A Tribute to the of

At times, the DC Silver Age was simply goofy fun and even though it often seems that Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen had a corner on that market, occasionally the Man of Steel himself got into the act. Witness Superman’s self-titled issue #221 from November of 1969 when writer Cary Bates gives us “The Two-Ton Superman!” Cover art is courtesy of “Swanderson,” or Curt Swan with Murphy Anderson while the story art is by Curt Swan with George Roussos on inks. Long-time Superman editor Mort Weisinger is also credited in this book.

Initially Clark Kent, Lois Lane and other reporters are seen at a space center for a test-demonstration. The big brains at the Pentagon have developed a landing module for use on exploring Mars. They are about to do a simulation on a mock-up of the red planet and through a random drawing choose one reporter to play “astronaut.” Clark Kent wins the lucky draw and is soon suited up and in the module, which is placed in the Mars room, but abruptly Clark’s thoughts reveal that something has gone very wrong and he cannot allow himself to be seen. The module then takes off, crashing through the roof of the center and gaining altitude toward parts unknown.

As we turn the page we see what has happened as the Man of Might has reached epic proportions and burst through his spacesuit and the module itself far up in the stratosphere. Fortunately he had the presence of mind to be wearing his uniform under everything and those ol’ Kryptonian threads seem to take the gaff.

Our hero realizes he has a dilemma as Lois will be wondering what happened to Clark and with him in this state it would get her gears turning. As he ponders hiding out and dispatching his Superman robots he realizes his cover is blown when an airliner happens by and he is spotted by several passengers. Just then an alien being shimmers into view, addressing Superman and expressing relief that he’s still alive. The Man of Tomorrow recognizes Stros, from a civilization he’d aided days before. The visitor from another world recounts the honorarium they gave Superman after his assistance where he was given their sacred scarlet nectar, untouched in a quarter century. As it happens, they later discovered it had undergone a chemical change making it lethal, but fortunately not to the invulnerable Superman.

Stos believes that it was the cause of the freakish weight gain side effect and regrets he cannot help. After the alien departs, Superman thinks to himself that he must be back to his normal fighting weight by 8 a.m. the next morning.

A news broadcast later in the day describes the changes in the Metropolis Marvel that had been witnessed and Lois Lane is indeed suspicious. Superman, meanwhile, has fashioned a custom scale that confirms he’s at the 4,000 pound mark. Two tons of fun, indeed.

Part II shows the Last Son of Krypton undertaking multiple tasks that require a lot of effort and Lois realizes he’s using them to help reduce. He does, however, still find the time to send her an urgent note as Clark Kent and she answers his summons to meet him at his apartment. When she arrives, Clark is seated and warns her not to get too close as he could be radioactive. He elaborates that there had been a booby trap in the module and Superman had spotted it in time and whisked it away, removing Clark from it before detonation, but it turned out to be a nuke. Unfortunately the freak weight gain happened before he could decontaminate Clark. Lois accepts the story, seeing as how Kent looks completely normal and departs.

We discover Clark’s secret after the reporter departs. He’s used an elaborate projection system complete with distorting mirrors to create the illusion. Now it’s back to work with a super-exercise regimen that includes juggling railcars and using a specially constructed vibrating machine. It is also mentioned, no doubt to pre-empt a plot hole, that there have been an unusual amount of solar flares, keeping him from using his robots.

Finally, our hero is seen acting as a human billiard ball and bouncing amongst meteors in space to further shake some pounds. He hasn’t quite reached his goal when the mysterious deadline arrives and he appears at a secluded military installation where a sophisticated mechanism is in place, calibrated to the precise weight of Superman. He places himself in the form fitting “key” and it releases the device known as the nullifier from a massive vault. The machine is still a prototype, but if it works it will have the power to deactivate any destructive weapon within a 100-mile radius, effectively nullifying warfare.

So we know that the Man of Steel hadn’t quite made weight, yet the device worked. How? As it happens, our resourceful hero took advantage of some other-worldly technology he had on hand. Anti-gravity discs that he used after careful calculation to make the final adjustments. The story then ends on that note.

While this tale is the cover feature, it was actually the backup story following “The Revolt of the Super-Slave!” along with a very nice addition in the Superman Family Portrait along with key in the center of the comic.

Like I said at the beginning, this 11-pager was just some goofy fun, with no villain to overcome, the ever-present threat of Lois Lane discovering Superman’s identity and an oddball difficulty to deal with. Not a bad change of pace, but a far cry from the usual fare, so I’ll give it a 5 on the 10- point rating scale. Cary Bates probably knocked this one out over a lunch hour break.

Thanks once again for spending part of your day with us. The Silver Lantern is your indispensable source of all things DC Silver Age and there is a vast wealth of research at the master links list on the main page and of course you can peruse all the 300+ reviews here along with 80+ creator interviews. Of course we always like to hear from our readers, too, so if you get the notion, send a note to professor_the@hotmail.com and we’ll be pleased to get back to you.

Until our next installment on the 1st of December…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S.

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