Detective Comics #430

Superboy #192

Action Comics #419

DC Comics' Super Pac D-12 collects two monthly titles and one that was published eight times a year (Superboy) from the December 1972 cover date publication cycle - and with this pack there could be no doubt about the common theme link: this is a pure 100% superhero trio of comic books.

Copies of Detective Comics regularly found their way into the comic packs of the early and mid 1970s, and making sure that their covers were visible was simply a given: everybody knew Batman, and this was a powerful selling point not to be missed.

The same held true for DC's other iconic superhero: Superman. And just like the Darknight Detective, the Man of Steel came to this Super Pac not in his own title but rather in his original home - Action Comics, and a Neal Adams cover so dynamic it almost feels and looks like an advertisement for the Super Pac.

The "surprise comic book" packed in between in this case was Superboy, completing the "superhero" theme.

The plastic bag of this specific Super Pac showed an above average amount of storage wear, which clearly indicated that it had been kept in sub-optimal conditions for some time. As a result, one of the outside comics - Detective Comics #430 - displayed a pronounced spine roll when taken from the opened pack, probably caused by something exacting a sideway pressure on the comic pack. After 24 hours under a stack of heavy books this defect did, however, disappear almost completely. Overall, however, all three comic books are tight and flat with a perfect cover gloss; the off-white pages display some very light browning in just a few places but have a very fresh overall feel, and all edges are sharp - a nice example showing how even issues from a comic pack which was quite obviously stored without much attention can turn out to be in a surprisingly high grade condition.





Detective Comics #430

December 1972

Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover - Jim Aparo

"Clue of the False Faces !" (15 pages)
Story - Frank Robbins
Pencils - Bob Brown
Inks - Nick Cardy

"The Haunted Studio Mystery !" (8 pages)
Story - E. Nelson Bridwell
Pencils & Inks - Dick Giordano

In late 1972, Detective Comics was living up to its title by featuring stories which centered on the observation and deduction skills both of Batman and the alternating characters in the back-up story. As a consequence, the Darknight Detective's colourful rogue gallery stepped aside to make room for plain clothes criminals.

Generating story interest therefore hinged almost entirely on the plot as the adversaries offered little in comparison to a Joker or a Riddler. But Frank Robbins often lived up to the challenge, and "Clue of the False Faces" is a real gem: after receiving a blow to the head, Batman suffers a spell of partial amnesia - and can't remember who the person underneath the mask and cowl is. An interesting starting point is handled extremely well right up to the end and is a story well worth reading - sadly, not collected to this day. Frank Robbins (1917-1994) would soon end his lenthy run (both as writer and as writer/artist) on Batman in Detective Comics after five years; issue #436 would be his last. Bob Brown (1915-1977), the co-creator of Thalia al Ghul (together with Dennis O'Neil), had a lenghthy spell on Detective Comics between 1968 and 1973.

The backup character of this issue of Detective Comics is the Elongated Man, created in 1960 by John Broome and Carmen Infantino but heavily pushed by editor Julius Schwartz who wanted a new supporting character for the Flash. Described in this issue in an editorial blurb as "Ralph Dibny - the only superhero whose identity is known", the Elongated Man is actually more of a detective than a superhero in the classic sense. However, the plot of "The Haunted Studio Mystery" is - forgive the pun - so far stretched that the bad guys really ought to be jailed for their stupidity rather than their lawbreaking. Thankfully, the 15 pages of Batman in Detective Comics #430 are so excellent that they easily outweigh 8 pages of strung out cheesy nonsense.




Superboy #192

December 1972

Editor - Murray Boltinoff
Cover - Nick Cardy

"The Deadly Dawn" (14,5 pages)
Story - Cary Bates
Pencils - Bob Brown
Inks - Murphy Anderson

"Superbaby's New Family !" (9 pages)
Story - Leo Dorfman
Pencils - Bob Brown
Inks - Murphy Anderson

Superboy as youthful incarnation of Superman was introduced in 1944 in More Fun Comics #101 and gained his own book in 1949; Superboy #192 belongs to this first volume of the title.

