Over at Mister Silver Age's 12 Questions thread, Kirk G asked about the Composite Superman which inspired me suddenly to do write about World's Finest Comics #142 (Ju'64) which I first read when it was reprinted in World's Finest #223 (Ju'74), ten years later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story itself, "The Composite Superman", was written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn superbly by Curt Swan and George Klein.

It begins quickly as both Batman and Robin then Superman realize that their respective hidden headsquarters the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude are no longer hidden and that someone knows their secrets and orders them to meet later. With other heroes, it varies in degrees but the secret identities of the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusaders were always treated like they were forbidden, almost sacred knowledge.

On top a high mountain, they meet their trespasser, a bizarre being half-Superman and half-Batman with green skin calling himself The Composite Superman (Com/Sup). Just looking at him, Superman dubs him a "One-Man Legion" which should have been a big clue. Robin also recognizes his connection to the Legion but this is dropped quickly as if it was mentioned for the readers' benefit! Com/Sup comes in peace and wants to be their new partner by blackmailing them with the public exposure of their true identities. Having little choice, they accept.

The next day, Com/Sup sabotages five movie rockets to send them out of control. The Batplane shoots one down and apparently one rocket is Superman's limit. So the Bisected Bully triplicates himself to handle the remaining three. This confounds the Action Ace no end as he says that he couldn't have done the same! And he has no idea how Com/Sup accomplished that feat, forgetting that he possess super-vision!

Not content with showing the World's Finest Duo together, the Twin Terror humilates them seperately, making them look ineffective and foolish. In Batman's case, he and Robin are knocked out briefly due to Com/Sup's shenanigans and for some reason, think he captured some crooks without using any powers. Why would they think that? Because he told them he didn't?

Abruptly, there is a flashback on who the Composite Superman is and how he came to be. He was Joe Meach, a bitter man who wanted attention in the worse way. To get it, he jumped off a skyscraper into a kiddie pool! Superman flew in and caught him, saying that the pool was leaking. Even if it wasn't, he saved Meach's life and he moaned how much of a failure he is. So to lift Meach's sagging spirits, the Kryptonian Career Counsellor  got him a job as the janitor of the Superman Museum! Great moral-boosting there, Kal!

But then on the tour, we get to this important (to me anyway) scene:

 Yes in the 20th century, there are statuettes of 30th century super-heroes! There is knowledge of the future right there in the open! Superman confirms that he got his complete Silver Age Legion action figure set (Lucky Bastard! Wish I had one...) as Superboy which opens up a whole mess of questions like

  • What did the Boy of Steel think about the Supergirl statue?
  • Mon-El was still in the Phantom Zone in Superman's time yet his icon doesn't raise an eyebrow!
  • So Superman remembers Brainiac 5 before he ever met the first Brainiac?
  • They explained Jimmy (Elastic Lad) Olsen's statue as coming later but why no Pete Ross or Insect Queen? Or Rond Vidar or Kid Psycho for that matter if they're giving him statues of Honorary Members and Reservists like Bouncing Boy, who lost his power by this "time" in Adventure Comics, IIRC.

One night, lightning struck the statues in front of Meach which infused him with ALL the Legion's myriad super-powers including the combined strength of Supergirl, Mon-El and Ultra Boy with Brainiac 5's intelluct to guide him in optimizing their use. With his newfound might, Meach creates the identity of the Composite Superman and vowed to humilate Superman for making him a lowly floor sweeper and Batman for no apparent reason. (He knew that he was going to be in World's Finest, not Action Comics?).

By in the present, Com/Sup eavedrops invisibly on our Outmatched Heroes and hears how they don't trust him. Like he cares. Still he again invades the Batcave by flying through the lock of its backdoor (!!) and mimics a mannequin of the Joker and "confirms" their suspicions. Thinking they're clever, Superman and Batman create an elaborate scheme to "prove" that the Conniving Combiner is, in fact, a bad guy by faking attacks on themselves. But since Com/Sup has Saturn Girl's telepathy, he knows all their plans as they make them. He confronts them, threatening to use deadly force on Batman unless they agree to give up their costumed identities forever, still using his knowledge of their alaises as leverage, not to mention his unlimited power! Again they are forced to capitulate. Worse, the world thinks that they're dead, thanks to their clever stunt!

Thanks to a pep talk by Dick Grayson, his major contribution to the story, they decide to keep tabs on him as Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne via Clark's super-vision (which he has rediscovered) and Bruce's ability to buy large maps! They observe the Sinister Split-Face gathered large amounts of various metals. But why? He has the transmutation power of Element Lad.

