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Superman in the 70s - DC Comics Message Boards
Author Topic:   Superman in the 70s
Osgood Peabody
posted August 10, 2002 02:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Osgood Peabody   Click Here to Email Osgood Peabody
I think the Archive program, assuming it remains healthy, will do some skipping around, based on what they're doing with Batman.

For example, we'll almost certainly get a Weisinger era line starting in 1958 within the next 2 years.

And, dare I say it? Within the next 10 years, a line starting with Superman 233!

And by the way - 500 posts!

Not bad for what started out as a side-trip down memory lane.

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posted August 10, 2002 04:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
And, dare I say it? Within the next 10 years, a line starting with Superman 233!

Yeah, baby!

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posted August 11, 2002 01:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
Posted by C-Op:
There was indeed a lot of Superman material (and presumably other DC material) produced exclusively for foreign markets....

Are there any stories I listed from the 324-page giant that never saw publication in the States?

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Continental Op
posted August 11, 2002 05:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Continental Op
Offhand, I would say no. I'm not familiar with all the titles, but just going from the inker credits, it looks like those stories are all or mostly all from prior to 1981, and that's when the article says DC started producing the "extra" stories for foreign markets.

Of course, they MIGHT have been producing SOME KIND of foreign material even earlier, but I'd bet that what you had listed above was strictly reprints of the American comics.

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part I: "Preludes & Nocturnes"

Before jumping ahead to the ending of Superman 314, I hope you'll indulge me in my longwinded posts on Martin Pasko's career, as I jump back in time to review ealier works.

Before actually getting to the work, though, I'm going to prolong the agony even further by quoting from Pasko himself in two different sources (be patient).

Or should I say the two Martin Paskos? The first is from Martin Pasko no. 1., "Metropolis Mailbag" (s-826) in issue 240, commenting on the story from 235. That one, "Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp," was yet another chapter in the Super-Sandman Saga by O'Neil/Swan/Anderson--although the sand-thing's part in that story was brief. While Pesky's comments are insightful in regards to the O'Neil Superman of that period (and worth quoting just for that reason), they also will prove intriguing as we examine Pasko's own version of Superman.


Dear Editor:

Just because a device is old, it is not necessarily bad. Denny O'Neil is proving that in Superman. In the "old days," a lot of hackneyed story devices were standard fare, but they were handled poorly to boot. The reader had the right to expect, as long as the crew wasn't going to be a particularly innovative, that what familiar techniques and approaches were used were done well. In # 235, O'Neil is proving that old gimmicks can be fun, but there's still something wrong.

Superman 235, although no minor classic, was enjoyable. The "old" Superman is still in our memories enough to make a favorable comparison possible. How "Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp" (love that title!) might have been handled in lesser hands looms large in our collective imaginations. Nyxly, or Pan, would have received his super-powers some other way than stealing them from Superman, although heaven knows the gimmick's been used before. The I-challenge-Superman-to-a-duel bit is really quite dusty, too, but it worked here, largely because of the presence of the sand-thing (even though, as you'll see later, that's what's really bugging me!).

The Clark Kent-the-coward characterization, so old it's become, in some trivia aficionado circles, an American idiom, is very tired. There is no conceivable reason why Kent should be allowed to grovel at Morgan Edge's feet. Certainly he is a formidable figure, but it might be more interesting if you allowed Kent to demonstrate, in subtle quips and gestures, his very real contempt for the man. Still, how it might have been played is painful to think of. I envision Kent breaking out (simulated, of course--he's Superman!) in a cold sweat every time Edge looks at him. The point is this: Denny's fresh touch on old techniques may be acceptable in the case of # 235, but it's not advisable to continue it. You have psyched the readers to expect something really different. Now deliver.

That sand-thing as a "substitute weakness" for Kryptonite is foolish. Unless the story hinges directly around a confrontation between it and Superman, it looks pretty stupid to have that thing moving in and out of every story at just the right time, for no other reason that that you've given up Kryptonite. The sand-thing was not the focus of the story; therefore, it only served to detract, not enhance. Its acting as Superman's savior in the story's conclusion was also disastrous, if you go by Denny's own philosophies on the value of heroics in the stereotyped-hero comic magazine sense. Success is dependent upon the hero himself resolving it. The sand-thing is a beautifully eerie creation which has great potential as a recurring villain, hero, middle-of-the-roadeer, or something--but it won't work in every story!

Martin Pasko, Clifton N.J.

It's worth noting Pasko's comments on the CK character. I don't think Marty can take credit for inventing these ideas. They were in the air at the time and Schwartz clearly encouraged his troops to expand on the variety of emotion that Clark displayed. Kent does get upset with Morgan Edge--but as Edge's character softens (because there were two Morgan Edges), that contempt shifts to Steve Lombard. Through the ironic device (a part of Superman since day one) we get to see Clark (who we know to be Superman) using his powers for personal reasons. In the case of Lombard, this results in CK turning the tables on Steve's attempts to humilate "Clarkie."

(to be continued)

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part I: "Preludes & Nocturnes" (cont'd)

By the way, the cover date for Superman 240 was July, 1971.

The second extended quote is from the text page, "The Story Behind the Story" (C-136), from First Issue Special(Dr. Fate) no. 9, December, 1975. This comic featured a re-defining tale of "dr. fate" (the only title provided for the story), by Martin Pasko and Walt Simonson, edited by Gerry Conway. All of the developments in the character of Fate, Kent, and Inza, which later writers capitalized on, were here for the first time in this story--the interdependency of Inza and Kent, the Fate/Kent character split, the use of the ankh symbol to represent Fate's magicks, Inza's anger from a life of being imprisoned in a window-less tower, the longevity of both characters, etc.

On the issue's text page, each creator provides his own profile. Artist Simonson's profile is just a self-portrait (under which he prints, "...AND NOW MY GREATEST SECRET--MY SIGNATURE IS REALLY...A DINOSAUR"). But writer Pasko provides an inventive back-story--whether any of it is true is open to debate--


Martin Pasko was born in August, 1953, in Montreal, Quebec. Shortly thereafter he was placed in a rocketship and sent to Clifton, New Jersey just as all of Quebec, and portions of Ontario disappeared through a time-warp in the the 1930's.

In Clifton, the rocketship containing young Martin, then known as Jean-Claude Rochefort, was found by a kindly couple named the Paskos. Their names were not Jonathon and Martha. That's another story.

They adopted the child and named him Martin. Shortly afterward, the child displayed strange and wonderful abilities, far beyond those of mortal Canadians. For example, he possessed the ability to put two words together in sequence by the age of 12. It was not until he was 14, however, that he was able to put together two words in sequence that meant anything. Whereupon he displayed the uncanny ability to insult any comic book editor at a distance of approximately 15 miles, roughly the distance between Clifton and the offices of National Periodicals. A man named Julius Schwartz began to print these letters in his comic books and insult young Martin in turn. He was known at that time as "Pesky Pasko."

The real Martin Pasko was killed in an automobile accident in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a young writer signing that name to his work began to write comic books for a horror outfit whose name began with a "W." The stories were supposed to be horrors, not the publishing company. This issue is still being debated. Later, this writer gravitated to other companies, eventually writing for National, beginning with Joe Orlando and later for Julius Schwartz, who to this day confuses him with the young letter-writer. Recently, clues to the death of the real Martin Pasko, heretofore a well-kept secret, have begun to surface in several of the writings bearing the impostor's name. For example, in this issue's Doctor Fate, hold page 13 up to the mirror with bottom right-hand corner of the 3rd panel pointing in the direction of Cleveland, Ohio, and you'll discover that the marks on Doctor Fate's helmet, which you thought were just more of Walt Simonson's funny shading-effects, actually spell out the words, "I buried Paul," in Sanskrit.

The new Martin Pasko currently lives in New York City, and is looking for a way to escape. He is a novelist, a screenwriter, and sporadically unemployed. When asked why such incredible things happen to him, he thought for a moment before replying.

"Well," Pasko philosophized, "it's just...Fate."

The rest is history. Sort of.

(to be continued)

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part I: "Preludes & Nocturnes" (cont'd)

select comicography (non Superman related):

Kobra nos. 1 - 7 (Feb-March.'76 - March-April '77)
Wonder Woman nos. 218 - 232 (June-July '75 - June '77)
Justice League of America nos. 135 - 137 (Oct. '76 - Dec. '76)
Freedom Fighters no. 1 (March-April '76), no. 3 (July-Aug. '76), no. 4 (Sept. Oct. '76)
DC Super-Stars no. 18 (Jan-Feb. '78)

Pasko's assignments in the mid-seventies were many and varied. He contributed stories for lots of different DC titles--back-up tales, anthology stories, works for one-shots or short-lived series or dying series. He was a hired-gun, working wherever he was needed.

On the first issue of Kobra he was one of three different writers--scripting over the plots of Jack Kirby and Steve Sherman. That issue was a mixed bag of creative talents with pencil art by both Kirby and Pablo Marcos, and inks by D. Bruce Berry and Marcos. Art-wise the book didn't fare much better for the rest of its short life, with a rotating list of artists who if they stayed for two issues would be counted as having a long run. In fact, by issue 5 (after being prematurely pronounced dead as of issue 3) it was already starting a "new direction" (the seventh issue was the last).

