Thursday, May 25, 2017

We'll get to the issue after this one later--I had it as a kid, but not this one--but check the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover for this one, it's way more hardcore than the story! From 1979, Action Comics #494, "The Secret of the Super-S!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiaramonte.

We open with Clark Kent returning to his old desk at the Daily Planet, and while Perry White seems pretty thrilled about it, Clark has to point out it's only for a week, a working vacation from his anchorman job. But when the mail room forwards up a mysterious letter, Perry may just have Clark's next assignment. The letter includes an unsigned note about unrevealed secrets of Superman, starting with an alternate, circular S-emblem that could have been his logo. The postmark on the letter was from Smallville, so for Perry it makes sense to send their reporter that used to live in Superman's childhood hometown. Still, Lois decides to go with him.

Making the trip by train, Clark has to feign "train-sickness" to get away from Lois long enough to save the train from a rockslide, and is slightly miffed at Perry for letting Lois go with him. He had put a lot of time and effort and wacky schemes into convincing Lois that Clark and Superman were different people, and didn't want to jeopardize that. At the Smallville train station, former police chief (and long-time Superboy supporting character) Parker was going to pick Lois and Clark up, but he's a no-show. Because he's being attacked by a Revolutionary War-era ghost at the Kent house!

Although scary, the ghost attack didn't hurt Parker; he wasn't even slimed. Still, after showing the reporters his impressive array of "para-psychologists" equipment, the chief is up and making dinner; while Clark checks his old basement and finds a secret trophy shelf he had neglected to move to his Fortress of Solitude. Not that there wasn't some cool stuff in there: "prisma-jewels from Andromeda," a trophy from the planet Zoltam, and oh yeah, the original S-emblem made by his mom. Man, Martha probably spent all day sewing that, then got completely upstaged by Jonathan Kent's better S. No Kryptonian symbol, "the 'S' stands for hope" business here!

That night, while Lois sleeps and Parker sets up his ghost-photographing equipment; Superman patrols Smallville, and stops a graffiti-spraying biker gang. He notices one had painted an 'S' like his mom's, and shakes him down for where he got the idea, when he hears Lois scream: the ghost of a World War II general (American, even!) takes a shot at her. Again scary, but Lois is unhurt; Parker and Clark didn't see the ghost at all. Clark does notice, with x-ray vision, that Parker's prints match the letter sent to the Planet, but Clark doesn't think Parker would willingly expose his secret identity. In fact, the next morning, when Clark takes off for some fresh air with a dizzy spell, Parker tells Lois that he had always been sickly. But for once, he hadn't been faking dizziness, he did feel momentarily unwell, and Supes takes a moment under a waterfall to try and clear his head. Meanwhile, Lois and Parker compare notes, and wonder if they didn't see the same spirit, one that appears as the archetype of warrior in a person's head. But what kind of warrior would Clark picture? They probably wouldn't have guessed a seven-foot-tall Dwalu warrior from Krypton's warlike past, but here we are.

Delivering a ton of thought balloon exposition after a blow to the head but before sinking under the water, Superman feels like powers or no powers, he would never be able to stop a Dwalu he right? We'll find out later! Also, this issue had the ever-popular U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership. Line C Total Paid Circulation: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 183,601. Single issue nearest to filing date: 212,899.

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