Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Superman Fan Podcast Episode #200: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated November 1959: Superman #133 & Action Comics #258!
The Super Luck Of Badge 77 was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino.
Perry White liked Clark Kent's feature story on living and working with the Metropolis Fire Department so much, that he assigned Clark to do a similar article with the Metropolis Police Department. White arranged Clark to spend three days at Police Headquarters.
At MPD HQ, Chief Smith gave Clark a badge last worn by a now retired officer. Clark did odd jobs around the office, then Chief Smith asked Clark to retrieve a homemade machine gun, which was a piece of evidence in a trial, from the office safe. As Clark gave Chief Smith the weapon, the officer tripped on the rug and dropped the rifle. As it broke apart it discharged a bullet, which ricocheted off of Clark's glasses. A relieved Chief Smith recalled that the badge he had given Clark had been the Lucky number 77 badge last worn by retired Sgt. O'Hara, who retired after 30 years on the police force without so much as a scratch.
That inspired Clark to push a dent into the badge with his finger. When the Chief noticed it, he assumed that the bullet had been deflected by the still lucky badge. He then asked Clark to try to contact Superman so he could help reassemble the weapon.
Clark "succeeded" in finding the Man of Steel, who reassembled the pieces of the homemade machine gun and fused them back together with his x-ray vision.
Clark assumed other duties for the Chief.. Kent volunteered to climb on a ledge to attempt to capture a would be bomber. Clark took his badge and threw it edge on at the lit bomb. It sliced the fuse in half, defusing the bomb. He was then able to subdue the bomber.
During the next day, Clark walked a beat near the waterfront, when he was clobbered with a blackjack. He pretended to be unconscious while the criminals removed his coat and gun, and handcuffed him. they planned to toss him into the water after the tide changed. While their attention was elsewhere, he slyly removed a link from the handcuffs and used his fingers to make the link into a thin wire that rose into the air, and was linked to the badge on his coat. Lightning struck it, causing a fire which created enough heat to cause the bullets in the gun to fire. That attracted the attention of a passing patrol car, and the criminals were arrested. Lucky Badge 77 was destroyed, but it gave its life saving Clark one last time, or so Chief Smith thought.
Superman later participated in a Police Charity Benefit. Afterward, Chief Smith gave Clark a new jacket and badge, and warned him that Badge 77 was no longer around to keep him safe. Back on his beat, Clark met Lois on the street. She informed him of a rumor about a gang of fur thieves. Clark used his set of keys to check a fur warehouse on his beat. They became locked in a fur cold storage vault. It was bullet and shatter proof, as well as sound proof. Clark faced having to expose his secret identity in order to escape from the cold vault. But Lois had a diamond brooch, which she gave Clark to use to cut the glass in the door. Clark used his microscopic vision to see that the diamonds were fake, but he used it to cover his use of his fingernail to cut the window and allow them to call for help.
After Clark and Lois returned to Police Headquarters to make his final report, Chief Smith noticed that the "L L" monogrammed brooch looked like 77 upside down. The luck of Badge 77 saved Clark one final time, or so Chief Smith thought.
The previous Fireman story, Clark Kent, Fireman Of Steel was originally published in Superman #129, discussed in Episode #188. Like this previous Fireman story, Clark secretly used his super powers in various emergencies and was able to fool everyone on the force. Also in both stories, Clark was involved in regular duties no untrained and unlicensed civilian would have been allowed to do, for obvious liability reasons.
While using the badge's edge to cut a lit fuse was plausible, at least for a superhero story, using a link from a pair of handcuffs to make a thin wire that served as a lightning rod stretched credibility even for a superhero comic book.
Overall, this was a good, average silver age Superman story, and I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
After young Clark Kent moved to Metropolis he rented an apartment, which had enough room for him to build a secret closet to store his Superman robots. (That's what I always look for in a new home. Just don't tell my wife.) He decided to look for a job as a newspaper reporter in order to be able to investigate crooks without them suspecting him of being Superman.
He was interviewed by Perry White of the Daily Planet, and was introduced to Lois Lane. Both were impressed by Clark's knowledge of the paper's top headlines and dates of publication. Perry gave him a test assignment to do a story about the gorilla Bongo of the Metropolis Zoo. Clark overheard Perry tell Lois that the assignment was just to get rid of the pest, since there was no story about Bongo because he was too old.
Clark rented a gorilla costume, and, once in the Zoo, put on his disguise and posed as Ferocio, another gorilla attacking Bongo. Clark made it look as if Bong was getting the best of the fight. After Clark turned in the story, Lois was impressed, but Perry thought it was dumb luck. He gave Clark a second test assignment, find a story at the carnival.