As a consequence of all this inconstant direction, Kobra has been much-maligned as a character. But he remains one of my favourite villains of the seventies. And much of that is thanks to Pasko who wrote interesting characters and created a dramatic tension in the stories.

Pasko's editor on this, and on other works was Gerry Conway. When not editing Pasko, Conway might be found alternating with Pasko on writing. On Pasko's short stint as Freedom Fighters writer, Conway actually fills in with the second issue, before Pasko returns in the third. On issue 18 of DC Super-Stars Conway and Pasko write different chapters of a lengthy Deadman and Phantom Stranger story.

Pasko would be called into script over the plots of other writers, as well, as with the three-part 1976 JLA-JSA crossover (issues 135 to 137) where Marty provides dialogue for ENB's plot. Bridwell was brought in to plot this mammoth, because he was about the only guy who knew all the players which included many long extinct Fawcett heroes and villains.

But I'd say that the Wonder Woman comics were the first place where Pesky truly distinguished himself. He began his run on that book writing the last bunch of the twelve labours of Wonder Woman (which were overseen by different JLA members, including the Phantom Stranger), writing for the then WW editor Julie Schwartz.

From these stories, Pasko moved on to make the character his own. Constructing his own version of WW/Diana Prince and her newly revived boyfriend, Steve Trevor (now with a black dye-job and calling himself Steve Howard) Pasko developed a mature loving relationship between these two. Where others before him had failed to realize a well-rounded and admirable Steve Trevor, Pasko gave us a smart, funny, and distinguished individual who was Diana's equal.

WW 226 & 227 (Oct-Nov '76 & Dec-Jan '76-'77) featured a remarkable character-driven two part tale that remains to this day one of my favourite Wonder Woman stories of all time. Finally it seemed the character was on the right track with the right scripter. True, the art horribly inked by Vince Colletta over Jose Delbo's pencils, was not worthy of the story--but you can't have everything. And then with the very next issue--228--the title dove into an alternate universe (laughingly called "Earth 2") in order to tie it in with the TV show. Since any hack could have written this TV comic without making much of a difference in the quality of story, Pasko's run was undistinguished from here on, and he only stuck it out for a handful of issues before bowing out as of issue 232.

But by then he was the Superman writer.

(to be continued)

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posted August 12, 2002 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
You just can't get enough of Vinny's inks, can you, India...

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posted August 12, 2002 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
Posted by India Ink:

To quote Martin Pasko, Clifton N.J.

That sand-thing as a "substitute weakness" for Kryptonite is foolish. Unless the story hinges directly around a confrontation between it and Superman, it looks pretty stupid to have that thing moving in and out of every story...

Denny O'Neil sure delivered on that score!

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 06:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part I: "Preludes & Nocturnes" (cont'd)

select comicography (Superman related):

Superman nos. 277 (July '74), 280 (Oct. '74), 282 (Dec. '74), 285 (March '75), 286 (April '75), 292 (Oct. '75), 294 (Dec '75)

Action Comics nos. 465 (Nov. '76) & 468 (Feb. '77)

I was looking at an old copy of The Comic Reader this morning, from the early 80s, and in there someone was complaining how with the death of anthology titles and the like, young artists with swipe files were being unleashed on unsuspecting readers, doing feature work instead of paying their dues before getting good enough to do the features.

The same could be said for writers. If anything the situation has gotten worse, but long ago in the early seventies there were still anthology titles and back-up features. This is where writers and artists learned the craft (it's interesting that of the writers who were dominant in the seventies, about the only who comes to mind who didn't pay these dues was Maggin, he got big feature work even before he established himself as a back-up writer--and in the end he quit (Superman) because of a debacle over a back-up story).

Pasko had the fortune to come into the industry when anthologies and back-ups were still part of the scene. But he also had the misfortune to come in when comics, especially DCs, were struggling to find their market. Most of the books Martin worked on were either failures or going through radical change.

And the art? With so many pros leaving the mainstream, the art could be quite awful.

The one exception to this was probably Superman. The Superman character was still strong enough to capture a large share of the dwindling newstand market. Relative to the other DC titles, the quality on Superman was still strong.

So to make it as a feature writer for Superman, Martin Pasko had to prove himself first on the back-ups. But while most of these seem like throwaway yarns--the accumulation of continuity would provide a foundation for Pasko's later feature work on the character.

"The Pizzeria Peril" (from Superman 277, art by Swan & Giacoia), a Private Life of Clark Kent 6 pager, is most notable for re-introducing Kaye Daye, celebrated mystery novelist and member in good standing of the Gotham City Mystery Analysts. What's this GCMA author doing in a Clark Kent story? (apparently not visiting a fellow member of the GCMA--Clark's membership in that illustrious group is not mentioned here)--she's visiting her nephew, Steve Lombard! And looking a bit aged since her last appearance in the sixties (Michael Golden would later restore her youth in a Batman Family story). Meanwhile Steve Lombard has switched digs to room with Clark (afraid his aunt will be shocked by the wild parties at his bachelor pad--and a colorist's error that shows a bit more female skin than Curt Swan probably intended makes it seem like Lombard's soirees are much more hedonistic than the Comics Code would Approve).

"The Last Headline!" (issue 280, Swan/Blaisdell art, 6 pages) almost induced heart failure when it announced the retirement of Perry White, who had achieved the mandatory age of 65. Thankfully a gathering of Daily Planet cast members signed a petition, and Clark showed some chutzpah by taping a piece screened by Morgan Edge, pleading for Perry's job. The fifth page last panel allows for a big group shot of that cast (Morgan, Jimmy, Lois, Steve, Lola, Melba Manton, Miss Conway, and three other familiar faces I can't put a name to).

282 is the issue that has the first really significant story (as we will see in Part II of Pesky's Progress). The usual 6 pages, illoed by Ernie Chua, "The Loneliest Man in the Universe" is a Fabulous World of Krypton untold story of Superman's native planet.

In this, as with most, there's a framing device. Superman and Supergirl are on a Florida beach discussing her future. She's thinking of hanging up the cape and pursuing an ordinary life. Superman sits his cousin down and tells her a parable that's supposed to help her with her problems (I don't see how, though).

500 years ago on Krypton people went to the Scarlet Jungle to find rondors, smelly (rhinoceros-like) beasts whose horns gave off a natural healing radiation that would cure almost any ill. As such, these beasts were protected by law. However, one Kryptonian scientist, Nam-Ek, defied the law and slaughtered two rondors for their horns from which he made a potion. Drinking the potion made Nam-Ek truly immortal, invincible to all harm. It also gave him the horn, hide, and foul odour of a rondor beast. An outsider among the Kryptonian people, Nam-Ek lived for centuries, a virtual recluse. Almost mad from the lack of human companionship, Nam-Ek returned to the Scarlet Jungle and the rondors in an effort to seek a cure to his curse of immortality, but before he could make good on this bid for release from interminable life, the world came to an end. Krypton exploded, yet Nam-Ek remained unharmed and floating in the ether. "And that's when he began to cry...and they say that somewhere in space...he is crying still..."

Around this point, the reader starts to say "hey wait, if Krypton blew up, how does Superman know all this?" But thankfully, Kara asks the question for us. Superman's answer is merely, "Oh--well...that's another story!"

The TPLOCK 6 page Swan/Oksner effort in 285 ("The Kid with the Million Dollar Smile!") is unimportant (a story about a child star based on a child star of the time). 286 has another TFWOK untold story (Swan/Blaisdell, 6 pages), concerning the infancy of Kal-El and a legend of the Shedu--an evil demon that possesses children. "Hey, You--with the Glasses--I Don't Like Your Face!" is a delightful 5 page TPLOCK romp from 292 (the inks by Al Milgrom over Swan are a mixed bag, but may have been near Anderson level if the printing process had been better), in which Clark adeptly deals with a hulking loud-mouth in a bar (the hulk is provoked when Kent dares to order a glass of milk). And "The Tatoo Switcheroo" is a pedestrian bit of identity switching between Clark and a ganster, in a TPLOCK story where the biggest crime is what Colletta did to the Garcia Lopez pencils.

With the shrinking page count, the Superman related back-ups moved their home to Action Comics for awhile. "Paper Hero!" (issue 465, Frank McLaughlin over Swan, 5 pages) is a Sporting Life of Steve Lombard feature which displays the great Pasko gift for dialogue. Some exchanges in this piece are so grand I'm almost tempted to stretch out this post even further by quoting the balloons at length. But I'll take pity on my fellow posters and attempt to briefly relate the best bits.

The story is told from the setting of Lombard's luxurious bachelor digs where instead of making time with a secretary (as we usually see him doing) he's attempting to dictate a chapter of his autobiography to said secretary--Shirley Lavitsky by name. Lavitsky is not your usual Lombard bimbo, she has a way with language and banters with Steve as he dictates his story. When Steve switches from talking about a former coach to talking about encountering some thugs in an underground parking garage, Shirley pipes up: "Hunh you were talking about this coach--and now the story's about a coupla two-bit thugs? Where's the dramatic structure?" And Steve snaps, "What is this? I hire a secretary and instead I get a critic! This is my book--I tell it my way!"

