Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Episode #186:

Superman #128, April 1959, was published around February 5, 1959. 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 stories in this issue have been reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

Superman Vs. The Futuremen was a two part story of nine pages each, written by Bill Finger, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye.

The story began when a small spaceship materialized in the office of the FBI chief. The men who exited the ship said they were from the future, officers of the Earth Bureau Of Investigation. Their mission into the past was to arrest Superman for crimes in the future. They alleged that the Man of Steel led a crew of space pirates, and had escaped into the past.

Superman escaped when the EBI attempted to arrest him, and hid at his Fortress of Solitude. As a precaution in case he was captured and taken to the future, he recorded his true origin on a tape recorder, including his secret identity of Clark Kent. The Man of Steel gave the tape to Perry White at the Daily Planet offices, and made White promise to only listen to the tape if he was taken to the future.

The EBI officers broadcast public announcements and distributed wanted posters for Superman. They built a flying saucer armed with red kryptonite. When they eventually found Superman they hit him with a red k energy beam, which made him lose control of his powers and create a public panic. The Man of Steel lost his powers and attempted to run from the EBI, only to be shot in the arm.

Part II began with Superman hiding in a building, but forced to surrender when the EBI  gassed the building. After undergoing surgery to remove the bullet, the EBI took the Man of Steel to the future.

Superman learned that the EBI was a fake. He had been captured by a criminal gang. But the Man of Steel was hit by a gun that shot red kryptonite energy and paralyzed him. Until they could safely smuggle Superman away, the EBI gang hid him in plain view as a statue in the Superman museum.

Once they were able to smuggle Superman off Earth, the Man of Steel got his first look at Earth of the future, void of oceans. They had been wiped away by an atomic experiment gone awry. He learned the real motive of the gang. They planned to move one of Saturn's moons, which was solid ice, to Earth to refill the oceans, for a steep price from the people of Earth. Superman would be the one to move the moon across the solar system. If he didn't, the EBI threatened to travel back to his time and recreate the same nuclear accident and destroy Earth's oceans in the past. They left the Man of Steel alone for an hour to make his decision, locked in a kryptonite cage.

Superman saw an approaching meteor, and was able to use his x-ray vision to split it in two. The meteor crashed into the cage, freeing the Man of Steel. He then created a series of mirrors that reflected his image, so that they served as targets until the gang ran out of red kryptonite energy. Then he captured them and turned them over to the real Earth authorities.

The President of Earth gave Superman a paper explaining how he had been falsely accused, and returned him to his own era by the same time space machine. Superman arrived just in time to destroy the audio tape Perry and Lois were listening to, just before they heard him reveal his true secret identity.

This was a rare silver age Superman story where he was actually physically challenged. The EBI gang were able to build weapons that were effective against the Man of Steel. It seemed too easy for the EBI gang to convince the FBI chief that Superman was actually a criminal in the future, but Superman found a clever way to make the gang deplete their red k energy weapon before capturing them.

I wonder how life on Earth could exist without the oceans, and with the radioactive fallout. Also, Superman throwing a few ice moons of Saturn to melt on Earth may have seemed fine during the silver age, but I could only think how their impact on the atmosphere would probably wipe out whatever life was left on Earth. Even with the melted moons refilling Earth's oceans, how would sea life grow again?

The plot did have the double jeopardy of Superman's secret identity almost revealed. Parts of the story did seem silly to me, but I did enjoy it, so I'll give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

The Sleeping Beauty From Krypton! was the final story of this issue. This 9 page story was written by Bill Finger and drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois was one of three contestants on the TV game show Bid The Price, a comic book version of the original Price Is Right game show, (which began broadcasting on the NBC network in 1956). She made the winning bid of $35,000.00 on a gong, which Superman used to create a sound wave strong enough to destroy one of Lex Luthor's giant robots. Her prize was a group of props from the movie The Krypton Story, a small prop rocket large enough for an average person to fit in, a costume and wig and a slide projector with stills from the movie. Of course this gave Lois an idea to trick Superman into revealing his secret identity.

After Superman brought a moon rock to a Metropolis astronomical observatory, Lois met him in the nearby woods, posing as Rama, Kal-El's babysitter on Krypton, having recently landed on Earth. She explained that her rocket had been thrown off course by Krypton's explosion, and she had no superpowers because her rocket passed through a cloud of kryptonite dust. She had spent the entire voyage to Earth in suspended animation. To further convince Superman of her identity, "Rama" showed him slides of her babysitting him as a toddler on Krypton.

"Rama" asked Superman to teach her how to use superpowers once the effect of the kryptonite dust wore off, and to help her develop a secret identity. Being too trusting, Superman revealed his own secret identity of Clark Kent.

After leaving Rama, it dawned on Superman: if she spent the entire trip in her rocket in suspended animation, how would she know that her rocket flew through a cloud of kryptonite dust. Using his x-ray vision on Rama, he discovered that Rama was none other than Lois Lane.

That night Lois found it hard to sleep because of her guilty conscience. She decided to admit the truth to Superman in the morning and that she promised to never reveal his secret identity to anyone. Of course, she hoped Superman would propose.

The next morning at the Daily Planet offices, Superman went to Lois and told her all about his new love. She thought that he was talking about her until he revealed the name of his love as Rama. A furious Lois revealed that Rama was actually her, and pulled the wig out of her purse and plopped it on her head.

