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Action Comics 396
"The Super-Panhandler of Metropolis"


Story By: Leo Dorfman Art By Swanderson

On the cover by Infantino and Anderson, we see a possible future for the man of steel in the 1990's, as he is pursued by reporters and other curiousity-seekers. His disguise is no longer that of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, but "The Super-Panhandler of Metropolis," who moves his wheelchair away from his pursuers at super-speed!

Just imagine... in the decade of the 1990's... when viewers still watch the nostalgia TV show "Where Are They Now?"... (Holy VH-1, Batman!) Ten years ago, Ron Fletcher, astronaut, explored Saturn's rings! Now, he is an aquanaut, working to establish a giant marine laboratory on the ocean floor! Cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal is now the chief producer at WMET-TV! When asked whatever happened to the man of steel, he tells the program's host that Superman just disappeared! (Holy Moore, Batman!)

Jimmy speaks of how the man of steel was appearing less and less frequently... such as the time he used his heat-vision to melt a jammed bank vault rather than using super-strength! When his pal disappeared, so had Clark Kent, and the cub reporter had wondered if the mild-mannered reporter was Superman's other identity! When asked if he ever tried to contact his friend, Jimmy shows his supersonic emergency signal watch, and activates it... ZEE-ZEE-ZEE! Watching the broadcast from the window of an appliance store, the man he sought to contact knows that the producer would not believe what has happened to him! Superman! The legendary man of tomorrow... in this imaginary story, the man of steel has gone from super-hero to super-has-been, and has truly hit rock bottom as... "The Super-Panhandler of Metropolis!" He thanks the citizen for his act of charity, and takes the dime in his tin-cup! (Holy Costner, Batman!)

Once the most powerful being on Earth, he is now a shell of his former self... with nearly all of his powers gone... and in a state where he is ashamed to see his friends! He had always thought that the world would not be able to go on without him... he was the guardian of Earth... defender of the weak and helpless! He sees the irony! RRRAANGGGG! An overloaded crane buckles and drops tons of steel! (Holy Selegue, Batman!) In the past, this would have been a job for Superman... the man he was! In decades past, with his power of flight and super-strength, he could catch the steel beams like so many feathers!

Times have changed, and it is a construction worker who uses a new anti-grav pulse-ray to cushion the fall of the beams! (Holy Contino, Batman!) Even if he still had his abilities, science in the 1990's has made him obsolete! On the next corner, he hears an alarm, and uses his super-hearing and telescopic-vision to see what is happening at a nearby bank!

Swiftly, he wheels his way towards the bank in time to see the fleeing bandits, but from inside, a hidden button is pressed... and a glass case emerges from the pavement. His heart sinks as he sees how super-security devices have taken the place of a Superman! The bullet-proof glass keeps both crooks inside until the authorities arrive! In an era of computers and push-button technology, he sees himself as useless, only fit to be a beggar!

Beep! Beep! Beep! He sees a fuel truck on fire, but the fire sensors on nearby lampposts have already sensed the heat... and have turned on the alarm! In moments, a hovercraft arrives and douses the flames, further proof to him that he is no longer needed! Turning his wheelchair, he sees a child chasing his ball into oncoming traffic, and instinctively, he wheels forward -- to save him!

The boy is ungrateful for the save, caring only for his lost ball, which is run over by the truck! For his bravery, he is given a five dollar bill from the boy's father, and he gives a thousand thanks! As the man of steel, he had refused any rewards, but the money is needed! He has purchased some food, and heads for home.. where the others will be waiting for him! It is a slum in which he lives, no longer the Fortress of Solitude, which he sees with his telescopic-vision as being exposed by modern climate control! He hasn't used it in years!

Now, his home is a different sort of solitude... a tenement which is marked for demolition, but there is at least no rent to pay! He hopes to be unseen, as no one is supposed to be living in these abandoned buildings! Inside, his two roommates are pleased to see that he's brought them some food. Seeing their oddly mottled arms reaching with a mix of despair and want, he promises to be with them... as soon as he warms up some cans of soup! With no gas in the tenements, his heat-vision comes in handy! Now that his roommates are fed, he can return to his experiments... using discarded chemicals, he hopes that he has found a cure for restoring his powers! FZZZZZZ The reaction he had sought is reached, and if his data is correct, the super-stimulant will make him a whole Superman once more!

For such a moment, he dons his costume once more, but after drinking the mixture, his experiment has failed! He stills feel weak and unable to stand, much less fly! WHOMMPPP! SLUSSSHH! The chemicals have exploded, and his old clothes have been ruined! Now, he must wear his costume when he leaves tomorrow to beg for food, but he'll cover it with a blanket, and an old shawl! In the morning, he thinks about how his costume was his proudest symbol, but now he must hide it from everyone! No one must learn that Superman is now a skid-row beggar!