Finally (for this post, anyhow), Pasko provides a 6 page Close-Up: Morgan Edge (again by Swan and McLaughlin, in Action 468) which is indeed memorable. It's a story that has stayed with me for all these years and makes me mourn for the loss of the Morgan Edge as he once existed (the sad thing called Morgan Edge from the reboot Superman comics is hardly worthy of that name).

"My Son, the Orphan!" sparkles on the page with Pasko's language. Again it's hard to resist quoting all the dialogue, as Morgan encounters his mother. Although everyone thinks he's an orphan, Morgan Edge (the real Morgan Edge, not Jack Kirby's intergang stand-in) is actually Morris Edeltstein, and his mother is Sophie Edeltstein who still works as a cleaning woman (as she has done for 45 years "I'm happy that way! Why should I change?"). Ashamed of his past and his name, Morgan Edge has kept up a disguise all these years, but brought to a realization by his mother, he gets up to accept his Man of the Year Award at the Broadcasters' Association ceremony, and relates the truth about himself.

About a time when he was still in the Merchant Marine, and playing a poker game in a port on the western seaboard. One of the players, a wealthy man from New Mexico, bet his TV station in Albuquerque, and Morris beat the gent's heart-royal-flush with a spade-flush. Having done so well at the table, Edelstein knew it was time to quit.

At this the wealthy gent asks, "Whadja say yore name wuz, boyah?"

"Edeltstein. Why?"

"Figures! Only yore kind would decide to bow out when ya got all o' our dough."

Morris takes offence, while his adversaries at the table attack him, but the merchant seaman isn't so easily overcome, and leaves his defeated opponents on the floor.

At the ceremony, bringing his mother up to share in his success as Man of the Year, Morgan/Morris leaves his GBS staff stunned by his revelations. Clark asks Lois, "What difference does it make?" and she answers, "None, of course--it's just interesting, that's all..."

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 07:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part I: "Preludes and Nocturnes" (cont'd)

select comicography (Superman related):

Superman nos. 305 (Nov. '76, cover Chua/Oksner), 306 (Dec. '76, cover Chua/Oksner), 310 (April '77, cover Lopez/Oksner)

So what was so all fired great about Pasko's debut as writer on the featured Superman stories? Why's India Ink make so much about this transplanted Canadian who took Elliot Maggin's place?

Well, first it's tempting to despise Pasko because it seems like he did take Elliot's place (and maybe Cary's, too). But I don't think this is quite accurate.

It seems like with "Who Took the Super out of Superman?" there were was already a force for change in place. This change may have even been in the air even before that story, but that story becomes the lightning rod for change.

On the one hand, it seems like the writers were pushing for that change--Maggin and Bates. On the other hand, I have my doubts. I think it was actually Schwartz lighting a fire under his writers. Pushing for changes to shake things up a little. "A little" not a lot. Maggin may have gotten too excited, and Schwartz obviously fought with him. But this doesn't mean Julie didn't want change. He just wanted measured steady change.

The "proof" of this is in that after Maggin removed himself, the changes kept going. Changes that Elliot had a hand in creating, kept going after he left. It doesn't seem in Julie's character to keep ideas that a rebel writer instituted. Schwartz would be more likely to dial back on the changes and push his new writers in a different direction.

Furthermore, it wasn't Pasko who took Maggin's place--it was Gerry Conway. Gerry Conway proceeds with the changes that Maggin and Bates wrought (even though the conclusion of the Out of Superman Saga pretended to put everything back the way it was). He ups the drama by introducing a newscaster groupie--Terri Cross, a leggy Mary Jane Watson wannabe who makes the moves on Clark. This gets Lois interested--and Beef Bourguinon passions erupt.

I haven't done the research--I'm relying on memory--but as I recall from my reading of comic fan publications, Gerry Conway came over to DC with the intent to stay, but then left for Marvel again, only to leave Marvel once more, after another short stint, and come over to DC again. This being so, I think that Conway may have been intended to stay on Superman as the permanent scripter. He introduces a bunch of sub-plots and new characters--more than he can deal with in the handful of issues he scripted--and then he leaves for Marvel.

My guess is that Pasko and Conway had some already established association. Pasko worked for Conway when Conway served as editor on some titles. They worked on stories together. There probably was a professional, and even a personal, association between the two writers. So that when Conway realized he would be unable to complete his plans for Superman, Pasko was tagged as his replacement.

The "proof" of Pasko's successorship to Conway is that he takes up some of the sub-plots that Gerry left lying around. Conway introduced a gangland character named Sam Simeon and he introduced Terri Cross. These two are abandoned. As is the whole mutant conspiracy introduced in 307 - 309--it may be that it was a one-off on Conway's part, a parody of the X-Men's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but it seems strange that mutants Radion and the Protector never appear again. BUT Marty continues to use Dr. Albert Michaels, and the criminal organization called Skull. He continues with the heated-up Clark & Lois plot, and he continues with the continuing--I mean that where continuity was self-contained (self-contained four parters like the Out of Superman Saga and Karb Brak tale, that come to a definite end), now events from previous issues lead into events of following issues without clear conclusions (the basic Marvel and current DC approach).

But there is a contrast between Conway's and Pasko's methods. One that is quickly apparent in 305. Where Conway attempts to shake things up with all new characters and plots, Pasko attempts to integrate old and new, to bring together elements of long ago with more recent developments. Where Conway just invents a new villain, Pasko is more likely to redefine an old villain (just as he and Simonson redefined an old hero in the person of Dr. Fate).

"The Man Who Toyed with Death!" (in 305, by Swoksner, 17 pages), takes the amiable white-haired character of Winslow P. Schott who had settled into a quiet existence with his toys (as seen in Action 432 (Feb. '74) "Target of the Toy-Men!" story: Bates) and turns his world upside down as seemingly Superman wrecks the Metropolis Coliseum where the Toyman's creations are on display. The act of destruction amounts to destroying the Toyman himself, destroying his children, his world, and pushes him into homicidal madness as he breaks into the building of the new Toyman (Jack Nimball), killing the doorman in the prosecution of his crimes, and then killing Nimball. The use of toys (objects associated with childhood and fun) makes the murders all the more macabre.

Likewise, Bizarro (the real wrecker of the coliseum), is brought back to the mis-shapen mockery of Superman that he once was. Instead of a silly story about a wierd cube-shaped planet (however delightful that might have been, it's not very useful as part of ongoing Superman continuity), Pesky Pasko provides a clash between the Man of Steel and his opposite. Bizarro is made all the more forlorn by the fact that his world has been destroyed, everything he loves is gone.

Where this two-parter fails is in trying to put everything back the way it was. Toyman realizes the truth and regrets his crimes. Bizarro realizes his world is not destroyed, he just got a bad bump on the head.

In 310 (art by Swan & Blaisdell, 17 pages) Pesky decides to bring back Metallo (whose only other appearance was in [i]Action[i] 252, May, 1959), the only problem is Metallo is dead! John Corben died when he tried to use a piece of pseudo-Kryptonite to fuel his robotic body (mistaking it for the real Green K). Roger Corben, the brother, however, is very much alive and an agent of Skull (set on avenging himself on Superman, who he blames for his brother's death).

His fellow Skull members, unfortunately, have deliberately set him up for an accidednt that crushes his body, allowing them to create a new Metallo (robotic body fuelled by synthetic Kryptonite, human head of Roger Corben). Meanwhile Dr. Albert Michaels has disappeared, and Lois has come to Clark's apartment to discuss her plans to leave Metropolis.

The fact is, this romance with Clark is doing her head in. She can't figure him out. The way he runs out on her, and then turns around and is this swell guy. And that's not really the point, either. The point is Clark is the consolation prize. Because she can't have Superman, she's settled for Clark--which isn't fair to either of them. But before Clark can talk things out with his love--while Lois is in the bathroom trying to pull herself together--Kent gets a call from Morgan Edge telling him that Steve Lombard is hanging from the goal post at the sports arena (captured by Skull and Metallo). Clark uses his heat vision to fuse the bathroom door shut, so Lois won't see him change to Superman, then he's flying off to rescue Lombard.

Handling Skull and Metallo takes longer than he thought (Metallo presumably self-destructs and dies), and when Superman returns to his apartment as Clark and releases Lois from the bathroom ("Six hours!! Have you ever been locked in a bathroom for six hours?"), Lois is in no mood to talk and walks out on him, slamming the door behind her. (While a robotic body in the police morgue stirs to life.)

(end of Part I, Part II to follow soon...)

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 07:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink

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India Ink
posted August 12, 2002 07:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
>phew< for a while there my last post wasn't showing up on my screen--thought I'd have to type that all over again (could be this thread is getting too long to load, though).

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India Ink
posted August 13, 2002 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part II: "Amalak Aversion (Touched for the Very First Time...)"

select comicography:

Superman nos. 311 (May '77, cover Lopez/Oksner), 312 (June '77, cover Lopez/Oksner), 313 (July '77, cover Dillin/Adams), 314 (Aug. '77, cover Swan/Adams)

Our story: last issue Lois was making plans to leave Metropolis and Clark...

NOW, in "Plague of the Antibiotic Man (no. 311, 17 pages), Lombard, Lane, and Kent are all on a train to Central City. Along with them is Jamie--Steve's nephew (Clark met the boy in issue 267). Lois is unreceptive to Lombard's advances (as Lois and Clark have split, the retired quarterback sees an open field and makes a pass). The three reporters are travelling to a journalists' conference outside Central City, but Lois also plans to make CC her new home.

