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
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.
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!
Of course, he/she/it may have female sexual organs, not male ....
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 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.
I would be remissed if I didn't bring this up:
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #234 (D'77) by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada and Jack Abel had Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet harvesting the scales of radioactive space dragons to ensure that Vi's home planet of Imsk can keep shrinking. Honest. There's an accident (there always is) and the four are merged into The Composite Legionnaire with all their powers and none of their good manners. He/she goes on a rampage and the United Planets hire a bounty hunter named, well, Bounty to kill him/her!
Meanwhile their teammates, Superboy, Wildfire, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Princess Projectra and visiting guest Duplicate Boy try to both stop Bounty from collecting his, uh, bounty and find a cure for their combined friends.
What struck me as notable was
The did the Batman/Superman/Wonder Women combination in a Justice League Unlimited episode. IIRC, they were merged by Mordru.
How about this "Golden Age Composite Superman" image posted on Victor Mabuse's Facebook page? http://www.facebook.com/victor.mabuse.3 He has some other neat stuff, too.
are you sure that this hasn't been photoshoped?
Rule of thumb: every photo on the Web has been photoshopped. Yes, even those kittens.
Check out his site; he's also got photos of Ultraman, Superwoman and Owlman from Earth-3. I suspect they may have been photoshopped, too.