BHOC: ACTION COMICS #431

A little bit vague about exactly where this book came from, but I do remember my Mother reading it to me, or at least parts of it. This was the second part of a two-part story, but I’m not even sure that I realized that at the time, given how thoroughly the first chapter was recounted.

The hook of the story is that a Metropolis bus suddenly and inexplicably finds itself transported to a strange Jungle planet. Clark Kent is one of the passengers on the bus–and you might wonder why Clark takes the bus rather than flying to work, but the answer is that this whole disappearing bus thing is actually his doing.

You see, last issue, Superman encountered a strange creature that fought him to a standstill, before disappearing inside the building in which Clark Kent himself lives, 344 Clinton Street. The creature is a shape-shifter, and could be any number of the tenants–so Superman contrives to get them all on the morning bus the next day, and then transports the bus to another dimension in the hopes o luring the creature out of hiding.

To make matters more complicated, some of the tenants saw Superman enter the building the previous night, so they’re correctly convinced that one of their number is secretly the Man of Steel. And at a key moment, Superman is forced to reveal his identity in order to save the passengers.

The creature is smoked out–but this turns out to be a ruse, as the creature can also transform other people, and so has turned one of the other tenants into a duplicate of itself to decoy Superman while it makes its escape on the dimensionally-rigged bus.

Superman pursues, and a crazy battle through the time barrier commences, with the creature using its transformative powers to change Superman himself. I remember this bit of business particularly from having first read it.

In the end, the creature leaps to its death within the timestream, and Superman returns to rescue the rest of the passengers–including Clark Kent, who is portrayed by his close friend batman so as to protect his secret identity (And, of course, nobody retains any knowledge of Clark becoming Superman earlier.) It’s a fun, imaginative story by Cary Bates with elegant art by Curt Swan, here inked by Murphy Anderson, considered by many to be his best inker.

The back-up is a fun story in which Oliver Queen gets pickpocketed for his rent money, Retracing his steps to try to find the thief, he instead gets involved in the theft of some antique collectibles. In running down those criminals, however, through happenstance he is able to recover his rent money.

Writer Elliott S! Maggin adds a little bit of Spider-man-style humanity to Green Arrow’s situation here. The art is by DC mainstays Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano. All around, this is a very solidly put together bronze age comic book by Julie Schwartz.

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