Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Superman #196Cover date: May 1967
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.
Story - 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.
Art - 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.
Cover 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
- 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!
- 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
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