Action Comics #222: "The Duplicate Superman!"

Action Comics #222
"The Duplicate Superman!"
November, 1956

Script: Otto Binder
Art: Al Plastino

The Man of Steel has become two Men of Tomorrow.  Read on to learn the
origin of... "The Duplicate Superman!"  On the splash page, one
Superman's telescopic-vision reveals the Metropolis Dam about to crack,
while the other Superman's x-ray vision has found a gang of bank robbers
emptying a vault.

A new cobalt bomb developed by the government is dropped over a deserted
island in the pacific.  (Holy Selegue, Batman!)  The C-Bomb has the force
of one hundred hydrogen-bombs, and should produce a tremendous explosion.
After the countdown to zero, the military officers in the observation
blockhouse have a feeling that their new weapon is a dud.  As the Man of
Tomorrow patrols the area... he is asked by the U.S. Army to defuse the
cobalt bomb.  Just as he arrives at the island...  BAROOOM  The C-Bomb
goes off... and Superman receives the full effects.  At the heart of a
manmade explosion which could take millions of lives, can even the Man of
Steel possibly survive?  One mile to the north... Superman recovers...
but one mile to the south, another Man of Tomorrow rises to his feet.

As a result of the C-Bomb blast, there are now two Men of Tomorrow, each
unaware of the other flying figure leaving the island.  One Superman
knows that the general will not require a report, and he can return to
Metropolis, while the other flies for the city with a scoop in mind.  In
an alleyway... two Men of Steel are about to perform a familiar change of
clothes, when they bump into each other.  Upon seeing the other, each
figures that the double must be an imposter.  One Superman has
super-strength to bend a steel bar, and the other unbends it just as
easily.  Seeing a bottle of ink in the garbage, they decide to check out
their fingerprints.  The prints are identical, but how can this be?  The
last place they both were at was the C-Bomb explosion. 

The manmade missile might have had enough force to cause Superman to
split into two Men of Steel.  They are aware of the amoeba, which is able
to split into "twin" cells.  They decide to test themselves... in order
to learn if they've been affected by the C-Bomb explosion.  The two Men
of Tomorrow perform several super-tests...  They bore through mountains
with ease, bathe in molten lava, and are able to head to the moon at the
same time.  For the last experiment, they decide to check out their
super-vision powers.  One Superman is able to use his telescopic-vision
to read the name of the ship some three thousand miles away.  The other
Man of Steel is unable to see past the horizon, and wonders if he's just
a pale imitation.  When this Superman uses his x-ray vision, he's pleased
to see that it's still there, but the other one can't see through the
wall.  Each one is missing a super-vision power that the other one has.

They decide to shake hands, one dubbing himself Superman-T for
telescopic-vision, and the other Superman-X for x-ray vision.  The two
Men of Steel wonder if this will be the way their life will be from now
on.  With two of them, catching crooks has just become a lot easier.
With two Supermen bound to be too confusing, they decide to take turns on
the hour.  They flip a coin to see who'll switch back to being Clark
Kent.  Superman-T calls "heads" and Superman-X becomes the mild-mannered
reporter for the first hour.  Clark has got a lunch date with Lois Lane,
which both of them remember, and one of them will make.  The
mild-mannered reporter runs into trouble when he dines with the girl
reporter... She sees that the flame on a match is burning his fingers...
but Clark doesn't seem to be feeling it.  Superman-X chides himself for
hanging onto the match after lighting the candle.  When he tries to
explain that some glue must have dried on his fingers, and protected
them... the mild-mannered reporter sees that Lois is going to buy this
hasty explanation.  She will only believe it if the Man of Tomorrow
himself walks through the door right now.

Now it's Lois Lane's turn to be amazed when Superman himself enters the
restaurant.  Superman-T's super-hearing picked up their little chat, and
he decided to bail Clark out of his jam.  As the mild-mannered reporter
greets the Man of Steel, he's grateful that Lois's suspicions should be
gone for a long time, but the girl reporter is trying to cut Superman-T's
hair with her manicuring scissors.  When she finds that she can't, Lois
admits defeat.  As the Man of Steel takes his leave, Clark smiles, and
asks his fellow reporter if she'll believe him when he says that he's not
Superman.  Later in the alley... Superman-X feels sorry for Lois, but
Superman-T sees the advantages of being two Men of Tomorrow.  When asked
by a policeman to help out, Superman-X learn about a gang of jewel
thieves making a getaway, and is asked to find them with his
telescopic-vision.  The officer is unaware that this particular Man of
Steel doesn't have telescopic-vision.  All he can do is use his x-ray
vision to search the usual underworld hideouts, until he finds the gang.

