Action Comics #581 (October, 1981)
“If I Can’t Be Clark Kent… Nobody Can!”
“Catastrophe by Calculation!”
Writers – Martin Pasko & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers – Curt Swan & Alex Saviuk
Inkers – Frank Chiaramonte & Vince Colletta
Colorists – Gene D’Angelo & Tom Ziuko
Letterer – Todd Klein
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60
We are currently less than a week away from our SIX-HUNDREDTH daily post here… sooo, howsabout we check back in on the story we discussed for our Five-Hundredth?
Looks like Spider-Man wasn’t the first blue-and-red wearing superhero who had a clone saga come home to roost!
We open with Superman crawling through a ventilation shaft at the Fortress of Solitude. The Fortress has vents? I wonder how the plumbing is! Anyhoo, he doesn’t remember how he got there… but knows that he’s definitely in the wrong place right now, as his day as Clark Kent should’ve already begun. He runs into the door to the Fortress… and nearly breaks his shoulder! Uh-oh. Gotta wonder what the best case scenario was there… Superman blowing the door off the hinges? Anyhoo… he now realizes he’s powerless, and instead of worrying too much, he hitches a ride to Metropolis on the back of a Superman Robot.
We join Clark in Metropolis where he considers it odd how he’s not worried about his amnesia and power-loss. Yeah, I consider that odd too. Anyhoo, Perry White calls him into his office to discuss a lead on a story. Turns out a chartered plane just crashed… with WGBS anchorman Dan Reed and a J. Robert Arngrim onboard. Arngrim? Where have we heard that name before?
Meanwhile somewhere in deep space, Superman is fighting a giant alien. B-b-but, how can that be?
While he captures the beastie, Clark reads through the Arngrim file… and recalls that he was there on the day the Superman Pavilion opened! Heyyy, I remember that… back during Action Comics #500 (not that we get a helpful footnote or anything), Lex Luthor trapped Superman and planned to replace him with… a clone!
It all starts flooding back for “Clark”… it’s only compounded when he looks out the window and sees
Spider-Man swinging by Superman flying by! As the real Clark Kent heads into the Daily Planet building, the “Clark” we’ve been following thus far slips out. Real Clark is confused when Lois heads up and talks to him as though he’s been there all day.
That night Superman returns home to his apartment… and finds, in his closet, a masked (and angry) individual wearing what appears to be a power-pack. A fight breaks out… and Superman is shocked to find that this baddie has similar powers… and voice to his own. The bad guy refers to himself as The Doppelganger! Superman severs the Dupe’s power-pack… rendering him powerless. Atop a jewelry store, the two men talk… and it is confirmed that the faux-Clark is… the clone! Wow, this is over a decade before bringing back clones was fashionable!
We find out what happened to him following the events of Action Comics #500. Superman took the clone back to the Fortress and checked in with Batman about what to do with him. Batman, rightfully, reminds him that the clone has all of Superman’s powers… and what’s more, all of his memories. He’s bad news, and needs to go. Superman feels that sending him to the Phantom Zone would be cruel and unfair. After all, it’s not the clone’s fault that he’s in this situation… he didn’t ask to be born, dad! And so, he… get this… locks him in a glass coffin “suspended animation cabinet”, which he fills with gas. Yeah, that’s so much better than the Phantom Zone.
The whole thing’s moot though… the Super-Clone was feigning unconsciousness, and broke out of the cabinet. He attempts to escape through the vent shaft and sets the cabinet to overload… and explode! The gases then fill the air vent he is crawling through… putting him to sleep for several months. Superman, the real one, believed that the explosion disintegrated the clone… however, he was just sleeping. Moving up to today… upon realizing that he is the clone, Duperman (somehow) returned to the Fortress and cannibalized a Superman Robot to make his power-pack suit. Ya follow all that?
Okay, with all of the exposition out of the way, Superman uses the jewel on the jewelry store sign to hypnotize the dupe… and then leaves him in his apartment until he can figure out what to do with him. But, get this… the Super-Clone was just faking it! No sooner does Superman leave, than the dupe vanishes.
The next day… we’ve got the opening of the Superman Museum… I swear one of these things open every year! Anyhoo, while Superman cuts the ribbon… an Earthquake strikes, and the building comes down. Wouldn’tcha know it, it’s the dupe… in a repaired power-pack suit. Superman gives chase… following the dupe back to his secret hideout… wait, what? Yeah, I guess in the few hours he’s been out he’s already set up a secret hideout in a cave.
