Sunday, August 7, 2011

Episode #190: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated June 1959: Action Comics #253!

Action Comics #253, June 1959, was published around April 30, 1959. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye.

The first story of the issue was titled The War Between Superman And Jimmy Olsen. This 12 page tale was written by Alvin Schwartz, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. It was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archive vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

Superman took Jimmy Olsen to the Fortress of Solitude to write a feature story about the Man of Steel's secret refuge, wrapping Jimmy in his indestructible cape as protection against the cold. Inside, Superman showed Jimmy a Chameleon Jewel from Venus, which changed colors when he touched it, and a plant from Mercury that shot out spores. The Man of Steel hadn't had a chance to study them, but guessed they might act like a powerful vitamin.

Jimmy also got a look at the bottle city of Kandor (although it was not named in this story). He even got to look at the people inside the city through a microscope.

After the tour was over, Superman wrapped Jimmy in his cape to protect him against the elements. Jimmy asked to look at the scenery for once, but the Man of Steel told him that it was too cold to expose him to the elements.

After returning to Metropolis, Jimmy showed Clark his labeled reporter's notebook, filled with his notes on the Fortress, and mentioned that he forgot to ask Superman about the location to the Fortress of Solitude. This made Clark concerned about Jimmy.

Soon, both Clark and Jimmy received summons to testify against the Double X Gang. As police officers escorted them into protective custody in a police van, Clark and Jimmy learned that they would need to be sequestered for three days for their safety during the trial. That didn't sit with with Jimmy, who ripped the door off and escaped. Clark chased after him, but Olsen gave him a super powered shove and escaped.

Clark quickly changed into Superman, and heard Jimmy's signal watch alert. Superman found Olsen outside Metropolis, holding a giant boulder with one hand. He threatened to throw the rock into the path of an oncoming train unless the Man of Steel took him back to the Fortress of Solitude. Superman destroyed the boulder with one punch and refused to give in to Jimmy's demand. Olsen flew away and threatened to use his own superpowers to blackmail Superman.

Jimmy flew high above Metropolis and used his super breath to freeze the water in Metropolis harbor during summer. When Clark Kent emerged from the courthouse after the trial was over, he responded to the threat by changing into Superman and diving into the ice, breaking it up.

Then Jimmy stole a lightning rod off of a building and attracted a lightning bolt that destroyed a Superman statue. Olsen then aimed the lightning rod at Superman, who deflected the lightning bolt back at Jimmy. That scared Olsen because he wasn't used to being invulnerable.

A B-24 plane flew overhead, and Jimmy used his x-ray vision to short out the engines. Superman saved the plane from crashing by throwing it like a toy glider, giving it enough airspeed to be able to land safely.

Jimmy hijacked a tank on the base and drove it toward the Officer's Club. Superman blocked its path and let it crash into him, destroying it. Olsen then rushed to a Munitions Depot building and caused an explosion. Superman flew around the building, throwing up a wall of sand and rubble to dampen the impact of the explosion.

The Man of Steel then challenged Jimmy, saying that he wasn't ready to go all the way in his conflict, and retrieve the kryptonite rock underwater at Pointer Reef they dropped there last year. After Jimmy left, Superman rebuilt the Depot building.

Jimmy retrieved the kryptonite using very long tongs, and chased Superman all the way back to the Fortress of Solitude. Jimmy dropped the rock by the weakened Man of Steel and crashed through the mountain wall into the Fortress.

Inside the bottled Kryptonian city. Kryptonian authorities were with the real Jimmy Olsen, inside the lab of Kryptonian criminal El Gar Kur, who had built a device to switch places with Superman's Pal. The authorities were puzzled by how it worked, but Jimmy activated it by stepping into it. Just then the ground tilted, as Kur picked up the bottled city and was about to destroy it.

Just then Superman burst out of the kryptonite rock. He took the bottled city away from Kur, and revealed that the kryptonite rock was fake, and the other Superman was a robot. Just then, El Gar Kur disappeared as he switched places back with Jimmy. Just before Kur disappeared, the Man of Steel reminded him that he could have used his telescopic vision if he were more experienced. Superman was assured that the real Olsen had returned when he cut his finger on the edges of the fake kryptonite. The Man of Steel used his microscopic vision to see El Gar Kur being returned to prison by Kryptonian authorities.

As Superman carried Jimmy back to Metropolis, wrapped in the Man of Steel's indestructible cape, they both agreed that the location of the Fortress of Solitude needed to remain secret.

The only possible plot hole, or mystery about this story was when El Gar Kur was able to switch places with Jimmy without catching Superman's attention. It was quite a coincidence that a Kryptonian was a twin of Jimmy Olsen and sound like him, but in later silver age Superman stories, we will meet a Kandorian double for Superman himself. More on him when we get there. This story would have fit in Jimmy Olsen's title just as well.

