Fight Stupid with Stupid: Terra-Man vs. Billy Anders

Bloggified by Jake on Monday, June 5, 2006

What makes less sense than than a Terra-Man story? The whole "Billy Anders thing." I've done some pretty thorough research--or at least Googled "billy anders" superman--and there's surprisingly little about Clark Kent's sickly neighbor boy and the convoluted story arc involving him, his pet lynx, and Superman's superpower sharing program online.

From what I can tell between my reading of Superman #259 and about five paragraphs of Billy Anders mentions on the web, Billy lived in the same apartment building as Clark Kent. Someone else within the building owned a lynx. Some bad guy attacked the building--I'm assuming trying to get Superman--and Billy was hurt and put into a coma, though his mind was transferred to the lynx.

Billy was eventually able to inhabit his own body again, but only if the lynx was close to his body. Unfortunately, he was still injured from the attack, bedridden and forced to use crutches to get around.

Though it is unclear how, Superman apparently gave Billy some of his superpowers to counteract the injuries. When he wanted to use his powers, Clark Kent would have to think of Billy Anders's lynx, which, honestly, makes as much sense as having to say "Shazam!"

This storyline is considered one of the stupidest in Superman history and lasted only about six months, wrapping up--at least as far as I can tell--in Superman #259 when editors decided to fight stupid with stupid and bring back everyone's favorite magician/alien technology purveyor/wannabe cowboy, Terra-Man.

Our story opens with Terra-Man moping about prison where he's been sitting for nine issues despite having a magical tattoo that harnesses his "thought-waves" and can transport the prison to the middle of a desert while leaving him untouched still on the grounds where it once stood.It's worth noting the snow on the ground outside where the prison used to be as the prison's furnace breaking during such a horrific coldsnap was what prompted Terra-Man to wish the prison into the sweltering desert. Also, because this is the last time we'll see any snow in the entire issue.

Whistling for his flying horse, Nova, on an ultrasonic frequency, Terra-Man quickly makes his escape, but not after changing out of his prison blues and into his Old West duds so quickly that the prison clothes are still suspended in the air while he is fully dressed in his Terra-Man outfit.For those keeping track, Terra-Man's powers and abilities so far:
1. Mentally-facilitated, grand-scale transportation of both inanimate and living matter.
2. Ultrasonic whistling
3. Hyperspeed wardrobe changing

When the news breaks that Terra-Man has escaped from jail, it's Clark Kent himself who reports it as anchor of the WGBS news. Two minutes remain in the newscast, but Superman can't wait that long to chase after Terra-Man and ignores the "2 Minutes" sign helpfully displayed by the cue card guy.Wasting a minute and a half explaining why he wanted to get off the set rather than wait two minutes and getting a minimum wage flunky yelled at for something he didn't do, Clark changes into Superman and flies away "faster than a microwave"--which really isn't that impressive when you consider my microwave hasn't moved from the same spot on the counter for two years--in search of Terra-Man.

Instead, it's Terra-Man who does the finding.4. Bodily bisection

This seems as good a time as any to point out further why Terra-Man stories are so terrible. Not only does Terra-Man have more powers and gadgets than he could ever use in his lifetime, but Superman inexplicibly becomes Jimmy-Olsen-level incompetent when Terra-Man shows up. Superman can hear a mosquito flap its wing in Burma and read people's lips on other planets, but somehow a cowboy on a flying horse snuck up on and managed to lasso him. I mean, look at Terra-Man and tell me "stealthy" is the first word that pops into your mind. Do you think that guy can do anything without screaming, "Yeeee-HAAAW!" before, during, and after? Then, Superman gets himself sliced in half and Terra-Man then commands the hero's detached legs to go about kicking their former master silly.

5. Dismembered limb manipulation

Superman tries to remove the lasso, but can't without his superstrength. With his "most leathal foe" circling him and his own legs kicking his face in, Superman takes a moment to meditate and think about his neighbor's pet.6. Hallucinogenic lasso

Completely spent from breaking a rope, Superman loses his superstrength again, but vows to defeat Terra-Man using his other superpowers. Three frames later, he abandons that vow, opting instead to bitch and whine about not having superstrength and not being sure if he can beat Terra-Man without it. Meanwhile, Terra-Man escapes through the use of:

7. Energy beams shot from hooves of flying horse
8. Vanishing dust

It's unclear what exactly is going on when Terra-Man sprinkles himself with some "fadeout powder" and disappears. He may be invisible or he may have transported somewhere. Either way, it's even less clear why he ran away considering Superman had yet to lay a hand on him, was without his superstrength, and didn't seem quite capable of brushing his own teeth, much less fighting a supervillain with 800 pieces of alien technology at his disposal.

The only possible explanation is that Terra-Man was so shocked by Superman's ineptitude that he needed a little time to reflect on it.9. Telepathy/mind reading
10. Lynx tracking

Yes, Terra-Man realizes there can't be many lynxes in Metropolis and decides he must capture the one that helps give Superman his superstrength. Fortunately, Nova the Flying Horse is also supersensitive to lynxes and immediately takes Terra-Man to Billy Anders's apartment building's roof. From there it's up to Terra-Man to search the apartments and find the lynx.11. Becoming an invisible smoke wisp

The doctor is making a housecall to check on Billy, whose leg was apparently just sprained in the accident. Unfortunately, his body has lost the ability to heal itself, which makes you wonder what kind of mother thought a nasty tempered lynx would make for a good pet. Oddly, Terra-Man's ethereal form wonders if he might be able to solve the medical mystery that has the doctor stumped. Of course, there's no follow up to this question, but I suppose it's the thought that counts.

Instead of trying to help the child who cannot heal from even the slightest injury, Terra-Man blows open a hole in the wall with an explosive charge from his gun and kidnaps both the lynx and Billy, even though it is clear Billy is just excess baggage that will cause nothing but trouble and may ultimately lead to his downfall.

Part Two

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