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Cover Stories by Jon B. Knutson
Jon Knutson presents comic book covers with a common theme
and relates any information and comments about them.

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COVER STORIES for 06/26/2005

Welcome to this seventh edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!

This week, the theme is "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes," as I look at five Action Comics covers featuring strange transformations of the Man of Steel! Yeah, Superman underwent a number of bizarre transformations, usually due to exposure to Red Kryptonite (naturally, all the other survivors of Krypton's demise, or at least Supergirl, Krypto, and Beppo, were prone to these, too). However, not all the transformations were caused by Red K!

Action Comics 256

Here's the first of the five, featuring "The Superman of the Future!" with pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Stan Kaye, who also did the honors inside on the Otto Binder script, which was reprinted in Superman Annual 3.

No doubt, the image of Superman here reminds one of the David McCallum character in the classic "Outer Limits" episode, "The Sixth Finger," but this cover predates that episode by a few years!

Anyway... the cover is kind of a "cheat," because, as my good buddies on the Silver Age Reviews list explain, "The tale begins with Lois and other reporters covering an experiment by "Professor Wright, famous scientist", as Superman enters the test tube attached to Wright's "time cabinet". Superman has the ability to travel in time on his own, of course, but "I'm making a TEST of this device! I want to see if it will be safe for ordinary humans!" (Once again a flawed experimental protocol; how can the invulnerable Superman really test what would be "safe for ordinary humans"?) But the Superman who returns is the hyper-evolved Man of Long After Tomorrow, with the big brain and long fingers, explaining that the Superman of 1959 decided to spend 24 hours in the future and he, the Future Superman, returned in his place to 'keep the time route open'."

Ah, but as is often the case with weirdness in Silver Age Superman stories, this is all part of an elaborate hoax! The villain of the piece is inadvertantly responsible for uncovering the hoax, as you'll see... "Folgar alerts his henchmen to go ahead with their plan, which involves blowing up the President's car with a bomb hidden under a manhole cover. And the plot succeeds! But the President isn't in the car...instead the only occupant is the Ultra-Superman! Or is it? The bomb blast tears off his long plastic fingers, and he removes the bulging plastic "skull"... "'re the 1959 SUPERMAN!" The Ordinary Superman reveals that the whole appearance of the "Ultra-Superman" was an elaborate hoax to smoke out a suspected assassination plot by making the plotters believe they were assured by fate of success. Superman projected images of the "disasters" with an apparatus hidden under his fake skull and then made the "disasters" come true... taking care that no lives were actually lost..."

Oh, Superman, you're such a kidder!

This issue of Action also featured a Henry Boltinoff "Professor Eureka" filler, Congorilla in "Janu, the Joker of the Jungle" by Howard Sherman, Supergirl in "The Great Supergirl Mirage!" by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney (the story that introduced Dick Wilson, later Dick Malverne, and which was also reprinted in Adventure Comics 390).

Action Comics 280

Next, it's time to get small, as Superman, Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen are shrunk by Brainiac! The cover is by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, who also did the art honors on the Jerry Siegel script. This story was reprinted in Superman Family 168.

This issue also featured Ollie by Henry Boltinoff, and "Trapped in Kandor," a Supergirl story continued from Action 279, by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney, and which was reprinted in Action 360.

Action Comics 284

On this cover, Superman "gets small" again, but he's not shrunk, he's been reverted to childhood! Curt Swan's pencils were inked by Shelly Moldoff on this cover. "The Babe of Steel" was written by Robert Berinstein with Swan pencils and either Shelly Moldoff or George Klein on inks (it's in dispute). This was a Red Kryptonite transformation, but this one was on purpose! It seems Clark Kent is at a séance when Mon-El (in the Phantom Zone) contacts Clark to alert him that there's a rift in the Phantom Zone! Superman uses Red K to turn himself into a Superbaby so he can enter the rift (which is too small for his adult form to get through). The rift is caused by the Aurora Borealis, and later, he, Supergirl and Krypto use their heat vision to burn the Aurora Borealis to seal the rift. This story was later reprinted in Superman 212, an 80-Pg. Giant issue!

This issue also features two fillers, Casey the Cop and Tricksy, both by Henry Boltinoff, and "The Strange Bodies of Supergirl" by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.

Action Comics 296

Next, it's shades of "Them!" as Superman gets involved with "The Invasion of the Super-Ants!" This cover is by Curt Swan and George Klein. The story within, with art by Al Plastino, features an invading force of Super-Ants who threaten the Earth, until Superman defeats them by exposing himself to Red K in order to give him the head of an ant! Interestingly, the Red K he used was one we'd seen previously in a Superboy story, in which it transformed Krypto into a collie (even more bizarrely, it was a female collie which gave birth to puppies, but that's another story). The Red K effect was to transform one into whatever form they were thinking of. This story wa reprinted in Superman 227.

Also in this issue was "The Girl Who Was Supergirl's Double!" by Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney, which was reprinted in Super DC Giant S-24.

Finally... here's one more Red K transformation...

Action Comics 303

In "The Monster From Krypton," Superman is transformed into this monster, and hilarity ensues. OK, maybe hilarity isn't the right word... Curt Swan and George Klein handled the art chores on the cover and the Edmond Hamilton story within, which was reprinted in Adventure Comics 420. This issue also featured Supergirl in "Supergirl's Big Brother" by Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney, which itself was reprinted in Superman Family 175.

Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at for other musings and ramblings by me!

Jon B. Knutson

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Recent Installments:
NEWESTInstallment 129: 1 - 10 - Cracked! (10/28/2007)
10/21/2007Installment 128: Clichés
10/14/2007Installment 127: Comics Never Made - Drive-In Movie Classics and Fantastic Film Classics
10/07/2007Installment 126: Circus Time
09/30/2007Installment 125: 1-10 - Challengers of the Unknown!
09/23/2007Installment 124: Ch-ch-ch-changes - And it's all Superman family titles!
09/16/2007Installment 123: Comics Never Made - Drive-In Movie Classics and Fantastic Film Classics
09/09/2007Installment 122: Reader Challenge - a reader gave me four comic book covers, and challenged me to come up with the theme!
09/02/2007Installment 121: Cartoon Stuff
08/26/2007Installment 120: Sports
08/19/2007Installment 119: 1-10 - Captain Marvel Adventures!
08/12/2007Installment 118: Comics Never Made - Five comics that never were!
08/05/2007Installment 117: Carnival
07/22/2007Installment 116: A G-g-g-g-g-ghost!
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