Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #88

Superman #88

Cover date: March 1954

Writer: William Woolfolk
Penciller: Wayne Boring
Inker: Wayne Boring
Cover: Win Mortimer

"The Terrible Trio"

One day, at an amusement park on the outskirts of Metropolis, a strange round man stepped in front of a mirror and began laughing hysterically at his distorted image. This is Oswald Loomis, better known in criminal circles as the Prankster. In another part of the park, a bespectacled man rode a carousel duck remembering his battles with Superman using his amazing toys. This is Winslow P. Schott, also known as the Toyman. By a strange coincidence Lex Luthor was also at the park shooting targets at the arcade lamenting his most recent defeat at the hands of the Man of Steel. But, it must truly be fate that they were all brought together when they all decided to go down a huge slide and collided with one another in a heap.

Rushing outside the tent, Luthor pulled the trio into a huddle. "This chance meeting may be the luckiest thing that ever happened," says Luthor. "It's Superman, you know. He's always interfering," grumbled the Toyman. "Why don't the three of us combine out talents and fight Superman? He's had trouble beating any one of us. How could he defeat all three?" posed Luthor. Nodding in agreement, the three decide that the fairest way to proceed is to pull lots from Luthor's hat, the winner to decide who plans the first crime. Laughing with glee, the Prankster pulls the longest straw.

The very next day, a crowd gathered in downtown Metropolis to view a dazzling display of jewels in a store window. Walking past the store is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. Looking down at the street, Kent notices a wallet attached to a string, and when he leans over to take a closer look the policeman standing on duty begins laughing. "Don't try to pick that up, mister," he chuckles. "See the string attached? The kids will yank it out of sight before you can even touch it."

Before Kent can even stand up, Lex Luthor steped from an alley and lifted his hat. A choking gas poured into the crowd making the spectators cough and wheeze. Quickly, Clark Kent changed into Superman, scoops up Luthor and hangs him from a telephone pole. But while Superman is busy capturing Luthor, the Prankster runs out and pulls the wallet. The string was not held by children, but ran to a detonator setting off dynamite which blow a whole in the wall exposing the jewels. Gleefully, Prankster and Toyman make their escape with a priceless model of the Metropolis Bridge encrusted with precious stones.

Turning, Superman rushes to stop the two first using his super-breath to pin the Prankster against a wall, then suction-breath to pull the bridge to him. Seeing Superman grab the jeweled bridge the Toyman releases a swarm of tiny Superman dolls that fly away in all directions. However, these toys are more than dolls, they are really small grenades, which explode on contact with whatever they touch. Responding quickly, Superman protects the bridge, setting the grenades off with his teeth, even opening his mouth wide and swallowing the toys whole.

While Superman is busy with the grenades, the trio escapes in Luthor's jet-mobile, all the while arguing over who is more important. The Toyman says, "The next job is mine and I've already figured out what it will be!"

Several days later, Clark Kent and Lois Lane discuss the trio at the Planet offices. Lois tells Clark that she thinks the trio has given up after their first defeat but Kent feels differently. "They're waiting for the right opportunity to strike again," he thinks. And then, he sees it... the Jack in the Box contest with a million-dollar prize! Changing quickly, Superman speeds to the contest headquarters where three heavy crates are being delivered. But the contents are Luthor, the Toyman and the Prankster. With the touch of a switch, the tops fly open and the three criminals are propelled to the second floor with powerful springs. Inside the office, the Toyman begins trying to open the safe while the other two take hostages. In seconds, Superman arrives frightening the Toyman who drops his torch cutting a hole into the floor, weakening the joists and causing the huge safe to crash through the floor. In an instant, Superman zips out the window to the floor below, catching the safe before it crushes the secretary below.

Foiled again, the three hurriedly flee in one of Luthor's rockets. "I think that I left my stomach a couple of miles back down there," says the Toyman wearily. "Frankly, I'm disappointed in your crime schemes," bellows Luthor. "You both have inflated reputations!"

