Superman #299 "The Double-or-Nothing Life of Superman!"

Comic: Superman
Publisher: National Periodical Publications, Inc.
Published: Vol. 38 , No. 299, May 1976

Story Title: "The Double-or-Nothing Life of Superman!"

On the cover of this month's issue, Superman's costume stands,
filled out, but empty of the hero.  It is surrounded by nine of
Superman's greatest foes-- Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, The Parasite,
Amalak, The Kryptonite Man, Toyman, Terra-Man, Brainiac, and

"Which of his 9 deadliest foes did THIS to Superman?"

The splash page has the same basic scene as the cover, except the
super-villains have switched order, and Superman is in his costume
now.  Superman knows he is in for the fight of his life!

In this tale scribed by Cary Bates and Eliot S! Maggin and drawn by
Curt Swan and Bob Oskner, which Julius Schwartz edited,
Superman must decide who will take over, Superman or Clark Kent,
and how will he defeat 9 of his greatest enemies before the Earth is

"Homeworld to Agent Xviar -- Assignment Earth.  Relay detailed
report... ... explain progress of efforts to see that Earthlings do not
interfere with the planned teleportation route through their star-
system by obliterating the Planet Earth!"

The communications relay has been sent to Earth to Clark Kent's
apartment, where sits Xviar, a harmless looking man, who has been
going by the name Xaviar.  He is Clark Kent's neighbor, and has set
up a trap in Clark's apartment.  He explains that he has avoided
prolonged contact with Earth people because he doesn't age.

He explains that he used a way that was devised on his Homeworld
to cause Clark to lose his powers, while Superman is fully within his
powers.  Mortal Clark acted in ways he never would while
possessing the powers of Superman, including kissing Lois and
walloping Steve Lombard.  Because he was mortal, it was easier for
Xviar to monitor his activities.

At the same time, off in his Fortress of Solitude, Superman makes
an entry into his giant diary, in his native Kryptonese.  Here he
recaps that living a mortal life as Clark Kent left him feeling guilty at
his own helplessness to act.  As Superman, he found he could not
relax or have downtime with his friends.  His closest friends would
get on his case that he could not relax while even a single human
life was at stake.  Both lives have drawbacks.  Now it is time for him
to make his decision.

Xviar now has finished his report, and has completed his
preparations for his trap.  All he needs to do now is use the jewels in
his hands to teleport 9 of the biggest reasons Superman ever had to
be anywhere.  He triggers the electric-eye burglar alarm that Clark
installed on his doorknob, which would alert Superman that a
problem exists.

In the fortress, Superman hears the sound of alarm-22, which
means someone has broken into Clark's apartment.  A quick look
using his telescopic (and x-ray vision I would surmise), and he sees
9 of the most fearsome foes he's ever fought, lolling about in his
apartment as if it were a super-villain hangout.

Quickly he flies to his apartment, pondering the power of these
potent profligate people.  Any one could destroy Metropolis, as a
group, they would make the Mongol hordes look like a sunday
school picnic.  When he gets to his apartment... it is empty.

Suddenly, he gets a vision of the pyramids of Egypt, and knows
three of his foes are there.  Xviar planted the vision using
Homeworld technology.  As Superman leaves, Xviar returns to
Clark's apartment, and gloats at his success.  Superman has
stepped into the trap. The devises have done their work.

As Superman flies to Giza, Terra-Man is the first to draw on him. 
Superman, being in a rush, wastes no time, and simply punches
Terra-Man.  The force of the punch knocks Terra-Man into a toy
motorcycle, where Prankster is riding and Toyman is driving. 
Toyman and Prankster comment that Superman is a rather boring
guy, wondering what he does when his friends come over, practice

Then Prankster fires some kind of toy at Superman, which he is
unable to avoid.  It turns out to be a spring that latches around him
which gets tighter the more he struggles.  It must be super-resilient,
because Superman is unable to break it, so he dives under the sand
and drills for... oil!  The black goop gets all over Superman, but now
the Metropolis Marvel has  succeeded in giving his trap the... er...

Fresh from the oil field, Superman chases the terrible trio down, who
are still complaining of that dull bronc, Supe-lug.  No imagination, no
super-skull, which Superman disproves by taking the toy bike apart
and making it into a do-it-yourself slammer.

3 down, 6 to go.

As Superman flies off with his foes in tow, Xviar watches the battle
on his own monitor, smiling at the success.  Superman is rapidly
expending the energy to burn his own fuse as a living bomb and
destroy the Earth.  So, time to quickly flash the next location to
Superman, so that battle can commence.  However, Superman
doesn't fly there.  What's wrong?

Previously, Clark had researched and gotten an Intergang leader on
trial.  However, Clark had not been seen for a week. The prosecuter
is worried that foul play has occurred, and the judge will allow for no

Superman knows he is needed now... as Clark Kent.  Since the
WGBS newsroom is closer than Clark's apartment, he quickly gets
a suit of clothes from wardrobe and flies to the courthouse to
change, knowing he will lose his powers due to the split-effect. 
There is no choice in this matter.

