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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To Dave: Starting with #141 going to the 180s, this was a very strong period for World's Finest, first with beautiful Curt Swan artwork, though I still don't see him as a Batman artist and ending with some classic Neal Adams. IMHO, I like this run more than the New Look Batman period.

Somehow, even the sillier stories seem epic!

If the Composite Superman had returned over and over, and kept getting beaten by the heroes, despite possessing the powers of the entire Legion, that sense of overwhelming formidability would have been lost.

I see what you're saying, and I agree. I wouldn't have him showing up all the time, but occasionally would be fine--and I think he'd have to get away, as keeping him in prison would be tough and would eliminate that feeling that he's out there biding his time.

OTOH, Luthor and Brainiac are about the only villains anyone remembers for Superman, so having a third wouldn't have been the worst thing. There's something to be said for being relentless if not successful.

But I agree, I wouldn't have liked him becoming Dr. Light--the guy who can't beat the JLA, then can't beat The Atom, then can't beat GL, then can't beat Flash. Pretty soon, I'm yelling, "Go for Aquaman!" But that ultimately didn't work out when he took him on in JLA.

That first cover was just so amazing, I can't believe that kids didn't buy it even if they'd never bought WF before. There was some kind of disconnect there. Maybe the REAL story behind the cover on #168 didn't get done or something, and they had to rush the next issue's CS story into that spot and then didn't do the cover for it. 

-- MSA

Phillip wrote: Starting with #141 going to the 180s, this was a very strong period for World's Finest, first with beautiful Curt Swan artwork, though I still don't see him as a Batman artist and ending with some classic Neal Adams. IMHO, I like this run more than the New Look Batman period.

I agree completely. I started reading comics in 1966, during the early days of "Batmania," and I just never got interested in the Batman stories in Batman and Detective. Just seemed too blah for me. That's why my favorite Batman, probably ever, was the Batman portrayed in the Weisinger World's Finests. Classic stuff!

...A couple years back , there was a SUPERMAN/BATMAN annual which featured a new version of the Composite Superman , same or very similar look - but he wasn't referred to by that name .

  The story was by Len Wein , but was credited as a " reworking " of a previous story - I'm not quite sure what story , it didn't really seem to hve much similarity to any previous CS story - Partly I suppose thyey couldn't resist the ireesistable visual of the CS's costume .

I think it reworked a little bit of many stories, including Frankenstein. It was more about Amazo, as Prof. Ivo was trying to create a creature with the JLA's powers. He thought it failed, but when it revived, it dressed up in a CS-like costume and kidnapped Lois and Tim Drake to become Supes and Bats and live their lives.He was more misunderstood than evil, I think. 

I'm not sure why they went that way. Clearly, that combined Superman-Batman costume and the name stuck with a lot of us! Just not Mort.

-- MSA

I recently pulled an issue of the Jack Kirby Quarterly from my "to be read" box and ran across this picture of a composite Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (!) concept drawing that Jack did for Super Friends while he was working in animation after he left Marvel for the last time. I don't really want to think about how this was supposed to work.

Hoy

That looks a little formidable for Super Friends which may be why it never went further. Fortunately, the only part of WW I see is the lasso, which isn't much but it's better than anything else, unless his trunks had stars.

It mostly seems to be a Superman costume on a demon wearing a bat-cowl and carrying a lasso. Maybe the coloring would've added more of each hero. Otherwise, color me unimpressed by his composite-ness.

Your to-be-read box is big enough to hold JKC? That's pretty big.

-- MSA

Actually, I think that they used Kirby's Composite in Super Friends. IIRC, the descendent of Doctor Frankenstein built another Monster which Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman defeated easily so he later trapped them (I don't recall how) and transferred their powers and abilities into a new Monster who was similar to Kirby's but much more tamer-looking. However this drained the heroes and the only way to defeat the Super-Monster was to divert their remaining energies into Robin so he gained super-powers. Gleek helped out too. Of course everyone got their powers back at the end.

Still it had to be galling to need Robin and Gleek to save the day in the Super Friends' universe!

I think the drawing also has WW's bracelets. Without doing a lot of checking, I think the cape and its fastener(?) look like they might be elements of WW's infrequently-worn cape.

I never watched Super-Friends. The Wonder Twins and especially the monkey (Gleek?) put me off.

Mr. Silver Age said:

That looks a little formidable for Super Friends which may be why it never went further. Fortunately, the only part of WW I see is the lasso, which isn't much but it's better than anything else, unless his trunks had stars.

Not Jack Kirby Collector; Jack Kirby Quarterly, another magazine entirely that ceased publication several years ago. I bought a few at a comics store close-out sale back in the 1990s and never read them until now. With CBG gone and having given up on the New 52 and most Marvels,  I seem to have more time to visit my to-be-read boxes. I have a few.



Mr. Silver Age said:


Your to-be-read box is big enough to hold JKC? That's pretty big.

-- MSA

...I basically only saw the first season or two of Super Friends , the move into more " real "/" (somewhat) more like the actual comic books " stories and cast members escaped me until years later , when I read other folks' nostalgic pieces and saw some in the Nineties...

Richard Willis said:

I think the drawing also has WW's bracelets. Without doing a lot of checking, I think the cape and its fastener(?) look like they might be elements of WW's infrequently-worn cape.

I never watched Super-Friends. The Wonder Twins and especially the monkey (Gleek?) put me off.

Mr. Silver Age said:

That looks a little formidable for Super Friends which may be why it never went further. Fortunately, the only part of WW I see is the lasso, which isn't much but it's better than anything else, unless his trunks had stars.

...It was S/B ANNUAL No. 3 , from 2009 .

Mr. Silver Age said:

I think it reworked a little bit of many stories, including Frankenstein. It was more about Amazo, as Prof. Ivo was trying to create a creature with the JLA's powers. He thought it failed, but when it revived, it dressed up in a CS-like costume and kidnapped Lois and Tim Drake to become Supes and Bats and live their lives.He was more misunderstood than evil, I think. 

I'm not sure why they went that way. Clearly, that combined Superman-Batman costume and the name stuck with a lot of us! Just not Mort.

-- MSA

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