Action Comics #244: "The Super-Merman Of The Sea"

Action Comics #244
"The Super-Merman of The Sea"
September, 1958

Story: Otto Binder
Art: Curt Swan
Inks: John Giunta

On the cover, a submarine crew bemoans the fact that Superman has
disappeared, and that they are in danger from damage to the sub, but
unbeknownst to them, The Man of Steel has used the heat of his x-ray
vision to do some welding repairs, and is determined to keep the fact
that he has left the surfaceworld to rule his new ocean empire, complete
with shell-shaped throne and crown!

What would happen if The Man of Steel were to abandon his patrol of
Metropolis and the entire world? How would the world cope without a
Superman? The day comes when The Man of Steel disappears from the upper
world and becomes an exile of the ocean world! What would cause Superman
to abandon ship and leave dry land as... "The Super-Merman of The Sea!"
On the splash (Ouch!) page, Jimmy Olsen peers through the porthole of a
bathysphere and sees his pal having fun under the sea, urging his
fish-steeds onward to begin his underwater patrol!

Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent waves goodbye to his co-workers at
the Daily Planet, and Jimmy Olsen wishes him a happy two week vacation,
but in his apartment, Clark changes to Superman, who will continue to
patrol Metropolis and the world as usual for the duration of Clark's
vacation. Using his telescopic-vision, The Man of Steel sees a falling
object, which resembles a rocket falling into the sea, and moments later,
he dives down where it fell, and wonders if it was an expermental rocket
which went out of control? At the sea bottom, he sees a man and a girl
trapped inside, and Superman intends on bringing the rocket back to the
surface so that they won't drown, but a telepathic voice tells him no to
take them up, for they would die like fish out of water, and asks for him
to open the rocket's jammed door, to which The Man of Steel utters,
"Great Guns! Can you breathe water?"

They are from the Water World and Vulkor introduces Superman to his
daughter, Lya-La, with The Man of Steel determined to learn what he can
about why they came to Earth. After hearing their story, Superman does
not return to the surface, and three days pass, with his disappearance a
top news story! Beneath the sea, The Man of Steel plans to explain his
disappearance from the surface by forming a message out of the names of
sunken ships! Some of the words will form the message, while he'll do
his signature by using the name plates of "Lake Superior" and "S.S.
Manhattan!" On the surface, a passing ship spots the message of
Superman's undersea exile, and a crewman theorizes that Kryptonite dust
has caused The Man of Steel to stay underwater from the tainted
atomsphere! Superman tells Vul-Kor that he'll remain with them and
abandon the surfaceworld forever!

A scientist has been testing Earth's atmosphere and finds no traces
of Kryptonite in the air. Having learned this, Jimmy tells Perry and
Lois about the findings, with the Daily Planet Editor wondering why
Superman would stay undersea for a week, and they can't find him because
they don't know which part of the ocean he's in! News comes over the
teletype about transatlantic planes spotting some violent swirling waters
near the Sargasso Sea. Perry assigns Jimmy to cover the story and the cub
reporter uses the Flying Newsroom! When the helicopter arrives at the area,
Jimmy wonders what could be causing such a phenonmenon, then lands the Flying
Newsroom. He has an assistant put him into a diving suit and man the air pump.
Diving down, Jimmy sees Superman constructing a building on the side of an
undersea cliff-- and the strength of his super-powers are causing the
waters to churn!

Jimmy sees his pal put the finishing touches to his Undersea
Fortress of Solitude, which is similar to the one on land near the North
Pole. He watches as The Man of Steel begins to fill it with undersea
relics, such as the statue of The King of Atlantis from the ancient ruins
of an undersea city! When he sees Jimmy, he waves for his pal to leave,
with the cub reporter wondering what could have caused Superman to
abandon the upper world? Once Jimmy has left, The Man of Steel finishes
constructing a Super-Crystalizer, which will extract precious elements
which are dissolved in sea-water, along with common balt, such as Silver,
Radium, Magnesium, and such, for he knows that there are 84 pounds of
pure gold per cubic mile of water! An Electronic Seven Seas Scanner will
enable him to keep an eye on all the world's oceans!

