Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Action Comics #494Cover date: April 1979
"The Secret of the Super S"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Cover: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
Reviewed by: James Lantz
Clark Kent has returned to the Daily Planet for a working vacation thanks to Morgan Edge, the head of Galaxy Broadcasting. Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are welcoming him when a mysterious special delivery letter arrives. It contains an alternative S that could have been Superman's insignia during his days in Smallville, Kansas as Superboy had he not chosen the more iconic symbol he uses today. The note also promises to give the Daily Planet an exclusive on the unrevealed secrets of Superman. Since Clark grew up in Smallville, Perry sends him to investigate the story, and Lois decides to tag along.
A passenger train is crossing the mountains west of Metropolis. A rockslide has suddenly blocked the tracks near a blind curve. The locomotive cannot stop in time to prevent a crash. Miraculously, the vehicle passes through the stone barrier. The heat vision and strength of Superman help it continue its journey uninterrupted. The Man of Steel then returns inside the train as Clark Kent, where Lois Lane awaits him.
Lois and Clark have just arrived in Smallville. Police Chief Parker, who acts as unofficial caretaker of the Kent farm since Clark's parents passed away, has not arrived at the train station to pick them up. Feeling something might be wrong, Clark and Lois decide to go on to the house. At the same time, Chief Parker is confronted by a ghost-like figure in American Revolutionary War garb. The phantom's sword passes through Parker, and Lois and Clark enter the Kent home to find him unconscious. The chief later explains that the house is haunted. He's been using cameras and recording equipment used by parapsychologists to prove this.
Things are now more calm in the Kent home. Chief Parker is making his famous Parker Stew for dinner while Clark is in the basement searching for clues regarding the alternative Super S. He finds the emblem near the Prisma Jewels from Andromeda that were given to him as a reward by the inhabitants of the planet Zoltam. He recalls when Martha Kent made the other symbol from the same indestructible Kryptonian blankets from which his costume had been created. However, before Superboy places the S on his suit, Jonathan Kent shows Superboy the more familiar shield that he had done, and thus, the choice was made. Martha's S is then placed on one of Superboy's secret trophy shelves.
It is late at night in the Kent home. Chief Parker is hunting ghosts, and Lois has gone to sleep in what was once Jonathan and Martha Kent's bedroom. Clark, on the other hand, has decided to patrol Smallville as Superman. He spots three motorcycle riding graffiti artists who call themselves the Scorpions. One of them has painted the alternate S on a wall. Superman turns the three young men's bikes into a sanitation machine for cleaning up the "artwork" before he questions the boys about the symbol. The one who did it said that he got the idea to use the S as a logo for the Scorpions as they drove by Maple Street, where the Kent house is located.
A sudden scream from Lois Lane interrupts Superman's questioning of the Scorpions. She has been visited by a ghostly form dressed like a World War II general, who is about to shoot her. However, Chief Parker and Clark Kent, even with his superhuman eyes, do not see the soldier when they enter the bedroom. Clark's amazing vision does pick up something else in the meantime. Chief Parker's fingerprints on the doorknob match those on the Super S sent to Perry. Clark believes that whatever entity or entities Parker and Lois saw placed the alternative insignia in the minds of the police chief and the graffiti artist in order to force them to draw it as a possible effort to expose Clark's double identity.
Chief Parker, Lois and Clark are sitting down for breakfast when our hero begins to actually feel dizzy as if some of his power had been drained from him. Flying to a forest outside of Smallville, Superman clears his head by letting spring water shower over him. Meanwhile, Chief Parker tells Lois that he believes that the ghost haunting the Kent farm assumes the form of soldiers in the minds of those it visits. Parker is interested in the American Revolutionary War, and Lois' uncle was a general during World War II.
Superman has been suddenly knocked unconscious by a gigantic Kryptonian Dwalu, a seven-foot tall warrior whose kind died out during a civil war on the Man of Steel's home world. The dormant Man of Tomorrow has just submerged into the water as the gargantuan soldier is now standing over the falls with his Xaka sword in hand.
Story - 5: This issue was a breath of fresh air in many ways. As I said in the review for number 493, I like the fact that Clark is a TV Newscaster, but I missed seeing him in the city room of the Daily Planet. It was great to see Lois, Perry and Jimmy welcome him back. I'm also glad there was a flashback that didn't involve some unnoticed teenager pining for Lana Lang. I'd had enough of that in the first season of Smallville.
The rest of the story is pretty solidly written and very reader friendly. The latter aspect isn't done much in this day and age beyond "previously" blurb. However, Cary Bates makes everything feel familiar to new readers and old ones alike.
The whole haunting of the Kent home is interesting. I have a theory about what might be causing it, but I won't go into it now in case it ends up becoming a spoiler for the next issue. Suffice it to say, I had fun seeing the classic elements of a ghost story mixed into an adventure of our favorite Kryptonian.
Call me strange, but I love seeing Lois go to Smallville. One of the best episodes from season one of Lois & Clark, in my opinion, is "The Green, Green Glow of Home." There just seems to be something about her spending time in Clark Kent's world that I can't exactly put my finger on. In every case, that is just one of the many parts of this comic book that made it one of the most entertaining stories I've ever read.
Art - 5: I can't stress enough how much I miss seeing Curt Swan's art in the Superman comics. I like many of the people that draw/drew the Man of Steel after Swan left the books, but they don't have his magic and consistency. This could be, perhaps, because his was the first artwork I had seen when I discovered the Superman character. Anyway, from beginning to end, the images leap from the pages and give the story stunning visuals. The Dwalu looks particularly menacing in the last panel. I can't wait to see how both Curt Swan and Superman deal with him in the next issue.
Cover Art - 5: As I was going through the monthly box of comics sent by my parents, this cover caught my eye. There's just something about the look of fear on Lois' face and Superman's reaction that makes one want to pick up this issue and read it. This image is truly incredible.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Spring 1978)
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.