Action Comics vol. 43 #507
DC Comics (May, 1980)
“The Miraculous Return Of Jonathan Kent!”
WRITER: Cary Bates
PENCILER: Curt Swan
INKER: Frank Chiaramonte
COLORIST: Gene D’Angelo
LETTERER: Milt Snapinn
EDITOR: Julius Schwartz
After a newscast, Lana forces Clark to dinner to meet a mutual acquaintance. Imagine Clark’s surprise when it turns out to be Jonathan Kent, his father. Remember, this is pre-Crisis when the Kents are dead. Every attempt Clark makes to prove he’s a fake turns out to instead prove he’s the genuine article, even going to the house and seeing his stuff there and letters Clark obviously never sent. Meanwhile Lana is not even flinching at all this. Serving as a distraction is a guy calling himself Starshine, who uses his power to make things happen with his voice and saying “please” (guess it really is a magic word), is causing havoc in Metropolis, not only ordering Superman to take a slow boat to China (which he does against his will) but at the end of the story ordering anyone over thirty to leave Metropolis forever.
What they got right: Starshine is an interesting villain. He uses his power against those who mistreat him for being a “hippie” as a form of karma but he does try to be nice to them first when asking for money. He’s still the villain but you understand why he’s so annoyed even if you aren’t rooting for him.
What they got wrong: “Hippie”? Really, Cary? This is the 1980s. At best this story would have been written in late 1979. A bit late for hippie villains or the “supreme ruler of the youth generation”. The Jonathan Kent story then becomes a distraction (unless it turns out next issue, which I don’t have, that Starshine was behind his return for some reason) when it would have been better off as it’s own story.
What else?: Interesting that in this story Jonathan Kent died a few days AFTER Martha given that in more recent stories Jon keeps dying first, with Martha around for years. This is pre-Crisis, where the Kents die after picking up a disease while on an adventure with Superboy. That was changed post-Crisis, my guess being that the Kents were so liked in the Superboy stories that ditching Superboy from Clark’s history meant keeping them around was the only way to keep them in the story. Also of note is that in the flashback Clark mentions that even with his superpowers he couldn’t save them, which writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn used to bring the split Clark and Superman back together in one of my favorite Clark Kent stories, DC Comics Presents #50. Finally, these two random issues I have has Lana practically dating Clark. I thought around this time she was competing with Lois for Superman? Although frankly I think I prefer the idea of Lana pursuing Clark and Lois pursing Superman. It makes things harder for Clark (and more fun for us) and gives him options to decide what he really wants in a love interest.
What I think overall: Two stories fighting with each other that might have been more interesting separate, though again if Starshine is somehow tied to Jonathan’s undeath it’s the only thing that would make sense. Sadly I don’t have the next issue for this one either.