Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #53

Cover date: July 1948

Writer: ?
Penciller: Wayne Boring
Inker: Wayne Boring
Cover: Wayne Boring

"The Origin of Superman"

All Superman fans are aware of his incredible powers. He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to fly great distances at incredible speeds, has immeasurable strength, is nearly invulnerable and able to see through solid objects.

"But who is Superman. How did the Man of Steel acquire his invincibility? Millions have asked this question. Now, we give you the answers!"

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... there existed the great planet Krypton, inhabited by a race possessing high intelligence and magnificent physical perfection. Because Krypton's gravity was so great, their scientists had calculated that a normal Kryptonian could leap over tall buildings should they ever reach a planet with gravity like earth.

The seeming perfection of Krypton was shattered one fateful day when tremors began to shake the whole planet. Jor-El, Krypton's greatest scientist, was called to the Hall of Wisdom to speak before the Council of Five, the ruling body of Krypton, and explain these strange occurrences. "Krypton is doomed," announced Jor-El.

"Are you mad?" screamed the incredulous members. "No, listen!" returns Jor-El. "The core of Krypton is composed of a substance called uranium... Very soon, a chain reaction will cause every atom of Krypton will explode in one final, terrible blast!" Jor-El looks at the startled faces. "We must build giant rocket ships... and migrate to a world with an atmosphere like ours - the planet Earth!" Surely, you jest, laugh the council. "We have observed earth people with our astro-telescopes. They are thousands of eons behind us mentally and physically. Why, they do not even possess x-ray vision."

Jor-El's predictions are met with complete skepticism, and denial. From one member to another, the council members discount the theory to the point that they claim that Jor-El is trying to undermine the council to ascend to power. Disgusted, Jor-El leaves the council chamber. "Fools. Blind Fools! They are all doomed!" Jor-El mutters as he makes his way home. As Jor-El enters, Lara, Jor-El's wife sees the worry on her husband's face and realizes that the council has disregarded his theories. It had simply become too late. The tremors begin to shake the very core of Krypton and Jor-El realizes that there is no time to lose.

Rushing to his laboratory, Jor-El uncovered the prototype rocket he had prepared to show the council. Turning to Lara, he tells her that she must take their child and leave the dying planet. "No my husband", whispers Lara, "My place is with you. But our son... let him have his chance for life." Placing the infant inside the ship and launching the rocket, Jor-El and Lara watch as the tiny ship becomes a speck in the sky. Within minutes, the chain reaction begun deep inside Krypton cleaves it asunder, rendering the once mighty planet to bits of floating space debris.

The tiny craft speeds on its way soon entering earth's atmosphere. On a road in rural America, an elderly couple, out for a Sunday drive, were startled when the rocketship whizzed past their automobile and comes to land gently in a small field. Rushing to the craft, the man pulls the small child from the cabin, and almost on cue the alien elements which made up the craft burst into flame consuming it totally, leaving no trace.

Not sure what they should do with the child, the couple take the baby to an orphanage knowing that it will get good care. "If it's possible, we'd like to adopt the child," says the woman. "We'll let you know," nods the orphanage director.

As time passes, the baby begins to exhibit amazing abilities. One morning, he lifts the doctor trying to check his heart. The next day, he smashes a toy with amazing strength. When a physician tries to vaccinate the baby, the needle bends on the baby's skin, and then the child flies up to the ceiling to play tag with the light fixtures. Day after day, the infant inadvertently destroys some part of the orphanage and quickly the decision is made that it is best to allow the Kents to adopt the child. On the way home, the man asks, "What shall we call him?" We'll name him after your family," says the woman. "From now on, you'll be Clark... Clark Kent."

The years pass, the baby Clark becomes a growing boy, and the amazing abilities continue to grow with him. One day, helping with the farm, a tractor speeds out of control and smashes into the young Clark. Clark is fine, but the tractor is demolished. Late for supper one night, Clark begins running and finds that he can speed past an express train, and when he tries to jump over a fence, he finds himself flying over the house. One afternoon, when his mother misplaced her glasses, Clark easily located them behind a cabinet. "It's like you have x-ray eyes," his mother says.

