Thursday, March 3, 2011

Episode #165: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated January/February 1954: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #3 & World's Finest Comics #74!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #3, January/February 1954, was published around November 18, 1954. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10 cents. The editor was Mort Weisinger, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan, featuring the issue's third story, The Man Who Collected Excitement! All three stories were done by the same creative team, writer Otto Binder, penciller Curt Swan and inker Ray Burnley.

The Boy Millionaire was the first story of the issue, and was 6 pages long. It began with Jimmy Olsen interviewing millionairess Agatha Ames, who estimated that 48 or 49 cats lived in her mansion. In her safe she found a picture of all of her cats together. Jimmy shut the safe door after she walked out of it, but that was a mistake. Miss Ames had forgotten the combination many years ago, and had never closed the safe door since. to make matters worse, they could hear a cat's meow coming from behind the closed safe door. Jimmy activated his signal watch, and Superman appeared in a flash to rip the safe door off of its hinges. Miss Ames had fainted by the time the Man of Steel arrived and did not revive until after Superman left. She refused to believe Jimmy's claim that Superman freed her precious cat, thinking that Jimmy was only trying to be humble. Miss Ames promised to deposit a sum of money in Jimmy's bank account as an award.

The next day Jimmy showed up for work at the Daily Planet building in a chauffeured limousine, around noon. He entered the Planet's editorial offices wearing a fancy suit. Perry White was not pleased that Jimmy showed up for work so late. That was of little concern for the young millionaire, who soon left to go to the bank to get a clean load of money. Lois commented to Clark that Jimmy was also going to need to buy a new hat to fit his swelled head.

She and Clark visited Jimmy at his fancy new apartment, complete with an ice cream bar. Clark was astonished by the huge wardrobe in Jimmy's closet. As they leave, Jimmy asked Clark and Lois to place a help wanted ad for a valet in the next edition of the Daily Planet. Clark thought that Jimmy was really going "high hat" on them.

One of the readers who was interested in Jimmy's ad was Mob leader Anthony "Slick" Slade. With forged credentials he fooled Jimmy into hiring him. Slade even had members of his gang pose as con men with a get rich quick scheme to scam Jimmy out of his money. Slade exposed the scam and threw the "con men" out. He earned Jimmy's complete trust.

Slade finally sprung his trap by giving Jimmy a forged note from Superman, requesting his pal bring the remainder of his fortune to an empty house on Oak Square that evening. Lois went to Jimmy's apartment that night for their date at the opera. Instead, she followed Jimmy to the address, smelling a story. In his haste Jimmy had forgotten to gas up his car, so he and Lois had to walk the rest of the way in the rain.

At the house, Jimmy and Lois were met by Slade and his gang, who rob Jimmy of the suitcase filled with his fortune, or so they thought. Jimmy had filled it with scrap paper in case he was robbed, and refused to tell them where he hid the money. They locked him and Lois in a boarded up room in the house, where they only had an hour to reveal the location of Jimmy's money.

Jimmy's signal watch conked out when he activated it. Lois and Jimmy's only option was to attract Superman's attention with smoke signals in the room's fireplace. The only thing dry enough to burn was Jimmy's money, hidden in his coat. It took the entire sum of money to attract Superman's attention, just in the knick of time. The Man of Steel blocked the bullets fired by Slade and his gang at Lois and Jimmy, who had to borrow car fare from Lois to get home. Lois also thought that Perry White would give Jimmy his job back.

First of all, I don't think that Miss Ames would be the subject of a feature story. Instead, I think she would be the subject of a news report about Animal Control removing her cat. She might also be the subject of an episode of Animal Hoarders on the Animal Planet cable channel. With that many cats, I don't think her home would smell very good with that many cats, mansion or not. If I were Jimmy I don't think that I would want to sit on her furniture. I'd be afraid my clothes would smell of cat pee afterward.

When the gang kidnapped Jimmy, I wonder why they didn't search Jimmy. It's probably just as well they didn't, because they would have probably murdered Jimmy and Lois after they took the money. Also, I wonder why it was so hard for Superman to find Lois and Jimmy if the empty house was not lead lined.

This story had another heavy handed narration caption in the panel where Jimmy gave Clark the Help Wanted ad, But Jimmy is also heading for a real hard fall. At the end of the story, the narration caption and the background didn't match. The caption said, And so, after Superman leaves with the criminals ..., but in the background Superman and the crooks were clearly seen.

