Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (wwh27539@mindspring.com).


Action Comics #60

Action Comics #60

Cover date: May 1943

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Pencils John Sikela
Inks: Ed Dobratka
Cover: Jack Burnley

"Lois Lane - Superwoman"

"Lois, I hate to be insistent," droned Clark Kent, "but won't you please tell me once and for all if you care for me?" Shaking her head as if she had heard it all before, Lois walked steadily onward. "I like you Clark, but how could I really care for a man like you when I've associated with someone as confident, outspoken and assertive as Superman. I'll care for you when you're like Superman." "You're not being fair," whined Clark. "No human being could expect to rival Superman. Why, I have no more chance of being like Superman than you have of being a Superwoman." As if answering his own question, Lois proceeded down out into the street. "There's no sense in talking further with you. Good-bye!" she said. But Lois was unaware that a huge truck was speeding down the street and walked into its path with no chance to get out of the way.

Seeing the accident occur right in front of him, Kent quickly raced to Lois' side. "Someone call an ambulance," he yelled. Looking down at Lois, Kent was struck by how pale she was. "She looks so helpless... and she'd be unharmed if I hadn't aggravated her into running into the street."

At the Metropolis Hospital, a surgeon met Clark Kent in the waiting room and told him that Lois had an extremely severe brain concussion and recommended surgery. "The only person that could perform the operation is Dr. Michelson in Randallton. "But, no one has seen him for days," said the surgeon. With Lois on death's door, Kent quickly changed to Superman and went to the roof of the hospital. "Without her, life wouldn't be worth living for me, " he said. Then, with a mighty leap, Superman soared skyward, towards Randallton, swearing to find Dr. Michelson.

Time passed, or seemed to pass, and Lois groaned, then slowly woke up. "Wh... Where am I," she demanded. "Don't be frightened, Miss Lane, You just underwent a blood transfusion. Superman volunteered his blood," explained the surgeon. "Just relax," spoke Superman to Lois. "You may be able to get up and around in several weeks." "Several weeks," yelled Lois. "I feel fine. Let me out of here," exclaimed Lois jumping up from bed. "Only one explanation," said Superman. "My blood contains strange properties. It must have effected a swift, miraculous cure."

After dressing, Lois was ready to head back to work and Clark Kent met her outside her room as she was leaving and said, "Lois what are you doing out of your hospital cot?" "Business girls can't afford to stay away from their jobs for long," she said blowing right past him.

Back at the Planet offices, Perry White was unaware that anything had happened to Lois and screamed at the pair the minute they walked through the doors. "Where is that feature you promised me?" he yelled. Trying to protect Lois, Clark interceded and told Perry that Lois had just gotten out of the hospital, but Lois dismissed the whole thing, saying, "Let him rave, Clark," and going to her office to begin writing. But the very first key she hit crumpled into the typewriter. And the faster she typed, the more Lois destroyed the machine.

Standing up, she looked at the typewriter in amazement. "It doesn't make sense," she thought to herself absent-mindedly leaning against the desk. But even this casual motion sent the desk flying across the room. Just then, several workmen entered the office complaining that a cabinet they were to move was too heavy. Lois walked into the room and lifted the cabinet with ease, then placed it where the workmen were supposed to leave it. "Hey, how'd that cabinet get on the other side of the room?" asked one of the workmen. "I carried it there," gloated Lois with her hands on her hips. "You see, gentlemen, I am a Superwoman. My strength is beyond all beliefs, and..." her sentence was suddenly interrupted when a small mouse ran across the room and Lois jumped up on a chair. "She calls herself a Superwoman," laughed one of the workers. "Now I'll tell one, said another."

At the end of the day, Lois left the building and hailed a cab to take her home. But, before stepping inside, she stopped and reconsidered. "Why should I take a taxi home when I know of a much quicker and more economical way?" she thought to herself. Leaping into the air, she amazed even herself with her ability to fly, and soon she was standing on the ledge outside her apartment building. Slipping through the window, Lois was met by the house matron, who was surprised that she hadn't heard Lois come through the door. After excusing herself, Lois hurried to her room and created her own costume with a blue tunic and pants, a pleated skirt and red cape, gloves and boots. A suitable costume for ... Superwoman.