At their hotel--a ski retreat outside the city--Jamie finds a stray dog. Meanwhile a mysterious figure shows up on the roof of the hotel and skiers are getting sick with an unexplained illness that leaves grey blotches on their bodies (this was around the time back in the seventies when Legionnaires' Disease was in the news, and in this fiction the plague is called "journalists' disease"). As Superman flies into action to save two stricken skiers from falling to their deaths from the ski-lift, another hero, a scarlet blur, speeds to the rescue. It's The Flash! After the two fast friends have done the hero bit, Lois corners the Central City Cyclone for an interview, when another reporter at the conference spots the infamous Ms. Lane--Iris West Allen--and she gives Lois a tongue lashing: "...You're looking forward to getting into as much trouble here as you did in that The Flash can save you every time--just like Superman used to?...I wouldn't count on it...rumor has it The Flash is a married man! Just as rumor has it that you're some kind of 'super-hero groupie'--"

At that moment, on the roof of the hotel, the Metropolis Marvel spots the mysterious figure and reveals him to be Nam-Ek! (Remember him?) Superman believes the immortal Kryptonian is the source of the plague and the fight is on. Before The Flash can do anything to intervene, he's sent into orbit by Nam-Ek's fist. As the super-fight travels the world to the West Indies, Superman uproots a volcano and pours its lava on the rondor-horned immortal. But then there is no trace of Nam-Ek and Superman realizes that there were fragments of Kryptonite in the lava--which must have disintegrated Nam-Ek!

Superman has committed murder. He has transgressed his oath, and now there is one thing left to do in keeping with his vow never to take a life, he must now cease to be Superman. But as he returns to the hotel in the guise of Clark Kent, determined in his resolve to hang up the cape, Lois falls to the floor stricken by the deadly plague. And that's where 311 ends.

Bob Oksner's last turn inking a Swan story was in 306 (Blaisdell stuck around inking Swan over in Action for some more months, but then he also was gone), and after that the search was on for a new permanent inker. Whether anyone was ever found to adequately fill the place of Oksner, Anderson, or even George Klein for that matter, is a topic of heated debate, which I'll not get bogged down in at this moment. When Garcia Lopez pencilled issues 307 to 309, a "new" inker came on board--Frank Springer. Springer was an old pro (both as penciller and inker). As I recall, around this time a new Spider-Man newspaper strip had started up. Stan Lee wrote it and Springer inked it, while I'm guessing Romita pencilled it (although honestly I'm not sure who the penciller was). It was very soap-opera. Very Mary Worth. Lee's Spider-Man had always been a soap opera, but this strip really worked the melodrama. Springer's inks suited that style. On Garcia Lopez, Springer wasn't so bad, but with this issue of Superman, 311, Springer was inking Swan and there was something about the art that was just false.

However, Springer continued as inker in 312 ("Today the City...Tomorrow the World" 17 pages), where we find Superman struggling to contain the deadly journalists' disease (which could become a wide-spread pandemic). Linda Danvers happens to also be at the journalists' conference, and as Supergirl she confers with her overwrought cousin (allowing for flashbacks of the previous issue). The cousins repair to the JLA satellite, where Green Lantern has rescued an unconscious Flash from his earthly orbit, but GL was delayed in performing his rescue because Superman's emergency transmission was garbled by an unknown teleportation beam, sent from high in space to the West Indies. The West Indies! So maybe Nam-Ek didn't disintegrate afterall, but was teleported away by a mysterious confederate in outer space!

Soon enough the cousins from Krypton are breaking into a space compound of Amalak, the Kryptonian Killer! Fighting both Amalak and Nam-Ek, Superman takes the fight with Nam-Ek outside into space, while Supergirl battles Amalak. But he's not the old space pirate he used to be. Indeed Amalak's body and his eyes have a green glow (not to mention his dishevelled appearance) and he's able to create a green energy wraith composed of electrical impulses from his brain (a trick he leaned while taking part in e.s.p. experiments in intergalactic prison). Subdued by the electric wraith, Supergirl wonders how Amalak got hung up on this vendetta against all Kryptonians--last thing she knew he was just a space pirate.

Meanwhile Superman has imprisoned Nam-Ek in a quartz case that filters out yellow sun radiation. Arriving back at the Amalak space compound, Supes finds his cousin being held at star cannon gunpoint by the Kryptonian Killer, and Kal-El doesn't stick around to play hero for his cuz, but takes Nam-Ek back to Earth where hopefully the powers of the healing horn will revive the ailing journalists (including Lois).

(to be continued)

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India Ink
posted August 13, 2002 08:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part II: "Amalak Aversion (Touched for the Very First Time...)" (continues...)

313--"The Only Way You'll Save the Over My Dead Body!" (17 pages, Adkins inks over Swan)

314--"Before this Night is Over, Superman will Kill!" (17 pages, Adkins inks over Swan)

It was the dog. It wasn't Nam-Ek it was the dog. The dog was the source of the disease that infected the journalists, including Lois.

In his quartz prison, Nam-Ek is set down in the make-shift quarantine room at the ski retreat, where his horn will radiate its healing effects to cure the afflicted (this is Superman's hope). But Supes as Clark soon tumbles to the fact that the dog is really an alien creature.

The creature takes many forms--a stray dog, an impersonation of Supergirl, and a wierd seventies style alien with orange skin. None of these are real version of the creature--although the orange skinned alien allows Dillin and Adams to do one of those seventies style covers for 313--all with a purple background on the cover (ah if only Carmine had still been publisher to see this, he would have been proud). I'm sure that purple cover sold a lot of copies.

We don't get the real scoop on this infectious alien until the next ish, in 314.

Jamie impotently harangues Superman, pleading with him not to kill his dog (this scene plays out on that purple cover of 313, at the end of 313, and at the beginning of 314)--Jamie doesn't see the Dillin/Adams/Swan/Adkins orange alien version of his adopted pet, just the cute pup. But then Jamie also falls unconscious, his skin a mass of grey blotches as the disease takes effect at last. For it is anger and excitement that triggers the illness.

In revery and in conversation with Steve Lombard, the Man of Steel gives the inside skinny on the orange creature. The infectious alien--called Jevik--was brought to Earth by Amalak who knew that it would infect the humans.

In its actual form, Jevik looks a rather docile little creature--cartoonish bug-eyed beast with an elongated snout. Jevik is one of the Klynn. In their living form, the Klynn are 30 times larger, and function like most carbon-based life-forms. But when they die, they shrink and continue to exist though in fact dead. So Superman has no qualms about destroying the shrunken Jevik as it isn't really alive, afterall.

But just then, from a secret hiding place--Amalak blows on a whistle like device that releases musical vibrations causing Jevik to increase by 30 times its size. Thus the beast really is alive, afterall. And Superman can't kill it, given his oath.

Jevik wreaks havoc on a local hamburger franchise, and Superman berates the animal with the golden arches. Then he uses the same arches to hog-tie the orange creature. But the journalists' disease hasn't been arrested. The panic in the city will cause it to spread to a point where it will become unmanageable (for as patients are cured, others waiting for treatment will die).

Thus the Metropolis Marvel flies to the JLA satellite to get some special equipment, only to discover that's where Amalak is hiding out. Amalak tries to use his wierd whistle on the Man of Might, but can't stop Superman's punishing blows. As Superman closes his eyes to resist the effects of Amalak's psychic assault, one of his errant blows happens to hit the Gamma-Gong of Kanjar Ro (on display in the JLA's satellite HQ)--and the alien bell paralyzes Amalak.

The Man of Tomorrow then follows through on his mission to save Central City from a potential pandemic and seeds the clouds with a tranquilizer.

Returning to the satellite, Superman finds the Kryptonian Killer at death's door. While the Last Son of Krypton was away on his mission, Amalak recovered enough to train an alien death-ray on himself (he had hoped Superman would think his death was the result of the Gamma Gong, and thus blaming himself the Man of Steel would be haunted by guilt over Amalak's death--but the Man of Tomorrow isn't so easily fooled).

"Thus--in bitterness--Amalak dies!"

GL, Flash, and Supergirl join Superman--Supergirl is none the worse for all Amalak's attempts to kill her. Supergirl promises to take care of Amalak's body while Superman goes Earthside to see Lois.

(next: the last page of 314)

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India Ink
posted August 13, 2002 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part II: "Amalak Aversion (Touched for the Very First Time)" (concludes)

But before I get to that last page, allow me to elaborate on another matter.

Certain issues are left unresolved in this arc.

1. being how Superman knows so much about Nam-Ek (this question was raised by Supergirl in the original back-up story, in 282) & 2. being how Amalak became the Kryptonian Killer (again Supergirl raises questions about this herself in 312).

It doesn't seem that Pesky Pasko would introduce these complications and raise questions about them through Supergirl unless he had a prepared solution for both.

In 316's lettercolumn, Beth Montelone asks why Amalak was so altered in appearance and behaviour--and ENB answers her thus: "...As for Amalak, Marty had it all figured out from the first--but then didn't have room to put it in--after four issues, yet! But if he can figure out a way to bring Amalak back to life, he promises to clear it all up!"

So Marty had planned an explanation but then was caught short with not enough room for it.

