Action Comics #466 (1976)

As I’ve read more and more comics over the years, my admiration for the so-called “Bronze Age” has only grown. While there was an ever growing understanding of the characters as philosophical figures, the heroes are often found in situations as ridiculous as they were in decades prior. Sure, the better Bronze Age books take the concepts developed in the early years and begin to treat them with a little more respect, but the concepts hadn’t quite been streamlined yet. Though this is certainly reflected in the art and storytelling of the era, it would be a few more years before writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore would enhance the mythology to the complexities expected by contemporary audiences.

When preparing for this column, I literally scour longboxes (okay, shortboxes in this case) for interesting books. I didn’t even make it through the first one before I saw this cover.

This beautiful Neal Adams cover.

This beautiful Neal Adams cover of Lex Luthor murdering child-versions of three beloved heroes.

Wait, that can’t actually be the plot? Can it?

Okay, of course there is eventually a twist, but for the most part, yeah, that’s the plot of this one. Trust me, I was as shocked as you are. You definitely get to see a teenage team-up of The Flash, Batman-boy and Superboy. You also definitely see them die. Not in like, Miracleman #15 ways, it’s Curt Swan, jeez. But they totally die in a 1976 Superman way. Oh, and if you don’t know what I meant when I mentioned Miracleman, get your parent’s written permission and click here.  Are you feeling okay? Do you need a minute? It’s alright, take one. We have as much time as you need.

Prolific Comic Writer Cary Bates crafts this bizarre tale along with Curt Swan, who I think is indisputably the most recognizable Superman artist. Tex Blaisdell backs up the legend on inks, and a combination of their skills somehow make the tale much more palatable than you might expect. Swan’s art is so connected to the Superman that even in weaker plots, the books always seem to feel right. There are other encouraging aspects as well. I really enjoy this era of Superman and its attempts to retain the character’s relevance by transitioning The Daily Planet into WGBS, television news station. Newspapers wouldn’t struggle for a few more decades and Kent and company would return to the paper, but The Man of Tomorrow’s team correctly predicted things to come. I find that risk admirable. Also, even with our heroes being turned into children and slaughtered, the script is notably solid and characterizations are dead on for the era. Regardless of wacky plot, this book prevails as a fun, if not a bit dated, read.

Solid copies of Action Comics #466 usually fall in the $3-$10 range, but as it is not an important issue, I’m sure you can scrounge one up for less than that with a little digging.