Saturday, September 3, 2011
Episode #192: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated July 1959: Superman #130 & Action Comics #254!
The first story of the issue was titled The Curse Of Kryptonite. This 7 page story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. It began in Death Valley, California, as Superman laid down an oil pipeline for a town that was in desperate need for oil. While digging a trench for the pipeline with his bare hands, Superman accidentally unearthed a large kryptonite rock. He was quickly overcome by the kryptonite radiation, too weak to completely melt it with his x-ray vision, or to blow it out of range with his super breath.
In a flashback, for those who came in late, we were shown the origin of kryptonite, as the exploded fragments of the exploded planet of Krypton, from which the rocket carrying infant Kal-El barely escaped. As a boy in Smallville, Kal-El, now called Clark Kent, took pieces of the rocket's window and fashioned them into lenses for a pair of glasses. That way, he could use his x-ray vision without melting his glasses.
We also learned that the reason that Kryptonite didn't burn up in Earth's atmosphere was because it couldn't combine chemically with oxygen. Whenever Superman found a piece of kryptonite, he disposed of it using a very long set of tongs to keep himself out of range of the kryptonite radiation.
Superman tried to hit the ground with his fist, hard enough to create a crevasse that would swallow up the kryptonite, but he was too weak for his hit to be effective. He thought about the last time he had suffered from kryptonite fever, and was lucky to recover.
Once, on another world, Superman had found a Kryptonian ape that had somehow been launched into space on a rocket, only to die from kryptonite poisoning on another world.
Even Superman's many experiments in his Fortress of Solitude had failed to find a cure for kryptonite poisoning.
As Superboy, he had learned from scientists that lead blocked kryptonite radiation. He got the idea to carry a spool of lead tape, with which he would wind around his body when threatened by kryptonite. Unfortunately, it melted because of the air friction as Superboy sped to his next job.
He resorted to lead armor, but had to rely on his super hearing to navigate because there was no way to create an opening for his eyes without allowing kryptonite radiation to penetrate the opening. That almost backfired once when the lead armored Superboy almost crashed into a small plane because of the noise interference of a nearby sawmill.
Once he grew up to be Superman, that problem was solved thanks to the invention of television.A small TV camera mounted on the outside of the armor transmitted images to a TV screen in the helmet. The Man of Steel used his lead armor to collect and dispose of as much kryptonite as he could find in outer space, but that job was too big even for Superman.
Clark Kent even programmed his Superman robots to mimic weakness to kryptonite radiation to protect his secret identity. When I read this, I pictured Clark directing his Superman robots much like George Lucas, "Okay robots, one more time; faster, more intense."
Superman used his super voice to call for help, but was too weak for Supergirl to hear him, as she repaired a wooden bridge.
As he began to turn green from kryptonite poisoning, Superman thought he was hallucinating when he saw the kryptonite rock fly into the air. After he recovered enough to use his telescopic vision, Superman saw Krypto had used his super breath to blow the kryptonite away from his master. The Man of Steel finished the pipeline, and then used his telescopic vision to find the kryptonite rock at the bottom of the ocean. Superman wondered if red kryptonite might be even worse than green kryptonite. A caption on the final panel of this story mentioned that there would be a story about red kryptonite coming up soon.
Mike's Amazing World Of DC Comics website states that this was the first story to reveal the full origin of kryptonite.
This was the first comic book story that I can remember reading which reminded me of a clip show. For those who aren't familiar with the term, a clip show is an episode of a TV series which is mostly made of clips of previously recorded episodes. Some new scenes are filmed to tie the various flashbacks into one story. Usually such episodes are about the show's characters reminiscing about past events, or one of the characters unconscious and having flashback dreams.
We saw Superman's camera equipped lead armor in Episode #182, in the story The Kryptonite Man from Action Comics #249.
When I saw the kryptonite blown away from Superman, I expected to see Supergirl save the Man of Steel. I was pleasantly surprised to see Krypto fly to Superman's rescue. Another thing I didn't realize was that Superman apparently understood Krypto's barks and yips. When the Man of Steel asked Krypto if he saw him in danger with his telescopic vision, Krypto yipped, Yes, Master! But Kryptonite is dangerous to me too! I couldn't come close!