I have my own theory of how this might have played out. It ties in with Superman knowing about Nam-Ek. A hint is provided when Amalak states in 312: "Krypton destroyed my home-world! I will have vengeance upon it! Every survivor of its destruction--Superman, Supergirl, the bottle-city of Kandor--all of them will die at my hands!"

And it ties in with why there's so much Kryptonite appearing again on Earth--when it should be iron. The rest of the Kryptonite in the universe was supposed to be gathered together to form Krypton 2, in orbit around the old red sun.

But maybe I'll let that hang for awhile and get on with the last page of 314...

>sigh< quite a moving scene (and that's a big understatement--)

CAPTION: Presently, Clark Kent visits the infirmary...

CLARK (thought): My friends--Jamie Lombard...Lola darling Lois--recovered!
...Thanks to the healing ray from Nam-Ek's horn! I'll have to figure out what to do about him... but that can wait...
(speaking): Lois, darling--thank God you're alive! I came so close to losing you...
I won't lose you again! I won't let you move away from Metropolis now!

LOIS: Forget about that, Clark...
I have! My brush with death made me realize I love my life the way it is!

CLARK: And what about me? Can you love me, too? Please, Lois...forget Superman...
Marry me!

(close-up panel on Lois, those Swan eyes) LOIS: I'll say "yes"...without a moment's hesitation...
If you tell me right now--that Clark Kent is Superman!

CAPTION (at the bottom of this panel): Lois... Lois! Superman is proposing to you! --But must you make him say it? This is it--the moment you've dreamed of for years! Don't spoil it!

(next panel shows the grim face of CK) CAPTION: And you, Clark! Forget that the timing is all wrong now...forget that you shouldn't reveal your secret to Lois--not here--not like this! Forget all that--Just do it!
But you can't!--can you--?

(next panel shows a sad Clark) CAPTION: No...and though you wish it could be otherwise..though for the first time you can remember, your heart beats wildly in your say what you must...

CLARK: I...I'm sorry, Lois...I...can't tell you that...

(final panel shows Lois in the foreground looking away with one tear, while Clark's back is to her as he heads for the door in the background) LOIS (thought): Of course you can't, Clark...and now I finally know the truth!
You can't tell me you're Superman...
Because it isn't true!

CAPTION (at the bottom of this panel): So close they've come, these people who love each other...and now they're so very far apart!

end CAPTION: But let us leave them now--in their silence and sadness...for we can give no comfort in the sorrow of a dream denied...


(>choke< end of part amongst yourselves)

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Osgood Peabody
posted August 14, 2002 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Osgood Peabody   Click Here to Email Osgood Peabody
I remember feeling let down when I first read this. It seems like Lois Lane suddenly regresses 10 years in this scene, back to the shrewish, Superman-chasing caricature of the worst sixties stories.

You could interpret her reaction to mean that her entire romance with Clark had an ulterior motive, namely that she still suspected all along he's Superman, so she pursued him on that basis alone, and then drops him like a ton of bricks when he refuses to confess it.

The Lois of 1977 deserved better treatment - and I think we readers did too.

Maybe I'm being too kind to Marty, but I still suspect this was driven by meddling from above (Schwartz? Warner Bros.?) who were committing major $ to the Superman movie, and didn't want the comic book to depart too much from the established Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle.

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India Ink
posted August 14, 2002 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
At the moment I'm pressed for time so I can't give a fuller response, Osgood, but I have to part company with you on this issue.

I can understand how in other circumstances I might feel as you did, and I accept some of the probable facts as you've stated them, but my reaction when I first read this scene was very different from yours.

I can't think how Lois or the readers could have deserved any better--given the circumstances--than what Martin Pasko gave them.

This is one of the best scenes in a comic book I've yet to read. It affects me still. I really was choked up at the end of my last post. That scene is real for me.

I'll have to leave it there for now.

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Osgood Peabody
posted August 14, 2002 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Osgood Peabody   Click Here to Email Osgood Peabody
Well - I should clarify that while I had my reservations re: Lois' reaction, I do agree it is a moving and memorable scene.

In fact, in a term paper I wrote in 1982 on comic books, I excerpted about 20 or so pages from various comics over the years, including Deadman, GL/GA, the Walt Simonson Manhunter, etc. The last one I included was the final page of this story.

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Continental Op
posted August 14, 2002 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Continental Op
Thanks for this monumental examination of Pesky's Superman-writing career.

Despite his fairly long run, at a time when Superman was very prominent in the public eye, Pasko is often overlooked.

And you managed to cover a lot of bases I'd been meaning to get to. One of these days I'll find the time to write up some of the thoughts I've had brewing...

Pasko was an extremely intricate plotter. He grew up on the densely plotted, two or three story-per-issue comics of the Silver Age, and his specialty as a letterhack was picking apart these stories in excruciating detail and reserving his rare praise only for the best. You might say he was like one of thos eteachers who refuses to even consider grading on the curve. So he would have to be an intricate plotter himself.

Sometimes his plots were TOO dense. In the Bronze Age, they no longer had to be confined to five, ten or even twenty pages and could spill over from issue to issue, so Pasko took advantage of this. He could write a concise little back-up story like the "Private Life" features and do so very well, but when he was allowed to expand, I think he often went a little overboard. Compare the Morgan Edge "coming out" tale, or the anniversary origin special in ACTION COMICS #500, where he necessarily had to confine himself to a certain amount of space, to the SUPERMAN multi-parters. The shorter tales have excellent moments of pure characterization, while in the longer ones the characterization sometimes seems to suffer at the expense of plot. Bates or Maggin would use a "MacGuffin", as Hitchcock called it, a central gimmick for the story to orbit around, with characterization added through the dialogue. Pasko would come up with a central gimmick that radiated other gimmicks outward, and thre characters often had to use up most of their dialogue in exposition. In the Weisinger days, characters usually sounded like robots, talking AT each other rather than to each other (really, talking AT the reader)and constantly explaining things in excruciating detail. In Pasko, this tendency returns.But instead of the Weisinger dialogue, which assumes the reader is a dummy and has to be told things, Pasko seems more interested in showing the readers how clever PASKO is. His plots become so complicated that the villains spend most of the time explaining what their scheme is, Superman spends most of his time talking to himself or others about what their scheme is, Superman's friends talk among themselves about how Superman is coping with the scheme, Superman explains how he figured out and beat the scheme, etc. .Bates and Maggin and even Conway and Wein followed this model, too, but they almost ALWAYS seemed to be more interested in the characterization (well, maybe not Bates) than showing off their plotting skills, and they were never as "in your face" about it as Pasko.

I know you'll disagree vehemently with me on this, India, but I think this tendency often strips all the genuine emotion out of Pasko's stories.

Pasko was great, for example, at coming up with MOTIVATIONS for his villains to be so evil; but the villains usually describe their motivations out loud, in such clinical, dispassionate detail, that they seem to be reading off a teleprompter instead of baring their souls and seeking a little Sympathy for the Devil.

Similarly, in that Lois / Clark "breakup" scene from #314, I don't get choked up at all, despite the effect it had on you. The two sound like lawyers stating their cases to me, instead of lovers being torn apart. One panel of tears being shed can't break through all that eloquent (TOO eloquent for the situation) description of their feelings. It's as if Pasko is merely using the characters as mouthpieces to describe what HE (or Schwartz, or whoever chose the breakup) feels their relationship has come to.

(Of course, in the interests of full disclosure, I have never found much appeal in the Superman-Lois romance,especially the Clark-Lois aspect. Sheer, unmitigated heresy, I know. But... except for that brief period in the mid-Forties when they had a terrific kind of "1930s Grant-and-Hepburn / Russell screwball comedy" chemistry going on, or in some of the Schaffenberger Lois stories, especially the Mr.and Mrs. Superman toned-down reprisal of the Forties stuff... I just never bought the "meant for each other" crap. In every other era, I either saw Lois as an annoying you-know-what, or the writers trying to force-feed me a caring, compassionate, "spunky" Lois as a candidate for sainthood. Like Lou Grant, "I hate spunk". But that's a road I don't particularly want to go down on this thread...I just mentioned it so you could know my bias.)

Anyway, wasn't I talking about Martin Pasko? Ah,yes. Despite all this, I do think his Superman run was damn good! I just think it benefited from the occasional reining in. As I said, he COULD write great characterization when the plot didn't tend to overwhelm it. And he WAS a damn good plotter. So there.

We've seen his tendency to keep bringing up all these intriguing things only to back off again, or sputter to an unsatisfying conclusion:

In the Morgan Edge "origin", Pasko hit a home run, and the idea seemed popular with the fans... yet Mrs. Edelstein never appeared again, and Edge mostly seemed to ignore his humble origins from then on, despite the public revelation. There was a SUPERMAN FAMILY story about his old childhood rival, but I can't think of much else to show Edge had really learned anything.

(Actually, I wonder if Pasko was inspired at all in his redefinition of Edge by... don't laugh... F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. Gatsby, as I dimly recall, began life as Gatz, and spent time as both sailor and gambler accumulating his fortune and putting on the false front he presents to Nick Carraway. But Pasko never really gives Edge his "Daisy"... his reason for the quest. He's looking for respect, but what else? Wouldn'tit be cool if he did it all to one day win the heart of Lola Barnett... if she was the green light he stared out at in the darkness every night from his penthouse? Well, maybe not.

