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Action Comics 256
"Superman of the Future"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND Sept. 1959; DC Comics; Mort Weisinger, editor.... yeah, another early Silver Age ACTION issue, with another strange change for Superman...I pulled this one out of my ACTION box along with issue #251 which I reviewed a few days ago, and decided to review it as well. The cover depicts a startled Lois Lane beholding Superman standing in a giant test tube attached to a mysterious apparatus, with a hugely bulging bald skull, and declaring, " Don't let my looks shock you, Lois! I am not the inferior Superman you know! I am the ULTRA SUPERMAN, from the year 100,000!"

The lead story looks like it's drawn by Curt Swan with inks by Stan Kaye; I don't know the writer. The splash page has the "Ultra-Superman" flying by as a TV camera truck shoots him and a newsman declares, "Folks, you are viewing the SUPERMAN OF THE FUTURE! Evolution has changed him shockingly! He has a LARGER BRAIN!...He has long, slender fingers! This is not the Superman WE knew!"

The tale begins with Lois and other reporters covering an experiment by "Professor Wright, famous scientist", as Superman enters the test tube attached to Wright's "time cabinet". Superman has the ability to travel in time on his own, of course, but "I'm making a TEST of this device! I want to see if it will be safe for ordinary humans!" (Once again a flawed experimental protocol; how can the invulnerable Superman really test what would be "safe for ordinary humans"?) But the Superman who returns is the hyper-evolved Man of Long After Tomorrow, with the big brain and long fingers, explaining that the Superman of 1959 decided to spend 24 hours in the future and he, the Future Superman, returned in his place to "keep the time route open". Ultra-Superman demonstrates a "new super-power" the ability to project "mental images" of his future era-- and of three terrible disasters recorded in future history. A fourth near-future disaster is not shown for "it is too serious and would shock you too much! But take heart, for I will PREVENT all four disasters from happening!"

Advised by history that the Metropolis Bay Bridge is due to be destroyed by a tornado, Ultra-Superman flies to the scene and creates a giant windmill out of scrap metal to create a suction and dissipate the tornado. But an earthquake destroys the bridge instead, and Ultra-Supes realizes he accidentally caused it himself by jamming the huge windmill tower into the ground and striking an earthquake fault. Lois and other observers wonder if this is a sign that, just as the Superman of today cannot change history when he goes into the past, the Future Superman cannot change the "history" of the present.

Next, Ultra-Superman tries to prevent an atom bomb test from being prematurely triggered and destroying a ship still in the test area. But the ship has dredged a piece of Kryptonite up from the sea bottom, preventing Ultra from getting close enough to catch the atom bomb. He tries to hurl a boulder from afar at the bomb and "make it explode in mid-air" (which doesn't seem like it would be a big improvement over the bomb hitting the ship) but the boulder thrown at super-speed is destroyed by air friction. The ship is destroyed after all, and Ultra-Supes starts to lose confidence; "No matter what I plan, fate has a way of making destiny come true! I'll NEVER be able to prevent the fourth disaster, which is the worst, from happening!"

But taking heart that his failures may be due to "a series of coincidences," the Future Superman speeds to the scene of the third disaster, the destruction of an undersea dome built by the akers of a movie about Atlantis (the Lori Lemaris version, apparently). Ultra manages to divert a giant whale from smashing into the dome and destroying it. But the waves created by the whale's flippers shake the submarine carrying Lois Lane and other reporters watching the event, and Lois bumps into a torpedo firing switch, firing a torpedo into the dome and destroying it. Ultra-Superman tries to reassure a distraught Lois; "Don't blame yourself, Miss Lane! It just shows that history CAN'T be changed! I'm sure of that now!" He then reveals the nature of the fourth disaster; "Before nightfall, the President of the United States will be assassinated!" And it is useless for Superman to guard the President or even alert the Secret Service, for future history shows that the assassination cannot be prevented. This is great news for one of the crowd of reporters, Dirk Folgar, European correspondent, for he is secretly "a member of the foreign spy ring plotting against the President's life! Now I know we'll succeed! Ha, ha!"

Folgar alerts his henchmen to go ahead with their plan, which involves blowing up the President's car with a bomb hidden under a manhole cover. And the plot succeeds! But the President isn't in the car...instead the only occupant is the Ultra-Superman! Or is it? The bomb blast tears off his long plastic fingers, and he removes the bulging plastic "skull"... "Why...uh...you're the 1959 SUPERMAN!" The Ordinary Superman reveals that the whole appearance of the "Ultra-Superman" was an elaborate hoax to smoke out a suspected assassination plot by making the plotters believe they were assured by fate of success. Superman projected images of the "disasters" with an apparatus hidden under his fake skull and then made the "disasters" come true... taking care that no lives were actually lost, and planning to repair the damages to the bridge and dome. Supes explains that he spent the day disguised as the President, ready to stop any assassination attempt, while the real President stayed safely inside the White House. He receives thanks from the real President in the Oval Office (presumably Eisenhower at this point, though he is hidden in shadow); "I was only doing my duty, sir, like any good citizen!" And what about Lois and the torpedo button? No, she wasn't in on the plot; the plan was for the sub captain to "accidentally" hit the button, but she did so instead. "Just think, Clark! I actually HELPED SUPERMAN finish his secret plan!" "Calm down, Lois! You wouldn't look good with a, er, SWELLED HEAD like the Ultra-Superman!"

