Hidden Gems: Superman #245 (DC Comics, 1971)
TITLE: Superman #245
AUTHORS: Edmond Hamilton, Gardner Fox, et al.
ARTISTS: Curt Swan, Carmine Infanito, Al Plastino, Gil Kane, et al.
COLLECTS: Superman #167 (Feb. 1964), Kid Eternity #3 (Autumn, 1946), The Atom #3 (Oct.-Nov., 1962), All-Star Western #117 (Feb.-Mar. 1961), Detective Comics #66 (Aug., 1942), Mystery in Space #88 (Feb. 1964), Superman #87 (Feb. 1954)
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL PRICE: 50 cents
RELEASE DATE: December 1971-January 1972
By Mike Bessler
Contributor, Commisar of Comic Book History
Superman #245 is one of those books that you might easily overlook as you thumb through the dollar box of your local comic shop. It’s basically a collection of reprints issued as a “DC 100 Page Super Spectacular,” a format that was moderately popular in the early 1970’s. We all know that reprints rarely accrue much in the way of value even after several decades. But what makes this particular issue a true “hidden gem” is the sheer volume of reading material and classic comic art in this inexpensive volume.
Please bear with me as I provide a self-indulgent flashback of what this book means to me: When I was much younger (say 12 or 13 years old) there weren’t many comic shops near my home. My best bet of landing back issues back then was the few times a year when the local shopping mall would host an “antique show” in which various and sundry dealers would set up kiosks full of their wares throughout the building. The collectibles booths were always my favorite places to visit and I could always count on one or two comic dealers showing up.
I distinctly remember buying my copy of Superman #245 as part of a “five for a dollar” deal from one of these “antique show” comic book sellers. I don’t remember any of the other books I got that day but I do remember walking away from the booth with my mom feeling like she had just given me a bag full of treasures. Never mind that my new-found Superman #245 had a huge strip missing from the cover, (looking as if someone had stuck a piece of masking tape across it and then slowly and painfully peeled it off); Never mind the fact that it was well-read, dinged up and generally falling apart; Never mind it was a collection of reprints; Superman #245 was a special find on a special day and, yeah, it’s got a lot of sentimental value in that respect. On top of all that, though, it was absolutely crammed full of Golden Age and Silver Age material and I have appreciated the vintage material from an early age.
The linchpin of this collection is the three-part “novel” entitled “The Team of Luthor and Brainiac,” which is reprinted from Superman #167 (Feb. 1964). This is a multifaceted tale featuring a team-up of Superman’s most diabolical foes. Although Luthor and Brainiac eventually get the jump on Supes, their partnership starts to unravel as a result of the mutual mistrust that super-villain types tend to experience when working together. The Man of Tomorrow tips the scales back in his favor when he garners an assist from Kandor’s “army of Supermen.” Later in the tale, the Kandorians themselves ultimately capture Brainiac and put him on trial for high crimes against the Kryptonian people…with Lex Luthor acting as as defense counsel for the accused!
Yes, folks…This one’s got it all. Everything that one should expect in a pre-Crisis Superman yarn is contained in this three-chapter page-turner, including a trip to the Fortress of Solitude, a visit to the miniature Kryptonian city of Kandor, journeys to fantastic far-off worlds, amazing secret weapons and astounding feats of super-strength. Along the way, readers learn the secret origins of Brainiac as well as Brainiac 5 (of the Legion of Super Heroes).
As if all that wasn’t enough, this collection includes some fabulous tales featuring some relatively obscure heroes of the 1940’s. Kid Eternity #3 (Autumn 1946) pits Kid Eternity and his sidekick Keep against a gang of art thieves who have heisted Rembrandt’s celebrated painting, “The Night Watch.” Our hero gets a helping hand against the thugs from the likes of Nostradamus, Socrates, Jevert Dusty and a number of other historical figures and fictional characters, all of whom are conjured when Kid exclaims the magic word, “Eternity!” The creepy and almost ethereal artwork of artist Mac Raboy (who did some of his best work in Fawcett-era Captain Marvel Jr. stories) gives this story an uncommon feel, transcending the “campiness” that’s often associated with Golden Age material.
Golden Age hero Air Wave makes an appearance in this anthology in a story entitled “The Adventure of the Shooting Spooks” from Detective Comics #66 (Aug., 1942). In this tale, Air Wave’s alter ego Larry Jones is framed for the murder of the city D.A. through the chicanery of a gang of sheet-wearing “spooks” and Air Wave and his feathered pal Static have to bust out of the clink to bring the real killers to justice.
This 100-Page Giant also includes a batch of Silver Age goodness, including “The Crowning of Super-Chief” from All-Star Western #117 (Feb.-Mar. 1961). This unusual epic re-presents the first appearance and origin of American Indian hero Super Chief.
Later in this issue, Hawkman does battle with a free-wheeling bandit in “The Super-Motorized Menace” from Mystery in Space #88. If you’ve ever wondered how a guy with wings would fare in a battle against a crook who can create tornado-force winds with the exhaust from his motorcycle, this tale answers that question once and for all. Really.
The Atom takes on “Genius of Time” Chronos in the story from “The Time Trap,” reprinted from The Atom #3 (Oct.-Nov., 1962). I’ve never been the biggest fan of The Atom but you just can’t go wrong with a story written by longtime Golden Age Flash creator Gardner Fox and penciled by legendary artist Gil Kane. Incidentally, Chronos sports one of my favorite super-villain costumes of all time, looking like something of a cross between Kang the Conqueror and The Royal Flush Gang (How’s that for a geeky reference, y’all?)
Rounding out Superman #245 is another tale starring the Man of Steel himself. “The Prankster’s Greatest Role” was originally presented in Superman #87 (Feb. 1954) and it’s a vintage story from the close of comicdom’s Golden Age. If The Joker and Mr. Mxyzptlk could somehow have a kid, the offspring would probably look a lot like the whimsical evildoer known as The Prankster. In typical fashion, The Prankster torments and extorts the hapless Metropolis bourgeoisie only to be opposed – and ultimately thwarted — by the fabled “Only Son of Krypton.” Is it predictable? Sure. But it’s fun all the same!
For my money, Superman #245 is the stuff of wonderfully lazy summer afternoons. True enthusiasts of the super hero genre can easily kill several hours in a lawn chair or hammock as they digest some classics of pop culture. As a kid, I re-read my tattered old copy of this comic book over and over again. Over 20 years later, I found a nicer copy at a comic shop I was more than happy to shell out another buck or two so that I’d have a backup copy that would look swell on my “wall of fame.” Thing is, I’ve read that one a few times over that past few years too and now it’s showing all the signs of a well-read copy, too. Yep, that’s how much I love this comic book. After all, these things are for reading…aren’t they?
By the way: Thanks Mom..24 years later!