Saturday, September 27, 2008

Episode #41: Lex Luthor: Bald Evil Genius!

Lex Luthor's birthday is traditionally accepted to be on September 28, the day after my birthday. While he did not appear at the beginning of Superman's career in Action Comics #1, Luthor's history almost goes back as far. He first appeared in Superman and Action Comics on the newsstands during the month of February 1940.
Luthor's first appearance was in Superman #4, the Spring 1940 issue which appeared on the racks on February 15, 1940. He appeared in two stories, The Challenge of Luthor and Luthor's Undersea City. Both stories were written by Jerry Siegel, with art by Joe Shuster and Paul Cassidy. The first story was reprinted in the following editions: Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told (1987) trade paperback and hardback, Superman Archives vol. I and Superman Chronicles vol. III. The second story has also been reprinted in the same Archives and Chronicles editions.
In The Challenge of Luthor an earthquake hits Metropolis. The cause is an earthquake weapon a scientist has invented and the U. S. Army is interested in. Luthor's gang attempts to steal the weapon, only to be foiled by Superman. Luthor, known only by his last name and with thick red hair, challenges Superman to a physical challenge. Superman describes Luthor as "the mad scientist who plots to dominate the Earth." This would be the best description for Luthor for most of his history. While Superman engages Luthor in these challenges, his gang succeeds in stealing the weapon. Superman finds Luthor's mountain hideout, and after being hit by the weapon, destroys the hideout and the weapon.
In Luthor's Undersea City Superman investigates the destruction of some oil wells and learns that Luthor is behind the plot. Lois Lane is kidnapped and taken to a domed city in the middle of the ocean. Superman battles a pterodactyl before overcoming the beast, destroying the city and saving Lois.
The next week Luthor made his first appearance in Action Comics in issue #23, appearing on newsstands on February 22, 1940. This issue also marked the first appearance of the Daily Planet instead of the Daily Star. In these early years of comic book history continuity had not been invented yet. Some speculation is that the newspaper name was changed to avoid confusion with the many real newspapers called Star. This story has been reprinted in Superman Archives: Action Comics vol. II, Superman In The Forties, Superman Chronicles vol. III and Superman vs. Luthor.
The story in this issue continued the story begun in the previous issue, about a war between two fictional European countries, Galonia and Toran, clearly in imitation of the early years of WWII. This story was also done by the creative team of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and Paul Cassidy. It was untitled but carried the same headline on the front of the Metropolis newspaper, Europe At War, as did the previous issue of Action Comics. Superman discovers that Luthor is behind the breaking of a truce between the warring factions. Lois is kidnapped by Luthor and Superman finds her at Luthor's dirigible base. Superman destroys the dirigible and rescues Lois.
Luthor next appeared in Superman #5, the Summer 1940 issue, released on May 10, 1940. In Luthor's Incense Menace, he used incense to mind control businessmen, manipulating them to order massive layoffs to create economic chaos. This was the last story to feature Lex Luthor with red hair.
In Superman #10, the May/June 1940 issue, released on March 5, 1941, Luthor first appeared as the bald criminal genius we are familiar with. The Invisible Luthor was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Leo Nowak. This story has been reprinted in Superman Archives vol. III. There is no explanation for the change, continuity not being an issue in the early years of the comic book history. There are several theories about why Nowak drew Luthor bald. He might have confused Luthor with the henchman posing as the professor in Superman #4, or with another golden age villain, the Ultra-Humanite. Another possibility might be the evil bald Superman from Siegel and Shuster's fanzine story Reign of the Superman. In this story Luthor uses an invisibility machine to extort money from Metropolis by making the city's water disappear. Superman foils the plot and Luthor escapes. Doesn't he usually?
During the 1960's development of the multiverse, the Earth-2 Lex Luthor was portrayed as having red hair. This Luthor met his demise in the 1986 mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths issue #9, when Brainiac killed him when the two were arguing over leadership over a super-villain army.
Another version of Luthor in the multiverse was on Earth-3, where Lex Luthor was that Earth's only super hero whose enemies were the Crime Syndicate, an evil version of the Justice League. His wife was that Earth's Lois Lane. He was killed when his universe was wiped out by the wave of anti-matter that swept the multiverse in Crisis On Infinite Earths issue #1. The only survivor of Earth-3 was the Luthor's infant son Alexander, who the Luthors sent in a rocket into the multiverse. Alex would play a key role in Crisis and the more recent Infinite Crisis mini-series.
Adventure Comics #271, April 1960 issue, on sale approximately on February 25, 1960, we read about the origin of Luthors hatred of Superman. How Luthor Met Superboy was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Al Plastino. Lex Luthor's family move into Smallville. Young Lex saves Superboy from a kryptonite meteor. In gratitude Superboy builds a fully equipped lab for Lex. After an early success Lex experiments to find a cure for kryptonite poisoning. He succeeds but a lab fire breaks out. The fumes cause Lex's hair to fall out, and he blames Superboy. Lex still wants to help Smallville so he continues his experiments. They flop and Lex blames Superboy for his failures. He tries to kill Superboy with a kryptonite trap, but Superboy escapes and Lex hates Superboy (man) for the rest of his life.
There is one place in the galaxy where Luthor is regarded as a hero. The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman was published in Superman #164, the October 1963 issue, released on August 1, 1963. The story was written by Edmund Hamilton, drawn by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. The cover shows the famous image of Luthor and Superman, both shirtless, fighting inside a wooden ring, with a red sun hanging in the sky. Luthor escapes prison and pirates a TV signal, challenging Superman to a fight, man to man. Superman agrees and builds a space ship to take them to a world orbiting a red sun. The light of a red sun renders Superman powerless. To make sure the odds are even, he even gives Luthor special shoes that compensate for the planet's heavier gravity. (Nothing is mentioned about the effect heavier gravity wll have on Luthor's arms in a fight.)
In the fight Luthor grabs an early advantage by giving Superman a black eye and punching his gut. Superman bounces back and knocks Luthor out with a solid shot to his chin. While Superman goes back to the space ship to get some water with which to revivie Luthor with, Lex escapes to a nearby jungle. He attacks Superman with some inventions he smuggled in his pockets. They are separated by a sandstorm. Luthor finds shelter while Superman is caught in the storm. Superman stumbles into a city, where he finds large beasts with water filled horns. Superman drinks just enough to refresh himself. Lex finds another community and is welcomed by the citizens when he scares off some flying beasts. Luthor finds ancient advanced technology that the citizens have forgotten how to operate. His genius figures the technology out and he uses it to search for water on this dry world, to no avail.
