Adventures of Superman #549 (1997)

Adventures of Superman #549 (August, 1997)
“The Gang’s All Here!”
Writer – Karl Kesel
Penciller – Stuart Immonen
Inker – Jose Marzan, Jr.
Letterer – Albert De Guzman
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Separations – Digital Chameleon
Associate Editor – Mike McAvennie
Editor – Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $1.95

Today we’ve got a double-decker “1st Issue Special: Where Are They Now?” where we discuss an issue featuring two groups who were introduced back in that mid-seventies series.  One of whom’s first appearance… still eludes me.

We’ve got Newsboys!
We’ve got Dingbats!
We’ve got Arsonists!
and also…
We’ve got Boy Millionaires!

We open in Metropolis, and it’s just after midnight.  Superman is… on patrol, which is something altogether new to him.  Ya see, this is during the Electric Blue era, and he no longer has super-hearing/vision to rely on, and he’s actually gotta go “pound the pavement” should he want to be where he’s needed.  I really dig this… one of the more nuanced differences during this era, and I’m happy to see it mentioned.  Anyhoo, he’s stood atop the Goldberg Theatre, and witnesses a car-full of fellas rushing in to “teach some punks”… a lesson, I suppose.  Either way, Superman heads inside… and finds himself in the middle of just about the cutest rumble ever… it’s the Newsboy Legion versus, get this… The Dingbats of Danger Street!

Superman injects himself into the middle of the action and pulls Newsboy Scrapper and Dingbat Krunch apart.  It seems there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding, with both gangs thinking the Goldberg is “their turf”.  After a stern talking-to, the disparate groups decide to enact a 24-hour truce… and then start making fun of Jimmy Olsen, for reasons I don’t entirely remember.

Speaking of Superman’s Pal, we join him… shiner and all, while he chats up Cat Grant.  I’m assuming something bad happened to him on camera… but, it’s been so long since I read this era that I don’t recall what.  Whatever it was, it left him with a black eye… so there’s that.  Cat hands him a copy of the Daily Planet, with a Lois Lane-written cover story discussing Intergang… and their mysterious new mob boss.

Speaking of Intergang, we join them… mysterious new boss and all!   They ain’t taking too kindly to the bad press, and decide it’s time for a man named “Torch” to deliver a message to “a skirt” named Lois Lane.  Hmm…

Speaking of Lois Lane, we join her… house guest and all!  She arrives home to greet her husband, and has brought with her… Lori Lemaris!  They reacquaint for a bit, and he shares with her that when not in his Electric Blue form, he has zero superpowers… he is basically just a human dude when not all bzzzted up.  She’s visiting because she’s heading to South America the next day for some work-study.  Wait, she’s… still in College?  What is she, me?

Outside, Jimmy Olsen skulks about.  Upon realizing that he’s outside of the Kent apartment building, he considers heading upstairs to chat them up… that is, if they’ll still speak with him.  Man, he must’ve really messed up… I gotta track down just what this fool did to get everyone so peeved!  Anyhoo, before he can head inside… there’s a hyooge explosion!

Upstairs, Lori instinctively heads for the fire escape… only to find that it’s been… removed!  Turns out Intergang tough-guy Rough House just pulled the damn thing right off the building!  Jimmy runs to a pay phone to make a call… and finds that he’s only got enough coinage to make one call.  Seeing this as his opportunity for redemption. he decides to call his camerawoman, Angie.  Oh, he asks her to call the fire department… I guess they charge for 9-1-1 calls in Metropolis.

Inside 1938 Sullivan Place, Clark has blued-up and is helping to gather the residents.  The stairs are too full of smoke to consider taking… and so, he loads them all into an elevator, and uses his magneto-powers to deliver them to safety.  Are there really only a half-dozen people living in this apartment building?  Talk about an exclusive piece of real estate!

On the street, Lois, Lori and Superman meet up with Jimmy and Angie… and Jimmy asks where Clark is.  Lois and Lori stammer for a bit, and say that Superman saved him first… which causes Jimmy’s “freckle sense” to tingle.  How come Superman always seems to save Clark Kent first?  Hmm…

Superman considers for a moment that Jimmy might not be as dumb as everyone thinks… and corrects Lois and Lori, claiming that Clark is actually still inside the building looking for stragglers who didn’t get that all-expense paid elevator ride to safety.  Of course, this means Superman’s gotta head back into the smoke trap… where he, transforms back to Clark Kent… annnnnd succumbs to smoke inhalation.  Whoops.

