Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Action Comics #377

Action Comics #377 (On Sale: April 29, 1969) has another Curt Swan and Neal Adams Superman cover.

Superman stars in "The Cage of Doom" by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. Except for a mystery story in next month's House of Mystery and another mystery story to appear in nine years, this is Otto Binder's last story at DC as he retired this month after working in comics since 1939.

In 1930 Otto Oscar Binder began writing science fiction in tandem with his brother Earl; they worked under the pen-name Eando Binder ("E" and "O" Binder). Though Earl stopped the writing partnership at some point, Otto kept the nom de plume. In 1935 Otto began writing for Mort Weisinger who was editor at Thrilling Wonder Stories at the time and Ray Palmer (can anyone say "Atom?") who was editor of Amazing. It was for Palmer that Binder created the Adam Link series, including the famous "I, Robot" short story which later inspired Isaac Asimov's book of the same name.

In 1939 Otto Binder took a job working with his artist brother Jack Binder at the Harry "A" Chesler shop and in 1940 began writing for Fawcett Comics on such features as Captain Venture, Golden Arrow and Bulletman. But Otto Binder's best known work at Fawcett was Captain Marvel. In 12 years Otto Binder wrote 986 of the 1,743 Marvel Family stories and co-created such characters as Mary Marvel, Uncle Dudley, Black Adam and Mr. Mind.

Binder didn't limit himself to Fawcett. For Timely Comics he wrote Captain America, The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Destroyer, Whizzer and the All-Winners Squad. He also co-created Captain Wonder, The Young Allies, Tommy Tyme and Miss America. For Quality Comics he wrote Blackhawk, Doll Man, Uncle Sam and the Black Condor as well as co-creating Kid Eternity. At MLJ Comics he wrote Steel Sterling, The Shield, The Hangman and The Black Hood.

He started writing for DC in 1948 where he wrote Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks for Star-Spangled Comics. Over the years he wrote Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, Robotman, Aquaman, the Start-Spangled Kid, Tommy Tomorrow, Shining Knight, Captain Compass, Congo Bill, Space Cabbie and the Metal Men. But most of the time he wrote for the Superman Family. Superman would never be the same. Otto Binder created or co-created The Legion of Super-Heroes, Jimmy Olsen's signal watch, Elastic Lad, Lucy Lane, Beppo, Titano, Brainiac, The Phantom Zone, Krypto and Supergirl.

After leaving DC, Binder would return to writing science fiction until he died at the age of 63 in 1974. In all Otto Binder wrote almost 50,000 pages of comics in more than 198 different titles. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004.

The back-up story is a reprinted Legion of Super-Heroes tale, "The Face Behind the Lead Mask," from Adventure Comics #300, produced by Jerry Siegel, John Forte and Al Plastino. During a routine meeting, the Legionnaires suddenly begin losing control over their powers. Even Superboy, whom they have summoned to the future, cannot discover the cause of their problem. After the World-Wide Police threaten to banish them from Earth, a lead-masked villain calling himself "Urthlo" appears and takes credit for their predicament.

Because Urthlo possesses a device that controls their powers, the heroes find themselves unable to stop him, until Saturn Girl and Superboy release Mon-El from the Phantom Zone, where he has been for 1000 years. After she provides him with Serum XY-4, a temporary lead-poisoning antidote, Mon-El defeats Urthlo, who turns out to be a robot sent into the future from Superboy’s time by a vengeful Lex Luthor.

After the battle, Mon-El must be returned to the Zone, but only after being voted into the Legion.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

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