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Action Comics 344
"Superman's Nightmare Dreams!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND December 1966; DC Comics; Mort Weisinger, editor; lead story featuring Superman in "Superman's Nightmare Dreams!"

Batman usually plays second fiddle to Superman in DC's hierarchy of stars, but during the Batmania inspired by the Batman TV series in 1966, the Caped Crusader outstripped the Man of Steel in popularity. Superman editor Weisinger made a few attempts at capitalizing on the Bat-frenzy, such as reversing the usual billing on WORLD'S FINEST-- for a while, that title cover-featured "Batman and Superman" rather than the other way around. This issue of ACTION (which I picked up last week from a comics shop bargain box for two bucks) was another effort to ride the Bat's capetails. The cover blurb, in a bat-shaped box, blares, "CALLING ALL BATMAN FANS! Can you solve the mystery of SUPERMAN'S NIGHTMARE DREAMS? All the bat-clues are on this cover!" Batman himself does not appear on the cover, however. Instead, the cover scene (drawn by Curt Swan) depicts a restlessly sleeping Clark Kent, dreaming a scene of a long row of identical Superman lying in glass coffins, while a crystalline creature laughs maniacally "HO! HO! HO! HO!"

The story inside is drawn by Wayne Boring; I don't know the writer. The splash panel gives us more of Clark's strange dream-visions; a string of animated letter Y's climbing a pyramid; Superman smashing the laughing crystal creature; and a giant bird dropping an egg that splatters over Supes. The opening caption reads, "Welcome to our magazine, BATMAN fans! This story is for you! Sharpen your deductive sense andtry to unravel a riddle in the mind of the Man of Steel!" After further challenging Bat-fans' deductive abilities, the caption concludes, in tiny print, "P.S. Superman fans will also enjoy this story." The story opens with Superman and Batman (another example of Batman being drawn by Wayne Boring, and it doesn't look bad) participating in a "super-experiment" in Supes' Fortress of Solitude. They sit in a pair of chairs and don helmets designed to switch each one's mind into the other's body-- "if this mind switch works, it'll be the greatest invention since color TV!", Batman enthuses. (Did he envision millions of Americans amusing themselves by sitting in their living rooms switching their minds around with each other rather than watching his show?) The switch works and Batman in Superman's body really gets off on it-- "I can just feel the power purring in these super-muscles!" But when he tries out flying he crashes into Superman's lab equipment, smashing and scattering it, and when he tries to use super-breath to blow the debris into a trash chute he nearly blows Superman-in-Batman's-body away with it. One of the compartments in Batman's Utility Belt breaks open, scattering the contents. Then an alarm goes off, warning that the mind-switch has reached its safe time limit, and before Bat/Superman can cause any more disasters the two switch their minds back. They finish cleaning up the mess, including some cards that have been scattered depicting Batman's regular enemies such as Catwoman and Mad Hatter, and then, as they head back to their respective home cities, a slighly embarrassed Batman confesses, "Frankly, I make a sad-sack Superman!" and Supes reassures him, "No harm done! I might have rated a low batting average as Batman, too!"

Back in Metropolis, Superman switches to his Clark Kent pajamas rather than his blue suit, as it's bedtime; "It's been a long day! Even though my body never tires, some shut-eye can relax my mind!" "But a weird dream disturbs the sleeping Clark"... a giant plant with a face on its white flower reaches up to seize a passing plane. Superman uses his cape like a whip to snap off the giant stem, but the laughing flower only declares, "I've lost my SOLE SUPPORT, as the fellow said when his shoes were stolen!" "A wisecracking weed, yet!" Superman responds. Then the flower squirts Superman with water from its mouth, and the dream scenario shifts, as a talking bulldozer threatens a house. Supes tries to "smash the malicious machine", but it turns into a gooey marshmallow-like substance, leaving the Man of Steel floundering and frustrated. Next, a crystalline man appears and starts eating precious gems. Superman smashes him-- "Take that super-Sunday punch, you crystalline crackpot!" (apparently Supes' code against killing living beings, even weird alien ones, doesn't apply in dreams) -- but the crystal man only reforms and taunts Supes, "You'll get a KICK out of this (kicking him) as I pull myself together!" Finally Clark wakes up, and is so agitated by the demented dreams that he wonders if he has been exposed to Red Kryptonite-- "except that I know for sure I haven't felt its tingling in the last month!" The caption challenges, "There, Batman fans! You've had your first clue! Have you deduced the cause of Clark's dream yet?"

