This issue of SUPERMAN is another new book that I picked up during my visit to the Heroes World outlet in Levittown, New York. It was written by Marty Pasko, whose work on the Man of Steel I really enjoyed. Pasko’s time on SUPERMAN was just as goofball in a Bronze Age way as anything else from that era, but he brought a greater degree of subtlety and realism to superman’s cast of characters and introduced ongoing subplots to the world of the Man of Steel for pretty much the first time. The series simply felt more full, more lived-in under Pasko than it did under others both before and after. It’s not a run that gets a lot of attention overall in the grand scheme of things, bit it is one that stands out in my mind and my experience.
This issue was the second part of a final two-part adventure that saw Superman once more dealing with his recurring rival Blackrock as well as the UBC Broadcast Network that was behind him. As the previous issue wrapped up, it transpired that Superman had been enthralled by UBS and announced to the world that he’d be revealing his secret identity on a live broadcast, on which commercial time would be sold for a million dollars a minute–in 1978, this represented quite a coup for UBC–by today’s standards, the advertisers were getting a tremendous bargain at those rates.
Superman concludes the broadcast announcing his TV spectacular, then promptly wakes up out of his fugue state with no recollection of what he’d done. He’d been experiencing blackouts for some time now, and this latest one drives him to seek out the aid of S.T.A.R. Labs’ Dr. Jenet Klyburn. As the pair go over events, Superman recounts how he had earlier gone to the UBC offices to confirm that his signature on the broadcasting contract was genuine, and how he’d been waylaid by Peter Silverstone, UBC’s inventor-in-residence, and his creation, Blackrock. Having been given an ultimatum to bring Superman to UBC by his boss network head Samuel Tanner, Silverstone developed a sonic synapse disruptor through which he can control the Man of Tomorrow’s actions, including making him forget about his interactions with Silverstone. He doesn’t mean Superman any particular harm, but his livelihood depends upon getting the Metropolis Marvel to go through with the broadcast.
Superman was able to break free of the force-field in which Blackrock had held him, and he attempted to block out Silverstone’s synapse disruptor by wrapping his head in his indestructible cape. But when his battle with Blackrock caused the building to catch fire, Superman was forced to remove his protective cape in order to use his super-breath to quell the flames–and in that moment, he fell back under Silverstone’s sway once more and was coerced into agreeing to star in the special. Now, Superman has to find a way to break Silverstone’s hold on him before the broadcast–a broadcast that he feels honor-bound to go through with even though he was forced to agree to it and announce it, so that Superman’s honor will remain unbesmirched in the public eye.
Elsewhere, in a single page subplot setting up a future story, three shadowed figures break into Clark Kent’s apartment. They’re looking to reclaim a teleportation device that had been taken from the secret organization SKULL by Superman days before. And they locate it in a secret closet in Clark’s bedroom, along with his spare Superman costume. So regardless of the broadcast, his secret identity is blown to someone. Meanwhile, Superman has raced back to the UBC building with the intention of destroying Silverstone’s sonic synapse disruptor. But when he soars in and clobbers the thing, he discovers that it was only a decoy, not the actual device at all. The true source of the synapse disruption is Blackrock himself, and Superman is caught off guard by his sudden attack.
As the two costumed figures struggle, Superman realizes that Blackrock has been strangely silent the entire time. Using his X-Ray Vision, he’s able to confirm that this incarnation of Blackrock isn’t human at all, but rather an energy creation of Silverstone’s. This permits Superman to go all-out against his opponent, and he bombards Blackrock with his X-Ray Vision, figuring that his foe’s black particles will absorb its energy just as they do the radio and television broadcast waves from which Blackrock draws his power. Right on cue, Blackrock disintegrates, having been overloaded by the Man of Steel’s invisible bombardment. But there’s still the matter of what to do about the live broadcast.
Superman’s solution to that is to cheat. Firstly, he has his fellow Justice Leaguer Wonder Woman take the place of interviewer Lola Barnett. Then, when the moment comes and he changes back into Clark Kent, he simultaneously uses his heat vision to befoul the broadcast equipment at that moment, preventing the signal from ever getting to the viewers. Those members of the crew who witnessed what transpired are all compelled to forget what they saw by Wonder Woman’s magic lasso. And so, free from this threat to his privacy, Superman returns home as Clark Kent–only to be confronted as soon as he steps foot inside his apartment by the villainous Kobra, once the star of his own DC series. Not only does Kobra have the drop on Kent, but he’s also aware that the reporter is actually Superman. And that’s where this particular adventure is To Be Continued!