Superboy #193 (June, 1973)
“The Rock ‘n’ Roll Riddle of Smallville!”
“The One-Shot Hero!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Pencils – Bob Brown & Dave Cockrum
Inks – Murphy Anderson
Cover Price: $0.20
Dunno about you, but if I see the words “Rock ‘n’ Roll” on the cover of a comic, I really am powerless to resist it. Not that I’m a huge music buff or anything, but the idea of a comic (especially of this vintage) using “Rock ‘n’ Roll”… I mean, you just know you’re in for a corny-as-all-get-out treat.
Also, I think we’re going to meet an all-new Legionnaire in the back-up… so, let’s get to it!
It’s the story of two loners… one, a blind boy named Don Blake… who, upon bopping his cane into the ground becomes the Mighty Tho– oh, not that Don Blake? Oh, okay. The other, Clark Kent… Superboy! One without enough ability… the other, with far too much! We see Don get beaned in the belly with a baseball… and get lambasted for being “blind”, that is, of course, before the kid realizes that he truly is blind. I mean, how many blind kids attend Smallville High? I’d figure the whole school would be aware of this guy! Clark, on the other hand, is coerced into hula-hooping (they’re the newest craze!)… his powers go out of control sending the thing sky-high. He whips up a “freak dust storm” to explain the phenomenon.
Later that day, Clark and Don walk home from school together. Don’s holding his trusty radio up to his ear, and just DJ Michael Jay is about to spin the song “Bad-Time Baby”, a terrific hurricane begins!
Since Don can’t see, Clark doesn’t need to come up with too elaborate an excuse… he “supes up” and heads into the thick of it, where he finds… a thunderball! More like ball-lightning, but “thunderball” definitely has a better ring to it! More punch! Anyhoo, Superboy wraps his outstretched cape over the weather anomaly in attempt to contain it, when suddenly…
… it just stops! The weather goes right back to normal, and barring all of the structural damage, it’s as though the hurricane never occurred. After checking in with some Smallvillians, Superboy “kents down” to check back in with Don. We can hear via his radio that the song “Bad-Time Baby” just ended. Hmm…
The next day, we join Don Blake in the Engineering Lab. Smallville High has an Engineering Lab?! In 1973?! Really? Okay. Anyhoo, he’s working on adding miniature “radar sensors” to his specs to assist his senses and give him better depth perception. At that very moment, Superboy is sneaking out to go on his midday patrol.
The other students? Well, you know how they be… they’re sock-hoppin’ in the cafeteria! Wouldn’tcha know it, DJ Michael Jay is just about to spin “Bad-Time Baby” again! WSMV is the only station that plays that song, by the way.
Shifting over to Superboy’s patrol… he spots a pair of goons attempting to rob a bank. He has everything well in hand, until… the thunderball returns… inside the bank, even!
Back in the Engineering Lab, Don Blake pops on his suped-up specs. All of the “gizmos” he added are acting like electronic receivers, and he can hear a far off phone call between the bank robbers and… someone referred to as “Jay”. You don’t think they’re talking about WSMV DJ Michael Jay, do ya?! They discuss using the thunderball as a distraction.
Moments later, and just like the previous day… the thunderball disappears. Don Blake checks his radio, and… naturally, “Bad-Time Baby” has just concluded. He thinks he’s figured it all out, and heads off to… no, not the Police Station… to WSMV Studios to confront Michael Jay… and to show the world that being “blind” doesn’t mean you’re “helpless”.
Of course, the next time we see young Master Blake, he is tied up. Well, so much for that. It’s here that we learn that “Bad-Time Baby” somehow causes these thunderballs to occur.
Lucky for him, Superboy arrives on the scene right away! He confronts DJ Michael Jay (who gives up in record time), and learns that he had no choice but to help out the goons. Ya see, he’s run up a “terrific” gambling debt.
He beats up all of the bad guys… even makes two of ’em kiss! Okay, not really. After neutralizing the goons, he grabs the Bad-News Baby “platter” and crushes it in his hand.
But, I know what you’re thinking… how did Superboy know to head to the WSMV studio? Well, naturally… Don Blake used a miniature transmitter, which he knew Superboy’s super-hearing would catch. Superboy gives the thumbs up (which Don can’t see)… okay, no, I’m kidding. He gives the metaphorical “thumbs up” and proclaims Don Blake’s days as a loner are behind him. Just like that? Gee thanks!
