Welcome to Comic Cover Roulette, a new semi-regular feature (defined as “whenever I feel like it”) here at Evertime Realms. Back in the day, some comic book editors (Julius Schwartz was reportedly the master of this) would have his artists draw up a comic book cover first, usually based on the most outlandish idea they could think of, then assign writers to come up with a story to fit it. This was a practice that resulted in a lot of Silver Age comics that had ridiculously convoluted plots and incredibly silly situations in order to justify the cover image, often in a single panel of an otherwise unrelated story. It was a time when comics didn’t concern themselves so much with things like continuity, stories didn’t continue over into the next issue, and writers were interchangeable. I imagine a lot of writers got frustrated with this practice, being unable to really cut loose and tell their own stories, but simply as a writing exercise, I bet it’s a lot of fun.
So what I’m going to do in this feature is sift through mountains of old comic book covers — I’ll probably spend most of my time with Superman comics, since he’s (in the words of Bibbo Bibbowski) my fav’rit, and try to come up with a story to go with one each time. This will of course work better if it’s a comic I’ve never read before, but I won’t discount a comic in my collection if I get a good idea. And in those cases where the cover mentions the title, I’ll even stick with that.
For my inaugural edition of this feature, I’m going to use Action Comics #407 from December 1971, with a cover by the legendary art team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. I’ve never read this comic, I have no idea what the story actually was, but here’s my take on this cover…
“The Fiend in the Fortress of Solitude”
Clark Kent is at work in the offices of the Daily Planet (this one of those rare instances where he’s actually at work instead of walking across the country or getting kittens out of trees) when he receives a telephone call from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There’s a brave young man, Chris, suffering from a terrible ailment, and his one wish is to make a visit to Superman’s legendary Fortress of Solitude. Since it is well known that Clark has a personal friendship with Superman, the Foundation is hoping he can help out. Clark agrees to arrange a tour of the Fortress, and even promises to write a story about Chris’s visit for the paper.
Clark and Chris take a helicopter to the North Pole, along with Chris’s father and a representative for the Foundation. As they get off the copter near the enormous key to the Fortress, a figure appears from the sky — Superman himself has arrived to give them a personal tour! Clark watches, trying not to grin at his cleverness, as Superman lifts the key, unlocks the Fortress, and ushers the visitors inside. As they tour the incredible Arctic lair, Superman directs them to a cage made of Inertron, a nearly-indestructible metal developed in the 31st century by Superman’s friends in the Legion of Super-Heroes. As they examine the cage, the representative from the Foundation trips Clark and shoves him inside. Clark plays along, unwilling to expose his secret identity, and the representative presses a hidden button under his coat. As he hits the button, an incredible pulse of energy bursts forth and the lights in the Fortress die. From a lead-lined compartment in his belt, he takes out a shard of Kryptonite. The green glow illuminates Superman, fallen and still.
Gloating over his triumph, he reveals his plan — to sneak into the Fortress and steal some of the alien and future technology contained therein to make himself the world’s greatest super-criminal. The button released an electromagnetic pulse that shorted out the computer systems throughout the Fortress. Clark, weakened in the cage by the exposed Kryptonite, realizes that the EMP has also shorted out the Superman robot he had been controlling remotely to give the tour of the Fortress. The villain tries to force Chris and his father into the cage at gunpoint, but Chris escapes and his father runs after him. The villain rushes behind, exclaiming that he only needs one living hostage in case Supergirl or somebody else shows up, and he already has Clark Kent in the cage. He takes the chunk of Kryptonite with him, and Clark is left with a dilemma — go after them as Superman and risk his identity, or let the boy and his father die.
For Clark Kent, of course, this is no choice at all.
Clark changes to Superman and rushes after the criminal, but as he approaches, the Kryptonite again takes effect. He stumbles to the ground, and the villain raises his gun to shoot him and finish the man of steel. Before he can pull the trigger, though, Chris leaps at him and knocks the Kryptonite from his hand. The shard falls down one of the many crystalline shafts that litter the walls of the Fortress, and Superman makes quick work of the would-be world conqueror. As they return to the cage where they left Clark, they find the mild-mannered reporter unconscious in the cage. At super-speed, Superman put Clark’s clothing on the fallen robot to cover his tracks. Now, as the robot slowly reboots and begins to move again, Superman explains that Clark must have tripped and hit his head in the darkness. His secret is safe, Clark’s reputation is maintained, and Chris is left with a story that his friends will never be able to top. Now if only the Make-a-Wish Foundation will improve its screening process…
Well guys, that’s it for the first-ever Comic Cover Roulette. I do intend to do this pretty regularly, maybe once a week, so be on the lookout for more. And if you’d like to suggest a cover, go right ahead. Find it online (I suggest using the marvelous database at www.comics.org) and post the link — any cover that has Superman on it is fair game. Hope you enjoyed it!
These characters are, of course, ™ and © DC Comics. I don’t own ‘em, I don’t claim to own ‘em, and I have no intention to use any of these stories for any monetary gain. This is just for funsies. Please don’t sue me.