Sunday, April 17, 2011

Episode #173: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated July/August 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6 & World's Finest Comics #77!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6, July/August 1955, was published around May 19, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢, Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. The same creative team did all three eight page stories in this issue, writer Otto Binder, penciller Curt Swan and inker Ray Burnley. All three stories were reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

The King Of Magic began at the Hotel Metropolis, where a magician was checking in for the Magician's Convention. He gave the bellhop his top hat, and a rabbit jumped out of it. The bellhop took the Magician's bags to his room, and in a thought balloon we learned that the bellhop was none other than Jimmy Olsen in disguise. He wasn't trying to uncover magicians' tricks for a feature story, but was looking for a swindler posing as a magician.

In his hotel room, the Magician tossed Jimmy a coin, which sprouted wings and flew away. The Magician then told Jimmy not to worry, he'd give him a real tip. Jimmy answered, "I know, don't trust magicians." Since Jimmy was a good sport, the Magician gave him a $5.00 bill.

In the hallway, Jimmy compared the bill to a chart of common counterfeit flaws and discovered that the $5 was indeed fake. So Jimmy had discovered his swindler, who was going by the stage name of "Trikko".

 In a flashback we were shown one of Trikko's victims. The man put $5,000 in a small device, which spit out double the amount. Unfortuneately for him, the $10,000 were all counterfeit bills, while Trikko pocketed the real money.

Jimmy called for Superman with his signal watch. When Superman appeared, Jimmy filled him in about Trikko. The Man of Steel informed Jimmy that it was only Trikko's word against his, and that they would need to catch the thief red handed. Jimmy continued to work as a bellhop, and was subject to their tricks. He didn't mind, because they tipped well for him being a good sport.

That evening, Jimmy put on a tuxedo and top hat, along with a mustache, to disguise himself as one of the magicians, to watch a "King Of Magic" contest among the magicians. If a magician stumped a panel of expert magicians with a magic trick, he would be declared a winner.

The ninth magician to perform went by the stage name of Mr. Magic, and picked Jimmy out of the audience for an assistant. For his first trick he planted a seed in a large container filled with dirt. After watering it and saying the magic words, a grown tree appeared in a puff of smoke, with Jimmy stock at the top of the tree.

To get Jimmy down, Mr. Magic walked up a flight of invisible stairs for his next trick. The expert panel could detect no wires or other invisible means of support. Then for his third trick, he had the panel inspect an ordinary rope. Then he tossed it into the air, and it became stiff enough for Jimmy to climb to the top of the rope. He noticed that there was a skylight above his head, which gave him clues about Mr. Magic's impossible trick.

Mr. Magic was crowned "King Of Magic", then proceeded to auction off his secrets to his tricks. Trikko won with a bid of $25,000. That gave Jimmy another clue about what was really going on. Mr. Magic gave Trikko a chance to back out of the deal, in case he was tricking Trikko, but the Magician refused. After taking the money, Mr. Magic opened his tuxedo to reveal that he was really Superman.

Trikko accused Superman of swindling him, but the Man of Steel reminded him that he was getting a taste of his own medicine. When Superman turned his back to listen to Jimmy talk about how the money would reimburse Trikko's victims, Trikko tried another sleight of hand and attempted to switch the money with a fake bag of $25 K's. But Superman's eyes were quicker than Trikko's hands, and so he nabbed the magical swindler in the act and took him to jail.

Back at Jimmy's home, Superman told him that the reason he picked him out of the audience was that if he realized who Mr. Magic was, he could trust his Pal to keep it under his hat during the act.

In a story on the next day's front page of the Daily Planet, Jimmy read the headline about the Magicians had elected Superman their Honorary King of Magic, for weeding a bad apple out of their group.

