Monday, February 19, 2018

Action Comics #371 (1969)


Action Comics #371 (January, 1969)
"The President of Steel"
"The Supergirl Best-Seller!"
Writers - Otto Binder & Leo Dorfman
Pencillers - Curt Swan & Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker - Jack Abel
Letterer - Ben Oda
Cover Price: $0.12

Happy President's Day everybody!

Hopefully many of my fellow Americans are in the midst of enjoying a three-day weekend full of rest and relaxation.  Today we're going to discuss that time Superman became President of the United States... er, I should probably change that to "one of the times"... because weird stuff be happenin' in the Silver Age all the time.

Well, before we get to celebrating President-style... which, by the past several we had might mean "go to the golf course", let's head back to the swingin' sixties for some Silver Age silliness.

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We open in the Daily Planet offices with Clark Kent... playing on his new inter-dimensional super-computer.  What he doesn't realize is that there's an intruder... intruding behind him.  With the whack of a slapjack, Clark is (pretending to be) kayoed.  While he's playing possum, however, a ray from the computer bathes his head in pink light... giving him super-amnesia!  The baddie wants to take over Clark Kent's identity... so he loads the real deal into a doomed helicopter... and it crashes.  Clark wakes up to see he's wearing a Superman costume... so, he at least knows one of his identities!  But, just who is he when he's wearing street clothes?


I like to picture this part as Clark breaking into Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" as he strolls down the street.

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king...
Looking for answers, Amnesia-man heads for the Governor of whatever state Metropolis is in... hopeful that maybe he'd recognize him.  Worth noting that Clark's not wearing his glasses here... so, really now, who would recognize him?


No dice with the Governor... and so, Clark decides to move up the political ladder to the President of the United States!  He hopes that maybe he had clued the leader of the free world in on his dual identity.  Upon arrival in DC, he learns that the Pres is away on a top secret mission... and he's been gone for... well, just about as long as Superman has had amnesia.  Hmm...


Could it be... that Superman's secret identity is really the President of the United States of America?!  Well, of course not (don't be re-deekyoulos)... but he really seems to think so!  Worth mentioning here that DC (Comics, that is) gave the President a generic middle-aged look rather than "offending the dignity of the office".  Couldja imagine a "current year" comic book being so nonpartisan?  I mean, what would Marvel do with the other 19 pages of each issue?!  Anyhoo, Superman gets into some costume makeup and does himself up like the sitting Prez.


During a briefing... President Superman learns that a little girl became stuck in John Glenn's space capsule at the Smithsonian... which sounds like a job for... well, him.  So, he needs to figure out a way to duck out of the public eye for a moment and change clothes.  I mean, at this point, doesn't he realize that the President is too much of a public figure to have a dual identity?  Anyhoo... he asks to be taken to the Washington Monument... where he wants to go to the top... all by himself.  The Secret Service folks are totally cool with this... and so, he uses this brief "alone time" to perform a quick-change (and burst out the top of the monument).


At the Smithsonian, Superman saves the girl from Friendship-1... then gives her a guided tour of the museum to settle her nerves.  This is a really good likeness of the actual space capsule.


Later that evening (after repairing the Washington Monument) President Superman attends a Foreign Correspondence gala held at the White House.  He is told that it's customary for the President to share a dance with one of the reporters in attendance... and you'll never guess who he picks!  I'm wondering if Super-Prez is a bachelor... I mean, that would actually be some news, right?


Anyhoo... Super President dances with Lois Lane, when suddenly a foreign spy throws a grenade into the fray!  The phony Clark Kent (the intruder from the open) heroically throws the grenade out the window.  Super-Prez uses his super-suction breath to hold the baddie back... and everything is hunky dory.  Clark Kent even gets a commendation in the form of the Presidential Medal of Valor... which is something that actually exists!


The next night, Super Prez hears a coded message coming from an aircraft carrier.  Turns out, this is where the real President has been hanging out... leaving our hero without a civilian identity once more.  He carries the aircraft carrier to shore... and is wished well in his search for his identity.  We close out with Superman seeing a newspaper clipping about a "Wrestling Superman".  We're... to be continued?!  Really?  Wow!


Our second feature is a Supergirl story... in which a schoolmarmish woman named Hilda Powell has written the best-selling book "The Confessions of Supergirl".  This tome chronicles everything Supergirl has done up to this point... even including some things the Maid of Steel can hardly remember!  It goes without saying that Supergirl isn't pleased with this situation... and intends to get to the bottom of it.  In her Linda Danvers identity, she interviews Ms. Powell... and even receives a complimentary (signed) copy of the bestseller!  She's shocked with the accuracy and detail within.