Clark lucked into one when the Ferris Wheel jammed, with some young boys stuck at the top. Clark changed into Superman, unjammed the mechanism, and flew to the top of the Ferris Wheel at super speed. He changed back into his Clark Kent clothes, and escorted the boys off the ride onto the ground and an exclusive story for the Daily Planet. Lois was impressed again, but Perry wondered what Clark was doing enjoying himself instead of searching for a real story. Clark couldn't defend himself without revealing his secret identity.
Lois talked Perry into giving Clark one more chance. Perry gave Clark a lead box holding a piece of kryptonite which had been captured from the Anti-Superman Gang. Perry's assignment was to take a picture of Superman with the kryptonite. When Perry opened it, Clark fainted. He used his super ventriloquism to mimic stomach pangs, making Perry and Lois assume he fainted from hunger pains. After buying Clark a 5 lb. steak dinner, they gave him the kryptonite box.
After changing to Superman, he took the picture with a fake piece of kryptonite. The picture surprised Perry and Lois. They assumed that the gang had been swindled when they bought the kryptonite. That impressed Perry enough to give Clark a job at the Daily Planet as a reporter.
I'm not sure what to think of Jerry Siegel's first silver age Superman story. While it was a fun flashback story about how Clark began working at the Daily Planet. However there was something that bothered me about the story. When Clark used a gorilla costume to create a story, it seemed to me that he was guilty of journalistic fraud.
Clark also seemed to stretch ethics with the Ferris Wheel story, since he didn't buy a ticket to ride it, but maybe that was his reward to himself for fixing the ride. And the final picture with the fake kryptonite also seemed to stretch journalistic ethics beyond the breaking point, since it wasn't the same kryptonite that Perry gave him.
But it was still a fun story, so I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
Superman went through his military physical, at Capt. Grimes demand, to make sure that the claims of his superpowers weren't exaggerated. The Man of Steel read the bottom line of the eye chart, Printed by the Metropolis Lithographing Company. Doing push ups shook the building, and of course needles couldn't penetrate his skin.
The Man of Steel was assigned to Capt. Grimes' Company H. The Inspector General observed Superman to insure he was treated fairly, but really to have some fun watching Grimes trying to treat Sueprman as an ordinary soldier. Grimes ordered Superman to wear a regulation Army uniform, but when his invulnerable body and super powers shredded them, Grimes ordered him to wear his superhero costume.
When the troops practiced digging foxholes, Superman used his own body as a shovel, and was promoted to Corporal.
At the firing range Superman used his super breath to ensure every soldier got three bulls eyes after Grimes promised an evening pass to anyone who accomplished the feat.
The next day, during field tactics, when Grimes ordered the men to take a hill, Superman lifted it over his head. Gen. Thomkins promoted Superman to 2nd Lieutenant.
Company H marched on a 30 mile hike the following day. To cool the men Superman used his super breath to create a waterspout that rained on the men, refreshing them. During camouflage practice, Superman whirled fast enough to become invisible, and was promoted to General.
That meant that Grimes had to salute Superman whenever he saw him, which was quite a lot as the Man of Steel hurried at super speed to perform his duties.
When Superman finished his military service, Grimes' arm was in a sling because of all the saluting. In his final military act before his honorable discharge, Superman promoted Grimes to Major, feeling sorry for all the saluting he made him do.
This story reminded me of a silver age version of a M*A*S*H episode. There was an element of subversiveness to military authority in it, or as close as a silver age DC story was going to get. It was humorous and fun to watch Grimes be made a fool of because of his pomposity and manipulativeness. Grimes was an easy character to dislike, and Superman was very sneaky about it. It wasn't so much with the Man of Steel's thoughts as the results of his actions. Grimes deserved what he got for trying to manipulate the men so that they would resent Superman as their superior officer, but the efforts always backfired.
While this wasn't the best silver age Jerry Siegel story, I did like this one better than his first one this issue, and give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.
The Menace Of Cosmic Man was written by Bill Finger, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman vol. II.
In the European Republic of Borkia, a super powered man lifted a large boulder off of a set of railroad tracks. It wasn't Superman, but Cosmic Man.
Perry sent Clark and Lois to Borkia to write a story about this European Superman. At the Presidential Palace, they found it under heavy guard because of a plot against President Raulis. That threat came from General Malvio, who planned to use Cosmic Man to assassinate the President.
Clark watched Cosmic Man perform several super deeds and used his x-ray vision to learn that Cosmic Man was actually a robot. He also saw that the super deeds were fake as well. Malvio controlled him by radio signal and provided the voice when Cosmic Man talked. Clark waited to expose the robot until he could learn the motive behind the robot.
