Every now and then I go through my collection to see some issues that just make me dumbfounded as to why I would own such an issue. I know that I began as a DC nut when I was a kid in the 70’s until my brother showed me that there was more to comic books than the cheesy, silly stories that I have been exposed to prior to my being turned to Marvel and Atlas comics. (I do maintain that I liked "Challengers of the Unknown" quite a bit and I am a "Haunted Tank" and "Sgt. Rock" fan up to this day) These days comics have evolved considerably into a form of literature that applies the laws of physics in a way that can be stunning. Before….well, let’s just say that I do hope/pray that comics won’t devolve back to this silliness.
One of those issues that I liked and today, I would not even think of buying this day would be Action Comics # 454 with a story called “Superman’s Energy Crisis”. The comic is insanely fun but I have to say it is one of those things that I may be a little hard-pressed to admit that I own. (then again the issue is worth about $ 10-20 from a 25 cent cover price, so it isn‘t as valuable as the other ones in my collection)
In Metropolis, the Toyman is on a crime spree and Superman seems helpless to stop him. Using his bag of devilish toys, Superman is always being taken by surprise and for some reason, while he is as powerful as ever, he does not have the stamina to keep up. It also puts his personal life in disarray as he seems to require tons of food to keep his energy up (causes a huge spike in Clark Kent‘s food expenses). He eats through an entire fundraiser, eats billions of burgers in a knock off of “McDonald’s” and he seems to determine that Toyman is behind his energy crisis. But is there something more sinister at work?
Written by Cary Bates and Martin Pasko, cover by Bob Oksner and the inside art by Curt Swan; Action # 454 is all cheese throughout and it gives me a sense of nostalgia and makes me happy how something so dumb and stupid can finally become more intelligent today. I mean the science in the comic does not make sense, there is a suit of solar cells that just defies any science, if something was indeed sucking the solar energy then how come plants on Earth weren’t affected? This was a time when Supes was empowered, and he is able to move planets and fly in light-speed; yet, Toyman gives him issues? The comic did not make any amount of sense and it is so charmingly stupid that this comic actually sold a lot before.
I guess it is a sign as to how readers have also evolved along with the times. Readers require intelligence and they use logic as to how the science and fantasy in comics could work (Gosh, a fictional S.T.A.R. labs actually made this up?). Bates' script was fun and admittedly it had that 60’s feel to it, but as with movies, the golden and silver ages of comics provided entertainment which was good only for its time. Curt Swan was the epitome of Superman in these days as was Ernie Chua was the one for Batman. The art was goofy at times and Supes was all ‘chest’ with short legs. Swan did do a great job with his penciling of Lois Lane though.; she never looked hotter.
The battles with Toyman were so silly and makes one wonder how anyone could afford and create a weapon to topple Superman would need more money? (this is why I praised Byrne’s changes with Superman in the 80’s, he solved a lot of these issues). Yes, comics those days did not carry much narrative intelligence and it made up its own rules, but I guess this was what made them so much fun….for a kid.
“Action Comics” # 454 is one of those issues that made me wonder why I liked it as a kid and it made me realize why my brother kept steering me away from comics like this. But hey, despite the fact that I feel that comics like this were all cheesy, lame and stupid these days, it was one of the subtle ways I learned how to read at an early age and I treasure my memories of them.
Thank God stories like this are now over! But hey, it is fun to relive your childhood...
Note: there is an "Atom" story in the back, but I'd rather not talk about it LOL!!
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