Superman #369 (March, 1982)
“Superman’s Last Christmas!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Pencils – Rich Buckler
Inks – Frank McLaughlin
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60
It’s the Third Day of Christmas on Infinite Earths… annnnd, we’re batting around .500, right? So far, we’ve had a really good issue of Flash… followed by kind of a stinker issue of Impulse. Let’s see if this issue of Superman nudges our average up a bit!
We open in Galaxy Plaza, where Steve Lombard and Lana Lang are on the air… anxiously awaiting the arrival of Superman and this year’s Galaxy Christmas Tree! Lois and Jimmy are watching from the sidelines, and are sure the Man of Steel’s lateness has something to do with some sort of crisis or another… and, indeed it does. While searching Maine for the perfect Christmas Tree (and bah-humbugging the whole time), Superman comes across a house falling into a sinkhole!
He saves the house, and the family inside it… and even triggers a molten “fill” on the ground to even it up. With that job behind him, he continues his search. He finally finds just the right tree… but, still ain’t quite feeling the Christmas Spirit. He feels like maybe he should’ve just sat this Holiday Season out… and even suggests that procuring a Christmas Tree is sorta-kinda a waste of his time. Well… it’s not like he’s wrong, but… gotta say, I don’t wanna hear Superman talking like this.
Back in Metropolis, we meet up with Agent Cory Renwald. If you’re a regular reader of this blog (or, ya know… pre-Crisis Superman books), his name oughta ring a bell. I won’t spoil his “secret” for ya yet, because it’s kinda the crux of the issue. Anyhoo, he’s in Metropolis, walking down Delancy Street… when suddenly, he’s jumped by a bell-ringin’ Santa Claus! Cory digs deep into his Secret Agent training and… dumps the Santy Claus into a (moderately convenient) nearby open manhole.
We return to Galaxy Plaza just as Superman is arriving with the giant Christmas Tree. Onlookers… uh, look on, as he wraps it in lights and ornaments… and don’t fail to notice Superman scurrying off before they throw the switch. Moments later, Clark Kent arrives on the scene to meet up with his friends and coworkers. Turns out, he’s just as bah-humbuggy as his super-self… which makes him rather an irritant to Lois and Jimmy.
We rejoin Cory Renwald as he approaches a construction site. He reveals that he’s in Metropolis on business. He calls in to “base” and learns he’s supposed to be following the every move of… Clark Kent!
It’s a little while later, and we’ve shifted scenes to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman is undergoing a sort of light-therapy. In resting under these Rynarian beams, his body is forced to relax. He’s just had it with the hustle and bustle of Christmas in Metropolis. He thinks back to his childhood and all of the wonderful Christmases he’d shared with his folks, Ma and Pa Kent.
While he’s getting all loosey-goosey under the lights, he fails to notice that someone has entered the Fortress of Solitude… if you took a look at the cover, you’ll know the interloper is… Parasite! Superman, in his relaxed state, is easy-pickin’s for the purple jerk, who locks the Man of Steel in a full-nelson. Worth noting, at this point in the continuity, Parasite knows that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same.
Superman is finally able to recover, and with one helluva thrust, breaks the full-nelson. He then hurls Parasite a mile across the Arctic expanse… where the baddie finds himself lodged in a glacier! Lucky for him, he’d managed to siphon off a bit of Superman’s power… and so, he heat-visions his way out of icy captivity.
The next day in Metropolis, Lois and Clark are out Christmas shopping. His super-hearing picks up on the sound of a rifle bolt being primed, and he frantically scans the area for snipers. He’s rather shocked to learn that the sniper has his sight set on him! It’s an underworld crime syndicate goon… however, before he can pull the trigger, Agent Cory Renwald arrives and kicks him in the mush.
Clark uses his x-ray vision to read Cory’s credentials, and just assumes the Agent (who he’d once helped as Superboy) is there to investigate the syndicate.
We follow Renwald to a nearby payphone, where he calls in to his boss. It’s here we learn the true reason for the Kent investigation. Ya see, Clark Kent has betrayed the United States… not by turning to another foreign power, but to aliens from another planet! Cory decides to get a better look by posing as a repairman and sneaking into Kent’s apartment.
When Cory opens the door to Apartment 3-D, a microscopic alarm is triggered… this causes a high-frequency Zee-Zee-Zee sound to fill the air… which, Clark Kent immediately picks up on. I gotta wonder why he’d set his alarm to make the same sound as Jimmy’s signal watch, but whattayagonnado? His telescopic vision reveals that the home invader is… Cory Renwald!
Clark rushes off to the storage room to “supe up”… unfortunately, the room is already occupied… by Parasite! Remember, he knows the secret identity. Why he doesn’t just tell the world and ruin Superman’s life (lives?) himself, I haven’t the foggiest.
