Hey gang, welcome back! It’s time for another RETRO REVIEW of a DC Comics book. So this week I’m looking at Superman # 233, cover dated January 1971. It features an iconic Neal Adams’ Superman image of him busting some kryptonite chains from around his chest with the words “Kryptonite Nevermore!” below the image. The other thing of note is the words above the Superman masthead, which read; “The Amazing New Adventures of” (then the masthead itself) Superman, with a large number 1, then “Best-Selling Comics Magazine!”. That’s a lot of writing on the cover, but surprisingly it doesn’t take away from Adams’ artwork at all. Oh, by the way, Neal does both the pencils and the inks for this particular cover.
So just based on the cover alone, it seems like this just might be some sort of a new start for the Superman comic that had originally began way back in 1939. As I’ve said many other times, I started reading comics with the Superman and Batman line of DC books, but really I became a died in the wool Marvelite once I discovered the Marvel Universe, but I occasionally checked out the DC Comics if a particular cover caught my eye, or if Neal Adams had anything to do with the art in the comic. So needless to say, I definitely noticed this book on the spinner rack in the late fall of 1970 because of the cover, and decided to give it a try not having read a Superman book for a couple of years.
With that said, let’s take a look at that iconic cover:
Kryptonite Nevermore would have been a great title, but DC chose to go with “Superman Breaks loose” as the official title. A lot weaker, in my humble opinion. The story is written by Denny O’Neil with the interior artwork provided by; Curt Swan (pencils) and Murphy Anderson (inks).
O’Neal had recently teamed up with Adams and had brought life and new readers to the Batman comic book after it had lost so many readers after the camp fiasco of just a few years before, so editor, Julius Schwartz hoped that by assigning O’Neal to Superman, lightning might strike twice. Unfortunately, O’Neal really never wanted to write Superman, much preferring Batman’s mileau, but he gave it he’s best shot, if for only a few issues, before resigning from the book.
The story opens with Superman swooping in to save a Professor Bolden, who’s experimenting with a “Kryptonite Engine”, which would provide cheap electricity to undeveloped areas of the world. But as luck and comic book stories would have it, the Kryptonite Engine goes out of control. And even though Superman must risk his life since Kryptonite can kill him, he makes a lead coated shield and rushes in to try to contain the impending explosion.
The resulting blast happens before Superman can cover the engine. He is caught in the full kryptonite explosion and is thrown out onto the desert sands as a result. Professor Bolden and his staff rush to his side, expecting to find a dead or dying Superman. But surprisingly Superman appears unharmed. One of the Professor’s staff rushes up with a piece of green Kryptonite, but it has no effect on Superman! It appears that all the Kryptonite on Earth has now been changed to iron! Superman flies off to check other Kryptonite samples.
Page five (5) opens with a Daily Planet Headline, which reads; “Kryptonite Destroyed!”. In walks the new owner of the Planet, Morgan Edge, who says he thinks that Superman is supremely powerful and that a wise man once said; “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”. Then he hands Clark Kent a “portable television transmitter”, not just a camera and assigns him to cover a new mail rocket. Clark reacts with; “Why the TV? I’m a newspaper reporter!”, Edge responds that Kent is his employee and he “would do well to remember it! If I say you’re working for my television station, you are!”. And just like that, Kent no longer works at the Daily Planet, but for Galaxy Broadcasting! The second big change in the status quo.
Of course, someone tries to sabotage the mail rocket and Clark must switch to Superman to save the day. There is a nice scene, where the saboteur pulls out a piece of kryptonite, expecting this to stop Superman, and Supes takes it from him and eats it, as seen on page eight (8). But the saboteur on the ground isn’t the only thing in play. A plane swiftly appears on a path to intercept the mail rocket and Superman must prevent it from bringing down the rocket, which he does over the next four (4) pages.
The story ends with Lois Lang and Jimmy Olsen congratulating Clark on successfully completing his television assignment upon his return to Metropolis at which time Morgan Edge comes in and tells Clark he’s now working for him at WGSB on a steady basis. Perry White shows up to complain, but Edge won’t budge. Kent now works for the television station full time.
The last page of the story is an epilogue, of sorts, as we see the outline of where Superman lay after the explosion and under the blazing sun the sand slowly stirs and a “thing” created from sand and rock and a burst of raw energy, and in the mold of Superman, slowly rises and moves toward a distant mountain. “Moving slowly, relentlessly, to a terrible destiny”, and with those words, O’Neal’s first issue of the new Adventures of Superman comes to a close.
For those keeping track, there is also a seven (7) page back up “World of Krypton” story written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Murphy Anderson filling out the comic.
So a pretty eventful new direction, put in place by O’Neal, but sadly one that he himself would not continue with for very long and the whole New Adventures tag line was dropped after just eight (8) issues, nine (9) if you count the reprint issue # 239 . The sand creature storyline ran for those eight issues, as well, but with issue number 243, not only was O’Neal gone, at his own request, but so too was the New tag line.
The run is worth collecting, if only to see what O’Neal does on/with Superman, and it is short enough to not set you back too much money to collect all the issues, forty-four years later.
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to return next week for another Fabulous Find and again in two weeks for a new RETRO REVIEW.