Superman summons his Guided Missile Whale, which was out to gather
some unknown deep-sea specimens for him to study, and they are unharmed
after being "swallowed" by the mechanical whale! At The Daily Planet,
Jimmy tells Perry and Lois about The Undersea Fortress, which mean that
Superman will spend the rest of his days underwater forever! For Lois
Lane, the thought is chilling, for she had hoped to marry Superman, and
he must come back to her! Putting on her coat, the girl reporter is
determined to get to the bottom of this riddle! Lois lowers the
bathysphere in the same location where Jimmy dived, and she wants to find
out what happened to Superman, then sees him swimming by with a
"Mermaid"! To Lois' eyes, they are swimming as if they are in love!

Lois sees that Superman has built a castle, complete with a sign
which reads, "Mr. And Mrs. Superman" for emphasis, and she guesses that
they are communicating via telepathy, with The Man of Steel telling his
fiancee that it comes complete with running water... err... in all the
rooms! Lois sees that they have dual thrones with a King and Queen of
The Sea emblem above them. The treasure room is filled with priceless
bridal gifts, such as huge pearls from giant deep-sea clams! Lois
has had enough, for she sees that Superman has abandoned the surface
world in order to marry his mermaid bride, and live with her underwater
forever! One wonders if this can possibly be the reason, even as he and
Lya-La are going for a ride in the undersea chariot which Superman built,
complete with dolphin steeds!

Lois' heartfelt reporter soon has The United Nations in session, and
convinced that Superman is being forced to stay underwater! They are
determined to bring him to The U.N. in person, and use some Kryptonite,
which was recently confiscated from international criminals in order to
begin a Sea Dragnet to get him for an official hearing at the World
Court! A fleet of submarines begins the mission and soon spot Superman,
who is startled to see them launch a torpedo with a Kryptonite tip! He
manages to elude it, then seeing a squid, he has an idea! Recalling a
sunken wreck with a cargo of crude oil, he smashes a barrel, which causes
a black-ink cloud, and the sub passes by, thinking that it was caused by
a squid!

Using sonar, a destroyer fleet soon locates Superman, then prepares
to use Kryptonite depth-charges, but The Man of Steel has been expecting
such a thing. He uses his mechanical whale for cover in order to fool
their sonar. Superman spins a giant propellor to churn the water and
cause a bathysphere to surface after its crew suffer from seasickness!
The dragnet has given up the chase, as Superman sees with his
telescopic-vison, then continues to aid Vul-Kor complete his mission on
Earth! To all appearances, it seems that The Man of Steel will aid in a
plot against the surface world planned by Vul-Kor, as he helps to build
the Infra-Coil, which will wipe out Earth's natives, and Superman reminds
Vul-Kor that he owes them no allegiance, for he was born on Krypton!

Vul-Kor tells Superman that The Infra-Coil will launch a heat-ray at
Earth's poles, with ice caps melting, and flood waters deluging the
continents, drowning the world! Civilization will sink without a trace,
then Vul-Kor's people will claim this planet as their new Water World,
conquering it without the use of space warships and super-bombs! He is
pleased that his daughter's charms persuaded Superman to join them, and
Vul-Kor prepares to start the Infra Coil, with Zero Hour for Earth close
at hand! Strangely, Vulkor finds himself too weak to pull the lever,
then asks The Man of Steel to do it for him. Will he commit this
traitorous deed, shoving aside all loyalty to his adopted world which
honors him? Lya-La urges him to do it, to prove that he owes nothing to
the Earthlings, and to convince her that her doubts are meaningless, he
shows her...

The Infra Coil begins to heat up, and in a minute, it will be ready
to fire its long-range heat-ray at the North Polar Ice-Cap, but Vul-Kor
is still weak, and asks Superman to check out that the heat-ray is
functional, for nothing must stop their plan of flooding the Earth!
Something does stop their plan... Superman! He had previously prepared a
lead glass lens and hid it, fooling Vul-Kor into believing that he had
turned Super-Traitor! The lens converts the Infra Coil's ray into
harmless rainbow colors so that the icecap won't melt, but he couldn't
drive Vul-Kor away at the beginning! He knew that Vul-Kor would seek
revenge by signalling his fleet of space warships to attack the planet
with super-bombs, so to avoid needless killing and destruction, he posed
as his "ally!" To convince Vul-Kor, Superman pretended to abandon the
surfaceworld because he had fallen in love with Lya-La, and now he
watches from concealment, as they are forced to leave Earth...

