Action Comics #581 (1986)

Action Comics #581 (July, 1986)
“Superman for a Day!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Artist – Kurt Schaffenberger
Letterer – Milt Snapinn
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75

Here’s a two-fer from the pre-Crisis era!  Not only will (yet) another person figure out Supes’ secret identity (seems to happen in most pre-Crisis Superman books I read), but we’ll also be introduced to the Man of Steel’s official legal counsel.

We open with Superman flying past S.T.A.R. Labs while many of Metropolis’ citizens look on in awe.  Among them is a young boy named Mark Traynor.  He is watching Superman from the S.T.A.R. Labs building where he is helping a team of researchers conduct a project on ESP.  He (apparently, like so many in the mid-1980’s) is an esper.

The doctors enter Mark’s room and proceed to hook him up to the requisite machinery.  Mark is super-excited to take part in the project, and promises that today he’ll give it his all… after all, he has himself the perfect “focus object”.

Mark has the ability to “inhabit” the minds of others, like he projects his consciousness into their minds, and can take a measure of control over the subject… so long as they’re within range.  We watch Mark focus with all his might, until he finally makes contact.

The scenes in which Mark inhabits Superman are all done in first-person view, which I feel really adds to the feeling of discomfort.  We’re behind Superman’s eyes, and are afforded the opportunity to see exactly what he sees.  In this case, what we see is a boat about to go under with a small crew of young people all clinging on for their lives.  Superman easily saves the folks, and returns their boat to the Metropolis docks… er, make that on to the Metropolis docks, whoops.

Next, Mark/we watch as Superman flies straight toward the WGBS building, where Clark Kent is an anchorman.  Superman enters through an open stock-room window, and changes into his Clark Kent togs, all the while Mark is “observing”.  It gets worse when Jimmy Olsen gives enters the room and refers to Superman as Clark.  It doesn’t take Mark long to put two and two together from this point… he’s figured out Superman’s secret identity.

Clark and Lois just happen to be set to conduct an interview that afternoon at S.T.A.R. Labs with a Dr. Yarnell.  They hop into a cab (that’ll be $5.25, pal!) and are greeted at the facility by a fretting lab assistant.  She informs them that they must reschedule.  Lois, being Lois, doesn’t take this too well.  Lucky for her, Yarnell arrives to give them an “off the record” scoop.

Yarnell is the Doctor conducting the ESP experiment with young Master Traynor… who, thanks to the video feed (on a one-hour delay) coming from Mark’s projected MMP, now knows he’s inhabited Superman’s body… and cannot get out!  Lois and Clark view the video of Superman saving the boaters, and without a word… Clark leaves.

He flies to his Fortress of Solitude, Mark-in-tow.  He uses his giant super computer to try to find a way to excise the lad from his consciousness.  Time is of the essence, once the video feed catches up to the discovery that Superman is in fact Clark Kent, the jig will be up.  With the help of S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman manages to slide Mark into his deep subconscious, almost “putting him to sleep” for awhile so that he may maintain complete control.

On the way “back from the Fortress”, Superman lets Mark back in as a ship of generic aliens starts an assault on Metropolis.  Superman attacks the ship, however, is too late to stop them from dropping a giant alien bomb on the city.  It lands and completely destroys Metropolis.

This causes Mark to wake up… he’s still at S.T.A.R., and the lab seat next to him is occupied by Superman.  He informs the lad that the alien and bomb scenario was simply a “mental fantasy” to facilitate their split.  With Mark awake and healthy… and claiming not to remember Superman’s secret identity, all’s well that ends well… The secret is safe, and Mark was able to be “Superman for a day”.

“Even a Superman Needs a Lawyer!”
Writer – Michael J. Wolff
Penciller – Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker – Dave Hunt
Letterer – Duncan Andrews
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Julius Schwartz

A shady-looking van occupied by a shady-looking man pulls up outside of South Metropolis Savings and Loan.  Inside we join attorney, Douglas Giddings (of Peekskill, Giddings, & Hank) as he uses his high-tech signal watch to receive clearance to a secret office.

As the clock strikes 10:00, Superman enters and they set about tending to some legal affairs.  Things like rights to his name and likeness, as well as some damage-control issues.

Moments later, the shady-van opens its side door revealing a cannon.  A gang of helmeted nerds blow a hole into the bank, and proceed inside.  Too bad for them, Superman is in the house.

After making his presence known, the geeks grab a hostage.  Before they can even finish their threat, Superman has rescued her.  The day is saved… 

Following the skirmish, Superman signs some legal documents for his lawyer, and up, up and aways… 

This is the perfect example of an issue that, when I was a kid, would have made me run right to Marvel.  Today, I can appreciate it far more… for what it is.  As a child, however, this is pretty much what I expected from DC Comics.  I thought the villains were all interchangeable, and the threats were weak.  Granted, this is just a one-off easily-digested issue… and, I rather enjoyed my time with it today, just definitely not what I would have been in the market for in my youth.

One thing that kind of stuck with me was in the opening panel, where Superman is thinking to himself how he’s actively tuning people out, simply because he’s had a hectic day.  That’s really not something I’d ever expect Superman to say/do.  This really lends credence to the thought that Superman is somehow above everyone else.  Something, that clearly goes without saying… but yet, should never be said.

Not really a whole lot to say about this one.  It’s pre-Crisis Superman… this issue can be read before or after just about any just-before Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman story without losing a step.  It’s silly and it’s fun… it’s well written, and looks very nice as well (the first-person bits were a great touch!).  If you dig Superman, you’ll probably dig this.

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0 thoughts on “Action Comics #581 (1986)

  • i have the bug watch from the first ad lol


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