Action Comics #436 (1974)

Action Comics #436 (June, 1974)
“The Super-Cigars of Perry White!”
“Young Man With a Drum!”
Writer – Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils – Curt Swan & Dick Dillin
Inks – Vince Colletta & Tex Blaisdell
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20

I’m saddened today… I’ve been digging through a lot of the Bronze Age DC I’ve got for appearances of (Roy Harper’s band) Great Frog… and I’m coming to find they didn’t make all that many appearances.  What’s more, when they do appear… it’s as quick as a hiccup.

I’d like to think that there’s a timeline where 1st Issue Special #14 did hit the stands… and it wasn’t a Green Arrow pitch… it was a Great Frog pitch.  Hey, the Dingbats got an issue, right?  The Outsiders too… and they also sung a bit… er, that is, they had a theme song… with lyrics!

Anyhoo… onward and outward…

Our first story opens with the Galaxy Building getting a visit from a strange pair of mutant teen-agers.  A helpful footnote informs us that Perry White and Superman had freed them from a madman named Calixto in Superman #265 (1973).  To show their thanks, they’ve concocted a gift of… cigars.  The stogies materialize on the Chief’s desk just as he enters his office.

At that very moment, Superman has returned to that… very building.  His super-hearing tips him off that his phone is ringing… and after nearly running over an office staffer, he manages to get to his office in time to nab the call.

On the line is… Perry White.  He’s just learned that he’s won his third Pulitzer Price (must just be givin’ those things away!), and Morgan Edge doth decreed that Clark Kent accompany Perry to New York to cover his acceptance.  And so, an hour later they’re in the air.  Just how far from New York is Metropolis anyway?

Anyhoo, once in the air they hit what is believed to be a pocket of turbulence.  Clark, using his x-ray vision knows better though.  He knows that the pilot has passed out due to lack of cabin pressure.  He makes an excuse to head to the back of the plane to “change clothes”, at which point Perry White (already smoking a cigar) wishes there were something he could do.  Worth noting (or maybe it’s not), Perry looks a whole lot like Chuck Woolery here… but not the Chuck Woolery of 1974… more like Love Connection era.  It’s kind of uncanny.

Perry unwittingly knocks a hole in the wall of the airplane… which, even without superpowers… why you gonna pound on the walls of an airplane?  Don’t you know they’re only able to fly because we all believe they can?!  Planes are just playing along with us, so it’s best to be respectful… you don’t wanna mess with that sorta magic.  After being swept out of the fuselage… Perry quickly realizes, he can fly!

By this point, Clark has “suped up” (took him long enough), and together… the combined forces of Superman and Super-Perry manage to safely land the plane.  From here, they hop onto another plane to finish their trek to New York.  Again… just how far apart are New York and Metropolis?!

At the Pulitzer Ceremony, Perry sees some of Clark’s old Metropolis U classmates givin’ him a hard time.  So… he uses his newfound superpowers to extract a bit of revenge on his pal’s behalf.  After Clark is tripped by one goofball, Perry nails the goons with a “super-gust” of cigar smoke!

If that’s not enough… after the Ceremony, there’s an Earthquake!  The whole event center looks to be tumblin’ down… until Perry makes the save.  All of the onlookers assume that Perry White is really… Superman!  Clark ain’t havin’ none’a that… so, he “supes up” and gives chase.

He follows until we see the source of the rumblin’… looks like one of those drill-vehicles the Foot Clan used in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Inside is a goofball looking to… I dunno, drill through a whole bunch of stuff… his motivations aren’t exactly clear.  Perry gets hit with a blast, rendering him… normal.

Superman continues his pursuit… and after taking an x-ray peek, learns that the “crime-tank” is fueled by nuclear power.  Just so happens that Superman knows there’s a secret nuclear reactor underneath the University… sooo, he heads underground… and sucks up all the nuke juice, rendering the tank immobile.

After the dust settles, folks swarm around Perry White to inquire as to what the hell they all just experienced.  Perry lights up another stogie (I dunno… I think he might have a problem), and talks about how all he has to do is think of a superpower… and suddenly, he’s got it!  He then wishes for the ability to know where his powers came from… and only then, does he realize that the four-thumbed mutants dosed his cigars with superpowers.

We wrap up this tale with an epilogue… in which Perry White locks his final super-cigar in a safe… just in case he might need it one day.

But that’s not all, folks… it’s time for some Action-Plus starring Green Arrow Great Frog!  We open with Dinah giving Ollie a clue she found regarding a fencing ring.  It’s a “professional quality” guitar string, which was found in an expensive camera which was stolen from Milwaukee… but fenced in Star City.  Ollie decides to look into some local rock bands…

… including, Great Frog!  It looks like they’re performing in front of a packed house… of gravel.  We’ll just assume those are heads and not rocks, right?  Anyhoo, Ollie is surprised to see his old ward Speedy beatin’ the tom tom on stage… which sounds much more disturbing than it actually is.

