BHOC: ACTION COMICS #487

I picked up this new issue of ACTION COMICS on my weekly jaunt to the local 7-11 on Thursday when the new comics came in. It was the second-to=last issue that I purchased for a while. It’s clear looking over the DC books of this period that the firm is still targeting a different audience than Marvel was at the same time, a younger audience. I was hardly old myself at this point, but having become more entranced by the Marvel books that I had begun to also follow, the DC fare started to feel just a little bit staid and safe. I still had a strong attachment to the characters themselves, I simply wasn’t driven to pick up and read every issue in the way I had been just a few short months earlier.

I liked this particular story, though, despite how absurd it really was. It was written by Cary Bates, who had been my favorite comic book wrier for several years, since I first became aware of creators after a fictional version of Cary appeared in an issue of THE FLASH. Bates was, I think, the writer most simpatico with editor Julie Schwartz’s vision for his titles, and theirs was always a combination that worked. I also liked the artwork of the ever-dependable Curt Swan. That said, I don’t think that Frank Chiaramonte was his best inker. But the underlying drawing was so solid that it almost didn’t matter. Swan was the exemplar of what Superman and his cast looked like in this era, bar none.

The issue opens with a riff on the then-current film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with Superman pursuing a strange alien saucer that he spotted flying over Metropolis. As Superman pursues the craft, the three different levels of “Super-Encounter” are listed and evidenced. This doesn’t have anything to do with the story per se, it was just a bit of contemporary fun, plugging the character into the zeitgeist of the moment. It turns out that the alien saucer is peaceful, but before it rockets away, it takes a moment to beam an old man in a vintage car down to the surface. Superman offers the man a ride into town, not realizing that he was deposited here by the aliens seconds ago, but the old guy prefers to go it alone.

After a stop-off at the local library to research Superman, the old man heads to a seminar on alien abduction, where people who claim to have been taken away by aliens share their stories. The event is being covered by reporters from the daily Planet, of course. There, the man, who identifies himself as Lewis Padgett, tells his own story of not only being taken to the stars by alien friends, but also having been Metropolis’ first super-criminal, Microwave Man, decades earlier. The Planet reporters scoff at this account, but Perry White almost swallows his cigar when he hears about it. Perry had only been a cub reporter back when the Microwave Man held Metropolis in a grip of terror before vanishing mysteriously. People didn’t really know much about microwaves back then, but the Microwave Man had found a way to make his body into a conduit for their ambient energies, making him a powerhouse.

While Perry is downloading the history to his reporters and to the readers, elsewhere, the Microwave Man is preparing to test his powers now that he’s back in Earth. He attempts to heat up the Daily Planet globe (which for some reason is on the ground in this story rather than atop the building) but there are so many more microwaves in use in the present that his power is far greater than it’s ever been before, and he accidentally turns the globe into a fiery missile that flies directly at the WGBS Building where White, his reporters and owner Morgan Edge are congregated.

Fortunately for all concerned, one of the people in that building is Clark Kent, and so Superman appears just in time to divert the fiery globe away from the building. In the aftermath, Microwave Man returns to his former headquarters and contacts his alien benefactors. He reveals that he’d accidentally first contacted him decades earlier, which was fine because he was becoming bored, as there was no opposition that could stop the Microwave Man. But today, he’s eager to pit his criminal skills against superman. At his request, the aliens are able to rejuvenate his aged body back into its prime, so he can face the Man of Steel in the excellent condition he once enjoyed. And so the stage is set for a showdown between these two costumed champions, next issue!

The DC Explosion that increased the page counts of all of the line’s titles while increasing their cover price to 50 cents meant that this issue had a back-up story as well, dedicated to The Atom. This was somewhat nostalgic for me, as the Atom had been one of the co-stars of the title when I had first started reading it years ago. The story involves the newlywed Ray Palmer and Jean Loring returning to the site of the Atom’s first adventure for an origin recap. But the pair are attacked by the Bat-Knights, miniscule warriors that the Atom had fought before. The Knights trap Jean in the cavern and attempt to hold her hostage to make the Atom stand down, but the mighty mite clobbers them anyway. He knows that during his origin, he had created a back exit out of the cavern in which Jean was supposedly trapped, so she wasn’t trapped at all. It’s really all just an excuse to recap the Atom’s origin, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

At the back of the book was the DC feature Page, which included an expanded version of Bob Rozakis’ Answer Man column in which he answered random questions from the readership–it usually ran on the promotional Daily Planet page, DC’s answer o the Bullpen Bulletins. The bottom half was an introductory profile for Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, an exciting young artist who did the cover to this very issue. Garcia-Lopez would become the new standard-bearer for the look of the DC characters in licensing, and his work at this present moment made the DC books he toiled on seem a bit more contemporary and modern.

10 thoughts on “BHOC: ACTION COMICS #487

  1. The Daily Planet globe was removed from the roof of the former Daily Planet Building when it became the Galaxy Broadcasting Building in Action Comics #398 in 1971. That was also the issue when Morgan Edge reassigned Clark from doing print journalism for the Planet to doing TV journalism for WGBS-TV.

