Saturday, November 15, 2008

Episode #48: Superman In The Army!

This Veteran's Day, Tuesday, November 11, 2008 was the first Veteran's Day with my son Will in the Marines. He is now a Lance Corporal. On Friday, November 14, he enjoyed his first Marine Ball, celebrating the 233rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

The features for this Veteran's Day are two Superman stories involving the Army. The first story is The Super Sergeant from Superman #122, the July 1958 issue, approximately on sale on May 1, 1958. (It was the next story in the issue, after Superman In The White House, which was covered in the previous episode of this podcast.) The story was written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives, vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I. The second story is Superman Goes To War from Superman #161, May 1963, originally on the newsstands on March 21, 1963. The writer was Edmund Hamilton, penciller was Curt Swan and inker George Klein. The only reprint of this story is in Showcase Presents: Superman vol. IV. If you would like to read these stories before you listen to this episode, check out these reprint editions.

The Super Sergeant opens at Camp Metropolis, the army base near Metropolis. At reveille Pvt. Jones jumps out of bed and flies to the ceiling. He then graps a towel and his toiletries bag and flies to the showers ahead of his bunkmates. In the showers he stands under scalding hot water without feeling a thing. At breakfast in the mess hall he uses heat vision to warm up his cold oatmeal and later bends the steel barrel of a rifle. Superman eavesdrops on Pvt. Jones, unsurprised at his sudden super-abilities.

Superman flashes back to the previous day, when he was testing a new invention for some scientists. A lightning bolt hits Superman, and he sees the energy bouncing off of him and flowing into Pvt. Jones. In the present, Pvt. Jones is ordered to carry out the trash. In response he throws the garbage can to the dump, miles away. The trash can almost crashes into the Daily Planet Flying Newsroom helicopter, which is piloted by Jimmy Olsen. But Superman saves the helicopter from the collision. After Jimmy lands the helicpter, he and Superman come upon Pvt. Jones, who is lifting a tank for a mechanic to work on it. Jimmy opens a lead box containing kryptonite, which begins to weaken Pvt. Jones. Superman stops Jimmy, but does not divulge his reasons for allowing Pvt. Jones to retain his superpowers.

After Jimmy returns to the Daily Planet Superman follows two civilians he suspects of being spies. Later, Superman returns to the Daily Planet, where Perry assigns him to cover the story of Super Pvt. Jones, as a soldier for a day. The Camp Commander introduces Clark to Pvt. Jones. Both men perform K. P. for a photo opportunity, with Pvt. Jones working at super speed and Clark as slow as a normal human. Pvt. Jones then sweeps out the barracks with his super breath. The camp Commander promotes Jones to sergeant. Clark secretly uses his x-ray vision and super-hearing to keep tabs on the spies, who are observing the super soldier. Sgt. Jones uses his powers during maneuvers, and Clark overhears the spies suspect that Sgt. Jones is Superman in disguise. To correct their assumption he arranges, as Superman, to engage Sgt. jones in mock battle.

The spies suspect that Superman has invented a way to transfer his superpowers to American soldiers, then flee to the coast. They take a raft and row to a waiting sub, which transmits the information to their unknown base. It is revealed that Superman was working with the FBI, who had blown the spies cover. Superman used Sgt. Jones to feed the spies false information, forcing their foreign government to cancel their battle plans agains the USA. Superman then retreives Jimmy's sample of kryptonite and exposes Sgt. Jones to its radiation, removing his super powers permanently. K. P. the next morning is not as enjoyable for Sgt. Jones as it was the day before.

In Superman Goes To War Clark finds himself as an extra in a war movie, along with Perry, Lois and Jimmy. The U. S. Armed Forces loan equipment and personell for the movie. The Daily Planet staff board a landing craft aboard a U. S. naval ship, to be part of a scene showing a mock invasion on an uninhabited island. Clark uses his vision powers to discover that the return fire is not coming from the movie crew because live rounds are being used. Fortuneately no damage or casualties occur. After the cast and crew have landed, the director asks for someone to approach the unknown forces with a white flag to attempt to solve this misunderstanding. They suspect that secluded troops are unaware that WWII has ended (which was a real-life occurence into the 1970's). Clark volunteers, but an artillery shell explodes near him, ripping a hole in his sleeve.

To protect his secret identity he uses his superr-ventriloquism to call Supergirl. She gets a first aid kit from Lois, to gove Clark a "life saving transfusion". She wraps a bandage around Clark's ripped sleeve and flies off for a mock emergency mission. Clark jumps out of the foxhole he was in and appears to have gained superpowers from Supergirl's transfusion of her own blood. Secretly changing to Superman, he demolishes enemy tanks, allowing the soldiers to escape unharmed. When he notices that the enemy all are wearing gas masks, he uses his heat vision to harmlessly cut the straps on a few soldiers. They begin to cough, and their reaction confirms his suspicions. Superman flies to an extinguised volcano crater and grinds minerals, releasing chlorine gas, and retrieves the exposed soldiers to the chlorine cloud. He had noticed that chlorine gas was in the tanks he destroyed.

One of the soldiers explains to Superman that they are aliens who were exploring space. Their spaceship was damaged near Earth, and they landed on this island. Superman helps them repair their ship so they can continue their journey. Superman changes back to his Army uniform as Clark and feigns disorientation, as the superpowered effects of Supergirl's "transfusion" wears off, when he rejoins Lois and Jimmy.

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

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