As he wheels down the street, he sees a young boy asking his mother when his father will come. He recognizes Lois Lane... the girl he had hoped to marry, and the boy's name is Clark! He seems to know Lois' husband from somewhere, and as he writes a check for settling their charge account, the man dons a pair of glasses... and he sees that he's a double for Clark Kent! He wonders if she knew that he was Clark, and if Lois married that man -- because he looks like him! He tells himself to forget it, as it's been over and done for years now! He has to get the money, and remembers that today is payday at the Daily Planet! It should be a good spot to beg! He's wearing dark glasses so that he'll not be recognized! At the newspaper building, which is now owned by a giant conglomerate... he sees the plaque dedicated to the late editor of the Planet, and is grateful that his old friend is not around to see him like this! (Holy Time-Warner, Batman!)

He sees Jimmy Olsen and his girlfriend leave the building, with his old pal dropping a quarter into the cup... but it bounced out of the cup! As he reaches for the coin, people react to seeing his familiar costume, as they recognize this man they assumed was retired... or dead!

A crowd begins to gather, and they wonder what's happened to his powers, and why he's in a wheelchair! Some think it's a joke, and as the curiousity-seekers surround him, his tensions begin to rise... Reporters and photographers seeks his story... until he erupts with fury... and wheels his chair away from them! He screams to them that he wishes to be left alone, while they chase after him... and the panhandler who was once a man of steel has fled from his former fans!

In this imaginary tale, the decade of the 1990's is seen as futuristic, but with fashions which wouldn't be out of place in the '70s.

Both Superman and Jimmy have their hair graying at the temples.

Interesting that one of the two crooks has decided to open fire in the bullet-proof glass case, not worrying about the bullets ricocheting and hitting either him or his partner!

The Fortress of Solitude is now a monument to the memory of the man of steel.

In 1986, we bade farewell to Superman in a two-part story by Alan Moore and art by Swanderson, Perez, and Schaffenberger in the classic, "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?"

A year or so later, the man of steel was relaunched, with his powers diminished and his past changed. Still, memories of past stories and homages have appeared during the current run.

In the '90s, Superman was killed by Doomsday, and replaced by a clone, a cyborg, an eradicator, and a man in steel armor!

After his revival, he had long-hair, which was long overdue for a haircut.

He has had his powers changed, becoming an electric Superman, then the duo of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue (as in the classic Silver Age story). Thankfully, these changes were mercifully brief.

Leo Dorfman was born too late for World War I. Noncombatant in World War II, but donated enough blood to raise a generation of vampires. Knocked around in the years between holding down dozens of jobs while attending high school and Brooklyn College at night... and undertaking the start of some semblance of a writing career.

Track record includes several detective novels written under a pseudonym, assorted fiction and non-fiction for adults and the younger generation. Comic mag credits include: Superman, Supergirl, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen for DC; Boris Karloff, Twilight Zone, Believe-It-Or-Not, Gunsmoke, Lassie - and oh, yes, Smokey The Bear. Have rewritten the following classics-in-comics: Count of Monte Cristo, Ivanhoe, The Red Badge of Courage, The Vikings.

Hobbies and Hang-Ups: History, pre-history, folklores of the occult, supernatural, witchcraft, not to mention UFOs.

Having traveled across U.S. and Canada... and some day hope to write a couple of major novels.

To those readers whose curiousity has been piqued by the byline reading Geoff Brown, we must now reveal that he's none other than lyrical Leo. Because of his prodigious output, he often resorts to this pseudonym that was evolved by combining his son's name of Geoff with his wife's maiden name of Brown.

In the "Where The Action Is" letters column, K. Haven Metzger of Columbia City, Ind writes:

"Dear Editor:

THANK YOU! I could've been knocked over by a cloud of helium when I saw Saturn Girl sporting the outfit I designed for her. I hope that the reaction to it is positive.

By the way, I'll warn you, I'm working on new uniforms for a few of the other Legion members. I hope I'm not becoming a pest on this costume... I mean uniform business. (Costume sounds too theatrical.) But I think that a couple of the Legionnaires' uniforms hardly look 1970, let alone 2970."

Ed. replies:

"Which brings up an interesting question - how do you really know what fashions of 1,000 years in the future would look like? Oh, well, let's just go with what we like, shall we?"

This review is dedicated to Jesse Willis (Hopefully, I'll have part two reviewed tomorrow night)

Steve Chung
"The Super-Reviewer of Metropolis"