Saturday, November 12, 2011

Episode #204: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated January 1960: Superman #134 & Action Comics #260!

Superman #134, January 1960, was published on November 5, 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. Rare for the silver age, this issue contained one three part story, or, as featured on the cover, A Great 3-Part Novel, titled The Super-Outlaw From Krypton. This 26 page story was written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye.

The first chapter of the story was nine pages long and titled The Super-Menace Of Metropolis. It began with Superman rescuing a ship that had struck an iceberg. But instead of carrying the ship back to harbor, the Man of Steel ripped part of a cable from the bottom of the ocean, cutting off transatlantic communications. Superman used the cable to tow the ship back to safety.

Later, the Man of Steel smashed into a meteor. But instead of smashing it to bits, he only knocked a hole in it, allowing the meteor to strike a dam and flood farmland.

Superman saved some shipwrecked men from a sea monster, which looked like a dinosaur sized walrus. But instead of taking the castaways back to civilization, the Man of Steel carried the sea monster to Metropolis and walked it down the street. Its immense size caused property damage wherever it went. Superman raided a fish market to feed it, but he was not shown paying for it.

The leaders of Metropolis met and came to the conclusion that Superman needed to be captured and authorized a worldwide search for kryptonite, with which to subdue the Man of Steel.

A heartbroken Lois lured Superman to a super static device, in a desperate hope that this out of control Man of Steel was only a malfunctioning robot. Her theory was proved wrong when Superman was unaffected but the machine melted from the intense energy that was generated.

Afterwards, Superman flew to the top of a mountain, laughing maniacally and monologiung  that his plan was working, but wasn't finished yet. To prove his point, he flew to a traffic tunnel, using his super breath to blow the vehicles out the other end. Superman followed it up by pulling a subway train up through the roof of the subway tunnel to street level, then pulling the subway train through the streets of Metropolis and leaving the train outside the city. This gave the Man of Steel a good belly laugh as he flew away.

Chapter Two was nine pages long and titled The Revenge Against Jor-El. Superman continued his mayhem by filling up the Grand Canyon with boulders. As he flew away, we learned through a thought balloon that he was not the real Man of Steel.

In the bottle city of Kandor the real Superman watched events unfold outside by watching a monitor. Through a flashback we saw that Superman flew to his Fortress of Solitude to check on the life support system of Kandor. Kull-Ex used a machine to activate an exchange ray, which switched the two men into each other's clothes. Using a life mask, Kull-Ex began his evil impersonation of Superman.

After continuing his campaign of mayhem, Kull-Ex continued his monologue, knowing Superman was watching on the Ultra Scanning Screen. Through a flashback in a flashback, we learned that Kull-Ex's father Zell-Ex, was a down on his luck scientist. His plans for an all purpose Kryptonian vehicle, which could drive on land, sea, underground, or fly in the air, were blown out of his window. By the time he could finish his plans and take them to the patent office, Superman's father Jor-El had been granted a patent for an almost identical vehicle. Zell-Ex fruitlessly accused Jor-El of stealing his invention.

Zell-Ex and his son happened to reside in Kandor, and that was how Kull-Ex happened to wind up in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. After his Father died, Kull-Ex vowed to carry out the family's revenge against the son of Jor-El.

Superman's greatest concern was the potential damage to Earth caused by a super battle between the two Kryptonians, if the Man of Steel somehow managed to escape.

The eight page third and final chapter was titled The Duel Of The Supermen. Linda Lee went into action as Supergirl out of concern for her super cousin. She learned that this Superman was an impostor when he did not recognize her. After giving him a brief summary of her origin, Kull-Ex disclosed his plan to Supergirl off panel.

Supergirl flew to the Fortress of Solitude and freed Kal-El from the bottle city of Kandor. Superman quickly whispered a plan into Supergirl's ear, then she dashed out of the Fortress. Kull-Ex quickly appeared, and Superman found that, even with super powers, he was no match for Kull-Ex, who eventually trapped the Man of Steel in a lead box containing a speck of kryptonite. A weakening Superman asked Kull-Ex to open the Fortress's observation dome, and he learned that Supergirl had lifted the mountain containing the Fortress into space.

They were far enough into deep space to overtake light rays that had reflected from long lost Krypton. In a very unique type of flashback, Kull-Ex learned that he had accidentally picked up his Father's plan and had colored on the back. Then he tossed it into the feed trough of a junk eating animal (about the size of a hippo). Kull-Ex realized that Jor-El had told the truth and his Father had been mistaken. To make things up for Superman, he used his super vision to find another nugget of the element of zenium. Kull-Ex returned Superman to Kandor with the zenium, which the Man of Steel used to power the exchange device one last time, returning both Kryptonians where they belonged, and reuniting them with their own clothes.

Kull Ex then broadcast a television signal worldwide, confessing his deeds and exonerating Superman. He vowed to Superman that he would dedicate the rest of his life to scientific study. Superman returned to Metropolis and his life as Clark Kent, as Superman statues were restored and Metropolis once again loved the Man of Steel.

This was a good average silver age Superman story about Superman going berserk. His exploits were more goofy than menacing, with no toppled governments or mass casualties. Kull Ex's plot reminded me of the story covered in Episode #192 from Superman #130, The Town That Hated Superman, except this time it was a Kandorian, not a human obsessed for revenge against Superman.

Lois was heartbroken, grasping for straws in the hope that the superhero she loved had not gone berserk. Supergirl quickly realized that Superman was an impostor when he didn't recognize her, and played a key role in making Superman's plan succeed.

