Superman #186 (1966)

Superman #186 (May, 1966)
“The Two Ghosts of Superman!”
“Clark Kent, Gangster!”
Writers – Otto Binder & Leo Dorfman
Artists – Curt Swan & Al Plastino
Editor – Mort Weisinger
Cover Price: $0.12

For today’s spooky spectacular we’ve got ourselves a double feature.  Only one of which features g-g-g-ghosts, but we’ll cover’em both anyway.

Before we get down to it just wanna say, this is my first issue of a DC Comics with dem boffo Go-Go Checks… which makes me a lot happier than I think it ought to.

Our first tale opens on a splash page featuring Lois, Lana, and Superman attending a seance wherein Jor-El is warning his son (from beyond the grave) that he will perish if he goes through with a particular experiment… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  The story actually begins some time earlier, as Clark Kent is approached by a reformed crook called “Flashy” Fisher.  The Flash-man wants Clark to get a hold of Superman to help find Captain Kidd’s undersea treasure.  He claims to have been told its location from the good Captain’s ghost… and what’s more, tells Clark he’ll cut Superman in for ten-percent.

Clark uses his x-ray vision to read through Superman’s fan-mail… which is great.  Two great big sacks full of letters marked “Superman Mail”.  Anyhoo, he finds a map with the location of Captain Kidd’s lost treasure… and so, he heads to the Ocean floor… where he punches a shark and finds a chest full’a doubloons!  Well, hot damn, Superman’s gonna use his 10% to buy the neighborhood kids an astrodome!

As Flashy leaves with his “earnings”, he luckily drops a business card with the name of a Seer… Sir Seer, in fact.  With a name like that, I guess his career options were somewhat limited, eh?

That evening, Superman does a bit of a stakeout at Mr. Seer’s creepy looking abode.  He watches as a group of men gather around a table… with a crystal ball on it, naturally.  A Duke Cooper asks to speak with the ghost of the outlaw Jesse James… and wouldn’tcha know it, Jesse shows up and reveals the location of some of his own gold.  Superman is surprised that he can’t seem to figure out how Seer made an actual ghost appear, as he cannot see any “strings”.  

Superman heads out to the small deserted island… which, ya know… is totally where a wild west outlaw would stash his gold, right?  Anyhoo, he fights off a pair of mountain lions, and uncovers a whole lotta gold dust.

The next day, Clark is waiting for Duke Cooper to arrive… and already has a check in hand for the amount of the findings… minus 10%.  He decides it’s time for him to see the Seer, and find out first hand what his scheme is.  The following day, he takes his best gals and takes in a seance.  Lois chooses the object of the conjuring, and it is Queen Isabella of Spain.

Initially, Sir Seer is unable to make contact… he mutters some spoo about the psychic vibrations being outta whack.  Suddenly, the form of Queen Isabella incorporates above the crystal ball.  She says that her lost treasures were buried in a cave of some… oh, screw it… it’s in the Batcave.

Now this is awesome and ridiculous.  Clark’s all, hey I’m pals with Superman… and he’s tight with Batman, let’s all go to the Batcave!  And they friggin’ do!  Batman allows these goofballs, plus Lois a newspaper reporter and Lana a television news reporter, to just sashay into the Batcave… where, despite his insistence otherwise, Superman is able to locate Isabella’s stolen treasure.

The next night, Clark Kent skips the seance… instead Superman accompanies Lois and Lana.  He asks Sir Seer if he can call forth his Kryptonian father, Jor-El.  Shortly, Jor’s image appears… he warns his son not to conduct a certain weapons experiment the following day, otherwise the Fortress of Solitude will not only explode, but it will turn to Kryptonite.

Superman’s all “screw that noise”, and insists he will conduct the experiment anyway… not only that, he’s going to take Clark Kent with him to watch!  The next day, Lois and Lana decide to hang out just around the time of Superman’s proposed experiment.  Right on time, the Earth starts shaking like mad… over the radio comes the report that this was the worst violent tremor in recorded history… and it originated in the Arctic… uh oh!

