Sunday, April 17, 2011

Episode #174: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated October 1958: Action Comics #245!

Action Comics #245, October 1958, was published around August 28, 1958. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢. The editor was Mort Weisinger and the cove was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. Normally, Superman would also be published, but at this time it was published ten times a year. The title would also skip the December 1958 month.

The Superman story of Action was The Shrinking Superman. The thirteen page story was writtem by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives, vol. I, Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I and Superman: The Bottle City Of Kandor.

Lois began the story dressed in a fur parka. Superman picked her up from the Daily Planet offices to take her to his Fortress of Solitude. She was going to write a feature story on the Man of Steel's Fortress. After showing her around, Superman had to return to Metropolis for a short time to take care of some appointments, which is never a good idea with Lois in the silver age. He told her that if she had to contact him, use the special crystal ball TV transeiver.

As she explored the Fortress, she came to the Bottle City of Kandor. She peered into the bottle, and accidentally knocked it off of its table. She picked it back up, and it seemed to be undamaged except for a small crack.

But Zak-Kul, a renegade Kryptonian scientist, escaped through a crack. Using an enlarging ray, Zak-Kul used a timy bit of rare element Ilium-349 to enlarge himself to normal size. He had used a telescope to study Superman's Frotress, and used a plastic surgery machine's Superman setting to change his facial features to duplicate the Man of Steel's look. Zak-Kul removed a Superman costume from a statue of the Man of Steel and changed into it. He called the bottle city Krypton City.

He approached Lois, and she thought the real Superman had returned. But then the real Man of Steel contacted Lois through the special TV transeiver, and Zak-Kul was forced to reveal his true identity. Before Lois could alert the real Superman, Zak-Kul used his x-ray vision to knock the head off of another (?) Superman statue, which knocked Lois out.

When she awoke she saw two Supermen. She grabbed the enlarging device that Zak-Kul had placed on a table for some reason, and challenged both of them with a question about "Gunner" Gates. (He wore an eye patch.) When one of the Supermen said he couldn't remember because he caught so many criminals, Lois shrunk him and placed him in the crack of the bottle city. Superman used his x-ray vision to seal the crack, and returned Lois to Metropolis.

During the journey, through a thought balloon we learned that Superman was actuall Zak-Kul. The real Superman flubbed the question in order to avoid a super fight that could harm or kill Lois. He worried about what Zak-Kul was doing in Metropolis.

Instead of robbing and pillaging, Zak-Kul took the Man of Steel's place doing super deeds for Metropolis. He took great pleasure "robbing" the real Superman of fame and glory.

Back in Krypton City, Superman finally found Zak-Kul's lab, and began a desperate search for the rare element Ilium-349.

In Metropolis, Zak-Kul, as Superman, danced with Lois. He decided to propose, and Lois fainted. When she revived, she accepted. The real Superman watched on a special monitor in Zak-Kul's lab as the fake Superman married Lois. Outside the Justice of the Peace office Lois said she couldn't wait to learn Superman's secret identity.

Spooked, Zak-Kul said he was going to build their newlywed home off of North Road, and for Lois to follow in an hour. Actually he sheared off the road, so that Lois drove off of a cliff. The Zak-Kul Superman waved goodbye as Lois fell to her death. Lois realized that she had sent the wrong Superman to Krypton City. Just before she crashed, the real Superman saved her. He told her that he had finally found three specks of element Ilium-349. The first speck he used to shrink himself to atomic size, so that he slipped between the bottle's atoms. The second speck he used to enlarge himself to normal size.

When Zak-Kul used his telescopic vision to discover that the real Superman had escaped, he crashed into a men's clothing store, because it's uncool for a super hero or villain to use an open door or window. He stole a suit and glasses to disguise himself.

Without using his x-ray vision, Superman spotted the disguised Zak-Kul and shrunk him with the final speck of Ilium-349. The reason that Superman found Zak-Kul was that he had unknowingly dressed as Clark Kent. superman returned Zak-Kul to Krypton City, with an attached note for the Kryptonian Police.

Back at the Daily Planet offices, Lois ripped up her marriage license, since her marriage had been annulled. She asked Clark if the right Superman would ever propose to her. Clark said how would he know?

I was curious how Superman was able to broadcast a video message to the Fortress's Crystal TV. We weren't shown any portable device. Also, when the bottle containing Krypton City was knocked over, why wasn't the city heavily damaged or destroyed, and the population wiped out or having few survivors. The only thing I could think of was that Krypton City's more advanced technology made their structures much stronger, or maybe its miniature size and higher gravity made it immune to the effects of the bottle's fall.

Why was there a Superman setting on the alien plastic surgery machine in the Fortress. A similar device would have a small but key role in the Lois Lane story I Am Curious - Black from Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #106, November 1970, published around September 24, 1970. That issue was discussed back in Episode #33, August 20, 2008. Also, why did Superman have a statue of himself in his Fortress, if not two? If there was only one statue, how did a new costume get on it after Zak-Kul removed it.

The story avoided the situation of Zak-Kul  consummating his marriage with Lois. That would have been the ultimate robbery against Superman. But if that would have happened, then the Comics Code Authority seal would have melted off the cover.

It was an interesting way that Superman avoided subjecting Lois to the risk of injury or death in a fight against Zak-Kul. The Man of Steel took an awful chance not being able to find a way to escape Krypton City in time to save Lois.

I am surprised that Zak-Kul never discovered Superman's secret identity with the telescope that he used to study the Fortress.

Because of Superman's efforts to save Lois from the risk of a battle in the Fortress, I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue starred Tommy Tomorrow in the six page tale, The Interplanetary Scarecrow. It was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Congo Bill starred in the third and final six page story The Secret Of The Super Animals, written by Jack Miller and drawn by Howard Sherman.

Elsewhere in DC Comics with the October 1958 cover date were 33 titles.

Next Episode: The Superman Family Of Comic Books Cover Dated September Or September/October 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7 & World's Finest Comics #78!

In two weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated November 1958: Superman #125 & Action Comics #246!

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