The Mystery of Lex Luthor's Kryptonite Piano

This is the Great Comic Book Detectives, where readers send in requests for the names of comic books that they remembered reading years ago and I try to find them for them! Send any future requests to brianc@cbr.com!

This one was super tricky, to the point where I ended up, to use the parlance of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I had to use a lifeline and "Phone a Friend," as it were by bringing noted comic book expert Mark Waid into the mix!

Reader Michael C. wrote in a couple of months back to ask:

The other day, I was talking to a friend who asked me what was the first comic book I read.

I’m in my sixties, so I had to think a minute and realized, I’m not sure. Like many comic readers of my generation, I started reading DC. I was a faithful Superman, Adventures of Superboy, Batman, (not sure about Detective) World’s Finest, Justice League reader.

I think I started reading/collecting comics in 1959-1960, but I could be off and it could have been a year or two later.

Now, I THINK my first comic was a Superman book (which would make sense as I loved The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves). I think Lex Luther was playing a piano that exuded Kryptonite balls and that possibly Superman was trapped inside one.

Would love to know when it was published, who wrote and drew it, and anything else you could find out.

Is that enough information?

I dug through my memories and Superman comics and I thought I came up with a possible answer, with the presumption that perhaps Michael just mis-remembered the precise details and what was actually a sort of computer console was confused for a piano. The answer I came up with was Action Comics #294...

However, it is worth noting that the comic inside (by Edmond Hamlton and Al Plastino) really didn't resemble a piano at all...

And there were no balls projected from the machine.

Since I wasn't really sure, I sent it to Michael to see if it jogged his memory and he replied that he didn't think it was the book. He noted, "But I’m remembering Luthor at a piano-type contraption shooting colored spheres composed of different types of Kryptonite. It’s certainly possible that after 50-years, my memory is faulty."

With me stumped, it just occurred to me earlier tonight that you know who knows a whole lot about Superman? Mark Waid, that's who. So I dropped Mark an e-mail with the information and he replied with the answer so quickly that I think he might have technically answered it before my e-mail was finished being sent. Okay, maybe not that fast, but close to that fast!

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