Superman and Wonder Woman star in "The Computer Masters of Metropolis," written by Paul Kupperberg and featuring art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte. Our story opens with Alec and Shanna - two corn-fed American middle schoolers - happily tapping away on their TRS 80s in class ("It sure beats using a pen and paper, that's for sure!" enthuses Alec...).
That day, their surprise visitor in class is none other than Wonder Woman, who promises to take the whole class to the World's Fair of 1982, being held in Metropolis. The theme of the fair is the celebration of the "advancements of science and technology in the 1980s."
Meanwhile, Superman is already scoping out the World's Fair and has learned from the man running it, Mr. Murphy, that Lex Luthor has made a threat against the celebration. You see, Luthor believed he should get some prime exhibition space at the fair since he considers himself the leading mind in science. But Murphy refused to support the criminal's aspirations, and now Luthor threatens to destroy the fair unless paid a billion dollars. Yikes!
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman visits the fair with her class, and recounts the history of these new-fangled devices known as "computers." "Computers had their beginning in the United States," she recounts, "when the world's first all electronic unit was completed in the fall of 1945." After explaining how computers are utilized on the new NASA space shuttle, Wonder Woman goes on to ponder the future of the devices.
This is the part of the story I especially enjoyed reading today. She suggests computers will one day share "everything from national weather reports to up-to-the-minute news reports from a major wire services." Boldly, the heroine even predicts that one day people will "play games...with people thousands of miles away," and that "you can go shopping through a computerized catalog."
You know, I think she has a point. Is this where Al Gore got the idea to create the Internet?
Anyway, Luthor rigs a trap for Superman at the Planetarium. He exposes the Man of Steel to "red solar radiation," which is "the only force capable of robbing" Superman of his "powers instantly." I guess Luthor's just been waiting for the right opportunity - like a snub from the World's Fair - to spring his trap on Supes.
With Superman in trouble, the imperiled hero from Krypton calls in help from middle-schoolers Alec and Shanna and their trusty TRS-80. With the computer's help, they stop Luthor, and when Mr. Murphy presents the Key to the World's Fair to Superman and Wonder Woman, they demure...suggesting the prize should go to Alex and Shanna and the TRS 80, the new "computer masters" of "Metropolis."
This educational comic-book also features a student guide to computer lingo with a glossary of terms like "basic," "byte," "cassette"(!), "RAM" and "software." There's even a "Quick Quiz" in the back of the mag, to make certain that students get "programmed" to love their TRS-80s..
While it's a worthwhile endeavor for DC Comics to attempt to make computers "cool" way back in the day, by employing their greatest heroes for the cause, today the whole thing reads like a ridiculous promotion not for computers, but for the TRS 80. I guess Superman, Wonder Woman and all the rest of the superheroes might as well hang up their cowls and go home, now that the crafty TRS-80 is on the scene!
That sort of thinking weakens Superman more quickly than red solar energy, I'd wager. It's sort of humiliating to see these great heroes depending on a specific (and now dated...) technology to solve their problems, rather than their wits and smarts.
But the magazine is still fun, even with the opening advertisement entitled "Continuing Education in Computers," which implores readers to "Ask about Radio Shack's Scholarships for Teachers."
Note: This blog brought to you courtesy of of my new computer overlord, the TRS-80...