Action #386, "Home for Old Super-Heroes!"

ACTION COMICS #386; March 1970; DC Comics; Mort Weisinger, editor; E.  Nelson
Bridwell, assistant editor; featuring Superman in "The Home for Old 
Super-Heroes!"  The cover, which looks like a Swan-Anderson job, depicts a  bunch of
aging men in colorful costumes sitting around reminiscing about the  good old
days.  "I was called  ELECTROMAN!  I can still give off  a bolt!", one of them
declares.  Another remembers, "I was ATOM KING,  mightiest man on my world!" 
A third guy just leans on his cane and looks  disgruntled, while an antennaed
alien clad in a familiar-looking green and black  costume (though with a
slightly altered emblem) explains, "I was the last Green  Lantern!  I was sent here
when I became too old to fight crime!"  And  a graying, slightly stooped
figure in an even more familiar costume reveals,  "And I was SUPERMAN on the
planet Earth!  But like the rest of you, I've  OUTLIVED MY USEFULNESS!  No one
wants me around any more!"  

Review by Bill Henley

In our last installment (and my last  review) Superman traveled from the year
1970 100,000 years into the future in a  defective Time Bubble, and found
that he had physically aged all of that  time.  But the aging effect was little
more than gray hair and wrinkles;  his super-powers remained as mighty as ever.
Moreover, a well-meaning  "gift" from some superheroes of the future made
Superman effectively immortal by  removing his weaknesses to Kryptonite, Virus
X, red sun radiation and even  magic.  But Superman found that a strange
barrier in the time stream  (created, unknown to him, by the Legion of Super-Heroes
villain the Time  Trapper) prevented him from returning backwards in time to
his own era.   And so, in this issue, he finds himself trapped in a time era
not his own and  unable to escape even by death.

The splash panel is another thrilling  scene of the legion of superannuated
heroes, as a couple of ex-champions play  "giant checkers", another naps on a
floating platform, and Superman uses his  heat vision to whittle images of his
long-dead friends Jimmy Olsen, Perry White  and Lois Lane out of wooden logs. 
"More than 100,000 years in the future,  CRIME has vanished....WARS are no
more [I guess somebody finally paid attention  to that slogan Joe Kubert was
putting in his DC war comics around 1970], even  ACCIDENTS have become needs SUPERMAN in a peaceful  universe?  No one, he's
sent to join otherforgotten  champions of the glorious past in THE HOME FOR
OLD SUPER-HEROES!"  I  haven't found definite credits for this series of
stories, but I think the  script is by Cary Bates, the nencils are definitely Curt
Swan, and the inks may  be Jack Abel.

After having a temper tantrum and destroying the image of  his aged self in a
giant "mirror-cliff", Superman flies from the year 121,970  another five
centuries into the future (he can travel forward in time, but not  backward)
hoping to find something interesting that will motivate him to go on  living. 
Arriving at the future version of Metropolis, a city built on  stilts above the
radioactive atmosphere the Earth now has, Supes is startled to  find himself
surrounded by globelike robot police accusing him of violating  "Prime Directive
A-7" prohibiting the use of super-powers in Metropolis.   "I could probably
break away from these things....but I mustn't oppose the  LAW!"  Upon his
arrival at "Violation Central", Superman receives an  apology of sorts from a circle
of human authorities on video screens.  They  recognize him as the legendary
hero Superman who thrived in the long ago 20th  century and reappeared briefly
in Metropolis a few hundred years earlier.   But even he, the city fathers
explain, is subject to Prime Directive A-7 against  super-powers.  The law was
inspired by an incident that occured some 30,000  years earlier when three
super-powered champions of a race called Naurons  settled on Earth, and at first
acted as benefactors, helping with a project to  clean all impurities out of
Earth's atmosphere.  But then the two male  Naurons got into a big fight over
the female Nauron, and their super-powered  duel caused disasters on Earth,
including the creation of the radioactive  atmosphere.  So, now, the law has
decreed that super-powers are more  trouble than they're worth.  Charges are
dropped against Superman, but he  is released with strict orders not to use any of
his powers even for a  moment. 