Next, we head in for a NEW Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes… and it’s the first appearance of the Legionnaire we now know as Wildfire! We open with, well, Wildfire (going by the name ERG-1… that is Energy Release Generator-1) as he is pitching to become a member of the Legion.
Phantom Girl’s all “whattaya got, stud?” and so, he spills his secret origin. His real name is Drake Burroughs… and he was an Astro-Engineer (I tell ya, that Engineering Lab at Smallville High must’ve been quite ahead of its time!). While working on a propulsion system, he was pounded by some anti-matter discharge, which transformed him into a being of “pulsating anti-energy”. The only way he could survive after that was being stuffed into the containment suit that he wears.
Since that didn’t exactly answer Phantom Girl’s query, he continues to explain his powers. Ya see, he can do many things that the Legionnaires can already do, including having similarly sensitive “senses” as Superboy”, Chemical King’s control over elements, size manipulation like Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet, even the intangibility of Phantom Girl herself! While impressive, the Legion decides to pass… after all, according to their rules, each member must bring something unique to the table.
ERG meekly pleads his case, and hints that there is more to him than his Legionnaire gimmicks… however, when he’s asked to demonstrate, he declines… and decides to accept his disqualification.
Just then, the Legion is contacted about some trouble brewing on Manna-5… an agricultural planet responsible for providing food to countless worlds and billions of folks. Turns out, some baddies have concocted a… well, basically a giant vacuum to suck up all of the food. The Legion head off to take a look. What they don’t know, is that ERG stowed away with them.
Now, the Legion takes the fight to the giant vacuum… and they’re really no match for it! The thing is even able to take down Colossal Boy… and just as it’s about to suck him up, ERG swoops in and fires a terrific blast of “unimaginable destructive force” from his visor!
This destroys the vacuum, however also… leaves nothing but ERG’s limp containment suit laying on the ground. The Legion celebrate the win, however promise to honor ERG’s sacrifice. They vow to never forget him… and even build a monument in his honor!
Ya know… if you’re ever down about comics “these days”, or the constant behind-the-scenes bickering we’re all (unwittingly) privy to… one place to find solace, and a reminder as to why we love this stuff to begin with… is the Bronze-Age! There’s just so much fun here.
Before we begin… one thing that stood out to me, which probably wouldn’t have, had we not recently discussed that Silver-Age Superboy story a few days ago. In it, the Kent General Store, and the Kent home were burned down… and Clark wasn’t allowed to help them rebuild as Superboy… for fear that it would’ve revealed his dual-identity. Well… after the “thunderball” struck, the first thing Superboy did was promise his newly-homeless Smallvillians that he’d “be back later to repair everything”. So, what’s the deal?!
Oh well, just another case of me thinking too hard and being silly about Silver Age comics. Nothin’ ta see here, folks!
I did a little research on Don Blake… it looks like this is his only appearance. That’s really too bad. Seems like a natural fit as Superboy’s “techie” friend… someone who he can call on when he needs a hand. Heck, I could see him being part of Superman‘s cast, even! Despite this being his lone appearance, someone out there actually made a custom action figure of him! Wouldja lookit that? Looks pretty cool!
By the way, you could lose several hours of your life checking out Figure Realm’s customs. A ton of cool stuff there! Everything you never knew you wanted!
As corny as Superboy’s “declaration” that Blake was no longer a loner was… I still dug it. Felt like the way a sitcom might end. Nothing’s really tied up, but since we’re shuffling this kid into limbo anyway, it doesn’t even matter! For all we know, Don Blake went on to become the Casanova of the Engineering Lab… or, ya know, he might’ve just become Thor.
The Legion story… another fun one! I’m not sure why, but I really dig young heroes “pitching” to join their ranks. I mean, I could probably read a trade collection of just that! It’s part “Who’s Who?” it’s part “Secret Origin”, added to that… we get a “Yea” or “Nay”… it’s just a lot of fun.
The tragic cliffhanger was well handled. Of course, from what we know now… it’s kinda deflating, but I’m sure back in the long ago, there might’ve been actual feelings of loss. The threat? I mean, it’s silly… the Legion were taking on a giant vacuum cleaner. You gotta wonder what Dave Cockrum was using as inspiration there… like, did he head into the broom closet to get a better look at his own vacuum?
Overall… this was a blast. Silly, sure… but a whole lot of fun. The kinda book that reminds me why I still do this every day! The Superboy story would be reprinted in a Digest Edition… and the ERG tale would be reprinted several times over. Somewhat surprisingly, this issue is available digitally! I’d say it’s worth a look!