Thursday, April 21, 2011

Episode #175: Superman Family Of Comics Cover Dated September/October 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7 & World's Finest Comics #78!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7, September 1955, was published around July 14, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢. The editor was Mort Weisinger, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. All three eight page stories were written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by RayBurnley. They were reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

The Amazing Mirages began with 3 young men saying goodbye to their friends. They were leaving to go to the Badlands Desert to strike it rich by uranium mining. Their jalopy barely made it down the street before breaking down. Undaunted, the three amigos put their packs on their backs and made their way on foot, as an amused Jimmy Olsen watched.

Later that day, Perry White assigned Jimmy to cover the story about rumored uranium strikes in the Badlands. Jimmy piloted the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom helicopter, and recognized the three would be uranium prospectors. He gave them a ride to the Badlands Desert.

When he learned that they didn't even have a compass and map, Jimmy decided to tag along just to keep them from getting lost and dying in the desert. One of them used a geiger counter and thought he found some uranium. Jimmy figured out that the guy had detected the radium in the glow in the dark face of his own watch.  Later, Jimmy kept them from walking into a rattlesnake, and later from following a mirage they thought was water.

As they made camp for the night Jimmy asked them if they were ready to go back to Metropolis. They refused to turn back, if only to avoid being laughed at by their friends. After they fell asleep, Jimmy callled Superman with his signal watch.Superman wouldn't force them to go back, but together they devised a plan to make the guys want to return home.

The next day the hungry guys found a plant with some edible leaves. Jimmy told them it was loco weed, and would give them hallucinations, but the plant was harmless.That was Superman's signal to go into action.

The Man of Steel flew a fake pterodactyl he had made over the boys, but Jimmy pretended that he didn't see it. He chalked it up to the boys seeing things. Later, Superman hollowed out a cactus and wore it like a costume, becoming a dancing cactus. Finally, the Man of Steel took some cactus sap and made two crude rubber spider webs. When the guys walked near it, he used his super breath to blow them into one, bouncing them between the two webs. Jimmy told them they must be hallucinating.

That was the last straw. The three amigos were ready to tuck tail and go back to Metropolis, and Jimmy provided a ride once again. But he convinced them to admit their mistake to their friends instead of just sneaking back home. The guys found their neighbors admired them for taking responsibility for their error. Afterward, Jimmy told them of the tricks he and Superman had played on them, but they weren't mad. They were glad Jimmy and Superman saved them from themselves.

I liked how Jimmy looked out for the three guys in their ignorance, but the phrase that comes to mind about them is, "dumb as dirt." It's hard for me to feel sorry for these guys. Maybe it's just the old man in me, so "Get off my lawn." On the other hand, we've all done stupid things in out youth. The tricks Superman and Jimmy played on them were silly, but well deserved.

I did a quick search on uranium mining, and found that it was done through both tunneling and open pits. Uranium miners risk radioactive exposure from uranium dust in open pit mining, and exposure to radon gas in underground uranium mining. this made it more obvious that the three guys had no idea what they were getting into. It was hard for me to care about their situation, so I give this story 2 Superman Capes out of 5.

The Scoop Of 1869 began with Clark Kent escorting Jimmy Olsen to the Ink Aces Club, an exclusive club for newspaper reporters, which had been founded in 1843. Jimmy had been nominated by Superman. After submitting his application, Clark asked Jimmy to interview an inventor who claimed to have perfected a time traveling flying carpet.

Jimmy thought the inventor was a crackpot, but suddenly a mist formed around the carpet as Jimmy stood on it, and when the smoke cleared, he was in Midvale, Utah Territory in 1869. Jimmy found some old clothes to wear so that he would fit in better, and found a job at the local newspaper office. He thought it would be easy, until he found out he would have to set type by hand.

Later, Jimmy recognized the famous Union Pacific train, and after finding out the date, realized it was the day before the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines met, to form the nation's first transcontinental railroad. He rode a horse and buggy to the site, but the buggy crashed before he got there. Jimmy then took parts of the buggy and improvised a crude bicycle. He finally arrived in time to watch history.

When he tried to telegraph the story back to the Midvale newspaper, he found that the telegraph lines were down. So he rented a hot air balloon to fly back to town. When the winds began to blow the balloon off course, he let air out of the balloon to land it, on top of the tree. Jimmy was able to safely climb down form the tree and made the rest of the way on foot.

Back at the newspaper office, Jimmy found that he hadn't traveled back in time, but it was his initiation to the Ink Aces Club. Fellow members took part in period dress. The mist contained a sleeping gas, and Jimmy was carried to the town, which was a permanent historical exhibit built by Superman himself. The Man of Steel had also built a treadmill that Jimmy rode the horse and buggy on. Superman used his super breath to kick up dust so that his Pal wouldn't notice. Then the Man of Steel made the buggy hit a rock and wreck, and later made sure Jimmy's balloon landed safely in the tree Superman also operated life size puppets, who were the railroad workers when the two trains met.

