A Tribute to the of
This edition of the Silver Age Sage is something of a minor milestone. Not only is it the 80th installment of the feature, but also for the first time, I am doing a review at the request of a reader from our neighbor to the north in Canada. He kindly dropped me a line awhile back and suggested focusing on a Lois Lane story in which her goal isn't to prove that Superman's secret identity is that of mild-mannered Clark Kent, if such a thing exists in the Silver Age. A tall order, but I think I found one. Digging into my resource pile I pulled out Superman Annual #8 from the winter of 1963/1964. The very first story, (first published in Superman #135 [02/60]) hyped as "An Untold Story of Superman" is entitled "When Lois First Suspected Clark was Superman!" Well, scratch that one. The next one, however, is a reprint from Lois' own title, issue #6 (01/1959) to be exact, and it carries the intriguing title "The Amazing Superman Junior!" The opening splash panel by Wayne Boring shows a fawning Lois being carried by Superman, but there's a telltale "JR" on a yellow circle in the middle of the familiar red "S" on his chest. In the background we see another figure in Superman's uniform, but he's sporting gray hair and a matching gray flowing beard. His thoughts reveal a perplexed Superman: "He isn't my son and yet he's wearing a costume like mine, has all my super-powers and calls me "Dad!" Who can he be…and why is he playing this joke on me?"
The story begins with our intrepid reporter, Lois Lane, covering a space rocket launching. She's interviewing Professor Raksins, who is the brains behind the project and he explains that the ship will be capable of travel beyond the speed of light, which should, in theory, allow its passengers to spend 100 years in space without aging. Lois asks to see the inside of the craft, but is rebuffed. Feeling the need to get this important scoop, she uses a ploy to get inside, feigning a case of sunstroke. Since the only available shade is inside the rocket, she's taken in while medical help is sought. Once alone , the delighted reporter prepares to survey her surroundings for her story when she (you guessed it) accidentally activates the launch sequence for the rocket and blasts off into the wild blue yonder.
Fortunately (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?) Superman just happens to be on patrol when he spots the rocket, making a premature flight and his fabled x-ray vision helps him to discover that Lois is aboard, but unconscious, presumably from taking a few G's. After returning the rocket to its launch pad, the physician originally summoned proclaims the still comatose reporter in good health and suggests that the sunstroke was fabricated. Our hero decides she's gone too far this time and plans to teach her a lesson.
A quick fade to the office of Perry White and it appears the game is afoot. Superman asks Perry to be certain to contact both Batman and Johnny Miller, a renowned makeup artist. We then follow the man of steel on a whirlwind of super speed errands, the first being recovery of a shipwreck near a deserted island to salvage material to help do a mock-up of a futuristic city. He next meets up with Robin, the Boy Wonder at the Daily Planet. Robin explains that Batman is currently unavailable, so he's filling in. The makeup artist is fitting him with wooden stilts to increase his height and a wig to simulate baldness. Next it's Superman's turn in the chair where he instructs Johnny to add 50 years to his appearance. A little later, we join the Man of Tomorrow as he whisks Professor Raskins' rocket to the deserted island with Lois aboard, where the mock up of the city lies in wait.
Soon, Lois regains consciousness and emerges from the ship, thoroughly shocked at what she finds. A grayed welcoming committee, including the aged and bearded Superman, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, all looking like Lois' grandfather is on hand to greet her. Jimmy remarks that the Daily Planet was destroyed in the last war, precluding their printing the story of her return to Earth and that they all dwell on this island now in retirement.
The next stop is a nearby Daily Planet museum where she looks at the headlines on exhibit where a still shocked Lois notices that Clark Kent and Batman were killed years ago in a plane crash. The next stop is a corner of the museum preserved in her honor with her old desk set up and other headlines about the futile search for her in space. Another surprise waits as she meets the grown-up Robin in another building. He is, inexplicably, still sporting his costume, but in place of the familiar mask he's donned a pair of glasses to go with his retreated hairline. He explains that after Batman's demise he gave up crime fighting and turned to being a crime novelist. He introduces himself as Fred Ashley.
Suddenly, Superman hurriedly exits the room and brings a large "horn" to his ear. Jimmy explains to Lois that frequent exposure to kryptonite has impaired his powers. This is demonstrated further as he takes flight with the aid of jets attached to his ankles and torso. Jimmy further comments that Superman's son usually takes care of emergencies, but is currently on a cruise with Mrs. Superman. A heartbroken Lois Lane realizes how much her impetuous move has cost her. She retreats to the rocket to clean up her tear-stained face and to ponder the future without the dream of landing Superman as a husband and having lost many of her friends during her 50-year hiatus. Perry whispers to Robin that she's learned her lesson and they'll reveal the truth the next day.
