Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #76

Superman #76

Cover date: May/June 1952

Writer: Edmond Hamilton
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Stan Kaye
Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

"The Mightiest Team in the World"

"A great adventure can have many beginnings... and this one begins in Gotham City..."

After capturing the last criminal on Commissioner Gordon's "wanted list", Batman announces that he is going on a much-needed vacation. Dick Grayson heads upstate to visit relatives, and Bruce Wayne leaves for a coastal cruise. Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Superman quickly changes into Clark Kent. He has just delivered the fossil remains of a new dinosaur excavated in the Gobi Desert to the Metropolis Museum, but is late for a date with Lois Lane. During a night of dancing and dining, Lois says, "So, you start your vacation cruise on the Varania tomorrow evening. I'll come down and see you off, Clark!" "That'll be swell, Lois," says a hopeful Clark.

That next evening, Kent checks in on the ocean liner and is disappointed to learn that because the cruise has been overbooked, he must share his stateroom with another passenger, a wealthy gentleman from Gotham City named Bruce Wayne. As they each unpack, trying to appear calm, they are both wondering how they can protect their secret identities.

Out on the dock, a sniper fires an incendiary bullet at a fuel truck, which immediately bursts into flames. The sniper, wearing an asbestos suit, enters the flames to retrieve a packet of diamonds hidden in the truck's tanker compartment. Lois rushes off the ship to get a better look at the danger, but flames from the truck encircle her.

Inside their cabin, both Clark and Bruce hear the commotion outside and search for a way to change into their uniforms unseen. Even though they are still in port, Bruce says, "Mind if I turn off the light and turn in?" As soon as the light is switched off, both heroes begin to change. However, the light from the flames illuminates the whole cabin and each one realizes the identity of the other.

Realizing that they must act, they decide to discuss this later and join forces to combat the fire. While Superman grabs the fuel truck and flies it high into the clouds, Batman swings down to save Lois from the flames. High in the sky, Superman inhales water vapor from a cloud and returns to douse the flames. Once the situation has been handled, Lois rushes to tell Superman how excited she is to have met Batman.

Quickly searching the dock, the two detectives find a discarded asbestos suit, but learn that no one has left the area. Promising to protect each one's secret identity, the pair returns to the ship to warn the Captain that the culprit is most likely aboard. The Captain asks the two to stay on the ship, and offers them his cabin. On the lower deck, they find Lois Lane, who has also arranged to stay on board so she can be close to the story. She quickly took a reservation from a passenger who was so upset by the fire that she cancelled her trip.

Superman and Batman rush to their cabins to change back to Kent and Wayne just as Lois knocks on the door. Kent pretends to be seasick, and Lois leaves letting Superman and Batman return to the case. Superman asks Batman to pretend to be interested in Lois, hopefully distracting her from her own amateur detective work, but Lois overhears the plan. Turning the plot on Superman, Lois pretends to fall for Batman and sends Superman off to smooth out the rough waves and stop the ship from pitching.

As Superman lifts the ship above the waves and flies it smoothly over the choppy seas, he secretly searches all of the passengers for the diamonds. Using his x-ray vision, Superman spots a gun, and reads the cards in his wallet: John Smilters, Electrical Engineer. When Batman starts up a casual conversation with the man, he decides that the man is lying... "He is wearing leather soles, and high tension men always wear rubber soles for safety," thinks Batman.

That night, the ship is having a dance, and Lois asks Batman to demonstrate his acrobatic skill, but pretends to ignore Superman when he "juggles" several icebergs. Little did they know that Smilters had slipped down to the engine room and sabotaged the turbines. The ship comes to a complete stop, and while the Captain is telling Superman and Batman that a storm is on the horizon, Lois finds Smilters waiting for an arriving helicopter on the main deck. Just to be safe, Smilters grabs Lois as a hostage.

Superman decides that he must tow the ship to a safe port, so he throws Batman to the helicopter where he makes short work of the smugglers and flies the helicopter to port. They discover the diamonds, hidden in the lead bullets of Smilter's gun. With their job done, Superman and Batman now have to perform some quick tricks to maintain their identities. Leaving Lois on the dock, Superman and Batman quickly slip back on the ship and change to Kent and Wayne. "You got over your sea-sickness mighty quickly, Clark Kent. As soon as Superman and Batman leave, you and Bruce appear again."

That night, Superman flies Batman back to Gotham City, so he can make an appearance for the newspapers. The next morning, Lois reads the headlines and is positive that Batman could not be Batman. When the Varania docks, Lois and Clark are greeted by Superman, only Bruce Wayne has disguised himself as Clark to help Superman.

Changing back to their costumes, Superman and Batman decide that they will both ask Lois Lane to dinner to see whom she truly prefers. But, when they return to the crowd, they can only gaze in amazement as Lois walks off, arm-in-arm, with Robin.

4Story - 4: This was a tightly woven little story (it was only 12 pages long) which introduced the first, of many, Superman-Batman team-ups. While the way each character discovers the other's identity was used several times in the DC continuum (i.e., Pete Ross discovering Superboy's secret identity when lightning flashed) it was a simple plot device to explain. While there were several inconsistencies that didn't make perfect sense, this was a fun read. Following their joint appearance in Superman #76, Superman and Batman next teamed up in World's Finest Comics #71. Following that, Batman, Robin and Superman became occasional partners and teamed-up in every issue of World's Finest for nearly 20 years. The origin of the Superman-Batman team is also told in World's Finest Comics #94 and in Adventure Comics #275.

4Art - 4: This story was given to Curt Swan to illustrate rather early in his tenure on Superman. While not at the artistic peak he reached in the early 60's this was very solid work. His figures were very realistic, and artistically very sound, as was his pacing and story telling. Swan's splash for this story could well have been the cover, featuring Superman stopping a train with one hand while Batman swung down (from where, though? There was nothing to swing from...) to save Lois, trapped on the tracks.

4Cover Art - 4: The cover to Superman #76 was done by Win Mortimer; perhaps the pre-eminent cover artist for DC in the 1950's. Mortimer drew most every cover for the Superman, Batman, Action, Detective and World's Finest titles as well as a number of other books in DC's stable during this period. This particular cover was not exactly related to the interior story (Batman did save Lois from a fire, but they were at a dock, not on a building), however was effective enough to be visually appealing. Mortimer, like Swan, employed a very solid technique, and was known for his excellent composition.

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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