Superman-X crashes through the wall of the hideout, knowing that they
would have been caught sooner if he still had his telescopic-vision.
After the Supermen switch their parts, it is Superman-T who finds himself
in a difficult situation...  The bank guard tells the Man of Steel about
a crank call about a time-bomb being planted somewhere in the bank, and
there's only one minute left.  If he had x-ray vision, it would be a
simple matter of finding it.  Superman-T uses his super-speed to search
every possible location, with only forty seconds left...  His
super-hearing picks up the ticking coming from the mail room... BOOM
After finding the bomb in the mail cart, he smothers the blast with his
invulnerable body.  As Superman-T continues on his patrol... he begins to
feel a strange tingling sensation -- as if some sort of ray has struck
him.  If he experiencing another effect from the C-Bomb blast?

It is only a matter of minutes when Superman-T is seen taking a gold idol
from a museum  (Holy Selegue, Batman!).  When Superman-X hears the news
on the radio... he learns about his counterpart's apparent turn to crime,
and knows that he must track him down.  Knowing that the authorities
would mistake him for the other Superman, Superman-X remains hidden by
boring underground.  In an isolated area... he sees Superman-T carrying
the gold idol, and hopes that his double has a good reason for his
actions.  When he asks Superman-T about it, he receives no reply from the
idol-robber.  Choked at this turn of events, Superman-X finds he must
turn in his double to the authorities like a common criminal.

Both Supermen are soon engaged in an incredible battle -- between two
equally powerful and equally invulnerable opponents...  Superman-T hurls
a boulder at Superman-X... After smashing through the thrown boulder,
Superman-T flips his double, but soon both Men of Steel are using trees
as impromptu lances in a super-jousting match.  Knowing that neither won
could possibly win, Superman-T decides to trick his double with news
about a large fire taking place in Metropolis.  Without his
telescopic-vision, Superman-X must check out his double's claim.  Now
alone, Superman-T is able to strip off the idol's gold plating... and
reach for the lead casting beneath.  (Holy Selegue, Batman!)  He plans to
use it as a lead shield... and now out in space... we learn that the
tingling sensation was caused by a giant Kryptonite meteor heading for
Earth.  Superman-T had spotted it with his telescopic-vision.  The lead
shield will protect him from becoming too weak to fly at the meteor, but
such a vast amount of Kryptonite would kill him... but the result of his
actions should drive the Kryptonite meteor away from Earth.

The lives of Superman-X and the citizens of Metropolis are saved, but
Superman-T has made the ultimate sacrifice.  Knowing that either one of
them would have to meet his end... it may as well have been him, and this
is why he refused to answer Superman-X.  The super-energies which had
comprised the double are now sent back to their double on Earth.  With
his telescopic-vision back, the Man of Tomorrow can see the noble
sacrifice made by Superman-T.  The gold idol has been reconstructed for
the museum, and the Man of Steel will pretend to have taken it in order
to prevent thieves from robbing the art treasure.  The mild-mannered
reporter realizes that for a time, he had four identities -- two Men of
Tomorrow and two Clark Kents.  The people on Earth will never know that a
Superman died.

This story was reprinted as a Demand Classic in Superman #204 (February,

The Cobalt Man was a scientist turned super-villain, who fought the likes
of the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.

It is possible that there was some Red Kryptonite on the deserted island,
and it was this, not the C-Bomb which caused the strange appearance of
the duplicate Superman.

Even in a deserted alley, during a change into his Clark Kent clothes,
both Supermen are extremely courteous when they bump into one other.

The Al Plastino Superman is an interesting version of the Man of Steel.
He has the distinctive blue hairstyle, the barrel chest with the neatly
drawn "S" emblem, and is a mass of muscle in each deed he performs.

For me, Al Plastino is the Superman artist who forges the missing link
between Wayne Boring and Curt Swan.  Boring's Man of Tomorrow was
godlike, while the Swan Man of Steel looked like someone you could meet
on the street.

Otto Binder shows the reader that Superman knows how to unwind in his own
way, and impresses us with the brand of tests fit for two Men of Steel.

At the time, Superman's telescopic-vision was usually depicted as a
cone-shape spotlighting the object at hand.

The x-ray vision works the same way, with the cone-shaped spotlight
revealing the hidden object.  (Holy Geometry, Batman!)

With two Men of Tomorrow, Clark Kent finds himself burning the candle at
both ends, and on his fingers, too.

Although Lois is unable to cut Superman-T's hair with her manicuring
scissors, they fail to break against the invulnerable blue hair.

Mr. Binder shows the reader that two Supermen may seem a good idea at
first, but there's things that even two Men of Tomorrow can't do if they
don't have the necessary super-vision powers at hand.

Before Superman was given his flying and x-ray vision powers in the
Golden Age, the Man of Tomorrow plowed through more than his fair share
of walls, and ceilings.

Even without his x-ray vision, Superman-T is barely able to find a
ticking time-bomb in under a minute.

I'd like to think that the Flash or Captain Marvel would have fared as
well as this Man of Steel did with his super-hearing, and super-speed.

Superman-T experiences a tingling sensation when he flies above
Metropolis, but is not otherwise weakened by the Kryptonite meteor
approaching in the distance from outer space.

Steve Chung
"The Duplicate Superman Review!"