This was an entertaining story of Superman's closest call with kryptonite so far, and I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
After the Man of Steel left, Mark Mulloy walked to Baldy's shack. We learned, thanks to Mulloy's thought balloon, was wanted by the police, and Baldy lived in Mulloy's shack, living there as a caretaker of sorts. Mulloy didn't think his land was worth anything.
He changed his mind when Superman returned and burrowed underground for a seventh time. When the Man of Steel resurfaced with the fossils, Mulloy learned that Superman had mined $1 Million from his property. The Man of Steel felt awkward because he didn't realize anyone owned the land. Superman made a deal with Mulloy. The Man of Steel would honor six of Mulloy's requests, as long as they were not illegal or a repeated request. Baldy begged Superman not do go through with it, since Mulloy was a wanted man, but the Man of Steel honored his word.
Superman honored Mulloy's request for the world's biggest diamond by bringing the entire infield from the old stadium of the Metropolis Giants. Mulloy next asked for the largest hunk of ice in the world. Baldy was sharper than Mulloy, and reminded his landlord that he didn't always talk so good. The Man of Steel proved Baldy right by bringing the largest iceberg he could find, then melting it with his x-ray vision.
Mulloy next asked for all the dough Superman could carry. Superman brought the largest birthday cake, baked with condemned flour, with telephone poles for candles. An angry Mulloy said that by dough he meant money. For his fourth request, Superman agreed to bring $1 Million in buried treasure. The Man of Steel brought $1 Million in Confederate currency he had found buried underwater in a shipwreck. It was worthless to Mulloy.
Finally, Mulloy caught on to Superman's game, and demanded $1 Million in gold. Somehow the Man of Steel received permission to fuse #1 Million in gold bars into one large block. Superman brought it back to Mulloy, and dumped it into some quicksand on the property.
Mulloy had finally begun to think, and reminded Superman that he had raided his land seven times when the Man of Steel dug up the fossils. Superman agreed to grant Mulloy one final wish, after Mulloy's sixth wish, which was for the fastest racehorse in the world. Somewhere in the Arab world, Superman found the fastest wild stallion and brought it back to Mulloy. As soon as he landed, the Man of Steel let it run away. Mulloy demanded that Superman retrieve the horse, but the Man of Steel reminded him that he only agreed to bring it. Catching and training the wild horse was Mulloy's responsibility.
For his final wish, Mulloy requested that Superman not stop him from leaving his own property, or turn him in to the police. Superman agreed, but Baldy had had his fill of Mulloy, and knocked him out with one punch. In appreciation for getting him out of his jam, Superman pointed out a rare Confederate stamp worth $5,000.00, among the Confederate treasure that Mulloy rejected. While Baldy carried the envelope with the valuable stamp, he dragged the unconscious Mulloy behind him, with Superman bringing up the rear with the retrieved block of gold on his shoulder.
As Baldy pointed out, Mulloy asked for riches and got nothing, while he asked for nothing, and got rich.
I couldn't help but think that Mulloy might be valuable after all, when Baldy collected the reward money for turning Mulloy in to the police. However, I wondered if Baldy could be considered an accessory, if he knew that Mulloy was a wanted man. On second thought, nothing in the story seemed to indicate that Baldy knew where Mulloy had been for the past year. Also, if Baldy knew that Mulloy owned the property, he didn't do a good job of looking out for Mulloy's interests by allowing Superman to remove $1 Million in gold from underground, even if it all went for charity.
I did a quick internet search and learned that mineral and natural gas rights extend indefinitely, unless sold by a previous landowner. So Mulloy did have a point against Superman, but his greed was his downfall. It didn't take much to out think this guy, and I had to wonder why he was so hard to capture if he was so dumb. My favorite part of the story was watching Superman toy with this guy while he out thought him. The silver age Superman was a very sly guy. This was a fun, humorous story of Superman out thinking Mulloy, and I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
Superman saved a town from an out of control missile that was about to crash into it, and was shocked when he was rewarded by having the town's police fire on him from a guard tower. The Man of Steel found a sign that displayed the town's name of Cyrusville, off limits to Superman on order of the Mayor, Bruce Cyrus.
It bothered Superman enough to make him disguise himself as Kent Clark and investigate the town. The Mayor's name was all over town: Cyrus Theater, Cyrus Arms, Hotel Cyrus, Cyrus Square,etc. Walking in a neighborhood, Clark saw a boy wearing a Superman cape that he had just received for winning a radio contest. Kent was shocked to see the boy's father take it away from his son and rip it to shreds.The Father was afraid of losing his job in the Cyrus Mill, because the Mayor was known to ride in his limousine around town. When Clark questioned the man about it, he said that Superman's name was taboo in Cyrusville.
Kent Clark got a job at the Cyrusville Blade newspaper. His first job was to make up the proof of the next day's front page after the editor had to return home after his wife had become ill. Clark wrote a story about Superman saving the town form the wayward missile. When the press broke down, Clark used his x-ray vision revealed that an electric motor burned out. He told the press crew to take a break and spun the wheels to print the proof copies.
When the editor returned, he closed the blinds to his office and smashed the plates. He informed Clark that no one could stay in town if they said anything good about Superman. When questioned by Clark, the editor opened the blinds again and pointed out the window at the Cyrus Hospital, Cyrus Recreation Center and the Cyrus Orphanage. He told Clark that Cyrus donated Millions of dollars to charity and paid high wages to his employees. Cyrusville was a good town, and even the jail was empty because there was no crime in town.
Suddenly, an alarm sounded throughout town. The emergency: Superman contraband had been found. Al plane flew over Cyrusville, dropping Superman figures by parachute to advertise a charity. In spite of the children clamoring to grab them, the town's police officers, with guns and rifles drawn, collected them and even took them from children's hands. They piled them in the town square for a bonfire, on the orders of Mayor Cyrus, as officers posted guard holding machine guns.
Kent Clark had seen enough, and used his super breath to extinguish the fire. When he challenged Mayor Cyrus about Superman, the Mayor had him arrested for breaking the town's law against saying anything good about Superman. Kent Clark broke the handcuffs, and three police officers were unable to move him. A heavy chain was wrapped around Clark and hooked to a large tractor, but the chain broke before Clark was moved.
Mayor Cyrus realized that Clark was actually Superman, who shredded his disguise and revealed himself.. Face to face with the Mayor at last, Superman asked him why he hated him so much? Mayor Cyrus asked Superman to join him at his office, where Cyrus shared his story in private.
Cyrus revealed that he was an orphan around ten years old in Smallville when Superman was brought to the same orphanage. While the infant Superman was adopted, Cyrus grew up an orphan, never to be adopted.
Using his super memory, the Man of Steel flashed back to when the Kents found him, discovered his strength and gave him temporarily to the orphanage.
Superman took Cyrus through the time barrier to visit the Smallville of their childhood, where they observed the past as ghosts. During an adoption drive, only Cyrus and a toddler were left. A couple was deciding between the two orphans, when the rug was pulled out from under Cyrus. He fell through the window into the puddle, and the dirty and embarrassed Cyrus was informed that the couple decided to adopt the toddler. That was the source of Cyrus's bitterness against Superman.
The Man of Steel informed Cyrus that he was mistaken. He said that the toddler wasn't him. He was still in the building, waiting for his new family to pick him up. Superman said that he pulled the rug from him when he was using it to play Indian. He also revealed to Cyrus that a chandelier fell where he was standing, so that if he would not have fallen out of the window, Cyrus would have been hit. Superman then took Cyrus to the new home of the toddler, where Cyrus learned that the reason they decided on the younger boy had nothing to do with Cyrus being dirty and wet. They wanted to teach their adopted son how to read and all the other things of growing up.
Back at Cyrusville, the Mayor revoked all of the anti-Superman laws (apparently not needing to go through the city council). When a Superman shaped x-ray machine was damaged by a zealous police officer, and the real Man of Steel assisted giving free x-rays to the town's children.
Days later, Superman returned to receive a $1 Million check for charity from Mayor Cyrus. The town that hated Superman no longer existed, as revealed by the Superman Welcome sign displayed on the same police tower where officers had originally fired on the Man of Steel.
Mayor Cyrus made Mr. Potter of the movie It's A Wonderful Life look like a nice guy, at least where the Mayor's bitter feelings about Superman were concerned. Mayor Cyrus also didn't think the First Amendment involved the Man of Steel either, if people could be arrested for speaking in favor of Superman, or the town's newspaper forbidden to print stories which favored him. He was a very warped man to teach children to hate Superman. Mayor Cyrus could teach Lois and Jimmy a thing or two about being obsessed with Superman.
It was shocking to see heavily armed police officers deployed to collect Superman contraband. I'd be afraid of the town's S.W.A.T team surrounding my home if I spoke in Superman's favor. In an otherwise prosperous and safe town, it was frightening to see how cowed the people were to Cyrus, afraid to lose their jobs, since he seemed to own everything town. He wasn't Mayor as much as dictator, a twisted man who I was glad Superman could set straight. I almost rated this story 2 because Cyrus was so bizarre, but I gave it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
The Superman story of the issue was titled The Battle With Bizarro! This 12 page story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. It was reprinted in Superman In The Fifties, Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.
In his lab hideout, Lex Luthor showed his henchman Vekko the stolen plans of Professor Dalton's duplication machine from Smallville. This was the same machine that had created the original Bizarro Superboy in Superboy #68, October 1958. Luthor built a new duplicator ray machine from the plans.
At the Daily Planet, Perry White assigned Clark Kent to interview a Professor Clyde about a possible kryptonite antidote. After changing into Superman, he flew to what was actually Luthor's hideout. Vekko and a bearded scientist tested their machine on Superman, creating a new Bizarro. Superman remembered the original Bizarro from his youth. The scientist removed his beard, revealing Lex Luthor under the disguise.
Somehow, this Bizarro remembered the Bizarro Superboy, and became angry at Luthor for recreating him. When Luthor ordered Bizarro to attack Superman, Bizarro instead grabbed Luthor and Vekko and flew toward the Metropolis Police. An amused Superman helped Bizarro by carrying Vekko, but had to let Bizarro carry Vekko as well when the Man of Steel's telescopic vision saw a tidal wave about to hit a ship.
While the Police were happy to receive Luthor and his henchman, they were shocked at the sight of the Superman monster. Bizarro tried to prove that he was just like Superman by rescuing a plane that had an engine ignite on fire during its flight. After extinguishing the fire and helping the plane land safely, Bizarro was hurt by the passengers who ran in fright from the plane. He was so upset when he flew away that he flew into the top of a smokestack, causing to top to fall.
Meanwhile, Superman used his super breath to freeze the tidal wave, preventing it from flooding an island.
After Bizarro clipped a church steeple, Air Force jets were scrambled to attack Bizarro. Their weapons were useless against Bizarro, including an atomic bomb. Bizarro flew to a military base to demand that they stop attacking him, because he would commit suicide.
Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane had been following Bizarro in the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom helicopter, and watched him crash into a mountain at super speed, and emerge unhurt from the other side.While Jimmy piloted the Flying Newsroom, Lois took photos of Bizarro. After developing the film, she commented to Jimmy how great it was, referring to the photo, but, thanks to his super hearing, Bizarro thought she was talking about him and fell in love with Lois.
After finding no sign of Bizarro, Superman returned to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent.
Meanwhile, Lois was met by who she thought was Superman, although his face was obscured by his cape. After he swooped her into the air, she discovered that he wasn't Superman, but Bizarro, who carried her to an island. There, he showed her a shack he built out of scraps, which he called a palace. He asked her to marry him, but she declined, saying she would only marry Superman.
