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Action Comics 399
"Superman, You're Dead... Dead...Dead!"


Story: Leo Dorfman Art: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson

On the Dick Giordano-illustrated cover, the man of steel is shown the remains of Superman I and Superman II, with the future historian tells him that as Superman III, he, too must die, while the befuddled man of tomorrow can only stare at the empty filing cabinet, and wonder if this crypt is reserved for him! (Holy E.C., Batman!)

WGBS roving reporter Clark Kent hears a bulletin in his mobile news van, and Superman is soon heading for Lookout Mountain, where the solar furnace is out of control! (Holy Hot Spot, Batman! That place has the right name for it.) He reaches the area at super-speed.... where he is told by scientists that the experimental solar power generator has exploded... and the chain reaction will ignite the atmosphere... turning the planet into a ball of fire! (Holy Jerry Lee Lewis, Batman!) Diving towards the roaring generator, Superman is caught in the power of 1,000 atom bombs...

Incredible forces lift him... spinning him.... where he blacks out! When he revives, the man of steel finds himself in the presence of George Washington... Abraham Lincoln, and Colonel Custer! Whether this is some sort of wax museum or a masquerade party is unknown, but Superman knows that these men are long dead! General George Washington introduces himself and tells how he was riding through a snow storm when he found himself here. Lincoln tells his fellow commander-in-chief that Washington died fifty years ago, and that he was dressing up for the theater when he found himself here! Lieutenant Colonel George Custer was taken from his tent, and he's anxious to lead his regiment against the Sioux on the morrow...

Using his x-ray vision, Superman sees a geniune continental dollar in Washington's pocket... Lincoln is carrying two tickets to Ford Theater (Holy Ticket To Ride, Batman!)... and Custer is wearing buckskins instead of a uniform, as recorded history has been written. They are indeed real, and wonder about the costumed man in their presence... When Custer asks if he's a circus performer or trapeze artist, the man of steel tells how he has strange powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.... (Holy Viagra, Batman!) Washington thinks that the poor man is deluded, while Superman looks for a way out of their prison! Seeing that they are surrounded by a force-field, the action ace intends to use his super-strength to break through it! WHAMMO! Custer laughs as Superman fails to break through the barrier!

Not using his full super-strength for fear of the impact injuring the others... he uses his x-ray vision to penetrate the force-field... and sees that an advance history class is in session. The instructor explains how his experimental chrono-selector has caused four of the great historical heroes to appear, and because of the refractive force-shield, the class can see them, but they can't see the class! Determined not to be placed beneath a microscope, Superman uses his weakened x-ray vision to disrupt the generator circuits on the chrono-selector.

With the force-field weakened, he is able to break through, and the instructor suddenly realizes what a mistake it was to bring the super-hero into the future! When pressed for an explanation, the instructor explains that they are in the 24th Century Historical Foundation, and Superman was brought there because he was the last Superman of his time period! In his time period, the man of steel insists that he is the one and only Superman. The instructor explains that the memory blackout effect has erased some of his memory cells. The instructor asks him to don a cerebro-helmet, which contains history tape records of the man of steel's forgotten memories! (Holy Xavier, Batman!) In the midst of the 20th century, young Kal-El was rocket to Earth just as Krypton exploded... a day which its native son will never forget...

Beneath Earth's yellow sun, the orphan grew, as did his powers, as Superbaby (Holy Kyle Baker, Batman!), Superboy, and Superman... becoming Earth's greatest hero! The day came when an energy vampire drained these powers... leaving the man of steel to die! When he was found on a deserted beach, Superman was brought to the National Research Institute, where scientists kept the hero alive... until the remnants of his super-abilities could be increased and transferred into a bio-duplicate of the original Superman! (Holy Byrne Ward, Batman!)

