Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (wwh27539@mindspring.com).


Superman #91

Cover date: August 1954

Writer: ?
Penciller: Al Plastino
Inker: Al Plastino
Cover: Al Plastino

"The Superman Stamp" and "Great Caesar's Ghost"

The Superman Stamp:
One day, a strange man entered the offices of the Daily Planet. That, in and of itself, is not an unusual occurrence at the Planet. But this day, that strange man walked up to Lois Lane and said, "Excuse me miss... Mr. White, the editor, gave me permission to consult your files and look over your collection of Superman pictures." Pointing him toward the file cabinets, Lois, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen look on as the man pours over hundreds of photos, then walks out disgusted. "I can't find one suitable to my needs," the man mumbles. Picking up the photos to put them back in the file cabinet, Clark is amazed. "These are some of my greatest feats," he thinks to himself. After the man left the office, Clark Kent heard a number of people on the street below calling for help. Quickly changing to Superman, the Man of Steel sees a car on fire, and smashed into the car preventing the gas tank explosion from injuring passers by. The strange man looked up. "Not very impressive for him," he comments to another witness. Then turning to Superman he asks," When will you perform a feat more worthy... er- I mean a little more interesting?"

Later that day, Clark is assigned to cover an exhibit opening at the Metropolis Planetarium. Giant models of each planet have been constructed, each weighing tons, and are kept revolving in orbits using concealed electro-magnets. As the visitors begin their tour, the magnet supporting the earth model abruptly fails. Seeing the disaster begin, Clarks speeds away, quickly changes to Superman, then flies up grabbing the globe on his shoulders. "Perfect! Don't move a muscle," yells the strange man. "What do you mean," asks Superman. "Am I supposed to stand and pose?!?"

The odd, little man explains that he is Willis Fotheringay, a famous artist hired by the government to create a Superman stamp. Seeing Superman holding the world on his shoulders had inspired the artist like no other scene he had witnessed before. Proud of his work, the man holds the sketch up to Superman to view. Startled, Superman says, "But that sceneŠ you can't use it!" Willis Fotheringay cannot believe his ears. "Just give me time to give you a different scene," pleads Superman.

As days pass, Superman allows Fotheringay to accompany him on many missions. Superman becomes a human shell for an experimental Army cannon, digs a giant oil well, tests the most powerful man-made electrical force, lifts a building with one hand, stops a train with his head, and even takes Fotheringay into space to witness him blowing out a star but nothing inspires the artist more than the first scene he witnessed. Dejected, Superman lands on a beach and begins extracting gold from the sea when he hears a small boy crying. Rushing over, Superman sees that the surf has washed away the boy's sandcastle and quickly constructs a new one, using his heat vision to turn the sand to glass. "That's a terrific scene," exclaims Fotheringay. "It's the small things you do, helping little people with your marvelous gifts, that are really the biggest things you do. Here... You can have the old scene! Do what you like with it." Looking at the new drawing, Superman nods, and flies away with the old sketch.

Back in Clark's apartment, Kent studies the drawingŠ a full-face portrait of Superman holding the Earth on his shoulders. If the post office had accidentally stamped a city name across the stamp that contained a "double-O", like Altoona or Chattanooga, it would appear like glasses across Superman's face. "If Lois, or anyone that knew both Clark and Superman saw this, the secret of my identity wouldn't be safe for a moment," ponders Superman. Since the new scene had Superman in profile, there was no worry of that happening.

Several weeks later, when the stamp is released, Superman does his part by hand-delivering the first day covers. "It'll be worth a fortune, and I hope you and all the other stamp collectors I'm doing this for will contribute part of its value to charity!"


Great Caesar's Ghost:
"What kind of review is this? Great Caesar's Ghost!" screams Perry White. Poor Waldo Pippin, the drama critic, stands cowering by the editor's door. "I'm sorry sir. I had a headache when I wrote it." "Great Caesar's Ghost! I don't want excuses," screams Perry slamming the paper down on his desk, "I want results!" In the newsroom, Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen watch the dejected Waldo Pippin skulk through the office.

It is deathly quiet in the newsroom, when the silence is suddenly broken by an intercom. "That's all you hear White say. "Great Caesar's Ghost! Great Caesar's Ghost!" I'm beginning to think that he's all talk and no action." Looking at each other, Lois and Clark realize that the publishers are having a meeting and have inadvertently forgotten to turn off the intercom. "Perry used to be a good editor, but I think he's fallen into a rut. Maybe we should hire someone younger - someone with more initiative. Let's watch him for a week, then decide." As the conversation ends, Lois, Clark and Jimmy look helplessly at each other wondering what they should do, but decide that they must not tell Perry that the publishers are worried.

Later that afternoon, Perry plans the next day's schedule. "Great Caesar's Ghost! A heavy day tomorrow and there'll be three people off duty. How am I supposed to run a newspaper. Great Caesar's Ghost!" But as he calls out Caesar's name, a cloud of smoke rises from the floor and the ghost of Caesar appears. Perry's mouth drops open in amazement. The ghost just smiles and says, "I had to come to see what you wanted of me."

