Action Comics #454 (December, 1975)
“The Campus That Swallowed Itself!”
Story – Cary Bates & Martin Pasko
Art – Curt Swan, Jose Delbo & Tex Blaisdell
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
Today we’re going to discuss another from the “wouldja lookit that cover!” file… because, well… wouldja lookit that cover!
We open with the Toyman… that is the 1975-Toyman, running out of the Metropolis City Bank… loot in hand. It’s not long before Superman arrives to save the day, and it’s looks as though he’s about to make short-work of the costumed creep, when he is hit with a tiny hooked line attaches to Superman’s belt… after which, the Toyman swings him around and sends him flying!
We’re going to assume that scene that follows happens a bit later on, as it is Clark Kent delivering the evening news report… on Superman’s battle with the Toyman! He sends the show to commercial break… and takes a nap while the cameras quit rolling. Unfortunately for him (and Morgan Edge) when the cameras click on again, all of Metropolis sees their ace anchorman snoozing away.
After the show, Lois picks Clark up to take him to a Solar Energy Research fund-raiser dinner, at which he proceeds to devour just about every bit of food in the place… even, to Lois’ embarrassment, picking food off of other peoples’ plates! It’s the only way he can replace all of the calories he’s burning.
After stuffing his face, he passes out. When he wakes up, he’s back at his apartment. He doesn’t quite understand why his stamina is so shoddy… as he’s just as strong as ever. And so, in his sleepy state, he decides to go for a flight. He happens past a Mactavish’s restaurant… which is just an ersatz McDonald’s, but judging from the cover… you didn’t need me to tell you that. A bolt of lightning strikes a tree outside the restaurant… and Superman expels his last remaining energy pulverizing it to bits before it hurt anybody. He stumbles into the joint, and orders a whoooole bunch’a burgers. Like, a billion… if the sign outside the place can be believed. After this, he blows most of his salary on food… and proceeds to chow down in front of the television set.
On the TV is news that the Toyman is at it again! And so, Superman gets himself in gear and heads out. He chases the baddie as he escapes from the Federal Reserve. I’m not sure if this speaks highly for the Toyman, or poorly for bank security… this dude’s a joke, and he’s stolen several million dollars in the past two days! Before Superman can catch up, the Toyman hurls anti-gravity bubbles at the Man of Steel… which sends him into orbit!
Moments later, a fully-powered Superman returns to take the Toyman down… but how can that be? Well, after arresting the creep, Superman heads to S.T.A.R. Labs… and we learn that there’s something fishy going on with solar energy. Superman can’t hold on to his power… and that fund-raiser from earlier was due to problems the solar plants were experiencing. When the anti-grav bubbles brought Superman into space… he was suddenly at full-power. Which means that the problem has something to do with the Earth! You follow? Cuz I think I’m lost!
And so, Superman dons his special Super-Solar-Cell outfit… to become the Human Solar Battery Superman! After which, he burrows deep into the Earth…
… where he finds the culprit! It’s a freak-metal hybrid that absorbs the Sun’s energy at incredible rates. Superman approaches it, and decides his best course of action would be to wrap his Super-Solar-Cell duds around it… and whattaya know, it works! We wrap up with Clark and Jimmy walking past an unbelievably crowded MacTavish’s restaurant. It’s covered with “Superman Ate Here” posters, and the sign that previously read “Over 9 Billion Served” now reads “Over 10 Billion Served”… Super-appetite, indeed!
Our back-up story stars the Atom this time around, and opens with him approaching his fiancee, Jean Loring’s apartment. Before he can enter, he hears Jean engaging in some lovey-dovey talk… he bursts in to find… that she’s talking to her plants! Wonk wonk. We get caught up on something that happened last issue… involving a machine called “the actualizer”.
We advance to later that evening, where Ray and Jean are holed up in an Ivy University office. Outside the… ivy is creeping up the building, and destroying various quads. Ray advises Jean to hang back and… talk to the ivy, as he Atom’s up (or Atom’s down, maybe) to go search for… the actualizer!
We get a flashback to how this all started… turns out a disgruntled groundskeeper thought to himself that he wished the buildings would be torn down… thoughts which were picked up by “the actualizer” and made real! Back in the present, the Atom aims “the actualizer” at Jean while she sweet talks the ivy.
At this point, Ray remembers that there is a night class going on… and so, he heads over to aid in the evacuation. All’s well that ends well… and we wrap up with Atom smashing “the actualizer” with a hammer.
Bronze-Age Superman kinda runs hot and cold with me… though, I will admit that I haven’t read all that much of it. Sometimes the stories are silly and enjoyable… sometimes they’re just silly. This one started silly-strong, but kinda ended with a silly whimper.
Don’t get me wrong, anytime Superman hops into a strange set of duds, I think it’s great… even if it’s a frogman suit covered in tiny solar panels. It’s just that from there… the story just kind of ended. He immediately found the cause of the problem… and solved it by wrapping his clothes around it. Eh.
The stronger parts all had to do with Superman/Clark konking out and pigging out. The implication that Supes’ lunch consisted of a BILLION hamburgers is too much of a hoot for me to dislike. I’m not really sure how I feel about Superman referring to Clark Kent as though he were a different person. The scene where he’s chomping down in front of the television he says that he spent “most of Clark Kent’s salary”. I’m probably reading too much into it… but, that “disconnected” feeling between his two personas kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.
The Toyman was probably the best choice for villain for this story. He’s just so laughable and silly… and for the first two-thirds of the issue, we really thought he (somehow) had Superman’s number. Nice misdirection.
The backup was… well, it was an Atom backup. We’ve already discussed a couple of them here… and they’re all forgettable. If I’m being honest, this one was sort of a chore to get through… it was that “weak” silly. Given how abruptly the Superman lead-off story ended… I’d definitely have preferred that they used the Atom pages to give a more fleshed out wrap up.