Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Episode #176: Superman Comics Cover Dated November 1958: Superman #125 & Action Comics #246!
Episode #126: Action Comics #125 & Superman #125 for May 12, 2010.
The stories in this issue were all written by Jerry Coleman, and reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I. Individually, they also appeared in other reprints, which I will list as we get to each story.
Superman flew Lois to the hospital, after she fell off the second floor ledge of the building housing the Metropolis Science Fair, in pursuit of a story about it. I don't know what would have been at the Science Fair that Lois would risk her life to get a scoop on other reporters, and it's never mentioned again.
Barely conscious, Lois heard Superman discuss her blood transfusion with a doctor. She thought the Man of Steel was giving her a transfusion of his own blood, using his fingernail to puncture his own skin. Actually he had flown a pint of her rare blood type from a Chicago blood bank. That fact didn't stop her from dreaming about what might happen if she received Superman's blood.
In her dream, Lois instantly recovered, and flew out the hospital window because cool superheroes never use the door. She created a yellow and green costume, with a red wig, and called herself Power Girl, a few decades before the character premiered as the Earth-2 daughter of Superman. She then teamed up with Superman to protect Metropolis, and performed several super deeds in the line of duty.
When Clark was injured in an explosion at a power plant, Power Girl took him to hospital. She passed it on by giving Clark a pint of her own super blood, giving him super powers. Lois created a costume, complete with a mustache, and gave him the name of Power Man. Just as a pair of glasses protected Clark's secret identity, a mustache would keep anyone from realizing he was really Power Man.
However, Clark being Clark, he didn't relish having powers with the same enthusiasm Lois did. Afraid of planes crashing into him, Power Man wore a flashing light to warn any nearby pilots. When an excursion boat began to sink, Power Man squeezed enough rubber out of rubber trees to create a giant life preserver for the passengers. He saved a house from having a baseball crash through a window, but crashed into the ground. The shock wave demolished the home. Power Girl berated him for finding complicated ways to use his powers, instead of finding simple solutions like she did. For instance, to save the boat passengers, she used her x-ray vision to evaporate the water in the lake so that the passengers could leave the boat on the dry lake bed.
Later, as Clark covered a story at a department store, his super senses noticed a nearby fire. He ducked into what he thought was a changing room, and took off his civilian clothes to reveal his Power Man costume. What he didn't know was that the mirrors were part of a storefront window display, showing one way mirrors. The pedestrians were able to discover his secret identity of Power Man.
Lois awoke from her dream to find Superman at her bedside. He had listened to her talk in her sleep about her dream. When Clark visited her later she told him about her dream, wondering how she could have ever suspected him of really being Superman.
For someone who fell off a second story ledge onto her back, Lois never had her head bandaged, much less shaved. I guess she had her health insurance with the Comics Code Authority. It did seem a little creepy for Superman to listen to Lois talk in her sleep about her dream. Her dream seemed to reveal Lois' opinion of Clark as both brainless and spineless. It was funny to read Power Girl berate Power Man for being so clumsy with his superpowers, when she got it right by evaporating the lake. Beyond the environmental damage she caused, to evaporate the water quickly enough, the boat passengers would have been boiled alive before they drowned. Some of Power Man's oddball solutions were no stranger than any other super deeds by the Man of Steel during the silver age.
This dream story was a fun, if strange in places, imaginary story which I enjoyed very much, and give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.
When Clark Kent received an invitation to his college class reunion at Metropolis University, it brought back memories of his college years. It began with the freshman hazing that was common in the era. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with it when I went to community college in the late 1970's, and especially glad my daughter didn't have to endure it during her freshman year at university.
College life gave Clark new challenges to his secret identity as Superman. When he noticed a car fire, he used his super breath to flip the light switch off so that he could douse the fire as the Boy of Steel and return to his dorm room in time.
During his sophomore year he was concerned that one of his instructors, Professor Maxwell, was brilliant enough to discover his secret identity. Clark's fears were well founded when Clark used his x-ray vision to seal a crack on an internal combustion powered robot in class one day. Prof. Maxwell noticed the crack being sealed, and the next day performed a demonstration on the class by testing them with a lie detector machine. He asked them one question, Are you Superboy? Class time ended before he could get to Clark.
