Monday, July 16, 2018


Written by: John Byrne | Penciled by: Art Adams | Inked by: Dick Giordano
Lettered by: Albert de Guzman | Colored by: Petra Scotese
Edited by: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Batman arrives in the small town of Fayerville, Louisiana, following the trail of a serial killer from Gotham City. But he quickly finds himself in over his head as he realizes he’s up against a vampire. The Caped Crusader calls the Daily Planet and asks Clark Kent to summon Superman for him. Soon after, the Man of Steel arrives in Fayerville and begins investigating the vampire as well, while Batman deduces the creature’s true identity as that of an apparently teenaged girl named Skeeter. When Skeeter attacks and nearly kills Superman, Batman finishes her off with a stake through the heart.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Batman uses the codeword “Magpie”, a reference to his and Superman’s first encounter in THE MAN OF STEEL, to authenticate himself to Clark.

When he fights Skeeter, Superman realizes her powers are magical in nature and therefore she is able to harm him. (He also mentions his “electro-chemical aura” not protecting his costume when she scratches his chest, reminding readers that Byrne is still one hundred percent behind that idea.)

Scripter/Co-Plotter: John Byrne | Penciler/Co-Plotter: Ron Frenz
Embellisher: Brett Breeding | Letterer: Albert T. de Guzman | Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Lois Lane visits a research facility where a chimpanzee named Titano is experimented on by human scientists. Shortly after Lois leaves, the experiment goes haywire and Superman arrives to help. Titano mutates into a gigantic monster which begins a rampage through Metropolis. Superman fights the creature, eventually stunning him, but the scientists take advantage of Titano’s disorientation to hit him with a blaster that kills him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The head scientist working on Titano is Doctor Moyer, who was also involved with the creation of Rampage in SUPERMAN #7. Further, for reasons unknown (aside form his project’s government sanction), Moyer is accompanied in this issue by Amanda Waller.

Titano forms a bond with Lois, which I recall was also the case in the ape’s appearance in SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES — so I can only assume this is a Pre-CRISIS thing ported into the new continuity.

Story: Jim Starlin | Art: Dan Jurgens & Steve Montano
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko | Editing: Mike Carlin

The Plot: When all communication is lost with the small town of Trudeau, South Dakota, the president calls in Superman for help. The Man of Steel arrives to find the town completely deserted, and eventually deduces that its populace were all consumed by a monstrous creature. Superman allows the creature to capture him and meets its master, Hfuhruhurr the Word-Bringer. Hfuhruhurr explains that he removed the brains of the town citizens, bonding them into a Union which supplies him with telekinetic powers. Superman battles and defeats Hfuhruhurr, after which the captive brains, with no bodies to return to, telepathically possess the Man of Steel, forcing him to shut down their life support.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: President Reagan, who seemed fairly chummy with Superman in LEGENDS, comes across here as mistrustful of him. Also, Reagan is advised by a black-haired man with a robotic hand whose name is never revealed.

My Thoughts: As I’ve noted many times, I didn’t read much DC as a child, but a friend of mine actually owned ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #1, and while I don’t believe that I ever fully read the story, I do have a hazy recollection of flipping through it at his house. The story is not bad, though it’s somewhat reminiscent of Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #17 from just a few years earlier, which also dealt with a small, rural town that had a hidden secret.

Artwise, it’s cool to see Art Adams, a man known mostly (at least as far as I’m aware) for his work at Marvel, providing his renditions of Superman and Batman. And I’m not sure if it’s Dick Giordano making the difference, but I find Adams’ artwork much more attractive here than in the various X-MEN annuals he worked on over at Marvel in the eighties.

(Also, I find it kind of funny that Adams was well-known at this point for his X-Annuals and specials with Chris Claremont, and here he’s working with Byrne. Knowing the rivalry between the two, it’s not hard to imagine Byrne champing at the bit to work with Adams simply because Claremont had done so with much fanfare in recent years.)

