Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman #134Cover date: January 1960
"The Super-Menace of Metropolis"
Writer: Otto Binder
Penciller: Wayne Boring
Inker: Stan Kaye
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Reviewed by: Osgood Peabody
Chapter 1: "The Super-Menace of Metropolis"
Our story begins with a disturbing splash page of our hero dislodging an entire skyscraper and hurtling upward with it laughing mockingly, while its inhabitants peer out of their windows and question the Man of Steel's sanity. As the story begins, we see Superman answering an SOS from an ocean liner about to strike an iceberg. He makes an unorthodox rescue by ripping the Transatlantic cable from the ocean's bottom and using it to tow the liner in to port. The ship's captain is grateful, but puzzled by Superman's method, observing that the Man of Tomorrow has callously disregarded the fact that it will cost millions to repair the cable.
In the following days, we see this pattern repeated - Superman diverts a meteor from a town, but it crashes into a dam, causing massive floods. He rescues some castaways from a giant sea creature, but leaves them marooned on an island. His behavior becomes increasingly more bizarre, as he seemingly adopts this sea-creature as a pet and takes him through Metropolis, leaving behind a trail of destruction.
The officials of Metropolis are becoming concerned. Although there has been no injury or loss of life from these incidents, they are nonetheless alarmed by Superman's behavior. They call upon an expert named Dr. Peabody, and it is his opinion that the Man of Steel has lost his marbles and must be subdued immediately! They call out for a world-wide kryptonite search, as they know that is the only way he can be captured.
Back at the Daily Planet, Lois is convinced that Superman can't be behaving this way, and that it must be one of his robots malfunctioning, while he's away on a mission. She sets out to prove her theory, and with the help of Jimmy's signal-watch, lures the Man (or robot?) of Steel to a lab, where he is bombarded by "100 billion volts of man-made lightning", enough to short out any electronic device. But alas, Superman shrugs off the fireworks, and mocks Lois, "Did you think I was a robot? Now you know the truth! I'm real!"
Our hero then flies to a mountaintop, and yells "My plan is working ... I'll keep on smashing, destroying, until I've achieved my goal!" He then creates even more havoc - using his super-breath to blow hurricane winds through a tunnel, creating a massive car pile-up - yanking a subway off the tracks and swinging it wildly through the air. Again, there are no fatalities, but the world is left wondering what Superman will do next.
Has the Man of Steel gone off the deep end? We'll find out in Chapter 2!
Chapter 2: "The Revenge Against Jor-El"
As we begin Chapter 2, Superman continues running amok - now filling in the Grand Canyon with gigantic boulders (!!). But at last, an explanation comes for his bizarre behavior - this Superman is an imposter! As we read on, we find that the real Superman has been observing what's been happening from Kandor via an "ultra-scanning screen". He then recalls the events leading up to his current predicament.
A week before, Superman visited his Fortress to make a routine check of the bottle city, and during his inspection of the air hoses, was surprised to pick up via super-hearing a voice screaming to him for help from within Kandor itself! As the Man of Steel trained his microscopic vision on the stranger, he revealed himself to be a scientist named Kull-Ex. Keeping Superman distracted with his story, Kull-Ex then trained his "exchange ray" on the Man of Steel, and the two instantly traded places! In fact - their costumes were exchanged also, as Kull-Ex gloated to Superman, who now watched via the screen in dismay as he realized his super-powers are gone under the influence of the Kryptonian city's gravity.
Kull-Ex then completes his impersonation by molding a life-like Superman mask in the Fortress "chem-lab", and takes off on his mission of destroying the Man of Steel's reputation. Now the big question puzzling Superman - why does Mr. Ex have it in for him? Thanks to a pre-recorded tape left by the Kandorian scientist, Superman hears of the origin of Mr. Ex's vendetta against the El clan. Back on Krypton, years before Kandor's abduction by Brainiac, Kull-Ex's dad, Zell-Ex, was working on an invention that would revolutionize transportation - an all-purpose vehicle capable of land, sea, air, or underground travel. But before he could finish the project, fate intervened - an artificial wind generated by one of Krypton's weather-control devices blew his blueprints out into the streets!