Hearing all of the commotion, Lois and Clark hurry into Perry's office. Running behind his desk, Perry opens a drawer, pulls out a gun and shoots at the apparition. "Th... the bullet!" yells Perry, "I - I aimed right at him and it went into the wall - right through him!" Looking around, Clark says, "I'd better go find Superman", and rushes out to change in a storage closet. Returning as Superman, the Man of Steel attempts to grab the ghost, but passes right through his body.

Turning to Perry, the ghost says that he's planning to stay until Perry performs a deed worthy of Caesar. Perry becomes indignant. "I can't become an emperor or conquer half the world," says Perry. "No," counters Caesar, "but you can do something magnificent in your own field." With that, the ghost disappears, and as if on cue the telephone rings. The police have surrounded Killer Regan's hideout but are afraid to rush in since he is holding the mayor's son hostage. "I'm going to interview him," pronounces Perry storming out the door. Lois grabs Superman. "Please, you must see that he doesn't get hurt!"

After completing a quick errand, Superman meets Perry White at Regan's hideout. Handing Perry a jug of water, he tells Perry to be patient. Quickly crushing tons of rocks into sand, Superman uses a giant shovel to spread the dirt around Regan's house. Then, burrowing under the house, Superman starts a subterranean fire that heats the house to desert-like temperatures. "Boy, it's hot," says Regan, "and it got below 40 last night!" Going to the faucet, Regan then finds that he has no water.

Regan comes out of his hideout to confront Perry who is walking up to the house. Perry tells Regan that Superman had moved the hideout to the desert during the night and "If you want water, throw away your gun and come get it," says Perry. "Oh yeah? Gimme that bottle now or I'll kill the kid inside," yells Regan. "Not with that gun you won't," says Superman, who melts Regan's gun right in his hand with his x-ray vision.

Returning to the Planet, Perry writes the story, and is pleased to see his name on a by-line again. But, as he rushes out to the newsroom to show it to Lois and Clark, he trips over a janitor's cleaning bucket. "Great Caesar's Ghost!" he screams, and the ghost appears again. "You have summoned the great Caesar," asks the ghost. "No, go away," screams Perry, but the ghost tells Perry that he must do more. "You make yourself invisible and I'll make like a hero again!" exclaims White.

Again, as if on cue, the teletype comes to life. Perry reads aloud that an island in the Pacific is sinking and decides to fly there for the scoop. In anticipation, Superman speeds there ahead of Perry and swimming beneath the island finds that the island has torn loose from its base. There is nothing he can do to save the island other than to rescue the inhabitants. Locating a large flat coral reef, Superman punches holes in the reef then uses an abandoned anchor chain to form a cradle. Lifting the reef, he flies it to the island, using the reef as a bridge allowing the inhabitants to climb aboard and then fly them to safety.

Returning to the Planet with another great story, Perry is greeted by the publishers with a raise and a five-year contract as a reward for inspiring the staff. Suddenly a cloud appears. "Great Caesar's Ghost!" A trap door opens and suddenly Perry realizes that Waldo Pippin's office is directly beneath his and that Pippin was Caesar's ghost.

"But why, Waldo?" asked Perry White. "I realized that I couldn't do my best work while I was scared of you so Superman suggested that I enact the ghost. And once I saw you scared of me I lost my fright and was able to do better stories." Superman then explained how he melted the real bullet, then flipped the piece of steel into the wall behind Waldo making it appear as if it passed through Caesar's ghost.

Back in the newsroom, Lois pulls Superman aside. "All that trouble to help Waldo," she says. "Well," smiles Superman, "that's what I told Perry but I really did it for both their sakes, saving two great reporters."

3Story - 3: As you can tell from the summaries, neither of these stories is excessively strong, although Great Caesar's Ghost has a bit more going for it than The Superman Stamp. Also in this issue was a third story called The Lazy Man's Best Friend, drawn by Wayne Boring which had several interesting turns. However, the reason I chose these two stories from this issue was for their historical irony. This year, the United States Post Office is releasing a Superman stamp featuring a scene from Superman #1. The second story, Great Caesar's Ghost was interesting in that it was one of the few stories that focussed heavily on Perry White in all of the years of Superman. This story also inspired one of the episodes of the Superman television series, also entitled Great Caesar's Ghost, that first appeared in 1954. The plot of the television show is not identical to the comic book story, but the similarities are more than coincidental with both stories beginning with Perry screaming "Great Caesar's Ghost", and the ghost of Caesar appearing.

3Art - 3: The two stories I reviewed were both drawn by Al Plastino. As with many other Plastino jobs, his depiction of the Planet offices are Spartan, with bare wood desks, bare walls, and very little background. Compared to Boring, who did the other story in the issue, Plastino's art is minimalist, getting the story told but little more.

3Cover Art - 3: The cover to Superman #91 was also drawn by Plastino and shows an astonished Perry and Lois staring at Superman whose swing passes through the ghost of Caesar. Again, there is little detail or background to this cover other than the main characters. However, this does work as a cover being engaging and fun to look at, but not a great piece of artwork.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • 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”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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