Superman: Planetary Matters, Chapter 1: The Daily Planet for Sale

by Immortalwildcat

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January, 1986:

“Sir! You are back at last!”

“Indeed, Jeffrey. My attempt to use the technology and wiles of Lex Luthor to turn Superman’s beloved city into his dying ground came to no avail,” said the regal gentleman sweeping into the room. (*) “For all his vaunted intelligence, Luthor has no sense of planning. No concept of the idea of contingency. His arrogance leads him to believe that he cannot fail, despite his abysmally poor record against the Kryptonian. Ah, thank you Talia.” He released the catch for the cape that enfolded him and allowed it to be lifted from his shoulders by the exotic beauty who followed him in.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Kryptonite City.]

“Then we will move ahead with our purchase of the Daily Planet, sir?” asked Jeff Richardson. Posing as an analyst with Nomed Ventures, he had already contacted people within Galaxy Communications, inquiring to the possibility of a buyout of Galaxy’s least profitable division. “Despite the poor financial performance of the Planet, Galaxy seems unwilling to let it go.”

“Of course they are, dear boy. When the newspaper fails, as it no doubt will, Galaxy will be able to take a massive tax write-off because of the loss.” Ra’s al Ghul sat in a high-backed chair and frowned. “Curious people, these Americans. They tax those who succeed more greatly and allow those who fail to renege on their civic obligation to support the state. A wonder they have lasted so long as a nation.” He sat forward to examine the documents that Richardson had produced. “Good, you have made a fair offer. They only need the right impetus to accept it — an impetus that their CEO has so thoughtfully provided.” Ra’s snapped his finger, and Talia produced a sheaf of computer printouts from a briefcase. He spread those before him and pointed to select passages for Richardson’s perusal.

“Oh, yes, sir!” he gasped. “I had no idea! I will use this when I meet with Morgan Edge next week!”

***

“You must be mad! Whatever gives you the idea that I would sell a valuable commodity like the Daily Planet?” Morgan Edge put his cigarette holder back in his mouth, as much to keep from laughing as for any love of tobacco. The young pup in front of him had a lot of guts — he gave him that much. He had already heard from people in his media empire that a man named Jeff Richardson had been making inquiries about the newspaper. Now he had made his offer. Letting his face settle into a mask of placid amusement, he considered the particulars.

The offer itself was only of mild interest. It was less than he had paid for the paper several years earlier. However, with the newspaper business on the decline, the paper wasn’t worth as much anyway. Galaxy would forfeit all interests in the paper and its name, which was a little bit of a concern. The Daily Planet name still carried a lot of weight, and he had never been ashamed to use that in promoting the news services of his radio and television stations. He had even considered starting an all-news channel for cable television, like that upstart in Atlanta had done. If that plan were to be successful, he needed the Daily Planet‘s name behind it.

“Mr. Edge, we at Nomed Ventures understand the strain that conglomerates like Galaxy are under to divest themselves of unprofitable enterprises. The Planet has been struggling for some time, lost in the shadows of Galaxy’s media juggernaut. We have investors who feel that they could take this struggling paper and return it to the glory it once held as Metropolis’ premiere newspaper.” Jeff tried to read Edge’s facial expressions but found them nearly as unreadable as his master’s own face.

“It sounds nice, Jeff, but no. The Daily Planet is not for sale.” Edge’s tone brooked no contradiction, at least to any cautious person who heard him.

Caution, however, was not high on Jeff Richardson’s list of priorities. “A shame, then, isn’t it? I do hope they won’t feel that it is a conflict of interest to publish this story.” He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a mockup of a newspaper front page. Pictured prominently above the fold was Morgan Edge himself flanked by police officers, his hands behind him as if in handcuffs. Over the picture was the headline:

“Media Mogul’s Secret Dealings Exposed”

The headline was followed by a detailed accounting of Morgan Edge’s rise to the top of his media empire. Included were details of dealings with InterGang and the 100, infamous crime organizations that had plagued Metropolis during the past decade.

What is all this? You threaten me with a pack of lies?

“No lies, sir. At least, not so that a court of law could tell. All of the evidence needed to convict you — and bring Galaxy Communications crashing down around you — is safely locked up at my company’s headquarters.” Richardson smiled, an expression that made him worthy of Edge’s own reputation as the Smiling Cobra. “So, do we have a deal?”

***

February, 1986:

Great Caesar’s ghost! He’s actually gone and done it!”

Throughout the offices of the Daily Planet, heads jerked up from notepads, typewriters, and computer terminals. All eyes turned toward the door of Perry White’s office.

“What is it, Perry?” asked a concerned Lois Lane. “Who did what?

“Morgan Edge! He actually went along with it! He’s sold the Daily Planet!” The steel-gray-haired editor-in-chief then did something totally unexpected. He rushed forward, grabbed Lois’ hands, and swung her around the room in a mad dance. “I can’t believe it! I’m finally going to be free of that damned smiling cobra!

“Perry, slow down,” said Lois. “Galaxy is selling us off? How long have you known about this?”

Stopping his wild capering, Perry caught his breath and sat down. “About a month ago, I was approached by a representative of this conglomerate, Nomed Ventures. He told me they were interested in buying the newspaper, but only if they could be assured that I would stick around to run it for them. I agreed to sign a contract for five years. What was the harm, I figured, since I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in Hades that Edge would let us go.” He paused and ran a hand through his hair. “Damn! I guess that means I won’t be retiring for a few years now, will I?” His face broke into an even bigger grin. “That’s just terrific! I made sure I got them to toss in a couple extra weeks vacation, so my wife wouldn’t get too upset about delaying my retirement. ‘Cause you know what?

Lois, Jimmy Olsen, and several others look at him expectantly.

