Sunday, September 4, 2011

Episode #194: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated August 1959: Superman #131 & Action Comics #255!

Superman #131, August 1959, was published on June 18, 1959. 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 stories have been reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

The Menace Of Mr. Mxyzptlk was the first story of the issue.This 9 page story was written by Jerry Coleman and drawn by Al Plastino.

It began as Superman performed another exhibition for the Metropolis orphanage. He was about to crash into a steel block, smashing it to bits, when it suddenly transformed into a stack of giant children's alphabet blocks. After Superman flew into the stack, the blocks spelled Superman is a Blockhead. This gave the children a big laugh, and Superman correctly guessed that this was the work of none other than Mr. Mxyzptlk. He appeared, and bragged to Superman that he had invented a fool proof way to keep the Man of Steel from making him say his name backwards and be sent back to the 5th Dimension.

Superman flashed back to past encounters. Once, Mr. Mxyzptlk fell in love with Lois, and Superman posed as an astronomer and had written the name he gave a new comet (which Superman had placed in orbit for this purpose) on a piece of paper. When Mr. Mxyzptlk read the name to Lois, which he saw for the first time, the comet's name was Kltpzyxm, his name spelled backwards. This sent him back to his home in the 5th Dimension.

Another time Clark tricked him into reading his name backwards in a bowl of alphabet soup.

Superman was brought back to the present when he saw a crowd surrounding a money tree, thanks to Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Man of Steel spoiled everyone's fun by blowing the leaves of money off of the tree. He then painted a large tube in candy stripe colors. When Mr. Mxyzptlk approached, Superman moved it at super speed so that the 5th Dimension imp thought he was seeing an illusion.

After that, Superman dipped himself in molten iron and made himself into a statue. When Mxy saw it. Superman moved at super speed so that the imp saw double. Mr. Mxyzptlk saw an eye doctor, who was actually Superman in disguise. The letters on top of the eye chart spelled K - L - T - P - Z - Y - X - M. Mxy almost read the letters, but an alarm suddenly rang. It was a bell inside Mxy's derby, which rang whenever he was about to say his own name backwards.

Superman enlisted the help of Lois, who disguised herself as a European actress. Mxy spied them at an upscale restaurant, standing in the rain while he watched them through the window. Later, when Superman introduced him to her as Miss Kltpzyxm, Mxy had lost his voice so he couldn't repeat her name.

A dejected Superman researched old newspapers until he came across a past article about Mxyzptlk. The Man of Steel arranged for a theater to play old newsreels, including one about Mxy's campaign for the office of Mayor of Metropolis. Superman arranged for the projector to play Mxy saying his name backwards, so that the imp was thrown back to the 5th Dimension.

The next day Perry White criticized Clark for spelling Mxyzptlk's name backwards throughout his article.

According to, this was the first story with the modern spelling of Mr. Mxyzptlk's name. Before this story, his name had been spelled with the p and t flopped, Mxyztplk. Al Plastino drew Mxy in a cartoony style, similar to how he had always been drawn before. The earliest Mxy stories I had read were drawn by Curt Swan, who drew him a little more "realistic"

Despite the title, Mxy was more mischievous than menacing, more prankster than villain. I'm not sure that any of the flashbacks shown ever came from past stories, because the one story where Mxy fell in love with Lois did not end the way described in this story. That was in Mr. Mxyzptlk Takes A Wife, from Superman #51, March/April 1948. And, like in the other flashback, Superman disguised himself in order to trick the Imp into saying his name backwards.

What I liked most about this story was that this was the most novel way I've read for Superman getting Mxy to say his name backwards.This was the problem with a Mxy story, finding a new way to trick him to say his name backwards. I give this story 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

Superman's Future Wife was the second story of the issue. It was 8 pages long and was written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by classic Lois Lane artist Kurt Schaffenberger. It began with Lois covering the historic village of Wicksville for a Daily Planet Sunday feature. The town was famous for the witches which were supposed to have lived there several hundred years ago.

At the Enchanted Cottage, Lois sat in a "witch's chair", which would show the future once every hundred years, and that day was Lois' lucky day.