A dejected Bizarro had an idea, and flew back to Luthor's Lair back in Metropolis. He took the duplication machine out of the hands of the police, who were dismantling it in order to take it in as evidence. Officers fired their guns at Bizarro, but the bullets bounced off him. Clark Kent happened to be there covering the story, and secretly used his x-ray vision to melt the bullets so that the officers wouldn't be injured.
Bizarro returned to his island with the machine, where he created a perfect, imperfect duplicate of himself, who passed for Superman's twin but talked like Bizarro.
The handsome Bizarro returned to Lois, who accepted his marriage proposal, assuming he was the real Superman. The real Man of Steel followed Bizarro to the island, but was kept from interfering thanks to a large kryptonite rock Bizarro found. The story ended with Lois kissing who she thought was the real Superman, to be continued in the next issue of Action Comics!
Not only was this story a sequel of the first Bizarro story in the pages of Superboy the previous year, it was also the first appearance of the silver age Bizarro #1, who would appear in Superman stories until his death in Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? story that concluded 50 years of Superman continuity.
It was amusing to see the brilliant Lex Luthor outsmarted by the dimwitted Bizarro, who was closer to normal than he would be in later Bizarro stories, as we shall see. The opposite dialogue wasn't as refined as it would be in later stories, but the shack which he called a palace was a step in that direction.
It didn't make sense that Bizarro would remember what happened in the original Superboy story since he was clearly a different Bizarro, created years later, unless some of Superman's memories were duplicated in this new Bizarro. Also, Bizarro wanted to be as liked by people as Superman, which wouldn't be the case in later Bizarro stories, when the Bizarros would consider normal people ugly.
The military must have been extremely frightened by Bizarro to resort to nuclear weapons.
It was interesting to listen to Jimmy describe Bizarro as made of unliving matter, like a robot or other machine.
The suicidal Bizarro was given a new lease on life when his super hearing mistook what Lois was talking about. He also showed more intelligence than I expected when he thought of stealing the duplication ray which created him, in order to make a duplicate of himself.
This was the first silver age Superman story to be continued in the next issue, and I look forward to reading it. I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.
Congo Bill starred in the second story of the issue, the six page tale Congorilla Goes Wild, drawn by Howard Sherman, in his seventh appearance as Congorilla.
Linda Lee, the secret identity of Supergirl, didn't join the other orphans on the playground. Her telescopic vision saw an Army rocket fly of course, as rockets did in the early years of the American space program. After changing into Supergirl, she steered the rocket back on course.
She returned to the orphanage and her secret identity, and Headmistress Dale assigned Linda to work with other girls in the kitchen. Miss Dale later brought Mr. and Mrs. Dale, who wished to adopt a girl. They were immediately attracted to Linda Lee. Concerned that they might learn her secret identity, Linda secretly used her x-ray vision to darken the outside of the roast which she had cooking in the oven. She hoped acting like a careless girl who spoiled food would make her less appealing to them. Her plan backfired when they revealed that they liked their roast well done.
Headmistress Hart prepared the paperwork for a 30 day trial period, and Linda reluctantly went along. Linda became more at ease when the Dales gave her some gifts during their drive back home. Linda was surprised to learn that their home was with a traveling circus. Mr. Dale showed Linda some fake props for a strong girl act, in which he played Col. Dale. Unknown to Linda, Mrs. Dale displayed a sign advertising their power tonic, $10.00 per bottle.
Linda watched a performance as Col. Dale had volunteers attempt to lift the prop dumbbells, with no luck. Using her x-ray vision she saw a magnet under the stage which held the weights to the floor. With the magnet turned off, Linda easily lifted the barbells, without having to worry about revealing her superpowers. She also smashed her fist through a prop brick wall, which had a glass plate behind it. An electronic tuning fork emitted a supersonic signal that actually shattered the bricks. For the finale, Linda won a tug of war with a circus elephant, thanks to a silent motor that slowly reeled in the rope into the tent behind Linda.
She became suspicious when Mrs. Dale immediately whisked her away from the show to tour the rest of the circus. Using her super hearing and telescopic vision, she saw Mr. Dale hawk the Power Tonic, claiming Linda gained super powers from drinking it.
