Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #196

Superman #196

Cover date: May 1967

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

"The Star of Steel"

One day, as Clark Kent attended a press conference in Metropolis, all eyes focused on a beautiful woman entering the room. Her scarlet gown was slit high on her thigh, a lotus placed behind her right ear, and on a leash she held a majestic leopard. This is the stuff legends are made of: a movie queen's dramatic entrance. Marcus Moeller the famous Hollywood producer stepped forward and began his announcement, "We give you Lyrica Lloyd who has just returned from Africa after filming of the Jungle Princess. And, at her side, is Alistair Wight, her leading man." Amid the applause, the leopard suddenly slipped from the actress' grasp, and in an instant Clark Kent flashed to the animal's side securing the beast. Regaining her composure Lyrica Lloyd ran to thank Kent, but the mild-mannered reporter could only utter, "It was nothing, Ms. Lloyd."

Turning to face the enthralled reporters, Moeller raised his hand to quiet them and continued, "Lyrica's next picture will be The Superman Saga, a fiction story about Superman. We are now looking for a leading man to play the part of the Man of Steel." Again, startling everyone present, Lyrica turned and pulled the glasses from Clark Kent's face. "Maybe our search is ended, Marcus," she said. "Without his glasses, Mr. Kent bears a remarkable resemblance to Superman."

Kent was startled, but the producer, realizing that he was a dead ringer for Superman, moved in to close the deal offering to let Kent write a series of exclusives about the production and giving 50% of the profits to the charity of Superman's choice. Tempting as that was, it was the soft voice of Lyrica Lloyd that actually swayed Kent. "I must have you for my leading man, Mr. Kent," Lyrica pleaded. "All right, I'll do it," said Kent. "I just can't refuse her," Kent thought. "Great," said the producer, but "Kent! Kent? Clark? No, no, it's not glamorous enough for a screen name... From now on you are Claude Keith!" "Now I have a third identity," thought Kent.

Returning to the Daily Planet, everyone, especially Lois Lane, was amazed that Lyrica Lloyd would have made such a spectacle for Clark. Still, Kent had made his decision and after receiving permission from Perry White for a leave of absence to star in the film he was on a plane headed for Hollywood the next day, sitting next to Lyrica Lloyd. Her mere presence sends shivers up Kent's spine. After takeoff, Kent turns to her and sees her become pale and dizzy but when he moves to comfort her she quickly dismisses it and the two begin to study their scripts. In the film, Lyrica Lloyd plays Susan Dole, a nurse at Midcity Hospital who could not even guess that Dr. Stan Sage, a physician at the hospital was secretly Superman.

Arriving at Star-Studded Studios, Kent, now Claude Keith, was ushered to wardrobe and gets his first look at the super-suit he is to wear and is amazed at the detail placed in making this costume. For flight, there were miniature jets on the boots. Lasers and tubings were hidden beneath the cape to mimic heat vision and super-breath, and a miniature battery stored in the belt powered the whole suit.

Shooting began quickly, and in the first scene Dr. Sage gave permission to a scientist brought to the hospital to continue working on his experimental robot as long has he doesn't disturb any of the other patients. That doesn't last long, and the robot truly goes wild. Sparks fly from the mechanical monster shorting out Keith's belt batteries, and the real Superman has to take over using his heat vision to stop the robot, then his x-ray vision to locate the problem and repair it. Everyone stands slack-jawed, but the producer is ecstatic. The next morning the headline reads, "Actor uses props super-powers to prevent a disaster on the set."

One of Kent's pleasurable assignments for Kent is to escort Lyrica on a number of promotional events. On the first date, Kent hands Lyrica a corsage. Lyrica appears to grow faint, dropping the corsage, but Kent, ever the gallant ignores her faux pas as if it never happened and pins the flower to her gown. Without knowing it himself, Clark Kent/Claude Keith has fallen deeply for Lyrica.

In a scene the next day, Alistair Wight plays an intern who is a rival for Lyrica. Following the script, Clark pushes Alistair away from Lyrica on cue, but completely unexpectedly Alistair falls to the floor, dead. The cast and crew are startled, but the movie must go on and filming resumed. Several days later a big scene arrives. Nervously, Doctor Sage takes Nurse Dole in his arms and looks into her eyes. It all seems so natural to them... and then, a kiss.

In the next scene, Kent again portrayed Superman who must fly Nurse Dole to see her ill mother. The miniature jets ignite, lifting Superman and Lyrica skyward. Kent knows that the jets are powerful, but capable of only a few minutes flight, yet he forgets himself and soars up, into the sky gently placing Lyrica on a swan-shaped cloud. Lyrica suddenly blacks out and realizing what he had done, Superman quickly returns her to the studio. Between the questions of how he flew so high and for so long with the small jets, Superman frantically tries to resuscitate her. "She's so fragile," thinks Superman, "she needs someone to take care of her for life!" Amazingly, she awakens acting as if nothing had happened. Sitting up, Lyrica tells everyone that she is ready for the next shot.

