COVER STORIES for 12/11/2005
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #31
Welcome to this 31st edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
You know, it must be scary being a normal person living in the world of the comics. I mean, life has to be pretty frightening for non-super-people as it is, when you never know if your house or place of business will be attacked by the likes of Lex Luthor, or Captain Boomerang, or the Brain Emperor, or whoever - but still, you know your neighborhood super-hero will swoop or swing or run in and save the day, defeating the bad guys, and then taking off again. After all, you never have to fear the super-heroes, they make things right in the world, right?
Well, sure they do... except when they... TURN EVIL!
And that's today's theme! Way, way before the whole Dark Phoenix thing (or even the more recent Scarlet Witch killing some of her fellow Avengers off), sometimes, those four-color, long john-clad dudes with their underwear on the outside of their pants would just plain turn evil, out of the blue, making their fellow heroes (as well as the citizens of their fair town) wonder what was up with them!
Okay, sure, most of the time, it was only a temporary thing, and it turned out they weren't really evil... often it would turn out to be a hoax of some kind, or even someone pretending to be the hero turned evil... but still... if I were a resident of Metropolis, after about the third or fourth time Superman turned evil, I'd start thinking that maybe I should check out the black market for Kryptonite, just to be safe (assuming Lex Luthor and Brainiac weren't constantly outbidding me for it on eBay - and you just know that Brainiac's using sniping software, don't you?).
So, here's "Superman, King of Earth!" This was one of those twice-told (or more) stories, as editor Mort Weisinger believed there was a regular turnover of readers every eight years or so, and he'd recycle stories to use again and again. But let's focus on this one, shall we?
There's some nice touches on this cover, and some plain silly ones, too... and some are both nice and silly! Let's start with the throne... which, I have to say, looks pretty cool to me (if not all that comfortable, necessarily... does it offer any lumbar support?). The crown, however, just has to go... couldn't they come up with a design that use the familiar s-shield on it? Also having to go is the ermine trim on the cape... although I do concede it's a good visual short-hand telling the reader Superman considers himself royalty.
That flag is something I'm undecided on... Perhaps if the shield was centered on it, I'd be able to decide better.
Now, for some silly aspects of this... Superman calls himself ruler of the world, but he still accepts the idea of individual nations? He does - look at his word balloon! If he's ruler of the world, wouldn't it be just one nation?
And then, there's all the precious gems being offered up to him... Silly delegates... this is a guy who routinely used super-pressure to turn regular coal into diamonds! If he just wanted that wealth, he'd simply make it himself!
The cover of this 311th issue of Action, cover-dated April 1964, was drawn by Superman artist supreme Curt Swan, with inks by the capable Shelly Moldoff. Swan handled the pencils on the lead story, "Superman, King of Earth!" which was written by Robert Bernstein, and inked by George Klein. In this issue, Superman is split into Superman and Clark Kent, presumably thanks to Red Kryptonite, and continued into Action #312.
Also in this issue was Supergirl in "The Day Super-Horse Became Human!" written by Leo Dorfman with art by Jim Mooney. I don't even have to look this up to figure that a comet must've passed by Earth, as that's the only thing that changed Comet the Super-Horse back into human form for a short while. This story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #390, retitled "Supergirl's Cowboy Hero," as Comet's human identity called himself "Bronco Bill."
Just to show you that the Man of Steel didn't wait until he was an adult to display these antisocial tendencies, here's one with an evil Superboy!
Yep, here he is, the Boy of Steel, smashing statues of himself! Apparently he's no more impressed with statues of himself than his adult counterpart is with jewels, eh?
And not that I'm trying to be critical of cover artist Win Mortimer, but I'm glad I don't live and drive around in Superboy City, USA... look at the pedestals for those statues... they're hanging out into the street! Sheesh... did the auto body shops put up the money for these in an attempt to drum up business?
This 202nd issue of Adventure featured a PSA on the inside front cover, "Don't Give Fire a Place to Start," featuring Superboy, and written by Jack Schiff, with art by Win Mortimer. And then we're into "Superboy City, USA," written by Otto Binder (previously writing stories of the original Captain Marvel at Fawcett), with art by John Sikela.
But wait, there's more! Since this is a golden age anthology title, you know there's more goodness to be had! How about Johnny Quick in "The Human Hot-Rodders," by Otto Binder and Ralph Mayo (reprinted in World's Finest #186)? Or Aquaman in "Menace of the Freak Fish," also with art by Mayo? Or the text story, "The Fire Shooters," likely by Jack Miller? If that's not enough, how about Green Arrow in "Channel C-R-I-M-E," by Otto Binder and George Papp?
Good stuff, I tell you!
Now, by this point, you're probably wondering if this column is just going to pick on Big Blue... well, naturally, it would be easy enough to do so (and you know I've featured a lot of Superman covers in this column already), but he was far from the only superhero to turn evil!
Yep, even the Archie super-heroes got into the act! Here's their 60s front-runner, the Fly, radiating all kinds of heat and melting tanks (but apparently not setting soldiers on fire - odd, that). In case you missed the point, that handy general even tells you "The Fly has gone on a rampage of evil!"
Yeah, I don't get why this would be one of the Fly's powers, either... but then again, a lot about the Fly didn't make any sense. I mean, flying, walking on walls... yeah, those powers make sense. Even super-strength makes sense (hey, we bought it with Spider-Man, you know!). But I never quite understood his buzz-gun (Turan, emissary of the Fly People, couldn't give him a power to sting people, he had to give him a gun?), or his weakness when exposed to sudden bright light... and this radiating heat thing really makes no sense... even if he was a fire-fly, fireflies generate light through a chemical that doesn't produce heat!
The moral, of course, is when reading Archie super-hero comics, don't look too closely at the details, just go with it.
The cover of Adventures of the Fly 29, January 1964 issue, as well as all the interior art, was by John Giunta. Victor Gorelick edited the book. Inside, we have "The Fly's Worst Enemy," by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, "The Slave of King Spider," presumably featuring arch-foe Spider Spry, "The Triple Threat Monster," and then the Black Hood steps in to teach some karate!
From which tale the cover comes from, I'm not sure... perhaps the Fly's worst enemy is himself... or maybe King Spider forced him to do it while the Fly was his slave!
Here's a cover where the hero of the book has turned evil, but isn't shown doing anything evil on the cover! Do I even have to tell you that Carmine Infantino did the cover of this issue? He was inked by Joe Giella, and they did the art chores inside the book, as well, with script by John Broome. Regular readers will likely also guess that Julius Schwartz was the editor of this book, as it's a classic example of the kind of covers he liked to use!
Sadly, I've never read this comic... but I can well imagine that the cover isn't literal... I mean, Barry's secret identity wasn't really revealed, was it? I'd imagine that this was some kind of hoax, or Flash was acting evil, but couldn't tell Iris or Kid Flash why he was doing what he was doing, and Wally West had to wonder if he should tell the authorities that the Flash was Barry Allen...
Hmmm... you know, maybe I should ask you readers about this issue? First one to write me with a capsule description of this story, I'll run it in a future column, and your name will be enshrined in World Famous Comics history!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !