Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #169

Cover date: May 1964

Writer: ?
Penciller: Al Pastino
Inker: Al Pastino
Cover: Curt Swan-George Klein

"The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life"

It was a fine summer's day, and the guard standing at the gate of a high-security Midwestern arms plant was completely surprised when he saw Superman walking towards him and boldly requesting permission to photograph the secret prototype of a new spacecraft being built there. Reluctantly the guard allowed him enter, and watched him take a number of photos, but as Superman turned to leave, he accidentally bumped into a fence rail and uttered in pain. "Hey, the real Man of Steel wouldn't feel pain," yelled the guard now running after the imposter. "Brilliant deduction," sneered the fake Superman who then turned and punched the guard so hard that he knocked him out.

Making his escape, the fake Superman ran out the gate and stopped the first car that he saw on the road at gunpoint. Pulling the driver from the car, the fake Superman quickly sped off to a secluded spot where he changed into one of the driver's spare suits and emerged from the trees now appearing as a dead-ringer for Clark Kent. Realizing that the police would be looking for the car, this man hides the vehicle in the bushes and begins walking away foot.

Who is this man that looks just like Superman? In Smallville, many years ago, Ned Barnes grew up idolizing Superboy. By chance, Superboy saved Barnes from a fire, and when plastic surgery was required as a result of his burns, Ned Barnes asked that his face be reconstructed to look like Superboy. Unfortunately, his attempt to imitate Superboy backfired in a big way. Ned was nothing like Superboy, and his resemblance to the young Superman often resulted in humiliation from being picked on to being severely beaten. Over time, Barnes grew to actually hate Superboy, and then Superman.

Slipping past one roadblock, Barnes began hitchhiking and was soon picked up by a race driver on his way to Orville City for a big stock car race. The two were making good time travelling down the rural back roads, until several cows standing in the way blocked their path. Barnes got out to clear the road when he suddenly heard a name called out. Looking around, he saw a beautiful blonde-haired woman waving and running toward him. "Jim!", she screamed, throwing her arms around Barnes startled neck. "Jim White! You're alive...alive. Darling, you've come back to me." Surprised by the whole situation, Barnes begins to recoil, but saw a police patrol car approaching and quickly decided it best to pretend that he knew this woman.

Getting into Sally Selwyn's car with her, the couple traveled to the Selwyn Mansion. The more Barnes saw of this beautiful, wealthy woman, the more intrigued he became, and the more he put into his "performance". He had no trouble tricking the Selwyn family into believing that he was Jim White, returned from the dead. Later that night, at dinner, the elder Selwyn invited "Jim" to the stock car races as his guest.

Back in Metropolis, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent were circled around a television watching a horse race, and pulling for a horse called, The Daily Planet, who ultimately lost yet another race. Jimmy laughed, and told Perry that the horse has never won a race and never would. As the two bantered back and forth, Kent noticed the teletype and read the report of the man who impersonated Superman to infiltrate the secret arms plant. Slipping away, he changed to Superman and flew to the Midwest town to interview the detective investigating the stolen car.

Slowly, the trail of the imposter leads to Orville City and Superman follows that path arriving during the stock car race, just in time to see a car burst into flames. After dousing the flames, Superman decides to give the crowd a thrill and races one of the speedy cars around the track. Barnes suspects that it is no coincidence that Superman is in Orville City and slips out of the stands before Superman can spot him. After having no luck finding the imposter, Superman resumes his identity as Clark Kent, and calls Perry White to tell him that he is in Orville City investigating the phony Superman. Perry tells him that while he is there that he should stop in at the Ace Ranch, owned by the Selwyns. To buy a new horse to run under the name of The Daily Planet.

After a while, Barnes decided that the coast was clear, rejoined Sally and they drove back to the Selwyn ranch. The next day, Sally arranges a hay ride and during a romantic moment Sally told "Jim" that he's is the man for her and she wants to set a date for their wedding. Again, startled, Ned Barnes tries to stall.

Feeling the need to take a walk, Ned heads down a path just as Clark Kent arrives at the Ace Ranch to look for a horse. He sees a beauty named Dynamite and asks if he can ride it. Kent gets on and the bronco bucks all across the coral until Kent finally lets the horse buck him off. He lands solidly on the dirt just as Sally arrives. Seeing her "Jim" hit the ground, she runs to Clark trying to sooth the fall, tenderly kissing him. In a rush, all of the memories of their romance come flooding back to Clark Kent... the red Kryptonite, losing his powers and memory, of falling in love, and of having that love returned by a woman that loves him simply for himself.

