BHOC: ACTION COMICS #481

I very much remember buying this issue of ACTION COMICS at the local 7-11, where its very nice Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover stared out at me. This was part two of a long four-part saga that I recall enjoying–in part because it featured a villain I was acquainted with: Amazo, the android who duplicated all of the powers of the Justice League of America. It also had the notoriety of introducing one of the most overt attempts at the commercialization of super heroes ever devised: the cover-featured Supermobile.

Toy companies of the era had a kind of plug-and-play mentality when it came to licensed characters. Toy cars sold, so they inevitably wanted to produce vehicles based on the super hero characters they got the rights to. In the case of Corgi, who held the toy license to Superman, they really, really wanted to give the Man of Steel a car–despite how irrelevant such a thing would be to a character who can fly. But it would theoretically sell toys, so the creation of such a vehicle was mandated. Like Gerry Conway before him with Spider-Man, editor Julie Schwartz took on the task of creating and justifying a Supermobile.

Corgi’s Supermobile toy

The first part of this process took place in the preceding issue, wherein it was revealed that the Red Sun radiation from a distant exploded star was passing through Earth’s solar system, crippling the Man of Steel’s super-powers. The radiation also reactivated the dormant android Amazo, who went on a rampage against Superman. Having trapped the rest of the Justice League in another dimension, Amazo sought out his creator, Professor Ivo, intending to destroy him. The powerless Superman intervened, and the pair were almost killed. But Superman had planned for this possibility, and came equipped with a teleportation device that returned him and Ivo to his Fortress of Solitude right before Amazo could strike his fatal blow.

Professor Ivo has reformed, and so Superman is determined to keep him out of the grip of his homicidal android. And te Man of Steel has got another piece of equipment that he opes will turn the tide–one that anybody who saw the cover cannot help but recognize. Amazo follows Superman to the Fortress, bursting in on him as he collects his thoughts for the battle to come. But Superman releases the alien beasts from his interplanetary zoo in order to slow Amazo down and buy himself some time.

Time enough to come bursting out of a concealed hanger at the controls of the Supermobile, a craft which will insulate him from the debilitating effects of the Red Sun radiation and allow him to use is super-powers again, if only by proxy. I have to say, I had no idea about the reason for the introduction of the Supermobile at the time I first read this story, and so I simply accepted it. Liked it, even. It’s a bananas design, with retractable arms so that Superman can punch people while driving–you ave no idea how many times I have wished for this capability wile I’ve been on the road.

Most of the balance of the issue is an extended battle with Amazo, sort of an advertising brochure showing off the capabilities of the Supermobile. The craft has no engine of its own, and all it really does is prevent the Red Sun radiation from reaching Superman. So, like Fred Flintstone, Superman himself is what is flying and racing around, and all of his natural super-powers are channeled through the car’s hull. Inside the car, Superman spends pages battling it out with Amazo across the frozen wastelands.

Eventually, though, Amazo gets tired of this stalemate. His objective, after all, is to force Superman to reveal the location of his creator, Professor Ivo, and so he withdraws for the moment. Superman wings his way back to Metropolis, where his closest friends have all gathered on the roof of the Galaxy Building to wish him well. But as Superman does is fly-by, the image of Amazo appears above them and offers Superman an ultimatum: either the Man of Steel give up the location of Professor Ivo, or Amazo will annihilate Superman’s entire supporting cast. And with that, we are once again To Be Continued!

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