The two titans battle and Superman is hurled threw a window… and, since Parasite managed to siphon off a bit more of his super-energy, Superman plummets to Galaxy Plaza below… and smashes right into the Galaxy Christmas Tree!
Back at 344 Clinton Street, Agent Renwald has wrapped up his investigation… and wrestles with himself whether or not he’ll reveal Clark Kent’s “secret”. He gets into an cab where he chats up the driver. The driver gives him the correct code-phrase to inform him that he’s part of the Agency as well. All he’s willing to say to the driver is that he found something. He’ll only spill the beans-in-full to the head honcho of the operation.
It’s here that we learn that the cab driver is actually… Parasite. Not only that, the Parasite was behind the entire magilla. He was the handsy Santy Claus on Delancy, which is when he enacted his plan to control poor Cory Renwald… from there, he orchestrated the Kent investigation. Again, why bother? When you already know the secret… this just seems silly. Seems like Parasite just wants to screw with Superman in both his personas at the same time, just to see how he reacts. I’d figure that’s more Mxy’s territory, but… heck, it’s Christmas, we’ll allow it.
Superman finally returns to his apartment, where he performs a scan of the place. It’s clear to him that Renwald did a pretty good job digging around… and even found some of his interstellar trophies (which Parasite knew Renwald would come across). Superman worries that his secret… might be out! Ya know, to yet another guy.
No time for that, though… it’s time for the Galaxy Christmas Party. Clark makes a brief (and pointless) appearance before taking back to the skies. He happens across Renwald meeting with the Agency’s head honcho… who is, of course… Parasite!
Parasite attempts to siphon off more super-energy… however, this time, Superman’s ready (it only took him like two decades!). Wait’ll I tell you just what he did to prepare. Ya see, Superman’s weakness is, of course, Kryptonite… and so, he sprayed himself with a “low-grade dose” of Green-K… so that when Parasite got to suckin’… he’d get a body-full of the bad stuff. This is just so dumb. But it works, and that’s all that matters!
We wrap up back at Clark’s apartment, where he’s visited by… Agent Cory Renwald. Cory spills the beans about what he’d learned while digging through Clark’s apartment… he’d learned that Clark Kent was raised (shocker) by the Kents in Smallville… the same couple who took him in during his days as a juvenile delinquent! So he’s, sorta-kinda, Clark’s brother in a way. But, like… not at all. But, sorta.
Cory credits the Kents for putting him on the straight and narrow… he’d never be an Agent for the United States government if not for their intervention. Clark seems less happy to be meeting his “brother” and more relieved that this knucklehead didn’t put two-and-two together and figure out that he’s Superman! We close out with the fellas reminiscing over Christmas with the Kents.
Well… this was better than yesterday’s Impulse comic. Yeah, that’s not really such high praise, is it?
Let’s look at this one for what it is… it’s an attempt to legitimize the stories going on in New Adventures of Superboy (also being written by Cary Bates) by inserting Clark’s sorta-kinda brother, Cory Renwald into a main title. That’s not really anything to get mad about… but, there really isn’t much more to it than that.
The Parasite bit was oddly convoluted… and while I’m no “Parasite Scholar”, I don’t understand why he’d go to such lengths just to annoy Superman. I mean, dude’s got the secret… and he chooses to just screw with him? I don’t get it. Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything that precludes him from spilling the beans… but, this just seemed silly.
I wanna touch on Superman’s “bah humbugginess” here. I get that some folks don’t dig the Holiday Season, and I can respect that… but, Superman being so cranky just doesn’t feel right to me. His claim that fetching a Christmas Tree is a waste of his time… I dunno. Let’s look at this for a second. This is pre-Crisis Superman… the one who could sneeze the Sun into another galaxy, right? Shouldn’t he be able to fetch and trim a tree in like… less than a second? They play kinda loose with just how fast Superman is… and, while I get it… it’s also kinda tough to reconcile.
I mean, if we’re talking about “wasting Superman’s time”… dude spends (at least) forty-hours a week working. That’s certainly hinders him from being Superman, right? If he’s so concerned with being Superman all the time… that kinda mucks up the whole concept of having a secret identity… and really affects the “core” of the character… don’t it?
almost certainly thinking too hard about this… it was just an “off-hand” remark from Superman when he was cranky… but, I feel like we’re expected to “accept” it, when it just raises so many more questions, and flaws in the “secret identity” concept. You’d think they’d shy away from that when trying to maintain a suspension of disbelief. Ehh, whattayagonnado?
Overall… it was neat seeing Metropolis all decked out for Christmas, and as a stickler for lore, it was cool having Cory Renwald inserted into the then-current continuity.