Superman catches up with Luthor. When the people learn that Superman is Luthor's enemy, they want to execute Superman. Curiously, Luthor convinces them to have him and Superman duel in the town's arena. After pressing an early advantage, Luthor hesitates and Superman defeats him. Luthor honors his challenge and agrees to return to Earth. During the return voyage Luthor points out an ice world orbiting a yellow sun. He suggests that Superman hurl icebergs to the previous planet, replenishing its water supply. Being a silver age story, the icebergs do not crash into inhabited areas, only low-lying areas. Luthor would return to the planet in Superman #167, and would be named Lexor in Superman #168.
In Action Comics #544, the 45th Anniversary Issue, Luthor's hatred of Superman would reach a new intensity. This issue also marked Brainiac's change from a green skinned android to a robot made of "living metal". Luthor discovers another hidden lab on Lexor which contains a battle suit. He also invents a "neutrarod" to stabalize the planet's unstable molten core. Superman returns to once again capture Luthor, who is a new father with his wife Ardora, whom he met in Superman #167 and married in Action Comics #318. Superman has coated himself with a special sun screen that shields him from the neutralizing effects of Lexor's red solar radiation. During Luthor's battle with Superman, he unleashes an energy blast from his battle suit which ricochets off of Superman and hits the neutrarod. It starts a chain reaction in the planet's core which destroys Lexor. Luthor's suit and Superman's limited invulnerability make them the only survivors.
In a number of stories showing Luthor's lairs, we see statues of his criminal heroes, Genghis Khan, Atilla the Hun, Captain Kidd and Al Capone. There is one "good guy" that Luthor admired. In Superman #416 (February 1986), released on November 14, 1985, we see a series of vignettes Luthor does some unusual things on his escape from prison on a particular day over the decades. Superman finally figures out the significance of this behavior. After capturing Luthor once again, he makes a detour to Princeton, New Jersey on the way back to prison. He takes Luthor to the statue of Albert Einstein. There, a teary eyed Luthor simply says, "Happy Birthday, sir." The name of the story was The Einstein Connection. The back story, The Ghost of Superman Future is a story that describes the end of Luthor's life.
The golden and silver age Luthor met his demise in the story Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow. In part one, Superman #423, Luthor finds Brainiac's robot head buried in the snow. It is the only thing left of his robot body. Brainiac's head activates and seizes control of Luthor's body. In part 2, Action Comics 583, during a battle at the Fortress of Solitude, Luthor briefly gains lucidity and begs a super-powered Lana Lang to kill him because Brainiac is controlling him. Lana obliges with a blow to his neck.
When the world of Superman was revamped with the mini-series Man Of Steel, Lex Luthor was reinvented as a genius criminal business mogul. The idea was inspired by Marv Wolfman. Luthor made his first appearance in Man Of Steel issue #4. Clark and Lois are invited to an event on Luthor's yacht. Terrorists attack the ship, only to be defeated by Superman. At the end of the issue Luthor attempts to put Superman on a personal retainer and attempts that he staged the whole thing to test Superman himself. He didn't figure on an angry Mayor of Metropolis deputizing Superman and ordering him to arrest Luthor. This begins Luthor's animosity toward Superman.
In the later mini-series World of Metropolis it is revealed that Luthor and Perry White were childhood friends growing up in Metropolis' Suicide Slum. their friendship ends when Perry returns from an extended time as a foreign correspondent to find that Lex had an affair with his fiance. Perry forgives her and later marries her. In later stories in the regular Superman titles it is revealed that their son Perry, Jr. was actually fathered by Luthor during the affair.
The single issue Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography reveals the dirty details about Lex's rise from poverty to riches. He has an abusive father, but Lex shows his criminal genius early. He hires someone to tamper with the brakes of his parent's car, and after their deaths in a car accident, collects a sizeable settlement from a life insurance policy. After graduating from MIT Lex invents the Lexwing, which establishes his fortune.
After the appearance of Superman, Luthor aquires a piece of kryptonite, and has a ring made with a kryptonite setting to keep Superman at bay. Unlike the silver age, in modern continuity, prolonged exposure to kryptonite is harmful to people. Luthor loses his ring hand to cancer, which would later return and prove terminal. Luthor fakes his own death and clones a new body to have his brain transplanted into. He returns to public life as his long lost son from Australia, complete with accent and long red hair. Luthor would lose the hair once again.
In recent years Luthor became president, only to be impeached and removed from office. He has since returned to his roots as a criminal genius.
There have been a number of "imaginary stories" featuring Lex Luthor over the years. In The Death of Superman, in Superman149, November 1961, Lex fakes rahabilitaion until he lulls Superman into a false sense of security when he springs a lethal kryptonite trap on Superman. Clark Kent's Brother, from Superman #175, February 1965, shows Luthor all but deducing that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Superboy realizes this and aranges for Clark to run away from home, and then Superboy would publicly leave to look for Clark. Lex decides to ingratiate himself into the Kent's lives in order to expose Superboy's secret identity. (NOTE: I mistakenly stated during this episode that Luthor planned to murder them, after not skimming this issue closely enough.) The Kent's were so kind to Luthor they killed his plans with kindness. When Superboy returns he confesses to all of them. They respect Luthor for his having the courage to admit it and he becomes part of the family. As adults, Luthor would sacrafice himself in order to save Superman from a deadly trap.
Another interesting imaginary story began in Superman #230, October 1970, Killer Kent vs Super Luthor finds Luthor the infant son of Jor-El, as Lex-El. Together they are the only survivors of Krypton's destruction. Only Lex has super powers, through a strange quirk, after their rocket lands on Earth. The landing of the rocket causes the crash of the criminal Kents, a Bonnie and Clyde couple. The Langs adopt their infant Clark, as Jor-El and Lex settle into secret identities in Smallville. Clark would follow his parent's example into crime, and become Superman's arch-enemy. this story was continued in issue #231. However, I do not have this issue, and the web sites and do not have plot summaries for this issue.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler free review blog at E-mail about this blog can be sent to

Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Episode #40: Christopher Reeve: A Modern Superman!

To learn more about the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation go to the web site: At Superman dogtags are still available for purchase. 100% of the cost goes to Christopher Reeve's foundation for paralysis research. As of the writing of this blog, September 18, 2008, supplies were still avialable but limited.
Christopher Reeve would have celebrated his 53rd birthday on September 25, 2008. He was born in 1952. He passed away on October 10, 2004.
He got hooked on acting very young. According to the biography on his website, Christopher Reeve made his first appearance in the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. He graduated from Cornell University in 1974 and studied at Julliard under the actor and teacher John Houseman, whose most famous role was in the movie and TV show Paper Chase. At Julliard, Christopher Reeve's roommate was the actor and comedian Robin Williams, who remained friends. After a few tv appearances, Reeve's first film role was a minor role as a submarine officer in the 1978 movie Gray Lady Down.
After Superman, one of Christopher Reeves best movies was 1980's Somewhere In Time, co-starring Jane Seymour. He appeared in movie, TV and stage roles and was also a director.
Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an equestrian accident in 1995. After he was able to return home he dedicated his life to campaigning for a cure for paralysis, and raising the quality of life for paralysis victims.
In 1998 he wrote his biography Still Me, published by Random House. Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on A New Life was published in 2002.
Also in 1998 Reeve starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's movie Rear Window. He appeared in two episodes of the TV series Smallville as paralyzed scientist Dr. Virgil Swann (a tribute to Superman artisit Curt Swan?). He informed Clark about his kryptonian heritage and told him that his original Kryptonian name was Kal-El. In an episode of Smallville after Reeve's death, Dr. Swann also passes away. Clark receives the kryptonian metal disc that Dr. Swann had come into possession of.
Christopher Reeve's last project was directing the film The Brooke Ellison Story, the true story of an 11 year old girl who became a quadraplegic in an accident and perseveres to graduate from Harvard University.
Reeve's widow Dana only survived her husband by two years, passing away on March 6, 2006 from lung cancer.
Christopher Reeve is survuved by his children, Will, Matthew and Alexandra, his mother Barbara Johnson, father Franklyn and brother Benjamin.
Some great resources about Christopher Reeve's role as Superman/Clark Kent are the documentaries and commentaries on the DVD's Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
The operative word that was Richard Donner's slogan in directing the movie was verisimillitude, which means, in regards to Superman lore, be true to the source material. The original script he inherited from Godfather author Mario Puzo was enough for two movies, but very campy. Donner hired Tom Mankiewicz as Creative Consultant to rewrite the script. Tom bought in to Donner's philosophy and got rid of most of the campy feel to the movie. For myself the parts that aren't campy are the strongest parts of the first two movies.
The documentaries and commentaries reveal the struggle to find the perfect actor to portray Superman. The producers wanted a "name" actor, but Donner wanted an unknown actor. A famous actor, to him, would distract an audience from believing they were really seeing Superman on the screen. A lot of actors who auditioned for the role could act but were not in Superman shape, and others were in great physical shape but could not act. Donner had a struggle convincing the producers and studio that Reeve was perfect for the role, and was proven right.
Christopher Reeve's philosophy in portraying Superman was to let the costume do most of the acting. He felt underplaying the role would emphasize the power of the character, as opposed to a more forceful and outgoing presentation. When Reeve discussed plaing the role of Clark Kent, Mankiewicz reminded Christopher that he was always playing Superman, but Superman was portraying Clark Kent, a real double role.
One of the biggest special effects struggles was to convincingly show Superman flying. Donner was impressed at how Reeve would angle his body and move his arms to portray the illusion of Superman flying. In the first scene that shows Superman, in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman flies straight toward the camera. When he banks to the right of the screen, stage left, that was not a planned move. Christopher improvised that moment. Donner said that after a moment of silence the crew broke out in applause in admiration at how well Reeve made Superman fly.
Ironically Christopher was not a comic book fan as a boy, although he did watch The Adventures of Superman George Reeves TV series. Also, Reeve was tall, but skinny. Donner hired former British weightlifting champion and Darth Vader actor David Prowse to condition Reeve, who also went on a high protein diet to bulk up for Superman. Reeve's natural hair color is brown, so it was dyed to black
What made Christopher Reeve's performance in the first two Superman movies so memorable? Reeve bought into the philosophy of verisimillitude, respecting Superman lore. Underplaying the role of Superman allowed the physical strengths of the character show through more convincingly than a more forceful performance.
Reeve effectively portrayed Clark Kent and Superman as separate people. The tow characters stood differently, spoke with different inflections, moved differently. In several scenes we see Superman peek out from under his Clark Kent disguise. During the mugging scene, Clark "faints" after catching the bullet in his hand. While Lois retrieves her purse Clark peeks over his glasses at the bullet in his hand. When Clark first enters Lois' apartment after her interview with Superman, when Lois turns her back to him while she talks, Clark removes his glasses and becomes Superman. He stands there holding Clark's glasses, with the expression on his face as if he's saying How I wish I could tell you who I really am.
Over the decades there have been several different angles on who's the disguise, Superman or Clark. The original golden and silver age Superman was the real person and Clark was the mild-mannered disguise. The Fleischer 1940's cartoons had a more asssertive personality in contrast, as did Goerge Reeves in the 1950's TV show, and Dean Cain in Lois & Clark. Although I didn't watch a lot of episodes of Lois & Clark I did enjoy Cain's more worldly Clark, who wandered the world as he struggled to find a way to effectively use his powers. The post-Crisis Superman begun by John Byrne was an earlier version of the disguise, so Clark can still have some sort of a normal life.
Christopher Reeve portrayed a traditional Clark Kent, a sometimes clumsy person who sometimes stuttered, the opposite of Superman's confident personlaity. His performance in the first two Superman movies holds up even today.

Learn more about the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation at

To contribute to the renovation of Jerry Siegel's boyhood home, through September 30, 2008 go to

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler-free comic book review blog I write about the comic books I read every week. It can be found at Send e-mail about this blog to

Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #39: The Superman of 2965!

