Superman #277 (1974)

Superman #277 (July, 1974)
“The Biggest Game in Town!”
“The Pizzeria Peril!”
Writers – Elliot S! Maggin & Martin Pasko
Penciller – Curt Swan
Inkers – Vince Colletta & Frank Giacola
Editor (and Creative Coordinator) – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20

Here’s one that’s haunted me for a little while.  It’s got quite a striking cover… actually, many of the “The Amazing World of…” covers are really neat.  Anytime I’ve come across this one in the wild, they’re asking at least $5.00 for it.

These days, I’m not sure what kinda comic I consider “worth a fiver”… I’m tentative anytime I’m asked to spend actual “folding money” on a back-issue anymore!  As luck would have it, I happened across this sucker in a 75-cent bin just yesterday… and plopped it right on top of my “read pile”.

Was it worth the wait?  Let’s find out…

We open at a V.I.P. airstrip at what I assume to be Metropolis International Airport where Clark Kent and Lois Lane await the arrival of big game hunter (and former Daily Planet reporter with the hots for Lois) Ted “Pappy” Mailerway.  Fella’s been known for vanishing without a trace for spans at a time (sometimes believed to be dead!)… only to return with an amazing scoop.  This return, however, was expected… hence the hub-bub at the airport.  Mr. Mailerway ain’t a fan of crowds and swats at the waiting reporters with his cane.  Superman swoops in to yank him from the thick of it.

Mailerway is irritated, complaining that he didn’t need Superman’s help… to which, Superman replies that he only intervened to save the reporters from him!  He drops him in an alley, where he slips into a disguise.  When Pappy exits the alley, he finds he eluded all of the reporters… but one.

Clark Kent introduces himself and requests an exclusive interview.  Pappy appears to dig the cut of his jib, so he invites him into his cab.  He says that he’s only planning to stay in Metropolis for a single day… and that he’s looking for his biggest game yet.  Holy Kraven the Hunter, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

As the cab makes its way through the big-city traffic, Clark notices (via his telescopic vision) that a water main has broken in the distance.  He covers his exit by heat-visioning the cab’s radiator and sneaking out under the cover of steam… and proceeds to save the day.  What he doesn’t notice is Pappy also exits the cab, and provides aid to the sopping wet Metropolitans.  Watching Superman “do his thing”, ol’ Mailingway notices a striking similarity between the Man of Steel and the nosy reporter he’d just shared a cab with.

After the torrent is tamed, the pair return to the Daily Planet offices… where they are immediately approached by goofball Steve Lombard.  He rushes toward Clark with designs on “playfully” tackling him.  Knowing that would result in many many broken Lombard bones, Clark hits him with a puff of super-breath… sending ol’ Steve into Pappy’s path.  We see that Pappy’s made of some pretty stern stuff here, as Lombard’s tackle is rather ineffective.  Pappy proceeds to pummel the fool with his walking stick.  Let the punishment fit the crime!

Turns out that perceptive Pappy might’ve noticed the super-breath usage… and he’s just about to theorize as to Clark’s alter-ego, when Morgan Edge pops his head out of his office to send the pair of ’em to the circus where some tigers have been released… and enraged!  On the van-ride over, Pappy is able to share his theory with Clark.

Upon arrival, Pappy pops out of the van and heads straight for the wild beasts… knowing that Superman would have to save him, which would validate his claims that the Man of Steel and Clark Kent are one in the same.  Well… Superman does swoop in to save the day… but was also quick enough to duck back into the news van before Pappy could return.

Well, Pappy’s visit is over… seems hardly worth the trip, to be honest… and we’re back at Metropolis International.  While Clark and he wait for his private jet to be prepared, Pappy hops off the observation deck… knowing that Clark would have to quick-change into Superman to save him.  What he doesn’t realize is that there’s a pile of mail sacks stacked below… allowing him to land safely.  Whoops.  Ya see, though… this doesn’t disprove anything.  His whole thing would be null if he saw Clark and Superman at the same place at the same time… here, he fell… and Superman didn’t show his face, but Clark was still there.  If anything, this might’ve emboldened his belief… while also making Clark look like kind of a jerk.  Also… wouldn’t landing on a pile of mail, ya know… still hurt?  Hell, it might’ve even killed him!

