Action Comics #242: "The Super-Duel In Space!"

Action Comics #242
"The Super-Duel In Space!"
July, 1958

Story: Otto Binder
Art: Al Plastino

When an invader from outer space threatens the Earth with his scientific weaponry, the Man of Steel heads to the fight. This time, Superman encounters a foe with abilities greater than his own! The entire planet waits to learn the inevitable outcome of "The Super-Duel In Space!"

Scientists watch as the army launches the Columbus, the first experimental rocket with people aboard! Clark Kent and Lois Lane are among the crew. The anti-shock seats prevents either reporter from feeling any discomfort from the high speed! They are making history today! At the height of two-hundred miles, the Columbus is now above Earth's atmosphere in outer space! All rocket records are broken when the Columbus is ten thousand miles away from Earth! The test animals brought along by the scientists have begun to whirl wildly! A flying saucer is following the Columbus and shooting strange rays at the rocket! As the mild-mannered reporter uses his x-ray vision into the saucer, he sees an alien enemy from another world! Brainiac, self-proclaimed master of super-scientific forces intends on showing the Earthlings something far worse than simply making animals dance with panic!

As the alien's ray strikes the Columbus, Clark dons a spacelung, and uses the emergency escape hatch. As Lois watches her fellow reporter jumping back to Earth, Clark pretends to zoom back to Earth, propelled by the space lung's built-in supersonic jets! Once out of sight, the mild-mannered reporter changes to the Man of Steel! When Superman tries to smash through the flying saucer, he rebounds from an invisible wall! Brainiac knows that nothing can penetrate the ultra-force barrier that surrounds his flying saucer! Unable to penetrate the spaceship, the Man of Steel shoves the Columbus ahead at super-speed, to keep it out of harm's way! Superman succeeds in getting the rocket out of range of the destructive rays! Brainiac and Koko have got some other business to do on Earth!

After connecting air hoses to various bottles, the flying saucer hovers over Earth! Brainiac prepares the hyper-bombsight and has the city of Paris in the cross-hairs! A button is pressed and a cone of rays strikes the entire city! A moment later, as an American airplane nears Paris, the pilot informs the passengers he cannot make a landing because the entire city of Paris has vanished! Within Brainiac's alien ship, the hyper-forces have reduced the city of Paris to miniature size and transported it into a bottle!

The Man of Steel pushes the Columbus back to Earth slowly. Continual use of super-speed would crush all aboard! His telescopic-vision shows Paris is gone! As Superman uses his x-ray vision on Brainiac's flying saucer, his super-hearing informs him of the alien's plan to bring back a dozen cities-in-the-bottle back to repopulate his home world, where a plague wiped out his fellow inhabitants! There, Brainiac will restore all the Earth cities to their normal size and have a new empire to rule! The Man of Steel is unable to prevent these thefts so long as the alien ship is protected by the ultra-force barrier! Superman must bide his time and wait. Brainiac continues his raid by stealing the city of Rome! One by one, the world's greatest cities become bottle cities with their own oxygen supply! Brainiac is eager to examine a bridge from New York City!

Giant tweezers tear the George Washington Bridge loose! The Man of Steel uses his telescopic-vision and super-hearing as Brainiac expresses disappointment with the primitive Earth structures! The hyper-batteries which power the flying saucer must be recharged with cosmic ray power! Brainiac and Koko land on a planetoid to stretch their legs! Brainiac awaits the arrival of the flying fool, who unleashes his heat-vision! Brainiac's power-belt erects an ultra shell around him! The x-rays are reflected back at Superman! The Man of Steel turns off the heat before the super-heat harms him! In desperation, Superman breaks off a stalagmites, and hurls it like a super-lance!

The improvised super-lance shatters against the ultra shell! The Man of Steel rips several gigantic chunks of the planetoid to bombard Brainiac, only succeeding in tearing up the planetoid itself! Has Superman met more than his match in the city-stealer? To the girl reporter's dismay, who has been watching the entire duel from the Columbus, she never thought she would see the day when the Man of Steel would run from a fight!

When the Columbus arrives back on Earth, Lois Lane heads for the Daily Planet and write the story of Superman's duel with the insidious alien! Clark Kent meets Lois at the Daily Planet building! He learns of Superman's defeat from the girl reporter, just as a strange ray strikes the city of Metropolis! Metropolis is the latest city to meet the same fate as the other Earth cities! Back on Brainiac's home world, hyper-forces will restore Metropolis to its normal size, and integrate it into the new empire! As the alien city-stealer thrusts his tweezers down into Metropolis, the mild-mannered reporter changes to Superman. The Man of Steel only pretended to flee the space-duel in order to fool Brainiac! He secretly headed back to Metropolis, which was very likely to become a bottle-city! This was the only way he could get past the ultra-force barrier and into the alien's flying saucer! As Brainiac prepares to examine another bottle-city, he applies a super-hard metal stopper to seal up Metropolis so none of the inhabitants can escape! The alien has unknowingly corked Metropolis before its hero could fly out!