She saw Superman and his bride having rice thrown at them, and the Man of Steel fly her to their new home in the suburbs. Unfortunately, his bride's face was always blocked to Lois in her vision. When the mists faded, Lois panicked, because she was frantic to know if she married Superman, because she couldn't live without him.

When the mists cleared, Superman and his wife celebrated their anniversary, but her face was still blocked in a variety of ways. The scene would change several other times, showing a twin boy and girl with super powers, who were more of a struggle for Superman than Lex Luthor and Brainiac combined.

The final vision showed Superman dressed as Samson for a costume party. A woman, who I assumed was Mrs. Superman, wore a cape with the initials "L. L." on the back. Lois wondered if they were her initials, but when we finally see the woman's face, she is wearing a mask and the initials stand for Lady Luck.

Back in the present, Superman appeared to fly Lois back to Metropolis because a flood had closed a bridge. A furious Lois slapped him in the face, called him a bigamist, and stormed away. Superman held his hand to his face, wondering what he had done wrong.

This story was like the "imaginary stories" of the silver age of Superman stories, which I usually like. But this story was a little different. First of all, I don't understand Lois' reaction at the end of the story. It was very possible that Lady Luck was Mrs. Superman in her disguise. Wouldn't Lois have recognized her voice, and known if she was Mrs. Superman or not?

Lois did not act like a liberated woman at all in this story, as obsessed with Superman as she was. If the movie Fatal Attraction would have been filmed in the 1950's, Lois would have been perfect for the role of the insanely jealous lover. No wonder Superman had always found an excuse not to marry her.

In one respect, it was funny watching Lois put herself through the emotional ringer over the identity of Mrs. Superman. I don't know who was teased more in this story, Lois or the reader, since we never learn who Mrs. Superman was, even if she was a brunette like Lois. Because of Lois' obsession over Superman's future wife, I have to give this story 2 Superman Capes out of 5.

The final story of the issue was The Unknown Super Deeds. This 8 page story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. It was the fourth story to carry the subtitle An Untold Story Of Superman. This one was a story about the young Clark Kent/Superboy in Smallville.

A very bored Clark Kent used his telescopic vision to see several emergencies around the world, but there either were enough emergency responders to handle the situation by the time he could arrive, or else no one was threatened by the disaster.

After Ma Kent left to go shopping, he saw a red haired toddler who had fallen into an abandoned well. After changing to Superboy, he bounced off of a leaning tree on a cliff as a springboard to "make it interesting". On the way to rescue the toddler, he dug a tunnel in a coal mine and spotted fossils which might interest a museum. Superboy found the boy unharmed and asleep at the bottom of the dry well, and returned him to the playpen in the yard he had escaped from.

Later, Superboy saw a man on a ship whose briefcase blew overboard. The Boy of Steel rescued the briefcase from the mouth of a whale and dried the papers inside, which were only a "boring" newspaper report. He put the briefcase on a floating piece of debris and used his super breath to blow it toward the ship. The man was surprised to find his briefcase again. The initials on it were P. W. (Perry White?)

On his way back to Smallville, Superboy heard a scream in another town. It was from some women who had been scared by a mask worn by a teen girl for a party. The teens played a guessing game and removed the masks when their identities were guessed. The girl's mask stuck, so Superboy fashioned a wind instrument that blew a supersonic note which vibrated the mask loose, after discovering the mask was made of lead.

Superboy returned to Smallville and told Ma Kent about the three unimportant deeds he did that day. The reader learned that the red haired toddler was Jimmy Olsen, the man with the briefcase was Perry White and the teen girl was Lois Lane.

For the most part, this was a fun story with some interesting plot twists about the younger selves of some of Superman's supporting cast. But Superboy's attitude after young Jimmy fell into the well was disturbing. There's bored, and then there's self absorbed, but then Superboy is a teenager. He seemed to take the long way around to get to the trapped boy. Luckily he wasn't hurt.

Superboy's solution to young Lois' stuck mask was another example of silver age over thinking. How was Superboy able to know the perfect design of an instrument to emit the perfect frequency to vibrate the mask open.