When Lois interviewed Cosmic Man privately, Superman secretly used his x-ray vision to cause something to hit his hand, breaking it and allowing Lois to learn that he was a robot. From his mountain Malvio radioed his troops to capture Lois. Cosmic Man went to a hidden shack and loaded an explosive into a compartment in his chest.
In Malvio's base, Lois watched Malvio's control screen showed Cosmic Man shaking hands with the President. The picture disappeared when Cosmic Man exploded.
Malvio was surprised when Superman disarmed his troops. Superman had thrown Cosmic Man into the air to explode harmlessly, saving the President.
This story gave a new meaning to the term getting Borked. Malvio was more of a ridiculous villain instead of a menacing one, despite his plans, because of his gaudy read uniform and big nose. The clear helmet he wore over his head when he controlled Cosmic Man completed his buffoonish look.
I couldn't help but wonder how such a fragile robot could pass for human. Lois showed that she had an obsession for super powered men when she kissed Cosmic Man on the cheek.
This was a solid silver age Superman story with the typical plot of one of Superman's friends in peril. It was similar to some of the episodes of the 1950's Superman TV show. I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.
Congo Bill starred in his sixth appearance as Congorilla in the six page story Congorilla Goes To War, written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Howard Sherman.
After secret using her powers to save two children from a falling tree, without revealing her superhero identity, Supergirl saw Krypto fly overhead. She revealed herself to Krypto, and they played together until Superman appeared and chided her for breaking his rule not to reveal herself to the world, not even for Krypto.
Her punishment was exile from Earth. She got into a capsule Superman had brought, and he threw it into space, where she landed on an asteroid that had an atmosphere and alien life.
She watched her fellow orphans at Midvale with her telescopic vision, when she noticed a nearby forest fire. Supergirl took two icicles and threw them to Earth in an exact trajectory, so that they melted above the fire, extinguishing it.
Later, Krypto brought her a note from Superman, saying that he allowed her to return to Earth for one day, because a cloud of Kryptonite dust would sweep through the asteroid field. When Supergirl returned to Earth, she learned that a search was going on for her other self, Linda Lee. Supergirl put on her civilian disguise, dirtying her clothes and face, and allowed herself to be found after seeming to have become lost in a nearby swamp.
After being interviewed at the orphanage, one reporter stayed after the others left. Clark Kent challenged her story because she showed no signs of insect bites. She revealed herself to be Supergirl, and Clark was disappointed that she had revealed her identity so carelessly. But she then told Clark that she knew he was really Superman. She learned it because when she attempted to use her x-ray vision to fog his glasses so he couldn't examine her arm closer, the rays bounced off his glasses, and she came to the obvious conclusion.
After changing into Superman, they flew away to a secluded place, where the Man of Steel informed Supergirl that the exile and return had only been a test to see how she could protect her secret identity under extreme conditions. Since she passed with flying colors, he was prepared to use her as his secret weapon in cases where his robots would be unreliable, when magnets or electricity were involved for example. She still needed to keep herself hidden form the world for now. But Superman couldn't help but be embarrassed that Supergirl was able to guess his secret identity.
I didn't realize that Supergirl didn't know that Superman was Clark Kent, I guess because in her first story he mentioned that he had a secret identity. While I found Supergirl almost as resourceful as the Man of Steel in secretly using her super powers, I didn't understand the logic of Superman's plan. It seemed excessively cruel to Supergirl, not to mention everyone else at Midvale Orphanage, who thought Linda Lee was missing.In this story Superman was cruel and manipulative, very much the villain of the story. He wasn't a Superman I could be proud of. I guess Mort Weisinger, with his history of mistreating the talent that worked for him, was a bad influence on the Man of Steel.
Because I liked how Supergirl performed above and beyond the call of duty, I give it 2 Superman Capes out of 5. If I was judging it only on Superman's actions, I would give it a 0. This was my least favorite Supergirl story so far.
Elsewhere in DC Comics, there were 30 titles which carried the November or November/December 1959 cover date.
Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated October 1956, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #16!
In 2 Weeks: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated December 1959: Action Comics @259!
Check out SLIPSTREAM, a new web comic book written by jeffrey Taylor, co-host of the FROM CRISIS TO CRISIS podcast, and drawn by yours truly. Thanks to SUPERMAN HOMEPAGE .com contributor Adam Deschanel for putting the website together. http://clockworkcomicsslipstream.blogspot.com/2011/10/blog-post.html. It will begin November 2011.
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