The featured story of this episode was first published on Superman #149, November 1961, and appeared on newsstands approximately on Septeber 14, 1961. It was the third Superman story titled The Death Of Superman but it was the only one labeled as an "imaginary story". All three were released under the editorial guidance of Mort Weisinger.
The first two Death Of Superman stories were:
The first of three stories in Action Comics #225, February 1957, published around December 27, 1956. The cover was drawn by Al Plastino and showed Superman lifting up his uniform shirt to show the internal parts of a robot, built with then modern 1950's electronic parts. The writer of the twelve story is unknown, but Wayne Boring pencilled the art, which was inked by Stan Kaye.
In the story Lois was captured by bank robbers but was rescued by Superman, who was unaffected by the kryptonite possessed by the gang. Superman confided in Lois afterward that the real Superman had died two years earlier and that he was a robot secretly taking the deceased Superman's place. Perry and Jimmy overheard the conversation, but all three of Superman's friends swore to keep his secret. Criminals learned the secret anyway and eventually destroyed the robot in an ambush. While the world mourned Superman Clark Kent visited an attorney's office and given an envelope labeled to be opened after Superman's death. The letter inside was written by an armored car robber who revealed the secret location of the loot. After police recovered the money Clark returned to the Daily Planet offices. He told Perry, Lois and Jimmy that Superman was still alive. They found him outside the Daily Planet building. He explained that he faked his own death in order to recover the money from the bank robbery.
The second such story was the eight page third story from Superman 118, January 1958, published around November 7, 1958. The cover, which featured this story, was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. The writer for this story was also unknown, but the art was done by Al Plastino.
A member of the mob, disguised as Superman, attended a costume ball. The imposter danced w ith Lois Lane and apparently convinced her that he was the real Superman. He pretended to be weakened by Lois' glass slippers, which he claimed were made of kryptonite. Later he attempted to steal the slippers when the real Superman appeared. The imposter used the kryptonite slippers against Superman and took the weakened Man of Steel to the criminal's hideout. The criminals exposed Superman to the kryptonite slippers until he appeared dead and dumped his body in a river. The gang then attempted to rob the Daily Planet building but are captured by Superman. It was revealed that the slippers were not really made of kryptonite and Superman faked his death to uncover the gang's plot.
There is no reprint information about either of these stories. The featured story of this podcast has been reprinted in three current collections: The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. III. The cover was drawn by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein, who also drew the story art. What was unusual about the cover was that, for such a somber subject as Superman's death, the background color was a bright pink. The story was written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. This story was mentioned way back in episode #1: My Top 10 Favorite Superman Stories. Jerry Siegel's work for DC Comics during the 1960's was the subject of both parts of episode #3: Honoring Jerry Siegel: His 1960's Superman Stories.
Part I of the story was titled, surprisingly Lex Luthor, Hero! The splash page showed a parade for Lex Luthor in downtown Metropolis, who stood on a small stage carried by Superman, who flew Luthor over the parade route. The story opened with Luthor walking through the prison yard. He spotted an unusual rock and then hits a prison guard. Luthor was put on the rock detail, which, as it turned out, was what he wanted. The first rock he broke up was the unusual rock he had previously spotted. He smuggled some bits of the rock into his pocket and examined them more closely in his prison cell that evening. He determined that the rock was "Element Z". On the next day Luthor convinced the prison warden to let him perform some experiments in the prison lab, under heavy armed guard. Luthor presented a test tube of a serum that the warden sent out to an independent lab. Later that day the warden informed Luthor that the lab had confirmed that Luthor had invented a cure for cancer (such were the abilities of scientific labs in the silver age.). Superman then searches outer space until he collected enough "element Z" to create enough serum to cure every cancer patient on Earth. He then testified on Luthor's behalf at his parole hearing. After Luthor was paroled from prison Superman flew Luthor to his former lair. After conducting a press conference at his new lab in an office building, Luthor was visited by two mob henchmen, which ends part I.
Part two was titled Luthor's Super-Bodyguard! Superman rescued Luthor from the mobsters' assassination attempt, and then gave Luthor a signal watch similar to Jimmy Olsen's. After two other attempts on Luthor's life, Superman built an orbital laboratory for Lex. The mob shoot a missle toward Luthor's space lab, which was detonated by Superman. He then built a special signal missle for Luthor in case of another emergency. About a week later Luthor fired the missle. When Superman boarded Luthor's space lab he was exposed to a kryptonite ray machine built by Luthor. Superman was strapped to a table, where his skin turned green from kryptonite poisoning. Luthor opened a window to another room, where Perry, Lois and Jimmy were held by
Luthor to watch Superman die. Lex Luthor used some of his equipment to confirm that Superman was indeed dead and left Superman's friends with Superman's lifeless body on Earth. Luthor then pirated a radio signal to inform the world that he had murdered Superman. While the public mourned the criminal world celebrated.
Part three was titled The Death Of Superman! Superman was shown in a glass coffin, wtih people from around the world paying their final respects to the Man of Steel in a Metropolis chapel. Among the mourners were world leaders as well as aliens from other worlds. Superman's closest friends said goodbye to Superman, starting with Lois Lane and her sister Lucy, Perry, Jimmy, Lori Lemaris, Lana Land and even Krypto. Supergirl, in her secret identity of Linda Lee said goodbye to her cousin, and was joined by the founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lighning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl. At the bottle city of Kandor the flag of Krypton was flown at half mast. At a secret location Lex Luthor celebrated with members of the criminal underworld, where Luthor described every gory detail of Superman's slow and painful death from kryptonite poisoning. His celebration was suddenly interrupted by what appeared to be Superman crashing through a wall. The disguise was ripped away to reveal Supergirl, who announced her presence to the world by capturing Luthor and taking him to Kandor to be tried for Superman's murder. Luthor pleaded guilty but tried to make a deal with the Kryptonian judge. If he would release him, Luthor would discover a way to enlarge Kandor to its normal size. The judge rejected his offer and sentenced Luthor to eternity in the Phantom Zone. The story ended with Supergirl, flying with Krypto taking her cousin's place as Earth's protector.
While some of Siegel's 1960's DC stories do not hold up well, this one ranks as one of his best, except for one piece of bad dialogue, "I'm h-horribly weakened and ... pained ... by the rays!", during Superman's death scene. The twists and turns of this story lulled me into a false sense of security, along with Superman, so that Luthor's ultimate plan to kill Superman is shocking, as is the clever way Luthor accomplished it. Fortunately for Superman Luthor did not discover this plan in normal silver age Superman continuity.
Next week, for the last "imaginary story" for the summer of 2009: The Amazing Story Of Superman Red And Superman Blue!
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Thanks for listening to this episode of the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
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