Some time later, Zell-Ex finished the invention, but as he entered the patent office, much to his dismay he finds that another scientist named Jor-El beat him to the punch. Zell-Ex is convinced that Jor-El quickly put together his model after finding the wind-blown blueprints and accuses Jor-El of thievery, but Jor-El insists he came up with it on his own. To compound the injustice in Zell-Ex's eyes, the product is mass-produced and became so commonly used on Krypton, it became known simply as "the Jor-El", just as the Ford car on earth was named after its inventor!
Zell-Ex swore revenge on his nemesis, but was never able to carry it out. Brainiac shrank Kandor and its inhabitants, and Jor-El perished when Krypton exploded. But then, by a strange twist of fate, it is none other than Jor-El's son that rescues the bottled city and brings it back to his Fortress. Shortly thereafter, Zell-Ex, on his death-bed, solemnly commissions his son to carry out his revenge against the hated El survivor.
Superman, having now been filled on Kull-Ex's motive, is convinced that his father is innocent, but is baffled as to how to prove it. He finds a "Jor-El" vehicle conveniently handy and attempts to dig through the bottom of the bottle to escape, but finds that Brainiac's glass is impervious to the drill. He next attempts to use the vehicle to fly through the air tube that pumps in the city's air supply, but is blown backwards as the inward flow is too powerful. Dejected, Superman returns to Kull-Ex's apartment and observes to his horror that angry mobs have broken into the Superman museum and are in the process of bringing down his statue! The Man of Steel has now become so villified that, at his approach, mothers carry their children inside to hide in storm cellars! And, perhaps the final blow, even Lois, Jimmy, and Perry at the Daily Planet are convinced that Superman is evil and must be avoided.
At an isolated mountaintop, Kull-Ex brags of his victory, and as Superman helplessly watches from Kandor, he now realizes his reputation has been shattered, and he'll now be remembered as history's blackest villain. And even if the Man of Steel could somehow escape, how could he avoid a world-wrecking battle with his super-powered opponent?
How will Superman get out of this one? Stay tuned for the final chapter!
Chapter 3: "The Duel of the Supermen"
As Chapter 3 begins, Superman glumly sits in Kull-Ex's lab on Kandor, watching on the screen a group of workers boarding up the Superman Museum in Metropolis with big signs reading "Closed Permanently"! But meanwhile, a new player emerges on the scene... in Midvale, orphan Linda Lee listens in disbelief to the radio bulletins from Metropolis, and decides to take matters into her own hands ... "I'll change to my Supergirl costume and find out the truth!"
Using her telescopic vision, the Maid of Steel tracks the faux Superman to Egypt, where he's in the process of stacking the pyramids and the Sphinx like toy blocks. She urges him to come to his senses, but Kull-Ex is caught off-guard by this super-powered female upstart. Apparently, Supergirl was a secret even to Kandor during this phase of her career, as Mr. Ex mistakes her for a fellow Kandorian escapee. Supergirl immediately realizes that this fellow is an imposter. After a brief recap of her true origin (presumably to accomodate the reader, this being her first appearance in the Superman title), Kull-Ex, underestimating the super-powered teen, in turn fills her in as to his true origin. Supergirl immediately takes off for the Fortress to rescue her cousin, but Kull-Ex taunts her "Go ahead, silly girl! You'll find out it won't do you any good!"
Having been previously filled in by Superman as to its location, Supergirl quickly gains entry to the Fortress and attempts to pluck the Man of Steel out of Kandor with a pair of tweezers(!!) (Rather humorous when you think of how routine going in and out of the bottle became later). With the aid of her microscopic vision, she pinpoints him and gently picks him up, remembering that he is no longer invulnerable. Once outside the bottle, Superman regains his powers, but being the size of a gnat realizes he is still at a huge disadvantage. However, he hits upon a plan and whispers it to his cousin. Supergirl leaves the Fortress to carry out her part, while Superman remains behind, sure that Kull-Ex will soon come to gloat over him.
