Showcase Presents Superman volume 2


By Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Jerry Coleman, Bill Finger, Wayne Boring, Al Plastino, Curt Swan & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1041-0

Although we all think of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s iconic creation as the epitome of comicbook creation, the truth is that very soon after his launch in Action Comics #1 Superman became a fictional multimedia star in the same league as Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes.

Far more people have seen or heard the Man of Steel than have ever read him – and yes, that does include the globally syndicated newspaper strips. By the time his 20th anniversary rolled around he had been a regular on radio, starred in a series of astounding animated cartoons, a novel by George Lowther and two movies, He was a perennial success for toy and puzzle manufacturers and had just ended his first smash live-action television serial. In his future were three more (Superboy, Lois & Clark and Smallville), a stage musical, a franchise of stellar movies and an almost seamless succession of games, bubblegum cards and TV cartoons beginning with The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 and continuing ever since. Even Krypto got in on the small-screen act…

However, that’s not all there is to these gloriously engaging super-sagas culled from the Metropolis Marvel’s lead feature in Action Comics #258-277 and the all-star sagas from Superman #134-145 (reliving the period November 1959 to May 1961 and including selected snippets from Superman Annuals #1& 2) presented in crisp, clean black and white for this sterling second Showcase Presents collection.

During the 1950s, even as his back-story was expanded and elaborated, Superman had settled into an ordered existence. Nothing could really hurt him, nothing ever changed, and pure thrills seemed in short supply. With the TV show concentrating on the action, the Comics-Code-hamstrung funnybook writers increasingly concentrated on supplying wonder, intrigue, imagination and, whenever possible, a few laughs as well…

The wholesome intrigue and breathtaking fantasy commence here with Action Comics #258’s ‘The Menace of Cosmic Man’ a sharp mystery written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Wayne Boring & Stan Kaye, wherein an impoverished European dictatorship suddenly announced it had its own all-powerful costumed champion; drawing Lois Lane and Clark Kent into a potentially deadly investigation, whilst #259 featured the hallucinogenic thriller ‘The Revenge of Luthor!’ by Jerry Siegel & Al Plastino with a seemingly impossible clash between the Man of Tomorrow and his own younger self which almost led to certain death for Lois and school sweetheart Lana Lang…

Superman #134 (January 1960) was a full-length epic from Binder, Boring & Kaye as ‘The Super-Menace of Metropolis’ saw the Caped Kryptonian apparently undertake a concerted attack upon humanity, leading to shocking revelations in ‘The Revenge Against Jor-El!’ before a blockbusting final battle against an unsuspected Kandorian foe in ‘Duel of the Supermen!’

There was the usual heartbreak for Lois when Superman and Supergirl perpetrated a romantic hoax on the world to thwart a potential alien attack in ‘Mighty Maid!’ (Action #260, Binder & Plastino), whilst Superman #135 offered three Siegel stories beginning with the Untold Tale ‘When Lois First Suspected Clark was Superman!’, illustrated by Plastino, after which ‘Superman’s Mermaid Sweetheart!’ (Boring & Kaye) reintroduced Clark Kent’s college love Lori Lemaris in another superbly effective, bittersweet tear-jerker and ‘The Trio of Steel!’ found the Man of Steel again battling his most impossible foe in a classy conundrum (art by Plastino again).

Action #261 revealed the secret history of ‘Superman’s Fortress of Solitude!’ by unravelling a cunning criminal plot against the indomitable hero in a clever yarn from Siegel, Boring & Kaye after which ‘When Superman Lost his Powers!’ (#262, Robert Bernstein, Boring & Kaye) saw the Daily Planet staff trapped in another dimension where the Man of Tomorrow was merely mortal and Lois’ suspicions were again aroused…

Superman #136 began with ‘The Man who Married Lois Lane!’ by Bernstein, Boring & Kaye wherein the frustrated reporter finally gave in and settled for a superman from the future – with tragic results – after which another Untold Tale revealed how the World first learned ‘The Secret of Kryptonite!’ (Jerry Coleman & Plastino) and how, as ‘The Super-Clown of Metropolis!’, Superman was blackmailed into attempting to make a millionaire misanthrope laugh in a smart character-driven yarn from Siegel & Plastino.

