Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Superboy #85Cover date: December 1960
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Artist: George Papp
Cover: Curt Swan & Stan Kaye
"The Impossible Mission"
Years ago, when Superman was a boy, the people of Smallville gathered in Lincoln Park on a bright, sunny February 14th. The purpose was to celebrate Abraham Lincoln Day and remember the sixteenth President of the United States. The mayor of Smallville climbed to the podium of a stand built in the center of the square and presented a moving speech celebrating Lincoln's contribution to America and lamenting his untimely death. In the crowd Clark Kent and his parents listened intently, and Pa Kent thought out loud, "What a pity such a great American was murdered."
Like most citizens, once the celebration was done, the Kents returned home to their lives and little changed. But young Clark Kent decided that he was going to undertake a fantastic mission. "If I succeed... and I hope I can... it may change the course of history, for the better!" Slipping out of bed, young Clark changed to Superboy and left using the secret tunnel in the Kent's basement which lead to the forest far from the house. Speeding into the sky, Superboy attained tremendous speeds, and was able to break the time barrier emerging in Washington DC on Good Friday, April 14, 1964, the day that Lincoln was assassinated. "I must locate him and warn him of the killer's plan!" thought Superboy.
First, Superboy flew over the White House, and used his super-vision and hearing to learn that Lincoln had taken a room in the Petersen House to ponder certain matters before going to the play at Ford's Theatre. It seemed a simple matter to fly to the hotel and locate the President and arriving in a back alley Superboy quickly searched for hints of Lincoln's room. On a clerk's desk he saw a note which read, "Important! No one must disturb Mr. L., in room 309." Thinking Mr. L. must mean Mr. Lincoln, Superboy flew through the window of room 309 to warn the President only to find that "Mr. L" was an adult Lex Luthor.
Luthor was as startled as Superboy is, and quickly grabbed a piece of Red Kryptonite from a lead box exposing Superboy. Red Kryptonite always has unusual and unpredictable effects on Superman, and this piece paralyzes Superboy as immobile as a statue.
With Superboy immobilized, Luthor can't help but gloat. He explained that in order to escape from Superman in 1960, he had invented a time machine. "What puzzles me," sneered Luthor, "is why you, Superman as a youth, pursued me instead of the adult Superman doing the chasing?!" Superboy, however, cannot answer. He can think but is incapable of moving a muscle.
Luthor passed the time bouncing paper wads off the super-youth's forehead with a rubber band, and using his nose to strike a match to light his cigar. The hours flew by, and across the street President Lincoln entered his box at Ford Theater to watch the new comedy, "Our American Cousin."
At that very moment, Superboy looked at the clock in Luthor's room and realized that it was almost time for the assassination. But, Luthor, thinking solely of himself, was unaware of the day or time. Instead, he erupted into a rage. "You aroused my wrath as a youth by thwarting my greatness as a scientist. And so I turned to crime! I grew up to become your greatest foe. Despite all of Superman's super-powers my super-science has become his greatest threat. Someday, I'll destroy him. Think that over, you stupid, helpless statue!"
As Luthor ranted, another evil presented itself. John Wilkes Booth, an unemployed actor, made his way to the Presidential booth. Screaming, "Sic temper tyranis" (Death to all tyrants), Booth fatally shot Lincoln in the head from behind. To escape, Booth leapt from the presidential box to the stage. He was later captured in a barn outside of the capital city.
Luthor was still screaming at Superboy when he became aware of the commotion out in the street. Looking out the window, he saw a number of soldiers carrying a wounded man toward the hotel. "Oh no! It's... It's Abraham Lincoln!" yelled Luthor. Stunned, Luthor turned back from the window. All of the malice was temporarily gone from Luthor's face as he realized what had just happened. He turned to Superboy, and saw a lone tear drop streaming down his cheek. "So that's it! You came to the past not to capture me... but to save the life of Lincoln from an assassin's bullet."
Hurt, startled and embarrassed, Luthor scooped up the Kryptonite and opened the door to his room to leave. Looking back, the immobile Superboy could still only stare. Luthor screamed, "Blast you! Don't stare at me like that. I had nothing against Lincoln. I may be evil, but I had no hate for him!" Luthor ran from the room and made his way back to the time machine. After setting the controls to return to 1960, Luthor slumped over the console. "Why did fate choose me to prevent Superboy from saving the life of Lincoln, a great man? I'm responsible for many crimes, but this is the worst of all! Lincoln's blood is on my hands. I'm sorry... sorry... sorry..."
