World’s Finest Comics – 204


World’s Finest Comics – 204

General Info

Issue No:
204
On Sale Date:
June 1971
Cover Date:
August 1971
Era:
Bronze Age
Story Title:
Journey to the End of Hope!

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Dick Dillin, Joe Giella
Writer:
Denny O'Neil
Penciller:
Dick Dillin
Inker:
Joe Giella
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
N/A
Editor:
Julius Schwartz

Characters

Main:
Diana Prince (Princess Diana), Superman (Clark Kent/Kal El)
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
Scog
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Perry White, I Ching
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Comments

World’s Finest was an anthology series that featured DC’s most popular characters from other anthology series — mainly Superman and Batman. As the series progressed and in order to retain the draw of Superman and Batman without giving them both full-length stories, the series began chronicling the team-up adventures of Batman and Superman.

During the period that Wonder Woman renounced her Amazon super powers and became an ordinary woman, trained in the martial arts, she effectively left the realm of super heroes and in her own book ceased interacting with the rest of the heroes in the DC Universe altogether. In fact, her “adventures” became rather mundane as she was turned into a sort of “Modesty Blaise” type character.

This team up story therefore is a rarity, as Diana joins forces with Superman to save the world. Diana’s sudden withdrawal from the super hero community was never really dealt with and nobody seemed to either notice or even care that one of the most powerful super heroines on the planet had suddenly renounced her powers and decided to run a clothing boutique!!!

No longer a “Wonder” Woman, she had to rely purely on her fighting skills as taught to her by her Chinese Mentor I Ching, in order to hold her own against the bad guys. With no magic lasso and no bracelets to deflect bullets, she was a super heroine no longer and as we see in this story, has to rely on Superman to save her when she is confronted by a lowly mugger intent on shooting her in cold blood!

Ironically, this story line mentions how both she and Superman have been chosen because they are the “most extraordinary humans on Earth”, yet the aforementioned scene only goes to emphasise just how “ordinary” the so called “Wonder” Woman had become, and how far she had fallen from her glory days – to the level of being merely another “damsel in distress” compared to the heroic Superman.

Synopsis

Superman flies over the campus of a large University and surveys the crowds of angry students below. The campus security guards seem barely able to contain them and the situation has the potential to escalate into something ugly, but the Man of Steel decides that his intervention is not required yet and that hopefully tensions will calm down.

He flies across the city and enters through an open window unseen into the offices of the Daily Planet Newspaper. Moments later he has changed out of his costume and emerges as mild mannered Clark Kent. He is immediately spotted by Perry White, who tells him that he is giving Clark the chance to meet a pretty girl. He then hands the bemused reporter an application for a computer dating service and explains that he wants Clark to submit it and report back on his experiences.

As Perry watches Clark walk away with the application, he wonders to himself why he has even bothered giving him this assignment as these computer dating services are all hogwash. Still, maybe Clark can come up with a good story from it.

At that moment across town in a clothing Boutique in Greenwich Village, I Ching is trying to pass on some pearls of wisdom to his gorgeous apprentice, Diana Prince. He tells her that over the past months she has been alone and that this is not healthy for one so young. He realises her romantic life in the past has been fraught with woe but this should not deter her from looking for love.

He then hands her an application form and suggests she tries one of these new computer dating services. She takes the application from him, surprised at his suggestion but nevertheless agreeing to give it a try. I Ching muses to himself that he actually dislikes machinery that performs tasks for the flesh and blood, but perhaps the venture will lighten the recent bleakness of Diana’s mood.

A few days later after submitting the application, Diana strolls down the street on her way to meet her first date. She thinks to herself that according to the computer, she is about to meet the “man of her dreams” just around the corner and that he will be wearing a carnation. As she turns the corner she is shocked to find an equally surprised Clark Kent standing there wearing a carnation! She tells him she is sorry to disappoint him and he replies that he is far from being disappointed and that he is simply amazed that the computer decided to match him with her.

As they stroll down the street together, Diana says that actually it makes some sense because they were once Justice League teammates and that she too once had super powers just like his alter ego, Superman, has. Clark thinks to himself how tough it must be for Diana to be just an ordinary woman after being Wonder Woman for so long.

They agree that there is no reason for them not to half some fun together and that for their first arranged date they are supposed to appear on a radio talk show together.

As Clark leads Diana towards the back entrance of the radio station three muggers watch from the shadows and decide that the couple will become their next targets. Clark and Diana suddenly find themselves trapped in the alleyway as the three thugs block their way, demanding they hand over their cash and valuables. Clark pretends to plead for mercy, but Diana whispers to him not to bother switching to Superman and that she can handle these goons on her own. Pushing him aside the Amazon Princess launches into a furious martial arts assault on the stunned men. Clark leans casually against the wall, watching Diana take each one down in turn and muses to himself that he had been wrong to worry about her and that she does not seem to need her super powers to look after herself!