And for the record, Jack Kirby created Edge to be pretty much what he was in those early JIMMY OLSENs... a heartless rat. It was Bridwell and Robert Kanigher who decided, in LOIS LANE, to introduce a more sympathetic Edge to the cast, and dismiss the original as a clone. Kirby based Edge on CBS executive James Aubrey, the so-called "Smiling Cobra" of broadcasting, and (visually) on actor Kevin McCarthy... cf. THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #32)

Then, in the Bizarro-Toyman two-parter, Pasko restores them to their original sense of macabre menace. The scene where Toyman casually flings a razor-sharp frisbee to slice open the security guard's throat is genuinely chilling. Here he has the potential to become a villain as crazy/dangerous as the Joker or as crazy/tragic as Two-Face. Yet the next time Pasko writes them, they're back to their goofy,ineffectual selves. It must have been by choice, since the letter columns wildly praised their return to their roots. What was he thinking? Did he regret reinjecting some bite to the "wacky" villains, or did he feel it was merely a creative dead end? I guess we'll never know.

Then there's the whole Amalak mess. As much as I enjoy those issues (especially the electro-surrogate, and the bits with Flash and Iris, and Swan drawing Supergirl in her hot pants-era costume)it HURTS to think about them too much. I don't buy Superman's "out" in fighting Jevvik... living is living,and dead is dead. He's sentient, and animated, and capable of RETURNING to a living state... then he's ALIVE, darn it. And how DID Supes know about Nam-Ek? And what WAS the deal with Amalak taking on the personality of the space-explorer he'd duped into hating all Kryptonians way back in issue #195's classic Jim Shooter story? It was the young explorer's planet that was destroyed by Krypton's explosion,not Amalak's... or did the explosion of Krypton II (which Pasko revealed in issue #323) DESTROY AMALAK'S PLANET TOO? Holy Too Much Coincidence! Or did they just merge minds in that ESP experiment? Pesky's not doing his job if he leaves me wondering about this! Sure, Schwartz probably put the brakes on and told him four issues, enough was enough, wrap it up NOW... but it was Pasko who let that much plot build up to the point it had nowhere to go. Twenty-five years later and we'll never find out now!

Still, as I said, I LIKE Pasko's stories... and I probably sound a bit like the famously hard-to-please Pesky One myself here, in his letterhack days.

There are worse people to be compared to.


BTW India, I'll be interested to see your comments when you get up to SUPERMAN #330, near the end of Pasko's run.

After all, it not only features a "New Look" at a Schwartz-era BATMAN villain, of all things, it reveals a plot twist that is simultaneously one of the most ingenious and most ill-conceived in the entire Superman canon.

But it was all worth it to see Superman donning his Clark Kent specs to look at himself in the mirror, and uttering those immortal lines:


And it wasn't a hoax... or a dream... or....

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India Ink
posted August 14, 2002 07:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
"Ingenious and ill-conceived" exactly my sentiments--but that will have to wait for some time, until I get round to the seventh or ninth part of my progress reports.

And yes the plots are very dense. It's maddening trying to post on these extended plots--what do I mention? what do I leave out? I have to sit and think trying to figure what really is the storyline here. It's a mindbender.

I think Marty took some pride in all this. In the upcoming Metallo multi-parter (Part III, which I should get around to in a day or so), he has Curt draw a jigsaw puzzle, with all the pieces being part of the sprawling storyline he's constructed.

Op, your comments actually made me think of Howard Hawks (the brilliant director of such greats as "Only Angels Have Wings," "I was a Male Warbride," "Bringing up Baby," "The Big Sleep," "To Have and To Have Not," "Man's Favorite Sport," "Rio Bravo," and many more). "The Big Sleep" is a notoriously confusing movie based on a notoriously confusing book. And other Hawks movies arise to similar confusion. "His Girl Friday" complicates the Ben Hecht story by having Hildie be a woman, and then further having the stars talk over each other at high speed.

If Pasko was going to fit in his Amalak explanation, it would have been quite complex, I think. I figure issue 313 was where this was supposed to happen--the story as it is is kinda light in that one. Maybe Pasko would have dropped the Jevik stuff (which makes me think of the generational cycle of a jellyfish), and would have dealt with Amalak--Amalak stands there with his star cannon, going off at the mouth to Supergirl... Which would have left hardly any room for Superman or super-heroic action.

What drives the last page of 314 is the captions. Marty is speaking as a fan of Siegel, Hamilton, Binder, Dorfman, Shooter, Bates, O'Neil, and Maggin. He speaks for us, with our intimate knowledge of these characters. We know the impossible ****ed-up nature of their inter-relationship, which stands as some kind of metaphor for all our own ****ed-up romantic endeavours. We want the one outcome, but we are resigned to the only outcome that is possible under the circumstances.

Pasko had a choice. Maggin and Bates introduce the Clark/Lois passionate affair, but they also put it away. Conway could have avoided using it, but instead heated things up again. Pasko could have put aside this storyline (with just one balloon of dialogue) or he could have continued to heat it up endlessly with no real conclusion. Instead he posed the question to himself, "what is the conclusion of this storyline?" He came up with the answer--Clark has to ask Lois to marry him. But Marty also had to know that that marriage was impossible. Only a few dreamy eyed comic book readers at the time actually believed Clark could marry Lois. Marrying Lois would have killed the Superman comics. So Pasko then asked himself why Lois wouldn't marry Clark.

Lois is a complex mix of characteristics. Early seventies writers tried to deny Lois Lane's past. But Pasko is a writer who integrates all the different concepts into hopefully one fusion of them all. So his Lois is true to her nature. And what she asks of Clark--while an aspect of her own self-destructive impulses--is not really so wrong. She demands truth from a man who is going to marry her. And if he can't be honest, then why is he wanting her to marry him?

Really down deep Lois knows that Clark is Superman--she just needs to hear him say it, as a proof of his love. Down deep Clark knows she knows. But when push comes to shove, he can't admit the truth of things and escapes back into the lie. Lois still knows the real truth, but she has to now accept the only truth that is allowed in this situation. The truth has to be that Clark isn't Superman--because if the real truth is allowed, then that means Superman doesn't love her enough to sacrifice everything and break down and be honest for once. Either Clark isn't Superman, or Superman doesn't love her. She chooses to hold to the fiction that Superman loves her, and therefore Clark isn't Superman. But we all know what's really true.

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India Ink
posted August 15, 2002 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part III: "UNCHAIN My Heart--"

select comicography (all Superman, all Pasko, all Swan):

# 315 (Sept. '77, cover Milgrom & Abel): "Good Evening, Superman--I'm Clark Kent...and You're Not!" (17 pages, inks Dan Adkins).

# 316 (Oct. '77, cover Garcia Lopez): "The 'Heart Attack' that Crippled Superman!" (17 pages, inks Dan Adkins).

# 317 (Nov. '77, cover Neal Adams): "The Killer with the Heart of Steel!" (17 pages, inks Dan Adkins).

# 318 (Dec. '77, cover Buckler & Oksner): "The Wreck of the Cosmic Hound" (17 pages, inks Francisco Chiaramonte)

I should also mention around this time they were giving credits for colorists and letterers. Color credits are given in all of the above, and Jerry Serpe did them all. Lettering credits are given for issue 316 onward and Ben Oda is named for all.

I remember in the early seventies there was something I couldn't quite figure out about Morgan Edge that just made me cringe. Continental Op's comment that Kevin McCarthy was the visual model for Edge turned the light bulb on above my head. Because (with all apologies to McCarthy and his family) there's always been something about McCarthy that made me cringe. My sister is even worse--Kevin McCarthy in any movie or TV show is more than she can stand.

So when Edge was re-imagined as Morris Edelstein, I think that went some distance in softening his image for me. It wasn't like nails on a chalkboard for me anymore. Even though his Edeltstein past was never really mentioned after that, I remembered it and that was good enough to make me kinda like the smiling cobra.

In Maggin's Blackrock story from Action 458 - 459, Morgan Edge's rival at U.B.C. (United Broadcating Company), Sam Tanner, turned out to be the tele-genic champion--even though resident UBC scientist, Dr. Peter Silverstone, actually created Blackrock.

Issue 315 sees Silverstone again under pressure from Tanner to conjure up the "Avenger of the Airwaves" for his TV comeback (Tanner doesn't realize that he was ever Blackrock). This time Silverstone switches the TV-antenna weapon, that Blackrock originally used, for an obsidian picture tube, which looks like a black rock. And Silverstone casts Tanner's nephew, Les Vegas, in the part. Vegas--an obvious Chevy Chase stand-in--is a featured performer on the "Friday Night Revue"--a big hit for UBC.

After having used Nam-Ek to cure everyone in Central City, and after having sent Nam-Ek into the Phantom Zone, Superman discovers that Skull agents are in the West Indies recovering green K from the cooling magma that he had used on Nam-Ek. Once he has subdued the trio of agents and bagged them in his cape, Superman abruptly meets up with Blackrock. First using his vision powers to determine that Sam Tanner is still at his UBC office, Supes next tries x-ray vision on Blackrock himself.

The x-rays can't penetrate the mask, but they do happen to travel through the blackrock obsidian picture tube, causing some kind of delayed mind transference for the two costumed adversaries.