Trying to emulate Superman, Lois took off on patrol. The people of Metropolis had grown used to seeing Superman in their skies, and were bewildered when they realized that a Superwoman patrolled, as well. Below her, Lois heard screaming, and saw a man running from an apartment building yelling for help. Dropping down to the street, Lois rushed to his assistance only to discover that the assailant was his wife. Thinking quickly, Lois interceded to help patch up the squabble, and once finished headed back to the skies. "I can see where a Superwoman can get into a lot of embarrassing situations if she doesn't watch her step," she thought to herself.

Then, in an alley close to her house, Lois saw a man being roughed-up by some hoods. Swooping down from the sky, she grabbed the hoods, and landed a flurry of blows. Wherever her steel-like fists landed, bodies flew through the air. When the men attempted to get away, Lois grabbed the bumper of their car and tossed it into the air. Going to the victim, she picked him up to find... Clark Kent. "Lois! Lois Lane! But what are you doing in that fantastic get-up?" he said incredulously. And swiftly, Lois grabbed Clark and took to the air so no one would overhear him speak her name.

Landing on a steeple top, Lois explained to Kent that the transfusion of Superman's blood gave her amazing powers. "I intend to right wrongs and help those in need just like Superman," she proclaimed, "so I want you to promise that you'll divulge my secret to no one." Why should I promise any such thing?" asked Kent. "This is the scoop of the century." Angry that Clark would be so quick to betray her, Lois threatened him by flying quickly up and down the main streets of Metropolis until Kent promised not to reveal her true identity. Then, Lois dropped Clark off and began to fly home not noticing a huge net that appeared in her path as she flew into it... trapped.

Slowly, the net was raised into a huge airplane, where Lois was gassed and made captive by the henchmen of Dr. Skowl, the evil genius. Once back at the hidden den of Dr. Skowl, the scientist flew into a rage seeing that his men had brought him a woman, not Superman. "But her costume confused us," said one of the henchmen. "And since she was flying though the skies like Superman..." Suddenly, Dr Skowl could take no more. "Don't lie to me fools, idiots, simpletons! Even the youngest tot should know that Superman is the only being that can fly through the air like a bird. Destroy her," he ordered.

Suddenly, the real Superman crashed through the fortress walls. As he moved to free Lois, Dr Skowl threw a switch coursing thousands of volts of electricity through Superman's body. Superman collapsed, but was still alive, and the men moved quickly. "Strap him to the Z-Ray board," ordered Skowl. "Now, the end of Superman," he yelled in triumph.

In the corner of the lab, Lois was beginning to recover from the effects of the gas the henchmen had used on her. Jumping up, she screamed at the men not to throw the Z-Ray switch. "Stop? Simply because a helpless female asks me to," scoffed Skowl. His dismissal angered Lois, and she flew into action, destroying the lab and crushing the Z-Ray machine. As Lois came toward Skowl he screamed, "You are too late," and pulled the switch. But Superwoman's actions had altered the focus of the beam and Skowl was killed immediately by his own ray.

Going to Superman, she broke the manacles around his wrists, freeing him. He looked at her happily, but that was short lived when she pushed him against the wall. "For five long years, you've lead me a dizzy chase on a romantic merry-go-round, my fine-feathered friend. Well that's all changed. I've got some super-powers of my own now, and you're going to listen to me." Superman tries to edge away, but she places a hand firmly on his chest. "I'm crazy, batty, dippy and slap-happily in love with you, you great big wonderful man... and the point of all this romantic by-play is that I want a definite answer to one little question. Will you marry me?"

Superman tried to slip past Lois, but again she stopped him. "I..er..that is...I," he mumbled. "I accept," screamed Lois jubilantly, throwing her arms around Superman and giving him a big kiss.

