Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman #330Cover date: December 1978
"The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!"
Writer: Martin Pasko (based on a story concept by Al Schroeder III)
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Reviewed by: Bruce Kanin
Our story opens with Clark Kent waking up in bed, quite rattled from a nightmare in which he's at work with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang. In the troubling dream, a satellite has fallen out of orbit and is headed straight at them in their office building. To Clark's astonishment, before he can even do anything (as Superman), his three co-workers immediately urge him to change into his familiar red, blue and yellow outfit to stop the menace. Yes, in Clark's nightmare, his close friends have apparently seen through, as the dream version of Lana Lang refers to it "...those phoney (SIC) eyeglasses and that silly blue suit."
Awake, Clark heads to a mirror in his apartment and mulls over the validity of his nightmare - and super-disguise. And so, forty years after Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave birth to the Greatest Superhero Ever, Superman finally realizes that (quote, from his thought bubble), "...that's the dumbest disguise I've ever seen!" and "Superman wearing glasses is what I look like!"
As the story continues and Clark continues to wonder why his flimsy disguise has seemingly fooled millions for so many years, he sees that Metropolis is being attacked by a super-villain called The Spellbinder, who is able to induce mass-hypnosis to get folks to do just about anything, including the relinquishing of their valuables at his command.
Before long, after a battle between super-hero and super-villain, Superman figures out that The Spellbinder is using a form of hypnosis as his power. The Man of Steel is then amazingly able to use his own super-hypnosis power to all but insure that every person in Metropolis won't be affected by The Spellbinder's power (Superman broadcasts his own hypnosis via a giant view screen hovering over Metropolis - this was Superman's own invention for 1978, mind you - no plasma or LCD 80" TV sets available back then!).
That task complete, Superman heads back to work as a newsman at WGBS Broadcasting (his Daily Planet days are long gone) - and changes back to his Clark Kent identity in a studio wardrobe closet. But then - during mid-change with his Superman uniform partly exposed - Clark is interrupted by Lana Lang (and Martin Korda, a new associate producer)!
So finally, also after forty years, Superman's secret identity has been exposed - and to the woman, who, as a girl in Smallville, had been trying to prove it countless times (albeit that Superboy was Clark Kent)! Right?
To our astonishment - and Superman's - Lana fails to recognize that this is Superman changing to Clark. What she sees is Superman wearing glasses! Superman first thinks that his hypnotic suggestion earlier to everyone in Metropolis has affected Lana's mind - perhaps she's forgotten who Clark Kent is.
Lana explains to Superman that she knows Clark, and that he, Clark, and Superman, have a superficial resemblance at best! The red-headed newswoman then goes on to tell Superman that he's "...too heavily built...and you're much too handsome" (ouch - for Clark!). She then concludes with "No - forget it! You don't really look like Clark at all!"
Superman then asks why Lana thinks this way especially since she used to believe Clark was Superboy, back in Smallville. She reaffirms this former belief, but explains to Superman that she never knew "...how you could change your appearance so drastically when you became Clark!"
The scene is interrupted, and Clark is left confused as to why Lana sees him as Superman and not in his secret identity. In the meantime, The Spellbinder is at it again, and Clark determines that, just as he had to do with the folks in Metropolis, he's got to self-hypnotize himself against the super-villain to also become immune, which he does.
Before long, Superman begins another battle with The Spellbinder (who, by the way, via footnote from the late, beloved editor Julius Schwarz, is revealed as a former foe of The Batman - from way back in DETECTIVE COMICS #358, December 1966!). Superman, though, mistakenly believes that The Spellbinder's hypnosis will be ineffective on him, due to the aforementioned super self-hypnosis he performed; however, it doesn't work, and The Spellbinder is able to use his abilities to "convince" Superman that he's lost his own super-powers.
After The Spellbinder wins the battle and leaves the scene, Superman figures out why his super self-hypnosis failed to protect him from The Spellbinder and why Lana didn't recognize him as Clark Kent. Of course, he doesn't tell us, the readers, right away, keeping us in suspense while he goes to vanquish the super-villain. Superman is able to avoid another dose of hypnosis from The Spellbinder after realizing that the villain is using sound, not visual powers, to make people, including Superman, "suggestible". Via super ear plugs, Superman is able to resist The Spellbinder's hypnosis and thwart him once and for all.
That sets us up for the story's finale, which makes the battle with The Spellbinder pale in comparison. In a nutshell, Superman has figured out that his very own simple disguise is making people believe that Superman and Clark Kent appear differently enough such that no one will think one is the other.
Yes, he finds that his glasses - which have lenses made of the Plexiglas from his Kryptonian rocket - are channeling low-level subconscious projections from Superman himself to make people believe that Clark and Superman appear differently. Whereas ordinary glass or Plexiglas would not have this effect, Clark's super-lenses do, because they are from Krypton - and "things" from Krypton take on super-special characteristics on Earth, as did Superman himself.
As Clark puts it, "What (people) see is the image of Clark I try to project". From a drawing of himself as Clark that he's obtained, we see that the image projected and seen by others of Clark Kent is somewhat frail, not very muscular and relatively thin - and perhaps almost balding - all very un-Superman-like. Superman goes on to surmise - and effectively explain to us readers - that this effect not only is projected in person, but is carried via photographs and cameras. He further explains, presumably to ward off readers from writing in with all sorts of discrepancies that the effect must linger even in situations where Superman has temporarily lost his powers.