Meanwhile other plots are going on. Edge plans to pair up Kent with a newswoman as co-anchor on the channel 8 broadcasts--just like ABC did with Barbara Walters and Harry Reasoner. "It isn't...Lola Barnett is it?" Clark asks timidly. And Edge blows up at him--"I've told you a hundred times never to mention that no-good back-stabber to me again!!" [I wonder if maybe there really wasn't some secret sexual tension between Morgan and Lola.]

At the same time, Lola is that week's celebrity host of the "Friday Night Revue," but when Vegas puts on a Clark Kent mask to do the "Evening New Update" bit on "Friday Night," he suddenly becomes just as boring as the real Kent. While Clark in his apartment with a visiting Jonathan Ross (that kid again!) starts doing Vegas schtick--falling down like Gerald Ford.

Then Vegas rips open his suit to reveal a Superman costume underneath, but as he watches the TV Jon convinces Clark as Vegas/Blackrock to go after his enemy Superman (the actual Vegas/Blackrock) at the UBC TV studio. So the mind-switched pair fight it out, until the real Superman overcomes Blackrock/Vegas and Les Vegas ends up not remembering any of it.

But on the last page, Superman shows up at STAR answering a call from Dr. Klyburn who has been examining the corpses of the Skull agents he subdued. Corpses because their hearts have been replaced with seeming lumps of Kryptonite!

Actually not really Kryptonite, but rocks made to look like Kryptonite--as we discover in 316. Meanwhile at the morgue, Metallo's body is gone. Now, at the Metropolis Museum of Natural History, where a specimen of newly found green K is on display, Superman confronts the metal-masked Metallo in the act of steeling the rock. The Man of Tomorrow chases after the robotic rogue as he escapes on his sky-sled, into the Metropolis Bay Tunnel. But as a pedestrian cop is pushed into traffic by Metallo, Superman must give up the chase.

Next, at WGBS, another scene between Edge and Kent, as the boss informs Clark that he's no longer associate producer of the 6 o'clock news and introduces the anchorman to the new a.p.--Martin Korda. Then, in the hallway, Kent and Korda meet Lois Lane, newly arrived from Central City--and as they get on the elevator, Korda misses the car and the two ex-lovers are left alone. Lois wants to talk, but Clark is in no mood--and spotting Metallo with his x-ray vision, Kent does one of his disappearing acts on Lois, again.

Which brings us to the big conclusion of 316, in the caves of State Caverns. As Superman tries to stop Metallo from absconding with a bag of souvenir rocks, the bag of loot rips opens and gives Supes a face full of deadly green K. The chase continues, as the weakened Man of Steel pursues his fearsome foe through the caverns. Then Supes uses his heat vision to break off a stalactite which falls and pierces Metallo's Kryptonite heart.

But as the Kryptonite weary Man of Tomorrow turns his back on the villain, Metallo busts the stalactite over Superman's head, knocking him prone in the Kryptonite dust.

(to be continued)

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India Ink
posted August 15, 2002 05:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part III: "UNCHAIN My Heart--" (conclusion)

317--This has one of those Neal Adams covers. You know the kind I mean. The kind you remember years after, even if you don't remember the story. One of those macho Adams covers that virtually scream out at you from the comic rack.

It shows a muscle flexing Superman, his skin all green, with black energy lines radiating out from him. In green balloons he's saying: "In seconds the Kryptonite implanted in my body will kill me...
...But before I die...I'm taking you with me!!"

At the story's beginning, Metallo stands over the prostrate Superman, holding his fist in the air in grand super-villain style, proclaiming that he will take Superman's invulnerable heart and put it in his robotic body--and then he will be IMMORTAL.

This is the comic with the jigsaw puzzle pieces (on pages 3 & 4), such as...Skull, the Skull agents with green rock hearts, Metallo's lead mask concealing a new secret identity, a newspaper announcing that Dr. Albert Michaels has vanished, a top secret experimental device that vanished with Michaels, the Metropolis Bay Tunnel, State Caverns, and lots of question marks.

Somewhere in a Metropolis hotel, his face in shadow, Metallo muses over his grand scheme. Knowing that Michaels was the one responsible for changing him from Roger Corben into a metallic freak, Metallo stole Michaels' new top secret device and left a message for the Dr. threatening his life--and that's when Michaels skipped town. The device is a transmaterializing cannon that allows Corben to exchange real hearts for green rocks.

While Metallo has gone to his hotel lair for the transmaterializing device, Superman has dragged his body into an underground stream to escape the deadly Green K ravaging his body. Then Supes tracks down two Skull agents driving an armoured car, but must leave them to pursue an anti-matter missile, and when he returns he finds their corpses--their hearts exchanged for green rock. Inside the armoured car: a cache of green K ingots!

Metallo returns to the cave only to find Superman gone. Then as morning dawns on a new day, Clark encounters his new associate producer, Martin Korda (who sort of looks like Tony Stark). Then later while talking with Lois about her investigations into Skull (over in Superman Family no. 184), everything comes together for Clark and he breaks into Korda's office (which used to be Clark's office), finding books in Korda's desk drawer--Up, Up and Away: The Biography of Superman by Lois Lane, The History of Heart Transplants, and Experimental Cybernetics.

Meanwhile, the last three surviving Skull agents are gathered in their secret HQ around their skull shaped desk, when Metallo comes to call. Before the robotic rogue can follow through on his efforts to kill them, Superman breaks up the party, then Metallo trains his transmaterializing device on Superman's heart, exchanging green K for a Kryptonian heart, and Superman crumbles to the floor his skin now green, just as Lois walks in.

Metallo knocks out two of the remaining Skull agents, but then himself falls to the floor. And as Lois kneels over the lifeless body of Superman, the Metropolis Marvel sits up and informs her that it was all just an elaborate ruse. At superspeed he held up a lead canister containing the heart of a deceased Kandorian, thus that heart was exchanged for the green K--which is now in the canister. And Superman figured out that Metallo tended to operate at early morning hours (when few radio signals are in the air) or in underground areas that jam radio signals. So he arranged for police radio signals to barrage the robotic rogue incapacitating Metallo.

Just then Dr. Michaels unmasks himself as the last remaining Skull agent and uses the transmaterializing device to transport himself from the presence of Superman...

Originally posted by garythebari:
All I know about Superman is from the 1960s and earlier, or post-crisis. I don't believe I have ever seen a Superman comic book from the 70s, much less read one. So when it comes to Superman in the 70s and early 80s I have no idea what I'm talking about. (Space provided here for cheap shots.)

Some posters have told me there was a good continuity going on in that period of time, but I have not been able to find any 70s stuff even at the largest comics store in our area. 60s yes, 70s no. Would anyone care to fill me in on the events, the chronology, the major Superman adventures in the 70s? (I posted something like this for the 1986 through 2000 era a while back. If anyone read it, that's the kind of thing I'm looking for.)

I know there was a while that Clark and Lana worked at a TV station, but that's about it.


...In the last four panels of 317, at a WGBS staff meeting with Clark Kent in attendance, Edge introduces the new find for the WGBS news, Clark's new co-anchor, Lana Lang!

In flashback to the end of this staff meeting, at the opening of issue 318, Clark and Lana have a lively dialogue, talking of old times and Smallville and her decision to come back from Europe and accept the new GBS assignment. Lana's lingo is much affected, reflecting all those years on the continent I guess.

But the Smallville duo don't have very much time to catch up before Superman is called away by an urgent message from Prof. Milius of the Olympus Observatory, and soon the Cosmic Kryptonian is travelling across the solar system and into a hole in space.

The rest of the story that unfolds puts me in mind of "The Starry-Eyed Siren of Space" (issue 243, Oct. '71, by Bates and Swanderson) as Superman discovers an odd ship wrecked on a desolate planet (the space-ship looks like an oceanic vessel--something I kind of like, given my passion for ERB's John Carter of Mars in which Barsoomians navigate similar such vessels across the skies of the red planet).

It's a wierd science tale (also, like "Starry-Eyed..." it seems inspired by old episodes of Star Trek--eg. "The Cage), in which a pirate astronaut, Pegleg Portia, ended up shipwrecked on a planet where the dominant lifeform are dogs. A pack of these dogs adopted her--instead of eating her as they should have done--and were shunned by the rest of their clan. They left the dog planet, and successive generations of dogs continued to keep her as their charge as they travelled through space on the ship.

Near the end of the story, Superman returns Portia to her barren homeplanet, where her people died-out centuries ago. Portia herself should have died except for being kept alive and young by the dogs. The Man of Steel wants to keep Portia alive instead of allowing her to have the death she desires. But the psychic dogs have come to understand the truth, that their care for Portia is enslavement and out of love they wish for her to have her passing.

Superman remembers words his father, Jonathan Kent, spoke to him when he was Superboy, reminding him that he is just a man, not a god. It is not for him to choose between life or death--only the All Mighty can make that decision.

And at the story's end the dogs are gathered at Portia's grave, baying their mourning howls to the moon.