Dr. Sage is to use a huge glass model of the heart to convince the hospital to permit further research, but a sonic boom causes the model to crack. Clark sees Lyrica cowering, frightened beneath the model, and as the model begins to fall, he quickly changes to Superman, flying through the glass to save Lyrica Lloyd. Realizing the movie crew would suspect Keith, Superman announces that he has come to visit the set and meet the man portraying him. Quickly, Superman recalls that the human eye retains an image for 1/24th of a second (the same speed that film moves through a movie projector). Vibrating back and forth at that frequency, Superman produced a double image, one of himself and the other of Claude Keith, making it appear as if he were in two places at the same time. Then, saying goodbye, Superman speeds away, then quickly returning to resume his role of Keith.

Over the next several evenings, Clark takes Lyrica to dinner, and dancing. Kent is so happy that he makes a fateful decision. He will cease being Clark Kent and continue as Claude Keith. That night, when they return to Lyrica's apartment after dinner, Keith proposes to her. Her response is like a cold slap in the face. "Me, marry a jellyfish like you," she laughs. "A new name and a Superman suit can't change you from weak, timid Clark Kent."

Clark becomes enraged. "Weak am I?" he screams, smashing a table in two, then crushing the telephone in his bare hand. Lyrica looks on in amazement as he then twists a fireplace poker into knots, then sets the wood on fire with his heat vision. Grabbing the coal formed from the flame, he compresses the carbon into a diamond and hands it to her. In an instant, Superman suddenly realized what he has done and the impact of his actions struck him like a sledgehammer. But, no matter. He wants to marry Lyrica, and telling her that, she again faints. When she awoke, she was startled that Superman is still there and realized what that means. "You really are Superman, Clark!" Lyrica exclaimed.

Again Superman tells her how much he loves her, but Lyrica acted ashamed. Slowly she admitted that she had contracted the same disease that killed Alistair while on location in Africa. The producer knew this and had agreed to let Lyrica star in this last film knowing she had always fanaticized about marrying Superman. "So, I can die happy," she says, "knowing I would have been your wife."

Having just found this love Superman has no intention of letting happiness drift away so easily. Frantically he searched for some cure, anything that could help. But he found nothing. He then spent 24 hours pumping oxygen into the tent over Lyrica's bed working against hope to keep her alive. But even the mightiest man alive cannot stop death when it comes to call. As the final moments came, Superman ripped his way through the protective tent and took Lyrica's hand. Telling Superman that she loved him, Lyrica fades away.

Months later, the Superman Saga premieres in Metropolis. It is a gala event, but the mood is somber. Standing before the marquee, Superman looks sadly at Lyrica's name up in lights next to Claude Keith. Rising upward, he places a black wreath beside her name, then sadly flies away. Those that pass will see the flowers, but none will completely understand the broken heart behind them.

3Story - 3: I am not one that normally likes romance stories but I will admit that, in general, I like these Superman stories. During the 1950's - 60's, Superman battled and defeated any number of amazingly powerful villains. But it was when he had to deal with emotions, when love occurred, or death reared its head, that he most often failed. Just as any human, the stresses of normal life got to him when he could overcome most any other obstacle. In general, Superman's personal life was rather tragic and horrible! The irony was that Superman almost always chose a woman whose initials were LL, that woman almost always died in the story, and Superman eventually returned to Lois Lane. You'd think both Lois and Superman would get tired of this cycle after a while. While some of these stories were excellent (Lori Lemaris in Superman #129, and Lyla Lerrol in Superman #141) this particular story is rather stiff, and the dialogue was particularly stifled. I don't know many people that would use their last breath to say, "I'm going Superman. Goodbye!" But this is a comic book, after all. It was odd that the lead story for this issue, and the subject of the cover, was one published 13 years earlier called, The Thing from 40,000 AD. That story, which was quite well done, was originally published in Superman #87 (February 1954) and the subject of a great cover by Al Plastino and will be reviewed at a later date.

3Art - 3: This is rather typical art from Al Plastino during the later 1960's. It was during this period that DC editors made a conscious effort to "open up" the art on their pages. They did this in several ways including reducing the number of panels on a page, making panels larger, and placing less details in the images. This became even more striking with Plastino's work whose art was already more spartan than his contemporaries, Wayne Boring and Curt Swan.

4Cover Art - 4: While the cover to this book was a new piece of art, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein, its content referred to a story published 13 years earlier. The cover features two Supermen, one slamming the other with a girder and one swinging a sledgehammer.

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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