The Superman of 2965 premiered in Superman issue #181 (November 1965), which appeared on newsstands on September 16, 1965, 43 years ago this past Tuesday. I briefly discussed this issue back in episode #2, My Favorite Comic Book Artist: Curt Swan. I mentioned this issue as one of the first Superman stories I have any memory of reading. He was another addition to Superman lore under the editorship of Mort Weisinger. George Klein inked Curt Swan's pencils on all four issues that this future Superman appeared in, and made his appearance different from "our" Superman. Edmund Hamilton wrote the first three stories. The first Superman 2965 story was reprinted in the back of Superman #244, the November 1971 issue. Later reprints of these stories placed the time as 2945, in order to not conflict with the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were in existence at this time in DC continuity.
This future Superman's secret identity was Klar Ken T5477, reporter for the Daily Interplanetary News. Working with him was Jay Senohl (Jay L-3388) in the later stories, a young reporter. He was obviously a future Jimmy Olsen. In fact, if you take the h out of Senohl, rearrange the letters and you spell Olsen. The equivalent for Lois Lane was Lyra 3916. The twist in her relationship with Klar and Superman was that she thought Superman was an egotistical show off, but she was in love with Klar. They were led by the editor, a computer named after Perry White, called PW-5598, and as gruff as the original P. W.
In the first panel of this story we see the Superman of 2965 flying by the memorials to his ancestors who also wore the Superman costume. It has survived for a thousand years because it was made of indestructible kryptonian fabric, of course. He is the seventh in the line of Kal-El, Superman. The story begins with this future Superman being sworn in by the Federation of Planets, comprised of the inhabitants of all of our solar system's planets. He takes the same oath that was spoken by his father and grandfather:
I vow to use my super-powers to uphold the principles of democracy and the enforcement of the law ... never for selfish or evil ends.
Superman goes from there immediately to his first super deed. A Plutonian astronomer discovered a rogue planet entering the solar system. His calculations determined that its path threatened Mars and Earth. Invulnerable to the vacuum of space as the original Superman, the future Superman uses his x-ray vision to determine that the rogue planet's core was made of molten iron. He creates a giant magnet to pull the planet into a safe path through the solar system. The citizens of the Federation were able to watch Superman's feat instantly through Ultra News, what we call today cable TV news.
While Superman is saving the solar system, two space-suited criminals discover Superman's Fortress of Solitude. In 2965 the Fortress was not located in an arctic mountain, but in an invisible satellite in space. They got close enough, or pierced a force field, to be able to see it, and successfully broke into it. Their path was blocked by incredible heat and electrical bolts that only Superman could cross. Superman easily captures these would-be burglars and turned them into the authorities. They were quickly tried by a judge, also a computer, and were sentenced to the "slowdown". They were zapped by a ray that slowed their movements to 1/10th of normal, so that they were easily monitored and would not be able to escape if they tried to commit a crime. I just wouldn't want to be stuck behind these guys in traffic.
Superman returns to the Daily Interplanetary News building and resumes his identity as Klar Ken T5477. Editor PW 5598 gives Klar an assignment, to cover the story of Muto, Superman's arch-nemesis, who is threatening the solar system.
Klar changes to Superman and flies into the solar system to battle his arch-foe, and that ends this first eight page story about the Superman of 2965.
The second part of this story was continued in Action Comics #338, the June 1966 issue, released to the newsstands on April 28, 1966. Titled Muto - The Monarch Of Menace, it picked up the story just before Klar Ken T5477 flew off as Superman after Muto. for whatever reason Klar uses a 30th century video viewer to look at a brief summary of Superman's past arch-enemies, beginning with Lex Luthor. Then, Klar's secret identity is almost discovered when Jay L-3388 (Jay Senohl in the original story) walked into the "records room" that Klar used to change into Superman. Klar then reminisces about his ancestors who had their secret identities revealed, Superman IV and Superman VII. (Since the original story seemed to indicate he was the seventh Superman, I guess DC's staff weren't as concerned about continuity at the time.)
While Superman searches for his arch-nemesis, Muto himself is on a planet with a gang of alien criminals. We learn his origin, and why he hates Superman. Superman 2965's father destroyed a comet that was threatening an inhabited world. When he shattered the solid core of this comet, the impact sent shockwaves through nearby space. The shockwaves opened a warp in space that a spaceship traveled through into an alien dimension. A pregnant woman gave birth in this alien dimension, which gave the child incredible mental powers but changed his appearance. He had the yellow skin and enlarged cranium we now know of as Muto.
The first place Superman flies to is "Weapons World", a place that the Federation of Planets has banished all weapons of war, since warfare has been banished by the Federation. Superman discovers that Muto and his gang is already there. Superman battles Muto across the planet until Muto melts part of a cliff, allowing the ocean to flood a valley. Superman sees a building with children playing outside nearby. He flies at super speed to rescue them, but discovers too late that the children are androids (a little bit of inexperience?). The tidal wave overwhelms Superman, and the radioactive traces in the seawater begin to slowly kill Superman. This thirteen page story also ends in a cliffhanger. This story was reprinted in Superman #247, the January 1972 issue.
The conclusion of this story occured in twelve pages of the next issue, Action Comics #339, July 1966, published on May 26, 1966. I have only found copies of the first two parts of the story. I have not yet found copies of the other two Superman 2965 stories, and so am going by the plot summaries on the web site In Muto vs. The Man Of Tomorrow Superman is rescued by the android children. Superman helps Atlanteans defeat one of Muto's gang, on Earth I presume, but the plot summary does not specify. Muto enlarges Metropolis citizens into giants. Superman restores them to normal, and defeats Muto by opening a space warp and sending Muto back to his home dimension.
The last Superman 2965 story was written by a sixteen year old Jim Shooter for World's Finest Comics #166, May 1967, on sale on March 9, 1967. The seventeen page story, The Danger of the Deadly Duo, contains the only appearance of the Batman of 2967, Bruce Wayn E7705, and Joker XX, with flashbacks of Superman VI and XV (another bit of inconsistent continuity with the original story), Batman VI, XV, XIX and Joker XIX.
The story begins with Muto and Joker XX running into each other as they attempt to rob the same place. After originally fighting they decide to team up. Superman encounters the Joker - Muto team, whose teamwork easily defeats Superman. He returns to Fortress Of Solitude as a dejected man. There he meets the Batman of 2965, who wants to avenge the death of his father, Batman XIX, at the hands of Joker's father, Joker XIX. This new dynamic duo encounter Muto and Joker, who escape. Batman is able to track them and battle them again. Superman beats Muto while Batman battles Joker, who is accidentally electocuted to death.
This was the final story about the Superman of 2965, and I could find no information about a reprint of this story or any collection of these stories. Perhaps a future Superman edition of Showcase Presents or the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives of the silver age Superman stories.

Some comic book podcasts featuring Superman:
Comic Book Page: Back Issue Spotlight #11: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
Comic Geek Speak:
Episode #379: Superman in the Golden Age with The Golden Age of Comic Books podcast host Bill Jourdain
Episode #411: Superman On Trial: The hosts talk to two attorneys who are also comic book readers about the long history of Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's legal battle with DC Comics.
Episode #423: Spotlight On Superman in the Silver Age
Episode #470: Spotlight On Superman in the Bronze Age
Episode #475: Superman I vs. Superman II
Episode #506: Spotlight On Superman in Other Media
Around Comics Episode #200: The Process Several members of the panel who have experience as comic book professionals discuss the creation of a comic book story.
And for fans of the Watchmen graphic novel, Half Hour Wasted: Who Reads The Watchmen by The Legion of Dudes is a series of episodes that looks at each chapter of Watchmen. As of the writing of this blog there are two episodes.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at
Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler-free review blog about the comic books I read every week. It can be found at E-mail to this blog can be sent to

Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and thanks, as always, to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Episode #38: Happy Birthday, Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl!

