Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reign of the Supermen #457: The Masked Man of Steel

Source: Action Comics #453 (1975)
Type: Transformation
They can't all be classics, folks. And Carey Bates and Curt Swan's "Superman's Fantastic Face-Saving Feat!" sure isn't. I don't even think it deserves its exclamation point.

After returning from saving a hot air balloon (the only actually heroic deed in the issue), Superman returns to the Daily Planet closet where his co-workers, used to seeing him take power naps in there, don't recognize him. Curt Swan's faces have very little variation, so I guess it's the Javier Bardem haircut.
Across town, there's a guy who looks just like Clark Kent plotting to kill Superman. So what's going on here? Well, there's this evil scientist, see, and I can't tell you his name because Carey Bates doesn't GIVE him a name. All we know is that he has a brother called Nels who was arrested by Superman, and that he dedicated his electronics career to creating a weapon that could kill Superman. As part of an over-complicated scheme, he also invented a face-swapping app for his iPhone.
Electronics! Is there nothing it can't do? The next step was copying Clark Kent's blue suit exactly and learning to impersonate Clark's voice. There's a medal-giving ceremony that must have been planned long ago for this to make any (cough cough) sense, that would put Kent and Superman on the same stage, the perfect place to shoot Superman in front of millions of witnesses. That way UNNAMED VILLAIN can make a name for himself. Meanwhile, Superman tries to keep his face hidden from people. Northern Canada should do the trick.
Yes, that's Superman helping a clear-cutting operation with a giant scythe apparently created for this exact purpose. Can he come to my office next and help ME catch up on things? It won't hurt the environment, I promise! The lumberjacks complain they got no face time, so this simply won't do. He goes to the Fortress of Solitude to make a rubber mask with his usual pretty boy looks. Back at his apartment, FACE-MAN (I threw him a bone) is hoping to tie Clark up, but there's no one there. He noses around and finds a hidden phone ringing off the hook. Hello? Who is this?
Ah yes, the #1 function of a World's Finest team-up is to fix secret identity problems. Batman is supposed to be impersonating Clark at the awards ceremony, but now he's decided he's "too busy". Yeah Bruce, looks like it. Face-Man has no idea who this Bruce is, nor does his snooping uncover Superman costumes or plan-B Superman robots in the cupboard. It looks like everything's coming up heads for the big day tomorrow. That's if Superman remembers to go get his award.
We shouldn't have worried. It's what this version of Superman lives for. Superman gets to the ceremony on time, where his super-hearing reveals Clark Kent isn't Batman, and his super-vision reveals the gun he's holding is designed to kill him with energy from his own body. (Come on, Bates! What kind of a story-telling shortcut is that?) Superman's too quick for him and he's beaten, but to get his face back, the Man of Steel kicks Face-Man's ass as Clark Kent until he cries uncle. Despite Clark breaking rocks with his fists, Face-Man doesn't figure things out. You can't be a genius at everything.


Anonymous said...

Maybe a lousy story, but that's a great cover!

Siskoid said...

Definitely! It's signed Bob Oksner.