Superman Meets the Motorsports Champions (1999)
“The Subterranean 50000”
Writer – Chuck Dixon
Artists – Paul Ryan & Tom Palmer
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Colorists – Glenn Whitmore & Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor – Mike Brisbois
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Here’s an odd one. Not since Superman joined forces with the Quik Bunny has there been such a strange team-up. I suppose I should preface by stating that I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of NASCAR, racing, or even cars overall if I’m being honest. When people talk about horsepower and RPMs and whatnot, I nod (knowingly) because I’m a guy, and that’s what we do… but in reality I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s being said. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in that. To me, my car is how I get back and forth to work, school, and bookstores. I can change a tire, battery, and oil… but that’s the limit to my automotive expertise.
I suppose if I had more of a connection with all things vehicular, this issue would have resonated more to me. As it stands to me, this issue features Superman teaming up with a bunch of nice dudes who may or may not exist in the world in which I live. I wouldn’t recognize any of them if they delivered a pizza to my house tonight.
Anyhoo… how’s the story? Let’s rev the ol’ engines and find out!
Superman swoops in on a charity race featuring Jeff Gordon and his Rainbow Warriors. Jeff introduces Superman to his rather shifty manager (whose shiftiness doesn’t play into the story, so I wonder why it’s here), and then goes on to win his race. Superman entertains during the race, giving those with little NASCAR interest, yet who still go to the races something to look at.
Following the race, Jeff celebrates in the Winner’s Circle with who I assume to be his significant other, the Osmonds, and Keith Hernandez.
Suddenly there’s an earthquake, from out of the ground rises a drill-nosed transportation vehicle. From the craft emerges a purple fellow named Kaldra. He claims to hail from the land which exists far beneath the Earth’s surface, V’Tar. He also appears to be wearing a microphone pop filter over his head.
He challenges the Motorsports Champion, Jeff Gordon to a subterranean race of a lifetime. Mr. Gordon wastes no time in accepting the trial… Superman gives him a bit of nudge as if to ask if he has any clue what he may be signing up for. Gordon tells Kaldra he’s in, with the caveat that his good buddy Superman may join him at the starting line. Kaldra figures it ain’t no thing, and gives the thumbs up.
The race is set to start twelve-hours later in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. When Jeff and Supes arrive, they are greeted by a bunch of all-star racers with whom I have absolutely no familiarity. I’m assuming they’re all real, but wouldn’t bet a substantial amount on it. Among them is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who I’ve actually heard of… so, yeah these fellas are probably legit.
After a meet ‘n greet , Kaldra’s steamy mouth explains the path the driver-athletes will be taking in this race (of a lifetime). Starting in Pennsylvania, and crisscrossing their way across the country, ultimately ending in my current stomping grounds of Phoenix, Arizona. The fellas realize they’re in for a 5000-mile rally.
Superman suggests that maybe he ought to come along for the ride just to make sure everything’s on the up and up. Unfortunately, racing vehicles aren’t build for passengers. No problem! One of Superman’s lesser known powers is auto-mechanics. He wows the gang by Supe-ing (get it?) himself up a helluva race car.
The race finally begins, and all dozen or so racers submerge down to the subterranean racetrack. Superman uses his x-ray vision and notes that there is an incredible amount of machinery hidden behind the walls. The drivers also notice that their vehicles appear to be conducting some sort of electrical charge.
The drivers hit the surface some time later in North Carolina, and decide they’d best get the skinny from old Kaldra… claiming they won’t continue until he comes clean. The purple geek intends to hold them to their word… they will continue the race whether they like it or not.
As the fellas protest, Kaldra summons another Earthquake. This time several large robots rise from the ground.
Kaldra then decides to share his secret origin. He claims the “internal sun” that V’Tar uses is fading out, dooming all the under dwellers. By keeping the Motorsports Champions racing on their subterranean circuit for eternity, he guarantees his people will live on and flourish.
The guys ain’t buying it, and Superman tells him to take a flying leap. The giant robots approach, and Jeff Gordon is fearful that they’ll… damage his car. Really. A fifty-foot tall subterranean robot is approaching, and all this fool cares about is his paint job.
The gang all returns to their vehicles at Superman’s request. He tells them to split up heading in “every direction on the compass” while he handles the grown-up work.
Superman dives deep inside the Earth with his sights set on V’Tar. When he arrives, he destroys the generator that was powering the giant bots, stopping them in their tracks. He speaks to the citizens and promises that he will help them find a better way. Considering how we haven’t heard a peep from or about V’Tar and Kaldra since, I’m gonna assume it slipped Supes’ mind.
Superman flies back up, and several days later attends the Indianapolis 500. He is surprised to find that all of the drivers have joined forces in the Superman Racing Team, and have painted their cars to match. Superman is flattered, and heads up to the stands to watch the event.
I try to keep things positive here at the ol’ blogstead. It’s one of the things for which I’ve received critical feedback. Perhaps I do, at times, overlook flaws or missteps in storytelling and art… but I do so as to accentuate any and all positives an issue may have, while downplaying as many of the negatives as I can get away with.
I truly believe that no comics professional, upon bellying up to their creation-station… whether that be the drawing board or the keyboard, thinks to themselves “Today I’m going to create a bad comic book”. Taking part in a creative endeavor which serves as consumable entertainment is a terribly difficult task, and at times I guess I feel uncomfortable calling a spade a spade.
With all that having been said… this was a pretty bad issue. At least the horrendous Superman Meets the Quik Bunny issue was fun to write about. Superman Meets the Motorsports Champions was not fun to read nor write about. I have a hard time blaming the creative team, as I know full well that they are capable of so much more, including several favorites of mine. Under the constraints of including the Motorsports champs, the story becomes somewhat hamstrung in giving them as much “screen time” as possible. Again, if I were familiar with any of them, this may very well have been a positive. Alas, I don’t know any of these fellas from Adam… and at this point, I don’t even have enough interest to type their names into Google.
For Superman (or NASCAR) completionists only.