LL Dance Party!

Days go by, and both Superman and Clark Kent are nowhere to be found.  Lois and Lana are approached by Sir Seer, who wants to try and make contact with either Clark or Superman.  They both agree, and the seance is on.  They are shocked to learn that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same!  This really begs the question of why was this revealed here?  It really has nothing to do with anything… Anyhoo, Superclark spills the beans about his secret identity and laments the fact that without his presence on Earth, “crime would have a holiday”.

Well, that’s all Sir Seer needed to hear!  He is, in actuality, the leader of the… ahem… Spirit Gang… *snort*.  He tells all the goofballs in his gang that Superman is outta the picture, and to go run amok!  It’s great, they all gather around Superman, Supergirl, and the Supermen of Kandor’s gravesite… like, really?  One of the thugs lets out a raucous “Yippeeee!” at the news.

The crime holiday doesn’t last all that long, as Superman makes his triumphant return… like, right away.  He confronts Seer, and reveals how he figured it all out.  It has a lot to do with satellites, and whoziwhatsits… stuff that’s way over my head.  He continues, saying that he used his Super-Ventriloquism and Super-Projector-Vision with the Queen Isabella coin to make that magic happen… which, let’s get this straight… he was Clark Kent that night… is he really telling Sir Seer all this?  Anyhoo… he talks about getting Batman in on the act, and then projecting Jor-El’s visage by projecting a tiny painting he had of his father done on his fingernail… Ay yai yai.  The Earthquake, if you were wondering, was caused by Superman and Supergirl going underground and flying toward one another at great speeds… and knockin’ noggins!

We wrap up our ghostly tale with Sir Seer in prison.  The kindly guards allow the poor fool to have his crystal ball with him in his cell… dunno if ya wanna do all that.  Back at the Planet, Clark gives a half-assed excuse about him and Superman not being the same guy, and Lois… super investigative reporter that she is, buys it hook, line, and sinker… wonk wonk wonkkkkk.

Our second titanic tale… don’t worry, y’all… this one doesn’t have any g-g-g-ghosts… opens with the newspaper deliverymen going on strike.  Perry White calls a meeting… shutting down the Daily Planet until further notice… wow, that’s hardcore.  Our three favorite staff members clean out their desks and decide what to do with their lives while the strike is on.  Lois says she’ll finally write that novel… Jimmy’s going to… waitasec… tour his “fan clubs” around the country and give anti-crime lectures… the hell?  And Clark can’t decide if he should become a policeman, a cowboy, or a bum!  Seriously.

As Clark ponders, a car goes careening past him, and continues until it plunges into the drink.  Superman is there in record time and rescues the driver.  We learn that the driver is Pete the Pen Man, the greatest counterfeiter goin’.  Superman is shocked at just how much this hood looks like him… he’s only a scar and mustache away from Pen-ville.  The thug will be in a coma “for weeks”, and Superman asks the officers to keep it all hush-hush.

Superman has decided to go all Matches Malone on us… he’s gonna go undercover in the organized crime world.  That night he dons his fake mustache and scar and “prowls the waterfront”.  Here he meets Kid Spade, a crooked gambler.  He’s able to talk him into meeting the man in charge, “Pills” Paley… who is poppin’ pills as he gets a massage from a swarthy looking chap.  Clark introduces himself as Pete the Pen Man, and is given a copy of the Gettysburg Address to copy to prove it.  Here we learn that Superman can forge any handwriting he’d like.

His next gig is counterfeiting hundred-dollar bills… and, whattayaknow, he’s able to do that too!  Only problem here is, they don’t have the right kind of paper to make bills.  Here we meet Nitro Nick, a vault-cracker… who’s going to crack a vault with the precious papers inside… hey, Nick, Why don’t you just blow up a bank vault?  Anyhoo… he blows the vault, only to find Superman inside… poor Nick does not pass go or collect $200.  I love that Superman actually escorts these thugs to the police station, and watches them get arrested.  So weird.