The story (which has no credits in the comic book itself) is somewhat typical of the very sanitized content some DC titles of the early 1970s featured: The only survivor of a subterranean Atlantean civilization reaches the surface and has hypnotized Jonathan and Martha Kent into aiding him in his nightly workings, which have the goal of screening Smallville from any sunlight - which he superstitiously fears. However, Superboy frees his parents from the hypnotic spell, thwarts the plan, cures the Atlantean's fear of sunlight - and even finds a family who will adopt him much like he himself was.

Superbaby takes the concept of Superboy even further back as Superman is portrayed as a toddler. First appearing in Superman #53 in 1948, the Superbaby stories were almost entirely written with humorous undertones. In Superboy #192 this is combined with a message of protecting wildlife as the "Baby of Steel" makes friends with a family of bears and saves them from two poachers. All of this virtually screams CHEEEEESY today, but lo and behold Leo Dorfman's story and Murphy Anderson's art still work today and actually provide some good fun reading even for those who don't really care for any superhero family concepts - also helped perhaps that unlike what is shown on the cover, Superbaby does not actually wear a kid's fancy dress party version of the Superman costume in the story.

Perhaps not actually a gem like some other comics that were packaged into the middle of these bags (the Superboy story is entertaining but slightly bland) Superboy #192 nevertheless provides a (surprisingly) good entertaining read.




Action Comics #419

December 1972

Editor -Julius Schwartz
Cover - Neal Adams (pencils), Jack Adler (photograph) & Murphy Anderson (inks)

"The Most Dangerous Man on Earth !" (14 pages)

Story - Cary Bates
Pencils - Curt Swan
Inks - Murphy Anderson

"The Assassin-Express Contract !" (10 pages)

Story - Len Wein
Pencils - Carmine Infantino
Inks - Dick Giordano

Clark Kent reports from a space craft in orbit on a new giant space telescope, but finds upon return that he causes explosions when his feet touch solid ground.

At the same time a small-time crook fishes two shoes and a gun out of the Metropolis river which both seem to have uncanny powers which he uses to cause destruction and rob banks. Superman finds a way to stop all of this by eliminating the source of all of these strange happenings: cosmic rays diverted to Earth by some residue on the lens of the newly installed telescope.

In the backup story, readers are introduced to Boston based Christopher Chance who, as "The Human Target", uses his disguise techniques and physical fitness and mental alertness to stand in for individuals who have reason to fear for their life. In this adventure, Chance foils an attempt made on a train to murder the owner of a chemical corporation.

The Superman story of Action Comics #419 is not without entertainment value but does show that comic book science often requires complete suspension of disbelief - and even then certain things just don't make sense. The fact that the story was penned by Cary Bates with the "technical assistance of Pete Simmons, Director of Space Astronomy, Grumman Aerospace Corporation" does, however, make for an amazingly accurate design of a reusable spacecraft which highly resembles a Space Shuttle - a good eight years before its launch in real life.

But the real point of interest with Action Comics #419 lies with the backup feature anyway. The second features which appeared in Action Comics during the Bronze Age - Green Arrow & Black Canary, Atom, Human Target - were responsible for much of the appeal of the title, making it a must-buy for many who weren't Superman fans at all (Kingman, 2013), and the Human Target (created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino and making his first appearance in this issue of Action Comics) provided some non-superhero interest which was close to the spi-fi genre. He left Action Comics after issue #432 in February 1974 and moved on to become the backup in Detective Comics until 1982 (with a few appearances in Brave and the Bold). He then switched to Batman until late 1982. In 1999 he was given his own book in the Vertigo imprint which clocked up 21 issues and ran until 2005. In 2010 Len Wein returned to the character for a DC mini-series as Human Target also became a Fox TV series which ran for two seasons (2010/11).

As a note of trivia, Julius Schwartz takes over the editorial reigns of Action Comics with this issue.



KINGMAN Jim (2013) "The Ballad of Ollie and Dinah", in Back Issue #64 (May 2013)



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First posted 3 January 2014
Revised and reposted 17 April 2014
minor update 28 June 2023

Text is (c) 2014 Adrian Wymann
The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction in this non-commercial context is considered to be fair use.