Superman (Vol.1) No. 300
Cover Date: June 1976
Written By: Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Bob Oksner

Traditionally, comics publishers pull out all the stops for the "big" anniversaries, delivering titanic stories with extra pages and an inflated price tag. This 300th issue of Superman, however, is an average-length tale at the then-standard price of 30 cents. In fact, except for a tiny tag line that reads "Superman's 300th And Greatest Issue", you might not know there was anything special going on at all.

Considering the year of its release -- 1976 -- the anemic format of this issue may well have reflected the economic recession of the day, one that led to all sorts of cutbacks in the comics industry, and everywhere else for that matter.

In fact, even with its focus on the "far-flung future" of 2001, this comic is most interesting as a four-color time capsule, a snapshot of the Bicentennial Summer. Plus it's a plain old fun read!

The Story

Krypton is doomed. Jor-El and Lara place their infant son in a rocket bound for Earth. So far, so good. Only in this version of the story, baby Kal arrives on Earth in the year 1976, and promptly plops himself into the heart of American/Soviet politics. A confrontational military race to retrieve the Kryptonian spacecraft from international waters ends with the Americans victorious, and for the next few years tensions grow between the two world powers as rumors persist that the craft contained an alien passenger, now hidden away in a secret American base for possible use as a super-weapon.

Somewhere in the third world, another nation is eager to maneuver the two world powers into a confrontation, hoping to rise to power when they obliterate each other. By now, baby Kal-El has grown into a teenager, more or less adopted by an American general who's created for him a red and blue costume from the blankets in his ship, and added an "S" to reflect his code-name, "Skyboy."

Finally, in 1990 tensions boil over and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. launch their nuclear arsenals. When Skyboy learns it's all thanks to a disagreement over him, he leaves the safety of his home at the secret base and uses his great powers to destroy the missiles. Realizing how close they've come to destroying the world, the Russian Premier and American President agree to a lasting peace. Meanwhile Skyboy has disappeared, and the assumption is he's either died saving the Earth, or left it in disgust.

In fact, he's thrown away his costume and adopted the identity of Clark Kent, eventually becoming anchorman of a 24-hour news channel (pretty far-fetched, huh?). As the countdown to the year 2001 begins, Clark reports on festivities in Times Square, where suddenly a four-armed creature named "Moka" appears, claiming to be "Skyboy" back from the dead. In fact, he's a robot controlled by our third-world friends, still looking to rule the world. As the crowd cheers him on, Moka demands total allegiance and worship from the people of the Earth.

Clark revives the old costume and smashes "Moka" in front of a huge crowd, making his first appearance as "Superman" (a name given him by someone in the crowd). "It wasn't this plastic container who saved the world from a holocaust," he explains to the onlookers. "It was someone who wanted you to look not to heroes and false gods for salvation...someone who has enough faith to know that your salvation is within you...all of you!"

With that, he flies off, and the world has a new hero. A child asks Clark Kent if Superman will be back, and Clark answers that, if the need arises, he certainly will.

My Thoughts

Lots of fun stuff in this one. In the big picture, of course, it's one of those stories Elliott Maggin and Cary Bates did so well; the kind that re-affirms what Superman stands for, and what makes him a "superman" in the first place. Messianic imagery abounds, sometimes in uncomfortably obvious ways. Also, the tale reflects the oft-repeated pre-Crisis theme that every timeline, every reality, every Earth deserves a Superman, and no matter how turned around events may become, if there's justice eventually every Earth will get one.

Art-wise, the story is very nice indeed, with some of Curt Swan's better work of the period and some handsome inks from one-time humor strip artist Bob Oksner.

When the issue came out, what made it work for me was the concept of a Superman who could grow up at the same time I did, and face the future with me. Now, this comic is even more fun as a look back at 1976; the Bicentennial fervor, the cockeyed guesses at America's future and the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia. As Kal-El's rocket nears Earth, we get a glimpse of the joint American/Russian space mission known as Apollo-Soyuz, something all over the headlines at the time, and a huge symbol of "detente." But as the story makes clear, underlying the optimism back in 1976 was a deep-rooted sense of fear and unease. Perhaps we no longer saw the Russians as a godless hoarde, but at the same time we all knew that the wrong combination of events, or even a single slip-up by an inept leader on either side could end life as we knew it.

Adding to the fun is an ad for a Bicentennial t-shirt as modeled by a very young Todd Bridges ("What you talkin' about, Willis?") and another for a Superman belt buckle, "free" if you cut Bicentennial banners off the covers of twenty-five DC comic books and mail them in! But the banners are specially numbered, mind you, so don't think you'd get off without buying such all-time comics treasures as Blitzkreig #4 and Plop #22!

So what did comics writers in 1976 think the world would be like in the future? Well, by 1990, we should have had a female President, water-based floating airports, a protective bubble over the White House (that one is more or less true!), anti-gravity easy chairs and, of course, clothes like the Jetsons. So we missed a few, but we did manage the "huge communications linkup that makes possible a 24-hour news network" (although terms like "internet" and "CNN" were a ways off yet). On the plus side, at least writers in 1976 understood that a real "Millenium Celebration" should be held on Dec. 31, 2000, as the new Millenium doesn't start til Jan. 1, 2001! Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that detail.

All in all, a fun look back at the Bicentennial year, and an amusing glimpse of how we once imagined the world of today, when it was still "tomorrow." Personally, I think if Superman could've foreseen what he'd really be up to these days, he'd have taken off for Alpha Centauri and cut his losses!


NEW! Read "Superman: 2001" at "Superman Through The Ages!"