Action Comics #361: "The Power Of The Parasite!"

Action Comics #361
"The Power Of The Parasite!"
March, 1968

Story: Jim Shooter
Art: Al Plastino

He has returned... the being who lives on stolen energy! With him soaking up all of his super-strength, even Superman can't deal with... "The Power Of The Parasite!"

One day in Perry White's office at the Daily Planet, the editor assigns the mild-mannered reporter to a flying saucer sighting! As Clark Kent drives to Mount Metro Observatory, his super-hearing picks up a suspicious sound, and his telescopic-vision confirms it! After pulling over to the side of the road, Clark's telescopic-vision spots the Octopus Gang in their mechanical octopus pillaging another ship! He has been waiting to catch the gang in the act! His interview with Professor Cunningham will have to wait! It's time to catch the Octopus Gang and get a bigger scoop! As the Man of Steel figures the astronomer must have been seeing things through his telescope, he is unaware of the flying saucer in orbit above Earth. The pilot's 3-D photon-resonance grapher cannot penetrate the clouds that cover the are he is mapping!

He must complete his maps and turn them in to the Planetary Geographic Commission before the deadline! He has another mapping job waiting on Platos II! He uses the evapo-rays to penetrate the atmospheric obstructions! The clouds begins to fade away... all save one... an eerie purplish cloud! The cloud is drawn into the spaceship and analyzed! From the way it is glowing and throbbing, it may be an important find! The alien pilot's analyzer registers a life force! In an effort to recreate it, the cloud is placed into the revival chamber!

Before the alien's eyes, the cloud assumes a human shape, but with a most grotesque face! As the former cloud steps out of the revival chamber, the alien finds he is growing weaker, as all of his energy is being drawn out of him! The alien is now dead! Too much of his life energy has been stolen by the Parasite! Since he now possesses the alien's mentality, the Parasite is able to pilot the spaceship back to Earth! Only the Man of Steel has beaten him in the past! The Parasite was once an atomic lab worker. One day when he was hauling radioactive wastes to the disposal center, he decided to see if payrolls were being shipped in the containers to fool would-be crooks! One look at the space minerals brought back to Earth by Superman was all it took.

The radiations caused the worker to become a human parasite, able to absorb energy from any living being! He fought the Man of Steel and defeated him by stealing his strength, and using it against him. He absorbed too much energy too quickly! Before he could steal all of Superman's invulnerability, and his body became overcharged, and was vaporized. This time, the Parasite will drain the Man of Steel's power a little at a time, and avoid the same fate! It will be a simple matter because he knows his secret identity from the last time they fought! Meanwhile, Superman is a few miles out at sea from the Metropolis Harbor, and is tying the Octopus Gang in knots with their own mechanical tentacles! Now the Man of Steel spins them at super-speed!

The Octopus Gang deploys a smoke screen of poison gas! The Octopus is drifting away from the ship, and towards the mainland! The Octopus Gang figure while the Man of Steel deals with the poison gas, they can make their escape! With his super-speed, Superman has more than enough time to take care of these modern-day pirates and catch up with the poison gas before it reaches the mainland! WHOOSH Seconds later, he inhales the gas and breathes it into a tank he took from the Octopus Gang! He can dispose of the tank later! Superman spots the unidentified flying object Professor Cunningham saw! Unfortunately, the Man of Steel has no time to investigate the matter further! The spacecraft lands in the forest! Now the Parasite will begin his plan to steal Superman's power! He will disguise himself, then head to the Daily Planet! The following day finds a stranger deliberately brushing against the cub reporter in order to absorb some of his journalistic talent!

In the city room, the disguised Parasite siphons talent from Lois Lane and the other reporters! In the office of Perry White, Larcon P. Leech shows the editor some samples of his writing. The mild-mannerered reporter is introduced to Larcon Leech, who will follow his every move to learn the ropes of being a reporter! The Parasite's disguise is perfect! Not even Kent suspects a thing! As the mild-mannered reporter and the tryout reporter are being assigned to the Carlton Dam, Clark finds something familiar about his new co-worker! The Daily Planet Flying Newsroom helicopter makes its way to the scene and Clark sees the entire dam will go unless he does something fast! The town will be flooded! After telling Leech to question the eyewitnesses, the mild-mannered reporter says he will take a closer look at the break!

As Clark changes to the Man of Steel, Leech smiles, and agrees to bide his time! Minutes later, Superman arrives with a giant cork he made from scrap lumber until permanent repairs can be made to the dam! As he prepares to place the plug, the Man of Steel finds the tremendous water pressure is dragging him into the hole, and he can't pull himself out! Determined not to let the water get the better of him, he manages to make headway, and breaks free! After barely pulling himself out, Superman corks up the hole, and prepares to surface! He doesn't understand why the tremendous pressure gave him trouble! As he surfaces, the Man of Steel wonders if any Kryptonite is nearby! As he prepares to change back to Clark and rejoin Leech, the disguise Parasite figures it won't be long! He must slow down or else Superman will grow suspicious about the power loss!