Kent was so worried about the Professor discovering his secret identity, that during the Metropolis U football game, he jumped too high during a cheer as a member of the cheer leading squad. He grabbed a bunch of nearby helium balloons to cover himself, but he used his telescopic vision to see Prof. Maxwell watching him with a pair of binoculars.
For the next class, Professor Maxwell took his class to a natural gas cave to study geological formations. Maxwell cornered Clark alone and exposed him to a piece of kryptonite he had kept in a lead box. To protect his secret identity Clark stuck his fingers in a rock wall behind him, allowing natural gas to seep into the cave and render the class unconscious. He changed to Superman and carried the class out of the cave to recover. After dumping the lead box of kryptonite in a deep underground lake he carried the bus back to
Prof. Maxwell had gotten off the bus and asked Superboy about Clark. The Boy of Steel replied that Clark must still be asleep at the back of the bus. Sure enough, Clark finally got off the bus, after Superboy flew away of course. Professor Maxwell took Clark back to his class to complete his experiment. After hooking up Clark to the lie detector machine, Maxwell asked Clark if he was Superboy. Clark answered, "No," and passed the test. Just before the test, Clark had begun thinking of himself as Superman instead of Superboy for the first time. Later, Professor Maxwell signed Clark's yearbook, Best wishes to the one boy I an sure is not Superboy.
I liked how Al Plastino drew the college aged Clark and Superboy as older than the traditional Superboy, but younger than the traditional Superman. I found the internal combustion robot amusing. How could the robot be anything other than noisy, and wouldn't it fill the classroom with carbon monoxide? I just hope the room was well ventilated. It was clever how the Professor tried to trap Clark and how Kent avoided them. I had to wonder how grabbing the balloons would cover Clark's jumping too high with his super powers when they didn't appear to be within arm's reach in the panel. In the cavern, it would seem that the amount of gas it would take to render the class unconscious would at least pose some danger to everyone. Finally, when the Professor got off the bus, wouldn't the first thing he would do be to check if Clark was on the bus before talking with Superboy? And Clark began thinking of himself as Superman in the knick of time, didn't he?
Regardless of these reservations, I found this to be a fun story, and give it 4 Capes out of 5.
When tremors shake Metropolis, Superman burrows underground to Earth's molten core. He plugged a weak spot of the bedrock under the city with a large piece of flame proof chrysolite. As he burrowed upward to the service Superman discovered a small rocket that had been buried for an unknown length of time. It suddenly exploded, but the Man of Steel was unaffected, or so he thought.
Later, after returning to Metropolis, Superman attempted to stop some crooks who were speeding in their getaway car. The Man of Steel was shocked when the car knocked him out of the way. While he was unhurt, Superman discovered that his powers were gone. Light began to shine from his fingers, and the gang surrendered because of what they saw. After the criminals were taken to jail, Superman announced to reporters that he had developed a new super power. A flashback revealed that a mini-me Superman emerged from the light which shone from the Man of Steel's fingers. It had knocked the gang into submission.
Everyone was amazed about Superman's powers except for the Man of Steel himself. He felt like he was a second stringer, and was becoming a little jealous, I thought. Mini-me Superman detonated a shell before it prematurely shot out of a cannon, saved the Eiffel Tower from a guided missile, extinguished a ship fire, saved a man from being robbed. He even saved the Man of Steel from a kyrptonite meteor that was falling toward Metropolis, by using another meteor to knock it harmlessly into the country.
A gang discovered it before Superman could find it and alert authorities to dispose of it. The gang used a catapult to launch it back at the Man of Steel. Mini-me Superman emerged and sacrificed himself to save the Man of Steel. Superman's powers returned, and he held a better opinion of his small duplicate, and wondered if he was only responding to his thought, or had a mind of its own and sacrificed himself.