Next job is crafting a phony police badge… ya know, like all “pen men” do.  Clark overhears that the baddies, who if I haven’t mentioned it yet, call themselves Larceny Incorporated… are going to pull the ol’ Human Fly trick to steal some jewels from on board the S.S. Columbus.  Unfortunately for these geeks, Superman is there to put a stop to it.

Clark’s next job… and this one’s a doozy… is to copy the Declaration of Independence.  Really, now?  The main event has “Pills” sending one of his goons in to swap the phony document with the real-deal, which just so happens to be on display at Metropolis City Hall… ya see, they’re celebrating their bicentennial… which tells me that Metropolis was founded in 1766.  Learn something new every day!

Now, none of the goons have the guts to go through with it.  Superman just seems to have their number, and none wanna risk it… none, that is… except for… I wanna call him Paste-Pot Pete… but that’s not his name… Pete the Pen Man… yeah, him!  Later, “Pete” hands over the Declaration… which leads to “Pills” and company invading the television station threatening to set the United States’ “most precious document” ablaze if he doesn’t receive one-million smackers… delivered to him by Superman himself!

Well, Superman is on the scene toot-sweet… but he don’t got the dough.  That’s fine, Pills triggers a mechanism and burns the Declaration to ashes… kinda giving up his one bargaining chip there, right?  Not that it matters, it wasn’t the real one anyway… anyone see that coming?  Pete the Paste Pot Pen Man reveals that he and Superman were one in the same!  The entirety of, heh, Larceny Incorporated goes to jail.  News of these exploits take the cover of the first edition of the Daily Planet to be released following resolution of the strike.

Man, the Silver Age was weird.  I mean, today we’ve got some weird comics… but they’re usually written as expressly so.  Back then?  Shoot, every-damn-thing was weird.  Just so goofy and fun… but sorta kinda maddening at the same time.  This stuff really feels like stories I would have written when I was in elementary school.

Hey, let’s reveal Superman’s secret identity!  What, again?  Yeah, sure… we’ve got some half-assed excuses to get out of it.  It’s all a trick… all an illusion!  Yup, ten-year old Chris would’ve been all over that!

I love how all Silver-Age villains seem to have team names… the Spirit Gang… Larceny Incorporated…. just wild stuff here.  So silly, but… and this is the magic part… it’s all played straight!  If something like that were to occur today (or hell, anytime after 1980), it would be in an ironic sorta way… just a writer telling the reader how silly comics used to be… and just how clever they are now.

There was a lot of really convenient stuff happening here… in both stories.  It’s really kind of hard to get into the gestalt of when these were written.  I mean, this is all about 15-years before I was even a thought.  The goings-on in here would be something a writer today would be taken to task for… but, I really can’t hold that against it.  I had fun reading it, and really can’t ask for much more.  I’m sure if I were a kid in 1966, I’d feel like my 12-cents was well spent after reading this.

I learned a few things from this issue.  Metropolis was founded in 1766.  Jimmy Olsen has a nationwide fan club?!?!  Superman and Supergirl can cause Earthquakes by headbutting one another… 

Actually… let’s stay there for a bit.  Now, this was the highest magnitude Earthquake in the recorded history of the Earth, right?  It happened in the Arctic… and was felt in Metropolis.  This all begs the question… how many poor folks died, were injured, lost family members or their homes because of this stunt?  The death toll should be in the thousands from just a catastrophic event, right?   Gotta figure… and all to catch some old geek called Sir Seer?  Really, Superman?  Why didn’t you just toss the old man into the Sun and be done with it?  Instead you risk destroying the entire planet… c’mon…

Overall… I guess I can give my cop-out response.  This was fun… in a Silver-Age kinda way.  Not gonna rock your socks, but you could definitely do worse.

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