Superman 107 (Aug. 1956) dissects the term “superhero” in a surprisingly thoughtful way.
In Rip Van Superman, the hero is left comatose while saving Metropolis from an out-of-control nuclear reactor. As Lois Lane sobs nearby, Superman is publicly sealed in a glass display in hopes that he’ll awaken soon. But he doesn’t…
The Man of Tomorrow revives in 2956 to discover a world full of supermen who’ve been granted his powers by “amazing vitamins and hormones.”
However, like Gold Key’s later Magnus Robot Fighter, Superman discovers that the inhabitants of the 30th century have been rendered uncertain and helpless by centuries of robot servitude.
When the evil scientist Drago threatens to send the moon, now a prison, crashing into Earth, humanity panics. Superman springs to the rescue —this time not with his powers, which are commonplace, but with his heroic example, which isn’t.
“Listen to me!” Superman tells them. “Your robots can’t help you now! YOU — YOU’RE the masters of your destiny! You’ve been ‘asleep’ longer than I have! It’s time you awakened!”
Organizing the supermen into a force that can push the moon back into orbit, Superman confronts three of Drago’s thugs. Outnumbered by enemies as strong as he is, Superman now needs inspiration, and finds it in the example of his friend Batman. Using judo and other combat techniques Batman has taught him, Superman subdues his foes.
Crisis averted, Superman is returned to 1956 in an experimental time machine.
The classic Superman artist Wayne Boring drew this tale, which emphasizes the value of character over strength. And it’s no surprise to learn that the writer was Batman’s co-creator, Bill Finger.