At work at the Daily Planet, Clark is ordered by Perry White to sit and watch the office while Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen go to lunch and Perry meets with the publisher (confirming, apparently, that the Planet is a great metropolitan newspaper with a staff of just four people). With no work to do, Clark dozes off ("Fatique can never bring sleep to Superman, but SHEER BOREDOM can!") and falls into another Kryptonian-pickles-and-ice-cream type dream. This time, Supes finds himself lowered by a skyhook to the top of a pyramid, while a horde of animated letter Y's with tiny arms, legs and faces race up the pyramid to attack him. "Seize Superman!" "Y not?" Superman fights back against the "animated alphabet:' "Dear me! Y would Superman strike a Y? It's not Y's to fight Y's, you know!" "If you want to make with the smart cracks, I'll knock all you Y's-guys off the pyramid!" Next, Superman is confronted by a flying stone Sphinx which confronts him with a riddle; "When does the Emerald conquer the Ruby and the Sapphire?" Superman is stumped by an answer and the Sphinx sneers at him as a "super bonehead...a lamebrain lummox...a pathetic pinhead!" An angry Supes tears the "great stone face" apart (apparently he works out in his dreams all the destructive impulses he's too ethical to indulge when awake) but still is unable to solve the riddle. Clark Kent is shaken awake by Perry White who wants to know why he's mumbling in his sleep about a mystery that even he, Superman, can't solve...but fortunately Perry is satisfied by an explanation about a "silly dream", and sends Clark off to work; "I'm not running a reporter's REST HOME here, you know!"

That night, Clark goes to bed wondering what kind of wild dream he will experience this time, and finds himself one of a long line of Superman frozen in ice blocks, with giant toadstools standing in the background. Each of the Supermen smashes free-- "If anyone needs a cold drink, I have plenty of CRACKED ICE now!"-- and they rerunite to form a single Superman. Next the "toadstool trees" hurl a horde of live toads at Superman, until he bowls them over by throwing ice blocks at them. Then, a flock of giant birds (resembling a cross between vultures and ostriches) peck at Supes, but he spins at super-speed to deflect their beaks. But another kind of giant bird, a robin, bombards Superman with an equally outsized egg, and it follows Supes like a guided missile until it finally smashes over the Man of Steel; "If anybody comes along and says, 'The YOLK's on you', I'll...glurb!"

As a sweating Clark wakes up, the caption says, "Now you've seen all three clues, Bat-buddies! If you haven't solved the mystery yet, better brush up on your Bat-facts, and read on for the denouement!" Though mentally "wrung out" from his "daffy dreams", Superman dutifully flies off to his Fortress for his next appointment with Batman. When he tells the caped detective about his weird dreams, Bats has an explanation to offer. When Batman-as-Superman was blowing debris around in the Fortress, a container of Red Kryptonite used for antidote experiments was momentarily blown open and Superman's body was exposed to it-- but Supes didn't notice because Batman's mind was in his body at the time. At the same time, three of the cards depicting Batman's villains fluttered in front of Superman's eyes and were fixed in his subconscious mind. In the ensuing dreams, the giant, laughing plant with a white face and green leaves symbolized the Joker. (So did the bulldozer and the crystal man, apparently, though it's not clear how.) The "Y's ("whys") and the riddle of the Sphinx in the next dream were inspired by the Riddler, while the skyhook in that dream was actually an inverted question mark (Superman saw the Riddler card upside down). And the ice blocks, giant birds, and umbrella-shaped toadstools in the third dream were all symbolic of the Penguin. The robin in the dream represented Batman's partner, of course. Superman himself guesses the answer to the riddle "When does the emerald conquer the ruby and sapphire?" , it stood for the ability of Green Kryptonite to defeat Superman with his blue and red costume. "I'm sorry my foes nearly drove you BATS..." Batman concludes, "but you're lucky! They give me a bad time when I'm AWAKE!"