Before they can reveal themselves in the morning, however, a stunned Superman along with an equally incredulous Perry White observe a red and blue figure coming in for a landing. It's Superman junior! He greets the man of steel with, "Hi Dad! I decided to cut my cruise short! You're so old and weak, I want you to relax in your rocker while I handle emergencies!" Soon the sparks are beginning to fly between Junior and Lois, while a baffled Superman does a quick x-ray scan to confirm this mysterious figure isn't a robot. He then decides to test his "son." He tells him to show some of his super-powers to Miss Lane. Junior begins by uprooting two nearby trees and then rubs them together with super speed to create a fire. Superman then suggests a demonstration of invulnerability by stamping out the fire. Junior hesitates and then says he'll do it the hard way, with his hands. Junior then scoops Lois up and takes her for a ride in the sky. As they depart the confused Perry and Superman confer, but they don't know whom the mysterious Superman Jr. could be.
Later, a smitten Lois basks in the attention of the son of Superman as he uses super breath to carve their initials into a mountainside.
As the day wears on, Junior appears again, this time with a massive cake in tow. He explains to his old man that he baked it to help his new found love celebrate a lot of lost birthdays and that he intends to propose marriage to her. After placing the gargantuan cake on the ground, he lights the candles with his heat vision. The illumination from all the candles serve to brighten Superman's thoughts, too as he considers Junior's behavior with regard to the way he extinguished the blaze on the trees earlier. His suspicions aroused, he decides to confirm his hunch about why hands rather than feet were used with a quick survey via x-ray vision. Our hero discovers his theory was correct and he then follows up the x-ray vision with heat vision, setting Junior's left boot ablaze, revealing a wooden stilt. The masquerade is over when Robin removes the head mask. Superman explains that Robin had made him suspect something fishy when he put out the fire with his hands rather than his vulnerable "legs." Perry then demands to know how the Boy Wonder gained super powers. This time Robin explains himself: "You ought to know, Perry! Lois wrote a story on it! Once, for a special job, Superman gave Batman this super serum, which could give him powers for 24 hours! Lois knew we had some left in the bat-cave and made me drink it!" Then, the real question: Why? The Boy Wonder continues by explaining that when Lois met up with him in his "office" she promptly tore the sheet from his typewriter and then escorted him to the rocket where she revealed that the fuel gauge still showed a full reading. This cast serious doubt on her 50-year voyage. She then tells Robin that the paper she took from the typewriter has a carbon smudge (remember carbon paper?) with a perfect impression of his ungloved fingerprints. Our intrepid reporter also happens to have in her purse a sheet of paper with fingerprint samples from six boys that are likely candidates to be Robin's secret identity. One of them is indeed that of Dick Grayson. She proposes that he follow her instructions and then she'll destroy his fingerprint sample without making a comparison. She then proceeded with her hoax to trump that of Superman and friends.
Removing their disguises now that their cover is blown, the men have to endure Lois' gloating. After suggesting they donate the island as a real home for the aged, she presents Perry with her story, prepared in advance, about it. Another scoop for Lois Lane. A disgusted Editor White ends the story with the statement: "Will anyone ever teach her a lesson?" Apparently not. For some reason this final exchange among the characters puts me in mind of that line from Crocodile Dundee when Mick comments to his female companion, "You're a woman and a reporter. That makes you the world's biggest busy-body." I'd say Lois lived up to that in spades in this story.
So, there you go. Here we have a story of Lois Lane where she isn't actually engaged in trying to discover Superman's secret identity. Granted, she has Robin effectively blackmailed under the same sort of premise and her great longing to be Mrs. Superman was in evidence, but the rest was a playful if somewhat silly romp for the classic Superman characters. I think the only real hole in this story, at least from where I'm sitting, is that Superman used his x-ray vision to check out Junior only perfunctorily. You'd think he'd have gone a little further than just making certain this was an organic being. I guess if he had, though, we wouldn't have had much of a story, eh? I'll give this one a 6.
As usual, the next edition of this feature will be posted in approximately two weeks for your viewing pleasure. Remember to come back and also to drop me a line at my 24/7 e-mail address: email@example.com. Who knows? You might have a great suggestion for a future review, too.
Long live the Silver Age!
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