Sure enough, the super-imposter arrives, and mocks the "super-bug", pointing out that the exchange ray won't work without the element "Zenium", which doesn't exist on earth. Superman is swatted away by Kull-Ex, but spying that Supergirl is about to put his plan into action he begins distracting his foe by momentarily weakening him with kryptonite stored in a lead box for experiments. Kull quickly turns the tables by trapping the Man of Steel inside the lead box, and Superman realizes his life is now in the hands of his young cousin.
Suddenly the observation dome of the Fortress slowly begins to open. Kull-Ex is stunned to see the Earth receding in the sky above him! While he was distracted, Supergirl, with an assist from Krypto, dug out the whole blamed Fortress of Solitude and flew it out into space! The object of this super-excavation soon becomes evident as Superman weakly observes to Kull-Ex that they've overtaken light-rays from Krypton, and he can now observe what really happened before its destruction.
Kull-Ex observes to his astonishment that while most of his father's blueprints did get blown out the window, the most important page unknowingly wound up in his young hands, which he proceeded to then doodle on and later feed to an animal at the zoo! Jor-El having been exonerated, Kull-Ex immediately revives Superman and vows to set things right upon their return to Earth. He also spots some Zenium in a passing meteor, and grabs it to power the exchange ray back in Kandor.
Amazingly, in the space of a mere 4 panels, the status quo is restored. The entire world watches a telecast of Kull-Ex confessing his impersonation, and we see a shadowy figure in the White House (an obvious silhouette of President Eisenhower), saying, "What a relief! Kull-Ex's confession clears Superman's name!" Superman carries a nugget of the Zenium back to Kandor, and the exchange ray returns he and Kull-Ex to their proper sizes. Kull-Ex swears to Superman he'll devote his life from now on to scientific research, and the Man of Steel rather compassionately, given the circumstances, lets it go at that. The final panel shows Clark Kent watching as the Superman statue at the museum is being put back in place, and all is once again right in the Weisingerverse. (And though it's not mentioned, I can personally vouch that the Grand Canyon is once again free of boulders, so presumably the Man of Steel cleaned up the mess left by the misguided Mr. Ex!)
Story - 4: A fabulously wacky story, even by editor Mort Weisinger's standards, but one of those hidden stepping-stones of the Silver Age. The Fortress and Kandor are both given a prominent role. Supergirl, just 8 months removed from her debut, gets her first guest appearance in the flagship title. Superman gets some new insight as to his father's past in another flashback to Krypton. Even Krypto, who had just a couple of previous appearances as an "adult", gets in on the action here. And I believe this may be the one and only time someone was extricated from Kandor by a pair of tweezers!
This tale was also probably the last time that Superman's powers were attributed solely to the lesser gravity of earth. I suspect that even the kids writing in to Mort at the time would be skeptical that gravity alone could cause the Man of Steel to be totally powerless in Kandor.
Two months later, in Action Comics #262 (March 1960), a story called "When Superman Lost His Powers" had Clark and his pals transported to another world where the Man of Steel was powerless - but now it is implied that this power loss is due to the planet having a red sun, like Krypton, adding yet one more element to the mythos!
Another milestone in this tale is the name "Kandor" is finally and firmly established. Although the name was dropped once in the bottled city's debut in Action Comics #242, in subsequent appearances it was referred to generically as "Krypton city", or "the city from Krypton". In fact, in World's Finest #100, "the Dictator of Krypton City" (March 1959), its citizens are even referred to by Luthor as "Kryptonites"!?!
Art - 4: At the time of this story, Wayne Boring , along with Al Plastino, were still the predominant Superman artists. Boring was superb in depicting the Man of Steel in a tragic light. As Superman broods in Kandor, he truly looks like the weight of the world is upon him.
Cover Art - 3: The cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye is very good, although it doesn't quite capture the frenetic action in this story.
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 LaneŠ DeadŠ 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!
- Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Spring 1978)
- 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
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