A Tribute to the of

Since I’ve not heard much in the way of requests/suggestions from the reading collective, I’m taking the opportunity this time around to review a finding of the webmaster himself, who recently fed me a story I wasn’t familiar with. I love a good team-up tale and the “imaginary tales” tended to fuel my young imagination as well, so let’s take a peek at World’s Finest Comics #167 with a publication date of June, 1967. Edited by Mort Weisinger and illustrated by Curt Swan and George Klein, both cover and interiors, “The New Superman and Batman Team!” has the distinction of being the first published script by a youthful Cary Bates. [Sage #275]

Our splash page shows a young Lex Luthor hard at work in his lab, devising a serum that should make him into a Superman, while Clark Kent is seen at the gravesite of his earth parents, John and Martha Kent, vowing to avenge their murders as Batman.

Clark Kent’s origin is similar to the classic version, with Jor-El and Lara loading their baby into a model rocket to spare Kal-El from the destruction of the planet Krypton, but the wrinkle this time is that a chunk of gold kryptonite passes by the tiny vessel and having a delayed reaction, forever robs young Kal-El of his super powers under Earth’s yellow sun.

Fast forwarding to high school days, Lex Luthor is a brilliant student at Smallville High and he and Clark Kent are friends. Clark is a gifted athlete, having no need to try and hide his physical prowess as a budding Superboy. Later, as Clark departs from Lex’s lab, the young scientist is ready to attempt his serum, which, when combined with his rare blood type, should endow him with super powers.

Later, a plane is in distress and is about to crash into the Smallville High School building, but just then a flying figure in red and blue saves the day. Later, when Clark tells his friend Lex about what had happened, he thinks to himself that thankfully even his best friend doesn’t suspect he’s Superboy. It’s a good thing Lex wears glasses in this story…

Superboy’s feats continue to spread far and wide, but tragedy is soon to strike Smallville when the Kent General Store is being robbed one afternoon. When Pa Kent refuses to crack open the till, the gunman takes both Jonathan and Martha out. Clark and Lex happen by and Lex tells Clark to do what he can while he goes for the doctor.

Quickly changing to Superboy, he whisks the mortally wounded Pa Kent to the hospital. Pa Kent lingers long enough to try and tell Clark he was not only adopted, but from another world when he perishes. A grieved Clark then makes a familiar vow to devote himself to crime-fighting. Just then he spots a bat outside the window and draws inspiration from it. After his parent’s funeral, Clark leaves with his wealthy uncle Kendall to live in Gotham City.

Fast forward a few years and Lex, a recent graduate of Metropolis University, has set his career course at the Daily Planet, leveraging some of his photos of Superman in action to help things along. Meanwhile, in Gotham City, Clark has lost his uncle Kendall, but inherited his estate, allowing the young man to create the items needed for his transformation into Batman, including the Batcave and all it’s many facets.

Soon the exploits of the new hero known as Batman are being spread far and wide in Gotham City. It’s not long until word spreads to Metropolis and Perry White dispatches Lois Lane to go to Gotham to interview one of the Planet’s major stockholders, millionaire Clark Kent. Lex Luthor happens to be in Lois’ office and recognizes the name of his old friend and decides to tag along.

At Kent Manor, the high school friends get reacquainted while Lois grows more and more smitten with this highly eligible bachelor. As the pair of reporters leave, Clark reminds Lois he’ll be in Metropolis the next day and they have a lunch date. A swooning Lois can talk of nothing else and Lex is a bit jealous during the drive back to home base.

Just then, a spacecraft appears over the convertible and Lex thinks he knows who is aboard. A beam stabs downward and snatches Lois from the car, despite Lex’s evasive maneuvering. Soon, Superman arrives on the scene to confront Brainiac. The rescue attempt, however, is thwarted by the formidable force shield. As the Man of Steel ponders his next move, the Batmobile arrives with Batman, alerted to the situation by his bat-radar, of course.

Superman wonders what a mere mortal with a few gadgets can do, but Batman has an idea and tells Superman to take another crack at the ship.

Part II is titled, “The Glowing Death!,” and the Metropolis Marvel makes his second effort at breaching Brainiac’s defenses with similar results. On the other side of the ship, however, Batman takes advantage of his hunch that the force shield is concentrated on repelling Superman, leaving the other portions unprotected. The Caped Crusader sneaks aboard with the aid of the bat-laser. A quick kayo and the field is deactivated, allowing Superman inside. I couldn’t help but notice a letter in the Cape and Cowl Comments from Irene Vartanoff, [Sage #241] talking about a recent appearance (World's Finest #164) by Brainiac.

Lois asks Batman for an interview, while Superman mops things up with Brainiac, but Lex feels he recognizes the disguised voice of Batman and uses his x-ray vision, revealing his friend Clark behind the cowl.

As time rolls along, the Superman/Batman team gains more attention and adulation and Clark Kent spends more time in Metropolis, seeing Lois Lane until they are ultimately married. Lex, as best man is both happy for his friends and sad that he’s not the groom. Soon, inevitably, Clark reveals to his bride that he has a night gig as Batman. He then brings Lex in and reveals his secret identity. Hey, it’s an imaginary tale…

Still later, Superman encounters a rocket ship with Supergirl aboard. She explains she’s from Argo City, a fragment that survived Krypton’s destruction. Neither of them seem to think it odd they’re wearing nearly identical costumes and Lex explains he’s heard of Krypton, but doesn’t hail from there. Quickly, he takes them to the Kent estate so she can establish a civilian identity as Clark’s cousin, Linda Kent.

A few weeks afterward, a robbery is occurring in Gotham City and Superman, Supergirl and Batman arrive to take it on. It turns out the sophisticated vehicle is operated by the Toyman, who wields a molecular dissolver ray on Batman. The caped crusader begins to glow eerily and Supergirl exclaims she must avoid him. Superman asks why and she says it’s because Batman has been charged with Gold Kryptonite rays, which her father had studied.

Somehow, Lex realizes that Clark is Kryptonian, but had been robbed of his powers. Toyman’s weapon has somehow reactivated the effects of the gold K and Batman is in a gold kryptonite fever and he is dying. Swiftly, Superman assembles some equipment, places his costume on Batman and lies on a parallel bed, each of them wearing an armband, while Alfred activates the machine.

Afterward, Clark has gained Lex’s superpowers, while the Gold Kryptonite fever was transferred to Lex’s body. He has sacrificed his superpowers to save his friend, but while he has the gold K fever, which doesn’t affect a non-Kryptonian, he is a hazard to Clark and Supergirl, so he opts to board a spaceship and leave earth, ending this tale of twists.

The follow-on story, from the editor’s round table, is a classic reprinted from House of Secrets #3, called The Three Prophecies!,” by none other than Jack “King” Kirby, who, of course, recently would have celebrated his 100th birthday.

The lead story was pretty good and certainly took me back to many an enjoyable hour with Superman and Batman stories, some of them, like this, change-ups from the legends we came to know and love. Cary Bates was off to a good start on a fruitful career and even though he had to endure Mort Weisinger, we’re richer for his efforts. I’ll grade this story a 6 on the 10-point scale. Good, clean fun with some unexpected turns along the way and well worth your time.

Please join us again on October 1st for another first and in the interim, your feedback is solicited. Got a question? Observation? Request? You know how to reach me. Just fire off an e-mail to my handy address at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Thanks for stopping by and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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