Thursday, June 2, 2011

Episode #180: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated January 1959: Superman #126 & Action Comics #248!

Superman #126, January 1959, was published around November 6, 1958. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. The editor was Mort Weisinger and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kay. All three stories in this issue were reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

The first story of the issue was the ten page tale, Superman's Hunt For Clark Kent, written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye.

Clark Kent went on vacation, but Superman is never on vacation. He went to his Fortress of Solitude, experimenting on a kryptonite antidote after a recent close call with a kryptonite trap.

He took the vat of the chemical outside the Fortress so that the fumes would not damage any equipment. After heating the solution with his x-ray vision, the formula exploded, bombarding the Man of Steel with kryptonite fragments. Superman physically recovered, but had a case of amnesia.

The Man of Steel was attacked by a polar bear, and discovered that he was invulnerable when the bear's claws broke on his skin. Later he slid off the edge of a glacier and discovered he could fly. So he decided to fly back to civilization to find people who could help him recover his memory.

Instinctively, Superman flew to none other than the city of Metropolis, and discovered that his name was Superman from the pedestrians who watched him fly overhead. He found a Superman museum, and was able to learn more about himself. Searching the files of newspaper clippings, the Man of Steel discovered he had a secret identity.

At Clark Kent's apartment, his landlord hired painters to repaint his apartment as a surprise. She instructed the painters to make sure they painted all of the closets. Clark had a secret closet filled with Superman artifacts.

Superman walked the streets of Metropolis trying to figure out a temporary secret identity until he could recover his memory. By chance he met a British tourist who gave him a suitcase of clothes that no longer fit him since he had gained weight during his American tour. The clothes fit the Man of Steel, and he powdered his hair to disguise himself and decided to call himself Clarence Kelvin. Superman even adopted a British accent.

Again on instinct, he went to the Daily Planet building and was hired by Perry White as a reporter. Kelvin was even temporarily assigned to Clark Kent's desk while Clark was on vacation, and was introduced to Planet staffers Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

One of the painters seemed to have found a hollow part of the wall, and wondered if there was a secret closet behind the wall.

Using his x-ray vision, Kelvin discovered that a rowboat was endangered by a whale chasing fish. To cover himself he took his tea time and rescued the rowboat as the Man of Steel. When he wrote a report on Superman's rescue after his return to the Daily Planet, Lois began to suspect that he was the Man of Steel.

Later, Superman consulted some scientists about his amnesia. They attempted several experiments to jar his memory, from electrocution, exploding bomb, firing out of a cannon and liquid hydrogen. Nothing seemed to work.

Back at Clark Kent's apartment, the curious painter had discovered the edge of a secret closet, but was unable to open it so far.

After consulting the Superman Museum one more time, he got an idea how he could discover his true secret identity. He created a giant lens and, adjusting his distance from Earth, was able to see scenes from several days ago in Metropolis. Superman was able to see himself change from Clark Kent to Superman. He recognized Clark's picture from his desk at the Daily Planet.

Memory restored, Superman flew back to Metropolis just in time to disable the switch to the secret closet in Clark Kent's apartment. He was able to prevent the curious painter from accidentally discovering his secret identity.

The Man of Steel returned to the Daily Planet as Clarence Kelvin, and purposely revealed his secret identity to Lois by typing at super speed. He tempered her joy at finally discovering his secret identity by reminding her that all he had to do was adopt a new secret identity.

This is at least the second vacation Clark Kent has taken since we began exploring the silver age Superman stories in order of publication. It was an interesting story which almost treated Clark and Superman as two different people.

It was quite a coincidence that Superman returned to Metropolis and the Daily Planet on instinct, with his memory loss. He also took a different secret identity using his real initials. I'm curious if the same thing has happened to real amnesia victims.

The story had the double jeopardy of the Man of Steel's memory loss and the threat of his secret identity being revealed. It effectively increased the tension in the story.

