Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #395

Action Comics #395

Cover date: December 1970

"The Secrets of Superman's Fortress"

Writer: Leo Dorfman
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Cover: Curt Swan and Dick Giordano

"The Credit Card of Catastrophe"

Writer: Geoff Brown
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson

Reviewed by: Charlie Niemeyer

Click to enlarge

"The Secrets of Superman's Fortress"

We start off with flashbacks to the early history of Superman's Fortress. First we see him carving the Fortress, then bringing in his trophies, then installing the giant door, then bringing Jimmy as the first visitor, then showing Lois the "Lois Lane Room." As they are leaving, Lois asks about a door marked "Visitors Prohibited." Superman tells her that that is one room that must remain secret. He takes her home, then flies back to visit the room.

Accessing a memory tape, Superman remembers investigating a space-ship wreckage on a remote jungle planet. He sees some natives being chased by giant dogs. Superman carves a new cave in the mountain wall for the natives to hide in. Then, he allows the giant dogs to attack him while he creates a net out of some vines. Capturing them in the net, Superman then flies the creatures to a distant mesa. This act is witnessed by Captain Althera and her soldiers. They are all a race of amazon women from the planet Vrandar, a planet where women dominate and men are just slaves. Althera seems to admire the Man of Steel, which is a no-no (men are not to be thought of as anything but slaves on Vrandar), so she denies her admiration and changes the discussion to ways to get more slaves to mine the Ergonite on the planet. The Ergonite actually supplies energy to Vrandar.

Returning from the mesa, Superman spots the women with his telescopic vision and listens in with his super-hearing to see what they are talking about. Before they can go over their plans, they return to their space-ship, which his super-hearing can't penetrate since it is lined with lead (what!?). So, Superman returns to the natives and vows to protect them from the Vrandars. They thank him, and begin climbing a nearby Rangtree to get some fruit for lunch. But, Althera and her troops arrive, blasting the tree with a bio-magnetic ray that keeps them stuck to the tree. Before the Vrandars can capture the natives, Superman uproots the tree and flies them to safety. Again, Althera is impressed by Superman, which upsets her second-in-command.

That night, Superman watches as Althera carves his figure into a nearby rock, then punches it repeatedly before breaking down and crying. Based on this, Superman believes she is torn by her emotions because she has fallen for him, but is not allowed to. In fact, he also admits to himself that he has fallen for her as well. Turning to go, she ends up in a trap set by the natives, but Superman rescues her, stating that he has sworn to help anyone in danger. Althera believes he is also a Vrandar and decides that he will be her mate. Superman kisses her and declares his love for her. She is so startled that she knocks her helmet off, revealing that instead of hair, she has a full head of feathers. At this moment, Superman reveals that he is actually Kryptonian, which means they can't be together, causing them both great sadness. So, Superman mines enough of the Ergonite so that the Vrandars can leave, and they promise never to return to the planet. After they leave, Superman finds one of Althera's feathers on the ground. We then see that it is also in the secret room, Superman laments over them not being able to be together.

2Story - 2: Before I even get into the review, I just have to get something off my chest. Since when did lead ever stop Superman's super-hearing? X-ray vision? Yes. Super-hearing? No! Sigh! Other than that, this was just a really weird Silver-Age type story that didn't really match the title. Yes, it was about the secret room, but the title indicates that it would be all about the Fortress, which is basically ignored after the first few pages. Also, granted it was a short story, but Superman sure was quick to declare Althera to basically be the only girl for him, like he's also done with Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lois Lane and several other women that he later discovered he could not be with for one reason or another. Why was Althera so special that she gets a special, secret room in the Fortress (which apparently sticks around because it is also in the cutaway shot of the Fortress is Action Comics #500)?

5Art - 5: The art on the other hand is great. Anderson is still allowing Swan's pencils to really shine through. There isn't really anything else I can say. It is great.

"The Credit Card of Catastrophe"

We see Superman visiting a fortune teller in her carnival tent. Superman calls her out on her act, so, in return, she gives him a "credit card" that grants the holder 3 wishes. Skeptical, Superman flies off. The next day, while covering a baseball game for the Daily Planet, Clark notices that the overcrowded bleachers are about to collapse. While racing to switch to Superman, he realizes that he's lost his powers. Without thinking, he wishes he had his powers back, and suddenly finds himself flying up and repairing the bleachers with his heat-vision. Once the task is complete, the powers go away again. Looking at the card, Superman sees that he's used one wish.

Next day, Clark is covering the filming of a World War I movie when a flaming balloon gets blown toward the film crew. He goes to change to Superman, but his powers are still gone. Wishing they were back, he is able to fly up to the balloon and fly it away from the film crew before is powers fade out again. Checking the card, he sees that the 2nd wish has been granted. The next day, while on the Metropolis Ferry, Clark overhears a message to Superman on the captain's radio about icebergs off the Alaskan coast crushing an oil drilling platform. With his powers still gone, he wishes he was there and suddenly finds himself in Alaska. Using super-speed, he quickly smashes the icebergs into ice cubes before his powers can fade out again, then catches a helicopter ride back to Metropolis.

Days later, Superman finally tracks down the fortune teller, who promises to return his powers if he promises to do something for her. At first he declines, but then wonders what the world would be like without a Superman, and gives in. Once his powers are restored, she has Superman bring her half of the gold in Fort Knox. He soon returns with the gold, and drops it on her. It turns out that it was Supergirl in disguise and that she was conducting an experiment on Superman. After she reveals how she tricked Superman, and he reveals how he saw through her disguise, it turns out that her experiment was a failure because he ended the experiment too soon, the party pooper.

2Story - 2: Man, another bad story. First of all, Superman keeps forgetting that his powers are gone. How does someone who is constantly using his powers forget they are gone? Also, apparently, this was a quiet time in Metropolis since Superman was only needed those 3 times. And I like how he asks himself who will protect the world if there was no Superman, considering all of the other super-heroes on Earth. And again, did Supergirl really have nothing better to do than mess with Superman and follow him around for 3 days, thus taking away 2 of the most powerful heroes on Earth? Sheesh!

5Art - 5: The Swanderson team save this story with their art again. Although, one has to wonder if the image of Superman riding a helicopter from Alaska to Metropolis was Swan not paying attention, or in the script.

3Cover Art - 3: The art is pretty good here although this cover does seem a bit rushed. After a couple of months of having lots of people and backgrounds, this time we are treated to 2 people, a big rock and some trees, and not detailed trees either. Also, this cover is misleading about the story inside. The story has nothing to do with how mighty Althera is. We really don't even see her being mighty in this issue at all.

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


Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.