Once again July 4th is rolling around and that's when patriotic Americans think back to the most vital time in our nation's history - the Bicentennial! Yes, in 1976 the U.S. of A. went all kooky with historical hysteria, indulging in a tri-cornered Colonial-furniture'd, red-white-and-blued frenzy of Bicentennial Fever. And comic books were no exception! Were they, Jughead?
Steely-eyed stalwarts of national liberty - or excuses for Jughead to show off his own laziness? One thing's for sure, Bicentennial mania handed comic book editors an almost endless variety of spinoff cover gags.
Even DC comics got into the national mood by working American history angles into nearly every one of their titles. Yes even the scary ones!
It's hard to think of anything scarier than White House gardners discreetly checking out Dolly Madison's ghost cleavage. But what of their flagship title Action Comics? Can you shoehorn Superman into a Bicentennial theme?
Sure you can. Just make sure it involves Superman getting belted 200 years back in time by what must be hands down the most garish super-villain ever to give color separators nightmares.
WAS SUPERMAN PRESENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE? DID BIGFOOT FLY HIM THERE IN A UFO? Yup, it's the 70s all right.
So it's 1776 and Clark Kent works as a mild mannered reporter for the Pennsylvania Gazette under the tutleage of Benjamin "Great Caesar's Ghost!" Franklin. Clark spends most of his time working up homespun aphorisms (the one about "three can keep a secret if two of them are Kryptonian super-criminals condemned to the Phantom Zone with their cats" - that was one of his) but today he's on assignment to cover the shooting of a climactic scene of the musical "1776".
But how can all this be? Modern man can think of three questions!
Okay comic book, you've forced us to ask these questions... now please answer them!
Rare is the comic book story that freely admits it has pretty much written itself into a corner by page 8. In order to justify its Bicentennial right-hook cover this issue of Action Comics is forced to postulate (a) a freakish white-skinned redhead guy from the Andromeda Galaxy who comes from a world of super people, but is (b) allergic to super people and must flee to another planet, and (c) Earth is the only other planet he can live on, so (d) it's all cool, but (e) turns out Superman lives on Earth, so (f) he has to send Superman back 200 years and brainwash him so he forgets he's Superman and just stays in 1776. Also his name is "Karb-Brak", which if said sideways is "Backwards". That is a whole lot of exposition for what ultimately is a stupid comic.
Meanwhile in 1776 Clark Kent realizes some Loyalist spies are attempting to STEAL the Declaration! Because all 13 colonies will instantly say "Oh crap, they stole the Declaration!" and surrender, right?
However these dirty Torys reckoned without the power of the Man Of Steel, who puts the Declaration back where it was supposed to go and then flies back to 1976 where people are always ready to quote their favorite TV show.
Superman reckoned without Karb-Brak who proceeds to literally kick Superman's ass! Seriously I did not expect to ever see this. How will Superman defeat this guy without killing him?
Oh, I guess Superman will go ahead and kill him. Okay then.
However it turns out that Superman let Karb-Brak die so that he could bring him back to life. I guess you can't bring somebody back to life if they aren't dead! And having erased his memory and given him a menial job (be fair, that's what Karb-Brak did to HIM), Superman relaxes, serene in the knowledge that the bicentennial will be over soon. And now, a word from our sponsor.
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