BHOC: WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #239

Another book that I think was bought for my brother Ken rather than me, but that I ultimately ended up with over the years. WORLD’S FINEST COMICS was a strange read, in the same sort of way that BRAVE AND THE BOLD was, in that it didn’t seem to follow the same unwritten rules as the rest of the DC titles. Which, of course, is because it didn’t. Editor Murray Boltinoff was famous in fandom for charting his own path. He also had an incredible track record when it came to sales, so I expect nobody in-house gave him all that much grief over it.

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So, weird choice number one: this issue guest-starred, of all people, Gold of the Metal Men. This would be my first encounter with the Metal Men, and it’s about as uncharacteristic an appearance as it’s possible to find. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe that this was the only time that you got only a single Metal Man in a story by himself, rather than the whole team. 

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The story opens on a farm on the outskirts of Gotham City–which is itself an incongruous idea. As the elderly farm couple prepares to retire for the night, a mysterious beam from space stabs down, shearing their house in half and burrowing deep into the Earth. Superman and Batman arrive to investigate and discover that the Waldens appear to be the victims of an alien abduction.

This revelation causes panic and terror among the rural citizens of Gotham, which Superman and Batman attempt to quell. Things are made worse when a bystander’s face begins to melt away, sending the crowd into a tizzy. The man is actually Gold of the Metal Men, in disguise, and the crowd chases him into the open pit the aliens have carved down to the molten core of the planet. Superman intervenes to rescue Gold before he is obliterated.

Turns out that Gold is a UFO nut, and that he’s come to investigate the sighting as well. The three heroes decide to join forces. A bit of metal recovered from the scene sends Superman into the cosmos, attempting to track down its source and destroy it. Meanwhile, on Earth, Batman overhears the Waldens mumbling in their comalike sleep, and figures something out. He rushes towards Mt. Palodar whose radio transmitter is the only one strong enough to contact the Man of Steel way out in space. But evil eyes are watching and the Batmobile is targeted by the same ray from space, causing it to crash. Gold rescues the Masked Manhunter, taking him to the hospital and thereafter completing his mission to contact the homicidal Superman.

This is all in the service of setting up the ridiculous scene on the cover. Realizing that they are being watched, the now-returned Superman and Gold unplug Batman from the respirator he’s on. Then, Superman tosses Gold into the stratosphere, where the Metal Man spreads himself thin to act as a barrier to the aliens’ detection while Superman races Batman to his Fortress where Kryptonian science can save his life and he can learn what Batman has discovered.

Batman has worked out that Superman was looking for the wrong planet altogether. Superman laments that he almost destroyed the wrong world. (!!!) With Batman’s information, the trio locates the right planet, the homeworld of the aliens, and Superman heads out to obliterate it (!!!) After he goes, though, the Walden farm begins to rematerialize–it wasn’t destroyed, merely teleported. Batman again has a bad feeling about this, but can’t contact Superman. This leads to the most impossible feat in the story, where Gold instantaneously distends himself into a gold wire light-years long to provide a way of contacting Superman. Even as a kid, I knew that this was flat-out impossible even in the science-defying world of super hero comics.

In space, Superman has engaged the aliens, but Batman, having improvised a battery out of common household materials, radios him through Gold that the aliens are not the Earth’s enemy–that they have repaired all of the damage they’ve done. With this knowledge, Superman parleys with the aliens, who have been testing their weapons on Earth for a conflict wit their neighbors. Rather than stopping this intergalactic war, Superman just tells them to stay the hell away from Earth and leaves the two warring civilizations to their fates. Nice guy. But hey. there’s only a page left for the wrap-up, so what are you going to do? Oh, Superman also re-deflects an energy beam that he deflected earlier so that it will once again strike the aggressor planet the aliens were aiming at, wiping out millions of enemy aliens. Sure, sounds like Superman. In the final frame, Superman, Batman and Gold gaze skywards, hoping there are no other alien enemies out there who might threaten the Earth. Suggest you all take a closer look at the Kryptonian in your midst, gentlemen, as based on this story, he’s a homicidal lunatic!

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