Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Action Comics #338

Action Comics #338 and #339

Cover date: June and July 1966

Writer: Edmond Hamilton Penciller: Curt Swan Inker: George Klein Cover: Curt Swan/George Klein

"Muto - Monarch of Menace" "Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow"

Action Comics #338 "Muto - Monarch of Menace"

Above the skyline of Metropolis, a blue and red figure streaks through the sky. "Look, up in the sky! It's Superman!" But this is the year 2466, 500 years into the future, and this Superman is the distant descendant of the Superman we know, serving as a lawman for the Federation of Planets, given unlimited authority to deal with any crisis that arises.

Speeding behind the Daily Interplanetary News Building, Superman changes into his civilian clothes, dons his telescopic spectacles and becomes Klar Ken T5477, reporter for the DIN. Unlike the Daily Planet of 1966, the DIN broadcasts the news live to homes across the galaxy. Rushing to the newsroom, Klar joins fellow reporter Lyra 3916 and enters the "office" of the computerized editor, PW-5598, named in honor of Perry White. "I had a flash tip that Muto was seen in sector Z-44 of space," announces the computer. "Muto!" exclaims Lyra. "Whenever that super-criminal appears, there's big news!" "It's more than news... it's a disaster!" thinks Klar.

Setting up a micro-reel viewer, which contains thousands of pictures and sounds recorded on plastic strands thin as thread but stronger than steel, Klar Ken and Lyra view the footage comparing Muto to other famous foes of Superman like Luthor, and Vyldan who battled Superman V. After viewing the reel, Klar decides to find Superman and cover the Muto story. But, Lyra, who loves Klar, yet despises Superman, would rather work in the office. "Wherever Superman is, I want to be somewhere else," she says.

Heading to the micro-record room, Klar begins to change to Superman when Jay L-3388, the future's Jimmy Olsen, appears suddenly. Quickly closing his tunic, Klar evades Jay L by telling him that the editor needs everyone to cover the big Muto story. Grumbling, Jay leaves, and Klar decides that he really must be more careful, remembering how Superman IV was accidentally exposed as Dave Kent when he rushed to save a crashing jet train and Superman VII's identity had been revealed when his son ripped his clothes revealing his costume.

Muto deliberately lets himself be seen to draw Superman to him. Awaiting Superman's arrival, Muto explains his hatred for Superman to his lieutenants: Yann, of the underground people of Waru, Thargo, whose race possesses living radar, and Von-Don from Blax, a world without color. Many years before, Superman's father had smashed a comet to prevent it from hitting an inhabited planet, but the force of the blast had ripped a dimensional hole and a nearby spaceship was drawn into the warp. Muto's mother was onboard that ship, and Muto was born while the ship was still inside the alien dimension, immediately displayed terrific mental abilities. Not much later, the warp closed, and the ship returned to the normal universe, however Muto remained as he had been born... advanced mentally, but physically very different from other men.

Meanwhile, Superman speeds through space to the "Weapons World" where the Planetary Federation stores their banned weapons. Using his telescopic vision, Superman watches Muto's men loading some of these weapons onto their ship, but as Superman approaches to capture them, Muto traps Superman in a crystal maze. Rather than waste time crashing through the walls, Superman smashes through the roof only to see Muto's ship lifting off and soaring into space. Catching up with the ship at super-speed, Superman uses his x-ray vision to see that neither Muto, nor the weapons are inside the ship and realizes that it was a ruse to get him away from the planet.

Quickly, the Superman of 2466 returns to Weapons World and locates Muto near a giant armed fortress. Seeing him, Muto uses his mental powers to transform the rocks into Kryptonite. However, this Superman is unfazed by Kryptonite... his weakness is chemical fallout, which settled into the oceans of every planet following the last war. Unknown to Superman, Muto is also aware of that.

Superman follows Muto into the Citadel and turning quickly, Muto fires a ray smashing a giant globe releasing a fungus from space which grows rapidly in air and is deadly to all life. Superman has to choose between capturing Muto and handling the disaster. Realizing that if even one spore survived that it could mean the end of a whole world's life, Superman first blasts the fungus with his heat vision, then inhales the fungal dust.

Once the fungus has been destroyed, Superman sets out after Muto, chasing him to a planet on a nearby solar system. As Superman streaks down toward the villain, Muto uses his powers to vaporize a series of rocks, which hold back the ocean. Once the barrier is destroyed, the ocean pours into a small valley, destroying all in its path. In the distance, Superman can see three children playing in front of an alien house and streaks toward them as the water closes in. Grabbing them he suddenly stops, noticing that they aren't children, but androids. That moment of hesitation is enough time for the flood to roll over Superman, and the contaminated water paralyzes the Man of the Future, while the android children continue to run and play as they had been programmed.

Above the surface of the alien ocean, Muto draws his lieutenants together and leers. "I've finally revenged myself on the whole Superman line. He'll soon be dead and there will be no descendents to carry on! And now with my mental powers and the war machines of Weapons World, I'll conquer the Universe!"

Action Comics #339 "Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow"

Paralyzed, and weakened, Superman sinks to the floor of the flooded valley. Searching for a way out, Superman uses his weakened super-vision. Finding the central processor units of the androids, Superman uses his heat vision to reprogram the androids to swim his limp form to the surface and drag it out to the shore. Once out of the water, he quickly recovers and decides to take the three androids to Ulthat, a planet with an entire population of androids.

