Wednesday, February 29, 2012

April 1940: Superman #5

Cover by Wayne Boring

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel, Paul Cassidy and Wayne Boring): Jerry Siegel is back to his old tricks, with a story about the evils of slot machines. A crook is forcing store owners to have slot machines in their stores, and then collecting all of the money. The interesting part is that the people playing the slot machines are kids. It's surprising to me, who grew up in a society that won't let kids gamble under any circumstances, but I guess there had to be a good reason that those laws were introduced. Anyway, Superman predictably smashes all of the machines and rounds up the crooks, while Lois and Clark do the reporting. A nice old-style Superman story.

One thing I have noticed is that Clark Kent only pretends to be a weakling around Lois. In stories where she's not around he's a totally hard-nosed reporter, and given the number of rackets he's cracked he surely has a reputation for that kind of thing. But when Lois is around he goes completely into his mild-mannered act. Perhaps she just makes him nervous?  Or maybe he respects her investigative skills so much that he overdoes it? I'm not sure, but there's certainly something to it.

Also, Superman has a photographic memory.  The powers keep accumulating.

Supermen of America: These pages are usually boring, but this one illustrates just how far Superman's popularity is spreading at this time. It lists a number of military units that have joined the fan club, and there is even a plane squadron that is using the Superman insignia as its official emblem.

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy): A crooked politician buys a newspaper, and tries to do the same to the Daily Planet. When the publisher refuses to sell, the politician sends his thugs to terrorise the Planet. Superman rushes from incident to incident, stopping all manner of violent crimes. It's yet another classic Superman-against-social-injustice story. I'd thought Siegel was done with them, but it appears not. I don't mind, so long as he mixes them up with a few mad scientists and such.

'Power of the Press' (by George Shute): In this prose story, a reporter meets a crazy ventriloquist who thinks his dummy is his son. Pointless.

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): America is in the grip of a terrible financial crisis, and it turns out to be the work of Luthor, who has enslaved a number of top businessmen with some special incense. Superman fights his way through a whole bunch of death traps to confront Luthor, and sends him to a watery grave by smashing his getaway plane.

Superman's powers are starting to get weird. He now has the power to rearrange his facial structure so that he can impersonate people.

Also, he claims to have invented the indestructible material of his costume himself.

'Murder in the Wind' (by Jack Wallis): A young man named Pert Blair is helped to become sheriff by the town banker, but it turns out that the banker is a murderer, and hoped that Pert would be too inexperienced for the job. No such luck, Mr. Banker Guy! It's all familiar material, executed without zest.

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy): A scientist invents a miracle drug called parabiolene, and a crook uses it to make the sick people who need it commit crimes. Superman smashes the operation. This is the fourth straight story with Superman fighting common crooks, and it gets a bit wearing after a while.

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