For the long version of what Comic Cover Roulette is, read the first post. (Actually, read it anyway. It’s cool.) But here’s the short version: back in the Silver Age, comic book writers would often be given cover art and assigned the job of writing a story to fit. Now, I’m picking out some classic covers and doing the same thing. This time I’m tackling Superman #178, with a cover by Curt Swan and George Klein. I’ve never read this issue.
“When Superman Lost His Memory”
On assignment for the Daily Planet, Clark Kent is sent out to a mountain range near Metropolis to cover a meteor strike where strange set of markings has been discovered in the rock. Clark is a bit disgruntled, having to put aside an investigation for a pair of notorious con artist he’s been chasing down that he believes are planning to come to Metropolis, but he takes the assignment without complaint. Once in the mountains, Clark is shocked to discover that the markings are actually Kryptonian in origin. He is distracted from the tour group by his attempt to translate them – the writing is in an old dialect, but he can make out some of it. Before he finishes the translation, though, he finds himself exposed to a slice of red Kryptonite clinging to the side of the formation. He stumbles away, dazed, across a mountain road where he is hid by an oncoming truck.
Tumbling off the side of the mountain, he falls into a set of power lines that burns through his clothing, revealing the Superman costume beneath. His glasses melt into his face and his wallet falls away, burning with the scraps of clothing. The men in the truck get out, stunned to realize that they just struck Superman. One of them, despondent, suggests they make a run for it. His partner, though, points out that there’s no use trying to run away from Superman. They agree… but they’re a little stunned when Superman doesn’t immediately come after them. Instead, he calls up to them for help getting to the top of the cliff. When one of them comments that he could just fly up, he floats to the top, stunned at his ability. Every time they try to approach the man of steel, they are faced with an intense heat that forces them backwards, and none of them can understand what’s going on.
Realizing that Superman has lost his memory, the two men decide to use Superman to their advantage. Convincing him that he’s their partner, they use his powers to set up a thrilling string of robberies. Superman, who by now is covered in open flame , turns out to be the perfect person to help them melt open bank vaults, thwart museum security systems, and steal entire armored cars. At each turn, they are closely trailed by the police, who can’t understand how these two criminals have a partner as difficult to capture as Superman would be – or for that matter, where the man of steel is and why he isn’t chasing the hero.
The crooks decide to go for one last caper, the biggest of their careers – they’re going to steal the gold from Fort Knox. When they make their play, though, they find themselves surrounded by armed guards. One of the crooks casually tells Superman to kill them, but Superman rejects his order and knocks out the two criminals. When they wake up, they find themselves in prison, where Superman is back in his own uniform, giving a police statement. The Red Kryptonite, which of course has a different effect on Superman every time it is used, caused him to superheat and lose his memory. The effects have worn off now, though, and he the crooks – who he recognizes because of a piece “Clark Kent” was writing – are going to jail. The leader sadly proclaims that it was rotten timing that caught them – Superman got his memory back in the middle of the Fort Knox job. Superman, however, tells them that his memory didn’t return until a good hour later – it was his command to murder police officers that turned him on his “partners.” Even under the influence of Red Kryptonite, he says, he would never do such a thing.
The scientist studying the strange meteor is surprised to get a visit from Superman explaining its origin. The Kryptonian inscription reveal it to be a chunk of a memorial from Krypton’s distant past – a wall upon which was inscribed the names of law men – heroes – who died in the line of duty. Superman asks the scientist to take care in preserving such a sacred artifact. The scientists thank him and offer to have Superman as a guest of honor when it becomes a museum exhibit. Tossing a glance in the direction of the Red Kryptonite far away, Superman politely declines.
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. 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.