BHOC: ACTION COMICS #479

This was another forgettable issue of ACTION COMICS that I bought on my now-weekly trips to the 7-11 every Thursday for new comics. As elsewhere, there’s some dodgy lettering on this cover–that lower balloon was clearly traced of of an oval template. But the cover does have some drama to it. I was reading ACTION more or less regularly at this point because I liked Superman, but I don’t know that I was finding it especially noteworthy. It was a solid but forgettable piece of entertainment, and I don’t think I’ve thought about this issue since it first came out forty-plus years ago. There were other comics being released that commanded more of my attention in 1977.

That said, there was something comforting about the calm reliability of the Superman titles during this era. You could pick up an issue and feel confident that Curt Swan would be in attendance, his depiction of the Man of Steel having become the benchmark. And you could be sure that there’d be a story with some adventure and a bit of cleverness to it, but nothing that would be too scary or off-putting or even all that dramatic. These were like the Mac-N-Cheese of comic books, pure simple comfort food that always gave you exactly what you expected and no more.

In a rare bit of continuity no doubt masterminded by writer Gerry Conway, the story opens up with Superman helping to clean up the massive amounts of damage the moon-aliens’ attack over the past two issues had done to the world. The opening few pages are devoted to this combination of recap and simple super-feats. But when Superman heads back towards WGBS to do his regular newscast as Clark Kent, he notices that the building is surrounded by a strange glow, and the building is suffering from a power failure. Descending to the ground below, he appears to enter combat with an unseen adversary.

His invisible enemy succeeds in getting in a good shot on Superman, justifying the cover image and knocking the Man of Tomorrow for a loop. By the time he recovers, his opponent–whom he reveals to the audience was a mighty golden giant–has vanished, so Superman resumes his guise as Clark and attends the rundown for his newscast. Steve Lombard interrupts this in his bid to do a story about himself and the award he’s been given for his sports journalism, but Kent shuts him down. But a special report comes in as the meeting continues showing a nearby power relay suffering a similar energy drain as what struck WGBS. Clark decides to cover that story himself, so that he can become Superman and intervene.

Racing over to the power station after ditching tag-along Steve Lombard, Superman once again encounters the invisible golden giant and begins to battle him. Now that he’s ready for it, it’s a much more even fight–and even though the bystanders still can’t detect his awesome opponent. Superman is more than able to hold his own. Noticing that the giant is highly charged with electricity, Superman attempts to ground him–and the discharge momentarily forges a mental link between the two fighters.

It turns out that the giant is named Roga and he actually comes from a microscopic world. Accidentally expanded into our world, his atomic structure makes him invisible to most–and he needs to absorb a massive amount of electrical energy in order to reduce himself once more. Unfortunately, Roga’s process of absorbing this energy causes explosions, so Superman needs to stop him before he sucks in enough power to do some real damage. but almost as important, he needs to locate Roga’s subatomic world in order to be able to send him back. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s contained in Steve Lombard’s new award trophy, which Superman swipes after having prepared a duplicate.

Wit the trophy in hand, Superman follows Roga to an upstate nuclear power complex, where he hopes to absorb the energy he needs. Superman kicks him around a bit more before super-charging him harmlessly with static electricity and shrinking him back down into sub-microscopia. He then throws Lombard’s trophy into space “…just in case Roga decides to return..”, which seems a bit mean to both Roga and Steve Lombard. Speaking of Lombard, the story closes out with Steve giving is report about his new award–but the stand-in trophy Superman has crafted melts under the hot studio lights, humiliating Lombard publicly once again. Is it any wonder this guy had such a hard-on for Clark Kent?

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