(Originally presented October, 2007.)
My First Issue of Superman
The first Superman story I ever read has the same cover date that I do: February, 1973. Of course, cover dates being what they were back then, that means the issue is actually two months older than I am. This was one of about 70 comics that were at my paternal grandparents’ house until grandma decided to send them home with me.
The cover is absolutely amazing. Star Sapphire hovers several inches over the blacktop of Metropolis. Kneeling before her is Superman as she commands: “I command you to kiss my boot, Superman! Let the whole world see you’ve become my slave!” Behind her, Lois, Jimmy, Perry, and a crowd of Metropolitans look on in shock. The Grand Comics Database doesn’t specify who drew the cover so I presume it is Curt Swan with Murphy Anderson, the same wonder duo who provide the interior art.
The splash page for “Slave of Star Sapphire!” (written by Cary Bates and edited, of course, by Julius Schwartz) gives a very brief description of who Carol Ferris & Star Sapphire are. This is just in case the reader had never read an issue of Green Lantern. Which I hadn’t. At this point, my knowledge of Green Lantern came entirely from the Super Friends cartoon so I had no idea who Carol Ferris, much less Star Sapphire, was.
The story starts with Lois Lane at the Metropolis Museum, interviewing the curator about the Star Sapphire exhibit about to open. The exhibit includes the actual gem that provides Star Sapphire with her power. Lois remembers a couple of headlines about Star Sapphire battling Green Lantern and how she wanted to beat him so she could marry him(!). The curator loans Lois a replica costume for her article and recommends that she model it due to her resemblance to the villainess.
The Metropolis airport must be well outside the city, for Clark Kent is riding a helicopter shuttle from the airport to the city. Also on this short flight: Carol Ferris. Using his telescopic vision, Clark sees trouble on the outskirts of the city at a tavern called the Green Lantern. Inside the tavern is a wanted man, Max Fenton, wearing a vest of high explosives that could wipe the entire neighborhood off the map quite easily.
Clark hits an emergency ejection button that fires his seat out the side of the helicopter and then deploys parachutes for a safe landing, his sleeping seat-mate (an business man whose name is not given) is just along for the ride. As the stewardess on the chopper puts it: “They’re quite safe! One of them must’ve accidentally hit their chute-ejector button, that’s all!” Clark uses his super-breath to aim the falling seat to the roof of a skyscraper so he can change clothes without being seen. As Superman flies away, Clark’s seat-mate finally wakes up.
With the blessing of the police, Superman carefully approaches the Green Lantern tavern (which a footnote says appeared previously, in a 1964 Action Comics story). Watching from the helicopter using a handy pair of binoculars, Carol Ferris watches Superman’s actions. She starts feeling odd when she sees the name of the establishment Superman is walking towards. Superman inhales deeply and then blows just enough air into the building to cause it to collapse.
Fenton stands dumbfounded, scarcely able to believe that the building has fallen apart but left him standing unharmed. He threatens Superman with the nitro in his vest. It can’t hurt Superman, of course, but can still damage all the nearby buildings. Superman whips off his indestructible cape and flings it around Fenton. If the nitro detonates now, only Fenton will be harmed by it. The villain starts to collapse and begs Superman to catch him and prevent the explosives from detonating.
Carol Ferris has been watching all this but her fevered mind doesn’t see what is actually happening. Instead of home grown terrorist Max Fenton, Ferris sees Green Lantern. As far as she is concerned, Superman wrapped GL in his cape and used it to squeeze the life out of him. Although Superman’s real opponent has simply fainted in fear, Ferris believes that the Man of Steel has killed the Emerald Gladiator. This completely subverts the Carol Ferris personality, leaving only Star Sapphire. She swears revenge on Superman, vowing to make him her slave. Although currently lacking the power to do so, she can sense that his power gem is nearby.