In a few moments it is over and she takes Clark’s hand and leads him out of the alley while the groaning muggers are left to roll around on the floor in pain. As they stagger to their feet the leader, named Scog, fumes that they have been humiliated by “a dumb chick!”. Drawing a gun he tells his accomplices that the next time she will not stand a chance!

Meanwhile inside the radio station Diana and Clark step into an elevator to reach the studio on the upper floor. As they reach their floor though the doors open to reveal an astonishing sight! They step from the elevator into a flat, cold vista of sheer desolation! Bewildered, they simply stand and stare at their surroundings as the elevator doors close behind them.

Clark uses his X-Ray vision and tells Diana that there is now absolutely nothing on the other side of the doors they have just stepped through! Suddenly Diana clutches her throat and cries that she cannot breathe! Superman swiftly transforms into his Superman costume and grabbing her in his arms, takes off, telling her that the air contains little Oxygen, consisting mainly instead of Nitrogen and Hydrogen. However, there is frost on the ground meaning that Oxygen is present and using his X-Ray vision he spies a pocket under the soil. He tells Diana to hold her breath just a little longer as he burrows into the ground and drops Diana into the air pocket, where she gratefully takes in lung fulls of life giving Oxygen.

Superman tells her that the cavern holds plenty of breathable air and he suggests she stays here while he comes up with a more permanent solution. As he gathers frost covered rocks he thinks to himself that he cannot let the Oxygen in the cavern escape into the atmosphere because although he does not need it, Diana is after all only human. Moving at super human speed he builds an Adobe over the cavern to seal it, keeping Diana safe while he tries to find out what has happened to them. He tells the Amazon Princess that he has cut a door in the Adobe just in case and explains that he is going to have a look around and that he will be back soon.

As he flies over the barren landscape he sees no plants or animals – only emptiness from horizon to horizon. He assumes that they must be on some alien world where intelligent life never developed. But which world? And how did they get here?

Suddenly he spots a structure up ahead and realises that there must be life here after all as this is no natural formation. He scans the walls using his X-Ray vision but cannot penetrate the strange metal and cannot detect any sort of opening either. He decides to make his own and smashes his fists against the wall but as he crashes through, an automatic restraining device is triggered and his wrists are grabbed by hydraulic handcuffs. He easily pulls his hands free however and next finds himself under fire from laser cannons! He grabs the barrels of the weapons and disables them before advancing further into the building.

He reaches a large door and smashes it down before entering a large chamber. He is greeted by name by a huge computer who tells him that he has been expected for many years. The computer explains to the surprised Man of Steel that it is cognisant and is powered by atomic energy created by his descendants. Hearing this, Superman realises that they must be on Earth! The Computer says that he has brought Superman and Wonder Woman here to the future – the year 2171. Superman realises the ramifications of what he has just been told – and that the wasteland outside is all that is left of Earth!

The computer continues to add that this is only the potential fate of Earth. One of many possible futures. Some decades ago, Mankind destroyed itself with War and Pollution – leaving only the computer behind. Superman asks why he and Diana have been summoned here. The machine explains that firstly, it was for it to observe two near perfect specimens of the creatures it was created to serve. Recently it had developed the capacity to cast probes into the time stream. It had discovered that Superman and Wonder Woman are amongst the most extra ordinary humans on the planet. More recently, the computer had found itself able to implant thoughts into the minds of humans long since dead.

Superman realises that it must have placed the idea of the dating service into the minds of both Perry White and I Ching in order to bring him and Diana together. The computer continues that it had then manipulated events in order that they both went to the location where its time travel beam could then bring them here.

Superman then asks what the second reason is and the machine replies that the Earth’s desolation is but one of many futures and that it has calculated that in the other time lines, Mankind survived and indeed prospered. It then activates a monitor screen that shows an image of the angry students Superman had seen earlier. As the image zooms in on to the back of one of the student’s heads, the computer tells the Man of Steel that a riot is about to occur and that this particular individual will shortly be killed in the disorder. This is the selfsame individual who will save humanity from its fate – should he survive.

Superman now understands and says that the computer therefore wants him and Diana to save the man. But how will this save humanity? He is told that the subsequent course of events is highly complicated and they must trust the computer that he will be the saviour of mankind…unless he perishes prematurely. Superman then spies another monitor which depicts the Adobe where he had left Diana. He is surprised to see the three muggers, one of which is now armed, heading straight towards where the unsuspecting and vulnerable Diana is hiding!

