Thursday, December 31, 2009

Episode #106: Face To Face With Yesterday: The Adventures Of Superman #474

This episode is a week late because I had a cold Christmas week, but this story is more appropriate for New Year's than Christmas. The Adventures Of Superman #474, cover dated January 1991, was published on November 28, 1990. It contained 32 pages and sold for $1.00. The Superman editor was Mike Carlin at this time. The cover was pencilled by Dan Jurgens, who also wrote and pencilled the story, and was inked by Art Thibert, who also inked the story. The letterer was Albert De Guzman and the colorist was Glenn Whitmore. There is no reprint information available for this story.

Face To Face With Yesterday opened with Superman flying toward Lowell County Hospital in Kansas. The front page of the Small County Bulletin blew by in the winter wind. The top headline stated, Judge Rules In Right To Die Case.

Clark Kent walked into the hospital and inquired at the Information Booth about the location of patient Scott Brubaker's room. He was directed to the fourth floor Special Care Unit. A middle aged nurse at the booth recognized Clark and commented on his involvement in the tragedy that landed Brubaker in the hospital. Apparently the newspaper headline referred to Scott's parents, as the other hospital employee remembered that they had made an unspecified decision. At the fourth floor nurse's station he was directed to Brubaker's room. Clark paused at the door and flashed back to high school football practice. Pete Ross got clobbered when doing a running back drill, then Clark proceeded to run through the defense until Scott Brubaker, who was the last defender, tackled Clark. Scott commented that he almost thought Clark let him tackle him, but thanked him for sparing the defense from having to run wind sprints.

Clark opened the door and introduced himself to Scott's parents, who at first thought Clark was there for a newspaper story. He assured them that an article was the last thing on his mind. He was only there to say goodbye before Scott died. His parents had finally decided to pull the plug and had taken their case to court.

Clark flashed back to that afternoon after football practice years earlier, when Scott, "a towner" gave Clark and Pete, two "farm boys" a ride home. Scott was smoking a cigarette, and had a bad boy vibe. In the hospital room the Brubakers and Clark begin to open up to each other about their regrets about the tragedy that landed Scott in a coma. On New Year's Eve years ago Clark, Pete and Lana were invited to Scott's house for a party, which he hid from his parents. They were celebrating the new year with their friends and had no idea what their son had planned. Lana aked Clark to keep an eye on Pete, who seemed too eager to fit in. Inside were all of Scott's frineds drinking from a beer keg, who looked down on the farm kids who had joined their party. Eventually Clark gave in to Pete's pressure took a glass of beer.

Three hours later the party had begun to wind down and everyone, including Pete and Lana were drunk, but not Clark. Scott offered to drive them home, but Clark offered to drive since Scott was also drunk. Scott refused, because noone but he drove his car. During the drive he offered some whiskey after taking a swig himself. Scott ran a stop sign, forcing a car to run into a fire hydrant. Further down the road Scott drifted over to the wrong lane and crashed head on into a semi and came to a stop against a tree. Clark ws the first to crawl from the wreck and pulled out Lana and Pete. They were alright, but Scott was unconscious. He would never wake up.

In the hospital room Clark confided to the Brubakers that he felt the accident was his fault for not forcing Scott to let him drive. The Brubakers refused to allow Clark to accept the blame. Unaware of his secret identity, they reminded Clark that he had darnk at the party and may not have been as sober as he thought.

Clark's thoughts flashed back to that night years ago, when he had to face his parents over the party and the accident. Clark commented how he didn't feel the force of the impact. Pa Kent brushed it off as luck. This may have been before they came to realize that Clark was developing special abilities.

Before he paid his final respects to Scott he told the Brubakers that the tragedy had a profound impact on him. It taught him that he always had to do the right thing. The world was full of tragedies, and an individual had to keep as many from happening as possible. They thanked Clark for paying his final respects to their son, and assured him that they did not hold Clark responsible for the accident that destroyed their son's life.

As Clark left the hospital he saw a drunk couple walking to their car to drive to another New Year's party. As Superman flew away, the man was shocked to find his tires melted during a snowstorm. One less tragedy.

What I liked about this story was that, while it was another "message" story, this time about drunk driving, it's not heavy handed with platitudes but let the story itself make the point. It showed Clark not being perfect without becoming Emo Clark (We've had enought of that with Smallville). Teen-aged Clark seemed more of a real person, having to learn from his mistakes, as opposed to the silver age Superboy stories when Clark was almost perfect.

Next episode: Superman: The Year In Review!

Christmas Week: A double feature: Superman #64 Metropolis Mailbag & The Adventures Of Superman #487 Christmas In Suicide Slum.

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