Actually, that did happen to Lois later-- or was it another hoax? I just remember seeing a big-headed "Future Lois" on the cover of a LOIS LANE ANNUAL that I don't have. And wasn't there yet another tale in which Superman really was transformed into a futuristic "super-brain"?

Congorilla stars next in "Janu, the Joker of the Jungle!" I think I've heard that all these Congorilla stories were written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Howard Sherman-- though I may have the artist's name wrong. Anyway, in this one, Congo Bill and jungle-boy sidekick Janu are helping with the filming of a movie whose proceeds will aid "African charities". Janu is the stunt stand-in for British child actor Percy Pierce, playing the "Prince of the Jungle". But Percy is a cowardly, selfish and obnoxious brat, leaving all the dangerous scenes to Janu, but playing the star role to the hilt and hogging the special foods and toys brought into the jungle for him. But it's for charity, so when a trained gorilla intended for the movie takes sick, Congo Bill offers to provide his own "tame gorilla"-- Congorilla! This gives Janu a fiendish idea. Given Congo Bill's magic ring for polishing, Janu rubs it himself, and when Congorilla appears on the set, he is animated by the mind of Janu, not Congo Bill. "The young scamp! He knows I can't betray him without revealing my Congorilla secret!"

Congorilla grabs and gobbles Percy's carefully hoarded candy, and then, when the director orders a costume change, rips Percy's Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit off his body. When Percy orders the "tame" gorilla to give him a drink of milk, Congorilla shakes a coconut tree to pelt him with coconuts. "He gave you milk all right! Coconut milk! Ha, ha!" (That might not have been such a funny joke, Janu...I've heard, in real life, of people in tropical areas being killed by heavy coconuts falling on their heads.) Next, directed to pick up and hurl a stuffed elephant by its trunk, Congorilla instead picks up Percy's trunk full of precious toys and smashes it against a tree...then picks up the elephant and throws it into Percy's supply of favorite foods. Finally, the Jungle Joker "misinterprets" instructions and takes a scissors and cuts off Percy's beloved mop of long blond hair. Outraged, Percy walks off the set. "Good!" the director retorts. "You've been a confounded nuisance from the beginning and it'll be a pleasure to star JANU in your place!" Congo Bill slips Congorilla the word to resume his normal Janu form-- "You've had your fun!"-- and later reflects, "All's well that ends well! Janu will be a TRUE PRINCE OF THE JUNGLE-- thanks to the best scene stealer of them all-- CONGORILLA!"

Finally we have Supergirl making her fifth appearance in ACTION-- or is it only "The Great Supergirl Mirage!" Art by Jim Mooney. Supergirl "secretly patrols the town of Midvale", but as she is forbidden by Superman to reveal her existence, she flies too high to be seen-- or so she thinks. A teenage boy from the Midvale Orphanage, Dick Wilson, happens to be taking pictures with a telescopic lens of what he thinks is an eagle. ("Look, up in the sky, it's a bird....") Meanwhile, Supergirl observes a delivery person dropping and losing a precious capsule of radium near Midvale Hospital. She burrows underground, using her X-ray vision to find the capsule, and tosses it where it will be found. But as this is going on, Dick notices that Linda Lee's room door is open and among her scattered papers is a school report of which she has written only a single sentence-- and class starts in two minutes! Of course, it only takes her three seconds to complete the report at super-speed. When Dick questions how she did it, she makes the excuse that she had an already-completed copy of the report in her desk drawer. (Instead of accusing Dick of being some sort of pervert for pawing around in her private stuff in her room, as most teenage girls would probably do.)

When Dick develops his telescopic photos and shows them to Linda, both of them get a shock, as one of them clearly shows Supergirl in flight. "And I have a good hunch who the secret identity of that Supergirl is!" Dick declares. "*Gulp*! Cousin Superman told me how when he was a boy, Lana Lang was always after his secret identity! Now I've got a BOY 'Lana Lang' after MINE!" True to his inspiration, Dick comes up with an incredibly elaborate plot to expose Linda as Supergirl... he creates a dummy of himself which he pushes off a cliff. and the dummy is chemically treated to catch fire when Supergirl's X-ray vision touches it. But acting at super-speed, Supergirl herds storm clouds into the area so that lightning strikes and appears to have caused the burning dummy. Undaunted, Dick promises that his next trick will expose Linda's secret. He switches a fake 100-pound dumbbell for a circus clown act with the real thing, which Linda picks up effortlessly. But she quickly squeezes a piece of coal into a sharp diamond which she uses to hollow out the "heavy" dumbbell. Nonetheless, Linda is despondent; "Dick still has that photo proving SUPERGIRL EXISTS! It's hopeless to cover that up! *sob* Everybody will know my identity soon! I may as well reveal myself before Dick exposes me..*sob* And indeed it seems she has done so, as Supergirl appears to a whole crowd of kids at the orphanage's circus show. But then "Supergirl" opens up her head and stomach to reveal machinery inside. "I'm just a robot! Superman sent me as a super-surprise to open the show for you kids!" Dick concludes that the flying form he snapped must have been this Girl of Steel, Cogs and Gears on a test run. Later Linda gets a note from her cousin explaining that he spotted her dilemma and created the girl robot to solve her problem. "But...er...Lana Lang never gave up snooping for Supergirl's identity! Will Dick Wilson pest me the same way? I wonder...."