Sunday, June 16, 2013

Superman #17: When Titans Clash!

Superman #17: When Titans Clash!

Story by Jerry Siegel, art by John Sikela.

The July/August 1942 issue of Superman is a historically significant comic for several reasons. Of the 4 stories in the issue, 3 are historically vital pieces that would influence multiple Superman stories for years to come. The first story, "Man or Superman" offers a rare Joe Shuster pencil effort, a recap of Superman's history up to that point, and is the very first time that Lois suspected that Clark and Superman were one and the same. The issue's third story, "Muscles for Sale" has the first appearence of the Secret Citadel, Superman's mountain retreat that eventually evolved into the Fortress of Solitude. We'll be discussing the issue's last story here, the second part of the Powerstone Saga, "When Titans Clash!"

The story opens with Luthor, having been convicted of multiple offenses being sent to a date with 'ol sparky. Perry White chooses a quite shaken Clark to cover the execution, eliciting a typical response: "This--th-this is my first execution!" Luthor is strapped in the chair (and the looks of the guards is a lot like the Green Mile, which means that uniform must have been pretty common), and once the switch is thrown Luthor is reinvigorated with electricity, which he had harnessed in the previous story to give himself super-strength. Mayhem of course ensues, with Clark literally getting the chair himself, as Luthor hurls it across the room and Clark blocks it with his body. This scene was pretty much completely cribbed by Grant Morrison in All-Star Superman.

Clark switches to Superman and tracks Luthor down, and they clash again, fighting through the city until Superman throws him out of town, then continuing their clash in the countryside and involving Lois, who is of course rushing to get the story. The fight results in Luthor and Superman hurling cars at each other, including Lois' car (Luthor was nice enough to throw her out of it first). Luthor again escapes and decides he will trick Superman into bringing him the Powerstone so he can finally win.

Placing an ad in the Planet as a metallurgist, Luthor tricks Superman into bringing him the powerful relic, Luthor easily overpowers Superman, and grows to gigantic size as well, and he ultimately is able to strip Superman of his powers-the first time this has ever happened to the Man of Steel. Luthor throws Superman away, telling him he could kill him but he's rather he watches helplessly as he takes over Earth. Instead, Clark goes after Luthor himself, and shows that even without his powers he is still quite capable. Once he switches to his Superman costume, he finds something else out: that the costume alone cowers Luthor's men into fleeing. Finally catching up to their leader, Superman manages to outwit Luthor by challenging him to duplicate his various feats (the two often did "can you top this?" contests in those days), resulting in Luthor running around the ceiling, which caused the Powerstone that Luthor was wearing around his neck to fall off. Managing to knock it away, Superman's powers return and he makes quick work of Luthor and his men, and secures the Powerstone (for now).

This is another great tale and a fine follow up to the first part in Action #47. There are several firsts in this story, most notably the first time Superman loses his powers. A lot of the Powerstone Saga seems to be reworked from the unpublished "K-Metal From Krypton" story, Over the years, Superman losing his powers would become a common trope and a favorite way to challenge the Man of Tomorrow, but all those stories trace their origins back to this one. It also continued another new trend by Siegel-giving Superman physical foes to fight. Around this same time the Golden Age Metalo had first appeared as well, in World's Finest Comics #6. This trend didn't really last, but it was revived later on and has become the go-to way to challenge Superman, for better and unfortunately sometimes for the worse.

Another great early story, Siegel breaking new ground with many new ideas and fun action and fantastic art by Shuster studio ghost John Sikela. It's available in reprint in Superman Chronicles Volume 9.

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