I bought this issue of SUPERMAN right about the time that fourth grade began. I’d had a rocky few years in school up to this point, with a too-quick temper and a greater-than-average sensitivity. Looking back, while it was appropriate to have been in that grade from an age standpoint (and my Dad hoped that I would even skip a few grades like he did, as academically I could have). from an emotional standpoint I probably should have been a grade back. Regardless, fourth grade was pretty good, in that I had a teacher, Mr. Brian O’Leary, who both embraced the fact that I was obsessed with comic books and made it a positive thing.
I haven’t seen Mr. O’Leary since the day I left elementary school–I have no idea whether he’s still alive or dead, and rudimentary searches of the Internet have turned up nothing. But he was a good and positive influence in my life. Seeing that I was making my own comic books by this point–crude little things, all completely derivative of the DC books I was reading–he suggested that I redraw one on ditto masters so that he could run off copies for the entirety of the class. I worked on that book for weeks, on and off, but the whole thing went off the rails when it became apparent that I had been drawing on the wrong side of the ditto masters. I didn’t have it in me to draw the story a third time, and so the whole project sank.
But enough about me, let’s see what Superman is up to. This issue was the second part of a two-part tale, a bit of an overture to a soon-to-be extended run by writer Marty Pasko on SUPERMAN that I really liked–the first time I became an absolutely regular do-not-miss-an-issue reader of the title. Even the issue with the telepathic pirate dogs didn’t put me off! Pasko used all of the tropes of the classic Weisinger Superman, but he gave them greater emotional complexity. It wasn’t quite as overwrought as the Marvel material of the era, but you could tell that Pasko was thinking about these characters in a more mature way. Curt Swan and Bob Oksner remained my favorite pairing on the art.
This is the second part of a two-part tale that picks up right in the midst of the action, with Bizarro, the imperfect copy of Superman, brutally attacking the Man of Tomorrow. He’s on the rampage and is desperate to get his hands on the duplicator ray that created him–and the Toyman has convinced him that the only way to do that would be to destroy Superman. Bizarro’s powers have also evolved somewhat, now they’re also inverted duplicates of Superman’s own abilities, such as Cold Vision and Flame Breath.
Bizarro is half-crazy because, while in space, he saw his adopted homeworld Htrae destroyed, along with his wife Bizarro-Lois and all of the other Bizarros. It occurs to Superman that he and batman visited the Bizarro homeworld in the far future, so it must still exist–but how can he convince Bizarro of this fact, when the creature is in such emotional turmoil about its destruction? Matters reach a head when Bizarro snatches up Lois Lane and makes a beeline tot he Fortress of Solitude, with Superman in pursuit.
There, Bizarro succeeds in stealing the Duplicator Ray, an occurrence that Superman is secretly glad of, as it gives him time to investigate what has actually happened to Htrae. In deep space, he finds a cosmic cloud which confirms his suspicions. Meanwhile, on a distant island, Bizarro is using the Duplicator Ray on Lois attempting to recreate his bride. But it’s not working,the Loises are coming out stiff and inactive.
That’s because Superman made a switch, and what Bizarro has is really a Lois Lane robot, the imperfect copies of which fail to function. Having used the time he’s gained to set up his plan, Superman jumps Bizarro and, like an instant replay being run in reverse, propels him backwards through all of the events of the story so far. So Bizarro winds up in deep space, in the vicinity of where Htrae used to be.
And still is! It turns out that the cosmic cloud not only altered Bizarro’s powers but it made him envision the destruction of Htrae. Happily, the twisted mockery returns home, leaving just enough room for a short wrap-up of the previous issue’s Toyman plot (He had gone on the warpath to destroy Superman after having been reformed for many years because his workshop was destroyed–by Superman, he believed, but now clearly by Bizarro.) and the obligatory final gag with Steve Lombard