This issue of ACTION COMICS would have been another book that I got from my grade school buddy Donald Sims. It’s not a bit of a weird cover on it–Superman is so over-muscled here that he practically looks inflated. And I don’t know that the lime green background is helping matters any either. All of the inking has a bit of a muddy quality to it, possibly due to the inferior printing plates that were being used during this time period. The whole thing looks sort of shoddy to my adult eyes, as a lot of the covers from these days do. Certainly there was nothing here that would make any grown-up take comic books seriously.
I had already read the issue of ACTION COMICS that followed this one months earlier, so this made the lead story something of an anticlimax for me, as I knew going in where it would end up. I’d had this happen on a few occasions with ACTION, and somehow I never learned my lesson. That said, as I would have gotten this book in a trade, it’s not like it really cost me much of anything. And it’s still a fun story in te Cary bates/Julie Schwartz tradition.
The issue opens where the cover shows us–with Superman throwing a final punch to take down Piledriver, a super-villain with a powered helmet. Depositing him with the cops, Superman returns to WGBS in time for Clark Kent’s evening newscast. During the broadcast, he hears about the double-murder of a young couple who were mugged and killed right before the eyes of their young son. This happened right near where Superman had fought Piledriver, and so Clark feels guilty about not noticing something and being able to prevent the murder. Clark goes to check in on the kid, whose parallel to the origin of Batman he’s keenly aware of–only to discover that he’s broken out of the orphanage he was placed in via a makeshift batarang and rope.
Out on the street, the Purple Piledriver is back at it again–he’s escaped custody and is continuing his crime spree. Launching himself from the window, Kent becomes Superman and engages his foe. And really, he’s just a dude with a gimmicky helmet, so it’s astonishing that it takes Superman this long to put him down–but put him down he does, right outside a STAR Labs research facility. And as he does so, the Lab is struck by lightning–and after once more giving Piledriver over to the police, Superman investigates, learning that a STAR lab assistant was caught in the middle when the lightning struck a shelf of chemicals, bathing him in them–and then sped off through a solid wall at super-speed. This perfectly parallels the origin of the Flash, so now Superman is really wondering what the hell is going on.
Superman sets off after the speeding teen, who is going so fast he shoots out over the lake, running on the water tension. But without the experience of the true Flash, this causes turbulence for the boaters on the lake, and Superman is forced to detour and use his superhuman body to skim the waters, calming them. That task accomplished, he catches up with the lab assistant, who is now clad in the costume of the Flash, and is accompanied by another boy in a Batman costume. But both heroes claim to be the genuine articles, not newcomers at all–they tell Superman that something has regressed them in age. And as the story wraps up, a voice from off-panel corroborates their story and tells Superman that he’s next–and that’s where things are To Be Continued!
The back-up story in the issue is another entry in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF CLARK KENT. I don’t know why editor Julie Schwartz thought that the readers of ACTION COMICS were looking for stories about Superman exclusively in his civilian guise, but e produced a bunch of these stories over the year–so he seemed to like them, if noting else. This one was blessed by fun, open artwork by Kurt Schaffenberger, who had the right sort of cartoony touch for this kind of whimsical tale.
There isn’t a whole lot to this story, in which Clark is asked to show an Australian broadcasting bigwig the city by boss Morgan Edge, and the guy really wants to see Superman. Clark has to go into action a number of times during the story, but the guy never really gets a good look at him, for all that he enjoys his time in Metropolis. And there’s not really much of a point to the whole thing–it’s a bit of a misfire, to be honest.