The Face Of Fear

In Action Comics #349 (April 1967), Superman encounters a mysterious foe known as "The Mummy," eventually revealed as an even greater threat, Dr. Kryptonite.

The story (possibly written by Leo Dorfman, guesses the Grand Comics Database, and definitely drawn by Wayne Boring) begins with an introduction to Intercrime, the "international crime syndicate and foe of Interpol." In the organization's secret lab, a devious project is being launched, and though it's been christened "Project Green," we can already guess it would not win the approval of Al Gore.

Months later, Intercrime's S.P.E.C.T.R.E. -like attempt to hijack a U.N. plane full of "doomsday weapons" is thwarted by Superman, and the evil organization's top man is furious (like all good evil geniuses, he's bald of course, and the hijack if successful would have netted him...say it with me now in your best Dr. Evil voice..."one MILLION dollars.") Eager for some positive news, he demands to know what progress is being made on Project Green, so the doctor in charge takes him to see for himself.

As the doctor reveals, the plan is to create a Kryptonite Man by gradually replacing every drop of blood in a crook's body with liquid kryptonite. As they visit the volunteer patient, however, "a severe physiological reaction to the kryptonite ions in his bloodstream" kills the man. The doctor is confident, however, that with modifications the process will work, and volunteers himself as the next guinea pig. If he succeeds, he'll pocket a 2 million dollar reward.

That's right...I'll live like a king! A king, I say! Pretty girls and all the coconuts I can eat! Mwahhahahaha! Untold months later, the process is complete and the evil scientist presents himself to the assembled heads of Intercrime, ready to launch his attack on the Man of Steel.

As a test of his new powers, "Dr. Kryptonite" decides to lure Krypto into a trap; if he can weaken Superman's pet, he reasons, he should be able to defeat the Action Ace as well. Krypto is easy enough to locate; the lead story on the front page of the Daily Planet (in giant type, naturally) reports that Krypto will be attending the graduation ceremonies at "K-9 College," a school for dogs (another slow news day in Metropolis, I guess).

From his thought balloons, we learn Krypto is more than an honored guest at the graduation; he apparently was the instructor at the school, teaching the other dogs to run an obstacle course and to defeat human sparring partners in the role of "intruders." After the ceremony, Dr. Kryptonite, dressed like one of the "intruders", pretends to sneak into an administration building (where, no doubt, the rest of the dog faculty take their breaks for coffee and Milk Bones), making sure to do it in plain sight of Krypto. The super-dog responds as expected, zooming in to stop the "burglary."

Okay, time out. Are dog training secrets really so valuable that criminals are out to steal them? And if Krypto's the teacher, what good would any course notes or curriculum materials do you, when they'd all be "written" in paw prints? Also, this is as good a time as any to mention that Wayne Boring draws the most hideous, gruesome dogs in all of comics. Krypto has a weird, elongated body, the neck of a horse, bulbous eyes, the face of a gargoyle and a tongue that hangs five inches out of the end of his mouth every. minute. of. the. day. The other dogs in the story look exactly like him, just different colors.

Anyway, Dr Kryptonite removes a glove and Krypto is immediately weakened. Dr K takes him back to Intercrime HQ and considers killing him before deciding he's worth more as bait to lure in Superman.

That night, Superman is putting on a demonstration wrestling bout against multiple foes when a surprise contestant enters the fray. Wrapped from head to toe in bandages (which Superman notices are "saturated with lead, so my X-ray vision can't see who he is") and calling himself "The Mummy," the mystery wrestler unwraps one lead-wrapped finger, exposing a bit of kryptonite skin, and makes short work of Superman.

The next day The Mummy calls a press conference to announce how he defeated Superman, and Clark Kent attends. Removing his bandages, The Mummy is revealed as Dr Kryptonite, who tells the assembled journalists he is "a admirer of Superman. I was searching for a Kryptonite antidote when my experiment backfired." In the rear of the room, Clark is overcome by the Green K radiation and falls to the floor. Using his super-breath to draw the discarded "mummy" bandages toward him, he wraps himself from head to toe, counting on the lead shielding to protect him from the Kryptonite.

In the following week, a crime wave hits Metropolis, and at every turn Superman finds himself running into Dr Kryptonite, who apparently just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, again and again. First, Superman is unable to pursue bank robbers when Dr K turns up ("I just came in to make a deposit!"). Then he has to break off his pursuit of escaped convicts in a stolen armored truck when Dr K shows up on the same stretch of road in his convertible ("But I was just going out for a drive!") Finally, Superman is unable to stop the theft of a new Navy weapon when Dr K appears on a nearby boat ("I just happened to be fishing here!")

Incidentally, here's a look at that top-secret weapon:

Yes, by Gum, this time those boys in the lab have outdone themselves! Those Commies will never expect a satellite that travels underwater! I know what you're thinking; how are we going to get high-altitude photos of Soviet installations now? Not to worry, our next project is an Army tank on stilts!

Tired now of toying with Superman, Dr K prepares his end game. He sends Krypto's cape to the Daily Planet along with a note to Superman, telling him to come to Crater Mountain if he wants to save his dog. Suspecting a trap, our hero first dons a lead suit with a TV camera on the outside and a monitor within, allowing him to see without eye slits. Dr K is ready for him, however, and uses a laser rifle to cut open the lead suit "like a super can opener".

As Krypto looks on, his helpless master is beaten silly by Dr Kryptonite until the unexpected (and timely) arrival of a flying saucer. Aliens emerge and Superman recognizes them as residents of "the vegetation world, Flordis, which I once visited." The aliens approach Dr Kryptonite, saying, "There he is...the captive king who fled our homeworld! Earth's environment must have altered his shape, but his green color shows his chlorophyll make-up is still unchanged!" They subdue him with "compulser rays" and stick him in a cell to return him to their world as Superman and Krypto look on.

Okay, this is one of those times I really wish comics came with sound, because Superman's voice has got to be dripping with false sympathy there. I mean, look at him, clearly standing up (as he has been since two panels ago) and saying, "Love to help you, pal, but I'm just too weak to get up!" Wow, that's cold. What do you want to bet he never bothers to make a follow-up visit to Flordis again, either, even though he's already told us he knows how to get there?

As the ship flies away and Dr Kryptonite's cries for help echo in the sky, Superman turns to Krypto: "What's he complaining about? He wanted to be a king, didn't he?....What irony! Because he was green, as they are, they thought he too, was a plant being!" Yeah, mighty cocky there, Supes, for a guy who was having his head handed to him before that last-minute reprieve from left field. Just be grateful those guys didn't stumble across the Hulk first...or Kermit.

Anxious to show what a tough guy he is despite losing every single fight in the story, Superman yells out a threat to his tormentors at Intercrime, as psychotic hellhound Krypto makes his best "scary" face. Or maybe it's his friendly face, with Boring it's hard to tell:

Luckily, this time there actually was someone watching on a monitor somewhere, but trust me the old "yelling threats at unseen foes" routine made for some pretty awkward moments in the long haul. In fact, it's pretty much why Lana Lang eventually stopped agreeing to dinner dates in nicer restaurants.

So, what to say about this story? I applaud any effort to come up with an opponent who's a physical match for Superman, but the "battles" in this story are so lopsided they always disappoint. Superman never once gets his licks in and "triumphs" at story's end not by strength or brainpower but sheer, dumb luck.

In all, this Mummy tale is more trick than treat. Extra Halloween points, though, for giving us not one but two mummies, one of which even flies!