Action Comics #448 (June, 1975)
“Don’t Get Off on the 13th Floor!”
“Nightmare in Gold”
Writers – Elliot S! Maggin & Martin Pasko
Pencillers – Curt Swan & Dick Dillin
Inkers – Bob Oksner & Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
We’re about to learn that, Life is like a box of Action Comics… you never quite know what you’re gonna get.
Today is another random pick… this time from the mid-70’s, and hoo-boy, from that cover I could only imagine the kind of story we’re in for!
Okay, let’s not get our hopes up…
We open with Roy Raymond, host of Impossible–But True debunking the exploits of dollar-store Uri Geller, Rudy Gaffer… who claims he can bend keys with his mind. Raymond calls him out, and reveals him for the phony that he is. On another floor of the Galaxy Building, Clark Kent and Steve Lombard get ready to meet Mr. Raymond for lunch. Just as their lunch-date arrives, Steve is distracted by some sweet thing… and heads right into the elevator to chat her up.
After spitting adequate game, the lady gets off on her floor. Wow, that’s one awkward sentence… ahem. Lombard remains, and pushes the button for the 14th Floor. Much to his surprise, the elevator stops at the 13th (which the Galaxy Building doesn’t even have)!
Suddenly a fracas unfolds… an absolute brouhaha. There’s a monster in the Galaxy Building! The big-domed beast bashes through the plate-glass, and into the streets of Metropolis.
Clark “supes up” and gives chase… finding the monster to be of nearly equal strength to himself. They fight for a bit… until the monster is struck with a crimson beam from a nearby police vehicle. Superman is dumbfounded as to how the Metropolis Police had concocted such a powerful device without his knowledge. Well… that’s because these aren’t the police. More on that in a bit.
Back inside, Clark and Roy pop their heads into the elevator and find Steve Lombard hiding on the roof. He tells them about what he had seen on the 13th Floor… it was as though he had stepped into outer space. Clark’s all “put up or shut up”, and Steve attempts to demonstrate… hitting the button for the 14th Floor. When the doors open, the trio find themselves on… well, the 14th Floor.
Clark and Roy step off, leaving Lombard behind. And so, he tries it again. Not sure how pushing the button for the 14th Floor works when you’re… ya know, currently on the 14th Floor, but we’ll allow it. Anyhoo, he (somehow) winds up on the 13th Floor again… and decides to step out into the vast space before him.
At the same time, Steve Lombard (?) frantically runs through the halls of the Galaxy Building… pushing Clark and Roy aside as he passes them. Is our Mr. Lombard experiencing a hallucination? Is he just imagining that he’s floating through space, when he’s really just running around the Galaxy Building? Well… no, sadly, nothing that interesting.
Clark “supes up” once again and gives chase. As Lombard runs through the offices, his appearance begins to change… he suddenly has himself an over-sized dome like that monster from earlier!
We shift scenes to… space, where Steve Lombard (the real one) is standing before a pair of large-domed Tybaltian aliens. Turns out they use the Galaxy Building as a transporter to facilitate… vacations on Earth? Da hale. As Steve is getting this knowledge dropped on him, Superman and the alien are dropping from the Galaxy Building. We see Roy Raymond counting how many stories the Galaxy Building has… which apparently nobody has ever bothered to do before.
Superman and the alien crash into the street, causing a sizable crater in the sidewalk. Roy runs up to inform Superman that there is in fact a 13th Floor in the Galaxy Building… and he’s sure it has something to do with the influx of monsters.
And so, Superman flies up to the 13th Floor from the outside… waitasecond, doesn’t Superman have x-ray vision? Isn’t he like always scanning the city… and doesn’t he spend most of his waking hours inside the Galaxy Building? He really didn’t know this? Aaaaanyhoo, he busts into the 13th Floor window, and winds up on Tybalt. He gets the skinny on the Earth-Vaycay plot… and learns that the aliens are rather hospitable to visitors. The whole mess started when Lombard accidentally arrived on the 13th Floor… because it screwed with their one-for-one “travel package”, or some such nonsense.
Superman says he’ll turn a blind eye to their use of Earth as a vacation destination if the Tybaltians send he and Steve back home. Seems like the Man of Steel is wheeling and dealing on things that the rest of the Earth might not be all that cool with, but… we’ll allow it. After returning home, Steve and Clark walk toward the elevator to find… another Steve Lombard?! Well, no… it’s actually Roy Raymond in a… Steve Lombard mask (available at your local novelty shop). Wonk wonk wonnnnnnnk….
This is Bronze Age Action Comics, which means… we’re not done yet! We’ve got some Action-Plus, starring the Atom! We pick up with the Ray Palmer starting to turn into gold… a result of his lab assistant, Enrichetta (groan) Negrini dreaming about him. Ya see, anything she dreams of (for the time being) transforms into gold. Luckily, Ray transformed into the Atom… which halted his transformation. Ya see, Enrichetta (groan) was thinking about Ray not the Atom. Ya dig?
The Atom follows some coffee stains to the basement door and down a flight of stairs, whereupon he finds Enrichetta… dreaming, and surrounded by a pair of nogoodniks… and plenty of gold. She begins dreaming of the bad guys… which begins their gilded transformation.
The Atom uses this to his advantage, and proceeds to beat the bad guys up. Worth mentioning that Ray’s arm is still golden, so his punches pack a bit more of a wallop right now. Ray notices that Enrichetta is wearing a Philosopher’s Stone that once belonged to an Alchemist… and deduces that must be the reason for the gilding. He yanks it from her neck… and it gets stomped on by one of the baddies… reversing the spell.
The day is saved, Enrichetta reunites with her boyfriend Roberto… and Ray hangs up on Jean Loring when she suggests they see some movies with “gold” in the title. Wonk wonk wonnnnnk. (wow, twice in one post!)
I gotta say, this one didn’t quite live up to its cover. I was expecting… well, not flat-out “horror”, but something a bit more substantial than vacationing aliens mucking about in the 13th Floor of the Galaxy Building.
I’m always a sucker for Steve Lombard hijinks… but, man… this was just not a great story. I’m probably doing it a disservice by overthinking it… but, I mean… we’re to believe nobody (Superman included) ever realized there was a secret 13th Floor in the Galaxy Building? I get that this is a “one-off”, but still. Are we to assume that the Tybaltian aliens are still using Earth as a Club Med for their weary big-domed monster populace? Well, at least that’s something that could be revisited… I guess. Ehh, we know better… these geeks were a one-and-done.
I got excited for a brief moment thinking that this outer space stuff was just a Steve Lombard hallucination… perhaps a result of hypnosis by that dime-store Uri Geller from the open in order to prove that he has some sort of power… but alas, nope. I figured there just had to be a reason why they showed him being debunked on Raymond’s program… but I guess it was just a throwaway.
Anyhoo… the opener… was kind of a dud. Silly, and kinda fun… but ultimately, a dud. The back-up… ehhhhhh… you know how I feel about back-ups, and this Atom short did nothing to change my stance. This seems like a decent enough idea for a story, but it isn’t given any room to breathe. The whole story could’ve been told in a single page… even forfeiting the bottom panel to shill Hostess Cup Cakes.
Overall… I mean, this has a pretty choice cover… and for that alone I’d say it might be worth a spot in your longbox, but the contents inside are far from “must reading”.
Letters Page (feat. Peter Sanderson):