Monday, December 21, 2009

Action Comics #574

TITLE: Action Comics #574


COVER DATE: December 1985


24 pages


I've already written before about how this era of Superman books is one of the few that I've not really cracked into with any sort of consistency. Nothing has changed in the last couple of months, so there's not a whole lot to say before we start reading.

One of the things I am looking forward to, is reading a Superman book that came out in the last year before the John Byrne relaunch. It always strikes me as odd that the Superman books from the early 80's still read like they were straight out of the silver age. The Superman titles by and large were missing the more mature themes that popped up in the bronze age, and for whatever reason just plowed on through like nothing much had changed.

Eventually, the editors realized that something needed to be done and John Byrne was brought in to relaunch the franchise. It was definitely one of the wiser decisions that has been made to the Superman lines over the years, and the books are better off for it twentysome years later.

So when this issue came out, Crisis On Infinite Earths was two-thirds of the way through and was laying the groundwork for the new status quo. I'm curious to see if this issue still clings to the silver age style, or if it saw the writing on the wall and tried to get with the times. Let's find out.

May The Best World Win!
  • Writer: Craig Boldman
  • Penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger
  • Inker: Dave Hunt
  • Letterer: Milt Snapinn
  • Colorist: Gene D'Angelo
  • Editor: Julius Schwartz
The issue opens up on an average day for Clark Kent, working on a story in his office at the Daily Planet, as he's soon distracted by a noise outside his window. Seeing as how he's high up on a skyscraper, this is obviously a job for Superman and not Clark Kent.

Silver Age Alert!

State of the art technology still using the old shoebox design

The noise came from a roving camera/transmitter from the Planet Ostok, which has come to Earth with an offer for Superman to partake in an athletic competition. Decades ago, the natives of Ostok used to hold athletic competitions that spanned the galaxies. The only planet that they couldn't beat was Krypton, with all of their battles ending in a tie before Krypton was eventually destroyed leaving the contest forever stalemated. With the realization that there is still a Kryptonian alive on Earth, they are looking for one last chance to claim victory.

Not wanting to shirk his responsibilities to the people of Earth, Superman demurs. Jimmy Olsen, who has been eavesdropping on the converstation the whole time, writes about it in the Daily Planet. Fan mail soon starts pouring into the newsroom, urging Superman to accept the challenge and compete for both Krypton and Earth's honor. Not one to disappoint his fans, Superman accepts.

Silver Age Alert!

The U.N. has nothing better to do than to get involved with a super race

A series of events are soon scheduled to take place on Earth and Superman meets the Ostokian champion with which he will do battle, Rad Zonon.

Silver Age Alert!

Friendly alien races with alien handshakes

The meeting is soon cut short however, as something shiny catches Superman's attention.

Silver Age Alert!

Superman "subtly" lets us know that he's already solved the mystery/twist/misunderstanding that'll wrap everything up on the last page

Over the next seven pages, the two athletes compete against each other with neither one gaining the upper hand for very long. During the weeklong contest period, Jimmy Olsen tries to get to the bottom of what had distracted Superman earlier in the story. Working together with S.T.A.R. Labs, they have discovered that Zonon's body is emitting a strange radiation that nonetheless, doesn't seem to be affecting Superman.

It's all down to the final contest, which has Superman and Zonon engaged in a super-strong arm wrestling competition. The supercomputer, which has been used to keep score during the contest, buzzes as it's ready to declare a winner.

Jimmy Olsen and the scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs decide to bring the information they've discovered to Superman's attention, as they feel that the strange readings they found may have affected the super-computer's results.

Superman's non-plussed of course, as he lets us in on exactly what has been really going on. With no clues that were ever seeded in the story for the reader, Superman demonstrates the deductive abilities of his super-brain and fills us in.

When he left abruptly earlier, he went to the fortress and used some specialized equipment to "tune in" on the Planet Ostok. He soon found out that Zonon's planet was also affected by Krypton exploding, which caused the planet to become bathed in a series of radioactive solar eruptions.

Silver Age Alert!

All spaceships shall be of the Flash Gordon design school

Zonon was the only one of his planet to escape it's fate, as he was travelling back from an athletic competition at the time. Distraught and alone on his devastated planet, he spent next couple of decades tinkering with technology that allowed him to discover that a lone Kryptonian was still alive. Using his machines to de-age himself, he travels to Earth to finish that final athletic competition.

It was the effects of the de-aging technology that S.T.A.R. Labs had detected earlier, but Sueperman was aware of it the whole time. He decided it was best to give this last athlete of a devastated world his final victory, so that he may return to his world and die at peace.


There's no mistaking it, this story reads like it could have been straight out of an 80-Page Giant from back in the day. I was actually surprised at just how Silver Agey this story actually felt.

It's no wonder that Superman was in for a major overhaul if this was the status quo going into 1986.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy the old stories, I'm just amazed that they were still telling them this far into the 80's.

There's still one more story in this issue, and it's a Mr. Mxyzptlk romp that we'll finish up tomorrow.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics


  1. Actually, I find this one a little touching. The story sets us up to think the radiation is something menacing. But then, at the end, it turns out to be innocuous, with the Ostokian seeking only to come to terms with the extinction of his race. The parallel with Superman, who knows what it's like to be the last of his kind, works well too.

    --Thelonious Nick

  2. I did find it odd that Superman didn't try harder (or at all) to use his experience as the last son of a dead planet to try and help Zonon come to terms with what has happened to him in a more positive fashion, instead of deluding him into thinking he had won and letting him die.

    That would seem to be the upstanding thing to do, eh?