Throughout the 1970s, DC experimented quite a bit with photographic covers (as did Marvel for a brief time in the 1980s.) None of them worked incredibly well, and this SUPERMAN cover is no exception. Shot outside the then-DC offices, the bystanders (actually DC staffers) aren’t quite looking at teh drawing of Superman and his phantom opponent. And Superman seems to be in a different dimension than the rest of the image. Still, it’s attention-getting–but I bought this issue because it was an issue of SUPERMAN, not specifically because of the cover.
Looking at the splash page, it’s clear that they didn’t pay for new artwork on the cover either, but simply re-inked and reused this splash page figure of Superman and the Phantom Horseman. Perhaps that was to offset a greater cost for printing a photo cover, or maybe it was just a simple cost-cutting measure.
The story brings one of the recurring characters from the 1950s Adventures of Superman television series into the world of the comics; Professor Jasper Pepperwinkle, crackpot scientist and inventor. We open the issue meeting him and his beleaguered spouse. As is typical for him, the professor has misplaced his new invention, which looks vaguely like a TV antenna.
As Elaine Pepperwinkle tunes in an old John Wayne movie on her television set, out in Metropolis, the Phantom Horseman begins to ride through the city, disintegrating whatever he comes into contact with. Clark becomes Superman, but is unable to halt the mysterious rider–who suddenly vanishes as Elaine turns off her set.
Streaking to see his old friend Police Inspector Henderson, Superman finds Professor Pepperwinkle with him, and learns that the Horseman was created with Pepperwinkle’s missing invention, a Tri-Dimensional Silhouette Projector. The Metropolitan Revolutionary Army, a terrorist group, claims responsibility, and demands a million dollars from WGBS owner Morgan Edge or they will send further menaces out to rampage through the city.
As if to prove their point, a Phantom Roller Derby skater makes an appearance, but Superman is able to lure the apparition onto a treadmill and discard it in space. When the terrorists call again to arrange for their payment, Superman is able to backtrack their call through the phone lines using his super-vision, and cleans up on them. But they don’t have the device–as should be obvious by now, Pepperwinkle’s invention was actually purloined by Elaine, whom he had been overlooking in his work. Attached to her TV antenna so it wouldn’t be noticed, it caused her programs to come to life.
The back-up was a fun Private Life of Clark Kent story in which blowhard sportscaster Steve Lombard challenges the women of the organization to a bowling competition with the men, to prove which sex is superior. In order to compete fairly, since he can’t get out of it, Clark uses super-hypnotism to create a mental block that prevents him from using his super-powers within the bowling alley.
Apropos of nothing, this story is where I learned about the 7-10 Split, the most difficult pick-up in bowling. Clark is able to make the spare here, with no thanks to Steve’s assistance. But when the ceiling spontaneously collapses atop Clark, who can’t free himself, he is forced to hypnotize Lois into somehow being able to lift the beam off of him.Not sure what would have happened if he hadn’t done this–regardless of any self-hypnosis, his Kryptonian body would still be proof against the flames and the weight. But anyway…