Ollie heads backstage to take a look at Great Frog’s equipment… he finds a snare drum with a false bottom… which conceals, you guessed it… expensive cameras!  Seems whoever’s behind this ring, is using unwitting rock bands to transport stolen goods.  It’s actually not the worst idea… though, it is a pretty big conclusion to jump to, ain’t it?  I mean, it wasn’t all that long ago that we learned Speedy was a junkie, right?  Might stand to reason that he’s a willing accomplice, right?  Nahhh… Ollie’s certain that Roy is well aware of the situation, and is conducting his own investigation at the same time.

After the show, Ollie goes to confront Roy about the shady dealings… almost giving him a pat on the back for his “undercover” work.  Just then, Roy’s “agent” Archie enters the backstage area and demands to know what a “costumed clown” is doing there.  Roy responds by… socking Green Arrow in the face!

On the way out of the dressing room, Roy (very obviously) tosses some sort of device at the “kayoed” Green Arrow.  When the rest of Archie’s goons go to “dispose” of Ollie, they get their butts kicked.

We move ahead to the offices of the Mammoth Booking Agency where Roy is invited to join up full time in their operation… which includes both stolen goods… and drugs!  Also counterfeiting, but I don’t think Speedy was ever addicted to that.  No sooner do the Mammoth folks spill the beans, than Green Arrow bursts through a window.  Ohhh, so that’s what the device was.

Ollie and Roy proceed to beat up the Mammoth guys… while Roy monologues about how they’ve been taking advantage of kids.  Ollie’s all “yeah, I figured that out four pages ago”.  Finally, the boss man agrees to talk.

After the Mammoth’s are hauled off to jail, Ollie pulls Roy aside and lectures him on the dangers of being too headstrong.  He tells Roy that if he ever feels like he’s in over his head, to let him know.  Yeah Ollie, just like when he was strung out, right?  You were real helpful then.  Roy calls him on his BS, and walks away.

Man, you can’t say the Bronze Age wasn’t fun!  We get some silly stuff here, sure… but I loved most every page of it!

I feel like these days we’re so busy trying to “solve” or “decode” stories in order to interject a measure of… I dunno… “logic”?  Maybe it’s just realism.  Whatever it is… it seems like we only allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief just so far before we disengage.  Like, we’ll believe a man could fly… but, “super ventriloquism”?  I feel like many folks are all, outta my face with that stuff.

Here, we have Perry White contracting superpowers from enchanted cigars… which were gifted to him by four-thumbed mutants.  There’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever write.  I love that this is just “accepted”.  It’s something that happened, and nobody’s really all that troubled by it.  I doubt very highly that “final cigar” was ever retrieved from that wall safe.  It’s just a one-and-done, and we move on from here.

It gives us a super-fun (Nick Cardy) cover, back when covers actually meant anything.  I’d like to think had I been a living, breathing human in 1974 I’d have wanted to read this one from the cover alone.

Now, what does Perry do with his superpowers?  He acts heroic… which is pretty perfect.  He’s about “out front” about it… but, whattaya gonna do… it’s his first day on the job.  I definitely appreciate his standing up for Clark against the college bullies… seems like something the fatherly White would do.

It’s funny… going back to “logic” and suspension of disbelief for just a moment… the one thing about this story that “gets” me… just how many miles are there between New York and Metropolis?!  I guess if the Pulitzer Ceremony was upstate it might be best to fly… but, I’m assuming they just went to the City.  Oh well.  Fun story though!

The back-up… you know I usually just “tolerate” backups… however, with this one… Great Frog notwithstanding, we actually get some followup on the “temperature” of the Roy/Ollie relationship.  This feels like vital and necessary reading if you were a fan of those characters.  Roy and Ollie’s relationship has been shaky for a little while at this point… and it’s neat to see them sorta-kinda confront that.

I did find it interesting that cynical old Ollie’s initial assumption is that Roy must be conducting an investigation… rather than being a party to the crime-ring.  I mean, he’d been burned by Speedy before… so, it wouldn’t be outta the realm of possibility that he’d relapsed.  I like that Ollie didn’t even consider it.  These days, it feels like Roy is pretty much defined by his heroin addiction… seems like everybody second-guesses his motivations, assuming he’s doing whatever it is he’s doing just to score his next “fix”.  It was refreshing to see that wasn’t the case here.

I dig that Roy kinda tells Ollie off at the end.  It makes complete sense.  The guy who’s offering him help, is the same guy that booted him from his house while he was addicted to drugs!  Kinda speakin’ outta both sides of yer mouth there, Ollie.

The art for both stories was pretty great.  Dick Dillin isn’t one of those artists I can immediately identify from his work… but, any time I see it, I love it!  There’s a fella we lost way too soon.

Overall… a fun issue, that might just be worth the hunt (don’t let it break your bank though… unless you’re a Great Frog completionist).  The feature story has been reprinted several times… though, it has not yet been made available digitally.

Letters Page (and “variant” cover):

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0 thoughts on “Action Comics #436 (1974)

  • Reggie Hemingway

    Looks like Great Frog lost a member between this appearance and the last! I wish we got another song, though…I might have recorded a 12" single!

  • Matthew O'Hara

    The third cigar stayed in the safe for eight years until SUPERMAN #376. Of course it's also by Elliot S!


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