Superman (Vol.1) No's. 296-299
Cover Date(s): Jan.1976-May 1976
Written By: Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Bob Oksner

With this four-part epic (a relatively rare event in the Superman books of the time), Cary Bates and Elliot Maggin presented our hero with an impossible choice; whether to live the rest of his life as Superman, full-time defender of Earth with powers far beyond those of mortal men, or permanently retire to a relatively carefree life as a powerless Clark Kent.

The plot device that necessitates this choice is, ultimately, pretty standard comics fare, but it allows the writers to address issues central to the Superman mythos, and results in what is perhaps Clark Kent's finest hour.

Does Superman owe the world 24-hour protection? Is Earth's greatest protector worthy of the occasional break? What kind of man might Clark Kent have been, if not for his double life? Can Lois, Jimmy and the rest of his "friends" really ever understand Superman, much less support him in his time of need? All questions examined in this storyline...

Part I: Who Took The Super Out Of Superman?

It is revealed that on the same day baby Kal-El arrived on Earth, another spacecraft landed elsewhere in the US, this one bearing what looks like a human male in a business suit. His intentions are far less altruistic than Kal-El's however, as he disintegrates the men who find his ship. Over the years, the alien follows the career of Superboy, then Superman, and reports back regularly to his alien masters.

Cut to the present. WGBS sportscaster Steve Lombard is nearly hit by a cab when he runs impulsively into the street to catch a child's football. Clark Kent knocks Steve clear of danger and takes the hit himself. Later, Clark regains conciousness in a hospital bed and is astonished to learn he really was hurt in the accident, and that a doctor has successfully injected him with a tranquilizer via hypodermic needle.

Left alone briefly, Clark changes to his Superman outfit (conveniently compressed to the size of a wad of gum and held under his tongue! No kidding!) and walks out of the hospital. Spotting a crime in progress, he finds his powers returned and captures the bad guys. Heading to his apartment, he deduces that due to some mysterious effect, he is now powerless as Clark, but as powerful as ever when dressed as Superman. He realizes it's time to decide which identity to live in for the rest of his life.

Watching over all these events is the mysterious Mr. Xavier, Clark's next door neighbor whom neither he nor the other building tenants have ever seen. We readers have, though...he is the mysterious alien from the beginning of the story!

Part II: Clark Kent Forever...Superman Never!

After one last super-feat, Superman decides to hang up his costume and live a full seven days as plain old Clark Kent. "Hopefully," he muses, "I'll learn what the real Clark Kent is like in the process!"

Later, Clark and Lois are in a restaurant when Steve Lombard shows up, acting his normal arrogant, bullying self. This time, however, Clark has had enough and sends Steve tumbling from his chair with the dinner table and its contents spilling over him! Leaving the restaurant, Clark witnesses a crisis as the Metropolis subway is flooded with water. Immediately tossing aside his promise to himself, he begins to change to Superman, only to remember he left his costume in his apartment, and lacks the superspeed needed to fetch it, or to help in any way.

Fortunately, emergency crews are able to handle the crisis, and Clark resolves to stick to his week-long "experiment." That night Lois Lane, impressed with Clark's earlier display of backbone, shows up at his apartment and cooks him dinner. Clark sweeps her off her feet and the two make out (and perhaps more!) on his couch!

Whatever happened on that date, it sure left Lois happy! Check out Great Rao's site for more images.

The next day, Clark tells off his insufferable boss Morgan Edge and when Steve Lombard makes more trouble, he decks him! Then, hot on the trail of the mafia-like "Inter-Gang," the de-powered Kent goes on a dangerous evidence-gathering mission and ends up defeating several hoodlums in combat. Meanwhile, that mysterious Mr. Xavier has stolen space jewels from Clark's apartment, and is still up to no good...