Action Comics 405, "Bodyguard or Assassin?"
Cover: Neal Adams & Dick Giordano
Writer: Cary Bates, Artists: Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson
In this imaginary tale, set an unspecified number of years in the
future, Superman is summoned to the White House, where he's subjected to
a security scan before being admitted to see the President (a
fictitious chief of state, who somewhat resembles an older Superman with
white hair at the temples... not unlike the President whom Superman
impersonated in Action 371).
It seems that a small globe-shaped paperweight on the President's desk
has been replaced with a duplicate containing a miniature tape recorder,
which has been repeating the same message every five minutes: "I am
Marsepun -- I will assassinate you before 9:00 tonight -- Escape is
impossible no matter how far you go or where you hide -- *click*" At
9:00, the President is scheduled to sign the Uniworld Peace Treaty,
which calls for global nuclear disarmament, something the mystery
assassin seems determined to stop. General Trevis, chief of the
presidential security force, has suggested that Superman act as the
President's bodyguard for the next 12 hours, at Tonacom, a secret top
security installation in the southwest.
Superman wraps the President in his cape and files him to a hidden
tunnel in the southwestern desert. A huge steel door closes behind them
as they descend a mile below the surface and enter an immense vault.
This is Tonacom. General Trevis confirms their arrival by video screen,
and from the Pentagon remotely activates the defense features in the
passage that the pair just descended... jets of molten steel, pockets of
lethal gas, rings of pulsing radioactive isotopes, and more.
Soon after, the communication link to the Pentagon cuts out. A blip in a
radar screen shows that someone or something has broken through the
hidden tunnel entrance and is descending towards Tonacom. The walls are
lead-lined, so Superman's X-ray vision can't see through them, and he
refuses to leave the President's side... but a closed circuit monitor to
the surface shows handprints on the rocks at the entrance... prints
that match Superman's.
The blip on the screen advances past a dozen lethal traps. On a hunch,
Superman uses the equipment in the complex to analyze the voiceprint of
the recording that the assassin made... and finds that it matches his
own! It then occurs to him... "Marsepun" is an anagram of "Superman!" Is
the Man of Steel mentally unstable? Could he be the assassin?
In the Pentagon, General Trevis watches all this on a secret monitor,
and laughs. He is in reality one of two Gemini agents planted in the
White House by an organization anxious to start World War III. He
created the recording by splicing tapes of Superman's voice, planted the
duplicate handprints, tampered with the radarscope, and, via a hidden
device in Tonacom, has been broadcasting electro-impulses into
Superman's brain to prevent him from thinking clearly. His intention is
to drive Superman mad, and turn him into the President's killer!
Back at Tonacom, the President tries to reinforce Superman's confidence
by reminding him of the great feats he's performed in the past...
hurling the Washington Monument into space when a nuclear bomb
containing Virus X had been planted there, and reconstructing it
later... battling the Cgno Beast from another galaxy, which had five
times his strength... but nothing helps. Meanwhile, Trevis hops onto a
jet so he can be at Tonacom when the end comes. He takes a hidden
elevator down to the bunker, where he sets up a movie camera to record
the scene through a two-way mirror.
The radarscope shows the intruder to be 97 feet away, and Superman is on
the verge of a nervous breakdown. Range... 36 feet... 21 feet... 8
feet... as thge tension grows on Superman's face. There is a deafening
pounding, and the huge, reinforced steel door buckled and falls inward.
Superman turns to face... himself, in a large mirror in the doorway. "I
AM MARSEPUN! I AM YOUR KILLER!" he screams. "I must carry out my
threat!" As he turns, the President draws a "gamma gun" given to him by
General Trevis to protect himself. But the beam ricochets off of
Superman's chest, striking the President. Trevis is pleased that not
only has he tricked the President into killing himself, but he has a
film reel that will destroy Superman's reputation as a hero.
But Superman has not gone unaffected by the gamma blast, as he suddenly
explodes into a shower of gears and transistors. As Trevis enters the
room, the robot explains that he was filling in for Superman, who had to
go save a solar system in another galaxy from an exploding comet.
