Monday, April 13, 2015


Some time back, we checked out a Superman comics with some grisly deaths at the hands (or rather, laser-eyes...) of the Parasite. It occurred to me that there were a somewhat surprising number of grotesque kills in those old issues, so let's check out some more! From 1977, Superman #317, "The Killer with the Heart of Steel!" Written by Martin Pasko, art by Curt Swan and Dan Adkins, and a very dramatic cover from Neal Adams!

Inside State Caverns, the cyborg Metallo has defeated Superman, leaving him lying in the fragments of Metallo's shattered Kryptonite heart. Still, he can't hang out to watch Supes die, very busy, stuff to do, schedule to keep; and of course Superman is able to crawl to an underground stream and save himself by being floated away from the Kryptonite. Supes is somewhat at a loss as to what the endgame is here, though: several Skull agents (a super-crime organization) were murdered, their hearts seemingly teleported away and replaced by green-painted rocks--fake Kryptonite! Skull had created Metallo, but the presumed-dead cyborg returned with a vendetta against the organization and a lead mask protecting his identity. Throw in the disappearance of S.T.A.R. Labs scientist Dr. Albert Michaels and his mysterious secret invention, and Superman hadn't put all the puzzle pieces together yet. (That is a nice recap sequence, especially since I haven't read the prior issue!)

On his way back to Metropolis, late at night, Superman sees an armored car, suspiciously made of lead. Stopping the car, he finds two Skull agents, one of whom takes a shot with a bazooka. Superman is dismissive, until the agent explains the missile's warhead is anti-matter! As Superman stops the missile (which he says would have blown up the universe!) Metallo kills the agents using Michaels' invention, a matter-teleportation ray. Metallo wanted revenge on Skull for making him "a half-human monstrosity!" and Michaels had been a secret Skull agent. As Metallo finds Superman had escaped State Caverns, Superman examines the Skull agents' bodies and checks out the armored car: it's full of hundreds of pounds of Kryptonite, formed into ingots like gold bars!

Supes berates himself for not being Batman and figuring this all out yet, since his only clue seems to be that Metallo strikes between 4 and 6 AM. At the WGBS building, Clark Kent's new producer, Martin Korda, gives him the script for that night's newscast, but says the script will have to be updated with the news of the latest deaths. Meeting with Lois Lane, Clark realizes she just filed that story--but Korda knew about it an hour earlier! That, the books on heart transplants and cybernetics, and a chance remark by Lois help him come to the conclusion, or at least leap to a guess.

Later that night, at a secret base under a piano bar, three Skull agents meet at a secret base...with a sweet skull meeting table. These three were all that was left of Skull, although they tend to talk like they were still part of an organization, with larger plans involving Kryptonite falling to earth again...Metallo attacks Skull there, but is quickly met by Superman--which is according to Metallo's plan! Using the teleporter, he steals Superman's heart, replacing it with Kryptonite! As Superman's body turns green, both the just-arriving Lois and Metallo act as if the Kryptonite is what's killing Superman, not shock or his blood leaking into his chest where his heart was. Metallo even jokes no one could put the heart back, since you couldn't perform surgery on an invulnerable body.

Before Metallo can finish murdering the Skull agents, someone melts everyone's guns; then the cops that have surrounded the building follow Superman's instructions...and use their car-radios? Which works, as Metallo collapses, his robotic body seizing up. As Lois cries over Superman's corpse, he gets up and casually asks if he can wipe off the green makeup he put on at super-speed. Using a dead Kandorian's heart (!?) Superman used that speed to give Metallo's a Kryptonian heart and put his Kryptonite one in a lead box, then played dead. Supes had realized Metallo and the teleporter ray both were receiving power broadcasted from a central source, which is why the killings were late at night, and why Metallo had lured Superman to State Caverns: the better to avoid interference from radio and TV. I thought Metallo was running off Kryptonite power, but computers being what they were in the seventies, he may have needed outside operating support broadcast to him--except that doesn't explain how Metallo could've worked at WGBS in his assumed identity of Martin Korda! Metallo needed Lois's notes on Skull to track them down, but seems like bit of a plot hole there.

After Superman explains everything, one of the Skull agents grabs Lois, with his hold-out gun: Dr. Michaels! He escapes using the teleporter, swearing to rebuild Skull...and he would a couple of times, as he would later become the Atomic Skull!

The issue ends with Morgan Edge announcing at a staff meeting that the real Martin Korda had been found, and would be joining the staff after he had recovered. Oh, and Clark's new co-anchor for the six o'clock news would be...Lana Lang! Who called everyone "luv" during this period, and may have spoken with an affected, and fake, accent to hide the fact she was from Smallville like Clark. I don't think she came off especially well then.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Damn. And then these stories come along, and you're reminded things could get hardcore back then too.

That's a cool-ass Skull table though. Defintely not something you'd find at a Pier 1 or Bed, Bath and Beyond, but......IKEA?;)