In time, the effects of the Red Kryptonite wore off of Superboy, and he, too, returned through the time barrier. Superboy told his parents of his failed mission, and not long afterward, the Kents visited Washington DC. Standing before the Lincoln Memorial, young Clark could barely hold back his emotions. "I tried, Mr. Lincoln. I tried awfully hard," thought Clark. " But I learned no mere mortal, not even a Superboy, can change fate, and there's no use in going back in time again to do so."
Story - 5: Superboy #85 had a cover date of December 1960, and was part of an important period in Superboy's, and thus Superman's evolution. During 1960 and 1961, Superboy introduced the Kryptonite Kid and Pete Ross, had an appearance with Supergirl, and began what was to become a recurring place for appearances by the Legion of Superheroes.
In recent years, comic stories tend to be book-length sagas that may even extend to 3-5 issue story arcs or miniseries. In 1960, the norm for a 32-page DC comic was 2-3 stories per issue, usually 7-8 pages in length. It was a special story that had two chapters.
The lead story of this issue was a two-chapter story that featured Mighty Boy, who was basically Superboy's counterpart from the planet Zumoor. They were similar to the point of having a secret identity and even a super-dog. Meeting super-powered teenagers also became a reoccurring, experimental theme in these issues of Superboy, much the same way Supergirl was an experimental theme in Superman comics. This story ultimately lead to Superboy's meeting Mon-El in Superboy #89. Mon-El became a fixture at DC later joining the Legion and then becoming Valor.
However, it was this shorter 7-page story, which was the back-up, that became the more relevant, and best remembered, part of this issue. Jerry Siegel wrote this tale when he returned to DC after being fired and banished for nearly 11 years. When he returned to DC, he received no credit for the stories he wrote, but his impact was definitely felt because he took the characters in some interesting directions. For example, Siegel wrote the infamous Return to Krypton story in Superman #141 in which Superman was able to return to his home planet before it exploded, meet his parents, and fall in love with Lyla Lerrol.
Here, Siegel dealt with several issues. The first was time travel, a popular theme of 1960's science fiction. Intrinsically, it seemed pretty easy for Superboy (or Superman) to be able to go back in time and correct some "atrocity" of history. And, I am sure that every fan that read a comic during that time period asked why Superman didn't do just that. Here Superboy travels to 1864 to stop Lincoln's assassination an event that would change over 100 years of history. However, by a turn of fate, Luthor is also there and inadvertently prevents him from stopping the murder. This story set a tone for DC comics, by explaining that not even a super-being such as Superman can change fate. As such, when Superman\boy did return to the past, they became observers, not active participants in the past. Without this, DC writers would have had to explain all of the ramifications of the events Superman\boy changed in the past. However, there were definitely examples of events in the past that Superman, Superboy, Supergirl and other members of the Superman family were involved with.
This story also portrayed Luthor in a very different light. Prior to this, he was shown almost exclusively as a diabolical sociopath, who had no regard for anyone or thing save the destruction of his mortal enemy, Superman. The emotion of this story really peaked at the end when Luthor realized the possible good that he had undone, and displayed true remorse giving a new view of the evil genius.
Art - 4: George Papp was one of the work-horse artists on the DC staff that routinely put out quality work. Papp was probably best known for his 17 years of work on Green Arrow (a character he helped create in 1941, first appearing in More Fun Comics #73), but he also spent ten years (1958-1968) drawing Superboy (in Superboy and Adventure Comics). In fact, it was Papp that drew the introductory stories to many of the more famous Superboy characters. In this particular issue, Papp drew both stories. However, it is the emotion that he captures, first of Superboy's youthful optimism, then Luthor's gloating, and then their paired remorse when Lincoln is assassinated, that helps make this story a real classic. The two panels on the last page, one with a single tear streaming down the Superboy's paralyzed face, and the other with a despondent Luthor collapsed over his time-machine controls, were excellent choices completely capturing the sorrow the two very different characters felt. It makes us realize that good comic stories do not have to be 4 issues long.
Cover Art - 4: Typical of the early-mid 1960's, this cover was drawn by Curt Swan (and here inked by Stan Kaye), and is a solid example of his work. Obviously, the cover image features what the editors felt would be the primary part of this book, The Secret of Mighty Boy, and shows a dramatic shot of Mighty Boy saving an aero-train from certain disaster and Superboy looking on in amazement.
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 Laneä Deadä 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
Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.