This is "You Act Like We Never Have Met," which is a feature about one-time cast members of popular comic book series that have fallen by the wayside in the years since. Some of these are characters who would appear in comics routinely read by hundreds of thousands of people but are now effectively mysteries.
Today, based on a suggestion by reader Garth G., we look at the tale of Billy Anders and his bizarre connection to Superman.
As I noted in a recent edition of Never Gonna Be the Same Again, Denny O'Neil and Julius Schwartz believed that Superman was too powerful for readers to properly relate to him. This is obviously not an uncommon mode of thought, as many writers over the years, when given the chance to revamp the Man of Steel, have toned down his powers a bit. The debate, of course, is over HOW much you should tone Superman's powers down. Most writer seem to want him to be unable to, like, juggle planets, but how about destroy a planet period? No one seems to be sure about what power level to keep Superman at.
In any event, as I mentioned in that other column, O'Neil and Schwartz used a sand creature to sap Superman of one-third of his superpowers and then when the sand creature was written out of the series, they had Superman decide to let the creature keep that one-third of his powers, as Superman felt that he was probably TOO powerful with his original powers. O'Neil then stopped being the regular writer on the Superman series and the new writers effectively ignored O'Neil's new setup for Superman's powers.
Amusingly enough, though, O'Neil later returned to the books a year later to come up with a new, even WEIRDER limitation on Superman's powers! It all involved a little kid named Billy Anders.
Billy debuted in Superman #253 (by O'Neil and artists Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson), with a super trippy Nick Cardy cover!
Okay, during O'Neil's original run on Superman, he introduced a villain called Ferlin Nyxly, a dude who discovered the Devil's Harp, which made him a tough foe for Superman (who is vulnerable to otherworldly weapons). Superman ultimately defeated him, but now he was back, after having acquired a special sling (a la David and Goliath) that could theoretically destroy Superman.
He goes to wait at Clark Kent's apartment for Superman (the sling drew him to where it knew Superman would be). He meets Billy Anders, one of Clark Kent's neighbors in the apartment building and Anders' pet lynx. Suddenly, another neighbor of Clark's collides with them...
So Billy's mind is now in his cat's body. You know, like what always happens.
Billy as the cat finds his body at the hospital and he learns that he can communicate with Superman telepathically when he is near his human body...
Superman then defeats Ferlin Nyxly, but Billy Anders becomes an even odder character the following issue...