Monday, December 03, 2012

What do potential comics readers love? Subplots about the workplace? Yay!

I was thinking about this issue, when I saw the news that Clark Kent was quitting the Daily Planet; but of course I wasn't remembering it correctly. From 1988, Superman #25, "Head Trips" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by Kerry Gammill, inks by John Beatty.
I had thought this issue featured more subplots involving the Daily Planet staff; and was thinking readers were more likely to put up with that when comics were seventy-five cents an issue. Now that comics are three or four bucks a pop, no one wants any panels devoted to Alice the copy girl or Cat Grant's son or whoever; they want capital-E EVENTS. All killer, no filler! World-shattering crises! Devastating emotional conflict! And so many decapitations...

Still, this issue doesn't devote a lot of time to subplots, since it's mostly about the newest incarnation of the Brainiac/Luthor team. This was barely two years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the villainous pair were much changed: both were dumpy, overweight, older men.
Although at this point, "Brainiac" was a sideshow psychic named Milton Fine, possessed by the alien Vril Dox. Luthor thought "Vril Dox" was merely a delusion, caused by Fine's brain tumor; but arranged to have the tumor removed and replaced with a control device.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent is already having problems, and is both exhausted and distracted. (We may have seen part of the reason why some time ago...) Then, Clark is stricken with a series of dreamlike hallucinations: Luthor attacking the Planet staff, Superman having his secret identity exposed in different ways, Superman accidentally killing Lois while going after Brainiac.

Superman confronts Fine in the hospital, and Brainiac lays his cards on the table, attacking Supes with a variety of psychic powers. Eventually though, beaten, Brainiac immolates himself, seemingly dying in a fireball. Of course, that's another illusion, and now Brainiac has the upper hand in his partnership with Luthor, since he has the control chip removed from his head.

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