Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

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


Superman #45

Superman #45

Cover date: March-April 1947

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Penciller: Joe Shuster and Studio
Inker: Joe Shuster and Studio
Cover: Shuster Studio

"Lois Lane, Superwoman"

One day at the Daily Planet, Perry White called his star reporters, Lois Lane and Clark Kent, into his office and waved the day's edition at them. "Look at that front page," he yelled in his gruff, editorial voice. "Murder! Robbery! Can't we ever have a nice human-interest story? After all, life has its tender magic, too." Slowly, a wry smile came across Lois' face and she leaned toward Perry. "Speaking of magic, how about a story on those two Magicians who recently performed such unusual feats?" she asked.

Clark Kent shuffled his feet. "You mean Hocus and Pocus? Why, they're just a couple of peddlers," he argued. "And," thought Kent to himself, "Superman really did all of their magic." But, even with Kent's protests, Perry White's face lit up. "Lois, I think you've got a story," he said pounding his fist on the desk. "I want that story. Go get it!"

Within minutes, Lois and Clark arrived at the offices of "Hocus & Pocus, Magical Engineers" but they were not prepared for the somber mood of the two occupants when they opened the door and entered the office. Pocus, an overweight man sitting with his head in his hands, appeared most dejected and told the two reporters that, "Our business is on the skids 'cause Hocus' magic is on the blink." "Yes," said Hocus, a thin man wearing wire rimmed glasses and a bowler hat. "I yell Abracadabra till I'm blue in the face and nothing happens." Leading the group out onto the balcony he said, "We'll have to abandon this fine office with its magnificent view," with a groan.

Seeing that this story was going no where, Kent tugged at Lois' shoulder and told her that it was time too leave. But as Lois turned, Merton, Hocus' pet rabbit, ran across the balcony causing Lois to stumble and fall over the balcony railing toward the street below. "Superman! Help!" screamed Lois, plummeting to her death. Kent wanted to react, but was afraid to change to Superman in front of Hocus and Pocus, however as things would have it, events took a curious turn. Still thinking that he possessed magical powers, Hocus turned to Kent and yelled, "Abracadabra. Turn into Superman and save Lois Lane!" Seizing the moment, Kent ripped open his shirt revealing his Superman costume. With his jaw hanging open, Pocus pointed at Kent and said, "Hokey Pocuses, it's woikin'!"

In an instant, Superman leaped from the balcony and sped downward, catching Lois only moments before she hit the street, then, gracefully, he lifted off and flew her back to the balcony. "Abracadabra. Be yourself Kent!" commanded Hocus, and following the lead, Superman changed back into his Clark Kent clothes. Lois looked around in disbelief and told everyone that what had happened was impossible. Hocus insisted it was not. "I can even change you into Superman," he promised. "I'll be satisfied with just Superman's powers, if you can do that," challenged Lois.

Realizing the opportunity of the challenge, Hocus turned to Lois and said, ""Abracadabra. Lois now has the powers of Superman!" Immediately, Clark Kent realized that Hocus' words might present some difficult situations so turning quickly, he told the group, "My nerves have had enough magic," and quickly left the balcony. Away from prying eyes, Kent changed to Superman and prepared himself for what might occur. To test her powers, Lois climbed out on the balcony railing. "Where are you going," asked Pocus. Looking over her shoulder, Lois smiled and said, To the Daily Planet - the Superman way!" With that, she leaped out into space, but rather than flying off, began falling toward the street, again.

Watching from a distance, Superman saw Lois leap into the air, and realized he had to act quickly. "Something tells me this is going to be a very busy day," he said. Then, moving faster than the human eye can follow, Superman streaked beneath Lois, supporting her by the soles of her feet and catapulting her high into the air. "Now I'm getting the hang of it," Lois said gleefully.

