Why bother being a mere Superman when you could be an “Ultra-Superman?”
The Superman of 1959 was already powerful enough, a guy who could just about, as Denny O’Neil famously put it, “…destroy a galaxy by listening hard.” But in Action Comics 256 (Sept. 1959), we got an upgrade — a highly evolved Superman from the year 100,000 who can apparently project images and predict the future.
Written by Otto Binder and drawn by Curt Swan, this tale turns out to be just another of Superman’s elaborate hoaxes — this one designed to smoke out a foreign agent’s assassination plot against the president (presumably Eisenhower).
It’s funny. Those “it’s all a hoax” plots tended to make the stories slightly less fantastic, but even more implausible. Not an ideal tradeoff.
Nevertheless, this popular tale was much reprinted, notably in 1961’s third Superman annual (The Strange Lives of Superman! giant).
The weird transformations of Superman and his friends were always an eye-catcher, and all the pals took a turn at the classic “super-intelligent big head look.”
“Of all the freakish distortions of the human body depicted on the covers of superhero comics, none of them quite compared to the spectacle of Big Head Covers (not to be confused with Floating Head Covers),” noted Mark Engblom in Comic Coverage.
“Huge, swollen craniums have been a staple of science fiction dating back to the pulps of the 1920s and ’30s, usually associated with malevolent alien masterminds or highly evolved future-men. As pulps gradually gave way to comic books, big-headed characters found their way into the burgeoning superhero fad, usually as villains...such as Brainwave (All-Star Comics 37, 1947). During the science-fiction craze of the late 1950s and early 60s, Big Head covers began appearing at an alarming rate. It should come as no surprise that the constantly transforming Superman Family was hit particularly hard.”
Engblom notes that Superman startled Lois with his “…intensely disturbing (and vaguely X-rated) futuristic head.” LOL, as they say.
The issue also included the new feature Supergirl and the old feature Congo Bill, recently updated as Congorilla.