Lois's joy was quickly broken when her super-hearing picked up several newsboys shouting an extra. "What are they saying," she asked. Superman smiled and said, "Lois Lane is Super-woman! Big expose by Daily Planet reporter." Angry that Clark had written the story, Lois swooned, collapsing into Superman's arms, and when she awoke, Lois was back at the Metropolis Hospital. "I am Dr. Michelson," said the physician standing at her bedside. "You're a very lucky lady," he continued. "You've just recovered from a delicate brain operation I never would have arrived in time to perform it if Superman hadn't traced me to my vacation lodge and brought me here." Looking at him in amazement, Lois mumbled, "Then Superwoman... my accepted proposal... was all a dream?" She got no answer from the doctor, but a nurse opened her door allowing Clark Kent, who had been waiting hours for her to recover, to enter her room with a bouquet of flowers for her. "Lois, are you all right?" he asked. "Naturally," she said. "What would you expect of a Superwoman - er, I mean Newspaper-Woman?"

4Story - 4: Aside form the fact that this story was historically important because it contained the first reference to a Superwoman (or Supergirl) in Superman comics, this was a really well done story. Stories like this delineated the odd love triangle that Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Superman participated in. Lois loves Superman, but Superman avoids her. Kent, who is really Superman, loves Lois, but she wants nothing to do with a weakling. What a tangled web they weave.

Jerry Siegel wrote this story and he made a great effort to show the male attitudes toward women in the 1940's. On several occasions, the male characters in this story refer to Lois as weak, or helpless, yet Lois is anything but. The Lois Lane of this story is determined, decisive, and can handle herself. Siegel makes a strong statement for women of the 1940's by portraying her as being way ahead of her time when it came to woman's rights, working outside the home and having a career. This was a recurring theme with Siegel, and made the difference between the strong story we read here and the mundane Lois that looked only to be saved by Superman in the stories of the 1950's.

Action Comics #60 contained 68 pages. Along with the "Lois Lane, Superwoman" story there was a Vigilante vs. Rainbow Man story (Rainbow over Crimeville) by Mort Meskin and Charles Paris, a 6 page 3 Aces story (The Lieutenant from Corregidor), an 8 page Americommando story (Rations for Victory) by Bernard Baily, a Congo Bill story (Jungle Justice), a 9 pages Zatara story (Styles in Crime) along with several fillers by Henry Boltinoff, who would go onto become an editor for DC.

5Art - 5: I don't often make glowing comments about the art from any Superman story from this time period, but the art for this particular story was incredibly beautiful. Page nine of this story, where Superwoman takes Clark Kent above the city has many wonderful, and incredibly detailed, views of Metropolis. It is a piece of art that could easily stand among anything produced today.

The story was drawn by John Sikela who, next To Wayne Boring, was probably the most important of the Joe Shuster shop artists. Sikela began working on Superman with issue 12 (Luthor and the Giant Animals of Baracoda Island) in Sept 1941, often inking over Shuster's layouts. Later, Sikela penciled his own stories. Personally, I feel that this work is far more dynamic that Shuster's. Sikela utilized many interesting angles, scenery and panel designs that Shuster never even tried to experiment with. Oddly, Sikela's version of Luthor was drawn with fangs; he drew Dr. Skowl, the villain in this story, in a similar manner. Sikela then became one of the primary Superboy artists when the feature began. When Siegel and Shuster left DC, Sikela went with them to work on the Funnyman feature, but later returned to again draw Superboy until the mid-1950's. Sikela passed away in 1998 at the age of 91.

Ed Dobrotka was another early Shuster assistant. He worked primarily as an inker in the studio, handling the pencils of such artists as Shuster, Sikela, Nowak and Boring. He did do some pencilling of his own, however he returned to inking, exclusively, in 1945. In those subsequent years, Dobrotka worked with Sikela on Superboy stories well into the 1950s, and inked an occasional Swan Superboy story. Dobrotka's work can easily be recognized by his use of a short bar on the "S" symbol, unlike Sikela's "S" that looked more like a figure "8". Dobrotka also drew several Starman stories in All Star Comics and some Captain Triumph stories for Quality Comics, however his greatest claim-to-fame was that he co-created the Toyman with Don Cameron in Action Comics #64. Ed Dobrotka passed away in 1977 at age of 60.

4Cover Art - 4: The cover to Action Comics #80 was drawn by the great Jack Burnley. The image is a rather typical one from the war-years which routinely featured patriotic images in support of the fighting men in battle. Here, Superman flies ammunition and first aid supplies to GIs in battle. It is a very strong image, typical of Burnley.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • 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”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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