Monday, September 24, 2018

Adult LSV: Action Comics #286

Action Comics #286 (March 1962)
title: The Jury of Super-Enemies
writer: Robert Bernstein
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
letterer: Joe Letterese
cover: Sheldon Moldoff
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board
Superman, Supergirl, Honorary Member Jimmy Olsen

The Superman Revenge Squad, the descendants of Pete Ross and Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Electro, and the Legion of Super-Villains (Cosmic King, Lightning Lord, and Saturn Queen)

The Superman Revenge Squad have been gathered to a meeting on the planet Wexr II by one of their members, Rava, to plot against Superman. A scout reveals that he has collected three new types of red Kryptonite.
Because red Kryptonite is unpredictable, they cannot be certain of the affects but the scout has lured Krypto so he can be used to test the rocks. The first two appear harmless and they suspect the third to be as well when it only seems to put Krypto to sleep. When they notice that he seems to be having a nightmare, they use a dream machine to discover that Krypto is imaging himself at a futuristic spaceport battling evil versions of Streaky and Titano.
Realizing that this form of red Kryptonite causes dreams of frightful adventures in the future, Rava devises a scheme to use it to stop Superman while they destroy his world. Back on Earth, Clark Kent accompanies Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen to the Superman museum, which is followed by a visit to the diner.
The gang enjoy their coffee and hamburgers, unaware that Clark's contains a surprise. Later Superman brings Jimmy to a sleepover at his Fortress of Solitude. After Jimmy assists Superman in cleaning his uniform with the help of an acetylene torch, the two retire for the evening. A spying Revenge Squad see Superman start to move in his sleep, so they use their dream machine to spy on his dream. In the future, Superman meets the descendants of two of his closes friends but does not get the warm welcome he expects. Instead, the duo use an atomic ray gun to change children's balloons into Kryptonite and send them after the Man of Steel.
Jimmy sees Superman is having a nightmare, and is only able to wake him after using equipment in the Fortress to amplify his signal watch. Superman thanks Jimmy and the two depart to a monthly meeting of the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club. Unfortunately, a tired Man of Steel falls asleep, and dreams of himself attending a celebration for the 67th President of the United States. He is then attacked by some of his greatest enemies, and is captured and brought before them for trial.
Having been found guilty for his "crimes" against the villains, he is sentenced to fight a duel of death against his cousin Supergirl. Although she was also brought as a prisoner, Superman is caught off guard by how vicious she is in battle.
Her behavior turns out to be a ruse intended to distract the villains. She catches them off guard, and appears to somehow use her x-ray vision to destroy them. Lightning Lord is the only one who evades her blast, and he uses the Phantom Zone projector to banish Supergirl. He also pulls out a device he claims will destroy the world, and a panicked Superman awakens to find that it was only a dream. He theorizes that he must have been exposed to a form of red Kryptonite and should be okay as soon as the affects wear off. Back at the Revenge Squad headquarters, a spying Rava gloats that these nightmares will finally allow them to get revenge on Superman.
This story is actually wrapped up in #287 of Action Comics. Superman dreams that he is put under hypnotic control and forced to commit crimes, and Perry White leads a manhunt to capture the Man of Steel. The Revenge Squad launch a robot army charged with contaminating Earth's soil, but Superman dismisses the attack as another dream. He eventually discovers that the attack is real and destroys the robot army before retreiving a Matter-Eater from his Fortress to eat the contaminated soil. The Revenge Squad flees, but vows to one day get their revenge on our hero.

Okay, I admit this issue was a bit of a stretch for this website since the Legion of Super-Villains only appeared in a dream, but their prominence made me feel it deserved some attention. Their appearance was certainly the high point of this story, both for the enticing cover and for the suspenseful and amusing moments of the actual trial. I wish the issue was entirely about Superman being captured and tried before this gang because that would made for a far better overall story. The concept is exciting and the sight of the villains shouting "Doom!" as they played with their Superman dolls cracked me up. I also enjoyed the battle with Supergirl, as brief as it was, and was thankful for the opportunity to see the Legion of Super-Villains as truly menacing bad guys on par with Luthor and Brainiac 5. And, um, Electro I guess...

Unfortunately, the overall plot was too flawed for the issue to work for me a whole. If the purpose of using Red Kryptonite was to distract Superman, why not just use the version that would turn him in to a phantom? That would have left him helpless to stop the Revenge Squad and been much quicker and easier.

The scene with Krypto also left me with many unanswered questions. How were they able to capture Krypto in the first place? How did he get free? Did they just let him go? That seems an odd decision for a group calling themselves the Superman Revenge Squad.

Despite these failings, the issue did contain a few bright spots besides Superman's trial. Seeing Superman get bored and fall asleep at the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club meeting was great. The dream involving the descendants of Pete Ross and Lana Lang was also interesting in that it perhaps suggested Superman had a bit of suppressed guilt for leaving them behind. Certainly not intended by the writer at the time, but also something a modern reader cannot help but infer.

Jimmy's sleepover was also amusing to modern eyes.  A middle aged man inviting his teenage friend to a sleepover just stands out a bit more as maybe not quite proper nowadays. Oh, and their trip to the and hamburgers?  Two things I enjoy, but not quite sure they go together.

In the end, the dreams had the potential for good adventures if expanded (especially the trial involving the Legion of Super-Villains) but the over-arching story failed to bring them together into a coherent, logical tale.


  1. So, I was wondering about "glowy skeleton dude", whose name, I see from the cover, is "Electro". Googling that brings up a lot of hits...............for the Spiderman villain of the same name. Anybody out there know more about THIS guy? Or is he just a "one-shot"?

  2. I've never seen Electro before, but Curt Swan seemed to enjoy the challenge of drawing him from several angles. And the cover is fantastic.

  3. And it just dawned on me that the cover is yet another homage (kind of)to Adventure 247. (The LSH premier story.)