Many years ago when I was young, there used to be a massive annual flea market in Marshfield MA. From what I remember, the flea market was held every summer during or around the Marshfield Fair.
I can’t remember if the two events were linked or not, but my family would spend a day at the fair every year, and we’d always go to the flea market.
One such visit sticks out in my mind, it was either in summer 1990 or 1991. The flea market was huge that year, and I remember the high school football field had isles and isles of flea market goodness. I remember buying a couple of old G.I. Joe vehicles in their boxes, for a couple of bucks. But my browsing soon landed me a jackpot.
Towards the end of the flea market, there were a couple of tables filled with nothing but comic books. Under those table, there were even more boxes of comics for a dime. Holy moley, I was in comic book heaven!
The couple that was selling comics had a huge variety, everything from the Bronze Age to the early 90’s. Among my purchases were Batman The Dark Knight Returns #2, and the comic that introduced me to Firestorms, The Flash #293. But as crazy as it sounds, my favorite purchase that day was a copy of World’s Finest #271.
World’s Finest #271 was written by Roy Thomas, Jack C. Harris, and E. Nelson Bridwell. Artwork was handled by the always great Rich Buckler. The issue starts with Clark Kent having a strange dream of a masked man beating him with blasts Kryptonite. Unable to go back to sleep, Clark turns on the television just in time to see a breaking news report of a huge fire burning in Gotham City. Even with Batman on the scene, Clark decides this is a job for Superman.
After dumping the contents of a water tower on the building that puts the blaze out, firefighters discover a coffin with a strange symbol on the front. For some reason, both Batman and Superman have a vague recollection of the symbol, but before the coffin can be opened, it explodes covering Superman with a coating of Kryptonite, and the mysterious figure from Superman’s dream emerges from the rubble.
At this pint, little old me was going crazy. For one thing, I didn’t know Superman had nightmares, and who the hell was this funny looking guy in the mask? And why does Batman think he has a chance against him after he just saw this masked dude throw Superman across the street? My mind was blown.
The guy in the coffin turned out to be called The Atoman, and as he flees the scene, Superman passes out and begins dreaming of one of the many times Superman and Batman first crossed paths. This interlude sees Superman discovring an unconscious Robin floating down the river in a small boat.
The adventure leads the Superman and Robin to a wax museum where Batman has been encased in wax. Before I can figure out what the heck the point of that story was, Superman wakes up and flies off with Batman.
After a short flight, Superman recounts another meeting between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne In this story, a young Bruce Wayne is working for a local gangster, and is tasked with uncover the true identity of Superboy. Eventually, Bruce ends up with a copy of Superboy’s fingerprints, but instead of giving them to the gangster, Bruce throws them into a fire. This was another odd interlude, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Later on Batman recounts an occasion when Robin traveled back in time to team up with Superboy to prevent Superman’s death in the future. I know this one sounds crazy, but it actually made sense, even if the villain trying to kill Superboy was kinda lame.
As the issue goes on, Batman and Superman recount several other times they met as teenagers, including the time they attended high school together and Bruce took the mantle of the Flying Fox. This one is probably my favorite flashback in World’s Finest #271 because it showed Clark Kent being jealous of Bruce.
At first, I didn’t understand what all of these flashbacks had to do with the main story. But once the flashbacks end and the story returns to the present day, all of these “first” meetings makes sense and tie in with the main story.
When I bought World’s Finest #271, I was still a fairly new reader to comics and didn’t know all the in and outs. So I was shocked to discover in this issue that there was an Earth-2, with different versions of Superman and Robin.
I read and re-read this comic so much that eventually the cover came off. I still have the comic (or what’s left of it), and the story holds up pretty well after all these years. Not bad for a comic that cost me a dime all those years ago.