The Big Forget!

In Action Comics #375 (Apr. 1969), Superman ends his four-month quest to rediscover his secret identity, lost to him after accidental exposure to a mysterious ray emitted by an alien machine.

Writer Otto Binder teams once more with artists Curt Swan and Jack Abel to brings us "The Big Forget," which actually turns out to be the Big Remember.

Having already made three incorrect guesses at his secret identity -- President of the United States, professional wrestler and super-thief -- Superman decides to throw in the towel and simply invent a new identity. (Interestingly, no consideration is given to simply living without one, possible because Superman has also managed to forget the location of his Fortress of Solitude, which makes it necessary to find a place to live, and a job to pay the rent. Unless of course he simply carves out a new Fortress somewhere else, or makes diamonds out of coal as a source of wealth, or...)

Influenced by subconscious memory, Superman decides to apply for a job as a reporter. Donning a blue suit and red tie and adding a pair of glasses (to "give me the look of a writer"), he sets out to visit the two major papers in town, the Daily Planet and the Metropolis Eagle. With no particular attachment to either publication, he tosses a coin to see which one to apply to first, and the Eagle wins the toss.

In his disguise, Superman approaches the Eagle's personnel manager, figuring he'll need to make a strong pitch to convince the man he has a future in journalism. As it turns out, the guy has no trouble at all seeing him as a reporter, or more precisely as the star reporter for the competition.

Tossed out of the Eagle's offices, Superman decides to see what reception he gets at the Daily Planet. If you've been following this series, you'll recall Superman has met "Clark Kent" several times in his amnesiac state, but never noticed his powerful resemblance to the reporter (apparently those magical glasses fool even him!). What Superman doesn't know is that the "Clark" he's met is actually a foreign spy, the same one responsible for his amnesia. Now he's beginning to suspect that maybe he's the real Clark Kent after all, so to test his theory he presents himself to Lois Lane and Perry White, who recognize him immediately.

"They couldn't be fooled by a superficial resemblance!" he thinks. After all, these are perceptive people. Nobody could just put on a pair of non-prescription glasses and a blue suit and just fool these bright individuals into thinking he's a whole different person, right? Oh, wait. Nevermind...

Clark -- as he now knows himself to be -- realizes that if he's the genuine article, then there's an imposter on the loose. Going through his desk, he finds a set of keys labeled with his home address (so now he knows where it is!), and goes to investigate. A quick scan of the apartment with his x-ray vision reveals a secret closet containing Superman robots and souvenirs, confirming he's at last stumbled upon the right identity. In the fridge, he finds more secrets; microfilm, codes and a radio transmitter, indicating the fake Clark is a spy.

As he works on deciphering the secret codes, he's suprised by the fake Clark, aka Agent Zero-Zero, who suddenly enters the apartment and pulls a gun. When the spy calls for his cohorts, Clark quickly kayoes him and decides to take his place.

From the roof of the apartment building, Clark and his "fellow spies" are picked up by a blimp and meet the chief of the spy ring, an unnamed brunette female with a Princess Leia hairstyle and, since she's a spy, a "Dragon Lady" dress and cigarette holder. Locating "a trunkload of stolen secrets" with his x-ray vision, Superman summons the FBI with super-ventriloquism and tells them to send an armed ship out to see to capture the blimp.

The spy chief berates "Agent Zero-Zero" for not killing Kent, and to buy some time Clark strips off his suit, revealing his Superman costume beneath.

So now Superman is pretending to be Zero-Zero pretending to be Superman. Still with us? He performs a series of "super-feats" to convince "Kent" (the still-disoriented Zero-Zero) he's the real deal. For his first astonishing display of super-powers, he uses "x-ray vision" to pick the four aces out of a turned-over deck of cards (Seriously. The "Dragon Lady" thinks he's using the sleight-of-hand tricks taught to all her spies, but he really is using x-ray vision). Next, he blows out of a window as if to propel the blimp by "super-breath". Dragon Lady thinks he's simply taken advantage of a natural gust, but in fact he really has used super lung power, and in doing so, forced the blimp back into U.S. waters, where a Coast Guard cutter waits.

A surreptitious blast of heat vision puts a hole in the blimp and sends it floating down to the federal authorities. Dragon Lady orders the evidence thrown overboard, but Superman retrieves it.

With the spies in custody, Superman seeks assistance in recovering his Clark Kent memories. Locating the Batcave, he appeals to Batman for help and notices among the Caped Crusader's trophies a mixed-up calendar from the Bizarro World. This sparks an idea, and using directions provided by Batman, he flies to the Fortress of Solitude.

Among his trophies is a metal called Amnesium, which wipes out the memories of non-super beings. But also in his possession is Bizarro Amnesium, and on a hunch he exposes himself to it. As hoped, when used on non-Bizarros it has the effect of restoring memories, not taking them, and Superman's Clark Kent memories come flooding back.

And so after four long months things are at last back to normal.

I'm not sure what I can say at this point that you're not already thinking yourself. This four-parter was totally daft, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's also a painfully thin premise to be stretched out over a whopping four months. One might reasonably ask why Superman doesn't do in Chapter One what he finally gets around to doing here; seeking out Batman (or another Justice Leaguer) and simply asking, "What's my secret identity, and where's my Fortress?"

Under other circumstances, it would be natural to feel some resentment at having the whole thing wrapped up by a plot device as ridiculous as "Bizarro Amnesium" (and I thought I was a pack rat -- this guy keeps everything!), but honestly after all we've been through, I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Anything that gets us out of this mess is welcome.

Historically, we're creeping ever closer to the arrival of editor Julius Schwartz and a major revamp of the super-mythos that will take us into the Bronze Age. As such, this is one of the last gasps of the Silver Age style of storytelling, and so far as I know one of the last entries by veteran writer Otto Binder. Too bad it's ultimately quite...well, forgettable.