Just then Clark Kent walked into the Daily Planet offices. Lois wasn't convinced, and had both Superman and Clark walk to a science Museum, which was in the Daily Planet building. An x-ray proved Clark wasn't a robot, and a magnet proved that the Man of Steel wasn't either. This was enough to convince Lois Lane that Superman and Clark were separate people. She further surmised that Superman wouldn't hire an actor because that would risk revealing his secret identity.

Later, Superman and Clark met in secret, and Clark revealed himself to be Bruce Wayne in disguise. In appreciation Superman gave Bruce a lift back to Gotham City.

While Curt Swan is my favorite Superman artist, Kurt Schaffenberger is one of my favorite Lois Lane artists, up there with John Byrne, Jerry Ordway and Gary Frank.

This was another Lois Lane tricking Superman into revealing his secret identity plot. If we all had a dollar for every Lois story with this plot we could afford to retire and buy a mint copy of Action Comics #1. Superman seemed too loose with his secret identity. Does he do this with every super powered female he dates? "Would you like to see my Fortress of Solitude? If you do, I'll reveal my secret identity."

This story did seem a little silly, but it was fun; plus Kurt Schaffenberger's art was a joy to look at as always. I think I like this Bill Finger story a little better than the first one of this issue, and give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Action Comics #251, April 1958, was published around February 26, 1959. 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 Kaye. The Superman story of this issue was titled The Oldest Man In Metropolis. This 13 page story was written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Al Plastino. It has been reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

Clark Kent interviewed a famous scientist who had invented a possible new vitamin serum, and was about to drink it himself to test for dangerous side effects. The scientist was interrupted by a phone call, so Clark, always looking out for his fellow man, drank it himself.. The professor was surprised, obviously, but Clark left without showing any signs of adverse effects.

After Clark left, the Professor made a shocking discovery. The young guinea pigs he had tested the serum on had grown to old age overnight, and he hoped Clark didn't suffer the same effect.

Clark changed to Superman and flew to his Fortress of Solitude to test the remaining drops of the serum that were left in the vial. He was surprised to discover that some isotopes in the formula resembled kryptonite.

The next morning, when Clark woke up in his apartment, he discovered that he had become an old man, complete with a long gray beard. He returned to the scientist, and discovered a little bit of good news. The guinea pigs that had artificially aged had returned to normal after 72 hours.

After Clark secretly changed to Superman, he discovered that his powers had severely weakened. He changed back to Clark and returned to the Daily Planet offices and informed Perry that he would be an old man for 72 hours.

Later, using his telescopic vision, Clark discovered Captain Cutlass and his pirate crew attacking a merchant ship. As Superman, he hitched a ride on a plane to his apartment. There he discovered that he was unable to activate a Superman robot because it did not recognize his aged voice. Superman then discovered that he was still invulnerable enough that he was unable to cut his long beard. The Man of Steel hitched a ride on a whale and a submarine to the site of the pirate attack, then scared the crew to surrendering to the Coast Guard by posing as the Old Man of the Sea.

Back at the Daily Planet, Perry got the bright idea to assign Clark to write a story about living in an old man's home. This thrilled Clark to no end. Lunch was mush, soft boiled eggs and warm milk. At the retirement home Clark was able to use his telescopic vision to see thieves hiding in a nearby Stacy's Department Store, to rob it after it closed.

Somehow Clark got a job as Santa Claus, using his x-ray vision to read children's folded wish lists. Despite his weakened superpowers, he was able to use some of the toys to foil the thieves. After helping one of the old men celebrate his 100th birthday by helping him blow out all 100 candles on the cake, Clark used his telescopic vision to find the hideout of the thief known as The Clock in a clock shop. Posing as Father Time, Superman was able to scare the thief to surrendering to police.

The next day Superman had to perform as a human cannonball in a stunt. Luckily, he had to wear a helmet for some reason, which conveniently hid his beard. He delayed the stunt by disconnecting the firing mechanism. Superman was able to delay it long enough, so that, when the cannon finally fired, he crashed harmlessly against a mountain. The delay was enough to break the 72 hour time limit, allowing Superman to be restored to his normal super powered self.

To celebrate Clark's return to normal, Lois took him to a play. Unfortunately it was to the musical, Rip Van Winkel.

This was a fun silver age story with the twist of Superman losing his powers through old age. The ways he scared the bad guys to give up did seem a little silly, but it was fun to ready how Clark/Superman dealt with old age and outsmart the bad guys. Brains beat brawn every time. I give this story 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

Action Comics #251 also had a full page ad for the premiere of Supergirl, which would happen in the very next issue of Action.

Congo Bill starred in the second story of the issue, the 6 page tale  Congorilla Outlaw, drawn by Howard Sherman. This would be his fourth appearance as Congorilla.

Tommy Tomorrow starred in the 7 page final story of the issue, The Giant Amoeba Of Space, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 32 titles carried the April or April/May 1959 cover date.

Next episode: Superman Family Comic Books Cover Dated March 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11 & World's Finest Comics #81!

In 2 weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated May 1959: Superman #129 & Action Comics #252! (Not only will this issue be the premiere of Supergirl, it will also be the 200th individual episode of this podcast, thanks to my first episode being numbered #0 and a number of multi-part episodes, especially thanks to my MegaCon coverage.

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Thanks for listening to the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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