Action Comics #531 (1982)

Action Comics #531 (May, 1982)
“The Devil… and The Daily Planet!”
“no time off for Heroes!”
Writers – Marv Wolfman & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers – Joe Staton & Alex Saviuk
Inkers – Frank McLaughlin & Vince Colletta
Letterers – Ben Oda & Shelly Leferman
Colorists – Gene D’Angelo & Tom Ziuko
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60

Heyyy, Happy Halloween!

I was originally going to close out this horror-ible month with a comic that featured one of the few things on this planet that scares the bejeezus out of me.  Not the taxman, not even morning traffic… cannibals!  Was going to cover a mid-nineties Vertigo one-shot featuring a family of travelling cannibals.  Well, that got pretty grim… pretty fast, and I didn’t wanna wrap up our Boo Haunted Blog special with anything too heavy… so I decided to go back to old reliable Action Comics.

We open in the midst of an afternoon meeting at The Daily Planet offices in the Galaxy Building.  The deal is, Morgan Edge has decided to sell the flagging paper to the President of Maxman Publishing, Mort Waxman.  He believes that nobody reads the paper anymore because it’s got too much “news” and not enough “sexy secrets”.  If it were up to him… and it soon will be, headlines like “Superman Captures Brainiac” would be replaced by “Superman’s Six Sexy Secrets“.  Ooh la la.  Anyhoo, the meeting is adjourned, and at the same time a strange ethereal fog fills the subbasement… which houses the Planet’s printing presses.

Our favorite gang of newsfolk hop in the elevator and head down to the lobby.  There’s something amiss in the electrics, and the elevator jams for a bit.  When it starts up again, it bypasses the lobby and deposits them into the Records Room below.  Gotta figure there’s oodles of microfiche stashed down there!  Jimmy notices a framed copy of the first edition of The Daily Planet, and brings attention to the printer’s apprentice, Jeremiah Odets who is notable for writing the first Planet headline… and for dying on the job when a paper roll made him all flat.

We shift back upstairs and find Morgan Edge and Mort Waxman having similar elevator woes, before returning to the gang.  They are confronted by a ghost who informs them that the “Planet will never die”.  Back upstairs, Edge and Waxman start on their eight-story trek down the stairs when they too find themselves before the same apparition.  It isn’t long before the bosses meet the staffers down below.

Lois and Clark start chatting.  Lois asks Clark why he always acts so cowardly… because, she happens to know that deep down, he’s not.  She asks him what his secret is… however, before he can answer… a Frankenstein-esque monster arrives on the scene.  Lois is quickly kayoed… or faints, it’s not clear which.  Using the sudden privacy to his advantage, Clark changes into his “work clothes”.  The monster turns his attention to the Man of Steel, and performs a mighty hand-clap which sends him flying.  Superman concludes that this Frankenstein must have powers based in magic.

We shift to Jimmy and Perry who are having a conversation about just what the paper means to them, taking into consideration their disparate generations.  They hear a cry… or a moan… and head off to check it out.  What they discover is a beautiful woman.

They are then swarmed by demons!

Superman is back in action, and is taking in all of the strange events occurring.  A plume of smoke begins curling around him.  He fights it for a moment, but decides perhaps his best bet would be in allowing it to carry him away.  After his “flight”, his mind is left at ease.  He recognizes all of the critters as fictional characters from gothic literature.  He deduces that they are not there to hurt the Planet staffers… they are instead, there as a presentation for Mr. Waxman.

Well, Waxman ain’t buying it… because he’s an ass.  Even though he sees all this supernatural hooptydoo, he’s still all about that sweet cash.  The monsters vanish… only to be replaced by a ghostly form of a young man.  The ghost apologizes for frightening them before turning his attention to Waxman… a man with a soul corrupted by greed.  He threatens to keep rising from the grave if Waxman spoils The Daily Planet… and the rotund baddie promises to leave and never come back.  Well, that was easy!

The ghost boy leaves… and suddenly Waxman is ready to talk business once more.  It is left to Morgan Edge of all people to tell ol’ Mort to shove off once and for all.

The story wraps up with a printer delivering a “tear sheet” that had just come off the presses… and he wanted to know who printed it.  The headlines reads “Daily Planet Saved” and the byline reads Jeremiah Odets!

Our backup story stars the Atom, Ray Palmer.  We open as he and his wife Jean Loring are boating off the shores of Curacao.  Ray mentions that Aquaman had just left… and suddenly a whirlpool forms below them.  Ray is knocked into the water where he comes face to face with a bunch of glowing miniature nuclear reactions.

The whirlpool disperses, and Ray rises to the surface.  He hops back on the boat, and shortly he and the Mrs. arrive at their island destination.  After they come ashore, Green Lantern zaps their boat away for safe keeping.  We learn that the Palmers are here to attend a Nuclear Physicist Convention of some sort… though Jean would much rather spend her time shopping.

The Palmers run into Ray’s friends the Nardellos.  Here we get a shocking twist… or at least it’s treated like one… It’s Mrs. Madeline Nardello who’s the brains of that family.

The couple heads to the floating bridge “Queen Emma”, where they find themselves in the midst of a police action.  A pair of thieves run off with a dufflebag, and so Ray “Atoms” up to give chase.  He asks an officer to throw him at the crooks… and so he does.

After taking care of business, Ray opens the bag… only to find it’s storing a nuclear device!  What’s more… it’s been activated!  Uh-oh.

This was a pretty good time.  Not socks-rocking or anything, but decent enough.  I can definitely see how folks were getting bored of Superman comics during this era, however, there is a certain novelty to reading them after growing up post-Crisis.

That said… it was pretty much a nothing story.  The ghost of an original Planet staffer haunts the joint to stop a takeover from a man wanting to report dirt and sensationalism rather than actual news… so, he kinda wanted to make it into what news sources turned into anyway.  Ol’ Waxman was truly ahead of his time!

That was pretty much it, however.  Nothing special… felt like pure “can fit in anywhere” time-filler/killer.  I will say it was interesting to see Morgan Edge being a “good guy” here.  That isn’t something I expected, though it was a welcome element.

The Atom backup story was another… “just kinda there” story.  Not offensively bad nor notably good.  I guess it was cool that it was a story featuring a different hero, rather than the inventory-seeming Superman shorties that usually wrap up issues of Action Comics and Superman of this era.

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