The hoods had followed Diana and Clark into the building and had seen which floor the elevator had travelled up to. They had then called it back down and headed up to the same floor, intent on getting their revenge on the Amazon Princess. But the unwitting thugs had been caught up in the time travelling beam and had suddenly found themselves stepping out into the desolate wasteland of the future Earth! Immediately they had started struggling to breathe and Scog had spotted the Adobe, seeing it as a possible shelter.

Now, they stagger towards the shelter and push open the door, stepping inside to thankfully find it filled with air. Scog then realises that they are not alone as Diana steps out of the shadows to confront them, poised for combat.

She says “You fellows didn’t have enough fun before? All right – Do you want to play all at once or one at a time?”. But the confident Amazon is quickly silenced when she sees Scog draw his gun and he smiles back at her, relishing the chance to shoot her dead.

But before he can pull the trigger the ground explodes in front of him as Superman bursts up through the floor. The stunned Scog opens fire but watches the bullets bounce harmlessly off the Man of Steel’s chest. Superman then grabs the barrel and effortlessly pinches it shut. He then flicks his finger sending Scog sailing backwards into the wall. The other two thugs rush Superman but he clouts their heads together, also knocking them out cold.

A smiling Diana thankfully hugs Superman and tells him that she is not sure she could have handled that situation alone. He returns the hug as she continues to tell him how he is a nicer guy than she had given him credit for. They have been acquaintances for many years and yet they have never really gotten to be friends. Maybe they should do something about that? Superman replies that in another second or so he will feel like kissing her – but that they both know he should not. Reluctantly she nods in agreement.

He then scoops her up and flies back down the tunnel he had emerged from, saying that he is taking her to the computer who will explain why they have been brought here. They emerge back into the chamber where the now weakened computer tells them that it has almost used the last of its energy reserves and that it is dying. It whispers that they have their mission and that they must prevent this future from becoming a reality. The computer then switches off – permanently.

Superman quickly brings Diana up to speed on their situation and understanding, she says that they have to save the life of a man whose name they do not even know. Superman replies that the individual they are looking for is somewhere on the college campus…a kid who will somehow alter the course of history although he himself has no idea of his importance.

As Superman whisks her back to the Adobe, Diana tells him that she is scared. Without the Computer they cannot return back to 1971 – much less prevent someone’s death. He replies “not necessarily”. The Time Beam still exists and once they have picked up the three hoods they will look for the gate back to the past.

Back in the Adobe they explain events to the three muggers who agree to co-operate. Superman then grabs all of them and zooms just above ground level back towards where they had first emerged. By now the gate must have receded but he might be able to locate it by reaching light speed. Faster and faster the Man of Steel whirls…velocity building. Moments cease to be as the fabric of existence bends, alters, tears and then there is a great shuddering and a phantom box-like chamber forms around them.

In the blink of an eye they find themselves back inside the elevator and emerge into the corridor of the radio station in the year 1971. Leaving behind the grateful thugs, Superman holds Diana in his arms as he smashes through the wall and zooms across the sky towards the campus. Down below they see the angry crowds massing and Superman suggests that Diana tries to reason with the students while he has a word with the campus security guards.

Diana strides over to the mob and pleads with them to stop the violence as they will not achieve anything except to create more violence. She is told in no uncertain terms to stay out of the students’ business however! She then spots one of the members of the mob preparing to throw a Molotov Cocktail at the guards and reacts swiftly. With the agility of a Panther Diana flings herself at the demonstrator, knocking his deadly bomb away towards a parked car. It bursts into flames and she warns the other students to step back from the blaze.

Meanwhile Superman orders the guards to call off their advance and that he will personally take responsibility for the students. The captain is unsure though, explaining that his men are still tense, having been cursed and spat on by the angry mob. At that moment the car explodes and two officers draw their weapons, aiming at the man closest to the fire and whom they assume is responsible. Superman knocks the weapons from their hands as they open fire, just as another explosion from the burning car rocks the campus.

As the smoke finally clears Diana runs towards Superman holding the hands of another student. She presents him to the Man of Steel and asks if he fits the description the computer had given of the man they are looking for. Superman nods and tells the bewildered student he is glad to see him alive.

Just then they hear someone shout “Get a Doctor” and they turn to see the guards standing over the body of one of their colleagues. The captain announces that it is too late however and that the guard is already dead! He had been a new recruit, hired today, and the hole in his chest that killed him must have been caused by a stray bullet or a shard of metal from the exploding car.

A worried Diana turns to Superman and asks whether he thinks the guard was in fact the person they had been looking for? He places his hand on her shoulder and slowly replies “I don’t know Diana…we’ll never know…until it’s too late!”.