Thursday, April 5, 2018

Action Comics #474 (1977)


Action Comics #474 (August, 1977)
"Will the Real Superman Please Show Up?"
"One For the Money!"
Writers - Cary Bates & Ben Toomey
Penciller - Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker - Tex Blaisdell
Colorist - Jerry Serpe
Letterer - Morris Waldinger
Cover Price: $0.35

I know what you're thinking... a cover with a bunch of Supermans's's on it, didn't we already do this one?  Well, no... that was another issue of Action with a bunch of Supermans's's on it.

I guess we can never have enough covers with a bunch of Supermans's's on it.  Don't look now, but I think the second from the right might just be our new pal Gregory freaking Reed!

Oddly enough, when I shared the post about that other issue of Action on social media, I joked about the reader "starring" with Superman on the Silver Screen...


... when this issue actually has the details on how a reader could actually DO just that!  For completion's sake, I've included the "Great Superman Movie Contest" rules page below.

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We open with Superman diverting a horrible sea creature from doing some nasty things above the surface... and wrapping up just in time for his appearance on The Midnight Show with Johnny Nevada.  Ahh, because "Carson City" is in Nevada... I get it.  I think maybe they should've called him "Johnny Reno" though... though, maybe they thought that sounded "too ethnic".  Who knows?  Anyhoo... Clark Kent is set to be a guest on the show, and shows up in full Superman attire!  Buh, wha?!


Well, ya see... the theme of this episode of The Midnight Show is people who have been mistaken as being Superman!  We've got an all-star panel including (in addition to ol' CK) Rick Stirling (who appeared in a single story back in 1961!), Jimmy Olsen, Steve Lombard, Olympic athlete Mike Talbot, and our old friend... Gregory Reed!  If you've already read the post about the Candid Camera issue of Action... I mentioned that it's silly to keep putting Clark in these situations wherein people might notice that he and Superman, ya know... look exactly alike.  Oh well... it's the Bronze Age after all, which means the secret identity is the straw that stirs the drink more often than not!


We pan over the audience and learn that... Dr. Light has taken the night off from being a creepy pervert and decided to sit in on the taping.  He has a sneaking suspicion that one of the men in the Superman costume is the Real Steel Deal.  In order to prove it, he uses some light device to... I dunno, bombard the studio with invisible light rays?  Anyhoo... on stage, Jimmy tells his story of mistaken Super-identity... which is a callback to the mid 1950's!  Wow, another deep cut!


Dr. Light sneaks out the back, with the full knowledge of Superman's secret identity.  He knows that Superman is really... Mike Talbot!  Buh wha?!


Later that night, Light disguises himself as a cabbie and picks up Talbot as a fare.  He then drives them to a garbage dump, and reveals that the taxi was actually a light-construct... which he transforms into a tiny cage.  Knowing Dr. Light, the cage is probably so small as to keep Talbot tender.


Suddenly... Superman arrives!  Dr. Light is shocked... but not so shocked as to not engage his red-Sun light bubble... thing, which nullifies the Man of Steel's powers... until, of course, he leaps out of its radius.  Well, the Doc tried...


Superman then bashes the cage... seemingly killing Mike Talbot!  Dr. Light freaks out a bit, worried about what the rest of the supervillain community would think of Superman killing his hostage.  I'd say, at least he has the Sue Dibny story to fall back on... but, ya know... mind-wipe.


Turns out... Superman didn't really kill Mike Talbot, but in making it look like he had, Dr. Light deactivated the construct.  We then learn that Superman saw through Dr. Light's disguise at The Midnight Show taping... and used his vibrational powers to allow the invisible light beam to pass through him... he then used X-Ray vision to (somehow) deflect the light from Mike Talbot... making it look as though he was the real Kryptonian.  You get all that?  Ay yai yai.  We wrap up with a gag about Clark Kent's glasses, because, of course we do.


