Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #19

Cover date: November-December 1942

Writter: Jerry Siegel
Penciller #1: Ed Dobrotka
Inker #1: John Sikella
Penciller #2: Joe Shuster
Inker #2: Joe Shuster and Studio
Cover: Joe Shuster and Studio

"Case of the Funny Paper Crimes"

Atop a freight car rumbling across a high trestle, two men exchanged brutal blows. After gaining an advantage, one man pinned the other's shoulders to the car with his knees. "You've trailed me across a continent, Detective Craig! But now that you've found me, you die!" screamed Machine-Gun Mike. The crook delivered a number of punches to Detective Craig's face, then lifted him up to throw him off of the speeding train. "Down the high trestle plummets a shrieking body - down toward the turbulent river far below! Someone is going to die -- But who -- Detective Craig or Machine-Gun Mike?!? ...To be continued."

"I didn't realize that you were a comics fan," said Lois Lane to Clark Kent. Kent is propped against his desk, his head buried deep in the comics page of the Daily Planet. Looking over the top of the paper, Kent mumbled, "Avid is the word for it," telling her that he never missed the Detective Craig strip. "I won't be able to sleep tonight, worrying whether or not Craig or Machine-Gun Mike is the one who will die," he said. "Mind if I look at the comic page?" asked Lois. "I want to see how Prince Peril is doing." "So, you love the funnies, too, eh?" laughed Kent. And, so, Lois took the paper to look at the day's episodes of Prince Peril, Detective Craig, The Solitary Rider, Streak Dugan, and Happy Daze.

Lois turned to hand the paper back to Clark who said, "Odd how those impossible characters get a grip on you. Take Torgo, for instance, the menacing giant in Prince Peril. You know and I know that it's impossible for such a creature to exist." But no sooner had the words left Kent's lips than a crowd in downtown Metropolis looked up at a colossal giant towering over the National Bank. "My gosh!" screamed one man. "It's Torgo-the monster from the Prince Peril comic strip." Using his huge club, Torgo smashed through the roof of the bank and scooped up handfuls of loot, then raced off down the street overturning cars in his wake.

Perry White ran frantically into the City Room screaming that a giant monster has just robbed the National Bank. Lois began to leave pulling Kent with her, but Clark shrugged and told her that he thought that this must be a giant hoax. Yet, once she left, Clark Kent slipped into an empty hallway, and switched to Superman, then sped to the downtown bank. Already on the scene was old friend, Sergeant Casey, who told Superman that it was Torgo who committed the crime. Not sure whether to believe Casey or not, Superman whizzed off, soon catching the giant stomping down a highway. Still not willing to believe that the character before him had actually come to life from the comic strip, Superman approached and the giant turned, lifting it's club, preparing to strike. Then, unexpectedly, a dinosaur also appeared out of thin air. Determined to end the battle there, Superman leapt up toward Torgo and... passed right though him. Turning, the two monsters were gone, as quickly as they had appeared.

Racing around the area, Superman looked for any clues that may explain the sudden appearance and disappearance of these creatures. Then again, suddenly, a smiling yellow face appeared in the sky. "And who in blazes are you?" asked the man of steel. "You may call me Funnyface," said the gloating face in a mocking tone. And with a laugh, it too disappeared.

Back at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent tried to explain to the editor that it was Torgo that robbed the bank, and Perry White was no more willing to believe this than Superman could before he actually saw it for himself. In mid-sentence, the police radio squawked to life. "Calling all cars! Machine-Gun Mike robbing Minton Museum!" "The whole world has gone madhouse! Get down to the Minton Museum but this time turn in a yarn that makes sense!" demands White.

