Reign of the Supermen #482: Ned Barnes, the Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life

Source: Superman vol.1 #169 (1964)
Type: Impostor
Last week, on Sally Selwyn Romance Stories, we explored how Superman found love while a powerless amnesiac, something he completely forgot about after the story's events, leaving the love of his life bereft and believing her fiance, "Jim White", dead. The story promised a sequel, and four issues later, it happened.

The tale actually begins at a rocket ship manufacturing plant where the security is so tight, they're letting Superman do some light industrial espionage.
When he bangs his funny bone on the way out and cries in pain, the guard finally figures out this isn't the Man of Steel and tries to stop him. One punch later, fake-Superman carjacks a guy dressed pretty much exactly like Clark Kent and steals his clothes to evade the police.
Meet Ned Barnes. When he was a kid, he lived in Smallville and had this - let's call it unhealthy - crush on Superboy.
Then Superboy saved him from a fire, but not before his face was horribly scarred (at least he didn't lose his hair, eh?). The plastic surgeon not only fixed up his face, but offered to make cosmetic changes as well. Ned took his idol's face and vowed to life more like Superboy, helpful to others and unselfish. So what happened? In true Silver Age fashion, we'll keep such revelations to the end. For now, you need only know that in a string of coincidental events, Ned crosses paths with one Sally Selwyn.
Normally, Ned would be hard-pressed to play the role of "Jim White", but in her next three speech bubbles, Sally helpfully recounts the entire story from Superman #165 from her point of view. In turn, the narrator spends the next PAGE recapping the missing details from Superman's. All caught up? You'll find Jerry Siegel over-writes this thing something fierce. I mean, is THIS bit of exposition necessary?
We've just seen those events unfold AND I think we're on pretty solid ground when it comes to the fact Clark Kent and Superman are the same guy. Anyway... Ned meets Sally's dad and thinks he could definitely stand to marry this rich girl, but he's also a jerk to her and makes her cry. He's not sure he can keep the pretense up. Meanwhile, Clark keeps a look-out for his doppelganger while also on a mission to find a good racing horse for Perry White to call "Daily Planet". If you think that's a very strange subplot, well, it's the story's convoluted way to put Clark in Sally's way.
You'll remember that Jim White broke his spine getting thrown off a horse, so she's right to be worried. He doesn't remember any of this, of course, but a kiss from her jostles his memory loose. After a full page of kissing, Clark remembers it all, especially how she loved him for himself and not for his Superman persona. Like any many in love and anxious about important life decisions, his first reaction is to take a nap. ?!??!
Having literally "slept on it", he dismisses dream Lois and dream Lana's arguments and decides to go for it. He will marry Sally Selwyn. Bt first, to deal with his impostor. Ned Barnes, for his part, is ambushed by mob types who want their rocket pictures (1) and don't think very highly of Ned trying to get out of the business by marrying a rich heiress (2). They try to snipe Sally from afar, but Ned jumps them and they all fall down a cliff.
Superman's super-CSI is pretty impressive/ludicrous. Before he dies, the mortally wounded Ned explains how he came to hate Superman and lead a life of crime. Simply put: Bullies.
And that's why you don't let a teenage boy make decisions about plastic surgery without his parents or guardians' consent. He also wrangles a promise from Superman, that he won't let Sally find out he was a "skunk". So Superman gives him a good report, and poor Sally is left to once again believe the love of her life is dead. If there's one thing Superman's learned here, it's that his loved ones are in constant danger.
That's dark, man. So Superman heads into space to literally get away from it all, and in thoughts filled with both megalomania and angst, he tells us "[...] try to forget the irony that I, the most envied man on Earth, can't marry the woman I love because I'm Superman..." Oh boo-hoo. The last caption asks if this is the end of Superman's hopeless love for Sally Selwyn or only... the beginning? Spoiler: It was the end.


snell said...

The whole bit of Superman needing a secret identity "to protect his loved ones" always struck me as odd in Kal-El's case.

In the Sliver Age, at least, the group of Superman's friends and loved ones was 100% congruent with Clark Kent's friends and loved ones. Everyone knew that Lois Lane and Superman were an item. I can't imagine how marrying her, or revealing his secret ID, could put her in any more danger than she already was.

Ditto for Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, etc. They were regularly targeted as Superman's associates, so I'm uncertain how his secret identity actually protected them.

SallyP said...

Seriously...would YOU want to be fingered as the person who offed Superman's girl?

Well, I suppose Lex would like it, but your average gunsel wouldn't

Siskoid said...

You both make really good points.

Anonymous said...

snell makes agood point in adc teamup with superman and earth-2 superman earth-2s daily star was attacked by lex s evil-er counterpart alexi


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