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), Superman's Kryptonian cousin, has a birthday that is traditionally accepted as September 22. Her father, Zor-El, was Jor-El's brother. She made her first appearance in Action Comics #252, the May 1959 issue, released on the newsstands around March 31, 1959. She was co-created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino, who created this first Supergirl story, The Supergirl from Krypton.
Supergirl stories have been reprinted in the following editions:
Supergirl Archives vol. I hardcover, published on November 1, 2002
Superman In the Fifties trade paperback, October 1, 2002
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives vol. I hardcover, May 1, 2005
Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I trade paperback, October 1, 2005
Showcase Presents: Supergirl vol. I trade paperback, November 28, 2007
Before Kara Zor-El made her first appearance, there were a number of comic book stories published that contained earlier versions of a Supergirl. The first appeared back in Action Comics #60, the May 1943 issue, released around March 16, 1943. Lois Lane - Superwoman was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by George Russos, under the editorship of Jack Schiff. In this story, Lois Lane is injured in a car accident. While unconscious in the hospital, Lois dreams that Superman gave her a blood transfusion which gives her superpowers. Later in the story, "Super-Lois" rescues Superman from a criminal scientist who had captured him. She awakens post-surgery.
A similar plot was used in Superman #125, November 1958, released September 18, 1958, in a story titled Lois Lane's Super Dream, written by Jerry Coleman and drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger (NOTE: During this podcast episode I incorrectly identified the artist as Curt Swan.)
Claire Kent, Alias Super Sister, from Superboy #78, January 1960, published on November 19, 1959, was another version of Supergirl. Superboy rescues an alien woman whose spaceship was about to crash on Earth. After making a remark about women drivers, Superboy is changed into a girl by a zap from the alien woman's ring. Superboy returns to Smallville as Claire Kent, a visiting relative of Clark's. He patrols as Super-Sister, hearing chauvanistic remarks from Smallville's men. At the end of the story it is revealed that the events were illusions induced from "mento" rays from the alien's ring. She forgives Superboy, who learns to think before he speaks. The only reprint for this story I could find was in 80 Page Giant #1, August 1964, June 4 1964.
About a year before Kara Zor-El appeared, a "magical" Supergirl appeared in Superman #123, August 1958, on sale June 17, 1958. The story was written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Dick Sprang and inked by Stan Kaye. Even though the story was titled The Girl of Steel, this Supergirl only appeared in part one of a three part story. Jimmy Olsen received a magic totem, and his first wish was for Superman to have a super powered female companion. Unfortunately, she became a bane instead of a boon to Superman. They kept getting in each other's way until Supergirl saved Superman from a piece of kryptonite, which affected her as it would Superman. Somehow she crawled back to Jimmy and begged him to rub the totem so she would vanish, which he did.
The next year Kara Zor-El premiered in Action Comics #252. In The Supergirl From Krypton Superman found his cousin when he investigated an alien rocket that had crashed. Kara Zor-El lived in Argo City, which somehow survived the destruction of Krypton when the large piece of the planet's crust was thrown into space with a "bubble" of atmosphere. Like the rest of Krypton the ground under Argo City was turning green as it changed to kryptonite. To save themselves the people of Argo City covered the ground with lead sheeting to block the radioactivity. The citizens of Argo City were later threatened by kryptonite poisoning when a meteor shower punched holes in the lead shielding. Kara's father followed his brother's example by building a rocket for his daughter. Kara's mother made a super costume similar to her super cousin's, because they could watch him on Earth through telescopes.
Instead of taking her to Metropolis to live with him, because it would threaten his secret identity, Superman took her to Midvale Orphanage. He created a secret identity for her, complete with a dark wig, and Kara chose Linda Lee as her secret identity name, another addition to the lore of L L names in Superman history. Superman does not reveal Supergirl's existence to the world, but keeps her as his "secret weapon", until he trains her to the point where he feels she has enough control over her super powers. Linda Lee is eventually adopted by the Danvers family.
Supergirl makes her world premiere in Action Comics #285, February 1962, published on December 28, 1961, in the story The World's Greatest Super Heroine, written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Jim Mooney, who would be Supergirl's most famous artist. At the beginning of the story Superman informs Supergirl that she is skilled enough to reveal to the world. She returns to her adoptive parents until the scheduled time Superman planned to make his announcement. On a trip to Metropolis to see a movie, a bridge collapses under the Danvers' car. Linda Lee flies out of the car and carries it to safety, rescuing her parents. At first Supergirl was afraid that Superman would be mad at her for revealing her secret identity to her parents. Superman appears immediately to allay her fears. He saw the incident with his telescopic vision and commended Supergirl for her quick action. Superman then admonished her parents to keep her identity secret, to which they readily agreed. Back at the Danvers' home, Supergirl digs a tunnel from the basement into the nearby woods to protect her identity, similar to Superboy in Smallville. While the Danvers celebrated having a "super" daughter, Superman had a melancholy moment, wishing he could hug his late adoptive parents again. The next day at the Fortress of Solitude Superman beamed a television signal around the world introducing his cousin, Supergirl.
Supergirl eventually became a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and fell in love with Brainiac 5, but that is a subject for a future episode. Supergirl continued in mostly solo adventures in the back of Action Comics and in Adventure Comics.
Kara's Kryptonian parents reappeared in Supergirl's life in a two part story in the back of Action Comics issues #309 and #310, February / March 1964 issues, on sale December 26, 1963 and January 30, 1964 respectively. Part I was titled The Untold Story of Argo City, and part II was titled Supergirl's Rival Parents (The cover story for Action Comics #310 was The Secret of Kryptonite Six). Kara's adoptive father uses his engineering skilly to help Supergirl rescue her kryptonian parents from a "survival zone", similar to the Phantom Zone, they escaped to during Argo City's destruction. They were the city's only survivors. That is why years later, in Superman #338, when Superman restores Kandor to its normal size, Kara's kryptonian parents are there to greet her.
Supergirl did have several short lived comic book series in the years before Crisis On Infinite Earths. Her first solo series premiered on September 19, 1972 with the November 1972 issue of Supergirl #1. The editor on this first issue was Dorothy Woolfolk, and the cover artist was Bob Oksner. Trail of the Madman was written by Cary Bates, pencilled by Art Saaf and inked by Vince Colletta. The villain in the story was Nasthalia Luthor, neice of Lex Luthor (who made an appearance in All-Star Superman issues #5 and #11). Robert Kanigher was the editor of the remaining nine issues, through #10, the September/October 1974 issue. Supergirl would reappear in The Daring New Adventures of SUPERGIRL, the November 1982 issue #1 appearing on August 5, 1982. It would run for thirteen issues and be edited by Julius Schwartz. (NOTE: I also missed this series during this episode.) Supergirl reappeared with #14, the December 1983 issue, continuing the numbering of the previous series, and was edited by Julius Schwartz as well.
The silver age Supergirl met her demise in the famous mimi series Crisis On Infinite Earths, issue #7, October 1985, released on July 4, 1985. She was killed by an anti-matter blast from the villain Anti-Monitor, as she battled to save her cousin. Her death was mandated by DC Comics editorial staff, in preperation to the upcoming revamp of Superman. They wanted to return Superman to the status of sole survivor of Krypton.
Her death had an epilogue in Superman #415, the January 1986 issue, published on October 10, 1985. In the story Supergirl: Bride of - X? written by Cary Bates, drawn by Curt Swan and inked by Al Williamson, Superman discovers a previously unknown chapter of her life. This was among the last ten issues of the pre-Crisis continuity of Superman. He discovers an alien man at the Fortress of Solitude, cluthcing an unknown trinket near a statue of his deceased cousin. After a brief battle the alien, named Salkor, gives Superman a flashback through a mental link. Salkor finds an unconscious Supergirl floating in space. He brings her into his spaceship and returns to his home planet. In his lab he cures her of the effects from a "strange green radiation", with the only after effect being amnesia. She begins patrolling Salkor's home planet with him, taking the name Jasma. They fall in love and marry, and he gives her the object that is seen at the beginning of the story. She is weakened during a battle with a villain. Salkor takes her home, but finds her gone the next morning. He follows the signal from the trinket to the Fortress of Solitude. After a battle with a villain that had followed Salkor from his planet, Salkor and Superman watch a message Supergirl recorded to the two men she loved the most. She had left Salkor's planet when her memories returned, but she forgot her life on his planet. Her memories returned after a later battle, and she recorded the message to be activated when the two men were both near the trinket. Salkor returns to his home planet as a friend of Superman.
There have been several post-crisis versions of Supergirl, but the classic cousin from Krypton returned in Superman/Batman #8, the May 2004 issue, released on March 24, 2004. Similar to the Kara Zor-El of the tv show Smallville, she was sent in a rocket to Earth to watch over the infant Kal-El. But her rocket was caught in kryptonite and she was stuck in suspended animation while her cousin grew up. When her rocket was freed and she reached Earth, she found her cousin was now older than she was, and it was he who watched over her.
There is a lot more to the history of Supergirl, but we will have to hold the rest for a future episode.
Superman Fan Podcast can be found at
Send e-mail about this podcast to
My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog which can be found at
Send e-mail about this blog to
Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Episode #37: Happy Birthday, Jonathan Kent!

Jonathan Kent's traditional birthday is accepted as September 1, according to In 2008 his birthday falls on Labor Day. That seems appropriate, as Pa Kent was a farmer and storekeeper. He was the adoptive father of Kal-El, after he and his wife found the infant in the kryptonian rocket. They named the baby Clark, after Martha's maiden name.