In their ship, Vul-Kor discovers that Earth's water is poisonous to
them, and Lya-La urges her father that they must leave quickly! The ship
rockets away for Water World, for they know that conquest will never
occur, for the sea contains a poisonous chemical which would destroy
their race -- a substance which the Earthlings call -- SALT! Superman's
scheme has worked, for Vul-Kor is unware that his race could live in
ordinary sea water, but an overdose of salt is as deadly to his race as
Kryptonite is to him! At the Undersea Fortress, Superman inspects the
Fortress machines, which concealed big blocks of salt so when dissolved,
the water would be saturated in the area far more than normal, causing
Vul-Kor to weaken! At The Castle, Superman inspects the "gifts," each of
which contained dissolving salt blocks, and he knew that excessive saltiness
would be poisonous to them, as it would be to fish! For example, no fish
live in Great Salt Lake! The Man of Steel emerges from the waters, knowing
that the Infra Coil burned out, and he heads for Metropolis, glad that no one
will connect his undersea exile with Clark Kent's vacation! The following day
when Clark arrives at the office, Lois beams, as she shows the mild-mannered
reporter a copy of the newspaper where The Man of Steel reveals his undersea
ruse! When she asks him if he wishes that he were back at the seashore for his
vacation, Clark replies that he feels that he's had enough swimming to last him
an entire year!

The cover trouts... errr... touts "Superman's Undersea Kingdom!" It
comes complete with throne and crown! I seem to recall an "Ask The
Answer Man" where it was asked how Superman can survive in space or
underwater for such long periods, and Ye Answer Man reveals that The Man
of Steel doesn't actually needs to breathe! So, why are there air
bubbles on the cover? Artistic license?

The dolphins which Superman uses as steeds are yellow and do not
resemble dolphins.

"Great Guns!" An exclamation I'd expect from the likes of Charlton
Heston and Dirty Harry. It was made fun of in The Challengers of The
Unknown miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale when Red Ryan was at a
gunstore. (Maybe it was Red, maybe it was Hypertime... okayyy?!?)

Vul-Kor and Lya-La's attire is similar to that of Aquaman's.
Vul-Kor and Vulko aren't related, I think, and Lya-La gives Lois the
bloody "L.L." Both he and his daughter have fins on their backs, and
this reminds me of an episode of Futurama, where Frye tries to have a
relationship with a mermaid, but there are insurmountable anatomical
differences to overcome. Not that this has anything to do with "Clark
Kent's College Days" where he met the lovely Lori Lemaris, and a kiss
between a Superman and a Mermaid was a reminder of what might have been.
They don't write 'em like that anymore.

Using an empty test tube, a scientist is able to deduce that
there's no Kryptonite in the air, and Jimbo, hard-hitting cub reporter,
takes him at his word. I'm surprised that he didn't pull at the guy's
face, convinced that it's really Luthor or Brainiac underneath the
obvious "disguise" of a scientist working with Kryptonite!

Nice to see that Superman suffers difficulties when moving on, and
who in their right mind is going to tell The Man of Steel to keep it
down? The Sea Devils? Aquaman? Lori Lemaris? Nahhhh!

It'd be interesting to see if Superman gave the Atlantean relics
to Lori or Aquaman, or if they came by for a cup of salt...errr... sugar,
then see what was supposed to be in their undersea garage!

You think Kevin Costner was reading this when he came up with the
idea for that movie?

A mechanical whale. Enough to give a marionette a heart attack!
Gee, and Namor had The Horn of Proteus, with which he used to call

When Lois Lane gets to the bottom of something, she doesn't kid

Steve Chung
"The Super-Merman Of The Review!"