The following day finds Kent and Leech covering a most unusual bank robbery! After telling Leech to cover the story while he goes for the police, the Man of Steel confronts the bank robber, who is wearing mechanical framework giving him artificial super-strength! As the robber tears through the vault wall, he is challenged by Superman, who discovers his invulnerability is not what it used to be! SOK! BANG! WHAM! The Man of Steel is dazed by the blow and is sent staggering by others!

SPLAK! The bank robber almost beats Superman until the Man of Steel finds an opening, and the bystanders find the marks on his face are real! That evening in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman finds he is unable to lift some super-weights, and finds someone or something is stealing his super-powers! He must solve this mystery or else his career will be over! The following morning at the Daily Planet offices, Larcon Leech sees how worried Clark Kent is! He is aware of the energy loss and will no doubt be searching for the cause! The disguised Parasite still hasn't stolen enough energy to battle his foe! He must keep the Man of Steel occupied and uses his stolen telescopic-vision to create emergencies only Superman can handle! The Parasite uses a blast of super-cold breath to cause a plane's wings to ice up! The Man of Steel is grateful it is a light plane he is saving, because in his current state, he could not handle an airliner! The Man of Steel does not see the Parasite behind a cloud, but as he expends energy, his foe absorbs it!

The Parasite uses heat-vision to create a forest fire. Superman is unable to put out the fire with his weakened super-breath, but a giant fan he made, swung with his remaining super-strength is enough to handle it! The forest fire is out, but the Man of Steel checks the area to make certain no sparks are left! After making an important discovery, the following day finds the mild-mannered reporter being greeted by Larcon P. Leech in an alley! The Parasite uses his stolen heat-vision to burn off his disguise and the mild-mannered reporter's outer garments! KRAK! His plan has worked out perfectly! The Man of Steel didn't even notice his super-strength fading until it was far too late! He was under Clark Kent's nose all the time and was never suspected! Soon, the Parasite will have all of Superman's powers and become king of the Earth!

It is now a pleasure for the Parasite to deliver a Sunday punch personally to the Man of Steel! As Superman tries to get up, his foe laughs at his efforts to punch him with blows that are far too weak to matter! The Parasite decides to give his weakened opponent two black eyes and a busted nose! The Man of Steel has become a rag doll at the hands of the Parasite! Now all he has to do is allow the remaining energy to seep into his body. It will kill Superman but once the stolen energy is absorbed, the Parasite will become immortal!

Now it is the Parasite's turn to be surprised when he finds himself in an energy shell, cut off from the Man of Steel! He has been trapped by the same race as the space-geographer who was murdered! They are here to bring the Parasite to justice! Superman is given a pill to aid his super-cells to replenish their energy once more! He will be back to normal in a day's time and the bruises on his face will disappear! While he was battling a forest fire yesterday, the Man of Steel spotted a flying saucer, revealed by the flames! The aliens found also found it at the same time! They had been searching for the space-geographer and found his body inside! The automatic log recordings revealed what had happened! The Parasite had thought the forest fire would have destroyed the flying saucer, but did not realize all such spacecraft are heat-resistant! It was guessed the Parasite was responsible for the power-loss, so they set a trap with the Man of Steel as the decoy until the aliens could prepare the energy shell! Their super-science will keep the Parasite imprisoned until he stands trial and with the evidence they have, he will spend the rest of his life on an alien prison planet! So ends the plans of the would-be king of Earth!

Superman met Spider-Man and fought their arch-foes, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus.

The Parasite is a regular purple people-eater.

Radioactivity was responsible for a lot of origins in the Silver Age.

The Lamprey was an energy-siphoning foe from Earth-Squadron Supreme.

The Mimic was able to pick up a person's abilities by remaining in close proximity with them.

The Parasite was lucky not to absorb Jimmy Olsen's talent for ingesting unknown substances.

As John Corben, Metallo once applied for work as a reporter at the Daily Planet, and was thought by Lois Lane to be Superman's secret identity.

The Parasite sought to pull the plug on the Man of Steel, but Superman would not sink when he could still swim.

The Man of Steel managed to stop the forest fire with a big fan, but the Parasite only wanted him for his super-powers.

In the Metropolis Mailbag letters page, Irene Vartanoff of Lake Forest, Ill. writes:

"Dear Editor:

Why do hoods in 1967 comics look like 1957 Marlon Brando imitations? The Hell's Angels and the comic industry may not know it, but they are as "out" as can be! Juvenile delinquents of the sixties don't dress like "The Son of the Annihilator!" Sideburns and ducks and taps on shoe-heels are gone-gone-gone! And while I don't particularly relish the idea of picking up on hippies as the prototype of the juvenile delinquent of today, anything is better than this cliché stereotype! The Hell's Angels may dispute this, but why encourage their way of looking at things?"

The Editor replies:

(Well, well! La Vartanoff returns to our letter pages, with one of those criticisms which have caused some uncharitable persons to call her "Poison I.V." Actually, Irene, if you'd waited for the next ish, you'd have found that some of the other members of the Skull gang looked more up-to-date. For the rest - well, the Hells Angels and their ilk do exist, don't they? - Ed.)

Steve Chung
"The Review Of The Parasite!"