The thought balloon at the beginning of the story, where we learned the reason Jimmy posed as a bellhop, was necessary, but I had to wonder if he thought the same thing with every Magician he carried his bags for. It didn't seem likely. Also, it seemed unusual that someone with a lot of money could be so gullible, but I guess all of us can fall for a swindler if we're not careful. And I had to wonder if, when Superman used his super speed to pull off his magic tricks, wouldn't he cause gusts of wind through the auditorium? Finally, there's no two ways around it. Superman did swindle Trikko, even though he gave him a chance to back out of the deal. But it's hard to have any sympathy for someone who would swindle someone out of their money. I thought it was a clever story, and I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Jockey Olsen Rides Star Flash began with Superman saving Jimmy from a hamburger. Jimmy thanked the Man of Steel for helping him stick to his diet so that he can make his weight for a charity horse race on Star Flash. Superman has lunch with Jimmy, and cuts back his salad to make sure his Pal got the proper nutrition but not unwanted pounds.

After lunch they checked on Star Flash in a special stall in the Daily Planet's basement. I'm not sure a basement is the best place for a horse, even if zoning laws would allow it. I wonder how the horse could get any exercise downtown, much less how they will get the smell out of the basement when the race is over. Jimmy also tried on his jockey uniform.

Back at his office, Jimmy weighed himself, but hadn't lost any weight yet. Perry informed Jimmy that if he didn't lose enough weight in time for the race, he wouldn't have enough time to find another jockey.

While Superman extinguished a fire across town, Chuck Thomas, an ice cream salesman with Yummy Boy ice cream, tried to hijack Jimmy's weight loss by offering him a free sample ice cream bar. That was because Chuck had told his boss that he could fire him if he lost the race.The Man of Steel kept an eye on Jimmy, and used his x-ray vision to melt the ice cream bar. Chuck watched Jimmy weigh himself, and after Olsen went back to work, Chuck adjusted the scale to weigh three pounds lower than it should. Chuck thought that he had the race won.

Superman continued to share meals with Jimmy to help him stick to his diet. At night, Jimmy dreamed about Superman taking food from him, but he continued to gain weight. Finally, the day of the race, Jimmy weighed himself at the Daily Planet and he weighed 121 lbs. But at the official weigh in at the track, he was three pounds over. Superman went into emergency mode. He took Jimmy to the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park, and improvised a sweat box to help Jimmy lose weight. Then he took Jimmy to a Metropolis gym for a quick workout. Jimmy was still one ounce overweight. As he carried Jimmy, Superman told him that he had an idea how he could lose that last ounce, as they flew by a barbershop.

Just before post time, Jimmy made his weight, and Superman carried Jimmy and Star Flash to the gate just before the race started. Jimmy passed Chuck Thomas around the curve, and Chuck realized that cheating doesn't pay. That's the last we saw of Chuck and his horse, Yummy Boy.

Jimmy and Star Flash won by a nose, and Olsen kept his jockey helmet on for the victory photo. In a flashback we saw that Superman had shaved Jimmy's head to lose that final pesky ounce. Jimmy let the secret out when he took his hat off the next day when he arrived for work. His wig caught on the hat and came off of his bald head. Jimmy changed the headline on his victory to Jimmy Olsen And Star Flash Win By Nose Hair.

Finally, Jimmy celebrated his victory with a big lunch.

Superman's x-ray vision is an all purpose super power for the Man of Steel, working as both an ability to see through objects and as heat vision, when he melted Jimmy's ice cream. Jimmy had to feel silly when Superman bent a metal tray into a set of blinders at a restaurant so that Jimmy wouldn't see any other diners. How did Superman get Jimmy all the way to Yellowstone National Park and back so fast? I'm surprised that Jimmy didn't wind up with broken bones after using Superman for a tackling dummy during their final workout. It was a good, not great story, and I give it 3 Capes out of 5.

!00 Pieces Of Kryptonite began with Jimmy Olsen at a seismologist's office, who told Olsen that tremors would hit Metropolis around noon. They were caused by a meteorite hit in nearby mountains. Jimmy used his signal watch to alert Superman. As Jimmy filled in the Man of Steel, Superman spotted another meteor headed for Metropolis. He flew into the air to destroy it high enough above the city to avoid damage. As he approached the meteor Superman realized it was a kryptonite meteor. Undaunted, the Man of Steel crashed into the meteor, disintegrating it into small pieces.

