Saturday, March 12, 2011
Episode #169: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated May/June 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #5 & World's Finest Comics #76!
Note: As I've been rating these silver age Superman stories, I've used the same rating system as the podcast Superman Forever Radio, up to 5 Superman Shields. In an effort to be a little more creative and not such a copycat, from now on I will rate these stories up to 5 Superman Capes.
The Boy Olympics began at the back loading dock of the Daily Planet. Jimmy Olsen watched as workers loaded the delivery trucks, and handed out bundles to newsboys for their paper routes. Tommy Blair asked one of the dock workers if the Daily Planet had any openings for more newsboys. He was told that there were no openings, and he was the fifth City Sentinel newsboy to ask for a job.
Curious, Jimmy asked Tommy if the City Sentinel was going out of business. Tommy replied that publisher Cal Dawson was out of money and planned to shut down the Sentinel next week. Jimmy promised to ask his boss, Perry White, to hire a few more newsboys. but Perry was cold to the idea, and if the City Sentinel was on the skids, that was just business.
Sadly, Jimmy had to break the news to Tommy and some of his fellow newsboys. Later, Olsen saw a sign of an Ice Olympics exhibition, which gave him an idea. He gathered Tommy and some of the other City Sentinel newsboys and pitched his idea for a Boy Olympics. They were excited about it, and some of the acts they came up with were, tandem roller skate race, bike jump through a fake brick wall and a boy cannonball. Tommy wondered how they would pull it off without costumes, props or a location to perform.
Jimmy activated his signal watch, and, after Superman came, told the Man of Steel about his idea. Superman had one question for Olsen, what would Perry White think of one of his reporters helping the competition. Jimmy hadn't thought of it, but his mind was made up. Risking his job was worth saving the jobs of the newsboys. Assured that Jimmy's heart was in thee right place, Superman went to work, using scrap materials to build a stadium. (I'm glad Superman didn't have to worry about zoning laws or building permits.) The Man of Steel planned to donate the stadium to the city after the Boy Olympics was over.
Olsen helped the Sentinel newsboys practice their acts. We saw them practice their tandem skate team and the bike jump through fake bricks. Jimmy almost forgot to get to work on time. In fact, Superman flew Jimmy to his desk at the Daily Planet with seconds to spare. The time Jimmy spent with the newsboys began to affect his work. Perry was on his case on a daily basis.
Jimmy helped one newsboy rehearse the boy cannonball act. Jimmy shot him into the air, then the boy opened the parachute he held in his hand and floated safely to the ground. Then a boy and girl practiced a balancing act on the back of two large dogs. (I don't think there are any breeds of dogs big enough for anyone to safely perform such a stunt.) A newsboy was about to test a jet scooter, built by Superman, on a loop track, when Perry White approached. To hide his identity, Jimmy put the boy's helmet on his head. Perry liked the idea of a fundraiser for the City Sentinel.
While Perry watched, Jimmy rode the jet scooter for several loops on the vertical track. Olsen got off the scooter very dizzily. Perry wanted to see the face of the person responsible for the fundraiser, because he might hire them (as a possible replacement for Jimmy, I wonder?). Superman used his x-ray vision to fuse the chin lock, so he told Perry that he needed a special took to remove the helmet. As Jimmy and Superman walked away, Perry wondered aloud how the show would succeed without any advertising.
After Superman removed the helmet, Jimmy agreed with Perry, wondering how they would advertise the show. Just then, a courier approached and gave Superman a package filled with money and a note. It came from an anonymous donor, who gave enough money to cover the advertising expenses.
Enough publicity was generated by the billboards, signs and ads to fill the small stadium to capacity. One act that was shown in a panel was a pair of tap dancing stilt walkers. After the show, the newsboys carried large baskets of money, and superman carried City Sentinel publisher Dawson to the box office. The newsboys had raised enough money to keep the Sentinel in business. Jimmy informed Dawson that his newsboys were all of the performers.
