Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (wwh27539@mindspring.com).


Superman #194

Superman #194

Cover date: February, 1967

Writer: ?
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: George Klein
Cover: Swan-Klein

"The Death of Lois Lane"

One day that may, or may not ever occur, Superman streaked down from the sky to rescue a geologist that had fallen while excavating a rare mineral from the side of a steep cliff. Sweeping up from under the man, Superman is horrified when he realizes that the mineral the geologist is holding is really a meteorite made up of red, green and gold Kryptonite. "Great Scott! What will the combined radiations do to me?" asks Superman.

What effects indeed? Immediately, the combined rays of the three Kryptonites make Superman's costume so radioactive that he must discard it. As soon as he removes his costume, he loses all memories of his other identity and the combined radiation of the Kryptonites erase Superman's powers completely. Several weeks pass and Editor Perry White decides that they must address Superman's disappearance assigning Clark Kent to write the story. With no memory of ever having been Superman, Clark sits at his typewriter and begins, "SUPERMAN MISSING. Where is he? A worldwide hunt has failed to find him. Is Superman lost in space, or is he dead?"

Time passes and all mourn the loss of Superman. With Superman apparently dead, Clark begins a romance with Lois Lane and in time, she agrees to marry Clark beginning their life together by moving into Clark's apartment. As fate would have it, the Planet assigns Clark to a story in Tibet where he becomes stranded and lost for many years. Clark returns to Metropolis to find Loisä and a super-son. Stammering in amazement, Clark says, "Our son is flying! But how can he?" Lois is not exactly sure herself, but has surmised that several of the Superman souvenirs she has kept are responsible for the miracle. Lifting a bottle labeled "Super-Serum", she tells Clark that the serum, which had been a failure, must have been chemically altered by the radiation from a space gem sitting next to the bottle and their son inadvertently swallowed the contents. It never occurs to either of them that even though Superman may have lost his powers, his Kryptonian genetics would have passed his powers on to his son.

One night, years later, Clark sits down, to watch a documentary called "Once There Was A Superman". Almost every scene is familiar to him, stirring deep memories, especially when Superman begins to demonstrate his robots. From the television speaker Superman's voice booms, "Robot Number 3... come here." Clark is astonished when, suddenly, a secret door opens and Robot 3 steps from a hidden closet. Clark looks at the robot in total disbelief, but the robot explains to Clark all that had happened including showing him the lead-lined chest containing his contaminated costume. The shock jogs Clark's memory. "I... I was Superman all the time!"

At breakfast the next day, Clark prepares to tell his family the truth but before he can even start Clark Junior flies out of his chair to head off to his baseball game. Jumping up, Lois grabs him. "All right - but you will walk, not fly! Be careful not to use your super-powers... and wear your glasses!" Nodding, Clark Junior slowly lands and putting on his glasses, runs out the door. This reminds Clark of his mother when he was Superboy.

Still, Clark needs to let Lois know what has happened, and takes her for a drive in the mountains. Just as he begins to tell Lois his story, a strong force field grabs the car, pulling it straight toward a cliff. Before the car can crash, a mysterious door opens in the cliff face, and the car is drawn inside. As the door closes, Luthor steps from the shadows. Ignoring Clark, he goes straight to Lois. "Superman's been dead for years," begins Luthor, "but even if he's dead, one great mystery haunts me! What was his secret identity? You were his girl friend! You must know!" he screams. Recoiling, Lois spits at Luthor, "I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did!"

Angered, Clark reaches to grab Luthor but before he can even get close Luthor releases a debilitating Truth Gas and both Lois and Clark collapse into restraining chairs. Again, Luthor asks Lois what Superman's secret identity was. "Superman... did... not ... confide... in... me," Lois mutters. However, another voice fills the cavern and a surprised Luthor is startled to hear Clark say, "I... was... Superman." "I don't believe you. How could you have been Superman?" Luthor screams. Still in his drugged state, Kent reveals many secret facts to Luthor, including how the strange meteor robbed him of his powers. Luthor is both elated, and dumbfounded. Before him is his archenemy... powerless. "I can kill my old enemy here and now," thinks Luthor but that is too easy, too quick and far too merciful for Lex Luthor.

Using a super-hypnosis machine, Luthor plants a suggestion in Lois' sub-conscious mind to kill Clark the first time he mentions the name, "Superman". Then telling them to forget all that had transpired, Luthor releases the couple, and back on the road they resume life as if nothing had happened. Continuing where he had left off, Clark proceeds to tell Lois that he knows what had happened to Superman, however, as soon as Lois heard Superman's name, the post-hypnotic suggestion took effect, and she reached into he purse, pulling out a gun, aiming it directly at Clark. Clark dives out of the door to save himself, and the car goes out of control careening off of the mountain road. Scurrying down the cliff, Clark finds Lois lying beside the crumpled car, dead. Luthor has been watching the events transpire on a special monitor, and is disgusted. "That's not how I planned it," Luthor grumbles. "I wanted Clark to die, not Lois!"

The sadness of Lois' death hits both Clark and his son at the funeral and in their grief they do not notice Luthor, in the shadows, plotting his next move. After they return to the apartment, Clark receives a call from Perry White, telling him that Luthor has been found dead. While Clark thinks that Perry's voice sounds odd, he is too distraught to deduce that he is being deceived by Luthor and hurries off to cover the story.