Allowing Lois' momentum to carry her, Superman slowed down and flew beside her for a short distance. Lois was ecstatic that she had Superman's powers. Reaching the Planet Building, Lois hurtled toward an open window unsure of exactly how to land. Again moving at super-speed, Superman spun around Lois forming a cushion of air to slow her. Even still, she landed heavily on Perry White and he looked up at her in total confusion. Standing up, Lois dusted herself off and said, "Oh, excuse me Chief! I haven't learned how to land, yet." Then, she rushed to her desk and began typing. "And wait 'til you see my story," she added. "Maybe I ought to send for a psychiatrist," whispered White to himself. Perry was even less believing once Lois finished her story and handed it to him to read. To prove him wrong, Lois grabbed Perry's arm and with Superman's help, lifted him high into the air.

Perry's stare of disbelief was broken by the sound of the teletype machine. An informant had discovered that the vicious BBB Gang, made up of Brute, Buzzard and Bear, planned to hijack a truck that very afternoon. Their crimes were a blot on the police ledgers in 16 states, and Lois was determined to show her worth, and face the gang single-handed. Lois leaped out the window, and with Superman propelling her, sped off to a highway outside the city. Swooping down, Lois saw the truck and then the BBB Gang's car. With Superman's assistance, Lois flew ahead of the truck and knocked the gang's car on its side spilling the gang out onto the road as the truck sped by safely.

"Drop your guns. You're under arrest," commanded Lois with her hands defiantly on her hips. In answer to her demand, all three gunmen pulled their weapons and opened fire but Superman, again moving faster than the eye can follow, caught each and every bullet before they could strike Lois, then "assisted" her in knocking out the gang. "Well, had enough," she asked, very pleased with herself.

Back at the office of Hocus and Pocus, the two read the Daily Planet's headlines of Lois' new powers with amazement. "I should have asked her for 10 guineas instead of three," mused Hocus. "Maybe it isn't too late to tell her we made an error. It says here a ball's being given for Miss Lane tonight by the Press Association. We'll go and ask for the other seven guineas."

That evening a limousine drove up to the Ball and Clark Kent opened the door. Emerging from the car was Lois Lane, wearing a new Superwoman costume. Soon, after they entered the ball, Lois and Clark sat together watching the festivities. Beneath the soft lights and sweet music, Lois turned to Clark Kent and romantically asked him why he hasn't asked her to dance. "Well, frankly, I wouldn't want to risk it. With your new strength, you might crush me to death," he whimpered.

Obviously disturbed. Lois pushed herself back from the table defiantly and stood up, looking around intently. "Very well! There's plenty who will dance with me," she said and immediately a dozen reporters ran to her asking for a dance. After Lois moved onto the dance floor, Kent retreated to a dark corner and changed to Superman. Again, moving faster than the eye could follow, Superman sped behind Lois pounding on the feet of all her male companions. As quickly as the men had come, the suitors sulked off the floor to rest their sore feet, leaving Lois standing quite alone. Embarrassed, Lois slipped into a dark corner behind a large potted plant and began crying. "A ball in my honor and here I am a wallflower. I wonder if it's worth being a Superwoman?"

The rustle of leaves startled Lois and she turned quickly around to find Hocus and Pocus standing there with Merton. "Will you dance with me?" she asked. "Oh, no, no. Not that, Miss Lane," said Hocus, trying to figure a way to politely ask her for more money. "That settles it. You've got to change me back," she demanded. "All right, but it'll cost you seven guineas," Hocus said gleefully. After handing him the money Hocus waved his hand and said, "Abracadabra. Be yourself, Miss Lane!" "I feel better already," Lois said. "And, so do I," said Superman watching the whole thing from across the room.

Superman quickly changed back to Clark Kent and rushed over to Lois. "Now that you're not a Superwoman, how about a dance, Lois?" Steam flew from Lois' ears and she yelled, " Oh, so now you want a dance." Winding up, Lois slapped Kent full on the face and stomped off. "You men who try to keep women weak and defenseless I hate you!" she screamed over her shoulder.