Perry White approached them, and discovered that Jimmy had been behind the Boy Olympics. Olsen was sure he would be fired, but, surprisingly, Perry was proud of his cub reporter. Healthy competition is the lifeblood of America, and brotherhood its heart, White said. (If only more businesses operated with that philosophy.) Dawson apologized to Perry for refusing his many offers of help, explaining that it would have felt too much like accepting charity. Quick thinking Jimmy realized that Perry had been the anonymous donor who had paid for the show's advertising. White was quick to shush Jimmy before Dawson could hear him.
The next day's edition of the Daily Planet carried the banner headline, Welcome Back City Sentinel! You Can't Keep A Good Paper Down!
This wasn't a big story. It was a simple, down to earth tale. It certainly relates to the present, with our high unemployment. Perry White played a small but important role in the story. When he asked how the show would succeed without advertising, it was a subtle but clever clue that he was the anonymous donor. Perry showed himself to be a tough boss, but with a big heart. Jimmy showed himself to be not just Superman's pal, but the Sentinel newsboys' pal as well. He really went out of his way to help the newsboys keep their job. I was a little surprised at the risks the newsboys took to put on a show: the boy cannonball who held a small parachute in his hand, the jet scooter on a vertical loop track and the stilt dancers.
I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.
One piece of equipment that was part of Scoop was an emergency band radio. It broadcast a police alert about a jewelry robbery, where a 21k emerald was stolen. Scoop displayed its value as $8,000.00, to assist a reporter writing a story about the theft.
While this was going on, Clark and Lois were visited by a Professor, who demonstrated his invention of indestructible plastic handcuffs. He cuffed Clark and Lois together, and tested a file, acid and a blowtorch on the chain that linked them together. It withstood everything. Unfortunately, he forgot to bring the key to the handcuffs, and had to go back to his lab to find it. While Clark and Lois waited, Jimmy brought chairs for them. Lois thought that this was a perfect opportunity to discover if Clark Kent was really Superman.
Scoop's emergency band radio broadcast an alert about a tenement fire. Scoop displayed a method to deter the flames from spreading through an updraft, through using large whirling blades over a broken skylight. That gave Jimmy an idea. He rushed to the roof of the Daily Planet building, where he and Jumbo, making his 6th appearance, flew the Flying Newsroom helicopter to the site of the fire. Sure enough, the downdraft from the Flying Newsroom kept the flames from spreading so that firefighters could bring the blaze under control.
Back at the Daily Planet offices, Jimmy told Clark and Lois about how Superman never showed up for the emergency. Clark's seeming disinterest made her question if her suspicion that he was really Superman was correct. Scoop's emergency radio broadcast another alert for a painter who had become entangled in ropes as he was painting a flagpole on a building's roof. Scoop again displayed a plan of action to save the painter.
Clark used his telescopic vision (and x-ray vision, also?) to check on the Professor, who was still searching for the key to the handcuffs after an hour.
Meanwhile, Jumbo and Jimmy were able to drop a rope ladder from the Flying Newsroom to the painter, cut him loose from the tangled ropes and fly him to safety.
After Jimmy and Jumbo returned to the Daily Planet, the emergency band radio in Scoop broadcast yet another emergency, a freight train had brake problems and was beginning to go too fast. Scoop displayed another course of action, involving thermite. (Perhaps Jimmy could borrow some from Batman, but then Frank Miller wouldn't draw Batman for another 30 years.)
Clark was able to use his telescopic and x-ray vision to find the missing key in the Professor's lab, under a book on top of a counter. Kent used his x-ray vision to set the book on fire. (I'm glad there was no one in Clark's line of sight between him and the Professor's lab.) The Professor extinguished the flames and found his key. He rushed to the Daily Planet offices and freed Clark and Lois from the handcuffs. The experience seemed to unnerve Clark so much that he headed for the First Aid Office. Lois dismissed her suspicions that Clark could have been Superman.
Jumbo and Jimmy had flown ahead of the out of control train, and dropped the thermite, which ignited and heated up the tracks to slow down the train. Unfortunately, the thermite had also sparked a forst fire. Fortunately, Superman showed up and extinguished the flames before the fire burned out of control.
After Jimmy returned to the Daily Planet offices, we discovered the "real Scoop". With each emergency broadcast, Clark used his x-ray vision to manipulate Scoop's electronic parts, in order to display the correct course of action to Jimmy. The reason this worked, in perfect comic book science, was because x-rays are electronic in nature.
