Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #124

Action Comics #124

Cover date: September 1948

"A Superman of Doom"

Writer: ?
Penciller: Al Plastino
Cover: Al Plastino

Reviewed by: Daniel McIntosh

While working in the Daily Planet office, Clark Kent notices a report coming over the Teletype. The Teletype reads, "Danger of Atom-pile explosion at Elmdale atom plant is growing by the minute. City being evacuated." Clark believes this to be a job for Superman. Coincidentally the Editor of the paper calls his two ace reporters Lois Lane and Clark Kent into his office giving them instructions to cover this story. When Lois calls to Clark, "Let's go", Clark pretends to be sick as if he has gotten food poising or something to that effect. Lois then turns around to the editor and voices her sympathy for Clark's apparent ill condition and how he will be missing a big story.

Later in the office of the director of the Elmdale atom plant the director reveals to Lois Lane and the other reporters that the chain reaction from the explosion may in fact destroy the world. The phone suddenly rings to reveal that the atom pile will explode in five minutes. The director cries in fright that all is lost but Lois reminds him that Superman can save us. All of a sudden the door flies open with Superman asking "Am I being Paged?" The director proceeds to tell Superman how urgent the situation has become and that the atom pile is extremely volatile and is sensitive to movement. Superman proceeds to carve a platform out of the ground that the pile is resting upon and makes a hole in the ceiling that he can fly the atom pile out of the building and into space. Once away from the Earth the atom pile explodes hurtling Superman back toward the Earth.

Superman arrives back at Earth and is flying around when a bird passes him buy and suddenly bursts into flames and dies. Superman is completely taken by surprise. He proceeds to land and then notices all the fauna around him wither and die right before him. Lois Lane is in fact in an aircraft overhead and notices through Binoculars that anything that is in close proximity to the Man of Steel dies. Superman suddenly realizes that he is radioactive. Lois Lane runs the story in the next edition of the Daily Planet where all of Metropolis's criminals can read that Superman is now radioactive and cannot come close to living things. A group of gangsters believe this is their opportunity. The gangsters proceed to steal an armored car and take a hostage knowing full well that Superman will not approach, as he will kill the innocent hostage. Superman grabs some steel cable and in true rodeo style lassos himself the stolen armored car and takes it back to Police headquarters.

Meanwhile other thugs are attempting to escape. Superman uses his incredible singing voice and tunes his voice to the vibrational frequency of some old buildings to collapse them and block the escape of the thugs allowing the police to capture them. The thugs then capture Lois Lane and threaten to kill her unless Superman robs Fort Knox. Superman using his super intellect constructs a suit out of lead to shield Lois from the radiation. The lead suit covers every centimeter of his body and he uses his x-ray vision to see where he is going. The gangsters are lead to believe that the lead suit had failed and does not contain the radiation. Superman then hunts down the gangsters and surprises them by busting up their cheerful meeting. The gangsters then cry to the police that Superman has doomed them to death by exposing them to the deadly radiation. Superman then reveals how the lead suit had absorbed all the radiation from his body and that he is now safe to continue fighting crime with the police.

4Story - 4: There is one really interesting point to note in this story and that is the fact that Superman can see through lead! All of us have seen Superman: The Movie with Christopher Reeve. And we should all remember that Gene Hackman who plays Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor informs Otis and Miss Teschmacher of the fact that Superman can't or has trouble seeing through lead. This is the method in which Lex traps Superman with the chunk of Kryptonite in the movie. So this is a really interesting point in the Superman mythos. I guess a really good competition question would be "Is there any Superman Comic that tells us that Superman has trouble seeing through lead?" I think even I would be interested in the answer to that myself. Maybe I will ask my local comic book dealer who has been collecting comics for over 40 years.

For those of you who remember our beloved Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman TV series where the New Nazis try to take over the world be irradiating Superman with a nuclear explosion or when Superman flies the nuclear devise into outer space in Superman II, it is great to go back and see where the writers for the these programs get their ideas from.

I guess being a scientist myself (a physicist in particular) I have to remind myself that this was written back in 1948, three years after they had detonated the A-bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Back then people knew very little about radiation and other things of scientific matter. That is why the writers could get away with such stories as Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive Spider and becoming Spider-man or the group of scientists working on a space station being exposed to cosmic rays and becoming the Fantastic Four. But it is really great to go back and read something from our past as it gives us an insight as to how we, as the general reading public, saw the world back then and what we understood from it. Looking at it through those eyes you would have to say it is another enjoyable Superman story. I guess that in a lot of ways it is refreshing to get back to the nice simple stories that Superman started out with. Nothing too brooding or with complicated emotional issues, just Superman doing his job and saving the day. Good triumphs over evil! I guess that is one of my criticisms over today's stories is that they so complicate things that I really just turn off and don't remember the stories and just simply look at the artwork.

4Art - 4: Given that the artwork in the comic books of this era were not credited (for reasons given in the review of Superman #42 by Wallace Harrington) it makes determining who the artist and the writing teams were in these issues quite difficult. For someone who has been dealing with or collecting comics for many years one can begin to recognize the artists who work on the comics. Artists usually have their own style. Styles like Wayne Boring's Superman with the rather over-sized chest or the incredible details in the hands or flying poses with Al Plastino's artwork. Usually the Overstreet price guide for comics is the best source for artist information, but is not the case for this issue. After looking at the artwork and comparing to other Plastino work, I would have to say that Plastino was the artist for this issue. I am a fan of a lot of modern artists. The likes of Alex Ross and Jim Lee to name a couple, but it is nice to look at the art that started it all. It is relatively simple in comparison to Lee and Ross' artwork but it is still great.

4Cover Art - 4: As mentioned in the review of Superman #42, the covers to the comics in this era usually do not reflect the story that is told inside the comic. The cover on this one does however resemble a little more closely the story that is told in the comic as opposed to other issues of the Superman titles in this era. Superman is sweeping out of the sky with two crooks, one under each arm, dropping them off to two police officers waiting with the police van. Al Plastino looks to be the artist for the cover on this issue.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




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