Action Comics #416 (1972)

Action Comics #416 (September, 1972)
“Superman, You Scare Me to Death!”
“Oh, Pity, Where is Thy Sting?”
Writers – Cary Bates & Bob Haney
Pencillers – Curt Swan & John Calnan
Inker – Murphy Anderson
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20

Let’s head back to the Bronze-Age and see Superman make a new friend!

We open on board a cruise ship in the Northern Atlantic.  The ship looks to be headed straight for an iceberg.  As luck would have it, Superman is nearby to pulverize the ‘berg.  The passengers and staff celebrate the fact that they’re not going to sink and freeze to death in the Arctic waters… all except one, that is.  Meet wheelchair-bound Superman-phobe, Christy Whatsherface!

After saving that ship, Superman secretly swoops on board… where he (as Clark Kent, natch) is actually a passenger on special assignment for Morgan Edge.  A VTOL arrives on deck for Clark to take… somewhere.  I didn’t realize that mild-mannered Clark Kent knew how to fly such a craft… but, here we are.  After he takes off, the ship staff notices an empty wheelchair in the area.  Turns out, Christy Whatsherface has stowed away on the VTOL… hopeful to get as far away from Superman as possible.

It doesn’t take Clark long to realize he’s got a stowaway… after all, the ship is a one-seater.  He prepares to forgo his mission to take her back to safety, however… they wind up swept into an energy vortex, which pulls them downward.  Along the way, Clark sucks all the oxygen out of the craft to cause Christy to fall unconscious… so that he can use his superpowers.  Once they safely land, he scoops her in his arms and goes to head back to the liner.  Not so fast, kemo sabe… the island is covered by an invisible barrier.  Holy Convergence!

Superman sets Christy down to plan his next move… only for her to wake up, and freak the hell out!  While she shields her face, Superman exits stage left… and returns as Clark Kent to see if he can get some answers.

She reveals to him that… oh boy… she grew up in Smallville, and had a doll that she shared a “psychosomatic transference” with.  Now, this isn’t transference in the clinical sense (far from it)… but more like if the doll get “hurt”, she feels it.  Kinda Tomax and Xamot here… only with a doll instead of a twin.

As a child, her house burned down… and Superboy saved her.  Unfortunately, during the rescue… Christy’s doll gets its legs crushed.  Ever since… Christy has been wheelchair-bound.  Ya follow?

Suddenly, the pair find themselves being blasted with lasers… and at the same time, the cruise liner is being approached by a small fleet of “sea-jackers” who want the diamonds the ship are transporting.  Now, weighing his priorities… Superman decides to save the diamonds before saving the girl.  He leaves her behind… though, wraps the VTOL she’s hiding behind in his indestructible cape.

Superman burrows his way through the ground to evade the Convergence-dome, and approaches the dastardly sea-jackers.  He takes a blast to the face… which he shrugs off, before… I dunno, drowning the bad guys?  It isn’t entirely clear.

Superman returns to the island… which we learn isn’t an island at all!  It’s actually a large meteor that landed in the drink “ages ago”.  Upon arrival, we see our bad guy… which is… ugh, a giant robot.  The robot detaches its head, and the pair fight.

Superman is able to beat the bad robot… who, for all we know, was just trying to defend its crashed meteor-island from the interlopers.    Superman bugs out to quick-change back to Kent… and returns to find Christy Whatsherface able to once again walk!  Her fear proved to be stronger than her psychosoma… and her believed-useless legs were able to carry her to safety.

We find out that Clark’s “Special Assignment” was keeping the “real” diamonds away from the Sea-Jackers… which begs the question, why the urgency in stopping them a few pages ago?  He could’ve let them steal the phony diamonds… and, ya know… made sure Christy was safe, right?  Weird.  Anyhoo… the story wraps up with the pair back on board the liner… and it’s hinted that Christy might have feelings for our man Clark.  Howsabout that… a gal who loves Clark… but hates Superman!