No sooner has Clark left than Luthor arrives, picking the lock and entering the apartment. Remembering all of the things Clark told him under the influence of Truth Gas, Luthor locates Superman's robots and reprograms one for a special mission. The robot dresses as Kent, and "pretends" to sleep, having a horrible nightmare. When Junior comes into the room to see what is upsetting his father, he hears the robot confess to deliberately killing Lois by intentionally running the car off of the road. When Junior "wakes" the robot, he of course denies the dream, but then goes into a jealous rage pulling Lois's souvenir trunk from under their bed and throwing everything to do with Luthor out of the window. "Then your dream was true! You did kill mom!" screams the boy. In a furious rage, the robot slaps the boy. "You know I'm invulnerable. That didn't hurt me," says Clark, Jr. "No, but this will," yells the robot Clark pulling out a piece of green Kryptonite. When the boy collapses in pain, the robot places the Kryptonite on the floor next to the boy and rushes from the apartment.

Following Luthor's commands, the robot flies to Luthor's lab and is told to hide in room A-2. Then Luthor uses an advanced rocket plane to rush to Clark's apartment, apparently saving Clark Jr. "I'll keep you safe," Luthor tells the boy returning to his lab. "I'll lure your father here and make him confess. You wait in room 2-A."

Suddenly, Clark enters the lab. "Luthor, I heard you were dead!" he says rushing to Luthor's side. Luthor is pretending to be dying and slowly looks up at Clark. "You couldn't save me even if you still had your super-powers," sighs Luthor. "You know... my secret?" asks Kent in amazement. "Yes, I finally found out," lies Luthor. In what Kent thinks are Luthor's last moments, the two relive various battles, then Luthor confesses, "I regret my evil career... but it's too late." Still, Luthor has one final surprise for his old foe. Opening a hidden door, Luthor reveals a shrine to Lois Lane. "She was my sweetheart, Clark... before she married you!"

Taken aback, Clark thinks, "Luthor's lying! I can't believe Lois would have married me if she truly loved him!" But then, the room is filled with the lights of the super-hypnosis ray that instructs Clark to confess to murdering Lois then go into a jealous rage smashing the laboratory. Following the instructions, Clark destroys the lab, then grabs Luthor's vaporizer gun to finish the job, but Junior leaps from hiding. "Quick, hurl him into the pit at the end of the cave," screams Luthor to the boy.

When the boy returns, Luthor breaks into hysterical laughter. "My plan worked! I tricked you, Superman's own son, into killing him! But I still have one last revenge, namely polishing you off with this Kryptonite," screams Luthor. But suddenly, a steely grip clamps on Luthor's wrist, and Robot Number 3 yanks the Kryptonite from Luthor putting it inside a lead box. "By re-programming me you forced me to do evil deeds," sad the robot sadly. "Now that my circuits are normal, the foul memory torments my electronic brain." Picking up the vaporizer gun, the robot points it at Luthor and pulls the trigger. "I pronounce you guilty, and I'll carry out the sentence... DEATH!"

Clark Junior flies off to retrieve his father. It appears that he had inadvertently entered room A-2, rather than 2-A, and discovered the robot. After repairing the circuits, the robot revealed Luthor's plot, so Junior had used his super-breath to cushion Clark Senior's fall in the pit. When they returned to the lab, Superman's faithful robot, filled with grief, activates his internal destruction charge, and explodes with an apology to his master lingering on his lips.

Later, two sad figures dressed in familiar blue and red costumes stand before a giant memorial of Lois Lane carved by Clark, Junior. "It's beautiful son... She'll never be forgotten as long as a member of the Superman family is alive." Turning to his son, Clark Kent tells him that it is time for him to begin his new career as Superboy. "Thanks dad," says the boy gratefully. "I only hope that I can live up to the standards you set as Superboy and Superman!"

4Story - 4: Throughout the late 1950's and 1960's there were a number of "Imaginary" stories. This one was interesting in that it focussed on both Clark losing his powers, and then dealing with Lois Lane's death. So, in many ways, this story attempted to show the "human" side of Superman and Kent. However, there were several things lacking in this story that would have made it easier to read. What strikes first is the writer's decision to have Clark miss his son's birth by having been lost in Tibet for what must be 5-8 years, and for Lois to so easily welcome him after such a long absence. The second difficulty with this story is Luthor's elaborate plot for revenge. There are so many plot twists that the reader really has to re-read the story several times to understand what is actually transpiring. Perhaps this was used to illustrate the complicated dementia of Luthor's psychoses. Still, it is an interesting story, although not "The Greatest Imaginary Story of Them All", as the cover announces.

4Art - 4: For some reason, the art in Superman seems to change a bit in the later 1960's, and here in 1967 the art appears a bit more open. I personally have felt that this was due more to a change in George Klein's inking style than Swan's pencils since the pacing, ability to draw faces and expressions, realistic poses and detail all remained. In addition, this story had very little Superman in it. Much of the story deals with characters in "civilian clothing" which is actually more difficult to draw.

4Cover Art - 4: The cover to Superman #194 is a very touching one and captures the tone of the whole book. From this one image, even the most casual reader could deduce that in this story Superman had married Lois Lane, together they had a super-son and that Lois had somehow died leaving the two to mourn her passing. In that regard, it is a more than adequate cover and shows the "human side" of the character to those more used to a dynamic, heroic, invulnerable Superman.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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