(end of part III)

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India Ink
posted August 16, 2002 03:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part IV: "--Aren't We a Pair"

select comicography (non Superman related):

Justice League of America no. 147 (Oct. '77) "Crisis in the 30th Century!" (story: Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko; art: Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin; 32 pages)

Justice League of America no. 148 (Nov. '77) "Crisis in Triplicate!" (story: Pasko (with assist by Levitz); art: Dillin and McLaughlin; 34 pages)

Alter Ego vol. 3, no. 7 (Winter 2001) "Crises on Finite Earths" (editor: Roy Thomas; a TwoMorrows publication)

Before I progress with the Superman comics, I thought I'd flash around in time for a bit to cover some other Pasko projects that tie-in with his run on Superman (although some might seem fairly irrelevant).

As I said in part I, Pasko seemed to pair up with other writers on different projects. He worked on the '76 JLA/JSA (and Fawcett) crossover with E.N.B. And then for '77 he was teamed up with Paul Levitz for that summer's JLA/JSA crossover which brought the Legion into the annual event--at a time when JLofA was a double-sized monthly.

As an addendum to his All-Star Companion (published by TwoMorrows), Roy Thomas gave a run down of all the JLA/JSA crossovers in Alter-Ego, v. 3, no. 7. Included in this were blurbs--mostly short interviews--on all the writers who worked on the crossovers. A couple of the writers had passed away, of course (E.N.B. and orginal writer Gardner Fox), but the rest of the living writers were all contacted. And all responded and agreed to be interviewed except for two--Martin Pasko and Cary Bates--neither of these two even responded to Roy Thomas.

For Fox and Bridwell, Thomas relied on surviving interviews--for ENB he used part of an interview from Amazing World of DC Comics no. 16 (April '78). He also included an excerpt from AWODCC 14 (March '77) on Marty: "Pasko was assigned story premises by Julius Schwartz to use as springboards, and hence had a problem-solving approach to the scripts...[He] also wrote the dialogue for the JLA-JSA team-up in JLA # 135 - 137 over E. Nelson Bridwell's plot and breakdowns in a story that attempted to bridge the gap between the straight heroes of the JLA and the more humorous heroes of the Marvel Family."

For the Legion crossover, Roy Thomas was able to get an e-mail from the now publisher of DC Comics, Paul Levitz:


At the time of JLA # 147 - 148, I was writing both All-Star Comics with the JSA and The Legion of Super-Heroes, so I suppose I was a logical candidate to work on the crossover. I wasn't one of Julie's regular writers, though. At the time I hadn't sold him any scripts (or probably even tried, since I was having a tough enough time keeping up with all the deadlines I had overcommitted myself to with other editors).

Marty Pasko was one of Julie's regulars, though, and Marty and I were splitting an apartment in the Village at the time, so somewhere along the way we must have decided to collaborate and talked Julie into it.

The first part of the two-parter was a fairly active collaboration. If I go by my files, the plot outline is from my typewriter, with some handwritten page breaks not in my handwriting. The first 13 pages of script seem to come from my typewriter, too, but includes some notes to Marty, so I guess he was going to second-draft or edit-before-the-editor. For the balance of the issue, I just did the panel breakdowns and art directions.

The second part lists in my records as a co-plot only, and I have no written files on it, so I probably did no work at the keyboard, just kibitzing. As I said, I was pretty overcommitted at the time, and might have just dumped it in Marty's lap.

It looks as though I started the story around January 1977, and while I was capable of solid writing by then (I had just finished the JSA Origin, which remains one of my personal favorite jobs), I was doing very uneven work overall. Fun assignments were coming my way for the first time in my writing career, and I was grabbing too many--and blowing a fair number, either by having to do only a part of the job, and belatedly splitting the plot/dialogue chores, or by rushing. I've always lumped the one JLA/JSA I got to do with these errors, and regretted it deeply because of my love for Gardner Fox's run.

The first comic I ever bought was the beginning of the first JLA/JSA crossover [JLA # 21, 1963], and a blow-up of that cover still hangs in my office to remind me of the magic that comics can have.

(to be continued)

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India Ink
posted August 16, 2002 04:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Pesky's Progress--part IV: "--Aren't We a Pair" (continues)

select comicography (Superman related):

Superman Spectacular 1977(DC Special Series No. 5; cover: Garcia Lopez & Giordano) "The Second Coming of Superman" (story: Cary Bates, assisted by Martin Pasko, based on an idea by John LaMartine; art: Curt Swan and Vince Colletta; 63 pages).

Superman Family no. 184 (July-Aug. '77; cover: Neal Adams) Superman: "The Mysterious Misdemeanors of the Prankster" (story: Martin Pasko; art: Kurt Schaffenberger & Bob Smith; 8 pages)

Superman Family no. 185 (Sept.-Oct. '77; cover: Neal Adams) Superman: "The Great Superman Locked-Room Puzzle" (story: Martin Pasko; art: Kurt Schaffenberger & Vince Colletta, 8 pages)

Around the same time as the JLA/JSA crossover, and around the same time as a few of the issues mentioned in part III of these progress reports, the "Superman Spectacular" (or however you want to title it--Dollar Comic Special, DC Special Series, etc.) must have been out. The featured story, "The Second Coming of Superman" is mentioned more fully on page 17 of this thread. Pasko had a hand in the writing of that story, collaborating with Cary Bates, although Bates seems to have done most of the work.

This story which pairs up Luthor and Brainiac, has a vague sense of where it fits in continuity. Lois does seem to care for Clark to a degree, so it may be that the story was intended to fit somewhere before Superman 310, although it came out on the stands well after that issue.

The text page, however, seem to set the book in contrast to the events of issue 314. As that text page has contributions from many Superman worthies on the matter of whether Superman should marry Lois. It's clear that while fans might want such a marriage, most of the pros, both young and old, felt that this would be the kiss of doom for the Man of Steel.

Over in the lettercolumn of Superman 318, there was a two page spread with responses from readers mostly commenting on the last page of 314. There were even two of the vital panels reproduced on the letter page.

The insightful meditations on this matter were, if nothing else, proof that Superman readers are some of the most intelligent and introspective readers in the world.

Meanwhile, Pasko contributed two Superman 8 pagers for Superman Family nos. 184 & 183. The story for 184 was cover-featured, showing an enraged Superman threatening The Prankster as the comical criminal puts pennies in his ears (while the other Family members stand around in disbelief).

The actual story paired up The Prankster and The Toyman--although Prankster is on the outside, while Toyman remains inside prison. Their plot has Prankster pulling off bizarre stunts which don't seem like crimes (eg. putting pennies in his ear) yet are misdemeanors in certain towns. The aural pennies stunt is apparently a crime in Honolulu. And when Superman tries to detain the crooked comedian, everyone around (including a cop) starts putting pennies in their ears as well. Superman is so enraged that he puts his fist through a brick wall.

The show of temper by Superman seems rather out of character--or maybe Pasko was trying to make Superman more edgey, and saw Superman's greatest vulnerability to be his emotional state (pushed to the brink by Lois). But Pasko also seems to foul up on the character of Toyman. In the last Pasko Toyman tale (Superman 306), Winslow Schott, having been driven to murder by an insane vendetta against Superman, is overcome with regret when he realizes that he was in error. Yet no such regretful Toyman appears in this tale--rather Win Schott is quite happy as his plot unfolds and the Prankster bates the Man of Steel.

The actual motive behind the felonious pranks is found in the prison law books. After each misdemeanor is reported on TV, Schott finds the legal entry for that crime. The page number and column (right column or left column) give Toyman instructions in where to find a key buried on the prision grounds which would open a safety deposit box on the outside.

In the following issue, 185, Pasko crafts an effective tale which provides the first meaningful conversation between Clark and Lois since his proposal of marriage. The pair wind up stuck inside an apartment, waiting to interview a detained rock star, and waste away most of their time playing gin rummy.

Lois sees no reason in blowing a good working relationship just because they dated for a while. But though they've worked together for so long and have dated, Lois doesn't feel they really knoe each other--so maybe it's better that they did split up.

Just before the rock star shows up, Lois feels her cheek is wet, and blames it on a leaky pipe. Then when finally Craig Wellman, the rock star, does show up, the interview proceeds. And after Wellman has left, Clark says he almost wished Lois still suspected that he was Superman, because if she did this afternoon stuck in an apartment would prove her wrong. Lois begs to differ, and then explains how Clark at superspeed might have escaped her to perform various feats (most of them concerning a nearby fire that held up Wellman from getting to the interview)--when Clark went into the kitchen for coffee, when he ducked under the table to pick up a card he dropped, and so on.

"So you see, just because you were cooped up in that apartment with me for an entire hour, doesn't necessarily prove that you aren't Superman...even though I know you're not!" Lois Lane concludes, and then coldy leaves Kent.

Then Clark thinks to himself, "I slipped away to switch to Superman--and performed those super-rescues--exactly as Lois described them...except for one thing: the 'moisture' she felt on her cheek wasn't water from leaky pipes at all! When I returned here the last time..." [the panel shows a flashback of Superman flying through the window and as Clark kissing Lois, while thinking that they haven't been close lately and he can't resist the temptation to kiss her at superspeed] "How strange--Lois kept going on about how we don't really know each other...but she knows me well enough to anticipate the very way I think in a moment of crisis! Maybe she knows me better than even she realizes. Hardly any married couples know each other that well! And this whole experience has reminded me of how much I wish Lois and I were still a 'thing'! I wonder...maybe we should get back together...?"

And Clark lazes on a park bench and dreams of Superman kissing Lois.

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