Thursday, April 15, 2010
As part of our commemoration of DC Comics' 75th Anniversary, this episode features World's Finest Comics #71, July/August 1954, published around May 27, 1954, This issue contained the first team-up of Superman and Batman in that title, in the same story. In all of the previous issues of World's Finest Comics, while Superman and Batman appeared together on the cover, they appeared in separate stories inside. Not only that, but Batman and Superman first teamed up not on the comic book page, but in the Superman radio show. That episode was first broadcast on September 5, 1945. Robin first made an appearance, with Batman making his first appearance on the episode first broadcast on September 10, 1945. Also, their first comic book team up was not published in the pages of World's Finest Comics, but in the pages of Superman #76, May/June 1952, published on March 7, 1952. For more on that issue, andas well as a more detailed history of the Superman / Batman team, go to the Golden Age Of Comics Podcast, hosted by Bill Jourdain, episode #58, August 24, 2008: http://goldenagecomics.org/wordpress/2008/08/24/golden-age-of-comic-books-august-24-2008-58/.
The reason that Superman and Batman first teamed up in the same story in World's Finest Comics #71 was that it was the first issue of that title that had a lower page count. All of the previous issues had contained 64 pages, as did most of the golden age comic books at that time. By the early 1950's, printing costs had risen so that DC had to cut its page count in order to keep comics books at its traditional 10 cent cover price. With World's Finest the editors decided to team up Superman and Batman instead of dropping one of them from the title. It seems a can't lose idea in hindsight, but DC was not known for being the most forward looking comic book publisher at that time.
World's Finest Comics #70, May/June 1954, published around March 25, 1954, was the last 64 page issue of that title. The editor was Jack Schiff and the cover artist was J. Winslow Mortimer. It showed a humorous scene of Superman, Robin and Batman sitting at a shoeshine booth on a city street. The first story featured Superman in the twelve page story The Two Faces Of Superman, drawn by Al Plastino. Next was the four page story Casebook Mystery: The Racketeer's Revenge drawn by William "Bill" Ely. Green Arrow was featured in the ten page thrid story, The Joust Of Jeopardy, drawn by George Papp. After Green Arrow was Jimminy and the Magic Book in the four page story The Tale Of A Cat, written and drawn by Howie Post. Next was the period adventure character Tomahawk in the ten page story, The Burning Of Bonneville, written by Dave Wood and drawn by Nicholas Peter Cardy. After Tomahawk was the five page sotry, A Day In The Life Of A Paratrooper, reprinted from Real Facts Comics #21, July/Agust 1949, published around May 20, 1949. That story was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by John Fischetti. The final story of the issue featured Batman, in the twelve page story, The Crime Consultant, written by uncreditied Batman co-creator Bill Finger and drawn by Dick Sprang.
World's Finest Comics #71 had only 32 pages for ten cents. Jack Schiff was still the editor and J. Winslow Mortimer also drew this cover. It featured Batman using his own body as a shield to protect Superman and Robin from machine gun bullets. This issue only contained three stories. The first story featured the title's first Superman/Batman team-up, Batman - Double For Superman, written by Alvin Schwartz, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. This story was reprinted in World's Finest Comics Archives Vol. I, Showcase Presents: World's Finest vol. I and in the Millenium Edition: World's Finest Comics #71 (M. E. #35), August 2000, published on June 21, 2000. The second story featured Green Arrow in the six page story, The Invisible Death, written by France E. Herron and drawn by George Papp. The final, six page, storywas Feathered Fighters For Freedom, starring Tomahawk, written by Dave Wood and drawn by Nicholas Peter Cardy (I'm not sure if this is the same comic book artist later known as Nick Cardy).
The Superman and Batman story opened with an amphibious helicopter sitting on the water off the coast of Metropolis. A diver climbed back into the helicopter after finding a certain rock on the ocean floor. The helicopter flew into the air, and was chased by the Batplane. It was on autopilot while Batman and Robin climbed down ladders to board the helicopter. (I couldn't help but wonder how the Dynamic Duo could hold onto the rope ladders at such arispeeds, much less get around the helicopter blades to board the chopper. But that's comic books for the era.) We learn that the rock the diver had found was a piece of kryptonite. Batman and Robin discovered that the helicopter was armed when a gun on board shot down the Batplane, with the Dynamic Duo still hanging on the ropes.
Clark Kent saw the Batplane falling in a nosedive over Metropolis. He was seen changing into Superman by Lois Lane. He used the entrance canopy of a nearby building to cushion the Dynamic Duo's fall and then caught the Batplane in midair. Batman and Superman decided to swithch places and team up on the case. They were more scared of Lois Lane than they were of the kryptonite weilding crooks.
Superman, dressed as Batman, flew over the outskirts of Metropolis and spotted the hidden helicopter and the criminals' lair. He snuck into an open window of their hideout and fell unconscious because of the krptonite the crooks had happened to leave in the room, which he did not notice beforehand.
Batman, as Superman, "flew" down to Lois on the sidewalk outside the Daily Planet building (with the help of Robin's batrope). Inside the Planet building, Bruce Wayne intentionally let Lois see him changing out of Superman's costume. She was immediately suspicious, and thought that Bruce was possibly attemping to trick her and throw her off the trail of Superman's true identity. Bruce agreed to be interviewed by Lois over dinner. Robin then eavesdropped on Lois making a phone call to a lion tamer.
At their picnic dinner lions appear, but Bruce appearedseemed to knock them out. That made Lois wonder if Bruce could possibly be Superman after all. Later, at Wayme Manor, Bruce informed Dick that he spoke the lion tamer's commands to make the big cats play dead.
The next day, at a museum, Lois broke a pair of scissors while trying to cut a lock of Bruce's hair. Later Bruce told Dick that he had previously broke her scissors and glued them together so that they would fall apart when Lois tried to cut with them.
The next day, Bruce, again as Superman, helped Lois move her furniture. She appeared at her home as the fake Superman finished loading the moving van, lift it and fly away. The van happened to be a fake, loaded with helium balloons, and the furniture was fake cardboard copies. (What was unexplained was how Bruce was able to make paper copies of Lois' furniture overnight. I guess when you're as rich as Bruce you can nire enough people to get the job done in time). Bruce spotted the helicopter as the "van" floated overhead. Lois had been watching with a pair of binoculars and drove to the spot.
Superman, actually Bruce Wayne, swooped into the window much like George Reeves did in the 1950's Superman TV show. Bullets bounce off of Superman's costume (we can only assume that Superman's invulnerable costume cushioned Bruce from the bullets' impact). He faked out the crooks by threatening to bring down the house on top of everyone by knocking down two pillars. Lois climbed through a window and found an unconscious Batman. Pulling back his cowl, Lois at first thought he was Superman, but since he couldn't be hurt, it must be Clark. Superman/Bruce found Lois standing over Batman/Clark. He took Clark out of the window and asked Lois to call the police to pick up the crooks. The real Superman revived as soon as they got out of range of the kryptonite. They switched back to their regular uniforms, and the real Superman flew Lois back to the Daily Planet building (and thinking how lucky he was that Lois didn't see the kryptonite in the room).
By this point Lois was convinced that Bruce Wayne was Batman, until she sees Bruce waiting for her in her Daily Planet office. At first Lois was confused, then none too happy with Superman for tricking her into thinking that Bruce was really him. So the story ended with the Man Of Steel in her doghouse, at least until the next issue.
Next Episode: The Daily Planet: Thursday, June 28, 1973!
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