Even at his tiny size, Superman still retains his super-powers and is able to super-shove the cork! He replaces the metal stopper so Brainiac does not suspect he is aboard the saucer! Having located the hyper-force machine, the Man of Steel studies it carefully! Brainiac spots a buzzing fly and orders Koko to swat it! Luckily for Superman, Brainiac doesn't know the identity of this particular "fly," and he must avoid the pet's use of the giant fly-swatter by finding a place to hide. The Man of Steel hides in the bottle Brainiac just uncorked! Within the bottle, a Kryptonian city, which must have been taken before Krypton's destruction!

Since the gravity-conditions of Krypton are duplicated here, Superman has no powers as he does on Earth! In the city, the Man of Steel meets Professor Kimda,who was Jor-El's college roommate! Superman tells his story to the Kandorian professor about what happened to Krypton, how his father sent him to Earth in an experimental rocket, and how he was adopted by the Kents. Kal-El gained super-powers on Earth and began his career as Superboy and now as Superman. Professor Kimda has used his telescope to learn how Brainiac operates the hyper-forces. He has made a chart of the buttons that can restore the miniaturized Earth cities. Superman wonders how he can manage to escape the bottle city of Kandor without super-powers! He is trapped along with them!

Professor Kimda gives Kal-El a tour of the city. The Kandorians have kept up their scientific progress despite being captives in a bottle! They build rockets on an assembly-line that enables them to travel around the city! At the zoo, Professor Kimda shows Kal-El the metal-eating mole, which is kept in a glass cage! It would eat its way out of a metallic one! Superman sees robot farmhands raising crops for food! An flaming fireball is sealed within a dark cold bottle, serving as an artificial sun that crosses over the city regularly on tracks! Having filled up all his bottles with Earth cities, Brainiac turns his flying saucer towards outer space. He and Koko go into suspended animation, to avoid aging during the lifetime trip to his home world! Professor Kimda informs Kal-el of these new developments! All of the bottle city inhabitants will age and die during the one-hundred year trip! It will be their descendants who arrive on Brainiac's home planet!

Kal-El has come up with a plan! He only needs Professor Kimda's chart, their most powerful rocket, and a certain animal from the zoo! Superman may have lost his flying ability, but the Kandorian rocket will get him to the metal stopper of the giant bottle! After ramming the rocket's nose into the underside of the stopper, Kal-El lets the metal-eating mole chew its way through the cork! The mole will burrow a tunnel large enough for him to climb through! Now free of the gravity conditions of Krypton within the bottle city, the Man of Steel's super-powers have returned! He can fly towards the control panel and use Professor Kimda's operational chart! With no interference from the crew, Superman uses his head to press the proper buttons. Each button press makes a city reappear on Earth at normal size, in one piece! Metropolis reappears after its one day absence!

After transferring each of the Earth-cities back, the cosmic power has been drained from the atomic batteries, and there is only one charge of hyper-forces left. It is enough to restore Kandor to normal or Superman, but not both! The Man of Steel decides to sacrifice himself so that the Kandorians can live on Earth! Before Superman can press the button, the hyper-forces ray strikes him, and restores him to his normal size! Professor Kimda flew the rocket out of the hole in the metal stopper to punch the button, aware that only one hyper-forces charge would be left! The Kandorians could not let Earth be deprived of its great hero! The Man of Steel is grateful, but the Kandorians must remain tiny for now! Superman lets Brainiac's flying saucer soar on! When the alien awakens, he will have no stolen Earth-cities! Brainiac will live alone on his barren world... an emperor without an empire! At the Fortress of Solitude, the Man of Steel places the bottle city of Kandor for safe keeping! Perhaps he will find a way to restore Kandor to normal size and live with his fellow Kryptonians once more!

This story was reprinted in Giant Superman Annual #2 (1960).

When this story was reprinted in a 1969 Superman 80 Page Giant, Brainiac's head terminals were added to the art.

Unlike the cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, Al Plastino's Brainiac favors green slacks, and pinks boots.

Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm, and Johnny Storm were aboard the first experimental rocketship in 1961.

As portrayed in this story, Brainiac is a would-be emperor in search of an empire, and not the twelfth-level living computer from Colu.

The Invisible Girl is able to project force fields.

Brainiac 5 invented his own force-field belt.

At the time of this story, heat-vision was referred to as "the heat of my x-ray vision!"

What do you get if you combine Brainiac's pet and chunks of the planetoid against the ultra shell? Answer: "Koko Pebbles!"

Kandor was the capitol city of Krypton.

The Fantastic Four fought the Mole Man in their first issue.

Superman (George Reeves) met the Mole Men.

Steve Rogers spent two decades in suspended animation.

The 1966 Filmation cartoon version of Brainiac was built by Professor Hecla on the planet Mega.

Ted Cassidy was the voice of Brainiac on "Challenge Of The Super Friends" in 1978.

Cassidy had portrayed the android, Ruk, in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

Steve Chung
"The Super-Duel Of Review!"