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Action Comics 397
"The Super-Captive of The Sea!"


Art: Swan and Anderson Story: Geoff Brown

Everyone knows about the man of steel's Fortress of Solitude in the Antarctic! But many are unaware that Superman once constructed a base in outer space, made to resemble a flaming meteor! And in the past, he had an underwater fortress! It's been abandoned for years... but now the man of steel is unlocking it for use once more!

The underwater fortress is once again in operation... and already, Superman sees on the North Atlantic monitor that there's trouble at the atomic energy commissions undersea dumping ground! This is a job for the Submarine Superman! Even the man of steel is not invulnerable to finding himself a underseas prisoner... The Super-Captive of The Sea!" Swimming to the scene, the man of steel sees that some fishing nets have caught some drums which contain deadly radioactive material! As he grips the net, Superman sees two shadows... and believes them to be divers, but can't worry about them since he must free the drums! (Holy Ringo, Batman!)

As his fingers tear through the net, the man of steel catches them before they can hit bottom, and burst open! He begins to store them in a crevice, but one drum is still caught in the net, and is about to surface! WHOOOOSH! Superman surfaces, then begins to fly out of control... the fishermen see that the pink pollution has made the man of steel go out of control! He must go beneath the surface! Caught in the intensity of the mission, Superman had forgotten about the oscillation effect! Scientists at Cape Kennedy had noticed a strange cloud appearing from nowhere, and beginning to expand directly in Earth's orbit! With their Venus-shot launch in jeopardy, they alert the man of steel!

Receiving the summons, Superman heads towards outer space, but in moments, he sees that the pink cloud has covered the entire stratosphere, and has had an effect on his powers! The man of steel has no sense of direction! (Holy On-Star, Batman!) SPLAAAASSSH! Superman plummets to the water below, and scientists arrive in a P.T. boat to warn him about the nature of the pink cloud! He must submerge completely since it was the cloud which affected his flight path, and the space pollution has only affected him! Feeling groggier by the moment, the man of steel hopes that his cousin can help him when she returns from an outer space mission! Watching with his telescopic-vision from the ocean floor, he sees that Supergirl has been affected, too! He is on his own... and must remain under the sea! Fortunately, the man of steel is unaffected by the cloud beneath the sea! Superman must perform his duties as best as he can with his underwater fortress as his new main base!

On the monitor, he sees that the Memorial Bridge is giving way, and hundreds of people are in danger! Officers on the bridge are aware that the man of steel can't leave the water -- but if he doesn't do something, the bridge will soon collapse! They watch as the water begins to boil! Beneath the water, Superman is using his heat-vision to wield the broken beam, and saves the bridge! Once the task has been completed, he sees two shadowy forms swimming away from the bridge's foundation --! On closer inspection, the man of steel sees that they are spider crabs!

As time passes, Superman uses his telescopic-vision to watch events occurring onland, such as a baseball game! He longs to be home and being with friends! With three-fourths of the Earth covered in water, it is the remainder which has his interest! The following day finds him freeing a giant squid from a trans-Atlantic cable! (Holy Nemo, Batman!) The man of steel once again sees the two shadows swimming away! Believing that he's seeing things, he swims forth to check, and sees that they are stingrays!

On another day, Superman sees on the North Pacific monitor that a redwood forest is on fire! Fortunately, the fire is located near the coast, and the man of steel uses a sunken tanker to cause a tidal wave! A helicopter watches as the tidal wave douses the forest fire, and the crew know that Superman must be behind this miracle! Once again, he sees the twin shadows, and pursues them to a cave! He sees that they are electric eels, and figures that being underwater has affected his mind!

In a grotto, the man of steel uses his heat-vision to melt the ocean-sands into flexible lead glass... and molding it to the shape of his body! If he's right, the suit will shield him from the effects of the pink cloud! But before he can reach the surface, he is confronted by the two shadowy forms, who are communicating with him telepathically! One aquarian being keeps him covered with a pistol, while the other hurls a disc above Superman's head! The disc has emitted an eerie electronic web, but the man of steel figures that he can tear through it in no time!

He is startled to find that he is unable to do so, and that his powers are gone! The aliens tell him that the super force-field, powered by elements from a red sun! Only his invulnerability remains! The aliens are from Quor, a faraway water world! (Holy Costner, Batman!) They have monitored the man of steel for years, and now they want a Superman on their world! They've been testing him to see if he could be their hero! It was their ship which sent the pollution cloud towards Earth! The gases from the red sun would only affect the man of steel, and cause him to live underwater for their tests! To test how well he'd work in a crisis, they engineered one accident after another, such as using a vibro-beam to crack the bridge! He has passed their tests, and whenever Superman had spotted them, the aliens used their power of instantaneous metamorphosis to become another form of sea life! The captive Superman doubts this statement and demands to see them become a sea-horse!

They are familiar with the species Hippocampus, and one of them transforms! The man of steel insists that he can't see the sea-horse, and demands that he come where he can see him! The sea-horse swims into the net, and Superman is impressed!

The man of steel then asks the sea-horse to become a whale, and he obliges into becoming the cetacean species known as Sibbaldus Musculus... Soon, a giant blue whale is in the net with Superman, while the other alien has read the man of steel's mind, and has sensed his scheme! (Holy Pinocchio, Batman!) The blue whale has blocked the effects of the force-field, and now Superman is free! The alien tells his crony to change back to his normal form so that they can use their weapons on the man of steel!

As the alien changes back, Superman uses his freeze-breath to capture them! Donning his lead glass-shield suit, the man of steel soars spaceward with the frozen aliens (who are in suspended animation), and hurls them back towards Quor! Next, Superman uses his super-speed to create a cyclone to pull the red-sun gases away from Earth... and enable him to function as the man of steel once again! In the Fortress of Solitude, the lead glass-shield suit is on display, and Supergirl has arrived to see her cousin's new exhibit!

The undersea fortress first appeared in Action Comics #244: "The Super-Merman of The Sea."

The fiery meteor fortress first appeared in Action Comics #261: "Secrets of The Fortress of Solitude."

Craig Shutt had written an article on the many fortresses of Superman. Here's hoping that it's included in his book.

In the story, Supergirl is wearing the costume which she wore during Mike Sekowsky's time on her title. It consists of the familiar uniform, plus mini-skirt, red go-go boots, and red gloves.

In the Challenge of The Superfriends episode, "Invasion of The Fearians," Aquaman has his underwater friends create a tidal wave to put out a fire endangering an island. The episode, along with three others is on the recently released DVD.

In Action Comics #396, "The Invaders From Nowhere," the man of steel outwitted his captors and freed himself from their alien force-field.

Superman states at the end of the story that he has learned on other water-worlds that freezing puts the aquatic aliens into suspended animation. If he had read Avengers #4 (first series), he'd learn that this also works on super-soldiers, too.

Steve Chung
"The Super-Review of The Sea!"