Monday, September 10, 2018


Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inkers: Leonard Starr & Keith Williams
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Following the Manhunters’ attack on Earth, Lois Lane travels to Smallville to investigate Lana Lang. She discovers the crashed Manhunter ship on Lana’s property and finds Lana and Superman chatting behind the house. The trio goes inside, where Lois asks Superman point blank if he is Clark Kent. Clark’s parents arrive just then and spin a tale about discovering Kal-El’s rocket and raising the child in secret alongside their son, Clark. Furious, Lois leaves.

Clark shows up at the Smallville Hotel to speak with Lois, but she’s just as angry with him as with Superman. The next morning, Lana approaches Lois and takes her out to lunch to plead Clark’s case. Later, back in Metropolis, Lois visits Jose Delgado in the hospital, and Superman shows up as well. Lois departs, giving the Man of Steel the cold shoulder.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Lois travels to Smallville for the first time in this issue and meets Lana and Jonathan and Martha while there. Superman and Lana explain the MILLENNIUM storyline to Lois, and she agrees to sit on the story.

As Clark talks to Lois at her hotel, we get a few flashback panels to her childhood, in which we’re shown that her father, dismayed over never siring a son, tried to mold Lois in his own image. During the scene in the diner, we learn that Lois, like Clark, is a novelist.

My Thoughts: I don’t like to poke fun at the Silver Age, because the comics of that era were produced for a particular audience, and that audience loved them for what they were, silliness and all. But I will occasionally use “Silver Age” as a pejorative when discussing a more modern comic that employs certain old-fashioned ideas which don’t seem to fit into that comic’s era. Such in the case with this issue. The idea that Superman would have been raised in secret as Clark Kent’s foster brother is absurd — dare I even say laughable — by the standards of the eighties. It’s a great idea for a 1950s-era Mort Weisinger Superman comic, but in the post-Bronze Age DC Universe, in this more realistic world that John Byrne himself has crafted since THE MAN OF STEEL, the idea sticks out like a silly sore thumb. The less said about this concept the better, and hopefully it won’t come up again going forward (though I won’t be surprised if it does).

Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Petra Scotese | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Superman attempts to foil a late-night robbery, but the bat-winged perpetrator escapes. Meanwhile Maggie Sawyer wonders where her missing daughter, Jamie, could be, while Jamie finds her way into a den of street children presided over by a winged mutant named Skyhook.

Maggie visits Jimmy Olsen to borrow his signal watch, which she uses to summon Superman for an “off the record” assist in finding her daughter. Elsewhere, Skyhook shows Jamie around his home, where he has mutated several children into bat-creatures. Superman encounters one of the bat-kids flying around Metropolis and captures her.

Thanks to an analysis of dust particles on the girl’s clothing, Superman and Maggie travel to an abandoned church. When they enter, Skyhook sics his army of bat-children on them and attempts escape with Jamie—but Maggie hangs on as well, and Superman chases the trio into the sky. He rescues Jamie and Maggie, while Maggie shoots Skyhook. The monster splashes into the bay, where he’s sucked out to sea. Superman returns Jamie to her father while the police begin to research a way to un-mutate Skyhook’s former charges.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: We meet Maggie’s significant other, Toby, in this issue, and she explains to Superman that she left her husband after she realized she was a lesbian. Of course, due to the social standards of the time, all of this is danced around in dialogue — but Byrne’s intent is clear.

This is, as far as I know, the first appearance of Skyhook, who possesses the power to transform humans into bat-winged monsters. Maggie’s daughter Jamie and ex-husband Jim also appear for the first time here. Jim has full custody of Jamie, though the story’s final page sees him consider more visitations for Maggie at Superman’s personal request.

In another post-CRISIS debut, we have Jimmy’s mother, depicted from behind only, with white hair. I assume this is some sort of pre-CRISIS nod. Perhaps her face was never revealed there, either.

Clark tries to make amends with Lois for never telling her the “truth” about his shared past with Superman, but he’s forced to leave mid-conversation when he hears the watch.

The last page hints that Jamie may have been at least partially mutated by Skyhook while she was in his lair.

My Thoughts: John Byrne probably had some interest in horror; in a lot of ways the “Proteus Saga” he did with Chris Claremont on UNCANNY X-MEN reads like a horror story. He mostly avoided the genre after jumping over to FANTASTIC FOUR, but I do seem to recall there were one or two horror-style ALPHA FLIGHT tales, as well. (And of course he would eventually pen a full-fledged horror novel in the nineties.)

So here we have Byrne throwing a little horror into Superman’s world. He already did it to some degree in ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #1, with Superman and Batman confronting a vampire serial killer. Now we have Skyhook, a horrific monster who captures and mutates children. I can’t exactly say this is something I like in a Superman comic — similar to a few other tales in Byrne’s tenure, I’d much rather read about him saving and restoring these poor kids rather than just turning them over to the cops, who admittedly may never find a way to cure them.

But it’s nice to get Maggie’s backstory at least, and it’s worth remembering that for all the stuff he’s done over the years to earn him any number of epithets from curmudgeon to jerk to worse, Byrne was something of a pioneer for LGBT representation in mainstream superhero comics back in the eighties (at least to the extent the climate of the time allowed such characters to be depicted). So that’s nice.

Next Week: Superman meets Brainiac and Checkmate debuts in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN 438 and ACTION COMICS 598, respectively.


  1. Both these issues were reprinted in London Editions Magazine's Superman and Justice League International when I was reading it - issues #39 & #40 IIRC. #39 didn't use the original US cover - it instead combined an interior panel (Lois berating Superman) with a cropping of JLI #13 (the one where they fight the suicide squad). #40 used the Superman cover.

    It may seem but odd but at the time I had no knowledge whatsoever of Lana's pre-Crisis history as Lois's equivalent in Superboy's adventures and later as a sometimes rival/sometimes ally. So the importance of the story in confirming Lana wouldn't be part of any triangle in the modern stories completely passed me by. The hurried explanation that Jonathan & Martha come up with is silly, but believing it is as credible as not noticing Superman is Clark Kent without glasses.

    The Skyhook tale was rather dull at the time, probably because there's a promise of a physical confrontation that doesn't come off . And I know from later letters I wasn't alone in not getting the hints here about Maggie's sexuality - maybe the hints are clues that aren't so well known here in the UK, maybe LEM relettered some key dialogue or maybe we were all too young and sheltered (I was only 10). This was indeed Skyhook's first appearance and he was clearly intended to be something big - he even scored a Who's Who entry on just one appearance - but he's been used very sparingly over the years.

    1. I agree, the explanation is no sillier than glasses hiding Superman's identity. I guess what kinda bugs me is that Byrne just added a brand-new silly thing to his modern-day reboot, while the glasses were "grandfathered in" as part of the mythos.

      I always enjoy learning about overseas reprints of American comics, by the way. Thanks for the info!

  2. I liked the Lois/Lana issue above because of Leonard Starr's inks over John Byrne's pencils. I mainly know the late Mr. Starr as a developer for the beloved Rankin/Bass classic, "ThunderCats." Plus, the Skyhook story, though creepy, definitely kept me hooked.

    1. Same here; THUNDERCATS was where I first saw the name "Leonard Starr". It was many years before I learned he had been a longtime, highly respected cartoonist well before he worked on that show!