The story of Superman's earthly parents is a long and varied story over the decades. In Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1, in a small panel in the brief one page origin that begins his story, the human who discovers the rocket is given as simply "a passing motorist". In Superman #1, the Kents are named as the story shows them finding the rocket, but only the wife is identified as Mary.

George Lowther, in his 1942 novel The Adventures of Superman, named Clark's adoptive parents as Eben and Sarah Kent. These names were used in the first episode of The Adventures of Superman TV show in the 1950's.

Pa Kent is first named Jonathan Kent in the Adventure Comics #149 story Fake Superboy.
During the 1960's, with the development of the multiverse, the Earth-2 golden age parents of Superman are named John and Mary Kent, while the Earth 1, modern, Superman parents are given as the familiar Jonathan and Marth Kent.
In Superboy #196 (July 1972, on sale on April 19, 1973) Jonathan Kent is portrayed as having been a race car driver as a young man.
In the silver age stories of the Kents, Jonathan Kent is a farmer, but when Clark becomes of school age, the Kents sell their farm and move into Smallville and open a general store. This development is portrayed in the second story of Superboy #78 (January 1960, on sale November 19, 1959) The Origin of Superboy's Super Costume.
Ma and Pa Kent pass away shortly after Clark graduates from high school. After their funeral he moves to Metropolis to attend college and eventually become a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper.
Post crisis, Jonathan Kent is revised by John Byrne in his 1986 mini-series Man of Steel. The biggest change is that the Kents are a lot younger when they find Kal-El's birthing matrix. Jonathan is a science fiction story fan (a nod to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's love of the same?), which is ironic when they find the rocket. John Byrne avoids the part of the traditional origin where the Kents first turn the infant in to an orphanage. He has a snow storm of the century hit the general Smallville area, where the Kents are socked in for months until the spring thaw, so that their neighbors assume Martha concieved and gave birth at the Kent farm.
In the subsequent mini-series World of Smallville, which develops the post-crisis back story of Smallville. Jonathan Kent is a returning veteran from an unnamed war, but in a one panel flashback of Jonathan as a P.O.W., t6he enemy seems to be the Japanese, and the war WWII. Later in the story, his Aunt Sara recounts how everyone thought Jonathan was dead when he was M. I. A. His love Martha Clark had married Dan Fordman, the son of the wealthy family that owned Fordman Department Store. Martha's father ran Smallville's general store (another nod to the silver age Smallville?), while Jonathan's father was a widower who was a farmer. Dan eventually dies, and in his will gives his widow Martha ten acres of land simply because she once said she liked it.
Jonathan and Martha married a year later, and suffered at least three miscarriages before they found baby Kal-El and his rocket. In the post-crisis continuity Jonathan and Martha are still alive when Clark is an adult to lend him their support and advice from the Kent farm.
After the Death of Superman story, Jonathan Kent suffered a near fatal heart attack. He meets his son in the after-life and convince him to come back. Jonathan is then resuscitated in the hospital.
In 2003's Birthright, writer Mark Waid revised Clark's origin, having Jonathan and Clark having more conflict in their relationship. The Kents are shown as younger people, and slightly resemble Annette O'Toole and John Schnieder from the TV show Smallville. Jonathan feels left out as Clark explores his Kryptonian heritage.
Since Infinite Crisis Jonahtan Kent is portrayed as a younger man than he had aged since the post-Crisis revamp. Action Comics #850 (July 2007, on sale May 30, 2007) adds some more details of Clark growing up.
During the silver age, DC Comics did publish a story about how the Kents passed away, and this is the story I end this episode with. If you would like to read this story before you listen to this part of the podcast, go to the trade paperback, Superman In The Sixties (1999). The name of the story is The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent, originally published in Superman #161 (May 1963, on sale March 21, 1963). Clark sends Ma and Pa Kent on a pleasure cruise to the Caribbean. While digging for sea shells for his collection, Pa Kent unearths a pirate's chest. Inside are only some personal effects, including a diary where he writes that he was marooned by an evil pirate. Superboy flies by to visit, and Ma Kent convinces him to take them to the past so they can learn about this pirate. After an adventure Superboy has with these pirates he returns his parents to the present, after they have eaten some fruit he gathered for them.
Back home Ma and Pa Kent become very ill, and doctors diagnose them as having a fever plague, which has not been seen for at least a century. It was believed to come from eating a certain unnamed Caribbean fruit. Despite the efforts of Superboy and the jailed Lex Luthor, Ma, then Pa Kent pass away, but not before Pa gives his famous admonition to his son about using his powers. Clark is so overcome with grief that he decides never to be Superboy again. When he files away the family memrabilia in preperation of selling his childhood home, Clark finds the page from the pirate's diary. He takes it to a museum and finds the rest of the diary, which includes the missing part of Clark's page. It states that the reason the pirate was marooned was because he had the fever plague. The museum curator mentioned that the sailor and the curator who sealed the diary in the display died of a mysterious illness. Using his microscopic vision Clark sees that the diary is contaminated with live germs from the disease. He sterilizes the diary with a careful use of his heat vision. Clark realizes that his parents contracted the disease when they opened the pirate chest, not when they ate the fruit he had gathered for them. He is so releived he pulls his Supeboy costume and resumes his super hero identity.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog, which can be found at E-mail about this blog can be sent to

Thank you for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #36: Alter Ego Issue #79

To commemorate Superman's 70th birthday, TwoMorrows Publishing,, featured Superman as the cover subject of their comic book history magazine Alter Ego. You can order it from your local comic book store, or order on line from TwoMorrow's web site store.
The Superman features in this issue include:
An editorial by Roy Thomas, complete with a picture of him with Noel Neill, the Lois Lane from movie serials and TV.
An article listing the top seven Superman artists. Of course Joe Shuster was listed first, with a picture of him in middle age, and a close up of a sketch he did for earlyBatman artist George Russos. Joe drew George with Superman and Batman. I was surprised at Wayne Boring's picture. He was a short and slender man, and I always thought of him as a big, burly man, much like the way he drew Superman in the 1950's. Most of the artists listed I discussed in episode #17, The Artists Of Siegel and Shuster's Cleveland Studio. Curt Swan, my favorite Superman artist of al, was also included. This article was written by Eddy Zeno, who also authored the book Curt Swan: A Life In Comics.
Next was an interview with Jean Shuster Peavy, the younger sister of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. She had some interesting anecdotes to share about the development of Superman, and her brother's relationship with DC Comics. Her other brother Frank also assisted with the early Superman stories as a letterer. She mentioned that she was never interviewed by Gerard Jones for his book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book. She dispelled his portrayal of her brother as being unluck with girls his entire life. She acknowledged that her brother was shy around girls in high school, but as an adult enjoyed dating showgirls from various nightclubs. Her name for him was a "stagedoor Johnny".
Roy Thomas himself writes the next article was about the "K-metal" Superman story, which I covered in eepisode #28, although the article was probably written before I began my research for the podcast. The article recounts the plot, with sample pictures of surviving artwork, and why DC rejected the story. Roy then writes about the rediscovery of the story. This is an excellent piece of little-known Superman history.
Dwight R. Decker wrote the next article, where he recounts his search for the truth of the legend that the Nazi regime in Germany officially denounced Superman and his creators. While he did not portray his findings as the final word on the issue, he gave some convincing evidence to dispel the legend. He traced the idea to an article in an SS newspaper, criticizing Jerry Siegel and Superman in very anti-Semetic slurs, and an ignorance of American slang and culture. Knowled og the aritcle reached over the Atlantic, and the story grew from there.
The back of the issue contained non-Superman related articles, but an interview with 1950's horror comics artist Lou Cameron contained a brief, unflattering anecdote of Jerry Siegel entering Ace Comics' offices when Cameron was there. The publisher threw Siegel out after Jerry gave the secretary a hard time because he refused to wait in the lobby.
Bob Rozakis writes an amusing alternate history of DC Comics, where All-American buys DC out, the reverse of the actual events. Superman and Batman become minor characters, and the big three in both comics and film are Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman. In this version, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster win their battle over ownership of Superman, but lose the war when Fleisher Studios passes on the character because of the legal battle. Green Lantern becomes the star of cartoons and Superman becomes a minor character in comic books. It was fun to see pictures of George Reeves and Noel Neill in a Green Lantern TV show in the 1950's.
Alter Ego is an excellent magazine to learn little known stoies of comic book history. Budget limits keep me from making this a monthly read for me, otherwise I would never miss an issue. But this issue featuring Superman was too uch for me to pass up!