Trevis is unfazed. The President is dead, and Trevis still has a film of
what appears to be Superman attacking him. Trevis activates the
destruct mechanism in the complex to destroy the evidence, and leaves in
his jet to report to his superiors. But they reject his report, saying
only that their data indicates the mission was a failure... and as an
ominous shadow falls across the cockpit, a lethal beam leaps from the
telephone's mouthpiece to Trevis's heart.
The President examines the General's body, and confirms that he is dead.
He then removes his own disguise to reveal that he is Superman, and
uses his microscopic vision to track the radio impulses from the phone
call to their source. Along the way, he recalls how the President
confided that he had been suspicious of Trevis for months, and when
Superman examined the gamma gun, he confirmed that it was booby-trapped.
So he disguised himself as the President, and manipulated the robot
with a palmed remote control device and super-ventriloquism. He traces
the call to a lone phone booth on a tiny outcropping of rock off the
Pacific coast, which explodes as he arrives at it.
Superman recalls that he heard Trevis refer to himself as "Gemini Agent
1" when reporting to his superiors, and wonders if that implies another
agent close to the President. Back at the White House, the President's
personal secretary hands him a stack of Congressional reports that he
needs to review...
Cary Bates set up a double safety net, by setting this story in a
possible future AND stating that it was "imaginary." I don't understand
why. There have been fictitious Presidents used in Superman stories
before; no major characters were killed or otherwise compromised; and
the technology in the story was not very advanced compared to the
mainstream DC universe of the time. The only factor I can see that might
have influenced that decision was the signing of the global disarmament
treaty... and that could have easily been replaced with a more
plausible diplomatic assignment.
"The Red Dust Bandit!"
Writer: Don Cameron, Artist: Howard Sherman
Originally appeared in Action Comics 192 (May 1954)
The Vigilante and his partner, Stuff, are chasing a bandit through Red
Dust County. The bandit gets away, but loses a saddlebag, in which the
Vig finds what appears to be a safe combination. The bandit slips into
town and changes his clothes, and discovers that he's a dead ringer for
Greg Sanders, the Prairie Troubadour, who's scheduled to perform the
Next day, the Vig, in his other identity as Greg Sanders, arrives in
town, and is abducted by the bandit, who intends to take his place. The
impostor can't sing, but he plays a mean guitar, so he performs on stage
claiming that he's hoarse from a cold. He locks Sanders and Stuff in
his hideout, a cave with a steel door. Greg realizes that the
combination he found is for the lock on the door, so he escapes and
catches the impostor in an act of burglary. Suddenly, he realizes that
he can't admit that he knew "Greg" was a phony without giving his own
identity away, so he apologizes for mistaking Sanders for an outlaw.
Some days later, the Vig and Stuff manage to catch the bandit in the act
of robbing a carnival moneybox, and chase him through the mountains.
Then they take a shortcut and beat him back to the hideout, changing
back to Greg and Stuff. (Hey... Stuff never wore a mask, and wore the
same clothes whether he was with Vigilante or Greg Sanders. How come no
one ever noticed that?) Later, when the impostor returned to the
carnival, Greg Sanders showed up and threw a pie in his face. He claimed
that the Vigilante had followed the outlaw to his hideout and dynamited
the door to free him. Not knowing which was the real Greg Sanders, the
townspeople suggested a musical showdown. Problem is, the impostor could
play but not sing, and Greg, who injured his arm in the mountain chase,
could sing but not play. So the sheriff decided to hold both of them
until the Vigilante could show up to identify the phony. Just then, the
Vig drove by on his motorcycle, shouting that he didn't have time to
stop, but that the real Greg Sanders was the one next to the sheriff.
Greg breathed a sigh of relief, as we see Stuff, crouched alongside the
cycle, saying that he'd better get this dummy back to the store window
and come back to pick up Greg.
"The Haunted Island!"
Writer: Jack Miller, Artist: Ramona Fradon
Originally appeared in Adventure Comics 206 (November 1954)
An excursion boat taking a group of happy kids to a picnic on Fun Island
hits a reef, and can't continue. There's another island alongside the
reef, but it's covered with trees and rocks, and there's no place to
play ball. Aquaman shows up, and offers the kids a chance to play their
games on the water.