This has been the weirdest Superman story I ever read. Now I know where Grant Morrison got some of his ideas from. Or maybe Jerry Coleman was ahead of his time by experimenting with mind altering drugs before he wrote this story. The threat to Metropolis seemed dubious geological science, and I had to wonder why someone would haul a cannon with a live round loaded into it. Superman seemed a little unsympathetic in this story, jealous, moping and feeling sorry for himself. Also, Wayne Boring drew Superman flying in weird ways. The Man of Steel would appear to be jogging in the air or else sliding into base like a baseball player, flying feet first. As strange as this story was, I can't say that I really hate it, and give it 3 Capes out of 5.
After some unusual advertisements around Metropolis advertised a housing development called Krypton Island, Perry White assigned Clark to write a story about it. Clark visited Krypton Island first as Superman. He was surprised to discover that the development was an exact replica of a Kryptonian city. After changing back into Clark Kent, he visiting the main office of the development. Clark met Thor-Kol, head of the development and dressed in authentic Kryptonian fashions, who was actually Jonas Smith, real estate broker. Clark mentioned that Thor-Kol was a wise ruler from Kryptonian history. Smith took Clark on a helicopter tour of the development. It was powered by an atomic power station, and Clark noticed that there were no slums or jails.
That was because prospective residents had to submit their fingerprints for security checks before they could be allowed to buy a home in the development. Smith had a thought balloon which revealed he was actually criminal "Swindler" Smith, and his fingerprints were not part of the development's files. As Clark was about to return to the Daily Planet, Smith asked him to invite Superman to appear the next day to participate in their Krypton Pageant.
Later, Smith and his gang had a good laugh about how Superman was going to make them rich, illegally of course.
The next day Superman arrived at Krypton Island and was greeted by the flag of Krypton, which was floated above the development by balloons. Smith crowned Superman as Honorary King of Krypton on Earth, who later turned on a lighthouse shaped like his heroic self. A moving sidewalk, used on Krypton, took Superman to a special shrine to his Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara. At Krypton Stadium, Superman entertained the sellout crowd by performing a number of super feats. One of them was to squeeze pieces of coal to diamonds. Later Smith asked him to melt them. As a finale, actors reenacted Jor-El and Lara placing baby Kal-El in the rocket to escape Krypton's doom. When the rocket lifted off, Superman thought the young toddler who played baby Kal-El was inside. Smith encouraged the Man of Steel to use his x-ray vision to find that a dummy was placed there instead.
What Superman didn't know was that the rocket was remote controlled by other members of Smith's gang, who retrieved the lead dummy, which had the superman created diamonds inside. Smith had exchanged them for fakes when the Man of Steel wasn't looking.
At the end of the festivities Smith asked Superman to sign his autograph book. Smith's pen leaked, and Superman noticed the fingerprint smudge. His super memory recalled "Swindler" Smith's FBI fingerprint file. With his true identity exposed, Smith exposed Superman to krptonite and made his escape. With his weakening x-ray vision, Superman burst all but one balloon, allowing the Krypton flag to sink low enough for the Man of Steel to grab it. The balloon dragged Superman out of range of the kryptonite and he recovered enough to take the whole gang to jail. Superman then found another real estate broker to run the development, so that the residents who had bought homes would not lose their investment.
I enjoyed this story. It was a clever way that Superman discovered Smith's real identity, his super memory as a superpower. It was one of those things you'll only see in the silver age.
There were a few things that were never explained in the story. For instance, how was Smith able to find out so much about Krypton? How was Clark able to know about Krypton's rulers without fear of revealing his secret identity. It was plausible that Superman could have revealed many details of his birth world, thanks again to his super memory, but that fact isn't revealed here. And where did Smith get the massive amounts of financing to build the development, complete with a nuclear power plant? Superman's super stunts at the Krypton Pageant were typical for the wacky silver age. I almost gave this story 3 Capes out of 5, but I think I like it enough to give it a 4.
Congo Bill appeared in the six page story, The King Of Cages, written by Jack Miller and drawn by Howard Sherman.
Tommy Tomorrow appeared in the final six page story of the issue, Destination Unknown, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney.
Elsewhere in DC Comics, 32 titles carried the November or November/December 1958 cover date.
Next episode: The Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated October 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #8!
In two weeks: The Superman Comic Book Cover Dated December 1958: Action Comics #247!
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