As with many issues of Action Comics in this vintage... we're not done yet!  Some Action-Plus is in our future.  Thankfully, this comes from the always fun The Private Life of Clark Kent collection.  This time around, Clark shares the diary-entry of a time he purchased a lotto ticket from his usual newsstand.  His newsagent is a fella named Benny, who has a real knack for numbers... he immediately memorizes Clark's numbers.


The next day as he goes to enter the Galaxy Building, Clark is bumped into by a frantic Benny!  He tells Clark that they're all sold out on The Daily Planet... which seems a bit far-fetched, but our man plays along.


Later on that day, Clark returns home.  The doorman informs him that a he let a telephone repairman into his apartment to fix a street-wide outage.  Clark, rightfully suspicious, heads inside.  He peeks out his window and sees a man reading the latest edition of The Daily Planet... complete with the winning lotto numbers, his winning lotto numbers!  Of course, this is Benny lurking outside... waiting for his opportunity to "cash in".  That bump at the Galaxy Building was no accident, ya see... and there was no telephone "outage" either!


Clark decides to give Benny just what he's looking for... and "accidentally" bumps into him on the street.  Benny fumbles in Clark's pockets for what must've been minutes before procuring the winning ticket and rushing off to "cash in".  Clark gives a knowing look to the "camera" and makes a phone call to the Lottery Commission.


We join Benny as he tries to redeem the Million Dollar ticket... which, upon inspection is revealed to be counterfeit!  Clark shows up and reveals that Benny'd been "had"... and also that he sent the winning ticket to the Metropolis Orphanage... just like he does every time he plays the lotto.


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Two very fun stories here!

You know I'm not usually one for the back-ups... but when it's a "Private Life of..." or "Mr. and Mrs. Superman" story, I'm all over 'em.  Let's get that out of the way first.  I'm always kinda tickled at the idea of Clark Kent keeping a handwritten diary.  Especially in the pre-Crisis world where he kept that giant journaling... thing back at the Fortress of Solitude.  Gotta wonder, is he keeping secrets from that diary?

The lotto story is as good as any... stakes are (relatively) low, and we get to see what an altruistic fella Clark Kent is.  It's funny though, we kinda "get it" because we know he's really Superman... gotta wonder, what do the people of Metropolis think when they find out Clark Kent just gave away a million bucks?  I mean, that's a pretty big deal... and likely something that would come up a few more times, right?

Also, Clark's an anchor of the evening news and local celebrity... this would almost have to be a major news item, right?  Seems kinda, I dunno... dangerous... almost inviting people to dig into Clark Kent's "story".  Adjusting for inflation that's over four-million bucks in 2018 monies... you gotta figure people would be interested in such a selfless act, right?  Ehh, that's probably just some of my patented "thinking too hard about old comics".

Onto the "feature" story.  It's the Bronze Age, so... of course, the secret identity is our focus.  Doesn't make for a bad story... at least, this time it doesn't.  Thought it was pretty fun.  Again though, we keep putting Clark Kent into these positions where folks should eventually catch on that he and Superman look, ya know, exactly alike.  I mean, just look at those abs on the cover!  Those ain't "newsman" abs!

I really appreciated the "deep cuts" here.  I mean, mentioning that Stirling who appeared in a single issue 16 years before this one came out?  You gotta love it!  It'd almost be like an issue today bringing up Dr. Mohlman from the Chuck Austen run!  Also, those (at this point) over twenty-year old Jimmy Olsen oddities... just so cool!  Add to that, a Gregory Reed cameo... and we're in full-on callback heaven!

The Dr. Light caper was... ehh, silly... as was Superman's "big reveal".  So many stories of this vintage are laid out the same way... so many pages of build to a (mostly) nonsensical info-dump reveal on the very last page.  I guess I can't get mad at it for being what it is... but, still... it's more evidence that these stories need more room to breathe, and perhaps we could do without back-ups every now and again.

Overall, had a blast... silly storytelling at its best.  It doesn't look like this one's been collected or made available digitally... but, as with most issues of Bronze Age Superman, it shouldn't break the bank to snag the single-issue.

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Letters Page:

 

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The Great Superman Movie Contest!


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