BHOC: SUPERMAN #278

Not a whole lot of memories of this one at all. A 7-11 purchase I’d guess, and another 100-Page Spectacular, a format I liked. But really, very little of it has stayed with me, apart from the fact that I owned it. 

The lead story is a really beautifully drawn clash between Superman and one of his more bizarre arch-enemies, Terra-Man. Terra was inspired by the spaghetti westerns, dressed like a cowboy and used rodeo-style gimmicks, and had an origin that was a flip on Superman’s: he was an Earth child, the son of an outlaw, who was stolen into space in the 1800s by the alien who killed his father, and granted superhuman powers that would eventually bring him back to Earth’s space-lanes.

And, being an outlaw himself, Terra-man has a gripe against Superman. So much so that in this issue he abducts a handful of the Man of Steel’s closest associates, spirits them away to a pretend western town, and then ties their life-forces to himself in order to force the Man of Steel to duel him, with his friends’ lives on the line.

But, of course, Terra-Man’s plan has a fatal flaw built into it, he’s done before he even begins, because one of the people he targets is Clark Kent. So it’s really only a matter of watching Superman perform a few super-stunts until we get to the point where Kent’s life is on the line, and then Terra’s whole plan unravels, unbeknownst to him.

There is this pretty great moment at the end where suddenly Clark Kent’s supposedly dead body suddenly becomes super-heavy and forces Terra-Man into the ground. But the whole tale is predicated on an outcome that is obvious, and so I found it a bit unsatisfying even as a kid. When a seven-year-old can work out your big twist ahead of time, you’re not really onto storytelling gold.

We then get the usual collection of reprints, only one of which I clearly remember. First up is this Wayne Boring-drawn story in which mermaid sweetheart Lori Lemaris attempts to play matchmaker between Superman and Lois Lane, with predictable results.

Next up is this older story, which suffers a bit from spotty reproduction. I typically enjoy the earlier Superman tales, but this one did nothing for me. That said, Superman does punch out a shark in it, so that’s something at least.

The following story is the one that I remember, and concerns Luthor (not yet Lex) coercing the Man of Tomorrow into retrieving the seven pieces of a dead scientist’s formula for a dimensional transporter weapon that are hidden all across the Earth. All Superman has to go on is a series of clued: “The Highest Place”, “The Deepest Place”, etc. The final clue, “The Safest Place”, refers to Superman himself, and the last piece of the formula is concealed in a capsule in the heel of his shoe.

Next comes a Clark Kent-focused story with some clean and lovely art from Curt Swan and George Klein. Not much more to say about this one–if you’ve read any stories from this era, you can probably intuit the entire tale just from the splash page above.

Finally, Superman is frustrated that photographers and newsmen all over the world are taking pictures of his great feats, but not actually reporting on them. It’s a bit of a slight problem for the Man of Steel to grapple with–and it turns out that they were all saving them for a special edition of the Daily Planet commemorating Superman’s anniversary, to surprise him. Superman’s feelings of rejection and alienation do radiate out from this story, in the manner that a young child could understand and relate to.

The book closed with another edition of the Superman-Shazam Battle Page, a special letters page devoted to determining which hero was the greatest. DC or Julie Schwartz seemed determined to try to create a rivalry between the fans of Superman and Captain Marvel, but it never really took, and the idea was eventually dropped. Speaking for myself, I was Team Superman.

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