Lois decided to test Scoop for herself and asked it, Is Clark Kent Superman? Clark used his x-ray vision to manipulate Scoop one more time. Scoop displayed the answer, My dear woman, I'm not that good. Answer: unknown.
Later, when he was alone, Clark couldn't resist asking Scoop the same question. Scoop displayed a formula and the answer Unable to work out of simple handcuffs through formula ... Clark Kent is not nimble-witted enough to be Superman! Clark was relieved at the answer, even though he wasn't sure he liked the answer.
This was another fairly clever story about Clark Kent using he super powers secretly, in order to protect his secret identity. Once again, Jimmy was able to save the day without Superman's help, or else with only minor assistance as in this story. I'm not sure using x-rays to manipulate a computer would work in today's comic book stories, but we still have unusual comic book science to make the heroes' powers seem plausible. Also, I'm not sure that using a helicopter to hover over a broken skylight to prevent an updraft would actually work in real life. But we are talking about comic bool science, after all.
Because of the unusual comic book science aspect of the story, I'm knocking 1/2 point off my rating, and I give this story 3 1/2 Capes out of 5.
Killer Burke was closer than Jimmy realized, when he crawled in Jimmy's window. Burke yanked the phone line out of the wall to prevent Jimmy from calling the police. Olsen reached to activate his Superman signal watch, but realized he had left it on his desk after polishing it. So Jimmy was trapped in his own home with Killer Burke.
Burke noticed Jimmy's souvenirs, and his attention was drawn to a machine gun. He grabbed it, intending to use it against the police to aid his escape. Olsen discourage him from taking that souvenir, and shared the story behind it. A criminal had attached a machine gun to his motorcycle, and fired it at Superman when he tried to capture the crook. The Man of Steel took the deflected bullets, squeezed them into metal balls, and tossed them into the gun barrel, jamming it. So the machine gun was rendered useless.
A small meteorite caught Burke's attention next. He thought he might be able to drop it on top of a police car to help his escape. Jimmy informed him that it was a lightweight fake. Superman had made them out of scrap metal, in order to scare a wanted criminal off an island, where the crook had sought asylum with the tribe who lived there. The fake meteors scared the bad guy into his boat and back into the ocean, where Superman nabbed him.
Burke next saw a suit of Superman armor, which looked exactly like the Man of Steel. He thought he could wear it and escape the notice of the cops. Jimmy encouraged him to take it, but that made Burke suspicious. He demanded that Jimmy tell him the story behind it, at gunpoint. Lefty Orton had worn it to walk right past police officers. But he found he couldn't get out of it. He was stuck. Orton had no choice but to walk into a police station and give himself up before he suffocated. Superman appeared and freed Orton from his armored prison. The Man of Steel had put a secret lock on it that only he could open.
Finally, Burke grabbed an invisibility belt that had been invented by Lex Luthor, and demanded that Jimmy tell him the story behind it. Jimmy informed Burke that Luthor had invented it just before Superman broke into Lex's secret hideout. Luthor was able to evade Superman's notice. Burke ignored Jimmy's pleas not to take it, but Burke put it on and activated it as he walked out of Jimmy's door.
Burke walked past some police officers who had been looking for him, but suddenly began yelling for help. The officers heard the calls for help, bout couldn't see him. They followed the sound of Burke's voice, and were surprised to find an invisible man. Jimmy showed up and deactivated the belt, and Burke's vision returned. Jimmy finished the rest of the story. Luthor had escaped his hideout, but then found he was blind, because when he was fully invisible, light bent around him, and no light rays struck his optical nerve. Burke was mad at Jimmy, but Olsen reminded him that he had been in too much of a hurry.
The next day, Jimmy relaxed at home with a copy of the Daily Planet, with the top banner headline, Superman's Pal Captures Gunman Without Superman's Help! Jimmy thought to himself that Superman did help, through his souvenirs.
This was another variation of the plot where Jimmy outsmarts the crook, with little or no help from Superman, but this was an original variation of that plot. So far, I can't get enough of this plot. I look forward to reading how Jimmy is going to get out of this one. Plus we got some cool stories behind some of Superman's souvenirs. I give this story 4 Capes out of 5.