“I don’t ever want to stop doing this! Now, let’s get to work! We’ve got a paper to get out, and from now on, it’s gonna be the top paper in Metropolis!”

***

“So what do you think, Clark?”

In the Ink Stain Deli across the street from the Galaxy Communications building, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent stood around one of the small round tables. The remains of their lunch were heaped on the table.

“To tell you the truth, Lois, I’m not sure what to think.” Clark pushed his glasses back up his nose. “There are so many of these venture capital firms out there now, there’s no telling which ones are legitimate and which ones might be a scam. I did do some checking on Nomed Ventures, and they seem to have a solid record. Mostly television and radio stations, two production companies that do some good television shows, a small movie company, and a chain of forty-seven movie theaters.” He paused for a second, staring into the distance, seemingly lost in thought. “They’ve been good with all the companies they acquire; they don’t lay people off without a good reason. I think they’re on the up and up.”

“Why wouldn’t they be, Clark? I mean, Mr. Edge wouldn’t sell us off to some band of crooks, would he?” asked the ever-anxious Jimmy Olsen.

“Well, I’ve had my doubts about some of his dealings, but Edge has usually done pretty good by us. I’ve had a feeling for a while, however, that he was ready to shut the Planet down. This new company wanted a five-year commitment from Perry, so they must mean to keep us in business.” Lois took a last drink from her soda, crumpled the cup, and tossed it into an open trash can across the crowded room. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“So am I, Lois. But I wonder what sort of changes they’ll want to make.”

***

“You’re moving the Daily Planet? Do you have any idea what that will take?

“Calm down, Perry. We’ve taken great steps to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.” Jeff Richardson motioned for Perry White to sit back down. He had spent most of the last three weeks in Metropolis, arranging for the sale and taking care of other matters. “After all, you can’t very well remain in the same building as Galaxy Communications now, can you?”

“But this was our building before Galaxy bought the Planet! We’ve been here forever!” Perry sputtered.

“Actually, the Planet moved into this building in 1928. It used to be located about two blocks from here.” Jeff smiled and leaned forward to rest his chin on his hands. “In the Taylor Building, as a matter of fact.”

“Wait a minute. Isn’t that where you just said you were planning to move us?”

“That’s right. A happy coincidence, actually. We obtained the Taylor Building when its last owner filed for bankruptcy last year. The Planet moved out because there wasn’t enough room for the massive printing presses of the time. Now, though, thanks to new technology, the presses are much smaller, and we can fit the whole operation back in the Planet‘s old home.”

“Wait a minute. We just got the old printing presses back in operation. Those are the ones that have been here for almost sixty years. You mean…?”

“Yes, Perry. New printing presses, new computer systems.” Jeff took a moment to savor the expression on Perry’s face. “To be honest with you, we felt that if the Planet is to become a national daily newspaper, we’d better invest in the technology to support it.”

“A national paper? You weren’t kidding about that, then, were you?”

“No, I wasn’t. The investors have seen the success of USA Today, and they figured that if they could sell all those papers with their fluff reporting, the Planet can be twice as successful with its hard news coverage.”

***

Elsewhere, a regal figure listened to a conversation as it was relayed by a radio transmitter in Richardson’s eyeglasses. “Very good, Jeffrey. Raise Mr. White’s expectations. In turn, he will raise those of everyone around him. The Daily Planet does indeed have the potential to be the greatest paper in the country. And so it shall be.”

He paused to reach for a goblet of mineral water at his side.

“But what is the saying among the Americans? The bigger they are, et cetera, et cetera?”

The musings of Ra’s al Ghul were interrupted by a musical tone from a speaker on the arm of his chair. “Yes?”

“Father, the preparations here are complete. The carvers have completed the duplicate of the Taylor Building.”

“Ahead of schedule, my dear. Most excellent. See that the stoneworkers are suitably rewarded.”

“Then you shall have no further need of them, Father?”

“That is correct, Talia. Let them go to their reward quickly and painlessly. Might I suggest you offer them a drink to celebrate?”

“I already have, Father. The next ones shall be poisoned.”

“So be it. Make sure it is one of the fast-acting ones. No need for them to suffer.”

***

High over the streets of Metropolis, a lone figure streaked through the air in a red and blue blur.

I wonder what’s up. When Perry asked Clark to contact Superman, he didn’t say what it was about. Just asked for me to meet him on the roof of the Taylor Building. Superman altered his course, slowing his speed until he touched down at his destination.

“Superman! Thank you for coming!”

“Clark told me you seemed a little anxious, Mr. White. Is there something wrong?” Superman extended his hand to Clark’s boss.

“Please, son, call me Perry.” The Planet editor took the proffered hand and shook it. “Nothing’s wrong. We just wanted to ask you a little favor.” Perry motioned for the person lurking behind him to come forward. “Superman, I don’t think you’ve met Jeff Richardson. He works for the company that has just bought the Daily Planet.”

“Mr. Richardson.” Superman offered his hand again and was met with a welcoming handshake.

“Superman! What an honor!”

“No honor involved, sir. What can I do for you?”

“Well, as Perry said, my company has just bought the Daily Planet. We are moving the operation here into the Taylor Building. However, there’s something missing, something that has been missing from the Daily Planet for the last few months.” He looked into Superman’s eyes, searching to see if the Man of Steel deduced the answer for himself. He was not disappointed.

“Of course!” Superman looked over at Perry and saw that he was smiling. “Gentlemen, I would be happy to help out. Should it just appear, or do you want to make a ceremony out of it?”

“If you don’t mind, we’d like to have you bring it in when we rededicate the building in two weeks,” said Richardson.

“I think that can be arranged,” agreed a grinning Man of Steel.

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