Following the theme of art into our next annual, I was really pleased with Ron Frenz’s work in the Titano story. Like Adams, as far as I’m aware, Frenz would have been mostly known for Marvel work at this point (though he would go on to have a full run penciling Superman’s adventures in the nineties). He draws a terrific Man of Steel, and while I tend to think of him primarily as a “Spider-Man artist”, he looks just as comfortable with the sort of massive spectacle that a Superman tale requires.

(Can’t stand that Titano gets killed in the end, though. Offing animals, especially innocent/docile/friendly ones, is nothing more than cheap emotional manipulation as far as I’m concerned.)

And then there’s our ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN annual, the only one of the trio not written by John Byrne. And if you thought the Titano story was a bummer, here we have all the citizens of a small town commit mass suicide after their bodies are destroyed by Hfuhruhurr’s creature — and in case you somehow got it in your head that maybe this was somehow a kid-free town, writer Jim Starlin makes it quite clear that, yes, there were children who lost their lives here too.

I know I’ve opined here once or twice before that I tended to avoid DC comics as a kid, and this story is a perfect example of why: I felt like every DC comic I picked up, moreso than Marvels, featured stuff like this — civilian deaths, bummer endings, and so forth. I don’t read a Superman comic to see him avenge slaughtered towns; I read them to see him save the town before something bad happens to it!

That said, young Dan Jurgens provides the artwork here, and while he’s still kind of unpolished, he already has a great grasp on Superman. And I’ll give Starlin credit for really selling the creepiness of Superman exploring a totally empty little town. The first half of this issue isn’t bad at all, in fact; it’s just once we learn that everyone’s dead that I don’t like it.

Also, what’s up with two Superman annuals in the same year featuring our hero investigating strange occurrences in rural towns…?

Next Week: “The Challenge of the Gods” begins in WONDER WOMAN #10 and 11.


  1. I read two out of these three when they came out (didn't get the 'Adventures' one...shocking!) and I remember finding the Action story the runaway winner. I, too, was not as big a fan of Art Adams as everyone else seemed to be, but really enjoyed his work on this story. Maybe it was the change in inker, I don't know. Plus I was already a fan of the post-crisis Superman/Batman dynamic, and seeing Batman stake a vampire was just the right level of bad-ass for me at the time.

    I remember enjoying the Titano story as well, just not as much. But you're right, Ron Frenz did a good job on this one.

    -david p.

  2. The Titano storyline gets to me the most, mainly because it features Lois Lane as a focal point.

  3. Yes, Lois & Titano had a connection Pre-Crisis. I think it was something like Titano's previous job was a clown animal that got a pie in the face, with Lois cleaning his face, and winning the monkey's affection.

  4. Art Adams doing DC work in the 80s just looks so weird to me since he was so closely tied at the time to X-Men annuals. but it's as amazing as his Marvel work. I continue to wish Adams had been a fast enough artist to do a monthly title, because man, whatever book he decided to do would've been amazing. And had it been with Claremont on the X-Men...

    Sorry. I have wondered what that book would've been like for decades, and can get going talking about it at the drop of a hat!

  5. Thanks to your review, I picked up a back-issue of the Adventures of Superman Annual, as I didn't realize Jim Starlin had written that comic.
    I am a fan of anything Starlin does, really.

    I had previously bought the Superman Annual, with Titano. I really enjoyed that story.

  6. I find Adams’ artwork much more attractive here than in the various X-MEN annuals he worked on over at Marvel in the eighties.

    Interesting. I've read that annual, though I don't recall much of it offhand. Just based on the screencap you posted, I *much* prefer Adams' Marvel work. This seems...scratchy, much less-polished and precise than his X-annuals. Which is probably better for a more horror-influenced story, but I still prefer the more polished Marvel stuff.

    1. I think my issue with a lot of Adams' work at Marvel is that it looks very... light, I guess. No heavy blacks, and very thin lines a lot of the time. Partly I believe that's due to the fact that Terry Austin was his inker on a lot of that stuff, and Austin had drastically changed his style by the eighties -- while Dick Giordano is known for heavy lines and heavy blacks, and he applies them generously here.