Anyhoo… our episode of Three’s Company ends with Pappy on board his private jet doodling on the latest edition of The Daily Planet… and wouldn’tcha know it, he doodles a pair of specs on Superman’s face.  Dun dun dunnnnnn….

We’re not done yet, folks… it’s time to take a peek into The Private Life of Clark Kent!  We open with Morgan Edge telling Clark that he’s been working too hard, before giving him a week’s vacation.  And so, Clark excitedly heads home to pack for… Kandor, or something… when he gets a knock on the door from, oi… Steve Lombard… who asks if he could move in for a little while while his place is being redecorated.  Clark, being the milquetoast boffo guy that he is, agrees.

Steve’s not done dropping knowledge on our man just yet, however… there’s more!  Steve’s aunt, the famous mystery novelist Kaye Daye is also coming for a visit.  It isn’t long before Clark realizes that Steve’s fulluvit… and asks for the straight dope.  Steve admits that he’s worried about his aunt seeing his swinging bachelor pad… and figures Clark’s more… muted apartment would be a better look.

Aunt Kaye arrives… and boy is her stomach empty.  She’s looking for munchies… and yeah, that’s how she asks for food.  Anyhoo, they order a pizza, which in 1974 dollars costs $4.50.  Kaye notices that the delivery boy looked pretty jittery, and thought it was odd that he was joined by a creepy-looking dude.  Wouldn’tcha know it, when they open the pizza box, they find an S.O.S. spelled out in cheese.  Wow, that’s some mighty stable mozzarella!  I’d figure my tool of choice for “pizza writing” would be pepperoni or peppers!

Aunt Kaye, being a mystery writer is excited at the prospect of following this lead… and so, the three of ’em head out to Giovanni’s Pizzeria.  Kaye insists that weakling Kent remain outside as a “lookout” while she and Steve head inside.  Steve burst through the door, and gets his butt-kicked.  Kaye follows, and proceeds to swing her pocketbook around like a lunatic.

Clark realizes that the Lombard-kin are woefully under-qualified to take down a Pizzeria cabal… so he heads inside.  Not being able to quick-change into Superman (because… reasons?) he puts on the ol’ Clumsy Clark act… bumping into things, causing havoc… you know the drill.

The day is saved, thanks to the Klutz, and Aunt Kaye drags Steve back to his sleazeball pad by the ear.  Wonk wonk….

A couple of sitcom-Superman-stories here… but, ya need that every now and again.  Had a lot of fun with these low-stakes sillies.

It’s always so fun to check out these Bronze-Age stories, where priority-one always seemed to be “protect the secret identity”… and everything else (even saving a nosy dude’s life) is secondary.  I wonder if this is a result of these bits occurring during one of the first generations of fans-turned-pro.  I feel like things like “secret identities” might’ve tickled the fans a bit more than the creators back in the early days… though, I might be projecting.  If that’s the case, I suppose it might stand to reason that the focus on fan-turned-pro-written stories might be protecting the secret.

I don’t think I’d have minded Pappy coming back every now and again as a foil for Clark/Superman… but from what I can find, this appears to be his sole appearance.  I could be wrong… though, my normal quick-and-dirty research haunts indicate the same thing.  It’s too bad, as I feel like they could’ve gotten more mileage out of him.  There’s also the eluded to Lois/Pappy relationship that could’ve been further explored too!

The back-up story was another low-stakes silly bit of fluff.  Not a bad thing… I actually quite enjoyed it.  The ending left a little bit to be desired, but the lead-up with Lombard barging in, and Aunt Kaye suggesting the weaker Clark stay outside while they barge in on the baddies was a lot of fun.

Overall, I’d say if you come across this one for a buck or two, you’re in for a great time.  As I’ve mentioned (a few times by now) these are low-stakes, no “end of the world” threats… just fun stories, and sometimes that’s more than enough!

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