Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

World's Finest #88

World's Finest #88

Cover date: May/June 1957

Writer: Edmond Hamilton
Penciller: Dick Sprang
Inker: Stan kaye
Cover: Curt Swan & Stan Kaye

"Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes"

At Metropolis City Hall, a clerk looks up with startled recognition. Before him stands Lex Luthor, handing him paper to apply for a manufacturing license with his partner... the Joker. "We've turned over a new leaf," says Luthor. "Now, we're just honest businessmen," he smiles. Honest or not, the news travels fast and at the Daily Planet, Perry White hears the commotion and quickly sends Lois Lane and Clark Kent to cover the story. Like moths to a flame, the reporters flock around Luthor and the Joker. Then Luthor steps forward and tells the gathered throng that they are all invited to witness a demonstration of their first invention. Getting into the Jokermobile, the two pull away but Clark Kent uses his superhearing to overhear Luthor brag, "I'm sure that our new careers will interest our old friends Superman and Batman, too!"

In the shadows of a deserted alley, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent changes to Superman and speeds to Gotham City where he tunnels his way into the Bat Cave to avoid being seen. Hurriedly he shares the news that Luthor and Joker have joined forces to a shocked Bruce Wayne. Quickly changing to Batman and Robin the duo leap into the Batmobile, and Superman flies them back to the Joker-Luthor factory in Metropolis.

Once they land, Superman scans the factory with his x-ray vision and is frustrated to find that the plant has been lined with lead sheeting to prevent his looking in. "We must protect our manufacturing secrets," laughs Luthor walking toward them. And soon, when the reporters arrive, Luthor demonstrates his invention..."Mechano-Men", super-strong, invulnerable robots designed to perform tasks no other worker could do.

Batman and Superman look on in amazement, convinced that the two criminals are using this as a ruse for more diabolical plans. After the demonstration has ended and all have left, the three decide to patrol Metropolis on 24-hour shifts until Luthor and the Joker strike. That same night, Batman and Robin see the Joker drop a steel net over what looks to be a pedestrian. No sooner do they deploy their batropes and swing to the street than the media appears. Assuming that the Joker was kidnapping the man, they are surprised when a Mechano-Man rips through the Joker's net to demonstrate his strength, making the dynamic duo look like fools.

The next night, Superman's watchful eye tracks the Jokermobile bearing down on a pedestrian. Swooping down, Superman grabs the helpless individual, but when he pursues the Joker, he finds that he has just saved another Mechano-Man. Putting the robot in his car, The Joker tells Superman that this was another "test", then pulls away with a cackling laugh, but Superman can't help but think that there is more to this than the simple testing of these robots.

The next morning, Lois Lane follows a hunch and trails Luthor out of the city to a lonely spot, and watches him set up an amazing instrument, then project electric balls at a cliff which starts an avalanche. At the foot of the cliff, a man appears, soon to be overwhelmed by the falling rocks. Rushing to the projector, Lois fires it into the sky attracting Superman's attention who then speeds to the clearing and rapidly frees... another Mechano-Man. Luthor is outraged and indignant. He insists that they stop interfering with their testing. In return, Superman turns on Lois telling her to stop butting in and to stay far, far away from this story.

Putting their heads together, Batman suggests that Luthor and Joker are doing this to prevent Superman and Batman from interfering with their ultimate plans. Superman agrees and decides that he need to see inside the factory to figure out what that plan is, but how? Batman offers that while he and Superman aren't to be allowed into the factory, perhaps Bruce Wayne might be. To institute the plan, Wayne approached Luthor and Joker as head of the Wayne Mining Co., asking if he could hire some of the Mechano-Men to retrieve a lost shipment of industrial diamonds that sank in a barge. Luthor insists that he doesn't want to rent the Mechano-Men until after the first public showing, but is obviously tempted by the thought and agrees to help. "Well, er, show me the location. When we open out business we'll have our Mechano-Men recover them for you," he says, slyly looking up at Wayne.