And so the story concludes, with a blockbuster revelation about the Man of Steel and the secret identity he's had since Day One!
Story - 4: To some degree, this is not an easy story to rate. On one hand, it features a relatively run-of-the-mill tug of war between Superman vs. The Spellbinder. Superman's discovery that the villain is using sound waves to hypnotize folks is clever, but that story is really no more than a "3".
However, the idea that the Clark Kent glasses actually play a more major role in disguising the Man of Steel than ever believed is, to this reader, brilliant, though flawed (more on flaws later). In effect, the writer is trying to tie up a fundamental loose end and an implausibility that existed in every incarnation of Superman, whether the comics, TV series or movies. One only needs to think back to THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (with George Reeves) and the scenes in which Clark is without glasses - looking a heck of a lot like Superman - without Lois, Jimmy or Perry noticing - to be reminded of how ineffective the disguise is (Noel Neill, in commentary on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN DVD SEASON TWO, says, in effect, that had she, Jimmy and Perry realized that Clark was Superman, they would have been out of jobs!).
So, to make use of the Clark Kent glasses as a mechanism for explaining why no one noticed that the two identities are one and the same - is perhaps a stroke of genius. It makes this a milestone of an issue worthy of a "5".
But why is it only a "4"? For two basic reasons: first, the idea is flawed, despite explanations put forth by the Man of Steel that make it sound logical. And second, the Superman family of comics never referred to it again, almost as if the editors in hindsight considered it apocryphal with regard to Superman lore. (John Byrne, in his Superman reboot, certainly ignored this, and came up with a more plausible scenario in which Clark and Superman look and sound different due to alterations in voice, hairstyle and posture - similarly done in the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve).
Why is the idea flawed? Well, extending the effect of Superman's subconscious projection via photos and cameras is a bit far-fetched. Imagine a newspaper photo of Clark Kent that's sent to the other side of the Earth and then archived for awhile. Are we supposed to believe that this effect survives both space and time?
Perhaps we need to relax our imagination and allow that one through. But what about the countless times that Bruce Wayne, AKA The Batman, has filled in for Superman as Clark Kent? Even assuming that Wayne wore Clark's super-glasses, he's not Superman, and wouldn't have been able to project a super-subconscious desire via some sort of super-hypnosis that he's frail looking and such. Bruce Wayne wouldn't have even known to do that, if he could, because Superman only discovered this effect in SUPERMAN #330!
And how did Bruce Wayne disguise himself - as the frail Clark, or the Clark that looks like Superman-with-glasses? He wouldn't have known to do the former, as mentioned; if the latter, then wouldn't people have gotten suspicious that the Wayne version of Clark looked like Superman - or just not like Clark?
Moreover: why wouldn't Bruce Wayne himself - or any one of the handful of folks that know Clark and Superman are one and the same - have mentioned this difference to Superman? Or did Superman subconsciously project no difference between his two identities for those friends who know his secret ID?
It's true that for many a comic book story, one shouldn't think all that hard - though it can be a lot of fun. For this one - the story was decent and the concept of Clark's super-glasses was revolutionary and fun to debate. That's what comics are all about - fun.
Art - 4: It's hard to believe that Curt Swan began his long and illustrious (so to speak) career back with SUPERMAN #51 in 1948. Thirty years later, he's still at it in SUPERMAN #330 (and would continue for nearly another two decades before his death in 1996). His grand inkers of years gone by, Stan Kaye, George Klein and Murphy Anderson were difficult acts to follow. That said, Frank Chiaramonte does an admirable job and was possibly one of the more decent inkers for Swan in the post-Silver Age.
All told, the pencils and inks aren't as crisp and clear as they were in the Silver Age, and there is sometimes certain sameness to the facial expressions, but they tell the story well. I'd take Curt and Frank any day.
Cover Art - 3: The cover was done by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, two well-known and seasoned artists who both had a huge impact on DC Comics art over the years. The cover makes it as high as a '3' primarily for one reason: covers are supposed to "grab" the reader, and this one does, especially with disclaimers such as "Exclusive! Superman's secret revealed!" and "Revealed at least - the startling SECRET of how SUPERMAN fools the world with his CLARK KENT identity! A SECRET endangered by the sinister schemes of THE SPELLBINDER!"
It also "grabs" the prospective buyer with the scene - Superman and Lana Lang having a seemingly amazing argument: Superman, in uniform with glasses on, is trying to get Lana to believe that he's Clark Kent. And Lana, not to be fooled, doesn't believe him! This is a complete switch versus what Lana, and her rival, Lois Lane, have been trying to prove for years!
As such, the cover is intriguing enough for us to want to know what the heck is going on!
However, if not for that big twist and its depiction on the cover, the rating here would be lower. It's a very congested, crowded and busy cover. There is too much to look at and too much text. Also, with all due respect to Andru and Giordano, who did many SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS covers in the post-Silver Age period, it's all somewhat cartoony. It's not something I would mount on my comic book wall from an artistic sense - but would do so because this is such a fascinating issue.
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 Laneä Deadä 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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