Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Superman #235

Superman #235

Cover date: March 1971

"The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp"

Writer: Denny O'Neil
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson

Cover: Neal Adams and Dick Giordano

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Click to enlarge



Lois Lane and Clark Kent are at the Concert Bowl for the performance of new classical pianist Ferlin Nyxly. Foreign leader Prince Umbler is also in the audience. As everyone is about to sit down for the starting of the music, a helicopter is seen flying too low. The aircraft contains assassins that support Umbler's political opposition. Lois and Clark's evening out just turned into a job for Superman. The Man of Steel deals with the extremists' bomb and guns, hands them over to the police and waves to the crowd before resuming his reporter's guise.

Ferlin Nyxly has begun playing. However, the audience is still talking about Superman saving Prince Umbler. Former pianist Timos Achens orders everyone to be quiet because Nyxly is the genius that he used to be. Up until Nyxly's appearance six months ago, Achens was considered the best musician in his field until his talent just went away. Meanwhile, Nyxly himself is angry for what he believes is Superman's grandstanding and ruining his big moment. He then recalls a time when he was curator of the Metropolis Music Museum. One night, he had discovered the Devil's Harp in a box of ancient musical instruments from a lost city. Upon playing the demonic-looking object, he was given the thing in which he had always dreamed - the talent to play the piano.

It is the next morning in the Galaxy Broadcasting Building. Morgan Edge wants Clark to read an anti-Superman editorial on the WGBS News. He claims that it's for the Man of Tomorrow's "showing off" during Nyxly's concert. Actually, Kal-El interferes with the plans of Edge's lord and master Darkseid, evil ruler of the planet Apokolips. Clark, in all honesty, does not want to read Edge's propaganda against his "friend" Superman, but he must do so in order to keep his job. Fortunately, a breaking story prevents Clark from stating the station's opinion. An unidentified flying object has been spotted near the U.S.S. Blake, a ship carrying nerve gas out to sea. This is yet another job for Superman.

As Superman flies to assist the Blake, he encounters his sand duplicate. He suddenly crashes into the waters below, and the same thing happens to his doppelganger. What they both do not know is that Ferlin Nyxly, in a costume of Pan, the ugliest of all the gods, has used the Devil's Harp to grant him the ability to soar through the air like the Man of Steel. He uses this power to steal money from an armored car. Seeing that bullets can hurt him, Nyxly plays his demonic musical instrument to give him invulnerability. The guards taking the money to the truck shoot Nyxly again, but this time, he gets away.

Clark Kent, baffled by Superman's sand twin, has just returned to the WGBS Studio. Suddenly, a delivery boy spills coffee on him, which burns his hand. Thinking the mysterious creature that he has encountered three times before, who is lurking in a nearby alley, is behind the loss of his powers, Clark wants to communicate with it until Morgan orders him to go to Studio B. Inside, Ferlin Nyxly, who is calling himself Pan, challenges Superman to a duel at the Metropolis Stadium as an act of revenge for humiliating the pianist.

Superman has arrived at the stadium, and Pan has confessed to robbing the armored car full of money. However, before the Man of Steel can turn him over to the authorities, Nyxly plays the Devil's Harp. This time, the demonic musical instrument takes Superman's great speed as it took his other abilities and Timos Achens' musical talent. Now possessing the Man of Tomorrow's tremendous strength, Pan has ordered our hero to surrender. Superman refuses to give up despite being beaten by his foe. The mysterious sand creature then lumbers out of the shadows and destroys the Devil's Harp. Pan has been defeated, but Superman is left to wonder about his dark duplicate's origins and intentions.

5Story - 5: I really can't explain my first impression when I picked this up to read it, but I can say I was not expecting something this incredible. In addition to a great story of Superman battling magic, we get a book-length chapter in "The Sandman Saga." The previous issues' back-up tales were great, but I like the fact that the entire comic was devoted to this arc.

The beautiful thing about this and the previous books is that they tell separate stories while giving the reader little bits and pieces about Superman's sand duplicate. There are also footnotes in this issue about numbers 233 and 234. This makes the saga very reader friendly if someone missed an issue. How many comic books are like that today?

The last page of Superman #235 made me extremely curious. Like Superman, I had many questions about his doppelganger. At first, we're led to believe that the creature is bad because of the fact that Superman had weakened in his presence, but he later saves the Man of Steel. Hopefully some things will be answered in the next issue. We'll just have to wait and see.

5Art - 5: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson give the reader a brilliant mixture of superhero action and the atmosphere of one of those classic Universal horror films. This works well for the entire "Sandman Saga," and it helps give us all an idea why they are considered the best art team for the Superman comic books. Like the previous issues in this story arc, the images are simply stunning.

4Cover Art - 4: I knocked one point off this cover because I honestly feel that a single image is better than putting panels onto the cover. Still, the artwork of Neal Adams is incredible and gives the reader a taste of what's inside the comic book.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • 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”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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