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Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (email@example.com).
Cover date: April 1963
Penciller: Al Plastino
Inker: Al Plastino
Cover: Kurt Schaffenberger
"The Mortal Superman"
Dr. Carew, the world famous scientist, invited Clark Kent to his seacoast laboratory to witness a new method of extracting gold dust from seawater, however Kent is unimpressed. "What did it cost you to produce that pinch of gold dust?" asked Kent. Proudly, the scientist pulls out his records and announces that it costs him $543 to produce an ounce of gold. "But an ounce of gold is worth about $40," says Kent, shaking his head. "So your process would lose a fortune every day." Nodding, Carew explains that the reason it costs so much was that the gold had to be separated from some odd red particles. Pouring the gold into his hand to let him observe, Kent's whole body tingles, a sign that he has been exposed to Red Kryptonite.
As he drives back to town, Kent waits for the inevitable odd effect that Red Kryptonite produces when he is exposed to its radiations. Nothing occurs until he reaches the Planet's offices and changes into Superman. Perry White greets the Man of Steel with bags of fan mail. Superman begins to read the mail and suddenly sneezes. "Superman doesn't get colds," mutters Jimmy Olsen under his breath.
Super-hearing picks up a scream on the street, and using his x-ray vision Superman sees a truck outside the Planet building stranded with a flat tire. Flying down to the truck, he is amazed that not only can he not lift the truck, but he barely has enough strength to blow up the tire. When the truck leaves, and errant brick falls off hitting Superman in the toe, and amazingly he feels pain. The final insult is the worst. He can no longer fly.
Realizing that he has lost his super-powers, Superman is left in a tough situation. He is supposed to appear at a benefit show that night with the main attraction being him being shot by a machine gun. Without his invulnerability, he will surely be killed. At the benefit, Superman is truly scared, and Lois has to drag him out onto the stage. Only his impenetrable costume protects him from the bullets. Fortunately, none fly at his head.
The audience becomes restless when Superman leaves before he is to be set aflame with acetylene torches for ten minutes. Jimmy tells Perry that Superman has "chickened out" when a blue and red figure leaps into the flames. Jimmy sees that the figure has actually caught fire and rushes to put out the fire when Superman appears. Rather pathetically, he explains that he set a dummy on fire to "spice up" the act since everyone had already seen Superman avoid flames. Perry, Lois and Jimmy just shake their heads. They cannot believe what they are hearing.
Fearing that his powers are gone forever, Superman becomes desperate. He tries and fails to locate Supergirl, nor can he contact the Superman Emergency Squad. What he can do is find his old friend "Frosty" Jones, a pilot on his way to the Arctic Circle. Frosty follows Kent's directions and flies over the Fortress of Solitude. Kent suddenly opens the door and jumps out, parachuting to the Fortress below. In an instant, Kent is caught in a horrible storm, and uses every ounce of his strength to climb to the door of the Fortress, calling out to his robots and the Kandorian Emergency Squad for help. But, the robots decide to ignore him because his voice is wavering, not the strong voice of their master, and the Kandorians ignore him because he has no costume and is obviously not super.
Making his way to an abandoned igloo, Kent tries to survive the storm, but collapses in the snow. On patrol, Krypto flies over and sees the collapsed form. Kent does not know if his faithful dog recognizes him or not, but Krypto lifts Kent and takes him to the only safe place in the area, Frosty's Arctic airstrip. After he recovers from exposure to cold, Kent boards a plane to head back to Metropolis. With Krypto flying along side the plane, Kent feels fortunate that he survived and decides that he has to do something immediately to get his powers back.
Back in Metropolis, Kent makes a hurried trip to Prof. Potter, the eccentric scientist, as Superman. Together they work side-by-side searching for an antidote for the Red Kryptonite effects. After some time, Prof. Potter suggests that large doses of acetic, ascorbic and citric acid would help, but Superman has created his own elixir, and insists on trying it first. Swallowing it Superman suddenly gets a horrible headache.
Deciding that he had better try Prof. Potter's solution, Superman leaves to buy the chemicals he needs, but observes several crooks breaking into The Metropolis Museum of Natural History. The Crime Syndicate, hearing that Superman had been weakened, had issues a two million-dollar bounty for Superman's capture, and this crime was committed to intentionally lure Superman there. Superman rushes in to stop the crime, and is confronted with crooks using blow darts. Most of them are stopped by Superman's impenetrable costume, but one nicks his neck. Feeling dizzy, Superman stumbles out of the building to the docks behind the museum, and falls into the river. Weak and sick, his body washes up on the shore of "Hobo Jungle" the next morning and the poor men fish his body out of the river. Quickly, the hoboes turn Superman over to Rocks Haney, the gangland boss, to collect their reward. When Superman regains consciousness he finds himself in a huge barred cell, and outside the cage workmen were frantically placing thick plexiglas plates on all sides. Paying $5000 a ticket, criminals flocked to attend a dinner in which desert would be the death of Superman by lethal gas. Rocks stands before the gathered throng, proclaiming this a great day for organized crime in Metropolis, and places the vat of sulfuric acid into the plexiglas cage.
Superman asks Rocks for a last meal, "a few lemons, two ounces of vinegar and a pound of cooked spinach." Rocks thinks that Superman has lost all of his sense, but orders the meal brought. All of the criminal watch in disgust as Superman eats the meal, and the moment he finishes his last gulp the gas pellets are thrown into the acid and a huge toxic cloud fills the cage. Suddenly, Superman is free. Crashing through the glass, the criminals get a whiff of the deadly gas and pass out. Moving to the dais, Superman picks up a glass of champagne and toasts the crooks, "To a world without evil!" he says defiantly.
At the Metropolis jail, Superman explains what had happened to Lois, Jimmy and Perry. The lemon contains citric acid, the spinach ascorbic acid and the vinegar has acetic acid, the components of Prof. Potter's cure. The criminals thought that they were giving Superman his last meal, but they were actually returning his powers.
With the crooks captured, all is again right in Metropolis. Superman leaps into the air and waves to his friends. Jimmy gets quiet, thinking about what might have happened, and Lois turns to him. "A world without Superman, Jimmy. I can't even begin to think about it."
Story - 4: I have always liked Red Kryptonite stories, and this was no exception. They were stories that let the writers "play" with Superman, putting him in situations that he would never normally be in, or changing his powers in some form or fashion. This story really put Superman in a tough place: super-powers gone, stranded in the Arctic, then pursued and captured by criminals eager to murder him. It was a nice little story. It also included Prof. Potter, an odd character that appeared as the eccentric scientist. This character also had a role in the original Superman TV show.
The second story in this issue was The Super Cop of Metropolis, well drawn by Curt Swan and George Klein, where Superman was deputized to expose the theft of nuclear weapons.
Art - 4: This is actually one of Al Plastino's better efforts in the 1960's. The story is well paced, has a number of locales, and calls for some skillful story telling which Plastino carries off very nicely.
Cover Art - 5: Editor Mort Weisinger commissioned Kurt Schaffenberger to draw this cover which was a rarity, since Curt Swan had illustrated every other Superman cover since #117. As a note, Schaffenberger, who drew Capt. Marvel in the 1940's, became well known as the Lois Lane artist in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The editors loved his version of Lois and often called upon him to draw the heads on the bodies of Lois Lane and Lana Lang in many a story, so you would get a Curt Swan body and a Schaffenberger face. This was an excellent cover, though, with a great shot of a caged, tortured Superman and the glaring laughter of Rocks Haney.
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