Saturday, March 5, 2011
Episode #167: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated March/April 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #4 & World's Finest Comics #75!
The first story of the issue was The Disappearance Of Superman! It began with a plane flying out of control over Metropolis. Jimmy saw the plane in danger from his desk at the Daily Planet, and activated his Superman signal watch. He wondered if the Man of Steel would show up this time - or not. When it was apparent that Superman would be a no show once again, he rushed to the Daily Planet's roof, where he and Jumbo (making his fifth appearance) took to the air in the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom helicopter. They pursued the plane, and maneuvered in position to drop a ladder and allow the plane's pilot to climb to safety. His plane crashed harmlessly on an uninhabited hill.
Back at the Daily Planet offices, Jimmy looked over his list of recent events where Superman had not made an appearance: a broken bridge cable, warehouse fire, jewel theft, a charity show and a witness at a criminal trial. Jimmy could come to only one conclusion, Superman had disappeared. He glanced at Clark Kent's desk and thought how Clark, who was on vacation, was missing the big story. Olsen began his investigation in the Daily Planet's "back numbers" file room, what most newspapers call the "morgue", where they file past editions of the newspaper. Jimmy found Superman's last reported appearance at a chemical plant emergency. He let Jumbo remain at the Daily Planet and piloted the Flying Newsroom solo to the chemical factory.
Jimmy interviewed a security guard, who explained how Superman saved the employees by smashing a hole in the roof. The Man of Steel created a vortex, which sucked the poisonous fumes high into the atmosphere, where they could dissipate harmlessly. Today, we would be concerned about damage to the ozone layer. The guard provided Jimmy with a clue about Superman's next job, an emergency on Beaver Mountain.
At Beaver Mountain, Jimmy interviewed a hunter. He told Olsen that the Man of Steel saved him and his hunting partner from a wildcat, which had been raiding their traps. The hunter also told Jimmy that Superman mentioned his next appointment with the Mayor of Stantonville. In town, the Mayor told Jimmy that a miner interrupted a ceremony where Superman was laying the cornerstone of a new hospital. The miner needed the Man of Steel for an emergency at Gulchville, where some other miners were trapped underground. It seemed odd to the Mayor because Gulchville was a ghost town.
So Jimmy made one more stop in the Flying Newsroom helicopter. Sure enough, Olsen found Gulchville deserted. He was about to return to the Daily Planet offices in Metropolis, now that his trail had become cold. As a last resort Jimmy activated his signal watch. He was surprised to hear Superman's voice calling for help. Jimmy followed the voice to a mine shaft, where he found the Man of Steel trapped behind a pile of rocks, including a piece of kryptonite.
When Jimmy pulled Superman out of range of the kryptonite, Superman filled Jimmy in on the rest of the story. He had carried the miner to the mineshaft, and barged through an apparent avalanche. Superman found the "trapped" miners laughing, just before the kryptonite radiation hit him. The Man of Steel had barged into a trap set up by mob leader Joe Cobb, who had disguised himself as the miner needing his help. With Superman trapped, Cobb planned a crime spree throughout Metropolis.
While Jimmy used the Flying Newsroom to drop the kryptonite into a deep lake, Superman returned to Metropolis and captured Cobb and his gang. Then Jimmy wrote the story for the next edition of the Daily Planet, right?
Not exactly. Jimmy told Superman that he decided against writing the story, so that crooks would think that the Man of Steel overcame the trap himself, so that other criminals would not try the same trap again. That meant a lot to Superman, who appreciated the fact that Jimmy was giving up on not just a news story, but also the publicity for saving the Man of Steel.
Jimmy's reward for his troubles was to get chewed out by Perry White for missing the big story of Superman smashing a crime wave. Keeping his promise to Superman, Jimmy only commented that he was searching for Superman. That gave Perry a big laugh. He told Olsen that one headline people would never see would be Jimmy Olsen Saves Superman. Perry White didn't know how close to the truth he was.
But that didn't get Jimmy down too much. Superman had shown his appreciation to Jimmy by printing a copy of the Superman Gazette, with the headline and story Jimmy Olsen Saves Superman.
In the story, using the Flying Newsroom helicopter to save the pilot of the out of control plane seemed unrealistic today. First of all, while I'm not an expert in aviation, I wonder how a helicopter could fly as fast as a small plane. Also, if the plane was out of control, how would the helicopter be able to maneuver into position to drop a ladder so that the pilot could climb into the helicopter to safety?
Jimmy didn't catch the coincidence of Clark's vacation and Superman's disappearance, but then that's one of the conventions of Superman lore.
Otherwise this was a great story about Jimmy's detective work saving Superman. For the Man of Steel, it was an example of never letting your guard down. Unless there would have been any lead in the mine, he could have used his x-ray vision to sopt the trap ahead of time. I have to give this story 4 Superma Shields out of 5.
Later, Jimmy stumbled across a mugging, but didn't activate his Superman signal watch. Instead, he pulled a special fountain pen out of his coat pocket. He hit one one mugger with a shot of compressed air from the fountain pen, and got the other with a squirt of tear gas from the same pen. I bet James Bond wanted a pen like this. After the muggers ran off, Jimmy took the victim to a doctor.
