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Cover Stories by Jon B. Knutson
Jon Knutson presents comic book covers with a common theme
and relates any information and comments about them.

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COVER STORIES for 04/09/2006

Welcome to this 48h edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!

We're getting close to the one-year anniversary of this column, and I do have something appropriate planned for it... but in the meantime, this week, I present a quartet of covers fitting the theme "Handicapable!"

Action Comics 251

You know, one of these days, I'll have to do a month's worth of columns without a single Superman cover in them... but this isn't that month! Here we have Action Comics 251, with an aged and infirm Man of Steel! This wasn't the last time DC would visit this concept... there was a two-part "Imaginary Story" into the 1970s that not only had an older Superman, but he was also in a wheelchair (remind me some day to feature those, okay?).

This cover was courtesy of the talents of Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. The cover story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Volume 1, and since I have that book in my collection, here's a recap of the story: The tale begins as Clark Kent interviews a famous scientist who's invented a super-vitamin, which he plans to test on himself. Clark gumps it down instead to save the professor from taking the risk, and leaves. After he leaves, the scientist discovers Clark drank old age potion instead! (why would someone invent such a thing?) Clark changes to Superman and flies to the Fortress of Solitude, where he discovers there are Kryptonite isotopes in the formula! The next day, Clark wakes up old, so he goes to the scientist for a cure. Fortunately, it'll wear off in three days! There's a few pages of Superman dealing with his powers weakened by old age, and then when he goes to rescue the S.S. Opal City from pirates, he makes himself up as the Old Man of the Sea to teach the pirates a lesson! Then Clark gets an assignment to spend a day at the Old Folks' Home, during which he ducks out to disguise himself as Santa Claus to foil a robbery (don't ask, get the reprint volume and read it for yourself!). After that, his next disguise is as Father Time, using a scythe with a built-in electromagnet to attract the bullets that won't bounce off his now-vulnerable body! Finally, as Superman, he's supposed to help out the army, but with his invulnerability still gone, he has to delay a test until the 72 hours are up!

How it is that the formula would last exactly 72 hours is beyond me. But then, in comics, everything rounds to an even amount, doesn't it? Aquaman is fine out of water for 59 minutes 59 seconds, but after an hour he's toast, right?

"The Oldest Man in Metropolis" was written by Robert Bernstein with art by Al Plastino. The tale was also reprinted in Superman Annual #3.

Also in this issue: Congorilla in "Congorilla, Outlaw" by Howard Sherman, Tommy Tomorrow in "The Giant Amoeba of Space" by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney (his last Action appearance, he was bumped to make room for Supergirl... well, he was relocated to World's Finest two months later, bumping Tomahawk out of that book).

Adventure 259

OK, I have to admit a special fondness for this cover... since Krypto the Super-Dog is featured on it (don't have a clue why Krypto's cape is purple here). I have mentioned I have a white boxer named Krypto, haven't I? One of these days, I'll do an all-Krypto column and run a photo of him with it, okay? This cover, Adventure Comics 259, was another Curt Swan/Stan Kaye effort.

Even though the story is called "The Blind Boy of Steel," Sueprboy isn't really blind... he just develops diamond vision when a freak bolt of lightning strikes him, and he can't turn the diamond vision off, so he must keep his eyes shut at all times. The story was by Otto Binder and George Papp, and was reprinted in Superboy Annual #1.

The theme of Superboy being blind, with Krypto as his seeing-eye super-dog, was revisted much later in Superboy's own title!

Also in this issue of Adventure, Tricksy by Henry Boltinoff, Aquaman in "The Octopus Man" with art by Ramona Fradon (Aquaman's brain is trapped in the body of an octopus... don't you hate it when that happens?), a PSA titled "What's Your B.Q.?" by Jack Schiff and Bernard Baily, and Green Arrow in "The Green Arrow's Mystery Pupil" by Lee Elias, reprinted in World's Finest 154, and featuring the introduction of the Crimson Archer (who I'm guessing was never seen again).

Flash 166

You know, the Fastest Man Alive went through a number of bizarre transformations... but I can't imagine any of them impeded him more than his temporary handicap presented on this cover... complete with the threat of the Temperature Twins, Captain Cold and Heat Wave!

I'd imagine all of you recognize the hand of Carmine Infantino on this cover, for Flash 166, but how many of you recognize Joe Giella's inks?

This wasn't the lead story, however... that honor went to "Last Stand of the Three-Time Losers," by John Broome, Infantino and Giella (and no, I don't know who the three-time losers were). "Tempting Target of the Temperature Twins" was written by Gardner Fox, and featured Infantino and Giella on art. This story was reprinted in Super-Team Family #1, which you can probably find pretty cheap. Unfortunately, I don't have the original or the reprint in my collection (if only there had been a Showcase Presents Flash Volume 1!).

Now, just for a complete change of pace... here's a "handicapable" cover from a romance comic!

Girls Love 166

Girls' Love 166 featured a cover by Nick Cardy, one of the best cover artists of the 1970s (and one of my favorite comics artists, period)! And I suppose that this girl isn't really "handicapable," since she doesn't want Matt to see what's happened to her (and by the way... has anyone ever seen someone in a wheelchair with a blanket over their legs outside of comic books?). However, if she really wanted to stay hidden, maybe she shouldn't try hiding behind the decorative screen with al those cut-outs, eh?

Inside this book, you'll find "The Destiny of Love" with Vince Colletta inks, "Margo-Chuck Contest ("Black + White = Heartbreak")" with art by Jay Scott Pike, "Tea for Two" (credits unknown), "You Can Look Glamorous," a text filler, "He Doesn't Love Me" with art by Tony Abruzzo and Bernard Sachs, a text story "The Thief of Hearts," and "1234 The One You Want" with art by Abruzzo.

And no, I haven't a clue which story was the cover story... except it wasn't the Margo-Chuck one, obviously!

Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !

Jon B. Knutson

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