Luckily, a firefighter is able to… actually rescue him.  That’s not something we see everyday.  This entire ordeal has been captured on film by Jimmy’s girl Angie, which will be important in a bit.  Jimmy’s happy to see Clark… but can’t help but wonder, whatever happened to the Man of (Beyond) Tomorrow?  Uh-oh.

We pick up with Lois picking up Clark from the hospital, where he’d been admitted for smoke inhalation.  Gotta wonder how a hospital visit for a “human” Clark Kent might go… but it’s probably best not to think too hard.  Clark realizes the mortality these new powers bring… and decides to visit Emil Hamilton to see if there’s any ETA on his “real” powers returning.  Bad news, Big Blue… that ain’t ever gonna happen!  Yeah, yeah, I know… but let’s play along.

We begin our wrap up back at the Goldberg, where it’s current owner Mr. DeBris is ticked off about the damage done by the Dingbats and Newsboys.  Superman arrives on the scene just in time to introduce a crew of V.I.P.s he’d invited to help with the renovations… annnnnd it’s The Green Team!  Worth noting… their “Green Machine” chopper lands on Simon Street.

They take one look at the “Goldboig”, and drop two-million in cold hard cash at Mr. DeBris’ feet.  Now he can afford to renovate the old dilapidated theatre into a youth center… with room enough for both the Newsboy Legion and the Dingbats of Danger Street!

Our story ends in the office (or work space) of Jimmy Olsen, where he is watching back the footage from the Sullivan fire.  Cat pops her head in to give him some kudos… and suggests he’s better suited for “behind the camera” work.  Jimmy pauses the tape on the scene where Clark is being helped out of the building… and suddenly realizes that… he knows who Superman is!  Keep in mind there are two other fellas on screen when he says this.

Had a whole lotta fun with this one… and not just because of the 1st Issue Special alumnus.  This was just a really neat snap-shot of Electric Blue era Superman.

Let’s start with the molecular/physiological changes in the Man of Steel himself.  This era gets a lot of flack online… and I’d venture to say, the loudest complainers probably never read a single issue of it.  It’s certainly not my favorite… but even back then, we knew it was a temporary thing (despite what Emil Hamilton would have us believe).  I couldn’t imagine this story occurring in our contemporary (somewhat toxic) world of social media.  Manoman, the creators would be getting harassed on a daily basis.  Oof, I cringe just thinking about it.

But, I digress.  This issue handles the changes wonderfully… masterfully, even!  It’s not beating us over the head with “different!” but actually places Superman into situations where the changes can be spotlit.  I mean, our opening has him “on patrol”… as though he were Batman or something.  I think that’s really cool, and makes him a “fish out of water” while still in his own pond… or something… that analogy might’ve gotten away from me.

The smoke inhalation is a great way to illustrate a potential weakness subtly, without having him… I dunno, get shot… or stabbed.  I feel like this shows his “everyday” mortality… it makes a reader wonder… can he now get sick?  Can he now be poisoned (by something that isn’t Kryptonite)?  What would’ve happened if he transformed back into Electric Blue with lungs full of smoke?  Would it burn out… or would there be an even worse adverse effect?  Definitely some food for thought here.

The Jimmy subplot has the potential to be a goodie… but, since it’s Jimmy… I’m always going to err on the side of “silly”.  It’s been forever since I’ve read this era, but I’m already bracing for Jimmy to proclaim that the guy who helped Clark out of the building is really Superman.  It’s always gotta be silly.  Seems like they want to “serious” him up every now and again… perhaps most recently during New Krypton.  Of course that was all wiped away in the Summer of 2011.

Okay, now for the reason I dug this book out of the longbox… We get to see the Dingbats of Danger Street and the Green Team: Boy Millionaires.  If the DC Wikia is accurate… this is the Dingbats third (and final) appearance, ever!  Their first was in 1st Issue Special, their second was in issue #6 of Hero Hotline (I really ought to finish that series off!)… and this is where they wound up!  I guess we can just assume that they’re still hanging out in the Goldboig T’eatuh.  This is also listed as the final appearance of the (original) Green Team!  Weird… and random!  Maybe there was a dare going around the DC offices to include some off-the-wall characters into an issue or something.  Whatever the reason, I was glad to see them!

Overall, I think this was a really good issue.  If you have even a passing interest in what “Electric Blue” Superman was all about, you could do far worse than checking this one out.  I’m somewhat surprised that this is available digitally!  Definitely worth a look.

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