BHOC: ACTION COMICS #439

It’s difficult for me to recall in these days where not a week goes by that I don’t read dozens and dozens of comics, but as a child, getting a new comic was a rare and wonderful thing. My regular purchases of ACTION COMICS, the only true monthly I was following, give a good indication as to how many comics I might have received during a given month. It’s always far fewer than I might read in a few hours today.

So, another issue of ACTION purchased at my favorite 7-11. This one featured the second appearance of Captain Strong. And as a kid, I was enough of a dunce that I didn’t get the joke, it went right past me, even though old Popeye cartoons played in reruns every day of the week. Yeah, I was pretty slow.

So Captain Strong was an analog of Popeye, who gained super-strength and other remarkable powers when he ate Sauncha, an extraterrestial seaweed that he’d found. This second Strong story carries the joke further, by introducing the Captain’s fiance, Olivia Tallow, and the strange almost prehistoric brute Carnox, a stand-in for Bluto.

Carnox is drawn to attach the Captain, first on his houseboat. Even Superman is stymied by the ultra-powerful caveman. As he tries to come up with a solution, Clark Kent also has to contend with having Captain Strong as his temporary houseguest, as the seaman has nowhere else to bunk.

It turns out that what Carnox is after is the Captain’s Sauncha, a small bit of which he keeps on his person. This is because Carnox isn’t a brute at all, but rather a hyper-intelligent alien whose physiognomy was transformed through exposure to Earth’s biosphere. Sauncha counteracts the effects, and allows him to communicate with the Man of Steel.

Superman is able to return the now-cured Carnox to his own time of a million years ago, and so the problem is solved. It’s a simple, fun story by Cary Bates, but when you understand the references, it gives the tale just a little bit more bite to it, which helps. Nice art from Curt Swan and Bob Oksner as well.

The back-up tale of the Atom follows up on last month’s story. This time, our shrinking scientist reveals that he possesses the power to render himself two-dimensional, an ability he uses to escape prison and resume his attempts to steal the Atom’s secret of size-control. He secretly filmed their last encounter (must have used a hell of a lens, given the Atom’s size) and so he knows that the Atom’s size-controls are in his belt.

He traps the Atom (in the same cavern where the Tiny Titan’s origin transpired, by narrative coincidence) and the two wage a duel of size and weight change. The Atom prevails, of course, and is also able to cure Myles Adrian’s condition, restoring him to his normal dimensions.

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