BHOC: SUPER-TEAM FAMILY #6

SUPER-TEAM FAMILY was becoming a regular purchase, a cool grab-bag of classic reprints every issue with no particular rhyme or reason save for a loose adherence to the concept of team-ups. I say loose because a World’s Finest story with Superman, Batman and Robin wasn’t difficult to come by, nor was a Marvel Family tale in which the three foremost Marvels worked together. But if the stories were good, who cared?

This issue introduced me to one of the most simultaneously absurd and fascinating villains in the DC pantheon, the Composite Superman. He was actually Joe Meach, a janitor at the Superman museum in Metropolis (all of the best DC super heroes had museums devoted to them in those days.) Meach was jealous of the Man of Steel’s accomplishments, and one night he got the power to do something about it when lightning struck both him and the statues of the Legion of Super-Heroes members simultaneously. This wound up giving Meach all of the abilities of the Legion, and he adopted a half-Superman, half-Batman costume with a green face ala Brainiac 5 and went on a rampage that Superman and Batman were helpless to stop. Eventually, though, through none of their doing, his powers wore off and he even forgot that he had been the Composite Superman. So he was an ultra-powerful foe that the World’s Finest Team had never been victorious against.

In the intervening years, Meach has gotten over his enmity for Superman. But that doesn’t matter, for the alien criminal Xan, whose father was imprisoned by Superman and Batman for his misdeeds, is seeking revenge on the pair. Somehow sussing out the origin of the Composite Superman, he re-creates the accident that gave Meach his powers–and reimpowered, Meach again sets out to humiliate and destroy Superman, Batman and Robin.

Surviving the Composite Superman’s first attack, Superman and Batman trace his powers back to the Legion statues. Superman heads to the future, where Brainiac 5 tells him that, as the icons were made via a duplicating ray, the Legion’s powers must have been duplicated within them as well. Meanwhile, the Composite Superman has captured Robin and taken his place, luring Batman into a trap. Batman tumbles to the ruse, but all of his skill isn’t a match for the catastrophic powers of the Composite Superman and he too is captured.

When Superman returns from the future and tracks down the missing Batman and Robin, the Composite Superman proceeds to beat him senseless for several pages. Ready to have his ultimate revenge, CS is thwarted as his temporary powers begin to ebb–and Superman has already taken the precaution of destroying the Legion statues. This draws Xan out to finish the job himself, but the now-normal Meach, restored to sanity, sacrifices himself to save his foes and dies a hero. It’s a whale of a story–and once again, the heroic duo has only survived their encounter with the Composite Superman due to fortune. He has them outmatched at every turn,

Next up was a cover gallery featuring the two covers for the reprinted stories, and in particular a tale about the first one. In the 1960s, it was customary for editors to create startling cover images first, and then to write stories to match those images. That was teh intent with the Composite Superman story, but somehow writer Cary Bates and editor Mort Weisinger never quite got around to including the cover scene–in which Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Clark Kent are overwhelmed by their super-heroic identities–into the story! Oops!

The back-up story is the very last Golden Age tale featuring Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. And fittingly enough, it’s a riff on the Agatha Christie story alternately and racistly known as Ten Little Niggers/Ten Little Indians. One by one, the occupants of Mrs Wagner’s boarding house are disappearing, including Mary Batson. The Marvels try to get to the bottom of things. But before they can, the missing people turn up alive and well, having supposedly fallen victim to Professor Edgewise’s accidentally-released memory spray, which didn’t work as advertised..

So all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong! Because the returned people aren’t who they say they are! They’re actually lifelike robots created by Professor Edgewise under duress at the command of his captor, Janitor Lem Blucher. (Another evil Janitor, the common element between the two reprints.) The robots eventually replace everybody except for Billy Batson, and even Billy is eventually abducted, his memories downloaded into a robot who will take his place and plunder for Blucher.

But Edgewise helps Billy to escape execution, and after a few more near-death scrapes, he and the other Marvels are able to save everybody, destroy all of the robots and rescue the abducted residents of the Boarding House. It’s a fun yarn and a fitting finale to the career of the Big Red Cheese in his original incarnation. Kurt Schaffenberger, pre-Superman, handles the artwork in his typical clean and understated style.

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