Superman #373 (1982)

Superman #373 (July, 1982)
“Lana Lang’s Farewell to Earth!”
“An Eye (and Ear) On the World!”
Writers – Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers – Curt Swan & John Calnan
Inker – Dave Hunt
Letterer – John Costanza
Colors – Anthony Tollin & Tom Ziuko
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60

After that stinker of an issue we discussed yesterday, I feared that Vartox Week was in jeopardy… wouldn’t wanna read another one like that!  Though, I suppose… during every holiday week, some rain must fall… or something.

Let’s hit it and git it with day seven of Vartox Week!

We open with Superman helping out some oil workers by excising a glowing… and expanding… rock from the ground where they were digging.  This stone is evidently harder than even a diamond-tipped drill… so, we know it’s bad news.  Superman flies it into space… right past a very familiar silhouette.

Then… it explodes… thanks to that very familiar silhouette.  What follows is a scene not unlike the The Creation of Adam fresco… only, this isn’t Adam and God, this is Superman and… Vartox!

The two chums reconnect, with Var informing Superman that he’s going to be “in town” for the next few days.  This is something that’ll make one Ms. Lang very happy.  Unbeknownst to them, they are being observed by another… sorta familiar… silhouette.

That night, back in Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen fills in for an “under the weather” Lana Lang on the WGBS Evening News.  Of course, we know that she’s actually… uh, under… something else.  Okay, okay… they’re just making out… but, fact remains, she’s with Vartox.

As their evening draws to a close, Var returns Lana to her apartment… and informs her that he’s only ever loved one woman as much as he loves her… and that, of course, is his (still) unnamed deceased wife.  Gentleman he is, he doesn’t spend the night… but tells her he’ll be back to retrieve her in the morning.  That night she thinks about just how unfair life can be… she can only see her beloved for a few days each year.

Back at the Fortress, Vartox tells Superman that he’d never be able to take Lana back to Tynola with him… because the atmosphere just won’t jive with the physiology of an Earthling.  Of course, we could argue that Vartox could just move to Earth… but, then we wouldn’t have a story.

Then… back at Lana’s, our gal is visited by… an apparition of sorts.  This ghoulish figure, um… squirts clear pudding at her?  Before we know it, Lana is completely encased in this gelatinous coating… and she likes it!

At the Fortress of Dualitude, Superman is alerted to an uprising in Rzunda, a fictional country in Africa… I’m guessing “Rwanda” was just on the tip of Cary Bates’ tongue.  Either way, there’s an Ambassador being held captive by some baddies.  Superman and Vartox tag team the gig, and it’s over before we know it.

Back in Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen arrives at Lana’s place to check on her.  Remember, he thinks she’s ill.  He’s even brought her her favorite breakfast from the corner cafe.  What he finds is… gas pouring out from under her door!  He bursts in and triggers his Zee-Zee Signal Watch.

No sooner do Superman and Vartox burst in themselves!  Superman inhales all of the gas (we don’t see him exhale it… he must’ve swallowed the whole lot!) and Vartox finds Lana… perfectly healthy, though, covered with a thin membrane of that gelatinous coating from the apparition.  The “gas” was actually Tynolan atmosphere, so this proves she would survive living there.

And so, Lana ups and quits her job at WGBS and readies herself for an intergalactic moving truck rental.

Later, Superman and Vartox chat about the “apparition”.  Vartox posits that it was actually his own “hyper” body.  His “phantom-self”, even.  Fueled by a subconscious desire to have Lana return to Tynola with him, the hyper-body found a way to make it all possible.  Well, that’s about as sound a reason as any, right?  Of course, we know better.

The heroes part company, with Vartox deciding to take a load off and relax inside an active volcano.  Superman “Clarks down” and heads back to Metropolis to have his “final” farewell with his old pal Lana.  Vartox can’t help himself but to use his hyper-vision to eavesdrop on them… and what he sees is, well… two old friends sharing a goodbye kiss.