En route to earth, Superman receives a powerful telepathic communication from the people of Atlantis telling him that Muto has established an undersea base there. Enlisting the aid of the Atlanteans, Superman prepares to lift Muto's base off of the ocean floor when a giant waterspout springs from the sea engulfing him. However, Superman had anticipated Muto's plot, and had placed flying jets on his belt which boosted him away from the watery trap. Away from the waterspout, Superman returns to action, retrieving Muto's base, and arresting Von-Don.

After taking his captive to jail, Superman returns to Metropolis and switches to Klar Ken. Using the micro-reel file on Muto, Klar studies the record of Muto's bizarre origin. "By George, I think I've got it," says Klar, looking at the screen, but the moment is broken by Lyra who rushes into the room. "Klar, quick! Muto's image is interrupting all other broadcasts." Rushing into the newsroom, Klar, Lyra and Jay L watch Muto's projected image in amazement. "To convince all worlds to acknowledge my rule and pay me tribute, I will now bring a special doom on Metropolis," threatens Muto.

"What will we do... evacuate Metropolis?" asks Lyra. "If I know Muto, there won't be time for that," says Klar. "Let's separate and find Superman! He's our only chance!" As the trio split up to seek out Superman, Klar Ken changes to Superman and streaks above Metropolis. Within seconds, the Man of Steel locates Muto hiding within a cloud. Faster than lightning, Superman enters the cloud to capture Muto, but the diabolical villain uses his mental powers to condense the water vapor into water, again paralyzing Superman. As the ball of water created by Muto plummets to the earth, Superman uses his flying jet to free himself and soar back into the sky.

But, before Superman can reach him, Muto turns on an expander ray, one of the most diabolical rays of the past wars. One by one, the size of each person expands, trapping and crushing him or her inside vehicles and buildings. In the wink of an eye, Superman makes a rapid trip to the Museum World where he had located a shrinking apparatus used as a defense against the expander ray.

No sooner is one crisis averted than another begins. Flying after Muto, the diabolical villain begins firing powerful helium bombs at Superman. The effects are minimal until Muto includes a bomb filled with water. Again, Superman's flying jets save him, and he turns his energy to disabling Muto's ship. Leaving his two remaining lieutenants inside the ship, Muto escapes. Superman hurls the ship into a parking orbit to hold it until he can return and sets off in dogged pursuit of Muto, finally locating him at a base inside the polar icecap.

Realizing that Muto could turn the ice into water one more time, Superman opts for a different tact. Quickly smelting metal from rocks with his bare hands, Superman fashions a giant lightning rod. Using his vacuum breath, he draws storm clouds over the area and bolts of lighting crash down. Muto flies out of his base in a rage. "I know what you're up to Superman! I'll melt the ice you're standing on and..." But, before Muto can even finish his threat, he suddenly disappears. As Superman had planned, the super-electrical discharge opened a dimensional warp and Muto was yanked into the dimension he had been born. Dissipating the clouds, the warp closed without any sign of Muto. "Muto's returned to where he was born! Let's hope he stays there," says Superman.

5Story - 5: While many of comics' roots are in science fiction, Superman titles only dabbled with the area for many years. During the late 1940's, Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz, both of whom had far deeper, more classical, science fiction roots, began hiring bona fide science fiction authors to write some of their tales. Writers like Manly Wade Wellman, Alfred Bester, Otto Binder and Edmond Hamilton (known for such books as the "Captain Future" series, Beyond the Moon and the "Interstellar Patrol" series) were brought on board to infuse the character with both imagination and style. From these writers came such innovations as the Superman-Batman team, Red Kryptonite, Supergirl, Bizarro and Brainiac. Then, in the late-1950's to mid-1960's Weisinger again looked for a way to explore alternate realities of Superman. One method he used was the imaginary stories that became popular during this time. The other was the use of Superman 2466. Set 500 years in the future, writers had a totally different Superman, and supporting cast, to explore, and who better to do this than Hamilton. While there weren't many of these Superman 2466 stories, they were all fun and are full of strange aliens, futuristic technology, new architecture and hints of stories of all the Supermen to have come between Clark Kent and Klar Ken T5477. These two stories are very well crafted, and extremely well plotted. I highly recommend these two books, as well as Superman #181, the first Superman of the future story.

5Art - 5: I have always felt that the art in Superman was never better than the stories appearing during 1963-66, and these stories are great examples of classic Curt Swan and George Klein art. The two splash pages to these books go a long way to illustrate this; they are dynamic, and full of the science fiction flair that Hamilton's stories called for. Even though this is not the Clark Kent and Superman we have come to know, Swan's ability to draw faces and expressions, realistic and dynamic poses, as well as futuristic technology made these an exceptional pair of books.

4Cover Art - 4: The covers to Action Comics #338 and #339 were more than adequate examples of Swan-Klein covers from this period. However, compared to both the stories and the art of the interiors, I found them a bit lacking. The figures appear more posed on these covers than the interior art, and even the splash pages to the books. The covers are well crafted none-the-less.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • 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”




Compilation Volumes


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