Jimmy thought he had failed the initiation because he didn't spot the ruse, but he discovered that wasn't the point. The whole scenario was to see if he could live up to the club's motto, Get the news or bust, which he did with flying colors.

While the tricks that were played on Jimmy were typical silver age silliness, like the treadmill and the life size puppets, it was a fun story about Jimmy not letting any obstacles get in the way of delivering the story. Of course it wouldn't be a Mort Weisinger story if someone wasn't having a trick pulled don them, especially when he was joining a club. Still, this was the most enjoyable story of the issue, and I give it 4 Capes out of 5.

The King Of Marbles, which was featured on the cover, began as Perry White announced that the Daily Planet would sponsor a boys' marble tournament, and would present a trophy to the winner.

When the boy who would represent the MIB Masters marbles brand fell ill, Jimmy volunteered to take his place. He found that he was a little rusty at his marble skills from his childhood, but Superman helped him find his game.

At the tournament, Jimmy and Superman met Cyrus Colby, promoter of the Target brand of marbles and sponsor of the Target kid. He seemed to rub Superman the wrong way. As Jimmy played several rounds, Colby secretly photographed Jimmy's favorite aggie he used.

At the championship round the next day, it was Jimmy vs. the Target Kid. Colby asked to photograph Jimmy's favorite aggie, this time with a regular camera. What he actually did was switch it with a duplicate he had made using a photo from his secret camera from the day before.

As part of the marbles tournament, Superman demonstrated his own marbles prowess, including throwing one up in the air and splitting it with another. He noticed a tiny metal ball fall out of the broken one, and recognized that it had been a Target marble.

Superman noticed Jimmy's aggie curve slightly as it missed during one of Jimmy's turns. Using hes x-ray vision, the Man of Steel discovered a small remote control magnet hidden under where the match was being played. Superman diabled it with his x-ray vision, and Jimmy was able to rally and win.

The Man of Steel exposed Colby of using a switch to turn on the hidden magnet when it was Jimmy's turn. After taking him to jail, Superman took the Target Kid home, and comforted him by telling him he had nothing to do with Colby's cheating. Except for the few times Colby used the magnet, he won most of his games on his own talent.

Colby was a scumbag to try and cheat at a marbles tournament just to raise publicity for his marbles brand. But it was hard to get excited about this story of Superman being involved in a marbles tournament. I did like how Superman went out of his way to talk to the Target kid, but otherwise I have to give this story 2 Capes out of 5.

World's Finest Comics #78, September/October 1955, was published around July 28, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. The editor was Jack Schiff, and the cover was drawn by Win Mortimer.

The Superman/Batman story was When Superman's Identity Is Exposed. The twelve page story was written by Edmond Hamilton, and drawn by the classic silver age Batman artists, penciller Dick Sprang and inker Charles Paris. This story was reprinted in World's Finest Comics Archives vol. I and Showcase Presents: World's Finest vol. I.

The story began with someone typing on Clark Kent's typewriter, Clark Kent is Superman. Clark then discovered a similar message on a poster in a hallway, and painted on the side of a car, as well as played at an electronics convention.

In Gotham City, after Batman and Robin nabbed a member of the Varrel Mob, they noticed a Bat Signal coming from the direction of Metropolis. They knew it was an alert from Superman.

When they arrived in Metropolis Superman shared his dilemma with them. Batman volunteered to help Superman solve the mystery.

They investigated several instances where a message was posted accusing Clark Kent of being Superman, including a dirigible. Batman discovered that it had been built using a high pressure, and that the rubber skin had been made with junk rubber.

Lois asked Batman at one point why Commissioner Gordon had said that Batman was turning Gotham City upside down when he was in Metropolis. Batman thought at the time that Gordon just didn't want to tip off the gang that Batman wa out of town.

Bruce Wayne impersonated Clark Kent, so that both Clark and Superman could both appear at an aquarium opening. Bruce sent Robin back to Gotham to find out if maybe there was a Bat-impersonator there. After the  aquarium opening, Robin radioed Batman that Gordon had seen a Batman operating in Gotham City. The Boy Wonder was also flying the Batplane to pick him up.

Back at Gotham City a second Batman was approaching a house he suspected as being the hideout for the Varrel gang. He entered, only to be knocked out by gas. When the gang remove his mask, they discovered that Batman's secret identity was -- Superman? The Man of Steel then took out the gang. Batman and Robin landed nearby and caught a few who were about to get away.

Batman discussed with Superman how he had put the clues together. The Man of Steel confirmed that he had secretly placed those messages about his secret identity, to draw Batman to Metropolis. He feared that the Varrel gang might try to set a trap for Batman, so Superman disguised himself as Batman to hunt for the gang himself.

The story did a good job of setting up the clues, and the classic Sprang/Paris art was fantastic. It was a variation of the theme of Superman playing a trick on Batman for his protection, because Batman was always obsessive/compulsive about catching the criminal. And of course Lois was confused at the end.I give this story 3 Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 32 titles carried the September or September/October 1955 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated November 1958: Superman #125 & Action Comics #125!

In two weeks: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated October 1955; Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen!

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