Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Superman #53Cover date: July 1948
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!"
Story - 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.
Art - 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.
Cover 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
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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