Saturday, January 10, 2009

Superman (Vol.1) #344 - Feb. 1980

Superman versus Dracula and Frankenstein!

An unusual outing this time for The Man of Steel, as he faces a supernatural threat--two actually--in a story by former Phantom Stranger scribes Paul Levitz and Len Wein, drawn (of course) by Curt Swan and inker Frank Chiaramonte:

After dealing with the lightning storm, Supes returns to his Clark Kent identity to follow up on an article for The Daily Planet, which takes him to a spooky castle at the edge of town.

Before he can knock on the door, it opens, and a Mrs. Macardle greets him. Lois is there waiting for him, and we learn that they are there to participate in a seance, on the 50th anniversary of the death of "famous mystic", Roland Randall.

In addition to two other men, someone else is there for the seance, someone we remember from the pages of The Phantom Stranger...Casandra Craft!:
Clark notices some moving figures in the gathering clouds, and sneaks out to investigate them as Superman.

He can't find them, but then hears several screams coming from the castle. And its something--or somethings--to scream about
Dracula and Frankenstein give Superman quite a workout, but he manages to stop them from kidnapping Cassandra. But not before Dracula warns her that her "hours among the living are numbered!"

Later, Dracula, in bat form, listens in to a conversation between Superman, Lois, and Cassandra. He now realizes if he gets a hold of Superman's blood, he would be invincible!

Frankenstein goes on a rampage in downtown Metropolis, and after saving the life of a boy in harm's way, he follows the monster back to the castle. While there, both of them attack Superman, revealing its he, not Cassandra, who is Dracula's target now!

Superman punches out Frankenstein, and he manages to fight off Dracula with the help of a small balloon, which bursts with sunlight thanks to a combination of heat vision and hydrogen. It slows Dracula down, but he threatens Superman cannot stop him.

But then someone else shows up to help stop the Prince of Darkness:
...the end!

Kind of an abrupt ending, to be sure--The Phantom Stranger shows up on the last page, solves everything, and Superman and Lois are free to go! Also, kinda dickish on the Stranger's part to not even say anything to his former squeeze Cassandra.

I've mentioned my...lack of enthusiasm for Curt Swan's work before, so I see no need to bring it up again. I will say that this is one of those instances where the cover--brilliantly composed and drawn by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez--is really the best thing about the book.

In just the space of two months, The Phantom Stranger guest-starred with DC's biggest guns, Batman and Superman. Maybe he was feeling under appreciated, so he decided to spend some time with DC's biggest stars.

But I guess he wasn't completely satisfied, since--as we'll see tomorrow--he took on another guest-star role, meeting an x-citing bunch of heroes!


Anonymous said...

I was buying Superman at the time this came out, though for some reason I missed this particular issue. I'd read that the Stranger and Cassandra had made an appearance, and I'd always regretted that this issue had escaped me.
Now, not so much.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I always hated being suckered in by a Lopez cover only to find other art inside.

Jacob T. Levy said...

The PS #42 one-panel reunion of the Stranger and Cassandra was always subsequently ignored, I think. Policy through the 70s and 80s seemed to be that he still wanted her to think he was dead, and she either did think so or was willing to pretend to think so. When they reunited again in Action Comics Weekly, I think it was stated that it was the first time since Rio.

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