BHOC: SUPERMAN #328

As usual, I picked up the new issue of SUPERMAN on my weekly trip down to my neighborhood 7-11, the main source for my regular comic book fix. Earlier, comic books had been more readily available in card and candy stores dotted around the area, but one by one, they had stopped carrying them, so that the 7-11 was my only reliable source. I was limited, of course, to the range that I could easily bike to as I was still years away from driving, so my badly-stocked 7-11 was the only game in town for me.

I was enjoying the work done on the series by writer Marty Pasko for the most part, though I think I was beginning to get a little bit bored with it. I say that knowing that in a few months, I’d start passing up SUPERMAN for a while. I’m not sure why that was, apart from possibly money and resources being strained since I was now trying to follow a whole bevy of Marvel titles as ell as my reliable DC’s, and something had to give. I remember feeling at the time that Pasko’s Superman felt a bit more contemporary than other creators’, though it was still infused with a lot of the silliness that defines the Bronze Age. Art as always was provided by the stalwart Curt Swan, who was about as inseparable from the Man of Steel as it was possible to be. I was never a particular fan of his work, but I liked it just fine. It was reliable, and always looked good. You always knew exactly what you’d be getting in a Curt Swan comic.

The story opens with Superman destroying a dangerous Laser Defense Satellite on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the same time, there’s an artifact from the Man of Steel’s home planet of Krypton that has finally drifted to Earth and which is beginning to fall through the stratosphere. Seeing it while he’s collecting the wreckage of the satellite, Superman is able to read a bit of the warning stamped on the outside of it in Kryptonese to learn that it purportedly contains micro-organisms dangerous to all forms of life. Somehow, this object wasn’t turned into Kryptonite like everything else that survived the destruction of the planet, so Superman races after it–only to have it change direction unexpectedly and collide with him, knocking him senseless.

The fallen entity is scooped up on the island where the control center for the L.D.S. satellite was housed by what at first looks to be Superman but turns out to be one of his robots that was discovered and reconstructed by the military. Having touched the real Superman earlier, the Kryptonian organisms desire to bond permanently with him as a host, and so they do so with the robot. Meanwhile, having gathered his wits, Superman returns the shattered satellite to the military, where he has a brusque exchange with General D.W. Derwent, who had been in charge of the L.D.S. program and who resents Superman’s interference in it. He also has a mad-on for the Man of Tomorrow as Superman was inadvertently responsible for the loss of his arm years before.

Returning to his Clark Kent identity, Superman takes a few minutes to phone up the computers in his Fortress of Solitude to see what they may know about the organism. He learns that a fellow scientist friend of Jor-El’s created them intending them to be a substitute for missing limbs–they would bond with the host and ten take on the form of the missing appendage. But when tested, the organisms instead consumed their hosts completely. So as to deal with the hazard they posed, Jor-El shot them off into space, where they couldn’t harm Krypton any longer–and he at least printed a warning on the side of the box in case some other alien race came across them.

Speaking of lost limbs, the organisms aren’t satisfied with their possession of the Superman robot, and so they seek out General Derwitt and offer to bond with him, to take the place of his missing arm–convenient how all of those elements line up, isn’t it? As the unified Kryptonoid, Derwitt and the entity attack Superman, wanting revenge on him for having been exiled into space. You see, in their brief touch, the organisms believe Superman to actually be his father Jor-El, the man that imprisoned them. And so they intend to destroy him. To Be Continued! The amount of set-up and contrivance in this story is perhaps another reason why I faded off from following the series for a while. This wasn’t all that satisfying an entry as a single unit of entertainment.

It has to be said that editor Julie Schwartz had some odd instincts for what young readers would like to read about, and that’s apparent nowhere quite so much as in the back-up stories he ran during this period. This issue features a Private Life of Clark Kent story. Now, did any kid on Earth every think to himself that what a SUPERMAN comic book needed was more Clark Kent? That said, this story by Cary Burkett and Kurt Schaffenberger is actually pretty good, with Clark Kent being mistaken for the missing “Linden Baby”, an equivalent to the Lindbergh Baby whose kidnapping made headlines back in the 1930s. Of course, Clark is no such thing–but he not only is able to thwart an attempt on the senior Linden’s life, but he’s also able to reunite the man with his actual son, who has grown up to become the Detective who is investigating the case still. For all that, though, I still would rather have had a story with an actual super hero on it–I could get plenty of fare of this nature on television.

5 thoughts on “BHOC: SUPERMAN #328

  1. It wasn’t turned into Kryptonite because it was already in space when Krypton exploded. Thus it wasn’t affected by the Kryptonite-transforming chain reaction.
    Pre-explosion Kryptonian artifacts were rare, but they weren’t unknown. It even made sense in a way. Jor-El was very interested in space travel, so sent a lot of stuff off into space. In the real world, there’s actually an amazing amount of junk in space around Earth from old probes/satellites/mission detritus.

    I wonder if the idea behind the “Private Life” stories was to try to make Superman more “relatable” in a way. Not quite Marvel-style, but taking the idea of having some focus on the hero as a civilian dealing with nonhero issues. And this is why I don’t fault Luthor for disbelieving that Superman is Clark Kent. Because in-universe the thought of the godlike alien going home from work at his ordinary corporate job to his ordinary apartment and spending so much time playing-acting at being an ordinary human, seems absurd.

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    1. As several Lois fans have observed over the years, no matter how much the comics mocked Lois over her “Clark is Superman, I know it!” she was right when nobody else believed it.

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  2. I never minded the private life stories but yeah, Mr & Mrs Superman or an Insect Queen story would have been more welcome.

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  3. It’s a total shame that Pasko/Swan’s work on Superman has not yet been reprinted in any form. This is surely not their peak, but it’s still above average of that time’s DC.

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