While the physician tended to his wounds, the man clung to a plainly wrapped package. Jimmy offered to deliver the package for him while he recovered from his wounds, but the man refused. The package was too valuable. Now, that's showing dedication to your job! The doctor introduced his patient to Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy's reputation changed the man's mind, and he was glad to accept Olsen's offer. He informed Jimmy that the package was worth $10,000, and needed to be delivered to 721 Dillingham Street.
As Jimmy walked to his destination, he glanced into a storefront window and noticed two men who were clearly following him. No other pedestrians or motorists were on the street, so the men saw their opportunity, and rushed to rob Jimmy. Olsen grabbed the frame of an overhead awning, and planted the heels of his shoes on the muggers' chins. He then jumped into a taxi, but the criminals caught another taxi and followed him.
Jimmy got out of the taxi at a Metropolis restaurant. One crook guarded the front entrance while the other mugger covered the back. There were too many people in the restaurant to attack Jimmy inside the building. At a table, which we could assume wasn't near a window, Jimmy reversed his coat, put on a regular tie, unfolded a hat form his coat pocket and put on a pair of glasses. He walked out of the restaurant and the crook didn't recognize him.
Unfortunately, Jimmy had trouble remembering the address. Was it Damminghill or Hammingdill. Eventually he stumbled upon Dillingham street, but had trouble remembering the correct house number. Eventually he stumbled on the correct address, 721 Dillingham Street. He gave the package to the man who lived there, only to discover that he had only been a decoy. The man collected valuable books, and the latest one he purchased was from a bookseller named Colby, who always delivered the books himself, and used a decoy to distract would be thieves. The collector realized that Jimmy did not match the description of the decoy Mr. Colby had described to him, and pulled a gun on Olsen. The man didn't believe Jimmy's story about the decoy being mugged.
Just then, the muggers barged in on the collector and Jimmy. Olsen got the best of the crooks again, and the collector held the muggers at gunpoint while Jimmy called the police.
Jimmy's reward for his front page story was to get a chewing out by Perry White over inaccuracies in news stories. The address was printed as Gillingham Street, which did not exist in Metropolis. Sometimes, Jimmy couldn't catch a break.
Some captions were a little heavy handed, but weren't too distracting. Otherwise, it was a great story about Jimmy thinking fast on his feet, without Superman's help, even if he had trouble remembering addresses. I give this story 4 Superman Shields out of 5.
At the Daily Planet, Clark and Jimmy read a report about the unrest on the newswire teletype. Unknown to Jimmy, Superman had assisted the young Prince Ortho to attend a private school (I assume near Metropolis). Clark secretly wrote a note to Jimmy and signed it as Superman. He asked Jimmy to go to Greenleaf Academy to inform the Prince of the revolt in his homeland.
Jimmy found the Prince on the school's tennis courts. Foreign agents of Prime Minister Zormio had been following the Prince, and used the opportunity to throw a booby trapped tennis ball into the court. It would detonate when the Prince hit it with his tennis racket. Superman had been following the Prince as well, and caught the tennis ball and detonated it in his bare hands. The Man of Steel then took a tennis net and wrapped up the spies in it, to take to the police. So it was game, set and match, Superman! (I never can resist a bad pun!) Of course, the Man of Steel refused the Prince's offer of a reward. Instead, the Prince gave the royal ring to Jimmy, to be given to Superman so that he could sell it and give the proceeds to charity.
Clark and Jimmy flew to Doraynia to cover the Prince's coronation for the Daily Planet. The ring was stuck on Jimmy's finger. After the plane landed in the small (Eastern European?) country, Clark went to the telegraph office to wire the Daily Planet that he and Jimmy had arrived. Because of the ring, Jimmy was mistaken for the Prince and whisked to the palace, treated like a king. Clark followed Jimmy to the palace. Servants garbed Olsen in the royal robe and served Jimmy a king's feast. He got another surprise when he was met by a young girl who had been betrothed to the Prince in an arranged marriage. Now they would be married. Jimmy learned that there were drawbacks to being a Prince.
Clark happened to be near Jimmy in the dining hall, and, with his vision powers, was able to spot a poisoned milkshake being presented to Olsen. Clark asked Jimmy if he could have the milkshake, because he was thirsty. Jimmy was more than happy to obliged, and Clark drank the entire milkshake, obviously to no ill effects. Zormio thought his agents had goofed while poisoning the drink.
During a crown fitting, Clark blocked an assassin's attempt with a sword with his hand. The sword snapped in half. Later, Zormio had Jimmy smoke a ceremonial pipe which had been poisoned. Again, Clark was able to recognized the poison, and was able to remove it at super speed, so that Jimmy took a harmless puff. Clark suspected Zormio of being behind the assassination attmepts, but bided his time until he could catch the prime Minister hred handed.