Now a perfect super-duplicate soars from the institute, his memory intact... except for that final adventure. The reincarnation must remain a secret... or the world will lose faith in Superman! One day, Superman II visited the leper colony of Riggor... where people with incurable space diseases were quarantined... A week later, Superman II was at the research institute... his body dissolving into primitive protoplasm by a strange space disease! The super-brain with control of its super-powers was still intact and tape records of the first man of steel's cytoplasmic structure are also available. Now it is Superman III who leaves the institute... but the scientists know that the artificial protoplasm they used to create him is unstable. Another super-disaster -- and the world must learn to get along without the man of steel! The history tape ends and the cerebro-helmet is removed... with Superman insisting that this is a lie, for he has been in the future many times, and had never heard that crazy story before! (Holy Elsewords, Batman!)

The instructor explains that all memories referring to the man of steel's reincarnations were erased from the brain cells to maintain his self-confidence... but there is final proof! The historical foundation was built on the site of the old research institute which re-created Superman twice! His final resting place is there! In the depths of the mausoleum... the instructor shows the man of steel and the class the remains of Superman I and in a jar Superman II is preserved forever! (Holy CGC, Batman!) The instructor asks if Superman is ready for the proof he has asked for, and the man of steel can't bear to see his own dead body! His heroic death was commemorated and centuries later, Superman is presented with a medal -- reserved only for the greatest courage! (Holy IDIC, Batman!)

As the instructor tells him how the hero has earned the medal a thousand times over, Superman sees the irony of accepting a posthumous award... for the deed which killed him! Leaving the crypt... they see the visi-cast news bulletin! The emergency alert concerns an archeological expedition in search of a lost civilization under the Greenland ice cap, and who are now trapped! This is a job... for Superman, with the instructor and the class impressed upon hearing the man of steel's call to action... "Up...Up... And Away!" Seconds later, the archeologists sense what they think is another quake... but it's a Superman who is boring through the ice to save them! Even they know that the great hero died centuries ago...

At the historical foundation, the class watches on the screen as Superman has rescued the expedition, as well as uncovering the lost civilization! They now know what it's like to have the man of steel as Earth's protector! When he returns, Superman asks the instructor if each historical figure was brought to future shortly before he was fated to die... and the instructor confirms that each hero was selected at the end of his career! When asked how he is supposed to die, the instructor tells him the man of steel will meet his end when he saves the planet from a explosion caused by a new type of energy! The alarm sounds and the instructor directs him to enter the force-field so that he and they can return to the past! Superman... refuses!

The instructor insists that his career is over, like the others. Washington has freed the slaves... Lincoln was elected President for life... and Custer is Chief of the Indian Federation... The man of steel still refuses to leave... The second and final warning sounds... with the laws of time and space, Superman must return to the past or else their universe will be destroyed! While they are here, time is frozen in their eras, and history cannot continue without them! Feedback from the spatio-temporal forces are building and if the past ceases, there will be no present! The world has begun to dissolve into pure energy... and billions will die! With the blood of countless people at risk, Superman passes through the force-field... even though it may mean his life! The instructor has time to activate the retro-circuit!

Smashing through the force-field, he sees the others begin to fade, and Superman knows that they are heading back to the past to die... as he is! Passing through the time vortex... the man of steel finds himself in his own era... in the middle of his final mission... almost as if time stood still while he was away in the future! He remembers that the new energy from the solar furnace has begun its chain reaction which will ignite Earth's atmosphere... He carries the solar generator into space... where it will be harmless! He knows that the weird energy will dissolve his unstable protoplasm and that this is the mission which is supposed to kill him! Returning to Earth... he is still alive and wonders how this can be with what was learned in the 24th century. Using his microscopic-vision on the medallion, he sees that there are no metal like this on Earth! Holy Selegue, Batman!) The twisted version of history... Washington freeing the slaves... Lincoln being President for life... there's only one way to make sense of it! He was in the future... the future of a parallel Earth... which is like our world, but in another dimension! (Holy Norwitz, Batman!) Each person on our world has a counterpart in the other world, but their lives and fates differ!

