Saturday, May 14, 2011

Episode #178: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated December 1958: Action Comics #247 & Free Comic Book Day!

Note: For complete coverage of my Free Comic Book Day, go to My Pull List: From The Comic Shop #29:  Saturday, May 7, 2011 & Free Comic Book Day!

Action Comics #247, December 1958, was published around October 30, 1958. It contained 32 pages and sold for a dime. Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye.

Superman's Lost Parents was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. The 13 page story was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archive vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

While relaxing at home after a day of work at the Daily Planet, Clark saw a sphere appear outside his apartment building. Inside the large bubble were Ma and Pa Kent. They had traveled from the past to visit their now adult son. They had taken a vacation without Clark once, and visited a family friend, Professor Clyde, who had invented a time machine in a transparent sphere. They told their son Clark that the machine would return them to their own time at midnight.

Thrilled to see his parents again, Clark changed into Superman and took them to his Fortress of Solitude. Ma and Pa Kent watched their super son swim in a lava filled pool, ride a dinosaur like creature from another world and play tug of war with a group of robots. They saw a room dedicated to Superman's parents, but found statues of their adopted son's Kryptonian parents. Superman quickly led them to another room, which was dedicated to his Earth parents. Inside they found statues of themselves at the dinner table with Superboy.

Superman took his parents back to Metropolis, where, dressed as Clark Kent once again, he enjoyed a home cooked meal by Ma Kent one more time. Clark gave them a trophy, which was presented to Superman by the city of Metropolis. Pa Kent told his son that they couldn't take anything back from the future back to their time.

Lois came to Clark's apartment, bringing a pie, which everyone shared for desert. Pa Kent expressed his approval to Clark, but Lois mentioned that she preferred Superman over Clark, which I would think would bring the mood in the room down.

When Clark used his telescopic vision and super hearing to spot a runaway circus train, Pa Kent helped cover his son by "accidentally" spilling a cup of coffee on Lois's dress. Personally I think that Pa just wanted to get a little revenge for Lois spurning his boy. After Lois went home, Clark changed into Superman and flew away to save the circus train.

After he left it was revealed that Ma and Pa Kent were impostors. Their names were really Millicent and Cedric. They had researched Smallville's records to find the most likely candidates for Superman's foster parents, and then wore disguises as Ma and Pa Kent. Clark had confirmed their suspicions, and now they planned to sell the secret of his secret identity to the underworld.

When Superman returned, he showed them his Superman robots. Each one duplicated one of his super powers, depending on the need. Pa then asked Clark for a piece of kryptonite because Professor Clyde had wanted to experiment with a possible antidote to kryptonite. Superman flew to the ocean and found a shipwreck in the ocean's depth with a load of lead. The Man of Steel created a lead submarine to retrieve a sample and place it in a lead box.

After Clark gave the lead box to Pa Kent, they returned to the time bubble and "returned" to their own time. Actually, the sphere released a smoke screen while Cedric and Millicent rolled the bubble out of sight. The next morning, as Clark placed the trophy back in its hiding place, he wondered why Pa Kent would ask for kryptonite if he couldn't take anything back to their time. A quick search outside revealed the time sphere, and Clark suspected that he had been a victim of a scam, and now his secret identity had been revealed.

His suspicion was confirmed when he received a phone call from Cedric and Millicent Carson. They bribed Clark for $5 million to keep his super identity secret, or they would sell his secret to the criminal underworld for $1 million.

Superman searched for buried treasures around the world until he had enough to meet their price tag. He had to drop the bribe using a small parachute, because Cedric held the open lead box of kryptonite. He watched the Carsons from afar until Millicent left to go shopping. As protection against the Man of Steel, Cedric had split the kryptonite into two pieces so each of them would have a piece. Then Superman put his plan into effect.

The Man of Steel had built robot duplicates of Ma and Pa Kent. He sent robot Ma to Cedric, and her robot eyes hypnotized Cedric to forget Superman's secret identity. Robot Pa found Millicent as she was shopping, and did the same to her. The Man of Steel operated both robots by remote control, and beamed "super hypnotic forces" from his eyes into the machine, which were then transmitted to the robots. They returned the lead boxes containing the kryptonite and returned them to the location that Superman controlled them from.

Superman spied on the Carsons, as they removed their disguises and wondered why they had put them on. The Man of Steel's secret was safe again. A melancholy Clark Kent decided to pretend that Ma and Pa Kent really had visited him from the past.

When Clark first saw who he thought were his parents, he said, Great Scott! Mom and Dad Kent, who were my former foster parents in my youth! I left Smallville when they died! But how - - ? I realize that this bit of information was necessary for someone who was reading their first Superman story, but I don't think that would be what someone would say if they saw their long dead parents return from the dead. This type of dialogue was common in the silver age of comic books.

The key to the Fortress of Solitude did not look like the giant key that would be familiar later in the silver and bronze ages. It resembled the version Wayne Boring drew in the first silver age Fortress story, The Key To Fort Superman, from Action Comics #241. This Fortress key didn't look like much of an airplane market, which it was supposed to be disguised as.

Has Superman discovered or developed a new super power, super hypnotism? It would be used later, if only briefly, to explain how no one noticed the similarity between Clark Kent and Superman. In this story, the Superman robots only had one super power each. In later silver age stories, they would have all of the Mano f Steel's powers. The panel of Superman swimming in a pool of lave reminded me of the characters Bar-El and Lilo from All-Star Superman. Maybe this was where writer Grant Morrison got the idea.

Normally, I would have thought Clark Kent would have been able to easily see through the disguises of the Carsons, but Clark probably saw what he wanted to see. This was an example Superman's heart not being invulnerable. It was sad to read about his affections for his late adopted parents being taken advantage of to this extent. For this reason, despite some of these silver age quirks, I have to give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Tommy Tomorrow appeared in the six page story, Tommy Tomorrow: Space Convict X-146-93, which was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney. Tommy was planted into Space Alcatraz as criminal "Changer" Holt, who had changed his features to resemble Tommy Tomorrow. His mission was to uncover how some convicts were escaping. He found that the convict known as The Brain, who was a disembodied brain in a fluid filled container, teleported a number of convicts to a place where they built a new robot body for Brain when he escaped himself. Tommy destroyed the robot body and recaptured the escapees. I've only read a few of these Tommy Tomorrow stories, and this is the best one so far. I enjoyed the whole aspect of being planted in a prison under an alias. I give it 4 Capes out of 5.

The third and final story of the issue starred Congo Bill, in the six page story The Riddle Of The Super Zoo, written by Jack Miller and drawn by Howard Sherman. This story was reprinted in World's Finest Comics  #195.

Jungle Joe opened a store of trained wild game pets, which he sold to unsuspecting sportsmen. He scammed them out of their money, including Mr. Harper. He bought a group of acrobatic chimps, who were actually pygmys in costumes. Harper got real chimpanzees, who obviously were not trained. Congo Bill and his friend Janu met Harper and learned about Jungle Joe's scam. Janu, who had been raised by jungle animals like Tarzan, was able to communicate with the chimps so that they were able to perform acrobatic tricks for a jungle audience. Congo Bill then scammed Joe to buy a small meteorite that supposedly had the ability to make animals super smart, in order to get the money back to Joe's victims.

This was a weird story, but I liked how Congo Bill was able to turn Jungle Joe's trick back onto the swindler. I gave this story 3 Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 33 titles carried the December 1958 or December 1958/January 1959 cover date.

Next Episode: The Superman Family Cover Dated November/December 1955: World's Finest Comics #79!

In two weeks: The Superman Comic Books Cover Dated January 1959: Superman #126 & Action Comics #248!

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