A Tribute to the of

I was in the Mega-mall not long ago and for some reason was drawn to this:  http://www.sharperimage.com/us/en/catalog/productview.jhtml?&pid=34623800.  Note the mere pittance of the price tag AND the extended warranty option.  What you'd need the warranty for; I have no idea, unless perhaps someone showed up with a piece of fiberglass Kryptonite. 

The subject of Kryptonite got me to thinking about a particular Giant Superman Annual issue that was given to me by the Webmaster.  It's a nifty collection of stories under the header of "Special All-Kryptonite Issue!"  As a matter of fact, we had this one as boys, so it holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart.  I guess I'd better get the administrative details out of the way.  Since this one is a collection, it's a little different, of course, but the issue, #227 (G-72) was on the trailing edge of the Silver Age and carries a cover date of July 1970.  Individual stories have individual credits, though it looks like Curt Swan was in his usual fine form as the artist for the majority (3 out of 5) of the stories and the cover.  I'm thinking the best way to tackle this issue, due to its size, is to break it up, so I'll begin with the first of the five stories.     

That first story, culled from Action Comics #278 [07/61] is entitled, "The Super-Powers of Perry White!"  The intriguing splash page shows an oddly garbed man who seems to be menacing both Superman and his Fortress of Solitude with a Red Kryptonite spear and a Green Kryptonite sword.  Wielding heat vision, he's melting some lead armor off Superman while slashing the bottle city of Kandor in half with the sword.  Let's see what events lead up to that point.

The story begins with Perry White, editor of that great metropolitan newspaper, The Daily Planet, where Clark Kent is employed.  Perry is off-duty at his home on the outskirts of Metropolis and is unwinding in his garden when he notices a very unusual tree.  The tree has a human-like form to it and six branches, each bearing a purplish, pear-like fruit.  Like Adam from the Old Testament, Perry is irresistibly drawn by the odor of the fruit and is compelled to partake. 

The next morning our favorite cigar-chomping Editor-in-chief is wrestling with his office safe when he wrenches the door off its hinges right into his hand.  Writing it off to rust, the crusty Perry is soon on the telephone with Jimmy Olsen, who is phoning in a report on the state Senators and their upcoming bill.  White calls Olsen an idiot for failing to realize he dispatched him to do a story on the Senators baseball team and whacks his desk for emphasis, reducing it to so much scrap wood.  With the realization that something fishy is going on, he decides to test his strength by lifting a nearby trophy cabinet, which he does easily with one hand.  He next discovers heat vision, which he uses to light a fresh cigar and the power of flight.  He reasons that his new abilities must stem from the strange piece of fruit, but he decides to keep things under wraps until he gets a better handle on what's going on.           

In the next panel, Lois Lane hails Perry and invites him to see the photo shoot of her Kryptonite exhibit.  As they enter the studio she explains the imitation specimens and the properties of their genuine counterparts:  "There's a replica of green Kryptonite, the kind that's fatal to Superman…and red…which always has an unpredictable effect on him…and blue which is harmful to Bizarro creatures only…and white…which, after it passed through a space cloud, is harmless to Superman but destroys all plant life!"  Perry muses to himself that he might share Superman's vulnerability to the otherworldly mineral and decides he needs to find out as soon as possible. 

Later, in the privacy of his home, White dons a costume of his own design.  The suit is made of asbestos (careful with that stuff, Super-Perry) so that he won't have trouble flying through the atmosphere at super speed, causing damaging friction.  It also features a lead-lined mask, ensuring his identity remains secret, even from Superman and the "M" insignia stands for Masterman.  Luckily, this middle-aged man has opted for more of an external boxer style of shorts instead of Superman's classic briefs.  ;-)  Masterman is now on his way to check his reaction to Kryptonite by flying into space until he finds some.  Not the brightest way to conduct an experiment, but fortunately for him, he is immune to the radiations of green K.  He even decides to bring a meteor with him to try and devise a way to help Superman become immune, too.  Soon after, he's flying back through Metropolis when he spots a runaway truck.  Seizing the opportunity to do some good, he stops it with his outstretched palm and announces to the onlookers, "Don't be afraid!  Masterman will help you!"

Back in the newsroom, the staff wonders after the identity of this new super being.  Perry offers a week's vacation to Clark Kent if he can learn this man's secret identity while chortling to himself that he'll never manage to get that scoop.  Jimmy then asks for the afternoon off to tend to a sick aunt.  Perry takes advantage of his new abilities and, using his x-ray vision, notes a conspicuous pair of tickets to the baseball game in Jimmy's pocket.  He tells the young reporter to feel free to tend to his relative, but he was going to assign him to cover the game, so now White will have to go instead. 