Inside the museum, several crooks leisurely snipped priceless paintings from the walls knowing that, outside, a giant-sized Machine-Gun Mike kept the police at bay. But, a streak of blue and red whizzed into the museum, retrieved the art and replaced it on the walls as if nothing had ever been touched. Startled, the crooks made a hasty retreat to their get-away car, but were quickly stopped when Superman lifted the rear axle from the ground. Preparing to fly the car to a police station, Superman crouched down but suddenly a giant hand lifted the car from his shoulders. "I'll take that car," said the giant and Superman looked up to see Machine-Gun Mike. Mike's gun spit its deadly barrage, but had no effect on the Man of Steel. Yet, when Superman turned to throw his knockout punch, once again his fist passed harmlessly through the figure, which then disappeared completely. In the confusion, the crooks tried to make good another escape, but were quickly rounded up and delivered to Sergeant Casey.

The action done, Superman changed back to Clark Kent in a nearby alley and rejoined Lois. As they talked over the case, it suddenly dawned on Lois that whoever was perpetrating these crimes was using the order of appearance in the comic page as a chart to orchestrate the robberies. "If that were true," said Lois, "the next villain to pop up would be the Black Raider from the Solitary Rider comic." Kent pretended to dismiss Lois' idea, but that did not dissuade her. She decided that the Black Raider would most likely strike the stockyards, and rushed off to cover the story.

No sooner had Lois arrived and warned the stockyard owners than two men entered the offices with machineguns drawn while, outside, a giant Black Raider reared back on his white horse. Ducking into a side room, Lois tried to call Kent, but the Black Raider reached into the room and grabbed her. "The line went dead," puzzled Kent, who then quickly changed to Superman and flew to the stockyards. Quickly, he disposed of several crooks driving away with truckloads of cattle, and then streaked off after the Black Raider but as he neared him the strange yellow faces of Funnyface appeared blowing him off course. As quickly as all three had appeared, they all disappear.

This is a scene that continued to repeat itself. The next day, a large space ship lowered a rod into a train car, stealing the gold it contains. "It's Goola, the Martian villain in Streak Dugan," said an astonished Superman. Streaking to stop him, again the faces of Funnyman appeared distracting him until Goola disappeared.

Superman realized that the only villain left to appear was Viper. In the daily strip, Viper was attempting to steal the campaign fund from the old folk's home, so Superman raced to the Metropolis Old Folk's Home to warn them. Trying to explain his fear to an elderly woman there, Superman is surprised when she said, "Your warning was unnecessary... because I am the Viper." And instantly the figure becomes fifty feet tall. But, as Superman leaped at the huge figure his facial features changed to Funnyface. "It's been fun outwitting you...again," said Funnyface with great pleasure. Out of the corner of his eye, Superman noticed a message written on the figure's pocket..."Carter's Canyon". As the figure disappeared, Superman speeds off to meet Funnyface.

Meanwhile, in a farmhouse at Carter's Canyon, the villain known as Funnyface was quite pleased with himself, until he noticed the directions that Lois Lane had written on Viper's figure. Focussing a weird ray on the comic characters, they stepped off the paper and grew to immense size. "Superman will be here any moment," he screamed. "You know what to do." Five of the blackest villains of all comic strip history gave Superman the fight of his life, until Lois focused the ray and enlarged the heroes of each strip. "Get out there and make it an even battle," she yelled, and into the fray charged the comic strip heroes, battling their individual foes in customary fashion, and defeating them.

Funnyface was anything but happy. "I'll fix you for it," he yelled pushing Lois into the ray. "My ray can also reverse the process," he laughed, transforming Lois into a drawing on a sheet of paper. Superman raced into the room to save Lois, but the heroes of the comic strip took over, pummeling Funnyface until he finally surrendered and returned Lois to her human self. Using the ray to return both villains and heroes to their comic existence, Superman then smashed the weird machine and turned to unmask Funnyface. After the mask was removed, Superman still had no idea who Funyface really was. "I wanted to be a celebrity - the creator of a famous comic strip," sighed Funnyface. "But no one would buy my strips. My dimensional experimentation enabled me to bring comic characters to life - and I put the strip villains to work for me to gather illegal profits."

