Sunday, April 30, 2017

Action Comics #461 (1976)


Action Comics #461 (July, 1976)
"Kill Me or Leave Me!"
"The Toughest Newsboy in Town!"
Writers - Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Penciller - Curt Swan
Inker - Tex Blaisdell
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.30

Wouldja look at that cover... a Clark Kent Fan Club?  Who does he think he is... Jimmy Olsen?

While we're looking at the cover... what's that Number 30 in the top right hand corner?  Are... oh no, are the DC Bicentennial Books numbered?!?  Don't they know how that messes with my completionist nature?  Dammit, DC!

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Our story opens with Daily Planet nudnick Steve Lombard working out in the gym when he is approached by... well, some strange-looking fellow.  This green-and-gold clad baddie proclaims that he knows for a fact that Lombard is, in fact... Superman!  Little does he know that at the very same time, the real steel deal is saving a Senator from a crew of geeks wearing asbestos suits.


Superman wraps up saving the rescue and heads back to the Galaxy Building.  He comes across the baddie (who, according to a helpful note, he'd met last issue) and Lombard playing cat 'n mouse in the Galaxy staff gym.  A battle rages and Steve, seeing the opportunity for to get a big scoop grabs a handheld camcorder.  We learn that the bad dude goes by the palindromic Karb-Brak... and he's really having his way with Superman.


Karb offers that he and Superman share many powers... however, he can also make things go boom!  He 'splodes the gym.  In the blast, Superman grabs Lombard and makes like a tree.  Moments later, an ordinary gentleman nonchalantly moseys out of the Galaxy Building.  This is Andrew Meda (get it?), and he and Karb-Brak are one in the same.  He was sent from the Andromeda galaxy due to his having an allergy to the super-powered folks on his home planet.  Upon arrival on Earth, he ran into the similarly-powered Superman, causing his allergy to flare up... and costing him his "Earth-guise".  He knows that the Earth isn't big enough for both he and Superman.


We follow Mr. Meda home where he heads over to his Psi-Machine which had narrowed Superman's true identity down to either Steve Lombard or Clark Kent.  With Lombard ruled out, Karb knows it's gotta be Clark Kent.  And so, he "implants ideas" into the minds of those close to Clark... then turns sets his machine onto the rest of Metropolis!


The next morning, Clark Kent heads out for his morning trek to the office... and runs into throngs of adoring fans?!  Upon arrival, he meets up with Lombard and Lois... who are also unable to resist Clark's unspoken charms.


Normally if he's in a tight spot, Clark "supes" up and flies away... however, with his newly found celebrity status, he can't seem to pull himself away long enough to change.  And so, he just runs out of the building... and is chased by his fan club... into the park, where he runs into Karb-Brak... who knows his secret!


They enter into battle, complete with cheering audience.  Karb hammers Clark into the ground like he was a cartoon character.  Clark recoups and yanks a water main out of the ground, spraying the baddie away... but also, revealing his secret identity to the public!


Krab-Brak flees.  With the cat already out of the bag, Clark decides just to fly after him... to the apartment of Andrew Meda and his wacky Psi-Machine.  Superman uses the machine to do the ol' Professor X mindwipe on the citizens who saw mild-mannered Clark Kent's super-feats.


The story wraps with a weakened Karb-Brak spilling the beans on his history... and giving Superman an ultimatum.  Either leave the Earth... or kill him!  [To be continued...]


Our back-up story features the Amazing Exploits of Perry White.  Wow.  It begins with the White family finishing up their Easter dinner.  He asks the other adults to leave him and the kids so he can share some a story from his youth.  I'll bet you never knew that Perry White was at one time, the Toughest Newsboy in Town!  I sure didn't.


Anyhoo... back in the day, young Perry was shillin' papers on the corner.  One patron gave him a shiny quarter... not bad, for a paper that goes for 2-cents.  Perry theorizes that this customer was, in fact the missing Toy Company heir, Victor Larsen in disguise.  Sure, why not?


Perry gives chase, taking all manner of transport... hoppin' on the back of a pickup truck, skitching behind a car, riding another kid's handlebars... whatever gets the job done, right?  He winds up at Larsen's office... where inside, Victor is holding a scientist named Norton hostage.  He wants the plans he believes he designed for a "super-weapon".


Perry continues his story, informing his grandkids that Norton had evidently designed an atomic bomb!  Back in flashback, Perry enters the offices just as Larsen draws his gun.  They fight back and forth for a bit, Perry monkey-flips Larsen... then socks him good.


The story ends with Perry getting a job at the Daily Planet due to his "aggressiveness".  Unfortunately the then-editor in chief refuses to print his story about Norton's atomic bomb.


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Well... with as neat as the cover was, this was a bit of a let down.  Really wasn't expecting this to be the second part of three, though that's not really the issue's fault.  The story we do get here though... ehh, wasn't great.  I can't help but wonder what crazy story would have been under a cover like this had it been released ten years earlier.

I've often seen folks complain that Bronze-Age Superman stories place too heavy a focused on Superman protecting his secret identity.  In my (admittedly limited) Bronze-Age experience, I think this complaint is valid.  It seems as though every issue is an exercise in secret identity related shenanigans... usually with (at least) one other person (good or evil) being tipped off.  Again, I've got limited experience with the era, but this describes much of what I have read.

Not much more to say about this issue, though I will admit that I am interested in seeing how this story ends.  I suppose if we're judging by that metric, this issue was a success.  Disappointing sure, but successful in making me want to come back for the next issue.

The back-up story... I actually didn't mind.  It was silly, but a good kind of silly.  I like the idea of Perry White being a rough 'n tumble neighborhood kid who would just as soon sock a guy in the nose if he thought he were bad news.  I'm actually a bit surprised that Perry didn't get his own ongoing during the Silver Age.  Seems like all of Superman's pals had their own books!

Overall... a couple of silly stories that I'd tell ya not to break your back (or bank) looking for.  If you come across this issue on the cheap, you could do far worse.

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