Superman flies in, and right into a trap. This secret hideout just so happens to be equipped with a Kryptonite ray. The Dupe threatens to kill Superman… then take his spot. He finds that he enjoys living as Clark Kent… so, after killing the Real Steel Deal, he will make a single appearance in the blue and reds, just to announce his retirement… and from that point on, just live his life as a mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper. He offers Superman an “out”… if he relinquishes his Clark Kent persona, he will allow him to live.
Superman refuses… and so, the dupe goes to fill him full’a Kryptonite… but hesitates. He just can’t bring himself to do it. In his momentary hesitation, Superman uses his last erg of energy to blow the dupe’s hand with his Super-Breath… luckily the “pump full’a Kryptonite” lever is right next to the “Disengage Trap” button!
A now-freed Superman takes the fight to the dupe… walloping him and sending him flying out of the cavern. The clone falls a great distance and lands in a tree. Our story ends with the revelation that WGBS’s Dan Reed “survived” the plane crash. Lois is shocked, but Clark doesn’t appear all that surprised. Ya see, this isn’t really Dan Reed… he’s actually quite dead. Superman hired some plastic surgeons to modify the Super-Clone’s face to look like Dan Reed’s… then hypnotized the clone to believe he was really Dan Reed! Yeah, that seems like a great plan…
That story might be over, but we’re not done yet. Time for some Action-Plus, starring the Atom and Air-Wave! We open during the trial of supervillain The Calculator. A Professor Hyatt is on the witness stand, and states that the Calculator broke into his lab to steal his “Hurricane Harness”.
The Calculator sits by his attorney, and whispers “Where is the Hurricane Harness?”… which is picked up by the… get this… Micro-Speaker he’d planted in Hyatt’s ear… soooo, Hyatt answers the question, perhaps thinking the Prosecutor asked it? I guess?
The court goes into disorder… and the Calculator releases a Computerized Cacophony… in the form of the Space Invaders video game… which causes enough of a distraction for him to escape.
Ray Palmer, who is also present, uses the opportunity to shrink down. The Calculator throws him to the side on his way out… well, that was super-effective. Anyhoo, the Atom decides to make a phone call to his pal Hal in Dal…las. Hal Jordan that is… but not that one. We’re talking Air Wave here folks!
After a pit-stop at the Watchtower, the two heroes confront the Calculator before he can swipe the Hurricane Harness… annnnd, it’s pretty academic. Air Wave does his thing and shorts out the Calculator’s… er, calculator. The end.
Well, that was a bit of a surprise! I just grabbed this one because I thought the cover was cool… I had no idea we’d be following up the story from Action Comics #500! It wasn’t until I read the word “Arngrim” that it started to flood back. I knew I’d typed that name before… and postulated that it might be an anagram for something sinister or something.
So, let’s talk the Super-Clone… and the totally responsible ways in which Superman dealt with him. First, he locks him in a “suspended animation cabinet”… but doesn’t stick around long enough to make sure it “took”. That doesn’t seem like something Superman would do. I mean, he just walks out of the room while the gas is filling the cabinet. Weird.
Then… there’s an explosion, and Superman doesn’t “sense” his dupe anywhere… but doesn’t use his X-Ray vision to see if there might be a body hiding out in the vent shafts? That’s just begging for trouble, right?
Even in the present day… he hypnotizes the one dude who can make his entire world unravel, and just leaves him sitting in his apartment while he goes out on his rounds. I mean, could there possibly be anything more important going on right now than dealing with a Super-Clone? I’m all for pulling cats out of trees, but, I dunno… a possibly hypnotized Duperman sitting in my apartment might trump that.
Then there’s the ending… Superman hires plastic surgeons to make his dupe look like a dead anchorman. The surgeons didn’t ask any questions? Mr. Reed’s family didn’t ask any questions? How strong was this hypnosis… if the last one was unsuccessful? Any day now, the dupe could remember who he “really” is… and make things very difficult for Superman. This whole thing seems morally ambiguous… just not right.
The back-up strip… was a thing that happened… and a thing that I read. Really, outside of the neat Space Invaders effects, not a whole lot to discuss here. The Calculator is handily beaten by the super-team of the Atom and Air Wave. Not bad… but not really much to say.
Overall, for the weird clone madness, I’d say this one’s worth a read… especially if you’re already familiar with the events of Action Comics #500. It doesn’t look like this one has been made available digitally nor has it been collected.
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