Superman fell to Earth. When Jimmy came to his aid, a very weak Superman told his Pal that he was weak but otherwise unhurt. Kryptonite stole his strength, but not his invulnerability. I'm glad that Superman read the fine print of his continuity. The problem was that now, Metropolis was littered with many tiny pieces of Kryptonite.

Back at the Daily Planet, Perry White alerted all of the city's media outlets, while Jimmy used the Flying Newsroom to alert the general public to bring any kryptonite to the Daily Planet building. It needed to be done by noon, so that Superman would be unhampered in handling any emergencies.

"Angles" Archibald had other ideas, when he found a piece of kryptonite. Back at his hideout he told his henchmen to spread the word, that he would pay a grand for each piece of kryptonite that was brought to him.

When Jimmy landed the Flying Newsroom helicopter to pick up a piece of kryptonite, he was decked by a crook, who said that he was taking it to "Angles". As he rubbed his sore chin, Jimmy wondered who "Angles"  was. But he didn't have time to find out, because only half of the estimated amount of kryptonite had been gathered. He did have an idea.

Jimmy gave Superman a walkie talkie and a map, so that the Man of Steel could alert him when he began to feel weak as he flew low over the city. They were able to gather enough kryptonite so that Superman felt back at full power.

As Superman handled all of the emergencies as the tremors hit Metropolis, Jimmy put on a disguise, posing as a low level hoodlum. He painted some rocks with glowing green paint and started asking around the underworld for "Angles". He was taken to "Angles" and learned his motive, to lure the Man of Steel there and hold him there, while his gang pulled a big robbery. Jimmy was unable to leave to alert the police or Superman, because "Angles" wanted him there to help keep Superman from escaping their trap.

They lured Superman to their hideout with gunfire, but the Man of Steel was unaffected by the kryptonite. That was because Jimmy was covering the kryptonite in a safe with a lead sheet. Superman captured the gang and tossed the safe out of the window into the deep ocean. I just hope there weren't any ships in the area where the safe crashed into the water.

The next day, as Clark read the headline about how Jimmy helped save Superman, he reminded Olsen that he had a lot of guts to put himself in such danger. That was when it hit Jimmy just how much danger he had been in.

It;s a good thing "Angles" didn't have a geiger counter, or else Jimmy might have wound up sleeping with the fishes. While I liked the first two stories, this one was my favorite of the issue. I was curious how Superman couldn't recognized the danger from the green meteor before he got too close. He could have used his x-ray (heat) vision to vaporize the meteor, but then we wouldn't have had a story. I do enjoy these stories where Jimmy helps the Man of Steel. I give this story 4 Capes out of 5.

World's Finest Comics #77, July/August 1955, was published around May 31, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. The editor was Jack Schiff, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. The twelve page Superman/Batman story was The Super Bat-Man, written by Edmond Hamilton, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. This story was reprinted in The Greatest 1950's Stories Ever Told, World's Finest Comics Archive vol. I and Showcase Presents: World's Finest vol. I.

The story began with the citizens of Gotham City looking up in the sky at a bird, no a plane, no it's Batman flying over the city like Superman.

In a flashback, we saw Clark Kent and Lois Lane leaving the Daily Planet building to have lunch. With his super hearing Clark overheard two men talking about Professor Pender's machine that was going to fix Superman. He broke his lunch date with Lois to follow the men and find out more about the Professor.

The Gotham City Police Department was also after Prof. Pender, and after a tip by Commissioner Gordon, Batman and Robin drove to Metropolis in the Batmobile.