Action #263 introduced ‘The World of Bizarros!’ (Binder, Boring & Kaye) wherein the ghastly doppelganger used an imperfect duplicator machine to create an entire race in his broken image, whilst Superman #137, ‘The Super-Brat from Krypton!’, (Siegel, Curt Swan & John Forte) revealed how an energy duplicate of baby Kal-El was raised by criminals to become ‘The Young Super-Bully’ before finally confronting his noble counterpart in ‘Superman vs. Super-Menace!’

In Action Comics #264 a clash with the newly-minted artificial race culminated in the Caped Kryptonian almost becoming ‘The Superman Bizarro!’ in a tense thriller from Binder, Boring & Kaye whilst ‘The “Superman” from Outer Space!’ in #265 (Binder, Swan & Forte) recounted the tragically short career of Hyper-Man, planetary champion of Earth-like world Oceania, after which Superman #138 debuted ‘Titano the Super-Ape!’: a chimpanzee mutated into a Kryptonite-empowered King Kong clone with a devotion to Lois and big hatred for the Man of Steel: a beloved masterpiece by Binder, Boring & Kaye combining action, pathos and drama to superb effect.

‘Superman’s Black Magic!’ (Siegel & Plastino) balanced that epic tear-jerker with a clever yarn wherein the Action Ace instigated a devilish sting to catch superstitious crooks whilst ‘The Mermaid from Atlantis!’ by Siegel Boring & Kaye, saw the newlywed Lori Lemaris attempt to trick Superman into finally proposing to Lois.

Action #266 found the heroic hunk trapped on another world, ‘The Captive of the Amazons.’ Their queen wanted the Man of Tomorrow for her sixth husband and was prepared to destroy Earth to make her dreams come true…

Superman #139 began with ‘The New Life of Super-Merman!’ as the Caped Kryptonian and Lori schemed to marry Lois off to a nice, safe multi-millionaire who really loved her in a rather dated and potentially offensive tale from Siegel, Boring & Kaye, whereas ‘The Jolly Jailhouse!’ (Coleman & Plastino) is safe and solid entertainment, providing a light-hearted clash between a would-be dictator and the World’s Most Uncooperative political prisoner Clark Kent; after which ‘The Untold Story of Red Kryptonite!’ (Binder, Boring & Kaye) offered a dramatic dilemma, a redefinition of the parameters of the deadly crimson mineral, and plenty of thrills with the Man of Steel forced to risk deadly danger and lots of informative flashbacks to rescue a sunken submarine…

Binder, Boring & Kaye produced the spectacular two-part clash ‘Hercules in the 20th Century!’ and ‘Superman’s Battle with Hercules!’ (Action #267-268, and separated here by the cover of Superman Annual #1) as Luthor brought the Hellenic demi-god to Metropolis to battle the “evil king” Superman. Events turned even more serious when the legendary warrior fell for Lois and marshalled all the magical powers of the Olympians to destroy his unwitting rival…

Although later played for laughs, most of the earlier appearances of Superman’s warped double were generally moving comi-tragedies, such as issue #140 which featured Binder, Boring & Kaye’s ‘The Son of Bizarro!’ wherein the fractured facsimile and his wife Bizarro-Lois had a perfect, human baby. The fast growing tyke had super-powers but was shunned by the populace of the world of monsters.

His simple-minded, heartbroken father had no choice but to exile his son in space where chance brought the lad crashing to Earth as ‘The Orphan Bizarro!’. Sent to the same institution where Supergirl resided, “Baby Buster” soon became a permanent headache for the Girl of Steel until a tragic accident seemingly mutated him and his distraught father came looking for him at the head of an angry army of enraged Superman duplicates. A devastating battle was narrowly avoided and a happy ending only materialised with the introduction of ‘The Bizarro Supergirl!’