I couldn't help but think that maybe Clark was a little selfish to lay low as Superman, with all the clean up that needed to be done after Kull-Ex's mayhem. The Man of Steel's reputation may have been restored, but it would have helped for Superman to help clean up after Kull-Ex, who, even though he repented of his evil, had not made restitution for the damage he called.

Wayne Boring's art did a great job of conveying the emotions on the various faces of the characters in this story, and I give this story 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

Action Comics #260, January 1960, was published around November 25, 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 twelve page Superman story in this issue was Mighty Maid, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman vol. II and Showcase Presents: Supergirl vol. I.

When Lois Lane got caught in a tornado while covering Tornado Alley, she was surprised to learn that it was a super powered female, not Superman, who rescued her. She introduced herself as Mighty Maid, and had traveled from another dimension to meet Superman, who was very famous there.

Superman and Mighty Maid fell in love and began a whirlwind romance. Superman showed her the wonders of the world. Perry assigned Lois to cover the story, and the heartbroken reporter witnessed Mighty Maid accepting Superman's proposal. She still managed to deliver the big scoop that the Man of Steel planned to leave Earth and live in Might Maid's dimension.

After a goodbye tour around the world, Superman and Mighty Maid appeared before TV and news cameras to say goodbye, then vanished in the blink of an eye.

Two figures splashed into the ocean at super speed, and Superman and Mighty Maid emerged in an underwater cavern. Mighty Maid removed her disguise and revealed her true identity of -- Supergirl!?

We learned that Superman created the ruse when he discovered an alien ship was approaching Earth to destroy it. Their motive was revenge for an attack on their fleet of migrating ships by Kryptonian forces, who mistook the fleet as an invading force. The alien survivors vowed to recover and send ships to destroy Krypton. When they later saw, through their telescopes, that Krypton exploded, they followed Kal-El's rocket and vowed to take out their revenge on his adopted world. Superman also learned that their monitors couldn't penetrate the oceans, hence their hiding in the underwater cavern.

Superman used his x-ray vision to see that the aliens had called off their attack since they were fooled into thinking that the Man of Steel had left Earth. On board the alien ship, the crew had gone into suspended animation for their long voyage home. Superman left a note explaining the misunderstanding, thanks to the memory of some Kandorians who remembered the incident. The Man of Steel hoped it would defuse the situation when the aliens reached their home world.

The Man of Steel returned to Metropolis, and explained to a surprised Lois that he returned because he found out that Mighty Maid's people aged differently. and she was only 15 years old. That was true, since Supergirl was only 15.

This had to be the creepiest Superman story I ever read. It was a clever ruse Superman pulled off, but did he have to pick his own 15 year old cousin to be a part of it? why not pick Wonder Woman (although crossovers were rare in this part of the silver age), or give Lois a temporary super power serum.

I could have just as easily believed that the aliens could have destroyed Earth out of spite, just to make sure that Superman wouldn't return.

Also, once again, to save Earth, Superman has to fool Lois as well. It was sad to watch a heartbroken Lois have to set aside her emotions to cover the story of  the Century.

I give this story 5 out of 5 for being the creepiest Superman story ever. For a clever plot to fool the aliens, I would give the story a 3, but for picking his own 15 year old cousin to play his love interest, I have to drop the rating to 2 Superman Capes out of 5.

The eight page Supergirl story of this issue was titled The Girl Super Baby, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Supergirl vol. I.

Linda Lee was using her telescopic vision to watch life on a tropical island, when she saw a man about to drown. Keeping her promise not to reveal her super powers yet, she changed into Supergirl and burrowed underground until she emerged in the water under the drowning man. Supergirl pushed him onto dry land, making it look like a geyser pushed him out of the water. She noticed that he was younger than when she first saw him. As she flew through her tunnel back home, she began to de-age. Using her telescopic vision and super hearing she saw the man say he had discovered the Fountain of Youth.

When Supergirl returned home, she had become a Super Tot. She chased a butterfly until it flew into the trunk of a car. A jewel thief closed it, not knowing she had flown inside. Super Tot took a nap until the two jewel thieves arrived at an abandoned Indian camp, which had a legend that an Indian spirit would cause the downfall of evildoers. When the crooks opened the trunk, Super Tot squirted them in the eyes with their shaving cream before they could see her, then she flew away.

After changing clothes and hanging their wet clothes to dry, they used a scarecrow for target practice. Super Tot was behind it, and caught the lead bullets. She pressed them into a ball, which she threw.The lead ball melted because of the air friction, and happened to cover a kryptonite meteorite that Superman had accidentally dug up while unearthing fossils. Superman was able to recover and fly off, grateful for the happy coincidence, and unaware of his super cousin's involvement.

Super Tot's actions continued to plague the crooks, although they never saw her. When she was hungry, she ate everything in their pantry, and flew away before she was discovered. When she flew into a pipe, she accidentally discovered the crooks' hiding place for their stolen jewels. she used her x-ray vision to peek inside, but generated too much heat, igniting the bag. Smoke coming out of the pipe prevented the thieves from retrieving their loot, but attracted the attention of some forest rangers, who captured the crooks.

As she flew back home, Supergirl returned to her normal age as the effects of the Fountain of Youth wore off.

After the creepy previous story, this was a nice change. It was an average silver age Supergirl story, and the humorous antics involving the jewel thieves reminded me of the movie Home Alone. I give it 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

The final six page story starred Congo Bill, making his 12th appearance as Congorilla in The Gladiator Of The Jungle, written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Howard Sherman.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 26 titles carried the January or January/February 1960 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated December 1956, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #17!

In 2 Weeks: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated February 1960: Superman #135 & Action Comics #261!

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. It will begin November 2011.

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.

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