Clark and Bruce decide to spy on him but risk wearing their costumes so we don't get five more pages of Clark's suit and Bruce's ascot! They see that he has built a massive Composite Castle out of different metals. He also carved statues of him cradling the Earth, sitting amoung planets and creating a diamond throne. With these subtle hints, the Darknight Detective and his Super-Watson deduce that Com/Sup may be wanting to rule the world...and beyond!

But again, they can't elude their Deadly Doppelganger and he captures them with ridiculous ease. He carries them off to reveal their identities to the public. They are helpless and they can't escape. But suddenly his powers begin to wane. In a panic, the Multiple Menace drops them and speeds back to the Superman Museum to recharge his powers. But it's too late. He can no longer shoot lightning and his array of powers rapidly fade as does his memory of his time as Com/Sup convienantly.

Joe Meach wakes up after nearly giving Superman and Batman their total defeat and goes back to sweeping the floors like a good fellow.

Meanwhile, Superman and Batman pray that their hunch on why the Composite Superman fled is correct because they still have no idea who he was nor what they can do to stop him if or when he returns.

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This period of World's Finest is one of the great runs of the Silver Age from 1964-1968.

When you read the story, you realize that Superman and Batman not only DON'T win but very likely they CAN'T win!

There is a running theme during this period of Superman protecting Batman from super-powered foes. In fact, he could get downright over-protective! This would cause some problems down the line.

As I've said before, this was my first exposure to the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Strange as it seems, the Legion connection is never explored as a means of finding out who the Composite Superman really is. In fact, it appears that they don't even care how he got their powers!

There will be a sequel in World's Finest # 168 (Au'67) which was also reprinted in the 70s in Super Team Family #6 (S'76).

But the menace of the Composite Superman would haunt Batman and especially Superman throughout the rest of the Silver and Bronze Ages.

He would also get an action figure of his own, ironically!

 

 

 

 

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Damn, why won't my action figures do that for me, too?

But the menace of the Composite Superman would haunt Batman and especially Superman throughout the rest of the Silver and Bronze Ages.

Yeah, the Commander brings up that idea over in the 12 Questions thread, and I'm not buying it. It's not like they kept mentioning or thinking about him. I think we were impressed and assume they therefore were, but I don't remember seeing any evidence of that.

I don't think the editors were actually that impressed. In his second appearance, he not only doesn't appear on the cover, he isn't even mentioned there! Just how scary did they think he was? Galactus usually gets mentioned when he shows up.

I have to admit, ever since I got that set of seven Legion inaction figures, packaged in the replicate HQ spaceship, I keep them in the window during thunderstorms. But no luck so far. Maybe I need to spring for the actual action figures. 

-- MSA

When they reprinted the Composite Superman's second appearance in Super-Team Family #6 (S'76), they did put him on the cover. What I didn't know is that they reprinted WF #142 again as a digest, okay officially DC Special Series #23 (F'81).

The Composite Superman was mentioned in World's Finest #149 (My'65). And visually he resurfaced in both WF #173 (F'68) and Superman #214 (F'69). After that came his Bronze Age encores via reprints.

The concept came back in WF # 283-284 (S-O'82) but this time the Legion helped clean up the mess they inadvertantly created.

And he got a page in Who's Who even with its three major appearances rule in effect!

How did the composite keep half a Batman Cowl on his head while flying?

Why are all the Legionare statues saluting "Seig Heil?"  I never knew the were all closet Hitler youth cadets! LOL!

He wasn't really wearing a half-cowl, Kirk. He was using Chameleon Boy's disguise power though why he had to hide his not-actually-his face with lead is a bigger mystery?

Hey the Silver Age Legion might have been a rude bunch but they're not bad!

I remember seeing this half and half figure someplace in my past, as a kid.  But I had no idea what the heck was going on, and nor did I care much.  Was he a big splash when he appeared?

Was he a big splash when he appeared?

I'd say so, considering so many of us remember him 40 years later with so few appearances. I don't know that they got more mail about him or anything, though. As noted, the next time he appeared, they didn't even mention him on the cover, much less show him, so they didn't seem to think he'd be a big draw.

But his costume was pretty cool, and he obviously was a hit with us. I didn't exactly understand WHY a guy with all the Legion's powers was dressed in a combination Superman-Batman costume, or why he was called "The Composite Superman" rather than "The Composite Legionnaire," but he was still pretty cool.

-- MSA

I can't understand why someone with the combined powers of the Legion even cared about Batman and Robin in the first place! If he really wanted to take over the world/universe, he shoud have worried about Green Lantern or Wonder Woman first. Not to mention, the Martian Manhunter who had both his telepathy and shapechanging.

