How is it that a free give-away promo comic from 1980 has a more interesting cover than what you see now?

Superman: The Computers That Saved Metropolis

DC Comics/Radio Shack (1980)

WRITER: Cary Bates

ARTISTS: Jim Starlin & Dick Giordano

Nobody else wanted to admit working on this apparently. No colorist, no letterer, and no editor listed.

Superman drops in on an old friend, teacher Margaret Wilson (there’s actually an issue of the regular Superman comics that mention they knew each other in Smallville, and that Ms. Wilson is also a friend of Clark Kent’s). He brings along a pair of Radio Shack’s TRS-80 microcomputer, big stuff at the time. Two kids in particular come into focus, the intelligent Shanna and the wise-cracking Alec. The visit and lesson on computers is interrupted when Major Disaster unleashes a tornado in the heart of Metropolis. However, the tornado was really meant to unleash synthetic Kryptonite crystals designed to target Superman’s super brain, making it hard to calculate the math side of using his powers, like how much heat it takes to evaporate flood waters without damaging the city. That’s one of three disasters the villain sets up to embarrass the Action Ace (that’s right, I miss that nickname). However, Shanna and a repentant Alec volunteer to help Superman by doing the necessarily calculations on the computers he brought, thus foiling Major Disaster’s plan.

What they got right: I know folks would dismiss this because it’s meant to tell kids about computers and to push their computers specifically, but I can look past that. Take those out and outside of wondering why Superman is bringing computers to this classroom, even when he’s friends with the teacher, this isn’t that bad a story. This was meant to entertain kids (to win them over, granted) so kids getting to save the day sounds like something a kid would want to read while Superman does the heavy work. Major Disaster’s plan could have worked in a normal DC Comic of the time and the disasters he causes are quite serious. Plus the art is rather good for a free giveaway comic book.

What they got wrong: You’d think Alec would at least be excited Superman was visiting his class. How jaded are people in Metropolis? There’s one panel that looks like dialog was dropped but the art wasn’t fixed to reflect that, and one panel has some odd dialog as a woman explains why their car is flying out of a volcano. I did a Friday Night Fights on that scene.

What I think overall: The target audience is kids, at a time when DC Comics writers didn’t hate kids and gave them Superman stories. However, I still enjoy it as an adult. It’s light but fun and the threats are legit threats whatever you think about the solution. Superman’s solution is rather clever if you aren’t obsessed with realism…where Superman’s powers can’t even exist so there is no Superman if you’re “realistic”. I still enjoy this story.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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