The story began in Gotham City, with some bank robbers fleeing to the bank building's roof, and escaping on the helicopter they had landed there. The Bat Signal was answered by Superman, who flew out of the Batcave. The Man of Steel quickly captured the bank robbers.
In Metropolis, some crooks heard the news report about Superman capturing the bank robbers. They figured that it would be safe to rob the Ice Show, with the Man of Steel out of town. When they attempted to steal the diamonds from one of the skaters during the show, these criminals were captured by Batman and Robin, on the ice.
The next day's Daily Planet top headline was, Superman And Batman Exchange Places In Great Contest.
In flashback we were told how the competition came about. Gotham City and Metropolis were both competing for the same electronics convention. The convention committee couldn't decide between the two cities, and in true committee fashion, decided to allow the heroes of both cities decide through a competition. Whichever hero accomplished the most super deeds in 24 hours would win the convention for his city. To make it fair, both heroes would switch cities.
In Metropolis, Lois Lane showed Batman the Superman signal. He thought the S could be changed to a B, and later talked with a scientist who was scheduled to appear at the convention. Lois was suspicious of Batman's motivations, and expressed her reservations to Perry White. He told her to stay on the story, as Clark was in Gotham City covering Superman. (How convenient.)
At the Batcave, Clark Kent admired Batman's equipment. Using his x-ray vision, he noticed a dangerous crack in the Batcave's ceiling. Using scrap steel girders, he reinforced the ceiling. Then Gotham City's Superman signal called the Man of Steel to the site of an underground fire in come electrical cables. With his x-ray vision, he saw a gas leak, which was approaching the flames. Just as the gas ignited, Superman ripped the gas line out of the street, allowing the explosion to extinguish itself harmlessly in the sky.
Batman caught an escaped convict to tie the competition at 2 super deeds. Superman heard that Batman had accomplished another one to go up by one. In Metropolis, Batman stopped some thieves from stealing a tank by electrifying the machine. Lois saw him talk with the scientist again. After she left to write her story, we learned the reason for Batman's interest in the scientist. He told Batman about an experimental generator that would be demonstrated at the convention. The scientist informed Batman that the generator would produce minute lryptonite rays. Batman was concerned that the underworld would use it as a weapon against Superman.
By this point the score was tied at 4. To protect Gotham City from a severe thunderstorm, Superman flew a long copper wire into the sky to act like a lightning rod. After the storm had passed, some women requested that Superman build a road to Rock Mountain, where a monument to Gotham City's founders would be carved. Instead, Superman brought Rock Mountain to Gotham City, and carved the monument on the mountaintop himself. The score was once again tied.
In Metropolis, Batman and Robin performed a trapeze act high above the streets of Metropolis, to raise money for a hospital fund. With the financial goal reached, Batman won the competition, and so the convention would be held at Gotham City.
Lois was a sore loser, and had a talk with Superman. She convinced him to count his repair of the Batcave as one of his deeds, so he went to Gotham City to discuss it with Batman.
In Gotham City, the generator was started at the electronics convention. Outside, Batman and Robin saw Superman approaching in the sky. As the Man of Steel approached the convention center, he fell out of the sky because of the generator's kryptonite rays. Quickly, Batman and Robin moved an awning underneath Superman to break his fall. Just before he hit the canopy, the Man of Steel's powers suddenly returned. When the heroes investigated, they found that the generator exploded, because it was unreliable, and wouldn't be rebuilt.
The convention committee did a recount, and with Superman's repair of the Batcave being counted, the competition was declared a tie. So half of the convention would be held in Gotham City, and the other half in Metropolis. Superman would carry the convention center between the two cities.
This story was a variation of a common Silver Age theme in World's Finest Comics, Superman and Batman competing against each other. Some of the super feats were a bit outlandish, like pulling the gas pipe out of the ground to extinguish the fire, carrying the mountain and, later, the building. I did like Batman's motivation to win the competition, to spare Superman from being exposed to the generator's kryptonite radiation. It was an okay story, and I give it 3 Capes out of 5.
Elsewhere in DC Comics cover dated May or May/June 1955, 27 issues carried that cover date.
Next Episode: A Superman Fan Review: All-Star Superman - The Movie!
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