Thursday, August 27, 2015

Action Comics #393

Action Comics #393 (On Sale: August 27, 1970) has a Superman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. It is hard to tell if this is an inventory issue or not as this is Murray Boltinoff's first issue as editor, taking over for the soon to be history Mort Weisinger.  

I haven't read this issue in years, but I don't recall there being a huge shift in the character or the presentation, certainly nothing like what was happening in Jimmy Olsen. We begin with "Superman Meets Super-Houdini," our 14-page cover story from Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. Clark Kent and some fellow reporters are at the Metropolis Airport to watch "Hairbreadth" Holahan perform his death dive act. 

It looks like Holahan is too close to the ground to make an escape, so Clark plays the milquetoast and runs off so he can change into Superman. Meanwhile, Holahan's son Dan says that his dad still has 10 seconds to spare and clicks his stopwatch. Just as Superman arrives to save Holahan, the lock on his chain suddenly pops open and he's able to land safely via parachute. The crowd goes wild and Superman pretends to be stumped, but his thoughts reveal that Dan clicking his stop watch sent a hypersonic signal to the lock, causing it to open. Superman invites Holahan to do some stunts with him at a museum fundraiser the next week.

The next day two cons looking at Holahan's poster realize that he's actually Mace Larkin, another con who escaped from prison 15 years ago and got married. His wife died a few years ago, but not before giving birth to a son. That night, the cons confront Holahan and blackmail him into helping them with a scheme.

A few days later, at the fundraiser, Superman uses his heat-vision to weld Holahan into a suit of armor. Moments later, Holahan mysteriously emerges from behind a curtain, much to the amazement of Superman. After Superman inspects the armor and sees that it is still intact, Holahan and Dan leave to prepare new stunts. Suddenly an alarm goes off in the museum and it is discovered that the Star of Asia has been stolen with the lock and glass staying intact. Superman figures that only Holahan could pull off this robbery and with a quick blast of heat-vision, melts the tires of Holahan's car. After revealing that Holahan is really Larkin, Superman flies him to prison, where he is locked up in Maximum Security in a cell across from Stoney Croy, the boss of the convicts who blackmailed Larkin.

We learn that the jewel theft was a ruse to get Larkin into prison so he could then escape with Croy. Pulling out a fake molar, he uses the chemical inside to freeze the cell lock and kick the door open. Repeating the same trick on Croy's cell door, they then use old drain pipes and conduits to escape from the prison, before heading to the old state pen. Seems the cons have secretly bought it and turned it into an underworld resort. Once inside, Larkin recognizes the cons as being wanted by the FBI. This sets off Croy because Larkin wouldn't actually know who the FBI are looking for if he's really been "out of the rackets" for 15 years.

A shotgun blast to Larkin's chest reveals that he's actually Superman in disguise. While explaining that Larkin told Superman about his visit from the cons, and that they switched identities so that Croy would show him the new hideout, he swiftly knocks all of the cons out. For his assistance in helping Superman round up the hoodlums, the Governor grants Larkin a full pardon. We end with Superman flying off wishing he had a son like Dan.

Our back-up story is "The Day Superboy Became Superman!" by Leo Dorfman, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Years ago at Metropolis University a group of students discover that the Raiders, a gang from the slums, have broken in and are using the new college pool. Clark Kent, who just happens to be nearby, ducks behind a hedge to change to Superboy. He then uses his super-breath to freeze the Raiders into a block of ice and drops them off off-campus. When he returns, Marla Harvey, one of Clark's fellow students, chastises Superboy for ruining those poor kid's fun. The next day, the Raiders steal the food from the cafeteria and take it back to the slums where others join in the "banquet." Superboy then swoops in, retrieving the food. Later, Clark sees Marla leaving the school with luggage. Turns out she's leaving the college because the school arrested the Raiders for feeding the hungry.

A few weeks later, the Raiders "borrow" several books from the university library, and take them to their new teacher, Marla Harvey. She tells them they shouldn't have, then tells them to run when she sees Superboy arrive on the scene. She reveals that she is starting a school for the slum kids in a condemned building that a demolition company is letting her use temporarily. She then explains to Superboy what life is like in the slums and that instead of helping other planets, he should become a Superman and help these people. He then returns the books and heads off on a vital mission in space. 

When he returns to talk to Marla the next day, he sees that the demolition company is tearing down the "school." Suddenly, his X-ray vision reveals that Marla is still inside the building. He's too late to save her, but before she dies she makes Superboy promise that he will help the people in the slum. He starts to build a new school for the kids when he realizes what Marla really meant. He tells the watching crowd that he could build a new school and rebuild the entire slum area, but then they would be relying on him. He suggests that they go to their mayor or councilman and fight for their future.

Months later, when the new school is completed, the school is dedicated to Superman for inspiring the improvements to the slum. Superman declines and remolds the statue to look like Marla, saying that it was all because she inspired Superboy to become a Superman. Not a bad little story.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

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