In spite of these reservations, I found this to be a fun story about Jimmy losing his head after suddenly becoming wealthy. Sadly, there have been too many news stories about lottery winners who have later gone bankrupt. In this story, Jimmy was played for comic relief similar to the Jack Larson Olsen of The Adventures Of Superman 1950's TV show. I would give this story 3 Superman Shields out of 5.

Speaking of which, this story was very similar to an episode of the same TV show. Episode 57, Olsen's Millions was first broadcast on June 4, 1955. It is on the Seasons 3 & 4 DVD set of The Adventures Of Superman. it is episode #7, the first episode on disc 2.

The six page story began in Tumbleweed, a small western town in an unnamed state. Gunsmoke Gus disturbed the peace by riding down the street on his horse, yelling and shooting his pistols. He rode by the train station and caused Jimmy to dive to the ground, after Olsen had just gotten off the train. Jimmy asked the man who cowered next to him where the Sheriff was. The man replied that he was the Sheriff, but don't tell anyone because he didn't want to die. The Sheriff said that Gus was the fastest gunslinger in town.

Later, Jimmy saw an example of Gus's talent, when he gunned down a man named Ranny Holton, who had challenged him. As Jimmy watched Holton lie dead in the street, all we saw of the dead cowboy were his boots. His right heel was split.As Holton was taken to Boot Hill, Gus carved another notch on the handle of one of his six shooters.

Jimmy went to Boot Hill, where he saw two men dig Ranny Holton's grave. Olsen also saw some of the colorful epithets on some of the headstones, Guess who's under this sod, after Gunsmoke met Todd? Here lies McGraw, too late his draw! Gunsmoke Gus slung lead, Jo Silas Jones is dead!

Readers were given a peek into Gunsmoke Gus's real racket after the two men returned to town after burying "Ranny Holton", which was really just a bag of rocks. In the panel was a man with his boots on the table, and his right heel was split. As Gus paid his men, he asked who wanted to volunteer to "die" next, in disguise.

While Jimmy was scared by Gus at first, he was no coward. He bought some cowboy clothes to pose as Kid Olsen, the better to blend in with the town folk while he tried to find something to pin on Gunsmoke Gus. It didn't take him long after he walked into the saloon and saw Gus playing poker with his gang to recoup his men's pay. Jimmy watched Gus deal the cards and slip himself an ace from the bottom of his marked deck. The gang didn't take Jimmy up on his challenge when he told them that Gus used a marked deck. Gus sent Kid Olsen dancing out of the saloon by shooting at his feet. Gunsmoke challenged Jimmy to a gunfight at noon tomorrow if he didn't get out of town by then.

The next morning Jimmy did leave town, but only to visit Boot Hill. He was curious why buzzards weren't attracted to Holton's grave. Kid Olsen found a freshly dug grave dug, and his own name on the headstone, Poor Kid Olsen he didn't leave town, so here he is way deep down! Jimmy noticed one of the footprints around his grave had a split heel. Gunsmoke Gus's scam became clear to Jimmy, who correctly guessed that the gunfights were fake and Gus used blanks.

Gunsmoke Gus and his gang had become worried that Kid Olsen was being too nosy, so Gus put real bullets in his six shooters. At noon Jimmy met Gus and drew his pistols. Gunsmoke fired at Jimmy, aiming for his legs. He figured he would say that he wouldn't kill an underage kid and that would preserve his killer reputation.

Superman dove  from the sky just in time to block Gus's bullets. The Man of Steel then took one of Jimmy's water pistols and filled it with water from a puddle and hit Gus in the eye. Superman then grabbed Gus by the front of his shirt, ready to clobber him. Gunsmoke Gus begged for mercy. Before Superman finished giving Gus an hour to leave town, Gunsmoke was already headed for the outskirts of town.

The reason Superman came to Tumbleweed was to tell Jimmy that Perry White had realized that he had given  Jimmy the wrong name of the town he wanted the Cub Reporter to cover a rodeo. The correct town was Tumblewood. Jimmy was startled by gunfire again, but Superman calmed him by showing his Pal that it was only a boy shooting his cap pistols. Jimmy couldn't wait to return to the big city, where it was nice and quiet.

This was another fun story. I liked how Jimmy was able to figure out the entire scam just by the footprint. I give this story 3 Superman Shields out of 5 as well.

These first two stories follow a similar theme, both were like episodes of the 1950's Superman TV show. The 60th episode, The Bully Of Dry Gulch, is not as similar to this comic book story. Lois, and especially Clark, are more involved in the episode. Jimmy was in over his head a little more in the TV episode, but both Jimmy's had some humor in the story. Jack Larsen's Jimmy was played for more comic relief.

