Action Comics 500, 1979 “The Life Story of Superman”

Continuing my look at Superman, this ¬†specific comic is a newer acquisition for me, and one I’ve just finally got around to reading. Not only was I impressed with the artwork, but the story was fun as well. A landmark issue, and a whole lot of fun. Now that’s what an anniversary should be about, right? This book has a fantastic cover by Ross Andru (pencils), Dick Giordano (inks), and Tatjana Wood (colors).

Our story begins with Superman arriving at the ceremony to open up the Superman Pavilion at the Metropolis World’s Fair. All of Superman’s supporting characters are here- Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Steve Lombard, Lana Lang, and of course, Lois Lane. Mayor Harkness introduces the Man of Steel, and then he cuts the ribbon (a piece of steel he melts with his heat vision), then we’re introduced to the man who owns the pavilion, Robert Arngrim. We can see Superman gets a strange feeling about him.

Once everyone is inside, the memorabilia is receiving oohs and ahhhs from the crowd. Arngrim then asks Superman about his super memory, and he reveals that because of repeated exposure to Kryptonite, he’s having trouble recalling information from his past. Arngrim then points out that the pavilion has his mind prober ray machine, and asks Superman to give a demonstration. He acquiesces, although a bit reluctantly. We then see behind the scenes that there is another man, working in conjunction with Arngrim, to use this device to destroy Superman!

I’m sure ninety nine percent of the people that read my blog know this story and the villains behind this one, but just in case, I’ll leave that out of my post.

This is a really good story by Marty Pasko (writer). He really “gets” Superman and his personality down quite well. The artwork…what can I say other than it’s amazing. Curt Swan (pencils) is my favorite Superman artist of all time. I really enjoy his work with this character, and wish I owned more of it. Frank Chiaramonte (inks) does a fine job adding his touch as well. Adrienne Roy (colors) and Gaspar Saladino (letters) round out the creative team on this must have book!

Marvel Spotlight 7, 1972 “Die, Die My Daughter!”

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a better time for comic book readers. You had Golden and Silver Age creators still pumping out material, but you also had younger writers and artists that had been inspired by those giants, and were determined to leave their own mark on the industry. There’s also another aspect to consider as far as the content, and that is what was in the zeitgeist of the times. One of those things was most certainly the occult. Marvel then decided to re-purpose a character from a western comic that was all but forgotten. His name was the Ghost Rider (later Phantom Rider), and this time around, he wasn’t going to be lassoing people or shooting at them with a six-shooter!

In Marvel Spotlight 5 (a lot of the newer characters started off in books like this one and once they proved themselves, were transitioned to their own book), we see the tragic story of Johnny Blaze. A young kid working at a carnival, and watching his father doing motorcycle stunts. His father ends up getting killed in an accident, and the carnival owners (The Simpsons…no, not Homer and Marge) adopt him. The show becomes a huge success but then his step-mother is killed, but right before she dies, she makes Johnny promise he won’t ride in the show anymore. He doesn’t ride but the show still gets even bigger than it was before. Johnny still practices privately, and becomes an excellent rider. One day, Crash Simpson gets a phone call and he’s made the big time, as his show will be at Madison Square Garden! He seems less than excited and then tells Johnny and Roxanne that he has “the disease” and the doctor told him he only has one month to live.

After thinking about this for thirty seconds, Johnny decides as any normal teenage in the 1970s would, he uses a book to summon “Satan” to grant him a wish to heal Crash Simpson (Satan is in quotes because Marvel would later retcon it wasn’t actually Satan himself, but a demon). Yes, he really did that…so, then “Satan” obliges him and tells him that he’ll be back to collect a fee in the future. We all know that means he’s in big trouble, but Johnny apparently doesn’t care because of dealing with the grief of his own father and step-mother dying. Of course, Crash dies not from cancer, but a motorcycle accident.¬† Then Johnny makes the jump, but is later confronted by “Satan” and his soul is bonded to a demon, which in-turn is why he changes into the new Ghost Rider!

In this issue, we see Johnny after a man named Curly, but we eventually see it’s actually a reanimated Crash Simpson! Curly is trying to sacrifice Roxanne to his master (again “Satan”), but Johnny will not allow the love of his life to perish! He fights off some occultists, then has a showdown with Crash himself!

The creative team on this issue is the same since the first appearance. Gary Friedrich (writer), Mike Ploog (art), Frank Chiaramonte (inks), Herb Cooper (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor). A few years back, there was a little controversy over who actually created most of the character of Ghost Rider. Friedrich claimed he did, and sued Marvel for creators rights. He lost of course, simply because everything was work for hire back then, and any attempts to seize control of a character simply fell short. Sadly, a lot of these creators have fallen on hard times, and could really use a helping hand from the companies that they helped become so financially robust. There is a great organization called The Hero Initiative, that can help creators in need. Definitely swing by and donate if you can at the next convention you visit.