Sally apologizes for the argument that she and Jim had, making Kent realize that the imposter must be there still. Superman uses his x-ray vision and locates New Barnes sneaking away, but is confused, wondering if Sally truly loves him, or Ned. The confusion remains when Clark Kent returns to his room to take a nap. Dreams whip through his head. Lois tells Superman that she loves him for who he is. "So do I," shouts Lana Lang. Waking up, Kent's mind is awhirl, but after a little thought, Clark decides that he should marry Sally. "I love her and she loves me. I may never again find a girl who truly loves me for myself!" he says.

Meanwhile, Ned decides that Sally deserves far better than he can provide, and swears to leave town but as he stands to retrieve his camera and photographs, he is confronted by two old friends that recognized him. "Big Tony, Gunner... what are you doing here?" stammers a surprised Ned. Tony has been watching events unfold and wants Ned to marry Sally for her money, or they will kill her. To prove their point, Gunner takes careful aim at Sally from a high cliff with a high-powered rifle. Outraged, Ned leaps at the men, knocking both of them over the side of the cliff to save Sally. Flying over the cliff, and seeing the aftermath of these events, Superman sweeps down to find the crooks dead, and Ned severely injured. He recognizes Ned Barnes and Barnes confesses that he had plastic surgery to get Superman's face, but that it only opened him to ridicule in Smallville.

Reaching up, Ned grabs Superman's tunic and begs him to protect Sally. "That girl who thinks I'm this Jim White worships me. Don't let her find out that I'm a skunk. Promise me that!" But before Superman can actually make the promise to him, Ned dies. Superman wants to tell Sally the whole truth, that it was he whom Sally had fallen in love with, but when he goes to see her he tells her instead that Jim was killed saving her from two gun-happy prowlers. Again, Sally breaks down to tears, having found her love only to lose him once again.

Flying off, Superman recalls all that has transpired. Suddenly, an image appears to him... a horrible image of him returning from a patrol to find the woman he loves murdered in the den of his home. It suddenly occurs to him that if he were to marry Sally, or anyone for that matter, he would make that loved one a target for his enemies. He could never do that... to anyone.

Streaking off into space, Superman tries to mend his broken heart, but mostly to forget. "How ironic that the mighty Superman can help everyone," he thinks, "but when it comes to my own happiness... I can't help myself." Back at the Selwyn Mansion, Sally Selwyn does not want to forget. She stares out of her bedroom window, tears streaming down her face, and swears that she'll never, ever, forget Jim White.

"Is this the end of Superman's hopeless love for Sally Selwyn, or will fate, in it's mysterious ways, make this only the beginning?"

3Story - 3: Following the wonderfully sensitive first appearance of Sally Selwyn in Superman #165, DC editors quickly followed the story with a sequel. They claimed that the story was a result of popular demand, but response to the story in Superman #165 had just appeared in that issue' letter column! More than a way to revisit the character, I think DC editors looked at this as a way to end what was a dangling thread in the Superman continuity. In Superman #165, the story ended with Superman regaining his memory and Sally pining for the loss of Jim White. This story pretty much closed the door on that relationship, much as they had with every other pretender to the claim of Superman's Girl Friend. Lyla Lerrol was left to die on Krypton and Lori Lemaris was destined to live under the sea. Of all of Superman's romances, only Sally Selwyn had any real chance of actually uprooting Superman. She cared for Clark, or Jim White as she knew him, for himself. Not because he was Super, as Lois and Lana had always done, but because he was a strong, kind and gentle man. However, for the same reason that the pre-crisis Superman would never marry Lois, he decides that he can never marry Sally either. Some would offer that his motives are more selfish than noble on this point, but throughout Superman's history he has consistently shunned long-term relationships with any woman that was anything more than platonic. Unfortunately, as sensitive and good as the first appearance of Sally Selwyn was, this story sank to the level of a basic "comic-book romance story", full of coincidences, mistaken identities, and contrived situations. Overall, this story was nowhere near as good as the first. And, to answer the editor's question at the end of the story, this was the end of Superman's relationship with Sally Selwyn. She never appeared as more than a reference in another Superman comic.

This issue contained two other stories. The first was "The Infernal Imp", a Mxyztplk story featuring Cary Grant, followed by "The Bizarro Invasion of Earth", which was also the great DC Contest where you had to find the only "D" and "C" in the text for prizes, fame and glory. Both of these stories were drawn by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein.

3Art - 3: Again, as sensitive and tender as the story and art for Superman #165 was, the second episode which appeared in Superman #169 definitely lets you down. Al Plastino did the art to both stories, but this one appears to be much more rushed, and much less inspired, than the previous job. Plastino's work of Superman #165 was far better than his work here.

4Cover Art - 4: Neither the cover to Superman #165 or #169 dealt with Superman and Sally Selwyn. This cover focused on "The Bizarro Invasion of Earth", featuring an astonished Superman looking on in shock as Bizarro destroys a priceless statue. The cover was draw by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. This is a competent example of their work. However, the feature story in this issue was the Sally Selwyn story which was completely overlooked.

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”




Compilation Volumes


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