I’m pretty sure that this issue of SUPERMAN was actually bought for my brother Ken initially. Every so often, he would want a comic book when I got one, rather than some candy or a slurpee or whatever. But eventually, it found its way into my collection, as did pretty much all of his books over the years.
It’s a pretty solid story, with writer Elliot S! Maggin beginning his ongoing exploration of Lex Luthor and his drives and motivations, something that would continue throughout the rest of his days writing Superman (including the two novels released in conjunction with the first two SUPERMAN films.)
We open in the Metropolis Superman Museum (DC super heroes loved to have museums devoted to their adventures) where an incognito Lex Luthor is admiring his own statue in the hall of villains. Unbeknownst to Lex, a mysterious figure brushes against him in the crowd with a strangely glowing hand.
Luthor has been lying low, but he’s got a spectacular crime-wave planned. But before he can put his scheme into action, it begins without him. Lex chalks this up to incompetent henchmen, and cannot help but cheer them on from the crowds below as Superman dismantles their marauding sky-saucer.
Lex makes his way to his secret lair, only to discover that somebody else has already put his forces into action without him–the Parasite! Having touched Lex in the Museum, the Parasite has absorbed his voice and mannerisms, and his ability for command. And he intends to carry out Lex’s scheme himself, targeting Superman. Luthor, as you might expect, is not pleased.
Engaging what he thinks is Luthor in the skies, Superman is tricked into striking the disguised Parasite, who uses a hologram to look like Luthor. This drains the Man of Steel’s powers, and he plummets to the ground below. Discovered by Luthor, Superman mumbles a plan that could only have been a result of the cover being done before the story was plotted, because it really doesn’t make any sense at all.
Revealing that the Superman statue outside the museum was carved out of “organic rock”, Superman with the help of Luthor transfers his essence into the statue. The stony Superman resumes his conflict with the Parasite, and when the purple marauder touched it and attempts to absorb its powers, a destructive feedback totals the statue and cripples the Parasite, driving him back into hiding. Luthor finishes up the adventure by giving Superman a serum that will help him to recover–he wants to finish off a prime Man of Steel, not one that’s been weakened by somebody else’s activities.
The back-up story reveals an untold experience from Superboy’s childhood on Krypton, where his body was taken over by the spirit of a Kryptonian criminal denied parole by his father Jor-El. It’s very much a take on an Exorcist story, that film having been extremely popular around this time, and having inspired similar tales of demonic possession.
There was something a little bit creepy about a possessed Kal-El flying around the room and spitting fire at his parents. He didn’t get to spin his head all the way around, but the creative team went as far as they could given that this was an issue of SUPERMAN, and the comics Code was still in full effect.