That story’s over, but we’re not done yet… let’s do some Action-Plus starring Metamorpho!  We join Rex as he is performing for the Martingale Circus as a “freak”.  He is unhappy with his lot in life, and decides to go ask his main-squeeze Sapphire Stagg if she wants to get married.  Being the sorta-loopy gal she is, she needs to confer with her Astrologist before answering.  In a pretty hilarious panel, he runs (bikes?) off to pout.

Returning to the Circus, Rex learns that Martingale’s is closing down due to lack of interest… and, er… funds.  Rex goes full-on “woe is me”, and smashes a nearby table.  Well, there goes his severance package!  He heads over to the carny trailer to commiserate with his pals only to find that they’re… having a party?!

Rex is dumbfounded to see his fellow carnies still living it up.  He gets a dash of “that’s life” from his pals… who are used to circuses closing down, and having to uproot their lives to make ends meet.  This is just how they live… no big deal.  With this newfound enlightenment… Rex starts to feel bad for himself, for having felt bad for himself in the first place!

He grabs a newspaper from the Ape Boy’s cage… which is a sentence I’ll likely never type again… and learns that the President is about to hold a summit with the Premier.  We’re going to assume they mean the President of the United States… though, the Premier is left nebulous… I’m guessing China due to the fellas manner of dress.  Anyhoo, Rex finds out where the cavalcade of cars will be passing through and decides to write up a billboard.

As luck would have it, the Premier has always wanted to see an “American Circus” (Wot a Country!)… and so, Martingales will soon be putting on a show for “the two most important men in the world”.  Wouldn’tcha know it, there’s an assassination attempt… that Rex foils.  The Circus is saved… and Sapphire Stagg arrives to inform Rex that her Psychic Friend… said he was in trouble.  Nothing about the marriage though!

Well, this was a bit of a mixed bag, wunnit?

I get, and can appreciate Christy’s odd psychosomatic fear of Superman… but I mean, let’s look at this (somewhat) logically.  We have to assume that at some point in his super-career, Superman might’ve arrived seconds-too-late to save someone from injury.  You gotta figure that those injured understand that Superman can’t be everywhere at once, and are likely to realize that… even if he couldn’t spare them injury… at the end of the day, he’s still a pretty good dude.

For Christy Whatsherface to hold this grudge for such a long time might be an indictment on her mental state… which, I can appreciate.  She doesn’t seem completely “with it” nor rational here.  I mean, she stows away on a jet… without her wheelchair.  What is she hoping to do once they land?  And… I mean, she’s running from Superman… is there a single place in the galaxy where you can hope to hide from him?  Especially during the pre-Crisis!

Her Doctor’s diagnosis of “Psychosomatic Transference” is a bit funny, if you’re familiar with the clinical phenomenon of “transference” and “counter-transference”.  It’s one of those terms that sounds like it could (and should) fit here… but, clinically-speaking, it doesn’t.  It’s kinda confusing as a term… and I’m sure I’ve used it incorrectly a time or two myself.

Let’s talk about Superman’s priorities.  This is pretty baffling… we have him leaving Christy behind on the island/meteor… while she’s being attacked by a laser-wielding alien robot, to stop some Sea-Jackers from stealing phony diamonds?  Da hale?  That seems a bit out of character… and, ya know… stupid.  I mean, by the time he gets back, Christy’s already being carried off by the robot!  Who’s to say the robot wouldn’t have killed her upon discovery?  Seems like quite the foolish gamble.

The story ends with the promise that ol’ Christy will show up to haunt Clark in the pages of Superman Family.  My Bronze-Age Superman game is still pretty lacking, so I couldn’t say for sure that this actually occurs.  Maybe she shows up with our old friend Pappy Mailerway… who knows?

Our back-up is… well, a Bob Haney Metamorpho story.  Really not much more to say.  It’s silly… and pretty fun.  The Action-Plus back-ups are pretty hit and miss with me (and if I’m being honest, more miss than hit)… this one, however, wasn’t half-bad.  Not sure I’d say it was half-good either… but I did have fun with it.

Overall… despite my qualms, I’d say this is a fun issue that’s worth grabbing if you come across it on the cheap.  I sure do say that a lot, don’t I?  It doesn’t look like it’s been collected anywhere, nor has it been made available digitally… so, this is a single-issue (not floppy) only gambit.

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