The eight page story, The Man Who Collected Excitement, was this issue's third and final story. It began on a slow news day, when Jimmy received an anonymous tip about a fire on Grove Street. Jimmy piloted the Flying Newsroom to the site of the fire, and saw people fleeing their homes with their most valuable possessions.He noticed one photographer snapping pictures with his camera, of the panicked residents. Jimmy quickly alerted Superman with his signal watch, before the fire got out of hand.

Superman did save some people who had been overcome by the smoke. After landing the Flying Newsroom, Jimmy discovered a smoldering rubbish heap that was the source of the smoke and panic in the neighborhood. Some of the other reporters from rival newspapers were suspicious of Jimmy, and suspected him of creating his own headlines.

Several days later a flying saucer landed on the roof of an apartment building, and caused its residents to flee in panic. One panel showed a jeweler removing a case of jewels from his home safe. Jumbo, in his fourth appearance, piloted the Flying Newsroom to the building's roof, thanks to another anonymous tip to Jimmy Olsen. The cub reporter noticed the same photographer snapping pictures of these panicked residents. Jimmy and Jumbo discovered that the flying saucer was only a balloon that had floated to the roof. Olsen deflated it by punching a hole in it with a knife and threw it off the roof to the ground, so the residents could see that the saucer was a fake.

As Jumbo piloted the Flying Newsroom back to the Daily Planet building, Jimmy typed up his report on the incident. He was suspicious about the anonymous tips about the two hoaxes. The Metropolis Police were also suspicious, and questioned Jimmy very heavily. Only his reputation as Superman's Pal kept him from being considered the prime suspect in the hoaxes, but the officers were still keeping their eyes on him. That didn't sit well with Jimmy, so he decided to begin his own investigation.

Jimmy disguised himself as someone interested in joining the Candid Camera Club. He suspected that the mystery photographer was also a member, and was able to track down his address. Jimmy went to the apartment of Alphonse Baker, who showed Jimmy his "excitement collection" of photos catching people in danger, panic or excitement. Olsen asked how he had gotten to the recent panics of the fire and fake flying saucer, and Baker claimed that he had received a tip about them by phone. Jimmy wasn't totally convinced, thinking that Baker could have disguised his voice and called him. The claim of a tip could be a cover up.

A few days later, Jimmy received a memo from Perry White, requesting that he play up the story of a miser who had been robbed of his valuables, which he had hidden in a tree. Jimmy recognized the address, which was near the site of the fire panic. He then received a third tip, this time about a cracked dam.

The Flying Newsroom flew over the area near the dam, which was already suffering some flooding which threatened some of the mansions in that neighborhood. He alerted Superman with his signal watch, who save stalled cars stuck in the flood waters. He created a crude train of automobiles and pushed them to higher ground. Then the Man of Steel patched the hole in the dam.

Jimmy and Jumbo saw Alphonse Baker taking pictures of some swimmers trying to climb onto a bridge, and flew on by. Olsen had concluded that Baker was innocent. His attention was drawn to anyone who was paying more attention to the abandoned homes. Jimmy spotted him on a boat, peering at some of the mansions through a pair of binoculars. We were given privy to his thoughts in a thought balloon, as he was thinking about "rescuing" Barton Biggelow's stamp collection.

Olsen jumped off the low flying Newsroom helicopter onto the boat, and used its anchor to knock the gun out of the hand of "Sneaky" Storch. Jimmy recognized his mug shot, and knocked him out with one punch to the chin. Superman carried both Jimmy and Storch to the Police. Perry's memo about the Grove Street robbery had allowed Olsen to put the pieces of the puzzle together. As it turned out, Storch had phoned the fake tips to both Jimmy and Alphonse Baker, to set both of them up as suspects and throw the cops off of his trail. Storch  had spotted people hide their valuables outside their home, and comitted his robberies after the panic had died down.

Jimmy's thanks from Perry was to write the story for the morning edition, even if it took all night.

I'm really enjoying these early stories which showed Jimmy using his wits to solve problems, with just a little help from Superman. He certainly knew his Metropolis criminals. I wonder, did he have a set of trading cards of the city's crooks? I like the descriptive nicknames that the stories' criminals have, such as "Sneaky" in this one. Why did Superman carry both Jimmy and Storch to the Police, instead of letting them ride the Flying Newsroom, I wonder?

Even though Alphonse Baker was innocent, I still found his hobby very creepy. If I were in Jimmy's place, I don't think I would be very comfortable being alone in his apartment.