Action Comics #269 told a clever tale of identity-saving when Lois tricked Clark into standing before ‘The Truth Mirror!’ (Siegel, Swan & George Klein), whilst Superman #141 again showed the writer’s winning form in ‘Superman’s Return to Krypton!’ Illustrated by Boring & Kaye the epic Grand Tragedy revealed in ‘Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again!’ how an accident marooned the adoptive Earth hero in the past on his doomed home-world. Reconciled to dying there with his people, in ‘Superman’s Kryptonian Romance’ Kal-El found love with his ideal soul-mate Lyla Lerrol, only to be torn from her side and returned to Earth against his will in concluding chapter ‘The Surprise of Fate!’

This bold saga was a fan favourite for decades thereafter, and remains one of the very best stories of the period.

In Action #270 Binder, Swan, Forte provided a whimsical interlude in ‘The Old Man of Metropolis!’ as the Metropolis Marvel glimpsed his own twilight years whilst ‘Voyage to Dimension X!’ by Binder & Plastino in #271 saw him narrowly escape his greatest foe’s latest diabolical plot.

Superman #142 opened with ‘Lois Lane’s Secret Helper!’ by Binder & Kurt Schaffenberger, as faithful Krypto tried to play matchmaker whereas ‘Superman Meets Al Capone!’ saw the time-lost Man of Tomorrow clash with the legendary mobster (Binder, Boring & Kaye) before battling a wandering ‘Flame-Dragon from Krypton!’ with some helpful assistance from his best super-buddies in a sharp yarn from Siegel, Boring & Kaye.

Another prototype team-up featured in Action #272’s ‘Superman’s Rival, Mental Man!’ a clever criminal-sting caper by Siegel, Swan & Kaye, which centred around Lois’ unsuspected talents as comic strip creator, whilst over in Superman #143 ‘The Great Superman Hoax!’ (Bernstein, Boring & Kaye) saw a criminal try to convince Lois that he was actually the Man of Might. ‘Lois Lane’s Lucky Day!’ (Siegel & Forte) found the daring reporter busting a crooked carnival – with a little covert Kryptonian help – before ‘Bizarro Meets Frankenstein!’ by Binder, Boring & Kaye saw the befuddled duplicate invade Earth to prove he was the scariest monster of all time…

Action #273 had Superman turn the table on the pestiferous 5th Dimensional pixie by invading ‘The World of Mxyzptlk!’ in a light-hearted romp from Siegel & Plastino and next issue lose his abilities to Lois in ‘The Reversed Super-Powers!’ (Siegel & Schaffenberger.

Superman #144 led with the combative thriller ‘The Super-Weapon!’ by Siegel, Swan & Kaye, after which Siegel & Plastino revealed the Untold Tale of ‘Superboy’s First Public Appearance!’ before going on to describe the terrifying plight of Superman, Supergirl and Krypto as ‘The Orphans of Space!’

Action #275 saw a classic clash with alien marauder Brainiac whose latest weapon was ‘The Menace of Red-Green Kryptonite!’ (Coleman, Boring & Kaye) after which Superman #145 opened with a salutary fable by Siegel, Swan & Kaye proving why Lois couldn’t be trusted with ‘The Secret Identity of Superman!’ ‘The Interplanetary Circus!’, by Bernstein & Plastino, then held Earth hostage until the Man of Steel agreed to join them, but even after outwitting those scoundrels Superman was utterly flummoxed by the incredible events of ‘The Night of March 31st!’ – a deliciously surreal, whimsical and bizarre mystery-puzzle from Siegel, Swan & Sheldon Moldoff.

This second superb collection concludes with the stirring cover of Superman Annual #2 and the scintillating double-page Map of Krypton by Siegel & Plastino which enflamed the imagination of every kid who ever saw it…

Superman has proven to be all things to all fans over his decades of existence, and with the character undergoing another radical overhaul at this time, these timeless tales of charm and joy and wholesome wit are more necessary than ever: not just as a reminder of great tales of the past but as an all-ages primer of the wonders still to come…

© 1959, 1960, 1961, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.