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Al Plastino’s “Superman’s Incredible Delusion”

Back in September 2011, I did a month-long spotlight on great Silver Age Comics. Two of the books spotlighted were Al Plastino Superman stories. I figured I’d re-post the two Plastino stories again in honor of the late, great Plastino, who passed away today at the age of 91.

Here is an unusual 1965 Superman story (#174, by Edmond Hamilton and Al Plastino) where Clark Kent is convinced that he is not actually Superman.


Our tale opens with Clark Kent receiving a visitor…

Clark quickly looks for answers, and thinks to ask Batman (Supergirl is on a mission in space)…

Clark just can’t handle this…

This leads to the most impressive part of the comic, where Clark goes to a psychiatrist, who does a pretty good job examining what he THINKS Clark’s teen years were like…

It is fascinating to see Clark actually doubt himself. How could he NOT?

Of course, there is a twist still to come…

As it turns out, before Superman began using Superman robots, he tried a Superman android…

The android tricked Superman by putting a “Red Sun transmitter” in Clark Kent’s work shoes, so so long as Clark was dressed as Clark Kent he would be powerless (he also set the other stuff into motion, including convincing Batman to deny Clark Kent as Superman’s secret identity to anyone who asked, even Superman himself). The android soon died after confessing, but not before Superman could show him that he had planted a sign using the android’s chosen name (“Adam Newman”) honoring the sacrifice of the android.

Great stuff.


So was Batman just being a dick, or was he a robot too?

So was Batman just being a dick, or was he a robot too?

The android had sent a message to him as Superman telling him he had to deny Superman’s identity to everyone, even Superman. All part of a plan. Back then, Superman and Batman were in on weird plans like that all of the time and since only Superman would know how to get a message to Batman, Batman believed him.

What’s going on with Bats’ chest logo? I kept expecting that to somehow factor in to the mystery (because I apparently forgot the simplicity of those Superman stories… “Red sun generators in his shoes…” That is completely awesome.)

What a silly story.

Where was the REAL Krypto that he didn’t reveal the truth?

My question is how did the android know about his childhood memories? There isn’t anything I see in the story that says they exchanged memories or anything.

The biggest enemy of The Silver Age was …

… questions!

Al was scheduled to attend the SuperMegaFest in Massachusetts this past weekend but wasn;t able to attend. Guess we know why. So sorry to hear about this.

I love that story. As Brian says, the psychiatrist pointing out how much delusions of Supermanhood would appeal to a wimp like Clark is a high point.
Penguin, Krypto went off to play in space all the time, so it’s no great stretch he’d be conveniently absent.

This was kind-of-sort-of remade by Mark Millar in his first issue as writer of Superman Adventures, which was also excellent.

My question is how did the android know about his childhood memories? There isn’t anything I see in the story that says they exchanged memories or anything.

He had free reign of the Fortress of Solitude since Superman thought he was dead. So while there, he read all of Superman’s diaires (“Dear diary, you’ll never believe what my robot teacher did for me this weekend. He brainwashed a girl to be my first time! Now I truly am a SuperMAN! What a wacky guy my robot teacher is.”).

@Brian- Thanks for the laugh. Heck, under that idea maybe the android Superman was trying to save us from an obvious villian that the real Superman was.

“Dear diary, today Lois was trying again to figure out who I really am. I had one of my Superman robots spank her for being bad bad bad.”

@Penguin, even in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” story that closed out the silver age of Superman…Krypto was cited as coming back from space just in time for the event.

So Superman couldn’t use his super speed to quickly peek behind the slab of lead? Who carries around slabs of lead anyway?

What makes this story great is that all the *stupid* elements have plausible explanations- except Clark Kent forgetting to put his Superman costume on underneath his clothes.

Wow, I honestly did not see that one coming. Nice pick, Brian.

Also good to see Lois standing by Clark for once instead of being a nuisance.

Travis, I believe that’s explained in the story (I read it years ago) as the same hypnotic effect that makes Clark think he’s powerless–his costume’s there, but he can’t see it.

No, it’s just for the costume, it’s the red sun radiation that made him powerless. Dopey me.

Uh, looking at these pages, I can’t help to notice a lot of Curt Swan’s work overlapping Plastino’s…
The judge in 5th panel of page 5, Superboy in 3rd panel of picture 6, a lot from picture 9 to point out the most evident; furthermore, panel 5 of 8th picture is badly finished with the android’s head added on resulting in wicked anatomy.

It seems Plastino drew the layouts (Plastino’s human figure design is unique) but for some reason Swan had to finish or rerdraw them…

Am I wrong?

I notice Plastino’s style is very different than what I’m used to seeing from him, for example his art in the Supergirl debut. Is this a result of him adopting a sort of Curt Swan “house style?” Is it because of different inkers? I like this style better in some ways because it’s cleaner and slicker and more polished, but it loses a lot of the rough and unique quirkiness of his old style.

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