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at E-mail can be sent to

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog which can be found at Send e-mail about this blog to

Thank you for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #35: Glenn Ford As Pa Kent!

The actor Glenn Ford passed away on August 30, 2006 at the age of 90. He was born on May 1, 1916 at the Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. His parents, Mewton and Hannah Ford, named him Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford. His father was a railroad executive. The Fords moved to Santa Monica, California in 1924 and Gleen Ford became a naturalized American citizen in 1939, the same year he was hired by Columbia Pictures. Ford took his acting name from his father's hometown, Glenford, Canada.
Ford served in the Marine Reserves during WWII, and the Navy Reserves from 1958 unitl he retired in the 1970's.
Glenn Ford's screen personality was as a laid back easy going, soft spoken person. That does not mean he had a limited range as an actor. He had a versatile acting career, playing roles in everything from thrillers, dramas, action fims, comedies and westerns. Two of his better known roles were Blackboard Jungle (1955), where he played a new teacher who clashed with both students and faculty, and the Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), about a son who tries to play a matchmaker for his father.
Glenn Ford portrayed Jonathan Kent in 1978's Superman:the Movie. In the scene when the teen Clark comes home from school, the car with his school friends that drives by has the song Rock Around the Clock, which was a song in Blackboard Jungle. As Pa Kent, Glenn is a flesh and blood version of Jonathan Kent from the Smallville stories. He was the perfect actor for the role, as the soft spoken Pa with a rock hard moral foundation. His first comment to his son, something like, "Showing off again, huh, son?" stops Clark in his tracks. Such a question, asked in such a mild tone is something that only a father knows how to make it work on his son, especially when there is respect between the two of them. It becomes clear in this brief scene, that Clark's own moral foundation was built in him by Jonathan Kent, as well as his mother. What Clark learns from his real father, Jor-El, is built on the foundation laid down by a simple, compared to Krytonian society, Kansas farmer.
Glenn Ford's only child and son Peter knew a father who was more strict than his screen persona might suggest. As shared on the official family web site, Peter said that it wasn't always fun growing up, but as an adult he appreciates his father's discipline, especially when he saw the lives of some of the other celebrity children he grew up with. Not all of his memories were gloomy. Peter tells of learning how to swim from Johnny Weismuller, in the Olympic sized pool his parents had built in their back yard. Weismulller ws an acting friend of Peter's mother, and portrayed Tarzan in b/w movies. Peter learned to play tennis from Pancho Sagora, and golf from Ben Hogan, who was prepping his father for a film role.
Peter Ford is currently working on a biography of his father, Glenn Ford: A Life In Film The Authorized Biography.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at E-mail can be sent to

My Pull List is a spoiler free comic book review blog which can be found at Send e-mail about this blog to

Thank you for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #34: Jack Kirby's Project Cadmus!

Jack Kirby's birthday was on August 28, 1917. On episode #4, Honoring Jack Kirby, we explored his long and prolific career as a comic book creator and artist. For this episode, instead of repeating myself, I wanted to spotlight some characters that appeared in the only Superman related monthly title Kirby worked on, all too briefly. That was Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. As noted in episode #4, DC editors wanted Kirby to work on a monthly title along with his original creations. He took Jimmy Olsen because there was no regular creative team on the title at the time. Growing up during the Great Depression Kirby was sensitive about not putting a fellow comic book creator out of work.
Kirby's Jimmy Olsen stories were reprinted in the trade paperbacks Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby vol's. I (2003) and II (2004) which are still in print, and can be foud at your local bookstore, comci book store, or internet vendor.
The group of characters that Kirby introduced were involved with an organization he created, and made its first appearance in his first Jimmy Olsen issue, #133 (October 1970, first on sale August 25, 1970). The editor for this title was Murray Boltinoff. Jack Kirby pencilled the cover, which was inked by Vince Colleta. The artistic team was the same for the story, and Kirby also wrote the tale, The Newsboy Legion.
Kirby originally created the Newsboy Legion with his partner Joe Simon during the 1940's (also noted in episode #4). In Jimmy Olsen Kirby revived the characters and revised them. Tommy Tompkins, Big Words, Gabby and Scrapper were joined by an african american character, Walter Johnson, nicknamed Flip. All of them were now adults and all were directors of a secret government genetic research project called Project Cadmus. They also all had sons, identical to their fathers as young boys, and Jimmy interacts mostly with the younger Newsboy group. In the post-crisis Superman world, the sons of the original Newsboys were clones.
Re-introduced in Jimmy Olsen was another super hero from the '40's Newsboy Legion, the Global Guardian. This modern Guardian was a clone of the original, who had aged and died. He had been the legal guardians of the original Newsboys, who, before he died, took cell samples and cloned another Guardian.
Another director of Project Cadmus was Dabney Donovan. He felt there should not be any limits to exploring the genetic code. He is credited with creating non-human creatures called DNAliens, which resembled monsters, mostly, and had various super human abilities. The other directors felt Donovan's research went too far and eventually fired him. He faked his own death so he could go underground and resume his reseach freely. Periodically he would appear, and when caught, would self-destruct and be revealed to be a clone.
Two of his creations were also involved in genetic research for nefarious reasons. They were named Simyan and Mokkari. As his name implied, Simyan resembled an intelligent ape, out of the then current Planet of the Apes movies. Mokkari looked more humanoid, but had weird black shapes around his eyes like a mask, but was just his normal appearance. They often did research for Darkseid, another Kirby creation still a part of the DC universe today.
Other Cadmus creations were not villainous, but preferrred to live beyond the Project's control, and human society in general. The Hairies were super-human hippies who originally lived in a forest of living tree houses called the Habitat, but moved into a mobile "Mountain of Judgement". They were led by Jude, whose daughter Misa was a thrill seeking rebel who left the Hairies to be independent.
Another group were the Outsiders, who rode hi-tech motorcycles, and encountered Jimmy Olsen and the new Newsboy Legion in the Whiz Wagon, a super car that could also fly and was artifically intelligent.
Another villainous group which had its start in Kirby's Jimmy Olsen was Intergang, which, again, still makes its appearance in the DC universe. Ultimately led by Darkseid, its secret leader on earth was Morgan Edge, who publicly was the president of Galaxy Broadcasting.
What set Kirby's Jimmy Olsen stories above what had appeared in the title before was Kirby's exploration of the youth counterculture of the day. Even though Kirby was of the same generation as most of the editorial staff of DC at the time, he did a better job of incorporating youth issues of the day. Coming from Marvel didn't hurt in that respect. He gave those issues a unique Kirby twist, as only he could, and made it more than just an obvious take on "relevant" issues.
Also, he could take a creation twenty years old, like the Newsboy Legion, and update it in the Kirby style. Who could guess, from reading the original Newsboy stories, that they would grow up and be able to attend college and become some of the top genetic research scientists of the world?
And Kirby explored the generation gap which was one of the buzzwords of the day through conflicts between Superman and Jimmy.
Kirby was not perfect as the creative voice on Jimmy Olsen, as can be seen in the issues involving Don Rickles. If you absolutely have to know about the Don Rickes plt, refer again to episode #5.
To find some excellent first hand anecdotes about Jack Kirby, go to the web site created by his assistant during his DC years, Mark Evanier, at