Of course, to our man Vartox this scene looks anything but innocent.  And so, he stands up… and declares Superman his enemy!  The Kryptonian… must die!  While Vartox rants, we draw to a close… and also, a woman rises from the lava.  To be continued?  You betta believe it.

But… we’re not done yet!  What follows is yet another peek into The Private Life of Clark Kent!  These strange diary entries… which actually start with “Dear Diary…” wherein we share a (relatively) more mundane day-in-the-life with Clark.  This one opens with Clark having a killer Spanish Omelette with his cousin Kara… before they have to head into New York City.

Ya see, this was during a time where Kara/”Linda” was starring on the daytime soap “Secret Hearts”, and because today’s script called fro a “real newsman” she was able to wrangle a guest-spot for her cousin Clark.

During the filming of their scene, Clark’s super-hearing picks up a happening out in the street.  An ambulance cannot make its way through the gridlock traffic.  Since this is Kara’s “turf” he decides to leave it to her… regardless of the fact that she’s, ya know, currently on camera.

When Kara doesn’t budge, Clark begrudgingly “supes up” and takes care of business… all the while preparing a lecture for his ignorant cousin.  At that very moment on set, Linda flubs her lines.

Superman saves the day and drops the ambulance off at the hospital… then makes it back to the “Secret Hearts” set just in the nick of time to deliver his lines.

After the tape machines stop rolling, Clark goes to lay into Linda for ignoring the ambulance.  She informs him that she used super-ventriloquism to tell him to handle the crisis, while she bought them some time by flubbing her lines!  Only Clark was to “tuned in” to the ambulance to hear it… wonk wonk wonnnnnnk.

We wrap up with Clark promising to prepare another killer Spanish Omelette to make up for going off the handle… in the dorkiest way possible.

Well, that was more like it!  I feel like both stories we get here delivered… hell, in comparison to yesterday’s debacle, overdelivered.

Let’s look at our “main feature”.  Vartox returns to Earth from his adopted home of Tynola (look at that continuity!) to visit with his friends Superman and Lana Lang.  Perfectly adequate basis for a story.

The apparition?  I haven’t read further, but we almost gotta assume it has something to do with his unnamed deceased wife, right?  I mean, she gets a mention here… also, it’s established that Vartox can emit a “hyper-body”… I’m gonna guess that this hyper-body is a manifestation of Var’s own guilt for moving on with his life… which takes the form of his lost wife.  Almost gotta be, right?

It begs the question why the apparition would facilitate Lana Lang’s ability to travel to Tynola… but, I’m gonna assume that’s going to be revealed as a “monkey’s paw” type of thing.  During their chat, Superman instills in Vartox the axiom, “Beware of wishing too hard for what you want… because your wish might come true.”  So… we almost gotta be dealing with a “monkey’s paw” situation, right?

Now… after Vartox sees Clark and Lana kiss.  Is that an overreaction?  I dunno.  I mean, we know it’s purely innocent (at least on Clark’s end)… but, Vartox… a dude who’s been kicked so many times when he’s been down.  I mean, we’ve just looked at his first eight appearances… and he’s got more tragedy in his life than a troupe of Shakespearean so-and-so’s.

I believe it stands to reason that Vartox would react the way he did.  Lashing out without waiting for context or explanation.  Dude’s had a rough time of it… and probably just sees this as the next tragedy in his his life.  I’m down with it.

Onto the back-up.  The Secret Life of Clark Kent backups are among my (very few) favorite “flavor” of back-ups.  They’re almost always silly… but also, a lot of fun.  I mean, where else are we going to see Clark Kent guest-starring on a daytime soap?

The highlight of this story… hell, perhaps the entire issue… is Clark dorkily saying “Ole!” and snapping his fingers when Kara asks for another “mean Spanish Omelette”.  That there’s an image I’m going to be keeping within reach.

So… we’ve just had seven days of Vartox… but, you can’t be thinking we’re going to be left hangin’ on that cliffhanger, right?  By now we should all be fully-aware that Vartox Week is far too big a deal to be wrangled within the confines of seven Earthly days!  Vartox Week will continue!

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