BHOC: SUPERMAN FAMILY #187

I’m not certain at this late date–memory fades after a while–but I think I got this issue of SUPERMAN FAMILY at the supermarket (an appropriate venue, when you think about it.) I wasn’t reading the title regularly, but I’d been pulled into the previous issue by the story teaming up Superman with is older Earth-2 counterpart–I was a sucker for any story tat featured the original Earth-2 characters. And so I needed to be here again this month to see how it all turned out, dollar be damned.

Starting with this issue, the JIMMY OLSEN and LOIS LANE strips would be written by Tom DeFalco. Ten years later, Tom would become the Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics, but at this point he was expanding his horizons after spending several years working at Archie Comics. DeFalco makes a meal of this first assignment by linking the two stories in this issue together. When Planet reporter Dave Stevens is targeted by assassins, Jimmy resorts to using his old Elastic Lad serum to help track down the killers and preserve Dave’s life. This story featured a bunch of elements from OLSEN stories past, the influence of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, who was the keeper of DC’s history.

That OLSEN story also ties in with the SUPERMAN tale that comes next, as the Earth-1 Olsen is required to help save the life of his Earth-2 counterpart. But before that, the two Supermen need to deal with the alien warrior Krogg that a transporter accident has freed from the void. In order to defeat Krogg, Professor Potter instructs the two Supermen in how to merge into a single doubly-powerful Super-Superman–which they do. And Jimmy Olsen departs with the Earth-2 Superman to make an organ donation to his counterpart.

In the LOIS LANE story that follows, DeFalco wraps up is tale. He’s got Lois working as a volunteer nurse at the hospital where Dave Stevens is recovering to help keep an eye on things, and so she can get involved when the action starts popping off. The hit on Dave is because he learned something about the test of a new solar-powered jet developed by S.T.A.R. Labs being sabotaged. Lois does it all in this one–she fights with an assassin (using Klurkor, the martial art of Krypton), escapes a death trap in her car, and exposes the mastermind behind the plot. And despite the fact that Superman is in the story, she does this all on her own as the heroine of her own story. There are fewer nods to continuity in this story (though Klurkor is one)–DeFalco once told me that he wrote the OLSEN stories for Bridwell, to appease his desire to link together elements of the Superman canon, and wrote LANE for himself.

The KRYPTO story tat came next wasn’t tied in to the overall storyline as the preceding three were. It was just another whimsical adventure in the life of Superman’s canine pet, who was now traveling in the company of detective Ed Lacy. It’s a bit of a goofball lark, with Krypto posing as a dog called Jocko while making a movie about his super-heroic self.

The NIGHTWING & FLAMEBIRD story was the most contemporary-looking in the book, owing an obvious stylistic debt to Neal Adams. This whole feature was a little bit strange when you came down to it. Nightwing and Flamebird were the Batman and Robin of the Bottle City of Kandor, so much like the assorted Amazing World of Krypton stories over the years, it was difficult for me to relate and to care. But it was a super hero strip, so it had that going for it. Here, Nightwing and Flamebird need to replace a computer tape that has been–I am not making this up–transformed into its Bizarro equivalent and causing havoc throughout the Bottle City.

EDITED TO ADD: Mark Waid correctly points out that I should have said the Fabulous World of Krypton.

Finally, the SUPERGIRL story that brought up the rear in the issue was illustrated by Don Heck, a long-time artist best remembered for his work on the early Marvel books. Heck had a handle on drawing lovely women, and so DC tended to use him on female-led strips; here, his effectiveness is blunted a bit thanks to some haphazard inking from Bob Smith. This time out, the Girl of Steel contends with Klax-Ar, an old Superboy foe who rides a flying sled made out of the parts of a disused Superboy robot. Again, I am not making this up. Supergirl beats him by luring him to Earth, where the pollutants have been established as befouling Superman’s robots–and so also shut down the homicidal sky-sled. It’s a dopey close to an otherwise fun issue.

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