After Funnyface was taken into custody, Lois and Clark returned to the offices of the Daily Planet. ..."I still can't believe my incredible adventures with the strip villains really happened," exclaimed Lois, flopping into her chair. "It's funny --- but it's true," laughed Kent.

"Superman - Matinee Idol"

One afternoon, Clark Kent sauntered over toward Lois Lane. Casually leaning against the her desk, he said, "Lois, since we both have the afternoon off, how about taking in a movie together?" After years of trying to get Lois to go out with him, Kent was very surprised at her response when she jumped up excitedly and grabbed her purse. "Swell!" she said. "Let's go to the Empire Theater." "But, a Superman cartoon is being shown there," moaned Kent. "And that's why I want to go," said Lois grabbing Clark by the arm and pulling him through the City Room door.

Soon, the feature film was over and Lois and Clark anxiously waited for the cartoon to begin. "I hear that Paramount did an outstanding job," said Clark, and continued, "In the first cartoon release, Superman sent a Mad Scientist to prison, but first he had to battle a heat ray and smash the savant's laboratory." "Look, it's beginning," shushed Lois.

Up on the screen, the cartoon flashed to life. First, there was a copyright notice, and then an advertisement that Superman stories appear in Action Comics and Superman magazines each month. "I don't believe I've ever seen those magazine," whispered Lois. Turning away, Kent was startled. "How they know so much about me is a puzzle," he thinks. "Perhaps they're clairvoyant!"

But then we see a shot of Prison Island, where the most dangerous criminals are sent. Superman had imprisoned the Mad Scientist there after they clashed, but today, the Scientist surprised a guard and makes a daring escape. The news spreads and a radio announcer lets Metropolis know that the Mad Scientist had escaped. Suddenly the scene shifts to a huge skyscraper and Lois Lane gasps. "That looks like the Daily Planet Building" she says. Panicked, Clark Kent tells Lois that something is caught in his throat and slips out of the theater. Lois follows to hurry Kent along. "Anyone would think that you'd have never seen Superman," he said.

Returning to their seats, Lois and Clark see the Mad Scientist's jungle hideout where he has built a giant robot that he prepares to send out to cause mass destruction. "The time has come for vengeance," he screams, and the robot begins its trip toward civilization. But first, the mechanical monster comes across a low flying plane and only after the pilot sends a warning the robot smashes the plane to the ground.

Air traffic controllers call the planet and again Clark is panicked. To prevent her from seeing more, Clark knocks Lois' pocketbook off her lap onto the floor. While she searches for her purse, Perry White assigns the cartoon Lois and Clark the story back, but Kent slips away to change to Superman. Seeing his identity revealed on the screen, Kent kicks Lois' purse further under the seats, forcing her to get on her hands and knees to look for it. "Another moment's delay, and she'd have discovered that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same," Kent thinks.

Back on the screen, the giant robot stands in Metropolis harbor and begins its swath of destruction. Covering the story, Lois rushes to take a photo of the destruction but the Scientist, viewing the carnage through the robot's camera "eyes" sees Lois Lane and recognizes her as "that girl reporter who was instrumental in sending me to prison." He guides the robot to smash his foot down at her. Superman speeds onto the scene to save her and seeing this, Lois jumps up and screams, "Yeah, Superman!"

Now the Scientist sees Superman as well, and sends his robot to do battle. First the robot smashes Superman with a large apartment building, and sensing victory grabs Lois and heads off to the Mad Scientists retreat. But suddenly, Superman rises from the rubble and heads off, "to find Lois and that monster!"

Within seconds, Superman apprehends the robot. The robot lifts his hand to smash Lois to the ground. "I can't look," says Lois turning her head. Clark turned and whispered, "You should know by now that Superman always saves you in the nick of time." And, sure enough, when the robot releases her, Superman catches Lois before she can hit the ground. Then, jumping up, he destroys the robot and locates the lair of the Mad Scientist controlling the mechanical monster. Superman smashes his way into the Mad Scientist's lair who then pulls a gun and shoots at Lois. Moving faster than the eye can follow Superman races the bullet, catching it before it hits her. Again Lois jumps up, screaming. "Sit down," says Kent. "You're attracting attention."