Back at Metropolis, Superman crashed through the skylight of the Professor's lab, but was hit by a decharge ray. He found that he had lost his powers when the gang began beating up on him. Fortunately for the Man of Steel, Batman and Robin burst in. Batman was exposed to a super charge ray. When he tried to leap to Superman's assistance, Batman crashed through the wall, discovering he had super powers.

Prof. Pender escaped with his power cube. Before Batman could nab the gang, he had to save Superman from falling to the ground, when the Man of Steel, forgetting he no longer had powers, leaped out the window  on instinct.

After discussing their strategy, Batman and Superman decided to cover their respective cities to find the Pender and his gang. Since Superman had no powers, Batman modified the Batmobile to become a Supermobile, over ten years before the Supermobile story covered in Episode #156, December 8, 2010. Batman also gave Superman his spare Bat radio and created a Super Cave for the Man of Steel to use as a base, and carved a tunnel to drive out of. Then he picked up Robin and flew back to Gotham City.

Superman patrolled Metropolis in the Supermobile, and stopped a stolen truck by standing in front of it as it approached him. They fell for the bluff. Lois saw all of this, and wondered if Superman had lost his powers.

At the Batcave, Batman had a little trouble adjusting to his new super powers. He landed hard enough to skae Wayne Manor without harming Robin. As Bruce Wayne, he broke the dining room table by leaning on it. While Robin patrolled on the ground Batman handled several emergencies as he patrolled in the air.

In Metropolis, Lois followed Superman, suspicious about the Man of Steel's behavior. Superman followed a stationery truck that had the word misspelled stationary. It stopped at a ship at the docks, and the Man of Steel caught them trying to use a welding torch to cut a hole in the ship and rob it. The welder knew Superman was powerless and tried to torch Superman on the arm, but his invulnerable costume protected him. Superman was lucky that the crook didn't torch his face. The crooks started a fire with their welding torch to aid their escape. Superman used a hose to extinguish the fire, and Lois Lane concluded that this was a Superman impostor. Superman noticed that his arm felt stronger where he had been torched.

After performing another super deed, Batman was informed by Robin that he had received an alert from Superman. After they flew to Metropolis, the Man of Steel informed the Dynamic Duo about the crooks that knew he was powerless. Superman also noticed that the delivery truck tires were muddy, and the only rain in the area had been along the South Hill District.

The three heroes went to the power plant to find any areas that had heavy electrical usage. They found it along Smith Road. While Batman spun the dynamo serving that area fast to send a power surge, Superman flew Robin to Smith Road. The Man of Steel told Robin about being torched on his arm, and deduced that the ray that removed his powers imbedded tiny bits of kryptonite in his costume. After changing to another Superman uniform, his powers returned. Meanwhile Batman carried a box of fuses to reset tripped circuit breakers.

They followed the power line to an abandonded lead mine and fought the gang. Batman appeared in time to help finish off the gang, just as his powers wore off, after 24 hours.

Back at the Daily Planet building, Lois confronted Batman and Superman. She suspected that they had switched uniforms, and was going to print her story that way. Superman decided to play it safe and neither confirmed or denied her allegation. Lois stormed off, tricked again. Superman thought it would be best if the world believed just that, so other criminals would not try the same trick.

I thought Batman made some odd choices in some of his super deeds in Gotham City. He may have made things worse. I don't think that one dynamo would only affect the power line along one road only, but would affect a whole area. And of course, Superman and Batman put another one over Lois Lane. That's a little chauvinistic on their part. Otherwise it was a fun silver age story about Superman trading super powers with Batman. I give the story 4 Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue was a six page Green Arrow story, The Million Dollar Arrow!, drawn by George Papp.

Tomahawk appeared in the final six page story of the issue, The Juggler Of Fort Cayuga!, drawn by Fred Ray, who drew the iconic Superman, Eagle and Stars and Stripes shield cover from Superman #14.

Elsewhere in DC Comics with the July or July/August 1955 cover date were 30 titles.

Next Episode: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated October 1958: Action Comics #245!

In Two Weeks: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated September or September October 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7 & World's Finest Comics #78!

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