The Sea King organizes a baseball game, with a raft as home plate,
tortoises as bases, an octopus umpire, and each player riding a sea cow.
But when one player chases a fly ball towards the island, he spots a
horrifying swamp monster in the lagoon. But nobody, not even Aquaman,
will believe his story.
Next, Aquaman sets up a basketball court, with lines of white eels and
baskets balanced on the noses of seals. But again, the swamp monster is
spotted, and even Aquaman catches a glimpse. But the creature vanishes,
though Aquaman notices a stream of air bubbles in the water, and a yacht
Later, on the island, we learn that two thugs have been posing as the
monster to scare the kids away. Their boss, "Big Mike," was to pick them
up at their island hideout for a big job tonight, but wouldn't approach
while the kids were around. Suddenly, the crooks are surrounded by
dozens of glowing eyes. They panic as giant beetle-like creatures close
in on them. But it's just the kids, disguised with fishnet costumes,
luminous shells, and tree branches. Aquaman turns the thugs, and their
friends offshore, over to the police.
They might have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling fish.
"The Most Dangerous Bug In the World?"
Writer: Cary Bates, Artists: Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson
Clark Kent is walking towards the Galaxy Broadcasting building, thinking
about the film that he's promised to make of Superman performing
super-feats for the time capsule that the Mayor of Metropolis is due to
seal tomorrow, when a small boy running around the corner bumps into
him. The lad apologizes, and Clark gives him a good-natured pat on the
shoulder. But a few minutes later, the boy arrives at his grandfather's
laboratory some blocks away, where the scientist is preparing a
demonstration for a pair of businessmen.
The scientist, Hobbs by name, has invented a microscopic listening
device with a worldwide range. His grandson, Bobby, has planted it on an
unsuspecting passerby for the purposes of demonstration. As he
activates the receiver, the men hear a strange noise... one that sounds
like a typewriter, but at an incredible speed. Of course, it's Clark,
working to meet a deadline with a minute to spare.
At that moment, Clark receives a telepathic call for help. A midget
spacecraft, only two feet long, has passed through a dimensional rift
from an anti-matter universe into our own, and their controls are
jammed. If the ship touches any solid matter, the resulting explosion
could destroy our entire planet. Superman is forced to stay ahead of the
ship, drilling through mountains and evaporating waterfalls with his
heat vision, to keep the ship from coming into contact with anything.
Meanwhile, the men listening to the flying and drilling sounds being
broadcast by the bug make the deduction that their subject is really
Superman! On a hunch, Hobbs shows Bobby a picture of Clark Kent in the
newspaper (because everyone knows that Kent can get in touch with
Superman) and the boy confirms that this is the man he bumped into.
Superman increases his speed to create a backwash, dragging the tiny
ship behind him, around the globe and back to the rift that brought them
into our universe. (Why the ship didn't blow up on contact with the
air, I don't know. It probably had some sort of force field.) Flying
back to Metropolis, Superman hears a high frequency radio signal coming
from the Clark Kent clothes in his cape's pouch... a sound he was too
preoccupied to notice before. Soon after, young Bobby visits Clark in
his office and tells him the whole story, promising that neither he nor
the men in the lab will ever tell anyone what they know. Clark tells
Bobby that he trusts him, but suggests that he and his granddad watch
the 6:00 news on WGBS tonight. At that time, Clark shows his viewing
audience a film clip made by Superman earlier in the day for the Mayor's
time capsule. It showed Superman flying, drilling through rock, and
performing the other stunts that the eavesdroppers heard that afternoon.
They conclude that Clark must have previewed the film in his office
while they were listening. Of course, we know that Clark made the film
with a remote control camera after the fact. The Mayor got his film,
Clark kept his secret, and everyone ended up happy. (A couple of years
later, it turned out that the businessmen who were interested in
purchasing the bugging device were connected to the White House... but
that's a whole 'nother story... ;) )