Superman #362 (1981)

Superman #362 (August, 1981)
“The Last Days of Lois and Lana!”
“Metropolis: Day 1”
Writers – Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers – Curt Swan & Kurt Schaffenberger
Inkers – Frank Chiaramonte & Dan Adkins
Colorists – Adrienne Roy & Jerry Serpe
Letterer – John Costanza
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.50

Random Superman discussion… go!

We open with Superman arriving at the Metropolis Museum where Lois and Lana are already preparing for a news report on one of Professor Lang’s recent discoveries.  As Clark Kent, he enters to see the ladies admiring the exhibit.  Lana is holding a strange cloudy vial, and spooked by a bursting light rigging, goes all butterfingers.  The vial shatters… and moments later the trio begin to feel a little odd.

Superman performs an x-ray scan of his own forearm and discovers that the vial was full of ancient microbes which were somehow able to seep into his skin.  At this point, Professor Lang and Ms. Stanyon from the Museum enter the room… and, lemme tell ya, the Prof is ticked.  While he chides daughter Lana for her clumsiness, Clark conducts a 360-degree heat-vision sweep to wipe out the colony of critters.

Shortly, Clark excuses himself… and Lois notes that he’s gone white as a sheet ghost.  He heads out for some “air”… which Lois notes is nothing new… he seems to do that an awful lot.  C’mon Lane, it’s right on the tip of your tongue… Oh well.  Clark leaves, Supes up… and frantically flies to Smallville!  It seems he’s recognized this particular strain of microbe.

We join Superman as he sits in the kitchen of his childhood home at 321 Maple Street… just as he’s about to flash back to the last time he saw the microbes.  Ya see, not too terribly long ago, young Clark arranged for his Ma and Pa to go on a Caribbean vacation… where, while collecting seashells, they discovered a letter written by a Pegleg Morgan way back in 1717.

Curiosity getting the best of them, the Kents asked their Son to take them back in time to witness Pegleg making land live and in living color… and, he did!  Unfortunately, while they were in the past… Ma and Pa were exposed to a rare tropical fever plague!  This particular strain only affected adults… so, Clark was safe.

Superboy took to seeking out remedies from all over the world… even resorting to puncturing his own skin with a “super-hard” fingernail in order to attempt transfusing his Kryptonian blood into his folks.  He was unsuccessful… and his parents perished.

He would later learn that Pegleg’s letter/diary was also lousy with viral microbes… meaning he was very likely infected.  It also means that the Kents single-handedly brought an 18th Century plague into the present… so there’s that!  He figures that Lang’s newly-unearthed artifacts must have also had traces of the virus that claimed his folks.  Thankfully, young Clark made sure to use his heat-vision to decontaminate Pegleg’s diary, however, that’s not going to be much help to Lois and Lana.

Vowing not to lose another two important people in his life, Superman flies… with reckless abandon… to his Arctic Fortress of Solitude.  Have you noticed this particular story has been light on action?  Well, we’re about to fix that, because along the way… Superman’s intense speed sets off a sonic boom, triggering an avalanche which very nearly smothers a passenger train in Ontario, Canada.  Just in the nick of time, he realizes what he’d just done… and saves the day.

Enough action for ya?  No?  Okay, here’s a bit more… further along the way, we meet a “skyjacker” named Hegan, who extorts a ransom from a passenger plane crew… before parachuting into the tundra where he has a snowmobile stashed.  Just like him, we don’t need context where we’re going!

Luckily, Superman happened to be flying by at just that moment!  He catches the parachute… and flies Hegan right back to the plane, so the crew can turn him in to the authorities.  Not sure how safe it is to open the plane’s door in mid-flight, but I’m certainly no engineer.

Superman finally arrives at the Fortress, and with the aid of the Super-Computer, is able to deduce that Lois and Lana only have 72 hours before they succumb to the microbial fever virus.  And so, he sets up a mathematical projection of his lady-friends on the super computer… and heads out for an intergalactic scavenger hunt to procure a… cure!

We wrap up with Superman meeting with several dead-ends.  He uses his telescopic vision to watch Lois and Lana smiling and happy back in Metropolis, ignorant to the fact that they only have days to live.  Frustrated, Superman slams his fist into his hand… setting off a smaller sonic boom, which shatters the Fortress’s Lois and Lana statues… which, is probably just as well.  It’s pretty creepy that he has them in the first place!

Our backup story tells a tale from The In-Between Years… those days after Superboy flew over the skies of Smallville, but before Superman made his grand debut.  On this day, Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis as an incoming Freshman at Metropolis University.

As he gets off the bus, he witnesses a great panic… students and faculty alike are fleeing from the school.  An officer informs young Clark that the Campus is closed due to a(nother) bomb threat… which is blamed on anti-war activists.  Remember, Clark’s college days (circa publication in 1981) were during the Vietnam War.  Young Clark Supes up, and collects all of the bombs placed around the Campus, and is able to get two of three before they go boom.

No big deal though.  Flying at super-speed, Superboyman is able to keep the explosion contained.  He pops out of sight just as Lieutenant Henderson and plucky Daily Planet reporter, Perry White arrive.  They both have a sneaking suspicion that they might have a certain strange visitor helping them out.

With the bomb threat out of the way, Clark checks into his dorm and meets his roommates, which includes a hippie… complete with a peace-sign sweatshirt!  As they get acquainted, wouldn’tcha know it… another bomb threat!  Clark is confused, as he “super-watched” Henderson round up the bombers earlier that day.

Using his x-ray vision, Clark deduces that there isn’t a bomb threat at all!  Just some burglars who called in the threat to clear the dorms so they could rob them!  Moments later, Supermanboy catches the baddies… and super-blows them out the window!  Luckily, none of them are killed by the fall, landing softly atop a police car.

We wrap with Henderson and White confirming that they’re on the same “thought-beam” about uperboySay… and Clark showing his new roommates his treasured autographed photo of Superboy.

I tell ya what… for whatever reason, I’m always captivated when they talk about Ma and Pa dying of that rare tropical disease.  Haven’t the foggiest idea why, but that’s always captured my imagination.  Seems like such an anti-climactic way for them to go out.

Though, I suppose… if you’re going to kill the Kents, this is as good a way as any to take them out.  You wouldn’t want them to be murdered… because that would make Clark too much like Batman.  Definitely don’t need a revenge-fueled Superman, right?  That could get outta hand pretty quick.

The rest of the story?  It’s fair enough… we get a decent ramping-up of a threat.  Lois and Lana are imperiled and don’t even realize it, which is better than them being kidnapped or something.  I’m really not expecting all that much from the conclusion… but, perhaps that’ll be a discussion for another day.

The backup was… a backup.  To be honest, outside of the Mr. and Mrs. Superman backups, I generally have very little use for them.  More often than not, they feel like wasted pages that rob from the front-end story.  Even when they’re not actually “taking” pages from the opener, I can’t help but to feel that they are.  That’s my bad… and probably hinders my ability to enjoy them… or analyze them without bias.

For it being an “In-Between Years” story… I wondered for a moment why this didn’t just show up in an issue of New Adventures of Superboy or something… seems like it might be a better fit there.  I suppose it doesn’t much matter… if you’ve got pages to fill, you might as well fill ’em!  Worth mentioning that this backup does get reprinted as part of New Adventures of Superboy #51 (March, 1984).

Overall, I did have a good time with this one.  Really appreciate the nod to the rare tropical virus that claimed the Kents, always a fan of continuity in these pre-Crisis issues.  Growing up I (foolishly?) thought there wasn’t any such thing as “pre-Crisis continuity”… and I’m happy to be proven wrong.  Worth checking out.

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