The Supergirl tale in this issue is "The (Super) Girl in the Green House!" It's drawn as usual by Jim Mooney; again, I don't know the writer, though I've heard that Leo Dorfman was the regular Supergirl scripter by this time. I'm not going to go into as much detail about the story, as it didn't appeal to me much (whereas the Superman story was amusing in a campy/absurdist sort of way) and in any case it's a continued story to which I don't have the conclusion. But briefly, Supergirl is exploring space "photographing unusual cosmic sights for a space planetarium" when she discovers a very Earth-like planet with its own versions of Metropolis and Midvale. Flying in for a closer look, she spots what appears to be an armed gang of teenagers attacking adults, and intervenes-- but instead of being hailed as a heroine, she is denounced for aiding lawbreakers. It seems that, on this world called Gaea, a not-quite-exact duplicate of Earth, a plague has wiped out much of the adult population, leaving teenagers to assume adult responsibilities and run the government. (I initially thought this plot was inspired by the movie "Wild in the Streets" about a teenage President, but that didn't come out till two years later. Currently, the TV series "Jeremiah" by JM Straczynski of Babylon 5 and Spider-Man fame has a vaguely similar premise, though more logically developed.) The teens Supergirl attacked were police, corralling a gang of "adult anarchists". Intrigued by this role reversal, Supergirl decides to spend some time on the planet during her vacation from school on Earth, and she assumes her Linda Danvers identity, acquires a home, and even adopts Fred and Carol Davis, the equivalents of her Earth foster parents, for here the surviving adults are subject to parental control by teens. But when she reveals her identity as Supergirl to the Danvers, she is overheard by a sinister figure who is an agent of "ARM", the "Adult Revolutionary Movement". This turns out to be Dick Malvin, Gaean analog of Linda's sometime Earth boyfriend Dick Malverne. He hatches a plot to exploit Supergirl's powers for the revolutionary cause.

It's election time on Gaea, and Linda suddenly and unexpectedly becomes a popular figure when she helps defuse a riot (secretly instigated by ARM) at a candidate debate. With teenage enthusiasm (and without encouragement from Linda herself) a write-in candidacy for her for President suddenly develops-- and she actually wins, which is such a shock that she momentarily faints. Linda goes to the Green House, Gaean equivalent of the White House, and for four weeks she carries out the duties of President, while planning how she can turn over her duties to her appointed Vice President-- Dick Malvin-- so she can return to Earth. Facing a rising national debt, she comes up with the idea of mining a huge block of gold, from a vein of ore she discovered as Supergirl, to add to the public treasury. But she carelessly mines fool's gold instead of real gold, which makes it look, when discovered, as if she was plotting to ruin the economy.... and then she is publicly exposed as the "outlaw" Supergirl by her scheming VP Dick Malvin. He announces that President Danvers faces impeachment... and "once she's impeached, I, as Vice President, take over... and so does ARM!" (Unless the Constitution is written differently on the Gaean "Union of American States", this is a civics error; a President does not lose office upon being impeached, only on being convicted. Not to mention that the President doesn't get to hand-pick a Vice President after being elected.) "Be here for the big impeachment trial, in the next issue of ACTION! We'll save you a seat, so don't be late!" I don't have the next issue, but I would assume that Linda comes up with both a way to save her reputation and an excuse to resign her office honorably and fly back to Earth.