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  2. “Swan was the exemplar of what Superman and his cast looked like in this era, bar none.” Maybe only because he was pretty much the only Superman artist, or the only artist allowed to work on the 2 main Superman’s books. He was a workhouse. A craftsman. He was also why I stopped reading Superman & Acton. All through the 70’s Superman looked how Swan drew him. Compared to other heroes in other books, especially John Buscema for Marvel, it wasn’t very super. I was reading after JLGL, Bucker, & Andru, w/ Giordano inks, started doing covers of mythic proportions, wildly impressive versions of Superman. I think even earlier, w/ some Neal Adams covers. Superman looked cool; powerful. But inside, he wasn’t very dynamic. By the 80s’s I realized Superman just looked out of shape. And not just him. Every character Swan drew.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere, all this other amazing, exciting artwork was transforming comics. And Superman looked the same as he had for decades. It was stale, static. Why didn’t “the greatest/best superhero in comics” have the some of the very best art in comics? Why couldn’t the cover artists draw the stories? That was me being selfish. And looking back, Buckler & other did draw Superman in various other titles, including “World’s Finest”. And it wasn’t just Curt’s work I’d lost interest in. There were several artists who’d been instrumental in igniting countless kids’ imaginations, who’s styles were now falling out of favor. Novick, Dillin, Heck, Perlin, & more. I do feel bad, now, as their work dried up.

    The younger class of the 70’s was dominating by the mid-80’s. And there were new artists in the 80’s that quickly joined them. Tastes and styes change in any entertainment business. Julie Schwartz knew the insides of a comic book story, of a story, period, better than most. But reader demand and expectations were different than what he was used to. I guess things took the time they needed to, to adjust. By John Byrne’s 2nd year of taking over Superman, I was already much more into other artists. And when Byrne left, Mike Carlin brought in some talent that had done good work over at Marvel in the late 70’s & early 80’s to join Jerry Ordway on keeping the titles going. But I did get to see artists like Art Adams, Mike Mignola, and Walt Simonson occasionally grace the pages with their renditions of Superman. Just took more than long enough.

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    1. Novick’s Batman work (among other stuff) is really good.
      One of the highpoints of Twomorrows’ Krypton Companion is hearing inkers talk about working on Swan (“Inking Swan meant I was finally in the big leagues — but oh god, what if I made Curt Swan look bad?”).
      Regarding the OP, I remember this two parter and it is indeed fun.

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      1. I loved that DC Comics Presents Annual which had Supes fight Dr. Sivana, who’s copied Capt Marvel’s powers. He defeats Cap, promoting himself to Major Sivana.
        Then stumbles onto Earth 2, & beats up on the older, somewhat weaker original Superman, calling himself General Sivana afterward. I was maybe 11 or 12 yrs old. Kane drew Superman’s cape almost like it was a aet of wings.

        I liked Buckler’s Superman, in World’s Finest, the rare JLA he’d draw, or DC Comics Presents issue, & when he’d draw him in All-Star Squadron (“America’s A.S.S.”, as Tom called it). The inks made a difference. I liked Giordano’s inks over Buckler’s pencils maybe the most).

        And I liked Eduardo Barreto’s Superman. Klaus Janson, too, either inking another artist’s Superman, or in that DDCP w/ Adam Strange (one of my fave Superman stories of all time). I still look up odd times artists like Aparo, or Cene Colan got to draw Superman. I don’t mind George Tuska’s, maybe because it’s a change from the norm, but the fundamentals are mostly still represented.

        I’ll always wish I’d gotten the chance to see an extended run on Superman by John Buscema. I got glimpses, but it wasn’t at his full strength. Even the 2nd Spidey team up seemed like it didn’t get his full attention. We did get Ron Super Frenz on Superman, as almost “Buscema light”, the lost Buscema brother, but it was marred by the mullet. Lol.

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    2. As much as I respect Curt Swan’s decades of drawing, I have to admit that by the late 70s/early 80s his style was holding back Superman as much as the dusty old style of Bob Kane (or, more accurately, his ghosts) was holding back Batman in the mid-60s.

      Swan was still drawing Clark Kent wearing a *hat* in the 80s, for crying out loud! Compare Swan to Gil Kane’s contemporaneous work on the pre-Crisis Superman and there really is no contest.

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      1. @fraser Sherman. I loved John Buscema’s work. But in 1986 he was still drawing younger adults in clothes my grandparents wore. And teens in what my parents wore as kids. I get it. Drawing from his own experience. That IS what those age groups were wearing 20 years earlier. 😉

        Many artists even into the early 2000’s were Still drawing nurses in those old school white uniforms, w/ those white hats w/ the red crosses on them. Decades after real nurses were wearing multicolored scrubs. Not a huge deal. Didn’t mean they weren’t good, even great artists. But it was like a “wait a minnit” moment for anyone who’d notice. 😆

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