Powerless... Except for Super-Pouting

Bloggified by Jake on Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two of the most common plots for Superman stories of the Silver Age were "Superman loses his powers" and "Someone else gets Superman-like powers." So when Superman introduces the story of "The Reversed Heroes" in World's Finest Comics #87 as "the strangest adventure Batman, Robin, and I ever had," you can't help but expect a little more than a story where Superman loses his powers and Batman gets them...

... especially since that was the exact plot of "The Super Bat-Man" from World's Finest Comics #77 published less than a year before.

That's not to say "The Reversed Superheroes" didn't offer a unique take on the trope. What sets it apart from all the other times that Superman loses his superpowers is that instead of focusing on how he could save the day despite his disadvantage, Supes decided to get all emo and cry about how much he missed his powers.

When the report of a superpowered bad guy robbing a Metropolis bank comes into the Daily Planet, Clark Kent suspects someone is faking. But when the thief rips the vault out of the ground and flies away with it, Superman has to accept that it's real. He followed the criminal back to his hideout, where he learns the man's story.

Forget how he got his powers. Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the bad guy's awesome supervillain name: Elton Craig! How much to you want to bet Bill Finger had a neighbor named Craig Elton who kept throwing away his garbage in Finger's trash cans or left his Christmas lights up into April and this was the writer's tiny slice of revenge?

Years earlier, Elton Craig devised a series of crimes he wanted to pull off, but realized he'd need kryptonite to remove Superman from the picture. So he got a job as an astronomer so he could find every meteorite that fell to the Earth and go see if it was kryptonite. One day, however, he found not only the kryptonite he needed, but something even better.

The box is full of pills that Jor-El invented on Krypton, knowing that when he and his family arrived on Earth, they would have superpowers, which they could lose and would, therefore, need to replace--obviously--via magical pills. Unfortunately, in all the chaos of Krypton blowing up, he forgot to toss the box into baby Kal-El's rocket ship.

With the kryptonite on the box keeping Superman immobilized and powerless, Elton Craig flies away, leaving the pills that give him superpowers on the table. I guess since he didn't have any pockets in his Elton Craig supersuit, he didn't have much choice.

Powerless due to the kryptonite, Superman, who is powerless due to the kryptonite, uses his heat vision to melt through a water pipe in the ceiling and create a gushing leak that washes all the kryptonite off the box... and presumably into a puddle on the floor where he is lying. Our hero leaps to his feet and pops one of his dad's super restorative super pills, but that only makes things worse.
Thanks to some accidentally ingested kryptonite, we get some insight into Superman's absolute cluelessness as to how to live life without superpowers. Seconds after nearly breaking his arm and face trying to fly out the window, Superman realizes he needs the help of Batman and Robin. How will he summon them? By flying out the window, of cour--oh, wait...

While he waits for Batman and Robin to make the drive up from Gotham City to the hovel outside town where he's squatting, Superman passes the time by struggling to pick up heavy stuff and hurting himself.

Yes, Superman, that's why we normals don't go jamming pins into our fingers. Is this supposed to indicate that Superman normally passes time by poking himself with sharp objects and never realized that was out of the ordinary? Or is he trying to cope with the pain of losing his precious superpowers by cutting himself, but Elton Craig hasn't bothered to have any knives or razors around?

When Batman and Robin arrive, they pop Jor-El's pills and taunt Superman with a rousing game of "flying catch the vault Elton Craig stole earlier." Superman reminds them that a supervillain is terrorizing Metropolis, so they take off after Elton Craig, dragging Superman between them.

Superman is essentially Marvin the Paranoid Android at this point. "Woe is me. I can't fly... and I won't be able to fly for hours. However shall I cope?"

And why did Batman and Robin bother to bring him along? Is it to help identify Elton Craig? Because I'm thinking if you see a supervillain tearing apart Metropolis, it's a safe bet he's Elton Craig. And even if he's not, you should probably stop him anyway.

In fact, when they find Elton Craig robbing a jewelry store, Batman and Robin have to drop Superman safely outside the danger zone lest he be hurt. Of course, when they're distracted by a falling monument and have to let Elton Craig get away, Superman leaps into action with about as much success as you'd expect.

Then Superman becomes Lois Lane to Batman and Robin's Superman, stupidly stumbling into trouble and helping supervillains to get away by serving as a distraction.

After the Dynamic Duo save Superman at the expense of losing Elton Craig, they all agree the best course of action is to find the bad guy's new hideout. However, just as they are about to undertake this mission, a thunderstorm rolls in and lightning strikes the zoo, simultaneously releasing all the animals in a massive stampede. Since only superpowered Batman and Robin can handle that problem, Superman has to find the secret lair of Elton Craig on his own.

What the...? Seriously? Superman, have you ever noticed how Batman drives around in a Batmobile? He doesn't just run all over Gotham City. Furthermore, you have no idea where Elton Craig's hideout is. You just accepted the responsibility for finding it and took off in whatever direction you were facing like Forrest Gump, hoping maybe you'd trip over it.

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin get addicted to the thrill of superpowers.

While they feed themselves to wild animals and court lightning strikes to their chests, Superman finds Elton Craig's hideout and decides to explore it on his own.

And that works about as well as you'd expect.
Yeah, I'm not sure "I'll give him a juke move" is the best strategy against someone with superspeed.

Then Elton Craig shoots him.

But, of course, while Superman may be powerless, his costume is still invulnerable and stops the bullet, just in time for Elton Craig's powers to wear off and Superman's to return.

EDIT: I just realized that this story is actually a precursor to another issue of World's Finest that I reviewed two years ago. At the time, however, I didn't find the name "Elton Craig" as amusing, probably because he was just a crook named Elton Craig and wasn't using it as a superhero name.

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