At the Metropolis Museum, the curator discovers that the gem on display isn’t the real one. He surmises that the actual gem was in the replica costume that he loaned Lois. Lois, meanwhile, is needling Clark about disappearing from an in-flight helicopter just prior to Superman appearing. Clark sees the Star Sapphire costume in the package that Lois is carrying and decides it might be fun to turn the tables on her. He lets her become comfortable in her office and then makes a flimsy excuse to go in and see her. He uses x-ray vision to find the costume in her desk and then heat vision to short circuit the transistors in her electronic desk, causing the drawers to burst open. He can’t help but see the costume now and appears shocked by the idea that Lois might be the infamous alien queen. She truthfully denies it and both are shocked as the “fake” gem rises, spinning from the replica costume’s tiara. It flies out the door and down the hall into the waiting had of its true owner, transforming her physically from Carol Ferris to Star Sapphire!
Clark had run down the hall after the flying gem and is the first to see the returned villainess. She blasts him through elevator doors while shouting, “I shall permit nothing to interfere with my hunt for Green Lantern’s killer!” The metal elevator doors would have stopped (and likely killed) a normal man but the Metropolis Marvel goes right through them. He’s unable to stop his fall in the shaft in time and the great force of his impact on the elevator car causes the cable to snap. Grabbing the broken cable, he flies back up and ties the two broken ends together while the terrified passengers escape out onto a safe floor.
As he changes into costume, Superman wonders how Green Lantern could be dead without his fellow Justice League members knowing about it. Already outside the Galaxy Broadcasting building, Star Sapphire has started a reign of terror to draw out her love’s “killer.” Sure enough, Superman finds the destruction on the street and is ambushed by Star Sapphire. “Your hour of judgment has come, super-murderer! Green Lantern’s brutal death will now be avenged!” she yells. Superman holds back because his personal code doesn’t let him strike a woman. Star Sapphire drops down on him from above, placing a chain with the gem of power around his neck. Even off of her body, the gem is still under her power and now Superman’s will is subverted by the gem.
She forbids him to remove the gem or to open his mouth and plead for help. Superman uses super-ventriloquism to call to Lois who is still inside the building. Lois looks out and sees a scene very similar to that on the cover of this issue: Superman kissing the boot of Star Sapphire!
The Astral Queen’s next order is for Superman to “Destroy the Galaxy Building and everyone in it!” Superman literally can’t help himself and starts racing to fulfill his dreadful task but emerging from the building is…Star Sapphire?!? This Star Sapphire and the true one start giving Superman contradicting orders. When the second Star Sapphire orders the Man of Tomorrow to fly straight into the air, the real one orders him to fly straight back down. This causes the chain and gem to fall off of Superman’s neck and he regains his freedom. Star Sapphire catches the falling gem and teleports away, vowing vengeance once again.
The second Star Sapphire was Lois. She gambled that the similarity between her and the real McCoy would confuse Superman. It allowed her desperate ploy of having him fly up, only to be ordered down by the woman enslaving him. Lois worries about what Clark will say if he finds out about her being in costume. Superman assures her, “I promise, Lois…he’ll never hear it from me!”
The next day, Carol Ferris is going about her business in Metropolis. She sees the Daily Planet headline proclaiming that Green Lantern has saved an alien world from disaster and feels oddly relieved…although she doesn’t know why.
As a child, I never had a single problem with this story. Even as an adult, this 34 year old story holds up remarkably well. The only things that strike me as a bit ludicrous now are the helicopter ejection system and the desk with electronic doors. The helicopter ejection seems terribly unreal, especially one that a passenger can activate. Can you say “liability?” I knew you could! As for a desk with electronic drawers…who the heck is that lazy? Apparently--Lois Lane.
Still, this is an action packed issue that contains all the information needed to be enjoyed. The relationships of the characters are clearly defined. The proverbial gun used in act III (Lois having the Star Sapphire costume) is clearly displayed in act I. The Swan/Anderson art is nothing short of amazing. While there is nothing exactly wrong with the 1972 coloring, it’d be neat to see what modern coloring methods could do for this terrific line art.