Discovering that there is still a Daily Planet in  Metropolis in this far
future era, Superman nostalgically goes inside its  headquarters, to discover
that the printed newspaper page is obsolete (that  might actually happen a lot
sooner than 120,000 years) and Planet reporters now  report their stories by
beaming "thought-images".  Entering the Planet's  "history files" Supes discovers
that its "time tapes" go back as far as the  1970's and discovers the fate of
his world and his friends.  Clark Kent's  Planet desk became a historical
exhibit, as soon after he and Superman both  disappeared at the same time in
1970, the world deduced his double  identity.  As for Superman's old friends, they
each maintained a  relationship of sorts with him, as Lois Lane married an
actor who made his  career playing Superman in movies, Jimmy Olsen wrote a
best-seller about "My  Years With Superman", and Perry White retired from the
Planet to run the  Superman Museum.  But before our hero can check into the fate of
other  allies such as Batman or Supergirl, he is thrown out of the Planet
morgue by a  janitor who doesn't recognize him as the Planet's longest-tenured
reporter  ever.  As Superman returns to the street, he observes an air-car about
to  crash, and decides this is a job for Superman, law or no law....

Before  going on with the story, we have a house ad for a couple of DC Giants
(no longer  80 Pages at this point), a Supergirl/Adventure Comics Special
All-Romance Issue  and a Flash Giant, and the "Metropolis Mailbag" lettercol. A
femmefan named Mary  Cowan of Columbus, Ohio complained that recent Legion
stories have had too much  of the Legionnaires' private lives and not enough
heroics-- "LSH stands for  Legion of Super-Heroes, not Lonely Super-Hearts". 
(Guess she wasn't in the  market for the Supergirl All-Romance Special.)  And a
military reader,  Marine Lance Corporal B.E. Whitesall, objected that a previous
Supeman story  showed disrespect for real-life heroes by allowing the villains
to destroy the  Iwo Jima Memorial to Marine heroes fallen in that WWII
battle.  Ye Ed  responded that the story idea was "to pick something whose
desecration would  shock the country" but that Superman later made it all better by
rebuilding the  Memorial good as new.

As we go back to the future, Superman is seized and  held helpless by the
"Pol-Globe Violation Patrol" before he can reach the  crashing aircar.  No lives
are lost, for all vehicles in this future era  are equipped with a
"de-solidifier" that causes them to turn intangible if they  are about to crash into
something.  But now Superman has violated Directive  A-7 for a second time, and
must face punishment.  Several hours later, a  "transporto-dock" (a device that
looks a lot like a Star Trek transporter)  deposits the Man of Steel on "a
planet of a nearby solar system" where he is  greeted by aged men in colorful
costumes.  "It seems I'm on a RETIREMENT  PLANET for aged super-heroes who have
outlived their usefulness!"  Supes  gets to know some of his fellow retirees,
including that alien who declares  himself "the last of the Green Lanterns of
the universe....once there were  HUNDREDS of us!"  He is saddened to see that
the aged heroes' chief  occupation is viewing time-records of their own
youthful exploits.  But  perhaps that will change a few days later, when a "frantic
visitor" shows up--  the Mayor of Metropolis, who begs the "Senior Champions"
to return to Earth with  him.  At first, the aged heroes reject the appeal from
the Earthmen who  disdained and exiled them.  But then Superman, drawing on
his prestige as  the oldest hero of all, urges the others not to throw away the
chance to prove  that super-powers can still be useful and that they are not
worthless  "has-beens".  Inspired by him, the old heroes agree to help 