Soon, a radio bulletin announcing an escaped lion breaks in the newsroom.  One thought bubble says, "This is a job for Superman!" while another nearly echoes it with "This is a job for Masterman!"  Both men make excuses to leave and then Clark is shocked to note, via his own x-ray vision that Perry is in his favorite storeroom, putting on a green and red costume.  After making his own costume change, Superman discreetly follows.  Masterman uses super breath to form a deep trench around the lion and then flies back to his home.  Superman continues to monitor him and is started to see him rapidly rewiring his television set, creating a communication device and he is soon conversing with more plants like the mysterious one from his garden.  It turns out Perry has been completely taken over by Xasnu, the plant being in an "Invasion of the Body-Snatchers" scenario.  He reports to his home planet that Earth will suit them nicely as a replacement for their dying world, but Superman might be a problem.  Superman eavesdrops on the entire conversation and observes as Perry begins intense research on him.  Superman quickly beings to lay plans of his own, first by contacting his cousin, Supergirl, to let her know what's going on and instructing her to lie in reserve, along with the Superman Emergency Squad in case he is unsuccessful in defeating the newfound menace.  His next preparations involve putting himself under hypnosis in a mirror so that he won't feel the pain of green Kryptonite. 

The next day, Clark is finishing his typewriter work at super speed and perks up the super hearing of Perry White who uses his x-ray vision to discover the familiar costume concealed beneath Clark's suit.  He decides to try to reveal his secret identity by calling Clark, Jimmy and Lois into his office to discuss how to dispose of the Kryptonite meteor he has.  Fortunately, Superman's post-hypnotic work helped him resist long enough to evade the situation. 

Later, we join the Man of Steel as he journeys to his Fortress of Solitude to prepare for the inevitable confrontation with the plant being residing in Perry White's body.  He soon dons a suit of armor of his own design.  Encased completely in lead as a protection against Kryptonite radiations, it features a television monitor inside the helmet allowing him to see outside since of course the same protective lead also prohibits the use of his x-ray vision. 

Later still, just as predicted, the figure of Masterman bursts through the massive door to the Fortress of Solitude, wielding a sword fashioned of green Kryptonite and a spear of red Kryptonite.  His first act of malice upon his arrival is to slash the bottle city of Kandor asunder with the sword.  He soon spots Superman and follows him into, ironically enough, the Perry White room, where the Man of Steel has prepared some defenses for his battle.  Superman heaves a statue of Perry at Masterman upon receiving a telepathic suggestion of it from him.  Masterman destroys it with his weapons and the concussion knocks his mask from his head.  The stalking continues and soon Superman is in the Krypton room at the controls of an Energy Drainer taken from the world of Erezan in hopes that it will have an effect on Perry's rogue form.  White scoops up a nearby model of Krypton to hurt at the machine, destroying it. 

The retreat continues and Superman next tries releasing a space porcupine from its holding area, which emits a multitude of deadly radiations.  Again, it's ineffective and Superman tries one last ditch effort in the Super Invention room.  Wielding a machine that looks remarkably like a massive beater handle, he strikes Perry with the device, which emanates with powerful and damaging vibrations.  Unfortunately all that's accomplished is the destruction of the suit and weapons of Masterman. 

In the next fateful moment, White uses his heat vision to destroy the lead armor, but before he can do any further damage, a surprise appearance by Supergirl disrupts the battle.  Flinging a large white stone, she KO's Perry and then explains that she scoured space until she could find a piece of White Kryptonite, reasoning that it would destroy the alien plant intelligence in Perry's body.  Superman commends her cousin's actions and thinks to himself that he'll reward her by letting the world know of her existence very soon.  Next, Superman flies the unconscious Perry back to his garden, along with the White Kryptonite and uses it to destroy the plant creature.  Once inside and revived, White reveals that he has no recollection of anything beyond the exploit of subduing the lion.  Superman decides that once the plant intelligence took over his body, he left his mind a blank from that point forward, preserving his secret identity and other confidential items about his Fortress.  He briefs Perry on what had happened, then leaves for his Arctic refuge to meet up again with Supergirl.  He finds his cousin mourning the loss of Kandor, but then tells her that he'd anticipated such a move by the villain and that the bottle city was merely a decoy duplicate, while the original is safely in another chamber, preserving their fellow Kryptonians from harm.  The story ends on that happy note.    

As I've said before, there's something consistently satisfying in the Silver Age Superman tales.  This one incorporated many of my favorite elements, too.  It seems like I continually rave about Curt Swan's artistry and I'm running out of superlatives, but he remains the master in my estimation.  I liked the imaginative use of Perry White in this story, allowing us to see him in a different light than just the hard-boiled, short-tempered boss at the Daily Planet and the interaction with some of the other members of the Planet staff as well.  I always appreciate a peek into the world of Krypton, too, even if it's vicarious, as in the case of Supergirl and Kandor.  The Fortress of Solitude has always fascinated me as well.  I suspect that, much like the Batcave and Snoopy's doghouse interior, it is limited only by the imagination of the writer(s) and readers and can yield all sorts of fascinating treasures.  I feel the writer of this yarn, Jerry Coleman did an especially impressive job of finding an angle for White Kryptonite, which is possibly the most boring variety of the various types in existence.  I mean really, what do you do with it unless you want to cause blight somewhere?  Anyhow, I had fun reading this story and it's a sentimental favorite as well, so I'll grant it a 10.

In Action Comics #436, the June 1974 issue and Superman #376, the October 1982 issue, Perry again gains super powers. (Bonus: Nick Cardy's original cover art and the Carmine Infantino & Bob Oksner original art for page 4 of the Supergirl back-up). 

Come by again for another journey into these pulp wonders in about two weeks and feel free to contact me at:  silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.  Until next time… 

Long live the Silver Age!

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