Linda was heartbroken to think she was being adopted only to be part of a scam. She decided to try to teach the Dales a lesson and make them give the money back.
After bedtime, Linda spied on Mr. Dale, and watched him buy some more Power Tonic from a chemist who brought another batch to the circus. The tonic was simply sugar water flavored with ginger.
As Supergirl, she responded to a night emergency at an airport, which had lost power to the landing lights. She used a steel rod to drag around the edge of the landing strip at super speed to create enough light to allow the plane to make a safe landing.
The next day, before the strong girl show, the Dales were moving the circus elephant to their stage to be part of the act. The elephant steeped into a hole, and Linda lifted the elephant over her head without thinking. To cover herself, she explained to the shocked Dales that she had been thirsty, and drank a bottle of something that tasted of ginger.
Mr. Dale immediately drank a bottle of the Power Tonic, and Linda faked his super powers. For instance, she softened the steel bars of the gorilla cage with her x-ray vision before Mr. Dale bent them.
As Supergirl, she flew above the Dales as they drove to the chemist to buy the formula with all of their money. They were unaware that the chemist was actually a puppet Supergirl operated, and she used her super ventriloquism to mimic his voice. The real chemist had been called away by a fake phone call. (I wonder who made it.)
Supergirl used her telescopic vision and super hearing to spy on the Dales, and watched as Mr. Dale was unable to bend a metal bar. He assumed that the chemist had sold them a fake formula, but they couldn't report him because he could report them for selling a fake tonic. During the night, Supergirl returned the money to all of the victims, thanks to her super memory.
After Linda returned to the orphanage, Miss Dale had to rip up the adoption papers since the Dales had lost all of their money. Linda Lee wondered if she would someday find trustworthy foster parents.
The scam Supergirl pulled on the Dales stretched credibility, unless her puppet was extremely realistic. It was just as implausible that a teen girl could mimic the voice of a grown man, but maybe we shouldn't underestimate Supergirl's powers. Otherwise, this was a heartfelt story of Linda going through a wide range of emotions with the possibility of being adopted. She went from worrying about keeping her secret identity safe, to hope with a new family, to heartbreak when she learned her prospective parents were running a scam.
Supergirl showed herself to be a sweet, humble girl in a simpler time, content to use her super powers in secret, spurning publicity, and showed some imagination with the airport emergency. Despite the over the top conclusion with the puppet chemist, this was another touching Supergirl story, and I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.
Elsewhere in DC Comics, 27 titles carried the July or July/August 1959 cover date.
Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated June 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #13!
In 2 Weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated August 1959:: Superman #131 & Action Comics #255!
Also, if you know the original publication information for a Superman story involving his alien zoo at his Fortress of Solitude, reprinted in the 1970 Superman Bumper Book, a UK Superman hardcover anthology, post it in comments or through the contact information below.
On August 29, check out the first episode of Supergirl's Cosmic Adventures podcast, hosted by Daniel Reed, at http://supergirlpodcast.blogspot.com/, and follow the podcast on twitter @SGirlPodcast. The website address I posted last week was to a different Supergirl website.
If you're interested in the upcoming DC relaunch in September, here is a blog post about the November 2011 Superman solicits: http://slaymonstrobot.blogspot.com/2011/08/new-52-doesnt-mean-original-52.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+SlayMonstrobotOfTheDeep+(Slay,+Monstrobot+of+the+Deep!!), and some older Superman covers.
For some great insight into DC comic book history, listen to Martin Pasko's interview on John Sutres' podcast, WORD BALLOON at http://wordballoon.com.
- Part I: Word Balloon Triple Feature Dan Slott Gail Simone & Martin Pasko
, posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011.
- Part II: The DCU Past Present And Future With Marty Pasko and Vaneta Rogers, originally posted on Thursday, August 4, 2011.
- Part III: Robert Kirkman And Marty Pasko pt 3
, originally posted on Saturday, August 13, 2011.
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