When I was very young, no more than seven or eight, as all kids do, I had to go to the dentist. More than most, I didn't mind going. Why? Because my dentist had comics for the kids to read while they waited. It was probably my first introduction to super-hero comics, and the book of his that I read the most was a coverless book that told the story of Joe Meach, a janitor at the Superman Museum who has the worst luck in the world. While standing in front of a display of statuettes given to Superman by the Legion of Super-Heroes, lightning strikes the display and transfers all the powers of the Legion into Meach. Meach attempts to use his powers to take over the world, but in true Silver Age fashion, all is forgiven when the powers wear off and Meach doesn't remember what he did as the Composite Superman.
It wasn't until years later that I discovered that book was World's Finest Comics #142. The character has always fascinated me. From his look, a split-down-the-middle pairing of Superman and Batman, to his having the powers of all the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were obviously young heroes, a concept that I found immensely appealing, I was soon in love with both the character and super-hero comics. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, at that time, the Composite Superman only made one other appearance!
In World's Finest Comics #168, an alien appears and duplicates the accident that gave Meach his powers, who goes on a rampage. After he loses his powers again, Meach sacrifices himself to save the duo from the alien's ray gun. I hadn't read this story until recently, when I picked up its reprint in Super-Team Family #6.
I scoured my copy of the Overstreet Price Guide, looking for other appearances by the Composite Superman. Surely he had made other appearances, as he was everything a writer could hope for, from his look to his power set. Surely he had appeared somewhere else, and more recently in a book I could find at the little used book store that was near my grand-parents which also carried back issue comics. But no, he had never appeared after that.
It was years before the Composite Superman made a return appearance. By this time, I had been reading comics regularly for a couple of years. Imagine my excitement when World's Finest Comics #283 showed up on my local grocery store's spinner rack, sporting a cover featuring the Composite Superman! Finally, another story with my favorite villain. Except, it wasn't quite the same.
The alien who recreated Meach's accident returns and makes himself into the Composite Superman. It continued into the next issue, with an appearance by the Legion, and the alien renames himself into Amalgamax before getting defeated, but overall it's a fairly uninteresting story, with unimpressive art. Even a guest appearance by the Legion during one of its most important times couldn't save the issues. At least the second part had a nice cover by Keith Giffen, who was also coming into his best period, in my opinion.
At least the Composite Superman wasn't forgotten by the folks at DC. When they began releasing a line of plastic figures showcasing the looks of various characters during their First Appearances, he was included in the third wave. I first saw the figure at a local store a couple years ago, but didn't have the money at the time. By the time I was able to afford it, of course the figure was gone. But yesterday, while checking out a store I had never visited before, there on their back wall was the First Appearance figure I had been wanting all this time. And one of the coolest things about these figures is that they include a mini-version of the characters first appearance comic. Though I managed to pick up his first appearance a couple years ago, it's nice to have this rarely-reprinted story included.
Sure, he sort-of made an appearance recently, as a giant robot. But it's not the same. The original is still the best. I'm sure it's what made me a fan of Curt Swan's art, and helped to propel me into being as huge a fan of the Legion as I am. I'm sure everyone has a favorite, little-used character. Leave a comment and tell me yours!