Within an hour after Bruce Wayne leaves the plant, Luthor is directing his Mechano-Men to the shore, into the ocean heading and to the depths in search of the diamonds. Waiting for them on the ocean floor is Superman, who quickly replaces the first Mechano-Man that becomes mired in the sea mud. Eventually Luthor recalls the Mechano-Men to the surface, much to the Joker's protests that they continue searching for the diamonds, and they return to their factory to prepare for the big demonstration the next day.

Superman retains his guise as a robot, but flinches when he sees the Joker and Luthor stand before a rack of clothes. Joker notices his movement and the two smash Superman with a mallet and attempt to drill his head to check if he is a robot. Returning to their office they whisper "That drill would have dented any metal. That means it's Superman disguised," whispers the Joker. "Don't let on we know it," sneers Luthor.

Luthor leads the Mechano Men to a truck and instructs them break through a wall to get to a safe. Quickly, Superman, Batman and Robin spring into action only to be thwarted again when Luthor pulls out a bill of sale and a letter of permission to open the wall to get the safe. Superman realizes that Luthor must have seen through his disguise. As they leave, though, the image of the extra suits of clothes flashes through his mind.

Later that day, what appeared to be Luthor and Joker stood in the center of a crowded Metropolis Stadium to demonstrate their amazing Mechano-Men, but the real Luthor and Joker were still back at their factory. Loading several of his robots in a truck, the real Luthor and Joker hurried to the Metropolis Sub-Treasury building. With their amazing strength, the Mechano -Men smashed through the walls of the building. But, no sooner had the walls fallen that Superman swooped down from the sky and used a huge chain to "lasso" the robots. In the same moment, Batman and Robin emerge from the shadows to capture Luthor and Joker.

Not long afterwards, Luthor and Joker occupy their new "office" at the Metropolis Prison. "This is all your fault, you grinning goon," screams Luthor. You and your so-called brilliant brain," scoffs the Joker. Stepping up to the bars, Superman, Batman and Robin look in and smile. "Now, now boys," laughs Batman. "Good partners...I mean cell mates, should never argue."

4Story - 4: World's Finest Comics (WF) was first published since 1941 and featured a solo Superman and a Batman story in each issue. However it wasn't until after Superman and Batman learned each other's identity (in Superman #76) that the editors of DC considered making them a team. It was an obvious thing to do, which took two years to occur, and finally the two were paired as a team again in World's Finest #71 (Batman-Double for Superman) where Batman disguised himself as Superman to prevent Lois Lane from discovering his secret identity. That experimental team-up was so popular that these team-ups continued in WF for the next 35 years. Because Superman and Batman were such an obvious pairing, it became equally obvious to pair up each heroes biggest villain at some point and World's Finest #88 was the first of these. This story featured a typically diabolical Luthor, but a very subdued Joker who seemed to be along for the ride. While there were enough twists and turns to make this a fun read, in the end Superman and Batman quickly figured out Luthor and Joker's plot and captured them rather easily, making this story a bit disappointing. You would think that Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes might put up a better fight than they did. Still this is fun as a first try and leads to another Joker-Luthor team-up several years later in World's Finest #129.

5Art - 5: The art for this story was done by Dick Sprang and inked by Stan Kaye. Sprang had been known for years as the "Good" Batman artist, drawing some of the great Batman stories from the 1940's and 1950's, including many classic Two-Face and Joker stories and the first Riddler tale. Later in his career, Sprang also did stories for Superman (including the first appearance of Supergirl in Superman #123) and also a number of stories for World's Finest. The splash page of this story, featuring a grinning Luthor and Joker speeding away in a beautifully stylized "Jokermobile" is exactly the material that Sprang was noted for: graceful figure work, beautiful detail, and the grimacing smile of the Joker.

3Cover Art - 3: The cover to World's Finest #88 is rather lackluster, not even hinting at the wonderful art inside. It shows a seeming puzzled Batman and Robin staring at Superman melting a metal box with a sign that reads "A Challenge To Superman and Batman! Open This... If You Dare!" That would be changed in their second appearance where Joker and Luthor are featured prominently on the cover.

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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