The next day, Supergirl visits Hilda and tells her she sees the book as an invasion of her privacy... and wants it pulled from the shelves!  Powell's all "sue me"... and, well... believe it or not, that's exactly what Supergirl does.  While on the stand, Powell shows Supergirl an (illustrated) story of Kara's childhood in Argo City, which troubles her greatly.  The judge ultimately rules in Hilda's favor, noting that Supergirl is a public figure... and Powell was well within her rights in publishing her book.


After the trial, Supergirl visits with Hilda... again.  I mean, at this point, you just leave the old lady alone, right?  Anyhoo... it's here that Hilda shows Supergirl the sequel to "Confessions...", the "Biography of Supergirl: World's Greatest Heroine".  A book from the far future that Hilda (the school librarian) discovered in the school library after an adventure where Supergirl had to retrieve the school from the future.  I'm sure there were about a dozen better ways for me to write that sentence.


Supergirl figures that a future-student returned the library book to the wrong library.  Hilda informs Kara that the book holds the answers to everything Supergirl will do for the rest of her days.


Later, Supergirl overhears a radio broadcast revealing that "Getaway" Gillen... a professional jail-escaper, or something... escaped from jail... again.  At that very same time, the Heroes Day Parade is being held in Metropolis... featuring oversized balloons of all your favorite heroes (but sadly, no Supergirl).  She takes one look at the floats... and tears right into Green Lantern's chest... where the Getaway Gang were hiding out.


Ya see, she was able to deduce this because this Green Lantern wore his ring on his left hand instead of his right!  Yeah, it's a stretch considering what superhero merchandising looks like in the real world... but whattayagonnado?  I'd hate to see her reaction to The New-52! costumes.  Anyhoo, she heads back to Ms. Powell's house and learns that the events played out exactly as the book said they would.  This freaks Kara out big-time... and she skims through the rest of the volume... even learning how she dies!


She is then called into action... helping a kook who built a weather control device.  She recalls that the book says she would solve this problem by making a giant lightning rod... and so, to subvert the tome, she decides to try another approach... and it works!  This renders the second half of Ms. Powell's biography book... blank!  What's more, she's forgotten everything she'd already read... because it never happened!


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Well, this certainly was a surprise!  I mean, it was just as ridiculous as I thought it'd be... but from looking at the cover, I would've bet dollars to dingbats that this was going to be an Imaginary Story.  Further, I'd never have guessed that this was going to be a multi-part deal!

The story itself... is silly.  Not entirely unexpected given the circumstances.  I think this must've been a really fun time to follow this title... an amnesiac Superman trying to figure out who his secret identity is... that just sounds fun!  We might have to come back to this and see how it works itself out.

The thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that the President that Superman portrayed was just a generic middle-aged dude.  I really like that!  I've said it before in audio and print... I'm not one for mixing real world politics into my comics (or any entertainment).  I appreciate the fact that we have a story about a (generic) sitting President without any partisan commentary.

This is the kind of thing Marvel and DC should be doing now.  We're never going to have a 100% consensus politically... and a pithy and angry comic book story isn't going to change any minds.  I gotta say, if a superhero comic book story is enough to change your mind one way or another... maybe you need to read things that aren't comic books.

Instead of fostering echo chambers, I feel like we need to go back to this sort of storytelling.  A generic President... or, better yet... a known entity in the universe as President.  I'm not sure if it's a popular opinion, but I've made clear my love of the President Lex story arc.  That was some fun stuff... political, but without the passive-aggressive vitriol we're used to (from both sides).

I remember Michael Jordan, when asked about politics and business said something like "Republicans buy shoes too"... meaning, he wasn't going to talk down to or vilify potential customers just because he disagreed with them politically.  I wonder if he'd be up for an EiC gig at Marvel?

Anyhoo... apologies for that... I try not to brush up against anything polarizing here.  So... onto the Supergirl story!

I gotta wonder if someone at DC had some rough times in school... it feels like any time Supergirl is pitted against a human... they look like a schoolmarm!  I'd swear I've seen this woman in every Silver Age Supergirl story I've ever read!  I'm exaggerating... but, seriously... it's always a woman who looks like this!

The story... was basic backup material.  A done-in-one with very little ramifications.  Some Silver Age "reaching"... like noticing Green Lantern's ring being on the wrong finger.  I feel like superhero merchandise has always been a bit on the weird side.  I mean, there's that "Superman" costume that comes with a mask... Batman costumes that have the word "Batman" written on the chest... liberties are taken with these sort of things.

Overall... I had fun with this issue, even if both stories kinda dragged in places.  I'm not sure I'd tell ya to rush out and track this one down... however, if you come across it on the cheap, you could do worse!

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