We were given a few clues that served as possible causes of Jimmy's odd behavior, and it was an epic silver age battle between Jimmy and Superman. It's unclear when Superman switched places with his robot and hit in the fake Kryptonite, but I enjoyed seeing the Man of Steel once again out think the villain. Brains beat brawn every time. That's something we haven't seen in recent Superman stories.

Jimmy's impulsiveness came in handy when he stepped into El Gar Kur's device. This was a great story of what turned out to be Kryptonian vs. Kryptonian, and I give it 5 Superman Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue was the first solo Supergirl story. This 8 page tale, The Secret Of The Super Orphan, was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney, who would be the main Supergirl creative team for the next decade of stories involving the Girl of Steel. This story was reprinted in Supergirl Archives vol. I and Showcase Presents: Supergirl vol. I.

On Get Acquainted Day, childless couples were going to go to Midvale Orphanage to meet the orphans, and hopeful adopt some of them. Headmistress Hart organized the older girls to help prepare refreshments. Linda Lee, secretly Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, was assigned to prepare the ice cream. She discovered that the freezer had not been cold enough for one reason. To remedy the situation, she secretly used her super breath to refreeze the ice cream. (I hope nothing else in the freezer was spoiled.)

In a five panel flashback, Supergirl's origin and journey to Earth and Midvale Orphanage, from the previous issue, was recounted.

After the couples arrived at Midvale Orphanage, Linda was worried about any interest in adopting her. She was concerned about protecting the secret identity. When a couple showed interest in her, she used her x-ray vision to  peek into Mr. Trent's coat pocket, to see his plumber's union card. She purposefully asked if he had a famous job like a scientist, and not an ordinary job. That was enough to cool the Trents' interest in her.

After a group of orphans showed their talents in music and dance, Linda found an orphan boy named Tommy crying by himself. He felt insignificant, not having any special talent because he was just a farm boy. Linda introduced him to the Wilsons, a farming couple. They warmed up to Tommy quickly, but unfortunately do not meet the orphanage's financial requirements to adopt.

That gave Supergirl an idea. Secretly, she flew to the Wilson farm and burrowed underground. Unfortunately, she didn't find any gold, oil or other valuable metal or mineral. But that didn't stop her. Supergirl found a large boulder and burrowed all the way to Italy, near the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Mr. Wilson installed a telescope and turned it into a tourist attraction. For $1.00, people could look through the telescope and look at the Tower through the tunnel. By the time the tunnel collapsed, the Wilsons had enough money to adopt Tommy.

Supergirl's plan took an unexpected twist when the Wilsons decided to move into town, and thought Tommy might not like city living.

Back at the orphanage Linda presented Tommy with a magician's set that was stored at the orphanage. Before the Wilsons arrived at the orphanage, Linda worked with Tommy on a few magic tricks. Of course she secretly used her super powers to make the tricks work. Tommy performed several tricks. He made a message introducing his magic act appear on a chalk board, thanks to Linda's x-ray vision. Then Linda used her super strength to burst out of chains wrapped around her chest, then used her flying power to levitate. The Wilsons were impressed enough with Tommy's magic talent to adopt him.

The story ended with Linda reading a story about Superman saving a ship from an iceberg. She felt content using her superpowers in secret to help people.

I have to admit that I wasn't sure how well I would like the Supergirl stories. Other than the crazy plot twist of Supergirl creating a tunnel to Italy so people could see it through a telescope, this was a nice, simple human interest story. I was hooked when Supergirl used her powers to help the Wilsons find something of value under their land. I was surprised she wasn't in a hurry to be adopted. I would think that it would be easier to keep her double identity secret with a private home than in an orphanage filled with children. I guess it's part of her personality, to put others over herself.

The upcoming relaunch of the Girl of Steel has her not sharing her older cousin's affection for humans. That may make sense today, with our more sophisticated storytelling in comics, but I am enjoying these simpler Supergirl stories from a more innocent time. It's a nice change of pace to the darker, more adult comic books today. That's both good and bad.

Check for information about the Supergirl Podcast, premiering sometime this August!

The third and final story of the issue starred Congo Bill in the 7 page tale, The Destroyer Of Congo Bill, written by Jack Miller and drawn by Howard Sherman. This was Congo Bill's 6th appearance as Congorilla.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, there were 31 titles which carried the June or June/July 1959 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book cover Dated May 1956: World's Finest Comics #82! (I'm looking forward to this issue. You'll find out why next week.

In 2 Weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated July 1959: Superman #130 & Action Comics #254!

Also, if you have any original publication date about a Superman story about his alien zoo, reprinted in the 1970 Superman Bumper Book in the U. K., contact me!

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Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics. Any cover art displayed with the show notes is done for entertainment and educational purposes only. I post these episodes to share my enjoyment of Superman comics and do not earn any money from this podcast.

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

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