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Action Comics 394
"Requiem For A Hot Rod!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND November, 1970

Story: Geoff Brown Art: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson

(Originally Reviewed On 06/04/02)

The Man of Steel has dealt with killers before, but none were as deadly as "Coffin" Crowley, whose murderous career would not end until Superman's abilities caused a... "Requiem For A Hot Rod!" Clark Kent and Lois Lane are taking part The Antique Car Association's annual outing, with Lois striving to keep the jalopy on the road...

From behind the procession, "Coffin" Crowley revs up his hot rod's motor and drives the jalopy off the road, and as the car falls, Clark takes advantage of the cloud of dust and changes to The Man of Steel, who guides the car for a gentle landing, while Lois fears that Clark fell out, but Superman tells her there's no time to worry about the mild-mannered reporter with the other cars in trouble.

At super-speed, he catches each of the falling cars before they hit the ground, then changes back to Clark, who is found by Lois, hanging from a tree branch. The reporters were to cover the story of the antique car rally, but the drivers have called off the event. On the road, Clark figures that hot rodders should be locked up, while Lois tells him to take a look at a nearby abandoned airfield, which has been converted to a drag strip, and he figures that the speeder may be there!

Lois watches in horror as they are playing a game of chicken, and Clark sees that one of the cars is the souped-up hearse which ran them off the road! The other car is sent into bales of hay, which will stop it and absorb the shock. The competitor pays off Crowley with a hundred dollars, when Clark tells Lois that he could take on "Coffin" and prove that he's a chicken at chicken! She is less than impressed since her colleague has a meek and mild-manner about him. "Coffin" Crowley confronts Clark (Say that three times fast...!) and Clark is pleased that he overheard the remark.

A group takes Clark and lifts him behind the wheel of a hot rod, to Clark's protests, while Lois is helpless to keep the duel from happening. "Coffin" revs up his engine, then his hot rod burns the asphalt, while Clark's car sputters along, to the dismay of Lois, who wonders why she had Clark get into this mess. "Coffin" is determined to prove that he's not a coward, figuring that Clark will chicken out like all the rest, and that his device should be working by now, but unlike the rest, Clark's car doesn't turn!

Figuring that something's wrong with his device, "Coffin" swerves at the last moment into a pile of hay bales... chickening out! His car is totalled, while Clark emerges from his car, whistling a merry tune, to the surprise and delight of the spectators, but unbeknownst to them, it was to cover his super-breath, which prevented Crowley from being in a real hard crash! Crowley asks Clark why he didn't chicken out when other had...

The polished medallion on the front of the car would be activated from the dashboard, causing the driver to swerve aside from the glare of the sun... to the right, and giving the impression that "Coffin" was fearless! Lois asks Clark if he was chancing his life on this theory, but he recalled how the drivers turned from the glare to the right, rather than any other direction. The other hot rodders surround Crowley, intent on reclaiming their lost cash, but Clark tells them that they got off cheap if they've stopped playing chicken. Lois figures that "Coffin" will be sticking to bicycles from now on.

As they walk to the jalopy, Lois asks Clark why he wasn't blinded by the glare of the medallion, and asks if it was because he was Superman, as she so often suspected, but Clark tells her that it was because he was wearing a pair of dark glasses while driving. On their way back, the two are pulled over by a motorcycle cop, and Clark figures that it couldn't be because they were speeding! The officer remains grim, as he gives Clark a ticket for holding up traffic on a parkway at a quick 20 miles an hour. Lois is sure that Superman would be impressed by Clark's heroic deed today, but only he would get a ticket for driving too slow, while he's glad that she doesn't know that The Man of Steel got a ticket for slowing traffic, and if she ever knew, she'd never let him live it down!

Hot rods must have been alluring in the early '70s, and of course, Charlton Comics had titles dedicated to the subject.

"Coffin" Crowley's Death On Wheels reminds me of those Corgi comic book ads in 1973 - 1975, back in the days when my cousins collected Hot Wheels and played with those Evel Knievel motorcycles, which you reved up by hand.

Clark Kent is certainly a daring young man in a jaunty jalopy.

"Coffin" Crowley wears a pink crashhelmet (with a skull emblem), a pink ascot and leather jacket, which reminds me of Count Malacchi from "Happy Days" (the episode which introduced Roz Kelly as Pinky Tuscadaro).

Clark's racing coat goes from pink to gold in two pages.

Leave it to Clark to show the hot rodders the light.

The issue has an article on Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson: Curt Swan was a Minneapolis school dropout at the age of 17 because the depression affected the family's finances. Going through a series of jobs, he was soon doing overseas duty with the National Guard, from staff sergeant assignments- Messrs, supply, and Regimental Ammunition Transportation. He easily seized a service club contest for a mural,which caught the eye of a colonel, who transferred him to the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Before going overseas, Curt married Helene Brickley, who joined The Red Cross, and it wasn't until they met again in Paris in the spring that Curt bid a swan-song to his bachelorhood. They married in April, 1945.

They had three children: Chris, a senior at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Karin went from Brooklyn's Pratt Institute to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Cecilia is a junior in high school. Both girls have their father's flair for art.

Pratt was Curt's alma mater. Studying nights under the G.I. Bill after his discharge, but aside from that, he had no formal training, having inherited his talent from his father, who would spend hours drawing exotic birds during Minneapolis Winter nights. Curt disciplined himself and studied numerous books on anatomy, as well as persuading members of his family to pose.

Murphy Anderson was born in the deep South, learning how to read at his mother's side... comics. Readin', writin', and rough-sketchin' would bring him to the University of North Carolina. Art was his passion, along with an enthusiasm for William Meade Prince, who headed the Art Dept, as well as contributing to many magazines.

By the time of his graduation, he came to New York, and his father's gift of $100 and advice to find a job before the money ran out. Down to his last dollar, Murphy was aided by a publisher who offered him thirty dollars a week plus all the money he could make by freelancing. He worked tirelessly on his board. Buck Rogers was his inspiration, a boyhood favorite, he did work for "Planet Stories" and "Wings," scripting and illustrating "Life On Other Planets," with the flair of a modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci, jet fighters, which he drew before the world entered the jet age. He drew Suicide Smith and began Tommy Tomorrow.

Murphy was in the navy during the war, but between deck duties and watching the ship, he would be at his art board, creating "Star Pirate." The end of the war found him in Chicago, where he worked on the syndicated Buck Rogers strip. Two years past and he entered the world of the freelancer.

Entering D.C., he would do Captain Comet in Strange Adventures, return to Buck Rogers, and join with Will Eisner. He would work at D.C. and Eisner, but when the two jobs became much of a burden, Murphy made a decision which would be the happiest day of D.C.'s life.

Murphy is married to a girl he met while on active duty, whose name is also Helen, they have three children, Sophie, Mary, and Murphy III. It would seem that the fate of Curt and Murphy woujld be intertwined.

I regret never having met Curt Swan, having grown up on his Superman, but I did meet Murphy Anderson, who as Mike Allred once said, has the deepest voice that God ever gave a man.

Together, they were Swanderson, and as I told Murphy and Julie Schwartz, the "S" on Superman's chest would stand for those who played a part in the adventures of The Man of Steel, from Siegel and Schuster, to Sikela and Schwartz, and of course... Swanderson!

Steve Chung
"Review For A Hot Rod!"