Despite Superboy's self absorbed attitude, I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5, mainly for the twist of the younger versions of Jimmy, Perry and Lois.

Action Comics #255, August 1959, was published on June 30, 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 Bride Of Bizarro was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. This 12 page story was reprinted in Superman In The Fifties and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

After a brief recap of part one of this story from the previous issue, covered in Episode #192, the story picked up with Lois kissing the handsome Bizarro. His Bizarro like speech tipped Lois off to the fact that he was another Bizarro. The first Bizarro admitted to Lois what he had done, and he got into a fight with the handsome Bizarro.

Then Bizarro #1 flew back to Superman, where Lois was trying to roll the piece of Kryptonite away. Bizarro kicked it away, and it was pulverized to dust when it hit a far away rock on the island. Bizarro had decided he needed Superman's help against the handsome Bizarro. Superman found the second Bizzaro, who happened to fly under the cloud of kryptonite dust and dissolve to dust.

Superman returned Lois to Metropolis before Bizarro #1 returned. He was still obsessed about Lois, a common trait among Superman's supporting cast. Bizarro brought a flower from Pluto to Lois' apartment, but it began ejecting seed pods, which began destroying her apartment. She made Bizarro leave. Luckily for her, Superman appeared and saved her from the alien plant.

Later, Bizarro kidnapped Lois and returned to the island, then challenged Superman to a fight. Lois realized that the fight would end in a stalemate, and thought of a way to end the fight using the duplication ray.

Superman and Bizarro saw Lois wave a flag from shore. The Man of Steel thought Lois was running into Bizarro's arms, until he saw that she was actually a Bizarro Lois. The real Lois explained to Superman that she used the duplication machine to create an imperfect duplicate of herself.

Bizarro Superman and Bizarro Lois flew to a faraway planet to begin a new life and make a lot of smaller Bizarros.

As Superman flew Lois back to Metropolis, she wondered if she would ever be as luck as her imperfect duplicate. Superman only relied, someday.

I noticed how possessive Superman was with Lois when he thought she was throwing herself at Bizarro.I had to wonder if he expected her to wait forever until he made up his mind.

I did enjoy the two epic battles this story had, first between the two Bizarros, then between Bizarro #1 and Superman. Bizarro Superman was also Bizarro stalker where Lois was concerned.

Usually, Superman out thought his nemesis, but this time it was Lois who solved the dilemma. Maybe Superman wasn't thinking straight where Lois was concerned. I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Congo Bill starred in his 7th appearance as Congorilla, in The Abominable Snowman, written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Howard Sherman.

Supergirl Visits The 21st Century was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Superman sent Supergirl a secret message to expand her super powers by taking a short trip through the time barrier. She arrived in the 21st Century.

She saw a meteor heading to a domed city on an asteroid. It turned out to be an ancient probe from the 20th Century, which she had read about at the beginning of the story. The probe punched a hole in the dome, which she sealed. Before she could stop the probe from crashing into an orphanage, one of the orphans, named Tommy, used an anti-grav gun to repel it.

Supergirl spent most of the story following the boy, who was equipped with a number of tools which he used to get him and his Martian friend out of several jams. She later learned that the boy would be adopted, and flew to check out his new parents. Supergirl did save his new parents from a dangerous asteroid field, before returning to the 20th Century to write her experiences in her Kryptonese diary.

We later learned that Tommy was none other than Tommy Tomorrow, whose stories appeared in World's Finest Comics.

My first thought was how disappointed I was that we don't really have domed cities built on asteroids yet, but the 21st Century is still young. Tommy was a resourceful boy who was able to get himself out of jams he got into. His Martian friend reminded me of Chameleon Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The action and dangers were typical of the outlandish silver age, but were still fun. It may have been a teaser story for Tommy Tomorrow, but he was so resourceful, like a boy scout, I enjoyed reading it, so I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 34 titles carried August or August/September 1959 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated July/August 1956: World's Finest Comics #83!

In 2 Weeks: Superman comic Books Cover Dated September 1959: Action Comics #256!

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