Arriving back on Earth, Superman starts out by blasting the  police
"Super-Power Detector" with his heat vision, so that he and his allies  can operate
unhindered.  But what is the emergency?  It seems that one  of the skyscrapers in
Metropolis is actually a storage silo for "nutanium"  (Imaginary Element
Alert, Dave Selegue!)  the "most powerful explosive  element in the galaxy". A
"freak storm" has set off a chain reaction which  threatens to cause the nutanium
to explode.  Any attempt to move the  nutanium could set it off, and even an
evacuation attempt could cause thousands  of deaths in he panic.  But can the
old heroes do anything?  Green  Lantern reflects that in his better days he
could have defused the nutanium with  his Power Ring, but now he's not sure his
mind is sharp enough to do so without  setting off the explosion instead.  But
Superman concocts a plan, and sends  his fellow heroes off around the galaxy
to bring its elements together.  Electroman's weakened but still useful
"bolt-charge" slices off a chunk of  "invulnite" (yet another new element).  An
unnamed hero with a  "projector-brain" gathers "diamondium crystals".  Green
Lantern strains his  aged will power to the limit to push a super-dense
"magna-meteor" to  Earth.  Once the heroes bring back these and other super-hard
substances,  Superman melts them all into a single ultra-ultra-hard alloy which he
uses to  create a shield around the nutanium silo.  But doesn't Superman
realize--  the other heroes wonder-- that when the nutanium goes off, the explosion
will  merely blast downward through the unshielded floor of the silo and still
destroy  the city of Metropolis?  O ye of little faith-- when the chain
reaction  does go off, Superman flies around the silo at super-speed, creating a
vortex  which somehow prevents the explosion from spreading down and outwards.  
Instead, it becomes a "super-powered jet exhaust, propelling the nutanium into 
outer space, where it can do no harm!"  The impressed Mayor of Metropolis 
promises to repeal Directive A-7 and ahoow superheroes to operate on Earth 
again.  But Superman does not stick around to hear about this victory, for  he has
used his super-momentum to blast forward again through the 
time-barrier...."There's nothing for me in this era now but regret!  Why  didn't I marry Lois? 
I miss her that she's lost forever!   All I can do is jump a few
dozen centuries ahead....maybe I'll find happiness  waiting there!"  And as the
sinister Time Trapper watches Superman's  forward flight through the
time-stream, we are invited to "rejoin the World's  Loneliest Hero in next month's

Superman can't go backwards in  time, but we readers can-- not all the way
back to 1970, but back as far as the  relatively familar 30th century era of the
still-youthful Legion of  Super-Heroes, whose adventure this issue is "Zap
Goes the Legion!", script by E.  Nelson Bridwell (I think), art by Win Mortimer
and Jack Abel.  The roll  call includes Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Karate Kid,
Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl,  Saturn Girl, Ultra-Boy and Night Girl of the
Legion of Substitute Heroes-- a  full house for one of these squeezed ACTION Legion
backups.  On the splash  panel, though, four of the heroes--Lightning Lad,
Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and  Night Girl-- are being disposed of with ease by
beams the female antagonist of  the issue directs from her belt.  Our story
begins on the prison planetoid  Takron-Galtos, where we see a demonstration of the
ablities of the "Prism  Therapy" used in the prison's "Rehabiliation Room". 
Once a prisoner, such  as the violent and dangerous Hawkor Phuy is deemed ready
for the treatment, he  is subjected to the prism-beams which leave him eager
to go straight and atone  for his past crimes.  After Hawkor sees the light,
or rather lights, and is  dispatched back to his homeworld a free man, the next
subject is Uli Algor, an  attractive redhead who has spent six months on
Takron-Galtos after tangling with  the Legion.  After the prism-lights
"hypnotically deaden the evil part of  her brain", Uli expresses wonder and horror that
she ever did such nasty things  as "impersonating a Legionnaire and trying to
rob their clubhouse".  "Just  be happy that part of your life is over!" the
warden assures her.  But  maybe it's not as over as he thinks...for after Uli is
released, the old evil  gleam returns to her eyes, and she gloats to herself
that her villainous  specialty is devices dealing with light, and "The fools! 
I IMMUNIZED  myself against all forms of light-power, so the Prism-Lights
couldn't work on  ME!"