Clark grows to manhood, and is saddened when his mother dies. Then, on his deathbed, his father calls Clark to him. "No man on earth has the amazing powers you have," says Clark's father. "You can use them to become a powerful force for good. There are evil men in the world... criminals and outlaws who prey on decent folk! You must fight them... in co-operation with the law. To fight those criminals best, you must hide your true identity. They must never know that Clark Kent is a ... Super-Man. Remember, because that's what you are... a Superman!"

For the second time in his young life, Clark is orphaned. At the graves of John and Mary Kent, Clark decides to go to Metropolis and find a job as a reporter so he can keep watch over those that might need him. "I'll wear glasses," thinks Clark, "pretend to be timid. But when I'm needed, I'll wear this costume, and the world will know of Superman!"

5Story - 5: As the Superman legend grew over the decade from 1938-1948, many inconsistencies arose in stories mentioning Superman's origins. As a result, DC editor Mort Weisinger decided to write the definitive biography of Superman upon which all future stories would be based. This story gave a very detailed description of Superman's origins, heavy with the flavor of 1940's science fiction tales. Many details of Superman's life were clarified with this story, including the names of Clark Kent's earth parents: John and Mary Kent. Years later, in the movie serial and TV versions, the Kents became Eban and Sarah Kent. When the Superman origin was re-told in Action #158 (1951), the names Jonathan and Martha Kent were established as the Kent's we recognize today.

It was strange that, in the 10 year life of Superman in comics, very little had ever been said about Krypton. However, following this story, tales of Krypton, voyages to Krypton, and returning to Krypton became a frequently recurring theme which appeared in Superman stories at least once every six months.

There were two other things to note from this story. One of the Kryptonian council members comments about people of earth saying, "Why, they do not even possess x-ray vision." This implies that Kryptonians had super-powers even while on Krypton, a fact borne out by some later stories. In August 1950, Superman is confronted with his first Kryptonian menace, three super criminals who had been shot into orbit by his father surviving the destruction of the planet.* It is explained that everyone on Krypton has "extra strength and see-through vision." Then, in Superman #73 (Nov-Dec 1951), Krypton is again (perhaps for the last time) portrayed as a planet of super-powered beings.

*Some have asked, "If Kryptonians were 'super', why did they not simply fly away when the planet was threatened?"

Last, but not least, was the fact that this story made no mention of Superboy. In this story, Clark does not become Superman, or intentionally use his powers, until he leaves for Metropolis even though DC had been running Superboy stories beginning in February of 1945 (More Fun #101).** The notion that Superman grew up in a small town called, strangely enough, Smallville is first mentioned in this story. Strangely, the Kents are not mentioned by their first names, and had little to do with the plots of early stories. But, in June of 1947, Clark Kent is portrayed as having gone to high school in Metropolis, not Smallville (Superman #46).

**Why DC's Editors intentionally left this gap in their own continuity is anyone's guess. It was not until 1951, that the editors reconciled Superboy with Superman when the origin was re-told in Action #158.

5Art - 5: This is a great example of classic Wayne Boring art, full of strong-jawed, heroic men, alien cities and space ships, concluding with a wonderful portrait of Superman, hands on hips, staring out into the distance, ready.... Up until this story, there had been very little done with Krypton, and this story quickly became the standard for what Krypton would look like. Boring's Krypton seemed to be based primarily on Alex Raymond's futuristic drawings from FLASH GORDON. From the cities, to the space ships and even the Kryptonian costumes, Raymond's influence is heavily felt.

4Cover Art - 4: The cover to this book was pencilled and inked by Wayne Boring. The image of a heroic Superman standing in front of a small space ship flying through dark space with the words "The Origin Of Superman" smashing through the cover was a perfect invitation to open the cover and read the story. This cover image of Superman became synonymous with Wayne Boring over the years.

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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