Clark Kent could only stare at her as she stormed out of the ball, and rub his face. "Whew. Whoever understands a woman is a better man than Superman!"

5Story - 5: I really thought that this was a fun little story full of all of the things that made the early Superman stories great. There were the characterizations of the wimpy Clark, the defiant working woman Lois and the comic relief of Hocus and Pocus. Throw in some super-powers, a touch of adventure, and you have a very good story.

The story also had a powerful woman's-rights message that must be seen as way ahead of its time. Lois has always been portrayed as the aggressive, driven reporter and when she acquired Superman's powers (even though it was imagined) Superman not only felt compelled to play along, but ultimately began to feel a bit threatened. In the end, he used his powers to make Lois feel that it was unfeminine to be a superwoman and begged to be returned to normal. Even then, the angry Lois got furious at Clark and "men who try to keep women weak and defenseless".
Interestingly, In the history of Superman, this might be considered the second part of DC's inevitable move toward the creation of a "real" Supergirl character. Part one occurred in Action Comics #60 (May, 1943) in a story identically titled "Lois Lane--Superwoman!" (to be reviewed soon). In that story, Lois was hit by a car, and while in a coma dreamed that Superman give her a transfusion of his blood to save her life, which in turn gave her super-powers. After discovering her powers, she made her own super-costume and started battling crime. Later, Lois and Kent were kidnapped by the villainous scientist, Dr. Skowl, but it was Lois who saved the day, rescuing both Kent and Superman (which let us know it was a dream since Lois wasn't aware they're the same person) from Dr. Skowl's clutches. Then, in a burst of romantic passion, Lois swept Superman off of his feet, and just as Superman agreed to marry her, she awoke to find herself still in the hospital bed recovering from the brain surgery that saved her life.
The other characters in this story were Hocus and Pocus, the assumed names of a pair of streetcorner salesmen of magic books who first appeared in Action Comics #83 ("Hocus and Pocus... Magicians by Accident", 1945). Doc, known as Hocus, was a wiry little man with moustache, glasses and a derby hat. He was the brains of the outfit, "who spoke like a college professor, but has the trusting simplicity of a child." His partner was Flannelhead, also known as Pocus, a man as strong as an ox and almost as smart. They became convinced, through some strange circumstances, that Doc had acquired powers to make his thoughts come true merely by starting with the phrase "Abracadabra...alacazam...hocus pocus!" Fortunately for them, Superman was responsible for most of their magic. As Kent comments, "they're just a couple of peddlers," being more comic relief than anything else. It was amazing that they appeared in five stories over three years with this story being their last appearance in comics.
The second story in this issue was "Showdown On the Showboat", where Superman eventually captured Hugh Rowland. Rowland was a member of an acting troupe on the Golden Star, one of the last grand showboats on the river. He secretly owned the mortgage on the boat and tried repeatedly to sabotage the troupe to prevent them from performing and making payments on the mortgage so he could convert the boat to a floating night club. The last story (which will also be reviewed soon) was "The Case of the Living Trophies" in which Superman rescued Lois and four other people kidnapped by an extraterrestrial to place them on display in a private museum.

4Art - 4: As I have mentioned before, the art for these stories is rarely credited, but being so late in the run, I would guess that Shuster drew only the faces and hands of the characters while his studio did the remainder of the figure and background work. Overall, this is quality art for this time period. Even though Superman leaps around in poses that appear almost painful, Lois' face and figure were very well drawn throughout the story. When she disappears behind the bush to cry at her own ball, you feel the disappointment in her face. A very nice sequence of art.

3Cover Art - 3: And, again, the cover to this issue has nothing to do with any of the stories inside. It shows Superman breaking through the ground in China, obviously after he had bored a hole completely through the earth. While it is a cute concept, and a fun image, I'm not sure that alone would have made me buy the issue.


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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