Grabbing up the Mad Scientist and Lois, Superman takes to the skies and returns the criminal genius to prison once again, while Lois heads off to file her story. Standing up, Kent pulls Lois down the aisle. "Sorry Lois, but I insist we leave. All that excitement on the screen has given me a dizzy spell." Disgusted, Lois follows but says, "I'll never go to another movie with you again, you weakling."

Up on the screen the cartoon Lois and Clark return to the Daily Planet and Lois hands in her scoop while the real Lois storms out of the theater, upset at Kent's weak heart. Before Kent passes through the theater doors, he takes one final look back at the screen and sees the cartoon Superman give him an nod and a wink. "Well pal," thinks Kent, "our secret is still a secret from Lois!"

4Story - 4: Superman #19 contained four stories. Case of the Funny Paper Crimes was the first story in the issue and Superman: Matinee Idol was the fourth. That makes this issue one of the few Superman comics that contains not only one, but two classic stories. On top of that, both of these stories revolve around the comics' medium. The first story was inspired by the many adventure strips that used to appear in the newspapers during in the 1940's. Today, those adventure strips have all but disappeared, with very few regularly appearing in any significant number of newspapers. Obviously, Prince Peril was inspired by Prince Valiant, Detective Craig from Secret Agent X-9, Solitary Rider from the Lone Ranger and Streak Dugan from Flash Gordon.

It may also be suggested that Jerry Siegel wrote this story as a commentary on publishers, and the Siegel-Shuster struggle with DC that ran for years. In that last page, Superman did not recognize Funnyface after he was unmasked, being the faceless creator behind the characters. Funnyface says that he wanted the notoriety that came with selling his own comic strip, but no one would buy it... similar to the trouble Siegel and Shuster had in originally selling Superman. And finally, Funnyman says, "... and I put the strip villains to work for me to gather illegal profits." I'm sure that this pair saw the editors and owners of DC as doing just that.

In 1941, Paramount and the Fleischer Studio began a two-year collaboration which produced a series of seventeen animated cartoons based on Superman. These 7-10 minute gems survive today not only as excellent examples of animation, but also as a very fair treatment of the Superman characters. With their editorial tongues placed firmly in their cheek, DC poked fun at their own characters and looked at what might have happened had Lois and Clark gone to see one of these shorts in the theater. According to DC's own editors, this became the first "Imaginary Story". The mad scientist that appears in this story comes straight from the first of these cartoons (known both as Superman and The Mad Scientist), while the robot in the story comes from the second cartoon (The Mechanical Monsters). This suggests that Jerry Siegel might have seen these two cartoons and combined them somewhat to write this story. Knowing that these two cartoons were released in September and November of 1941 also gives us an idea of the lead-time that the Siegel and Shuster studio might have been working under since this did not appear until November 1942.

This story also used a plot device often seen in the Fleischer Superman cartoons, and later used in Superman: The Movie where either Superman or Clark Kent looks out at the audience and wink... a little joke between them and the audience.

4Art - 4: The art in both these stories is vintage Superman art of the early 1940's. While Shuster and his studio were not the best artists in the world, their energy gave Superman a "special" life and that was very evident here. In addition, there was a nice playfulness in the first story, really adding to the fun of the read. In the second story, Shuster used a very uncommon border design of sprocket holes on these pages which made the panels look like frames in a movie. This was rather unconventional and experimental for those times where the standard was a 9-panel page.

5Cover Art - 5: Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a copy or scan of this cover and cannot truly review it. If anyone has this issue, I would be very grateful for a scan of the cover and will gladly give credit for the copy.

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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