A Tribute to the of

The cover shtick still works, all these many years later. I mean, c’mon. If you’d seen this one on the newsstands or spinner racks, wouldn’t you be intrigued? It’s from the flagship Action Comics #309 with a publication date of February 1964 and that great Curt Swan cover depicts Superman and a who’s who reception line of his famous cohorts, but right at the front is none other than Clark Kent, the “Mystery Masquerader.”

Curt Swan’s cover pencils were inked by Shelly Moldoff, while the interior inker was George Klein. Scripting duties were accomplished by Edmond Hamilton and our editor was Mort Weisinger for this tale entitled “The Superman Super-Spectacular!

Check out the guest list from the splash page: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, Pete Ross, Perry White, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Police Chief Parker, Batman and Robin, Krypto, Super-Horse, Streaky, Super Monkey, the “Look-Alike” Squad of Kandor, the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club and of course the “Mystery Guest.”

Things kick off at the Daily Planet where Clark Kent has received a piece of mail addressed to Superman in his care. To his astonishment, however, it is from the White House and in his surprise he begins to open it right in front of Jimmy and Lois. Jimmy quickly tells him not to open someone else’s mail and Clark groans inwardly that his near blunder has likely stoked the suspicions of Lois Lane. Beating a hasty retreat, he announces that he was about to meet Superman for lunch anyway, so he’ll deliver it.

Shedding his outer garb, Superman reveals that his x-ray vision allowed him to read the President’s letter, which was a request for him to recover a rocket’s nose cone from the sea so that it can be presented to the astronaut who will be honored on a T.V. program, “Our American Heroes.”

Back at the Daily Planet, editor Perry White is talking with someone on the phone and it appears something is afoot. “Yes, Mr. President—by now Superman is on his way! And he doesn’t suspect a thing!

Beneath the sea, the Man of Steel has located the nose cone, but unfortunately so has a giant squid who has the structure in its grip and is snoozing. Supes decides the least harmful way to resolve the conflict is to create a waterspout that will lift both cone and squid into the air where the creature will release it and return to the depths where it can breathe.

Reporting in at the White House, Superman is addressed by a familiar silhouette in front of his signature rocking chair. President Kennedy thanks our hero and says if he can repay the favor to let him know. He also mentions that he could use another favor from the Man of Tomorrow to get a particular gift for another honoree on “Our American Heroes.” The program director then gets a call from the president telling him to expect Superman and that he knows what to do.

Soon Superman is retrieving a rare metal from the earth’s core for the cave explorer being honored. No sooner does Superman deliver the latest object than he’s asked for yet another assist in getting a gift for Dr. Rex Jonas. This time the Man of Might is in the jungles of the Amazon to get a rare plant with healing properties.

The tasks continue throughout the day until Supes is finally meeting up one more time with the program director at a storeroom, when he is surprised to arrive instead at a television studio that is doing a live feed. Yes, “Our American Heroes” is profiling Superman.

Soon the emcee begins to bring out the guests to honor our hero, the lead-lined curtain bearing a large letter as a clue to who will be joining them and of course to thwart Superman’s X-ray vision. The large “P” kicks it off with Chief Parker of Smallville, who shows off some hand-whittled dioramas he’s created of scenes from Superboy’s life. Next up is the ubiquitous letter “L,” that has played such a major part of Superman’s career. He guesses it could be anyone from Lois Lane to Lori Lemaris to Lana Lang and he soon discovers it is all three.

A little later during a commercial break, Lori lets our hero know that the other two “LL” girls seem to be hatching something and are shielding their thoughts from her telepath abilities. As one might expect, the girls are plotting to continue their mutual quest to unveil their love interest’s alter ego and have got hold of a device that will alert them if electronic equipment is in the vicinity. They reason that if a Clark Kent or Superman robot makes an appearance, they’ll know instantly. Superman, however, has observed their plotting, but it leaves him with the dilemma of how to handle things. But meanwhile, the show must go on…

…with an appearance by the super cousin, Supergirl, with the super pets in tow, including Krypto, Streaky, Comet the super horse and the super monkey. Then it’s the letter “K,” which brings on the “Look-Alike Squad” from the bottle city of Kandor, made up to resemble Lois, Perry White and even Clark Kent. Superman muses that the Clark double would be helpful if he wasn’t able to fit in the palm of his hand. Now it’s the letter “P” and old pal Pete Ross makes his appearance. Inevitably Jimmy Olsen and the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club arrive and nearly cause a disaster when one member, thinking he’s found a suitable gift, one that can be donated for charity, nearly negates Superman’s powers permanently by giving him a chunk of Gold Kryptonite. Fortuitously a time bubble with the Legion of Super-Heroes arrives and the quick thinking Element Lad uses his abilities to transform it into Platinum. Thinking the day is saved with Chameleon Boy there to pose as Clark, the plan is soon dashed when the young heroes receive a summons that they are needed back in the 30th Century, so it’s a hasty exit.

During the next commercial break, Pete Ross notes Superman’s knitted brow and realizes that the problem must be Clark Kent. Pete, of course, inadvertently discovered his friend Clark’s dual identity when they were boys, but has kept the secret from everyone, to include the Man of Might. Still, he assumes a robot will come to his aid. Meanwhile, our hero may have come up with a solution, using Batman to stand in as he has in the past. Unfortunately fate steps in again as Bats and Robin arrive as part of the show and then backstage the Caped Crusader has a little fun at Lois’ expense, “exposing” his secret identity by doffing the cowl, but reveling instead an elaborate Bizarro makeup job. Lois realizes then that the heavy makeup would take a long time to remove, so Batman couldn’t be the Kent stand-in.

Finally, the last guest arrives when a blue-suited Clark Kent hits the stage to the stunned amazement of Lois and Lana. They even use the device and it indicates an organic being. Superman offers his gratitude to all his friends, closing out the television special, but of course the question remains as to who did the secret identity stand-in. The last panels reveal that it was none other than President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. “Superman, I told you to call on me if ever you needed help—and I’m glad you did! And I’ll guard your secret identity as I guard the secrets of our nation!

JFK, of course, made another appearance in the pages of Superman later on. It was reviewed right here at the Silver Lantern, though that time it was drawn by my friend Al Plastino and published after the tragic assassination. To my knowledge, (and by all means, readers, correct me if I’m wrong) the only other time President Kennedy was depicted in a Superman story was the Elseworlds tale “Red Son” where the future had occurred quite differently, due in no small part to Jor El’s rocket with its precious payload landing in the Soviet Union. In any case, this was a nifty twist on the story and I give it a solid 8 on the 10-point rating scale. A very enjoyable 14-pager from a particularly fun era, the great Silver Age of Superman in DC Comics! This issue's Supergirl adventure is available to read on this site.

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Join us again for the next installment in this ongoing feature and don’t forget…

Long live the Silver Age!

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