Welcome, readers, to this second installment of "Cover Stories!" I'm your humble host, Jon B. Knutson!
As I told you last week, "Cover Stories" will be appearing here each week, as I present three or four covers with a common theme to them. Today's theme is "Altered Egos," which was a pretty common theme in comics!
By "Altered Egos," I'm referring to covers where a featured character has assumed a new identity, usually temporarily (and more often than not, just for that issue!).
The first cover I'm sharing with you this week is this great Action Comics 371 cover, in which Superman takes on the identity of the President of the United States! How could this happen?
Well, I'll tell ya! This was part of a multi-part storyline that ran in several issues of Action Comics, in which Superman lost all memory of his Clark Kent identity! As each issue in the story progressed, Superman would try to discover what his identity was, temporarily assuming what he thought was his real identity for that issue, until it was proven otherwise. Now, I should admit here that I read this whole storyline as back issues, and it's been a while since I read them, so if I get a few details fuzzy, you'll have to forgive me! If I recall correctly, Superman flew to the White House, figuring that the President would know his secret identity (not a bad assumption, as we know President John F. Kennedy knew it, and in fact, Kennedy once took Superman's place as Clark Kent!). When he arrived at the White House, however, the President wasn't there, and Superman found items stashed that would allow him to impersonate the President himself, figuring the only reason those items would be there was that it would allow him to be the president in his secret identity!
So, through the story, he covers for the missing president, until it's discovered he's not really the president, and goes off in search of his missing secret identity! Note on this cover that you don't clearly see the face of the president... unless I'm mistaken, you don't see the president's face in the story, either! This was during a period where presidents weren't typically depicted in the comics.
Action Comics 371 was cover-dated January 1969, and the cover was drawn by Curt Swan with inks by Neal Adams. "The President of Steel" was a 12-page story, written by Otto Binder (one of the original writers of Fawcett's Captain Marvel) with pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Jack Abel. The back-up feature was Supergirl in "The Supergirl Best-Seller," by Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger. Neither this issue or any of the other issues in this storyline have ever been reprinted!
The second "Altered Ego" cover comes from Archie Comics' Adventures of the Fly 7, which I believe will be reprinted in the Fly trade paperback! For those of you unaware of the Fly's history, here's a brief summary: Tommy Troy, an orphaned boy, discovered a magic ring in his attic, and through it was contacted by Turan, an emissary of the Fly World. Because Tommy is pure of heart, Turan bestows upon him the identity of the Fly, complete with super-strength, the ability to cling to walls, flight, and a "Buzz Gun" -- but along with these powers came a weakness... he's stunned when a bright light is flashed at him (yeah, I don't understand it, either). When Tommy wants to become The Fly, he simply rubs the magic ring and says, "I wish I were... The Fly!" To change back, he rubs the ring and says, "I wish I were... Tommy Troy!" The series was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, although there's evidence that others had a hand in his creation, too (for more information on this, see Joe Simon's book, "The Comic Book Makers").
Not too long into the series, Tommy Troy suddenly became Thomas Troy, an adult, who was an attorney. He was also joined by actress Kim Brand, who became Fly Girl! Together, they battled the forces of evil, and joined with the Shield and other Archie superheroes as "The Mighty Crusaders." However, Archie's Silver Age superheroes didn't last long, and were cancelled within a few years. In the 1980s, they returned under the editorship of Rich Buckler, under Archie's Red Circle imprint, but that didn't last, either. And years after that, DC licensed the Archie superheroes for their !mpact! line, completely revamping the characters so there was little resemblance to their original counterparts, although I found 'em good readin'!
Anyway... to this issue! I've never read it, so I can't tell you why Thomas Troy is taking on the identity of Public Enemy Number One! But one has to give props to Archie for taking a chance here... with the exception of the small figure on the logo, The Fly doesn't even appear on this cover!
Adventures of the Fly 7 was cover-dated July 1960, with a cover by John Giunta. The previous issues were titled simply "The Fly"! The first story was "The Haunted Yacht," by Robert Bernstein and John Giunta, followed by "The Fly and the Black Hood Join Forces" and "Tommy Troy, Gangster", also by the same team.
The final cover in today's trio is Captain America 176, the pivotal story in which Steve Rogers quits as Captain America! This was a big-time story in the 1970s, and spun off of the tail-end of a long battle Captain America had with the Secret Empire, in which Cap found out that Number 1, the leader of The Secret Empire, was... ah, but that would be telling!
Suffice it to say that this was around the time of Watergate, and the country as a whole was re-examining how they thought of the USA and the country's leaders.
Steve Engelhart was in fine form during this time, weaving an intricate story in which Cap and the Falcon come to grips with what's happened! As you can see by the cover, and as I said, Steve Rogers quits being Captain America! Of course, one can't keep a good superhero down, and before long, he'd assumed a new identity, of the man called... Nomad! This storyline also featured others taking on the mantle of Captain America, and not being successful, either! In fact, at least one of the replacement Captain Americas ends up dead for his troubles before the storyline is done.
I love this cover... John Romita did an amazing job with it, drawing your attention to Steve Rogers in the center, looking both defeated and disgusted. This is a storyline that definitely should get the trade paperback treatment!
Captain America 176 was cover-dated August 1974, and as I said, the cover was by John Romita. The story "Captain America Must Die" recapped Cap's origin and career, and was written by Steve Englehart with pencils by Sal Buscema (one of my favorite Cap artists) with inks by Vinnie Colletta.
I hope you'll join me for next week's "Cover Stories," in which I'll present a trio of covers under the theme "Are You Talkin' To Me?" If you want to comment on this column, you can write me directly at .