So, as the prosecuter closes his case, in arrives Clark Kent, and he
calls for his one last witness, whose testimony assures long prison
terms for all of the men on trial.  Reporters loom in on Clark and beg
the question, "Where have you been?"  His response is "No
comment" and he starts to run off, when he realizes a milli-second
later he is in an alley below the court.  He has his powers as Clark! 
He even punches the building cracking some brick to prove he still
has his powers.  No time now to figure out why, he has three villains
to capture in the Rocky Mountains!

As he arrives, he spots his mischievous foe, Mxyzptlk, who turns
him invisible or bodiless.  Then he falls toward the ground, so he
realizes (with the villain's helpful monologue) that Parasite is
draining his power.  He stands up to face another dangerous
weapon of Lex Luthor, the Quasar Bazooka!

Luthor fires!

And Superman has dived underground, so the bazooka's energy
blast hits Parasite who is just eating it up!  Luthor tells him to back
off, but Parasite can no more do that then Fat Albert could pass up
a free 7 course meal!  As the two approach, the power cycle
explodes, and both men are knocked unconscious.

Bodiless Superman only has Mxyzptlk to defeat.  He flies supersonic
near a cliff and a rock from a cliff breaks off and knocks out the imp. 
His magic fades.  Superman will return later to work the imp back
home by making him say his name backwards.

Talk about a FAST fight.  These villains are a hindrance to
themselves, and his lack of patience has been a boon to Superman.

Afterwards, Superman stops in his apartment to figure out why he
retained his powers as Clark.  The only thing different is that he got
his suit from the WGBS wardrobe department.  So, using his
microscopic vision, he notices all of his clothes here have been
treated with a chemical that counteracts the effects of the yellow
sun.  Who knows his secret identity, has access to his apartment
and would want him in this split-effect?

Suddenly, Superman flies off as Xviar flashes an image of Brainiac
and Amalak and their location in a far off forest.  Meanwhile, Xviar
must prepare his planned evacuation of the doomed planet Earth. 
Afterall, it wouldn't do to die here with the planet.

Brainiac and Amalak act more as a team than any other of the
super-foes.  Brainiac encloses the Action Ace in his force shield,
which amplifies Amalak's Star-Cannon, which is actually hurting

But, Superman is quickly able to dope out a solution.  He flies into
Brainiac's ship, where the energy he absorbed from Amalak's
weapon clashes with the ship's circuits causing a SHORT-CIRCUIT
based explosion.  Since these two space criminals can't be held in
an Earth prison, Superman quickly flies them off to the galactic
prison compound at the outer rim of the solar system.

Finally, Superman has one foe left.  The Kryptonite Man.  His last
image is flashed to him.  Knowing that these images have to be
planted from an exterior source, Superman looks for any clues, and
spots an ionic trail back to the source-- his apartment building!

He flies home, and into his neighbor's apartment, where Mr. Xavier
is asleep on a hovering mattress. Realizing Xavier must be
responsible for both predicaments, his split-effect and the release of
his foes, Superman quickly checks out the apartment.

Finally, Superman goes to fight the Kryptonite Man, not knowing that
this fight will destroy the Earth!  Superman has not had to deal with
Kryptonite for awhile now, since all of the mineral had turned to inert
iron.  However, the Kryptonite Man still is full of the radiation, and a
clear danger to the hero.  Superman approaches, raises his fist to
hit his poisonous foe, who smiles at the thought of destroying the
son of Krypton.

Earth is about to die!

Ok... it didn't.  Big surprise?  No.  But it is to the people on the planet
we only know as Homeworld.  Xviar has failed!

When Superman checked out the place, he discovered the
weapons had turned him into a walking impact bomb.  He could not
use super-powers until the effect wore off.  So... he wore the sun-
screened Clark Kent clothes under his supersuit.  No powers, no
bomb.  No powers, immune to green-k radiation.

Hours later, at the prison compound where he left Amalak and
Brainiac, Superman stops at Amalak's cell and talks to Mr. X, who
had transformed his appearance to get Superman to help him
escape Earth.  Superman is not worried that Xviar's superiors will
release him, since he failed in his task.  Xviar transforms back to his
normal Earth guise, but says nothing.  Back on Homeworld, Xviar's
superiors know the mission not only has failed, but that eventually,
Superman WILL track them down.


Steve "accidentally" bumps into Clark and Clark apologizes.  Lois is
trying to figure out what happened to the buff man she loved so
recently.  And Morgan Edge makes Clark work extra hours as the
show's producer.  Things are back to normal for Clark "Superman"

Superman has realized that neither of his opponents could be taken
away, since they are both half of his whole.

In the end, Clark needs to be able to walk the streets of the city,
while the world needs to count on the man who appears when...

This is a job... for SUPERMAN!

It amazed me that Superman, when driven to great urgency makes
short work of all of his superfoes.  In addition, at this time in his
career, he is a thinking hero, easily as good as Batman in his own
way.  Superman is good at avoiding traps, even though the trap
might take 2-3 weeks to form.

The ending of the tale was a rapid action huge bang for your
30cents.  I would love to find a followup tale that shows which world
was doing this.  Probably the same planet that ended up doing the
deed in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

I loved that Parasite's very greed took down him and Luthor, while
Mxyzptlk was nothing worth worrying about in this tale.

Too bad for Lois and Clark.  Maybe another time she can draw the
man out of the meek and mild reporter.