I have to give this story 4 Superman Shields out of 5.

World's Finest Comics #74, January/February 1955, was published around November 30, 1954. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10 cents. The editor was Jack Schiff, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Ray Burnley.

The Superman and Batman story in this issue was The Contest Of Heroes, wtitten by Bill Finger, which made me look forward to reading this issue, because I always enjoyed reading his Batman stories. Curt Swan pencilled the art, which was inked by Stan Kaye.

Clark and Lois were covering the launch of atomic powered Army rocket. In space, the rocket flew near an asteroid which had alien life living on it. An alien hitched a ride on the rocket as it returned to Earth, somehow surviving the heat of re-entry. This strange life form created a panic, and Army troops were posed to attack it. The Army was repelled by a force ray which emitted from its fingers.

The creature eluded the Army by hiding and quickly transforming into the closest person, Clark Kent. The alien Clark was met by Lois, who then saw double. The creature changed shape again, this time to one of the soldiers, and was finally able to make its escape.

News about the alien and its shape shifting ability caused a big panic in Metropolis. superman constructed a giant screen to project his image over a building, and ordered everyone to go home because there was no need to panic. It's too bad we don't have Superman to reassure us today.

In Gotham City, Batman and Robin responded to an alarm at the Gotham Museum while they were on patrol. This same alien creature from Metropolis had been spotted inside, and the guards fled in panic. The Dynamic Duo stopped some thieves who were taking advantage of the panic for their own gain. They confront the alien creature, and one punch revealed that the creature was a fake, only a puppet. The distraction was enough to allow the other crooks to draw their guns on Batman and Robin.

Suddenly a minotaur statue sprang to life and used the 3 Stooges maneuver to crack the thieves' heads together and knocked them out. The minotaur changed form to become the real alien from Metropolis. it spoke in English, and told Batman that criminals exist on its world, but there were no superheroes to fight them. It said it wanted to Krllg like Batman and Robin did, then transformed to a duplicate Batman and left the museum through the skylight.

The Superman signal over Metropolis alerted the Man of Steel to meet the Dynamic Duo. Batman filled in Superman about the alien creature. It wouldn't take long for the Man of Steel to run into the alien, when he found the fake Batman knocking down the Statue of Liberty. I think that would grab anyone's attention. After Superman clobbered the fake Batman and restored the Statue of Liberty, the alien creature transformed into a duplicate of the Man of Steel. The twin Superman wrestled to a draw. The fake Superman was becoming sleepy, so it drop kicked a gas storage tank into the air. While the real Superman caught the tank and returned it to its site, the creature went to the top of a building, transformed into a gargoyle and took a nap.

At the Batcave, Superman and Batman disagreed about the nature of the alien creature. Batman considered it to be friendly, but Superman thought it was a menace. During their discussion, Batman was able to deduce that, despite its size, the creature was actually a child, and their experiences with it were its version of play. It had played cops and robbers with Batman and Robin, and wrestled with Superman. Off panel, Batman shared his plan with the Man of Steel.

Batman and Robin found the alien creature while they flew the Batplane, and then got the creature to play tag in the air. Meanwhile, Superman found the creature's homeworld on the asteroid which the rocket had flown by at the beginning of the story. The Man of Steel then fused other asteroids and meteors together to make a larger asteroid.

Back on Earth, the alien's attention was drawn to a train, and decided it wanted to play with it. Superman appeared before the creature caused more property damage. The Man of Steel held a model of the alien's homeworld. It made the alien homesick, and it wanted to fight crime there. The problem was that it couldn't decide wihch hero it wanted to model itself after.It finally came to a decision, but left before Batman and Superman discovered what its choice was. Back on its home asteroid, it arrested two alien criminals as SuperBatman. It look like Dr. Frankenstein cut Superman and Batman in half and sewed two halves of both heroes together in one body, similar th the silver age villain Composite Batman.

This was a fun and strange silver age story, typical of both heroes and their interaction with alien space creatures. Superman seemed to draw the worst out of the alien. It payed rough with the Man of Steel, while it only played cops and robbers with the Dynamic Duo. I give this story 3 Superman Shields out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 30 titles carried the January or January/February 1954 cover date.

Next Episode: Curt Swan's Earliest Comic Book Stories!

In Two Weeks: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated March/April 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #4 & World's Finest Comics #75!

In Three Weeks: Superman Comics Cover Dated August 1958: Superman #123 & Action Comics #243!

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