Though when you really read his two stories, beyond the World's Finest Duo (and Sidekick), he doesn't threaten anyone. All the "disasters" he created were under his control. He doesn't even kidnap Lois Lane! There was so much more he could have done, it makes you wonder if the Legion's goodness influenced him in any way.

Philip Portelli said:

I can't understand why someone with the combined powers of the Legion even cared about Batman and Robin in the first place! If he really wanted to take over the world/universe, he shoud have worried about Green Lantern or Wonder Woman first. Not to mention, the Martian Manhunter who had both his telepathy and shapechanging.

Frankly, none of the Justice Leaguers should have given the Composite Superman a moment's pause.  Element Lad's power would take out Superman and the Green Lantern (by turning the very air around them into encasements of green kryptonite and gold (or any other yellow element), respectively.

 

Wonder Woman was neither as super-strong nor as invulnerable as Superman, so the C.S.---with the triple super-strength of Mon-El and Supergirl and Ultra Boy---would hang her out to dry.

 

J'onn J'onzz wasn't as formidable as you assume, Philip.  By the time of the Silver-Age JLA, the Manhunter's various mental powers---telepathy, telekinesis, clarevoyance, etc.---had been done away with in his own series.  And while it was a given that his super-strength rivalled Superman's, he wasn't as tough.  The Manhunter could not survive in the vacuum of space; one good toss of the C.S.'s triple super-strong arms, and J.J. is hurling through space while the air in his lungs ruptures his capillaries and his Martian blood begins to boil.

 

And if the C.S. were feeling lazy that day, he could tale the Manhunter out simply by resorting to Sun Boy's power.

 

And all of that is assuming that the JLAers are fighting only one Composite Superman.  If the villain were to use Triplicate Girl's power to make three of himself, and make him- ---- or rather, themselves---invisible (Invisible Kid's power), then the Justice League would fold faster than Duane Bobick against Ken Norton.

 

 

And if the C.S. were feeling lazy that day, he could tale the Manhunter out simply by resorting to Sun Boy's power.

Sun Boy was about heat, not flame; I was thinking more that he'd use Lightning Lad's powers to start trees on fire.Either way, JJ isn't a problem. Fire is a tough weakness.

And all of that is assuming that the JLAers are fighting only one Composite Superman. 

Exactly. He was extremely powerful, but he never showed it off. So much of his potential was wasted. He was easily a match for the JLA and would've taken some real power to stop. He had the ability to be their Mordru-like guy, who they really didn't want to see coming.

Now, was he *smart* enough to figure out how to use all his powers against all the JLAers coming at him at once? That would be the way to beat him. While he's battling Sueprman and GL, WW drops her lasso over him. Although, frankly, it would've been better if Mon-El, Ultra Boy and Supergirl's statues had been in the shop for maintenance that night.

UNLESS, maybe their powers simply overlapped, and he ended up with vulnerabilities to lead AND kryptonite AND could only use one of his powers at a time! That'd be the way to make him powerful but not overwhelming.

I still put him way below Galactus, though.

-- MSA 

I think it underlines my acceptance of DC in the Silver Age which was each title, sometimes each story, happened in it's own little bubble of a universe, where a major event could happen and it need not affect the rest of the DC universe and every story was self-contained.

I remember The Death Of Superman reprinted in #193 (an 80 Page Giant) where the Justice League and the Legion of Super-Heroes visited a deceased Superman in his glass coffin and being surprised to see them there. Okay, it was an "Imaginary Story", but I would have been okay had none of them turned up 'cos it's just the way it was back then - no continuity and no acknowledgement of a bigger universe.

Superman occasionally did interact with the Legion and the JLA in his comics, although maybe not when that issue first came out so much. Several members came back to help with various adventures in the regular issues, and he became members of the JLA in a later issue of Action, at least. I don't think anyone would've been surprised if they hadn't been in the immediate line we saw, but it wasn't surprising to see them.

Well, maybe the Legion. I mean, Superman IS going to die sometime, and he's NEVER going to die when they're seeing him in their own time. So them showing up to pay their respects is a little strange.

"Hey, guys, want to go back in time today and pay our respects to the dead Superman?" "Nah, let's do that tomorrow." "How about Supergirl? Or Jimmy Olsen?" "Let's visit them all at once. Maybe tomorrow." "Can't. Superman and Supergirl are coming to visit tomorrow."

With the Legion, it's often better that we don't think about these things.

-- MSA

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