While it seemed improbable that Superman could use a crude telescopic lens to see past events in Metropolis, this was a fun and interesting story. What I liked most about it was that it gave Superman a different adversary, his own mind, and I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

The eight page story The Spell Of The Shandu Clock was written by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It began as Superman exposed the magician Shandu as a fraud. Shandu promised to haunt the Man of Steel after his death.

A few days later Perry White informed Superman that Shandu had died at sea. The Man of Steel gave Lois and Jimmy a lift to Shandu's home to cover the story. At Shandu's address they found a huge clock sitting on the front lawn. A Superman replica came out of the clock and rang the gong. When that happened, the Man of Steel went into a trance and flew far away and did something odd.

Each time the Shandy clock rang on the hour, Superman went into a trance for twenty minutes and did something odd each time. The Metropolis Police Commissioner and the Daily Planet staff were concerned. They had heard rumors that the Fallon gang had some type of weapon to commit crimes with, and would use the situation to spring into action while Superman was gone.

Everyone had reason to be nervous, because the Fallon gang timed their plan to Shandu's clock. When they saw Superman fly away under another trap, they used their Sonic Vibrator to break into a bank. The metallic Superman from Shandu's clock approached from the air, and the gang hit it with a blast from their weapon. To their surprise, the metallic figure shattered to reveal the real Superman. He made short work of the gang.

The Man of Steel revealed the entire plan to Lois. It had been the Police Commissioner's idea, in order to draw the Fallon gang in the open while the Man of Steel was in town.. Superman had been in the clock the whole time, disguised as the clock figure. The Superman everyone saw fly away was a robot the Man of Steel controlled from inside the giant clock. It turned out that Shandu was alive after all. He had faked his death as part of the Commissioner's plan.

Reading this story a second time, I liked it a little better than the first time. The whole scheme was a little too outlandish, with the giant clock, although it was a clever way to manipulate the gang to spring their plan. My main question was if it was a robot that carried Lois and Jimmy to Shandu's house at the beginning of the story. This story was full of crazy silver age comic book plot devices, and I give it 3 Superman Shields out of 5.

The third and final story of the issue was The Two Faces Of Superman. The eight page story was written by Jerry Coleman and drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger.

It began when Lois Lane was caught in a jam, which was nothing new. She had promised to go on a date with a friend of a mutual friend. The problem was that she pad also planned to go on a date with Superman later that same evening.

To solve her problem, Lois made herself as unattractive as possible, with a frizzy hairdo and ugly dress and glasses. Her date was so embarrassed at the dance club they went to that he ended the date early. Clark was also there, unseen by Lois (especially with those glasses of hers) and didn't like how she treated her date. So he decided to teach her a lesson.

When he picked her up as Superman and took her to an amusement park, he proposed to her in the Tunnel Of Love. Lois accepted, and mentioned that she was looking forward to finally learning his secret identity. The Man of Steel obliged by taking her to his apartment. In a thought balloon we learned that it wasn't his Clark Kent apartment, but one he had rented just that day. He showed her a number of Superman masks, and took his off, to reveal a buck toothed, freckle faced man who resembled Mad Magazine's mascot, Alfred E. Newman..

Lois was as embarrassed at the same dance club her first date had taken her to, and realized how he must have felt. Lois found Superman's new face so repulsive, she could only kiss him by closing her eyes and thinking of him as she always thought he looked like.

Their evening in the park was interrupted by a crook's getaway car. Lois noticed that Superman covered his face when the gunman shot at him. He captured the crook, but Lois thought something was strange.

In bed later that evening, she realized that the ugly Superman was only a mask The next day she told the Man of Steel she wanted to get married at noon. When Lois parked in front of the Justice of the Peace, Superman welded her car door with his x-ray vision. After noon passed Superman approached and told her that since she hadn't met the noon deadline, she must have had second thoughts and called off the wedding. Lois called him on his trick and said that she had learned her lesson about treating her first date the day before. The story ended with Lois wondering if Superman would ever propose for real.

