Superman #289 (July, 1975)
“The Phantom Horseman of Metropolis!”
“Right Down My Alley!”
Writers – Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils – Curt Swan
Inks – Bob Oksner & Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
Hey… that sure is an interesting cover!
Do the stories inside have even the tiniest of hopes of living up to it? Short answer, no… long answer, read on!
We open at the home of Professor J.J. Pepperwinkle, an absent-minded (and spouse-ignoring) inventor… who was originally created for the Adventures of Superman television series during the 1950’s. Anyhoo, his wife wants him to spend some time with her… but he’s too busy. he does, after all, have an obligation to his “fellow geniuses”. He realizes that a new invention of his has gone missing… and draws up a sketch of the thing, not realizing that he just walked right past it. It looks like a TV antenna… and get this, his wife is using it as a TV antenna!
He, of course, doesn’t realize this… and simply assumes that it’s been stolen. He decides to head off to the police station to file a report. After he leaves, Mrs. Pepperwinkle decides to catch up on her dishwashing… and maybe catch the end of a John Wayne flick on television (you see where this is headed?).
He shift scenes into Metropolis proper, where Clark Kent, Steve Lombard, and rodeo star, Candy Chapin are walkin’ and talkin’. Steve sees an unattended police horse, and figures why not hop on and impress the pretty young Ms. Chapin with his riding prowess. This goes about as well as any of Lombard’s endeavors, and he is bucked off with the quickness. At the very same time… a Phantom Horseman gallops down the street!
Clark ducks under a nearby bus for a quick-change, and proceeds to pursue the phantom as Superman. The empty-space-equestrian gallops straight toward a building… and much to Superman’s surprise, appears to be able to dissolve matter on contact! That certainly doesn’t bode well.
Superman tries tackling the rider… which doesn’t do much to slow its progress. And so, he decides to fly ahead of the thing in order to clear a path… ensuring no humans get dissolved on contact. Just then, back at Pepperwinkle’s, Elaine turns the television set off to answer the door…
… at which time, the Phantom Rider pops right out of existence!
Just so happens that Superman is right outside the police station… and he overhears Professor Pepperwinkle explain his case to Inspector Henderson. Superman kinda puts two and two together here, but not completely. Before he can fully think it through, Morgan Edge calls in to the station to report that a group of extremists known as the… get this… Metropolis Revolutionary Army have taken credit for the Phantom Rider, and swear to unleash another goofy-ass horror if they’re not given a million bucks. As this is going down, Elaine Pepperwinkle decides to watch a little roller derby.
And wouldja believe… the next vacant humanoid shape to appear is that of Big Bertha, the roller derby queen! You gotta figure she’ll be aiming for folks to take out!
Superman rushes off to the local junkyard to grab a treadmill… he then places the treadmill in the street and catches “Bertha” with it as she skates on by. Moments later, Elaine turns off the set to answer the door… again. Popular old bird, this Elaine Pepperwinkle! Naturally, at this point “Big Bertha” vanishes.
Back at the station, the Professor comes up with a plan to deal with the Metropolis Revolutionary Geeks. Using Superman’s microscopic vision, they’ll “trace” the call from the police station to wherever the hell these goofballs are hiding out. I mean, Superman’s always had the microscopic vision, right? Shouldn’t he have figured this out without the Professor’s help? Oh well… they arrive at the Revolutionary hut… and Superman kicks butt.
After cleaning house, Superman and the Prof notice that Big Bertha is on the tube. Good thing the Revolutionaries left the set on! This gets Pepperwinkle’s brain going, and he finally figures out what’s been going on this whole time.
Together, the fellas head back to Pepperwinkle’s place… and Superman nyoinks the “antenna” off of Elaine’s television set. She cops to stealing the invention in order to get her husband’s attention… after all, today is their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary! Little did she know, the Prof didn’t forget… and, in fact, made reservations at an exclusive restaurant four-weeks prior. So… all’s well that ends…
Only… that’s not the end! It’s time for a peek into The Private Life of Clark Kent… and, oh boy, it’s a doozy. We open with several members of the WGBS staff grabbing a bite to eat. It isn’t long before Steve Lombard gets all chauvinistic… and so, Lois challenges him to a “battle of the sexes” bowling match. It sure is a good thing that we’ve got four ladies and four fellas!
Here’s the thing though… one of the fellas just happens to be Clark Kent, who… if he uses his Superman powers will give the men an unfair advantage… but, if he keeps up his clumsy-Kent persona, will give the women an unfair advantage. He sees only one way to make the match fair… and, boy is it dumb. He creates a “mental block” to make it impossible for him to use his super-powers.
We jump ahead to the bowling match… and it’s a pretty even match. Also, it turns out that, even without his powers, Clark ain’t half bad a bowler.
It comes down to Clark trying to grab a spare from a 7-10 split. Lombard pretends to hypnotize him… ya know “be the ball” and all that jazz. This gives CK a good laugh, and he decides to play along… he also, as it happens, manages to get that spare! There’s no time to celebrate however, as the Mad Bomber of Metropolis has decided to strike the… bowling alley? Really? Okay. As the roof comes down, Clark pushes Lois out of the way of a falling beam.
Now Clark is pinned under the beam… and without any of his superpowers is rather helpless. So he… get this… “hypnotizes” Lois into being strong enough to life the beam. You kidding me? The “official” call is that Clark’s “power of suggestion” got Lois’ Adrenalin flowing… which gave her a momentary burst of strength. Okay…
So, that was a pair of… what’s the word… well, pretty bad stories!
I mean, I knew that the stories wouldn’t live up to the neat photo-cover… but, I wasn’t expecting for them to be quite as lame as they wound up being. I realize that you sorta have to get into the right frame of mind for some of these silly Bronze Age stories… and I certainly have an affinity for many of them! This, though? Just blech. What’s worse… there’s not even all that much to say about it! Superman fights things from Elaine Pepperwinkle’s television set… The End.
I’ll give a little bit of leeway to the backup… it follows a pretty standard sitcom plot, which, a lot of times… is all one can ask for from these. It’s template “battle of the sexes”, with the usual bit of male chauvinism to ignite the fuse. I am surprised, however, that they didn’t portray the fellas as completely incompetent and bumbling during the match. I’d have lost money on that bet.
Overall… even though I thought both of these stories were pretty awful, I couldn’t tell ya to avoid this one. If you happen across it for a couple of bucks (preferably less), I’d say grab it for the neat-o cover alone! These crude photo covers were something special… and never fail to stand out. If only its insides were half as interesting!