World's Finest 189 -190 (November 1969)
Way back in November of 1969 Superman died for the first time. Kind of. In a scene that was actually much more dramatic than the Doomsday fight during the Death of Superman debacle, a figure plummets from the sky and slams into a playground, digging a huge crater. At the bottom of the crater is the corpse of Superman. Or is it another one of those torturous and unlikely plans that Silver Age characters used to teach their friends and enemies a lesson?
In World's Finest Comics (sic) #189 and #190, Cary Bates and Ross Andru ask the question of who is worthy to receive Superman's heart and other organs when he dies. Now organ donation is a serious subject and just think of all the good Kryptonian super-meat could do for people in need. Ridiculously, the dead Superman is taken to the local morgue and treated just like any other body. In today's comics armored goons would bust onto the scene and take the corpse to cut up and sell to the highest bidder. While the world mourns the loss of Superman, Batman produces a super-will that requests his super-organs be donated to those in need, with the heart going to the Batman, as most deserving.
Batman acts surprised by the news, which sure isn't the Batman I know. The post 60's Batman would have at least taken a peek in the envelope to make sure Supes was in his sound mind when he wrote it. It would have been unfortunate for Perry White to read the will and have it say "I, Superman, am really Clark Kent. My friend, Bruce Wayne is really the Batman. I like pigeons. I want to leave all my money to the Luthor Foundation."
Batman refuses the gift of life and suggests that a scientist or statesman receive the heart instead of him. Nice move Bats. How about this for the suggestion box? Give it to a sick child!
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor in his crazed evil super-scientist mode (which is his best incarnation by the way) visits the very modest grave of the greatest hero of all time and hatches a diabolical plan. That evil plan is...the auction of the Kryptonian's spare parts to the criminals of the underworld!
Enter the Big Four Syndicate, a quartet of mobsters and Motar, who meets Lex in the woods at night and regeals him with the story of how Superman died by electric shock while in space. Luthor steals the harvested organs and holds his auction. Of course, the The Big Four mob win the auction. Of course, much to the loss of some heart-diseased politician, Luthor keeps the heart as a trophy for himself in one of his Luthor's Lairs.
Luthor helps transplant the purloined eyes, ears, hands and lungs into the Big Four leaders, who then don what have to be the stupidest costumes ever in comics. If you want to know what comes next, Cary Bates will tell you in his song...
I know it was the 60's, and college kids were buying comics as tokens of iconic absurdity, but cripes! Anyway, the Big Four leaders who got their transplants go on a crime spree by using their powers of looking, listening, blowing and gripping to foil Batman and Robin.
In a final showdown with the Gang of Four, the Batman defeats them by waiting until noon, the scientifically derived time that their transplanted organs will be rejected by their bodies. To his credit, Batman tried to save Super-Lungs but Luthor interfered, and the guy suffocated. Just as Luthor was about to zap Batman and Robin, Superman shows up and saves the day. Yep, he was not dead. The pain and suffering his friends and the world at large felt was just a cruel and elaborate trick to capture the 4 wiseguys who were robbing banks.
But how did Superman fake his death? Easy, he just flew off to Faux-Krypton and had his android Uncle kill himself! The fake Krypton is an exact duplicate of his dead homeworld that he and Supergirl built and populated with android duplicates of the entire population of Krypton. That is so creepy. And in case you ask how android parts could be grafted to human tissue and pass rigorous examinations by scientists and Luthor that is easy to explain. Superman built androids that were entirely made of synthetic materials that were indistinguishable from actual living material. So when Supes commanded his android uncle to plummet to his death he pretty much was in effect, killing a sentient being. What a jerk. You'd think a guy that can build a planet and populate it with a race of beings with artificial intelligence could catch some mobsters without flying to another galaxy.
In true 60's comic book style, the heroes tsk-tsk about the criminals they caught. Batman remarks that while the recipients of the artificial eyes, ears and hands might be able to get help, the member of the gang who received the super-lungs had "paid the ultimate penalty for his crimes." Trust good old Bats to rub it in and lecture a guy who's eyes are rotting out of his skull.
For me though, the burning question is who gets the super-tackle? I could do without a super-heart, but that super-penis could sure make my year! Talk about an increase in your quality of life! Man of Steel, baby! And I'm not faster than a speeding bullet, either.
I'd like to thank Cary Bates for enabling me to use the word 'penis' in today's entry.
- Originally posted in Comics Should Be Good, 11/7/05
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