BHOC: SUPERMAN #315

By now, I was a regular reader of SUPERMAN, thanks primarily to the writing of Marty Pasko. Pasko’s run on the book has pretty well been forgotten now, but he did some nice things with the character and with the cast, while still operating firmly within the parameters of a Julie Schwartz comic book. A lot of that is due to the fact that what seemed to interest Pasko the most wasn’t what the characters did so much as how they felt about it.

There are a bunch of references in this story that I didn’t get when I first read it in 1977. For one, I had never seen Saturday Night Live, so I was unaware of Chevy Chase’s catch-phrase that formed the basis of the story title. I also wasn’t aware of all of the industry controversy surrounding Fred Silverman’s switch from ABC to NBC, which had inspired the creation of the villain Blackrock in ACTION COMICS (Blackrock was named after the nickname for the building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza where NBC’s headquarters was situated.) It’s a weird thing to base a villain around, but having to create so many Superman stories a month, any port in a storm, I suppose.

This issue opens in Marvel fashion, dealing with the last lingering plot points of the previous story. Superman, having used the healing radiations from Nam-Ek’s horn to cure Central City of the plague that had struck it, has no choice but to exile Nam-Ek back into the Phantom Zone for his own safety. Pasko even takes a few seconds to put recent stories which had appeared in ACTION COMICS into a chronology (they happened before the preceding story.) Then, Superman kicks back to relax–but not for long! An alert sends him racing across the world to the West Indies, where the shadowy Skull organization is attempting to harvest trace elements of kryptonite from the lava of an active volcano.

Swiftly dispatching the Skull operatives, Superman carries them back to Metropolis, intending to turn them over to the cops. But on the way, he’s jumped by Blackrock! Blackrock’s whole motivation is to become the pre-eminent hero of Metropolis (one whose exploits get covered exclusively on WGBS’s rival station UBC) so he wants credit for the Skull agents’ capture–and after a short battle, he succeeds in knocking Superman unconscious and heading off with the Skull captives. Later, Superman commiserates with Jon Ross, the son of his old friend from Smallville Pete Ross, who like his father knows Clark Kent’s true identity.

Meanwhile, over at UBC, we find out from Blackrock’s creator Dr. Peter Silverstone that the man occupying that identity at the moment is Les Vegas, the nephew of UBC bigwig Sam Tanner, who had been Blackrock the first time. But a new wrinkle has been added. Due to a freak occurrence when Superman tried to use his x-ray vision on Blackrock’s power stone, the minds of himself and Les Vegas have touched–with the result being that Clark begins acting like Les Vegas (or, really, Chevy Chase) and Vegas thinks he’s really Clark Kent–and begins to change to Superman on a live broadcast, potentially revealing Clark’s identity to the world.

Jon tries to get Superman to intercede, but he still thinks he’s Blackrock. So Jon uses that, sending Superman-as-Blackrock racing across town tot eh studio where his enemy “Superman” is broadcasting. He pulls Les Vegas off stage before the comedian can complete his accidental reveal of Clark’s identity–and after a few seconds of confusion, both Superman and Blackrock revert to their proper identities, and begin to battle.

Ultimately, Superman crushes the power stone giving Blackrock his powers, and like his predecessor, he reverts to his human form with no knowledge that he’d been Blackrock. And the issue wraps up with Superman being summoned to S.T.A.R. Labs by Dr. Jenet Klyburn, a new member of the Superman supporting cast inspired by DC’s new publisher Jenette Kahn. There, Klyburn tells Superman that they’d been sent the Skull agents to study after they all dropped dead–and we see that each one of their hearts has been replaced with a kryptonite nugget. To Be Continued!

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