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog at E-mail about this blog can be sent to

Thanks again for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #33: Happy Birthday, Lois Lane!

Lois Lane's birthday is traditionally recognized as August 17, according to the web site She is the only supporting character who appeared with Superman's in Action Comics #1. So she shares Superman's 70th anniversary, but we won't guess on a lady's age.

In episode #5, for Valentine's Day, we looked at Lois Lane's history. For this episode we will spotlight a specific issue of Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, #106. The title of this story was I Am Curious (Black). It's cover date was November 1970 and first appeared on newsstands on Septemver 24, 1970. This story was one of the most unusual, if not infamous Lois Lane stories ever published. The cover showed Lois in some type of machine, and in the next cover panel her skin tone has been changed so she appears to be an African American. Murphy Anderson created the art for this cover. Robert Kanigher wrote this story, which was pencilled by Werner Roth and inked by Vince Colleta.

The main Lois Lane story was 14 pages long. After her story was a feature, Wonder Women of History: Martha G. Kimball, two pages long and possibly done by Irwin Hansen. The back-up story, Rose & Thorn, was eight pages long. At the back of the issue was the feature Women of Distinction (no credits). It featured Harriet Maxweel Converse, Blanche Schort, Susanna Salter and Hannah Adams.

The Lois Lane story was reprinted in the trade paperback Superman In The Seventies (November 2000).

During the late '60's and early '70's, the buzzword at DC Comics was relevancy. DC editors were trying to combat the progress Marvel had made eroding DC's perennial lead in the comic book industry. They were trying to combat Marvel's connection with its growing audiance, dealing with issues of the day. Having been in the industry for twenty years already by then, it may have been hard for DC to relate to the maturing generation about the age of their children. But that didn't keep DC editors from trying. The most famous example of "relevancy" in DC Comics were the stories published in Green Lantern / Green Arrow, beginning with issue #76 (April 1970 cover date). The story, No Evil Shall Escape My Sight, also dealt with race relations. It was written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Neal Adams. Among the other topics this creative dou explored in their short but memorial run was drug abuse through Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy. These were groundbreaking stories at the time for DC. Done well, they are timeless stories. Others that were not as good made the stories dated. I Am Curious (Black) can be said to fall in the latter category.

In this era, Lois Lane's personality was updated to reflect a more liberated and of the times woman, or as close as forty and fifty year old men could come. In the DVD Look, Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman, DC comic book writer Gail Simone said the late '60's and early '70's Lois Lane could seem harsh and unsympathetic. Maybe that was what 50 year old editors at DC thought a liberated woman was. In fact, at various times the relationship between Lois and Superman was cooled.

The story portrayed Lois planning to do a feature on Metropolis' "Little Africa", a typical DC name for the Harlem of Metropolis. She is received with suspicion by the residents, much to Lois' surprise. For a world wise reporter, Lois seems naive to race relations fo the time. Discouraged, she convinces Superman to take her to the Fortress of Solitude. There Superman uses a kryptonian device that he sets to change her skin color darker. Flown back to Little Africa by Superman, Lois fits in better, but is treated differently, when a taxi driver she is well acquainted with refuses to pick her up. She runs into an African American man who she saw speaking to a small crowd when she was white. He was a lot friendlier this second time. Before they can become better acquainted he spots some youths he recognizes and sees they are up to trouble. He follows them to some gangsters who shoot him. Superman takes him to the hospital, where it happens that Lois is the only person with his blood type. She donates her blood, and at the end, when he wants to see the person who donated to him, Lois' appearance has returned to normal. He still recognizes her as the same woman, much to his surprise. The captionless page ends with Lois and the man shaking hands.
The editor at this time was E. Nelson Bridwell, who was famous at DC's offices at the time for his encyclopedic knowledge of comic book trivia, especially Superman. Mark Waid could be said to be his successor. Robert Kanigher wrote the story, which was drawn by Werner Roth and inked by Vince Colleta.
Although a lot of the dialogue is clunky and heavy, the story did not seem as exploitative as I expected. People of color may feel differently, and I welcome your comments. I look forward to seeing this story through a different perspective.
Believe it or not, there was actually a man who did the same thing as Lois in this story, about a decade before this story was published. John Howard Griffin, in his book Black Like Me, published in 1961, documents his experiences as a black man in 1959. This book is still in print, so look for it at your local library or bookstore, or online vendor.
Under medical supervision, Griffin took higher than normal doses of Oxsoralen to darken his skin. It is a medication given to dark skinned people who have a condition that destroys the pigment producing cells in their skin. He had blood tests done to monitor the appearance of dangerous side effects, including but not limited to liver damage. Despite some stories to the contrary, he apparently did not suffer any permament damage, although he did have unreleated health issues throughout most of his adult life. The only temporary effects he suffered were nausea and exhaustion. He also exposed his body to UV light to tan his skin. To cpmplete his transformation Griffin shaved his head.
He spent six weeks during 1959 traveling through the southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, posing as an itenerant black man in order to experience first hand the racism prevalent at the time. Griffin's book Black Like Me also documents the different treatment he received when he returned to some of the same places when his skin returned to its cuacasian skin tone. He noted how even people who treated him humanely as a black man acted differently toward him as a white man.
He spent many years writing and working on race relations, and was recognized by the Catholic church for his efforts.
This was another case where "art" imitates life. In this case, while the Lois Lane story is an off the wall issue to read, Griffin's Black Like Me is a must read for all of us. I have not read it myself, but I plan to pick it up soon. I will keep you posted on my thoughts after I read it.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to supermanfanpodcast@gmail .com.

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog, which can be found at E-mail about this blog can be sent to

Thank you for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jery Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Superman WebRing

Superman WebRing The Superman WebRing
This site is a member of the best
Superman websites on the Internet!
Previous SiteList SitesRandom SiteJoin RingNext Site
SiteRing by



Total Pageviews