This story could just as well have been titled The Two Faces Of Lois Lane, for how she snubbed her first date in favor of Superman. Lois did need to learn a lesson, but neither she nor the Man of Steel were very sympathetic to others in this tale. Also, today it would not be a good idea to allow a total stranger pick a woman up at her house for a date. With the number of Superman pictures on her walls, Lois is as obsessive of a friend of Superman as Jimmy is. Also, at the end, we only saw Superman fuse the door on one side of her car.   Unless he fused the doors on both sides of her car, Lois could have just gotten out of her car on the other side. But then we wouldn't have had the same ending, and Superman would have had to find another way to stall for time. To some extent I want to rate this story a 4, with the clever way Superman found to play the same trick on Lois that she did on her first date, but both of them went a little far in playing tricks on others. So I have to drop my rating to 3 Capes out of 5.

Action Comics #248, January 1959, was published around November 27, 1958. 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.

The Superman story of the issue was the 12 page tale, The Man No Prison Could Hold, written by Bill Finger, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It was also reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

It began when Superman discovered a small satellite orbiting Earth. He followed the radio waves to an uncharted island, where he found slaves who were the crew of a ship that had been reported as sunk. Superman also discovered that the slaves were being held prisoner by Von Kamp, a former Nazi scientist. The Man of Steel decided to learn what Von Kamp was up to as Clark Kent.

He rented a small boat and sailed to the island, allowing himself to be captured on purpose. What he didn't know was that Jimmy Olsen had snuck aboard the boat to be part of whatever story Clark was covering. Both of them were captured and joined the slave labor work force. Clark secretly saved Jimmy a few times, but also kept him from escaping the island. Unfortunately, Jimmy was discovered by a prison guard, and Olsen would be executed the next day for attempting to escape.

Clark was able to sneak away and burrow underground to find a lodestone, which he pushed up, just underneath the firing squad. The rifles fell to the ground, attracted by the magnetism of the lodestone. That didn't stop Von Kamp. He had Jimmy placed in the first stage of his rocket. This was what Superman was looking for. Von Kamp had built a satellite which he planned to use to study routes of police cars and armored cars in order to plan robberies. After the rocket launched, Superman saved Jimmy just before the first stage exploded. Then the Man of Steel captured Von Kamp and his gang.

This story was published about a year after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Bill Finger hinted at one of the most common uses of satellites, not just for spying but photographing the ground. Also, Nazi war criminals were still being searched for in the 1950's. When Jimmy was rescued, it showed that not everyone was familiar with the upper atmosphere. The panels showed Jimmy being rescued in outer space, beyond Earth's atmosphere, without a space suit. One thing I failed to notice when I recorded this episode was how Superman missed the rocket, unless it had not yet been rolled out to the launch pad. That still wouldn't have stopped him from using his x-ray vision, unless Von Kamp had used lead in his assembly building. Otherwise it was a great story of Superman stopping a Nazi. I give this story 4 Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue starred Congo Bill in the seven page tale, The Amazing Congorilla, written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Howard Sherman. It told how Congo Bill first became Congorilla, when he received a ring from a dying medicine man he rescued. It allowed Congo Bill to switch minds with the tribe's god, the Golden Gorilla.

The final six page story of the issue starred Tommy Tomorrow in The Graveyard Of Space, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 32 titles carried the January or January/February 1959 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated December 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #9!

In 2 weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated February 1959: Superman #127 & Action Comics #249!

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  1. Is there any value to one of the original typewritten Sman stories / manuscripts. This is a nine and a half page document written by Otto Binder for the "Sman's Hunt for Clark Kent" story in issue 126. My great uncle worked at DC in the 1950s as a colorist and he gave me this. I have hung on to it all these years. By the way, Your Blog has been very helpful.
    -Dan in West Michigan

    1. Thanks for your interest in my blog. It seems like you probably have some interesting stories from your uncle. Send me an e-mail to I'd be interested in interviewing you for a future episode.

    2. You might consider contacting Heritage Auctions. One of the items they auction are comic books. Whether or not you are planning to sell your uncle's comic book memorabilia, they might be a reliable source to find out the value of your collection.

  2. I wish I could give you an answer. I will post this question on my next podcast episode, #243.


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