Next it is Luthor's turn. Using a worldwide radio system, Luthor challenges Superman to handle a group of floating land mines that he has strategically placed over each nation's capital holding each city in a billion-dollar ransom. Superman arrives in an instant and rapidly dispatches some of them, kicking several of them to the moon to explode harmlessly in space. But as Superman approaches one of the last ones he suddenly feels weak and collapses on the surface of the mine. "It's coated with synthetic Kryptonite," gloated Luthor. Leaning over his huge console, Luthor throws a degravitation switch, and the mine begins to float out into space. "It... It's hard to believe it," stutters the Prankster. "I guess Luthor's a genius after all," sighs the Toyman.

The mine floats further and further out into space and Superman desperately searches for a means to escape. Using his x-ray vision, he triggers the explosive mechanism within the mine causing a blinding explosion which scatters the synthetic Kryptonite to the four corners of the solar system and Superman clear of the deadly particles. After he gathers his strength, Superman turns and flies back to Luthor's headquarters.

"Now will you two imitation masterminds admit that I, Luthor, am the only real genius? My success in defeating Superman proves that I am the greatest..." But Luthor's diatribe was interrupted by another voice. "Was I defeated?" laughs Superman entering the open window. In seconds, Superman has used the draperies to capture and tie-up the trio, and takes off flying to Metropolis prison with the trio hanging from his back like a sack of laundry. "I...I don't understand," stammers Luthor. "My plan was fool proof! What could have gone wrong?"

"Ha Ha Ha! You thought you were a genius!" laughed the Prankster. "Luthor got us all captured by Superman. Ha Ha Ha!" chimed in the Toyman. Superman could only smile. "The Prankster and The Toyman are so happy that Luthor can't gloat that they don't even mind going to prison. What a prize package of conceited hams these three are!"

5Story - 5: From Superman's inception, it became increasingly difficult to find a villain powerful enough to stand up to his ever-growing powers. Luthor was Superman's second true, and longest lasting nemesis, beginning his reign of terror in Action #23 and Superman #4 using brains to combat Superman's brawn. The first was the Ultra-Humanite (Action #13), a fiendish mad scientist, paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair who headed a ring of evil enterprises with the goal of world domination. The first costumed villain to appear in the title was the Archer in Superman #13 but he appeared only once. After Mxyzptlk (Superman #30), the next real wave of costumed villains began with Action Comics #51 (August 1942) introducing the Prankster, the clown prince of the underworld (although he and Joker might have to fight for that distinction). Less than a year later, Action Comics #64 (Sept 1943) introduced readers to Winslow P. Schott, a bespectacled, bulbous-nosed former toymaker who used toys as a motif in his crimes and became known as the Toyman. Schott had reformed in the 1970's and a new Toyman (Jack Nimball) appeared until Schott killed Nimball and resumed being the Toyman (Superman #305). For years, Luthor, the Prankster and the Toyman remained the major trio of villains to battle Superman.

This story made the obvious leap by teaming Superman's three major nemeses to combat him. This editorial decision would lead to Luthor later teaming with the Joker to battle Superman and Batman (World's Finest #88 and #129). Even still, Superman proved far too clever to be so easily defeated even by three super-villains. The story, itself, was rather typical of 1950's Superman stories featuring wild criminal plots (high powered Jack in the boxes, rockets and super space mines), and even more amazing ways for Superman to defeat the bad guys. Nothing was ever made easy for the Man-of-Steel even though he could have made them simple. This story, for example, featured the ever-popular "swallow-the-grenade" trick.
Again, comics from the 1950's often had multiple stories in them and this was the third story in this issue. The other stories were The Toughest Job In The World, where Clark Kent worked a number of jobs to get evidence on a contractor using sub-standard concrete to defraud the city and then The Dog Who Loved Superman where Superman combated the schemes of the Professor.

4Art - 4: Wayne Boring drew this story at the peak of his run on Superman and this is a very typical, and strong, example of his work. Boring was known for his highly stylized cityscapes and space scenes, and this story showcased his ability on both fronts.

5Cover Art - 5: The premiere cover artist for DC during the late 1940s and well into the 1950's was Win Mortimer. For a period of almost ten years, Mortimer did nearly every cover for Superman, Action, Batman, Detective, and World's Finest as well as a host of other books. Mortimer also found time to do interior work on these titles as well as draw the Superman daily newspaper strip from 1950-5. The cover to Superman #88 is an excellent example of Win's wonderful art, showing Luthor, the Prankster and the Toyman setting various traps for the Man of Steel.

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


Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.