Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #42

Superman #42

Cover date: September-October 1946

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Penciller: Shuster Studio
Inker: Shuster Studio
Cover: Shuster Studio

"The Death of Clark Kent"

Beyond the Arctic Circle, on the bleak island of Bonogak, a number of men work frantically to move equipment. The scientific expedition of Professor Fergusson had placed their camp at the foot of a large glacier and instruments had shown that the weight of the melting snow would soon start a snow slide. Emerging from one of the igloos ran Clark Kent, who had been sent by the Daily Planet to report on the expedition. Using his x-ray vision, Kent confirmed the Professor's finding and thought to himself, "He's right. The whole lower layer is giving way."

"There's no time to lose," yelled the Professor. The men began pulling together important equipment, but Kent turned and began running away. "Come back! Where are you going?" screamed the professor. Kent kept running, yelling over his shoulder, "Let's save ourselves." Yet, out of the explorer's view, Kent quickly removed his parka and changed to Superman and saw that the snow slide has begun. Soaring into the sky, Superman pushed the glacier, forcing the wall of snow to collapse and save the camp.

Moments later, Kent re-appeared greeted a now-hostile mob. Professor faced Kent and sternly said, "No man likes to be told he's a coward. But in this wild country all our lives may depend on each man's courage. Your timidity may, in the future, expose others to danger. Therefore, I must send you back." Despite Kent's protests Fergusson insisted that he leave and has one of his guides escort him to the mainland. With three weeks to wait for the next ship, all Kent can do is wait, dejected. In a fit of Frustration, Kent decided not to wait. Walking behind a shed, he changed to Superman and flew back to Metropolis.

As soon as he arrived back in Metropolis, Superman changed back to Kent and began walking down the street in front of the Daily Planet Building. As luck would have it, Lois looked out her window at the Planet just in time to see Kent walking by and yelled out to him, "Yoo Hoo Clark! Back so soon?" Suddenly, the air is filled with a rumble as sewer gas exploded beneath Kent's feet. Lois could not believe what she just seen. "Clark's been killed," she screamed.

The power of the blast knocked a startled Superman to the roof of a nearby building and standing up, he realized that his Clark Kent clothes were burned and shredded. "Good thing I leaped away in time, or Lois would have recognized me as Superman," he thought. But then it struck him. "No human could have survived that blast. If Clark re-appears, she will suspect he's Superman!"

From the rooftop, Superman watched the gathering crowd searching through the blast. All they could find of the man caught in the blast was a small piece of hat. Superman realized that, for the first time since he arrived in Metropolis, he could not be Clark Kent, had no secret identity, and that he must find another. Quickly fashioning a new disguise with a fake moustache, Superman became "Kenneth Clarkson." Wandering the streets, Superman felt lost, and decided he needed another job where he could stay in touch with current events. Reading the Daily Planet, Clarkson decided to apply for work at the Star Employment Agency, and hopefully find another job as a reporter. The employment officer had an opening, and sent him to the Evening Gazette, a tabloid, to begin as a cub reporter. At the Gazette, Clarkson was interviewed by another gruff editor who agreed to try him out for a few days. As fate would have it, Clarkson's first assignment would be to cover Clark Kent's memorial service at the Daily Planet.

On the way out, Clarkson's super-hearing overheard the editor's plot to plan a hoax to upstage the memorial, and Clarkson's mind began to grind out a plan. At the service the next day, many reporters turned out to pay their last respects to Kent. In the middle of the service, a young reporter ran into the room waving a wire-report. "There's a giant sea-monster bigger'n a battleship heading into the harbor." The reporters were skeptical, still the room emptied when everyone ran out to cover the new story.

In the corridor, Clarkson changed to Superman and sped to the harbor. Beneath the water, Superman pulled together bits of seaweed and rubbish to create a sea-monster. "When Clarkson turns in his story, the Gazette won't print it knowing it's a fake and everyone will scoop them," chuckled Superman to himself. The fabricated sea-monster swam into the harbor then turned out to sea and all of the reporters hustled to turn in their stories. Just as predicted, the editor of the Gazette tore up Clarkson's story and fired him for fabricating a story. Laughing, Clarkson left and returned to the Star Employment Agency.

Just as the editor realized that the hoax had become reality and he had been scooped, Clarkson walked into the Agency and applied for another job. Before long, Clarkson was placed as a waiter at the Bilt-Ritz, a fancy uptown restaurant. On his first day, Clarkson amazed the other waiters by carrying huge stacks of plates on his tray, and was warned by the headwaiter to be more careful. Later in the evening, Clarkson saw Lois with Hal Hocum, another reporter from the Planet. Clarkson prepares to clear the table when he heard Hocum say, "Without Superman Kent wouldn't have had a chance as a reporter." "That rat," thought Clarkson, dropping his huge tray of plates in Hocum's lap. "Hal, you look silly with mashed potatoes on your head," laughed Lois. Fired again.