The experimental chrono-selector caused the forces of time and space to tear an opening into our world and pulled Superman into their future instead of Superman III. Changing back to Clark Kent, he wonders if Washington and the others were from his history or the other Earth's. He is pleased to be home... back in his own era... in his own world! But somewhere in a corner of time and space, his double, Superman III is dead -- a hero who is enshrined forever!

The cover is quite striking, and it looks like the man of steel is less than pleased by the quality of the accomodations.

Abraham Lincoln has appeared on "This Savage Curtain" episode of Star Trek, where he, Surak, Kirk, and Spock must battle against four of history's greatest villains to determine which concept is stronger... Good or Evil?

Custer was seen in the movie, "Little Big Man" and was played by the late actor Richard Mulligan.

In a Golden Age Superman story, it was the man of tomorrow who helped Washington and his men cross the Delaware. This was the first Superman time-travel story.

Doug and Tony would use a "Time Tunnel" to travel on Irwin Allen's TV series.

The feedback from the spatio-temporal forces, causing the world to begin to dissolve into pure energy resembles the anti-matter effects of Crisis On Infinite Earths!

An alternate Earth is one where events must occur logically and diverge from those on our world. Examples include the "What If's" from Marvel Comics.

A parallel world is where events can independently diverge from any premise whatsoever. Examples include the "Imaginary Stories" from DC which were edited by Mort Weisinger.

Interestingly, Clark Kent is wearing a brown suit, instead of his usual blue one.

As presented by Dorfman, Swan, and Anderson, Superman is among the greatest of the heroes from the 20th Century.

In the "Where The Action Is" letterspage:

Richard H. Morrissey of Framingham, Mass. writes:

"Dear Editor: "The Secrets of Superman's Fortress" was a rather misleading title because only one secret was revealed, but Leo Dorfman's story was pleasing, anyway, with its revelation of that hitherto unknown romance with Althera.

I concede that Lois Lane is supposed to be his girlfriend, yet I can't blame Superman for falling in love with Althera - I almost did myself! (Besides, who's to say this didn't happen before he met Lois?) I especially liked that note of pathos at the end. Yet Althera looked so much like an Earth woman. I'm not sure she couldn't marry Superman - after all, he almost married Lori Lemaris, a mermaid, once. I'd like to see the Avian Amazon return, at least for an encore."

The editor replies: "Maybe we will come up with another tale of the pretty, plumed powerhouse. And if she shows her feathers again, we're sure you'll be tickled pink."

Martin Pasko of Clifton, N.J. writes:

"Dear Editor, What a reputation I seem to have. Hopefully you'll grant me the last word on this silly debate over why there are "Lettercol Monopolizers"! (gasp!) In respect to Arlene Lo's recent poetic gem:

"Flattery gets you nowhere," says Dennis J. O'Neil;

Mike Friedrich says he needs the fans to tell him how they feel;

And even the expatriates, John Broome and Gardner Fox,

Will tell you there's no need for you on me to place a pox.

Even though it's sometimes true that lettercols are hatched

When an editor reads a letter and he knows the name attached,

That shouldn't make your future in the lettercols look bleak;

All you have to do is write 5,000 words a week!

So keep on plugging at it and in time you'll be renowned

And very soon for the lettercols your missives will be bound!

So thank you, Arlene, for presenting both the pro as well as con,

Although I cannot say for sure which side it is you're on!

And thank you, thank you, dear girl, sweet girl, for immortalizing me

in the world's most hilarious and ingenious LoC;

But before an Alvin Yellon type - or a hundred more like these -

Take pen in hand, enough's enough! Change the subject, someone please!"

This Review Is Dedicated To Tom Lammers, Robert Faires, Jesse Willis, Jen Contino, and Rich Morrissey

Steve Chung (Misses Those LoC's) "Superman, You're Reviewed... Reviewed... Reviewed!"