The now desperate Zormio forged a document that implicated the Prince in selling out the country to a rival nation. Jimmy Olsen was arrested. The legal process worked very quickly in Doraynia, as Jimmy was sentenced to the firing squad immediately. At the last moment, Superman swooped in to block the firing squad's bullets and save Olsen. The Man of Steel captured Zormio and forced a full confession. I'm sure that he and Kobla would soon receive their own taste of Doraynia's swift justice.
The real Prince arrived at Doraynia's airport. The stress had loosened the ring on Jimmy's finger, and he gave it to Clark to present to Superman. Being a Prince was more dangerous than he had imagined.
My only reservation about this story was that I doubt that Clark would have been able to get so close to the "Prince", but Jimmy could have easily granted Clark such close access. Otherwise it was another great story. It was fun to see Clark use his powers in secret to protect Jimmy. Reading it again at this time had a little more resonance, with all of the political unrest in the Middle East right now. I have to give this story 4 Superman Shields out of 5, also.
The story began with a familiar scene, of the Bat Signal appearing over the Gotham City skyline. Robin entered Commissioner Gordon's office through the window, in proper superhero etiquette, followed by Superman. They share with Gordon the reason Superman took Batman;s place. In a flashback, Batman and Robin stopped the Purple Mask Mob at a lab. One of the thieves doused Batman with a chemical powder. The gang escaped out the window to their getaway car. Batman followed them, but a coughing fit threw him off balance, and he fell to the ground.
Batman awoke in a room, with Robin and Superman watching over him. Fortunately the fall was short, and his only injury was a broken leg. Superman agreed to take his place while Batman recovered, and Clark Kent would also take a temporary assignment at the Gotham Gazette, owned by the same company that owned the Daily Planet. Dick Grayson would work as a copy boy, so that the two heroes could be close together in case they needed to go into action in their hero guise. To cover for the disappearance of Bruce Wayne, Dick would spread rumors that Bruce was on vacation.
Later, an armored car was on a road, when the road dropped down like a ramp. The armored car ended up on a line of abandoned subway track, and the road raised back up, leaving no trace of the armored car. That ramp had been built by the Purple Mask gang, who robbed the armored car.
After news of the missing armored car came out, Superman and Robin sprang into action. The Man of Steel spotted the underground trap with his x-ray vision. He ripped the trap door open, and Superman and Robin captured the gang. They were unable, however, to get any information out of them about the rest of their gang.
The new Dynamic Duo returned to the Batcave, where Batman used his down time making room for torphies honoring the exploits of Superman and Robin. Batman suggested that the next time they catch members of the Purple Mask gang, bring a crook's wristwatch as a trophy. Later, Superman and Robin captured the gang when they attempted to rob a luxury liner. Batman watched the action on TV, as a camera crew happened to catch the action live. Superman and Robin returned to the Batcave, and Batman suggested for the next trophy, bring him a shoe.
On the next day, a member of the Purple Mask gang, hooked a man who carried a payroll onto some helium balloons. The man floated into the air, and was captured by other members of the Purple Mask gang in a dirigible. Clark Kent saw the action form the Gotham Gazette building. Superman and Robin rushed to the building, and Superman used a girder from the water tower to fashion a harpoon to capture the airship. Superman brought the shoe to Batman, who examined both the watch and the shoe. He found dust in the watch which showed traces of dog hair, and from the shoe he found traces of red clay and pine needles. Batman was able to pinpoint the area where the gang was hiding out. Superman and Robin were then able to find the gang and capture them.
The new Dynamic Duo returned to the Batcave, and Superman removed the cast on Batman's leg. Batman was shocked that Superman would remove the cast so soon, because his leg had not had enough time to heal yet. Then Superman and Robin gave Batman the real story.
Superman had appeared soon after Batman fell. He examined Batman with his x-ray vision, and found him uninjured, but Batman did have traces of that chemical powder in his lungs. Superman recognized the chemical as a slow acting poison that was activated through physical activity. Batman needed to rest so that the poison would be able to pass out of his system harmlessly. Robin knew his partner, and told Superman that Batman would sacrifice himself to capture the Purple Mask gang. And so they put the cast on Batman's leg so that he would take it easy until he was recovered from the poison. Superman checked Batman with his x-ray vision and found that Batman was fully recovered. Batman was deeply touched to have such caring friends.
While I'm not sure there would be a toxin that would have the effect described in the story, my only reservation about the story was how the Purple Mask gang could build such a ramp on a road without attracting the attention of the authorities. Otherwise, this was a fun and clever story. Batman showed how he could solve a case from his wheelchair, with only two simple pieces of evidence, while Superman and Robin did the legwork. This story was a variation of a silver age World's Finest plot, Superman taking a new partner to replace Batman, this time Batman's partner Robin. I give this story 4 Superman Shields out of 5. This was a great month of Superman stories to read.
Elsewhere in DC Comics, 30 titles carried the March or March/April 1955 cover date.
Next Episode: Superman Comics Cover Dated August 1958: Superman #123 & Action Comics #243!
In two weeks: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated May/June 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #5 & World's Finest Comics #76!
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