The Employment agency was disturbed by Clarkson's second firing, and when he asked for an outside job, he was quickly sent to be a door-to-door vacuum salesman. However, door after door was slammed in his face. Finally a middle-aged woman invited him in. After Clarkson made his sales pitch, the woman explained that she and her husband were so poor that he was about to transport an illegal load in his truck to raise extra money. Clarkson tried to not let that bother him, and leaned over to plug the cord into the wall socket when a short circuit in the socket sent sparks of electricity everywhere, burning Clarkson's clothes off again. Hearing the commotion, her husband, Joe, came running into the living room and was startled to see Superman standing there, immediately thinking that Superman was there for him. Confronting the poor man, Joe explained that he needed extra money and was going to pick up a load of crates for racketeer Pinky Redd out in the country. Lifting Joe into his arms, Superman leaped into the air. "You point out the place to me," said Superman.

As dusk began to settle, Superman and Joe flew over the rural areas outside of Metropolis. Suddenly, Joe pointed to a huge barn and he became so excited that his cigar fell from his mouth. In an instant, the barn exploded with fireworks and Superman realized that the gangster, Pinky, had been smuggling in fireworks despite the state safety ban. Sparks from the fireworks began to land on the corn crop and Superman lifted the barn and threw it in the river to cool it off and put out the fire.

After Superman flew Joe home, and arrested Pinky, he sped to the Planet building, entering through Lois' window. As he entered, she screamed excitedly that she has just received a telegram from the expedition. The expedition had read about Kent's death, but wired that it could not have been Kent because, "The real Clark couldn't have left them and arrived in Metropolis on the same day! Kent is still alive!" Seizing a wonderful opportunity, Superman leapt out the window. "Where are you going?" yelled Lois. "To find Clark and bring him back, on the same day," answered Superman.

Exactly one hour and twenty-two minutes later, Kent arrived at the Planet. "What's all this about my being dead," asked Clark. Ecstatic to see her partner alive, Lois ran up and threw her arms around him. "Oh Clark, it's so wonderful to see you again," she sighed. Holding Lois close, Kent looked over her shoulder... at us, watching him. "Being dead was a terrible nuisance. But I guess it was worth it - for this! Anyway, it's good to be alive again." With that, Kent returned to a wonderful welcome home hug.

4Story - 4: A good trivia question for a Superman fan would be, "In the 60-plus years of Superman, how many times has Superman died?" Or Clark Kent, or Lois or Jimmy, or... well you get the idea. This story was special in several ways. First, it was one of the first times that DC published a "Death of Clark Kent" story, a plot device that writers use even today to entice readers. Secondly, it was also a story in which Superman lost his secret-identity and had to create another. That type of story had been used many times over the past fifty years to explore many aspects of Superman's psyche including the obvious question of why does Superman even need a secret identity? Lastly, this tale was amazing in that Prof. Fergusson called Kent a coward to his face. Lois Lane had abused Kent for years, but this was the first time another character had stepped up and actually called Kent on his perceived cowardice. Overall this was a fun story, exploring many possibilities of Superman's personality, yet ultimately having it return to be mild-mannered Clark Kent.

Superman comics of the mid-1940's were reduced from 64 to 52 pages but still routinely contained three 11-13 page stories in each issue. The first story in the issue, "The Men Who Wouldn't Quit", featured J. Wilbur Wolfingham, "king of the old-time confidence men". Wolfingham first appeared in Superman #26 (1944), and made a number of appearances in Superman, Action and World's Finest Comics through the 1950's. Wolfingham was not a serious villain for Superman especially because, while he plotted schemes intended to bring him monetary gain, he always ended up enriching the victims rather than lining his own pockets. So, technically, Wolfingham never committed a crime and was always able to walk away albeit he was poorer for the experience. Still, that allowed him to re-appear in subsequent issues without breaking out of the Metropolis Prison. In this story, Wolfingham tried to swindle retired tycoons out of their fortunes by persuading them to finance a company that would return them to the days of their early hard work and success. Superman intervened to prevent Wolfingham from fulfilling his bizarre contract with the tycoons and forced him to return all of their money.
In the second story, "A Legend Comes True", Superman apprehends Burton Crowther, a Hudson River historian and treasure hunter who had located a sunken barge containing $1,000,000 in gold. To protect it from other treasure hunters, Crowther developed an elaborate scheme to frighten away the curious using henchmen dressed as ghosts. Again, Crowther is not much of a foe, for Superman.

3Art - 3: Very little of the art from the 1940-60's were actually signed by the artist that did the work. Dick Sprang never signed his work; rather Bob Kane's signature appeared on his Batman stories. On Superman stories, only Siegel and Shuster's name appeared in the credits until from 1939 until 1946, and after that there were no credits at all until the early 1970's. While the art for this story went uncredited, it appears to be the work of Ed Dobrotka, one of the many artists to work in Joe Shuster's studio in the mid- to late 1940's. Dobrotka's art was cartoony. In fact it is rather crude and simple considering the wonderful art by Sprang and Robinson that was being done on Batman during the same period. This story gets the job done. It is not slick, or fancy. What it does do is use many of Shuster's classic elements. Again, like many of the issues from this time period, the splash page, here showing Superman carving a statue as a memorial for Clark Kent, was very well done and could have been the cover.

3Cover Art - 3: Like many of the covers from the 1940's, the image used had nothing to do with any of the stories inside. On the cover to Superman #42, Superman is performing as a one man band, playing the trumpet, drums, and bass while Lois listens or winces at the sounds he is making. It's a fun image, but does nothing to let the reader know of the stories inside.

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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