A few days later, several Legionnaires are attending the "Time  Cinema",
where 30th century Metropolis residents go to be entertained by  real-life scenes
of barbaric past eras.  The scene on view is the July 4th,  1910 knockout of
boxing contender James Jeffres by heavyweight champion Jack  Johnson.  Saturn
Girl is shocked; " actually battered each  other like that for
SPORT!"  Lightning lad chides her, "Don't let Karate  Kid hear you say
that...he's mastered all forms of hand-to-hand combat!"   Ultra Boy counters, "But he
uses them for DEFENSE, not sport!  Boxing was  outlawed centuries ago!"  But
debating the merits of ancient combat for  sport is about to give way to real
combat, as a group of the leisure-time  Legionnaires are confronted by their old
enemy Uli, who challenges them to  combat.  Having heard of her
"rehabilitation" the Legionnaires think she's  kidding, and invite her to share a
"galacto-burger" instead.  When Uli  insists on combat, Cosmic Boy points out the
Legionnaires have no grounds to  fight her, since she paid her debt to society for
her earlier crime and has  committed no new crime.  That's easily remedied, as
Uli uses her  belt-device to vandalize a moving sidewalk, speeding up its
movement and  threatening passersby.  The Legionnaires attempt to go to the
rescue, but  Lightning Lad finds his bolts doubling back on him and short-circuiting
him.  Cosmic Boy is likewise repelled by his own magnetic power.   Saturn
Girl tries to take the fight to Uli by taking control of her mind by 
thought-waves, but instead SG is immobilized by monstrous hallucinations.   Night Girl
of the Substitutes, who has been accompanying her beau Cosmic Boy,  tries to
lure Uli into the dark shadow of a building where she can bring her 
shadow-sensitive super-strength into play. Bad idea for this villainess, for  light is
her specialty and she blasts Night Girl with a beam, not only removing  her
powers but blinding her. Uli flees after issuing a challenge for more 
Legionnaires to meet and be defeated by her.

The fallen heroes are picked  up and given treatment for their injuries, but
at first are unable to report who  attacked them and why.  Night Girl is the
first to become lucid enough to  explain, and Ultra Boy, deducing that Uli has
developed a counter for each of  their super-powers, develops a plan to defeat
her.  When she reissues her  challenge, U Boy invites her to meet the Legion
on the planetoid Talus---but  before the appointed time the Legionnaires
arrive on Talus, the "junkyard  world", to make special preparations.  Upon her own
arrival, Uli greets  them; "Hello,heroes!  This place was created as a
graveyard for  spaceships....but now it will be YOURS!"  Instead of being attacked
by the  Legionnaires, Uli finds the "wrecked" spaceships rising up to form a
cage for  her, as Brainiac 5 has rigged them with robot-brains to serve as
weapons.   But to no avail, as one of Uli's belt-gadgets is equal to this
emergency.   As the animated wrecs fight each other instead of Uli, she chortles, "I 
performed a sort of ELECTRONIC BRAIN SURGERY on them!  You might call it a 
ROBOTOMY!"  Fleeing back to Earth, Uli takes refuge in Midway City  (Hawkman's
old hometown, apparently, though the winged wonder isn't mentioned)  which was a
long-ago target of an atomic strike and is mistakenly thought to be  too
radioactive for survival.  Uli does not know that Phantom Girl has  stowed away
aboard her spaceship.  But after PG radios Uli's whereabouts to  the rest of the
Legion, Uli spots her and shocks her into unconsciousness with a  belt-ray
that distorts and disrupts her phantom-self. 

Upon  arriving on the scene and finding the unconscious Phantom Girl, who
happens to  be his girlfriend, Ultra Boy is thoroughly P.O.'ed  And as he
confronts  Uli, he has plenty of super-powers to use on her....but does she have the 
antidote for each of them?  As U Boy slowly advances towards Uli, she 
remains supremely confident.  "He can only use one power at a time.  I  can counter
his ultra-strength!"  U Boy moves closer; "I have the perfect  way to foul up
his INVULNERABILITY!"  Still closer-- "If he uses his  ULTRA-VISION, I'll turn
it against him!"  Almost there-- "And I can cause  his ULTRA-SPEED to knock
him clear across town!"  But as Ultra Boy closes  the gap with Uli, he decks
her with an ordinary, non-ultra, punch to the  jaw.  "I was always taught never
to hit a lady....but you're not exactly a  LADY, anyway!"  After delivering
Uli into custody, Ultra Boy cuddles with a  reviving Phantom Girl, and explains
to the others how he refrained from any type  of super-power or super-gadget
since Uli might have the answer for it, and  resorted instead to an
old-fashioned uppercut as seen in the time-tape of the  ancient prizefight. 

Uli Algor in this story has some pretty  impressive abilities, even if she
does end up bein defeated by an ordinary  punch, and even if she doesn't adopt a
fancy super-villainess name or  costume.  I don't recall, though, that she
ever appeared either before this  story (despite the reference to an earlier
confrontation with the Legion) or  after it.  Incidentally, I believe both these
stories have been reprinted  in the LEGION ARCHIVES, though I'm not sure which
volume.  As far as I  know, the lead "Immortal Superman" storyline in these
issues has not been  repinted anywhere.