I know this is usually when I put together a Best of Friday Night Fights, but scheduling means I didn’t get to do a Superman-related article yesterday, the Man of Steel’s 75th birthday. (And as some would point out, Lois Lane’s but I’ll get to that on Sunday.) Next week is the FNF Prize Fight, so I’ll do the next Best Of the week after, either in a big post, or making a Saturday posting. But now, the review.
Superman is my favorite DC superhero, possibly my favorite superhero period. It’s not just the amazing powers he has, but what he does with them. Despite what this cynical age (which sadly includes too many superhero writers) believes would or should happen, he helps people and then tries to lead a normal life. He’s someone who kids can admire and adults should try to be more like, and his adventures can be somewhat mundane or large and fantastic. Where Batman is versatile with how he can be portrayed, Superman is versatile with what kinds of stories he can part of.
I grew up in a very Superman-friendly period. Adventures Of Superman was in syndicated reruns, as were the Filmation cartoons, we had a series of theatrical releases, and even Superboy had his own series for a while…which went into some weird ideas in the later seasons. As far as comics, I had the Justice League of America comic I reviewed previously, a book & record where Superman fought a terrorist group, which is boring to review but a good read, and DC Comics Presents #50, a comic I once lost but happily found a back-issue of so I can still enjoy. And it’s just a good read now as it was then. This was Superman’s team-up book, and he teamed with many of the DC Universe’s best and newest and even traveled to Eternia to fight alongside He-Man. (Hint hint, Mr. Giffen) So who did he join forces with during the “50th Golden Jubilee Issue!”?
DC Comics Presents Vol. 5 #50
Featuring Superman and Clark Kent
DC Comics (October, 1982)WRITERS: Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn ARTIST: Curt Swan & Kurt Shaffenberger COLORIST: Gene D’Angelo LETTERER: A. Kawecki EDITOR: Julius Schwartz
That’s right, Superman teams with his own alter-ego. And to quote an old cliche, “not a hoax, not an imaginary story”. This team-up is actual DC canon pre-Crisis. So how did this happen?
Thank the Controllers. We’re told that these guys are younger than the ones who would menace the Legion of Superheroes and their Miracle Machine is still new and uncontrollable, disappearing from their dimension and embedding itself on a planetoid that’s about to impact an inhabited planet. Lucky for them Superman arrives, thinking about how his life is divided between “Clark” and “Superman” and almost wishing they could be separate people. Which the Miracle Machine picks up on.
The next day (?) we see the people of Metropolis gathering for a UN-sponsored Superman Day. Except Superman is so busy that he can’t attend, leading to a harsh bit of reporting by Clark Kent, who doesn’t understand why people are convinced he and Superman are best buddies…or why he runs to change in the storeroom when another disaster strikes. Superman is there to deal with it, “it” being the Atomic Skull, who has improved his gear and hands Superman a beat-down and escapes when he forces the Action Ace (I miss that nickname) to rescue Lois. A later battle would also see Skull working over the Man of Steel.
Superman is surprisingly cold to Lois and tells her that she shouldn’t be so flippant about his having to rescue her at the cost of capturing the Atomic Skull. Granted, this is a talk he should have had years ago, but that’s with a different Lois and it’s not very Superman-like. This makes Lana note that she used to think Clark WAS Superboy back in Smallville, which he also doesn’t remember. Actually, Supes is being a jerk to everyone, which Clark would later blame on stress because he can’t be everywhere at once.
As for Clark, he and Lois are checking into the Atomic Skull, Dr. Albert Michaels, to try and figure out where he’ll hit next, and Clark remembers the plantetoid even though he shouldn’t. (This would be the last adventure before Superman and Clark Kent became separate beings.) Clark also sees he wrote stories about Superman that he didn’t remember being there for, and some guy named Bruce wants him to cover for him in Gotham City. A nightmare that night night shows him that the planetoid may miss the planet but will hit the sun and he awakens to realize that he doesn’t actually need his glasses.
Eventually putting it all together, Clark confronts Superman telling him about the plantetoid, and their former “partnership”. Superman, who has been so busy that he didn’t realize the Miracle Machine (not that he would ever know it was there–I wonder what happened to that thing?) had thrown off his calculations. As he rushes off to stop the big space rock, it’s up to Clark to use his head to deal with the Atomic Skull.
In the epilogue, Clark’s memories of being Superboy have returned, but Superman’s hasn’t. Clark takes him on a tour of their former life, but nothing works, until this scene.
This shared memory opens the floodgates and the two re-merge into Kal-El: Clark Kent AND Superman.
I love this story. You get to see what makes Clark Kent tick and how his humanity makes Superman who he is. You can’t have one without the other, and so many of these Superman analogues, from the Plutonian to the Sentinel are so focused on their hero identity that they don’t have the humanity that Superman has. To paraphrase from Lois & Clark, Clark Kent is who he is, Superman is what he does. This is why he doesn’t go all evil and psychotic, and despite certain stories (Injustice: Gods Among Us), even if Lois did die I don’t think he would become the totalitarian monarch people expect him to be. He might go hardcore on the person responsible, but Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El isn’t one step from being insane. His humanity, gained from being raised by the Kents, is much stronger than writers of “Superman goes crazy” stories realize. Clark Kent is what makes Superman a hero, not his superpowers.
This is one of my favorite Superman stories and still holds up today. If you come across this comic, you would do well to pick it up. It’s a fun story and a rare occasion where Superman and Clark are not only split, but in a story that uses it well.
- Happy 75th Birthday Superman And Lois Lane! (splashpage.mtv.com)
- Take Mark Waid’s Toughest Superman Quiz — Ever! (comicbookresources.com)
- Superman At 75: Dan Jurgens Reflects On The Man of Steel (comicbookresources.com)