961). Pete and Clark are on a camping trip with other Smallville teens. At night, while everyone else sleeps, Pete sees Clark sneak off and change into Superboy and fly away to deal with some emergency. Pete vows to keep this knowledge a secret, even from Clark. Pete does this, except for a later story when he thinks Superboy has died, and he tells his parents his secret. Apparently they keep Pete's secret as well.
Pete also appears in Legion of Super-Heroes stories. In Adventure Comics #370, The Devil's Jury, the second part of the Legion's battle against Mordru, Pete's knowledge helps restore Legionnaire's knowledge of their true identities when they are disguised in Smallville. At the end of the story Superboy exposes Lana to a hypnosis ray so that she will forget her knowledge of his secret identity. When he is about to do the same to pete, Mon-El turns the hypnosis ray onto Superboy himself, so that he forgets that Pete knows his secret identity. Mon-El informs Pete that according to 30th century history, Pete's knowledge is destined to save Superman's life in the future. There doesn't appear to be a story that ever developed this point.
Pete also becomes an honorary member of the Legion in Superboy #98, The Boy With Ultra Powers, the story where Ultra-Boy passes his Legion initiation. This story is also reprinted in the Showcase Presents: Legion vol. I.
An adult Pete Ross appears in Action Comics #457, Superman, You're Not Clark Kent - and I Can Prove It. He is a widower with a son named Jonathan, a sickly boy who's last wish is to know Superman's secret identity. Superman agrees, but the boy does not believe him. Superman is repeatedly unsuccessful until the end of the story when Jonathan asks to see Clark's medicine cabinet. The fact that it is practicaly empty, without any shaving items or aspirin, proves to Jonathan that Clark really is Superman. I used to have this issue, and it might have been possible that Superman finds a cure for Jonathan.
In DC Comics Presents #13, (September 1979) To Live In Peace - Nevermore Jonathan is kidnapped by an alien species to train to fight in their planet's endless war. Superman attempts to rescue him but is discouraged by Legionnaires because according to their history Jonathan is destined to play a key role in an interstellar war.
In the next issue, #14, Judge, Jury ... and No Justice, Pete Ross suffers a mental breakdown because he is unable to accept Jonathan's fate. He uses technology developed by Lex Luthor to kidnap Superboy, bring him into the present and switch bodies. Ross also kidnaps Perry, Jimmy, Steve Lombard and Lois to act as jury on Superman, restrained in kryptonite chains. Krypto's intervention allows Superman and Superboy (in Pete's body) work together to reverse the switch and stop Pete. He is committed to a mental institution.
In issue #25, (September 1980) Judgement Night Superman is uneasy about Pete's situation. He decides to disregard the Legion's wishes and rescue Jonathan and reunite him with his father. This begins Pete's recovery, and the character disappears from Superman lore.
Pete Ross's last silver age appearance is in Superman #423, the first of the two-part story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. This story is the last story of the golden and silver age Superman, before the mini-series Man of Steel restarts Superman continuity. At the beginning of the story Clark opens one of two boxes delivered to GBS studios just before he and Lana do a news report, to find Pete's corpse. Pete had been kidnapped by Toyman and the Prankster and tortured to find Superman's secret identity. Lana opens the other box, which is filled with Superman action figures that fly out of the box an dzap Clark with laser beams. When he is not burned to death his secret identity is finally revealed.
Post-crisis Pete Ross was introduced in Adventures of Superman #436. He is the county agent in Smallville. In later stories Pete and Lana begin a relationship as Clark and Lois fall in love, and it becomes apparent to Lana that her wish to marry Clark will not come true. Pete does not learn Clark's identity. Post-crisis, Lana is the one Clark reveals his powers to in the Man of Steel mini-series.
After resolving a tribal dispute Pete comes to the attention to one of Kansas' senators, who offers Pete a job in Washington, D. C. Pte takes the job and keeps in contact with Lana. Eventually she moves to D. C. and marries Pete. Pete is appointed Senator when his boss is assassinated in the Sons of Liberty storyline. After the organization kidnaps Lana and blackmails Pete, he resigns his seat and moves back to Smallville. Later he appears as part of the wedding party for Clark and Lois's wedding.
In a later story Brainiac kidnaps Pete and Lana's baby while Superman is transferring the sick infant to a better hospital. A distraught Pete tries to save his baby himself. At the end of the story the family is restored.
In another story Lex Luthor makes Pete his running mate when Luthor runs for President. After Luthor is elected and is later removed from office, Pete becomes President. He does not hold office long before he also resigns in a story involving Checkmate.
During the Ruin storyline Pete is suspected of being the masked villain, but is later found to be a kidnapping villain by the real Ruin, an insane Professor Edmund Hamilton.
Later Pete and Lana divorce and Pete and child return to Smallville. Lana becomes head of Lexcorp, as shown in the recent Insect Queen story.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Episode #15: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes

If not for All-Star Superman, I would rate this storyline as the best Superman story in a long time. As it is this is a close second. This story took place in Action Comics #858 - #863, and an epilogue issue #864. Issues #858 - #863 were written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal, colored by Dave McCaig and lettered by Rob Leigh. The editor was Matt Idelson and the Associate Editor was Nachie Castro. Issue # 864 was pencilled by Joe Prado and colored by David Curiel.
The titles of the issues are as follows:
#858: Alien World
#859: Illegal Aliens
#860: Lightning & Shadows
#861: Chameleons
#862: Revenge of the Rejects
#863: Sun Rise
#864: Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
This story retrofits Supperman's relationship with the Legion to current continuity. Instead of meeting them as Superboy, as told in Adventure Comics #247, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Clark meets them as a teen growing into his super powers sans costume. The same trio of Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad refer to him as Kal-El, not Superboy. In another plot line, the adult Superman is swept into the 31st century, into a world where the Legion is disbanded and on the run from that era's Justice League. Earth's sun has been converted to a red star, rendering Superman without any powers. Earth has become an isolationist society, forcing aliens from other planets to flee the planet and bringing the United Planets on the brink of war with Earth.
What is best about this story is that it shows Superman's real source of bravery is not in his powers but in who he is as a man. His powers are just an expression of that heart of a warrior. Without powers Superman is not afraid to get into the middle of the battle at hand.
The members of the 31st century Justice League reprise Legion of Super-Villain characters which appeared in Legion stories in Adventure Comics, like issues #371 & #372. In the current story we learn some dark secrets about this Justice League, like how they gained super powers and what these powers do to their bodies.
One of the little tidbits that make this story interesting is that we learn the real reason for all of the Legion tryouts.
For one of the best Superman stories in years, pick up these back issues, or pick up the trade for this story, due in July as a hardcover.
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