Sunday, February 7, 2010

In Which Superman Investigates a Strange Odour Part 2

Continuing from where we left off...

Superman had just destroyed the autogyro in which the villainous Mosely was escaping, sending the both of them hurtling towards the ground and certain death.  We pick up as Superman trails Mosely on foot post-crash.  What?  We know how Superman survived, but how did Mosely?  Sucka didn't even have a parachute!  And if he survived the fall why would he assume Superman of all people didn't?  Well if Siegel and Shuster don't care, neither do I.

Mosely eventually reaches a solid mountain wall, which he pushes upon to reveal a secret passage.  Following him into the mountain passage Superman quickly encounters a motorized door which requires a spoken password to enter.  Loudly musing to himself that he has no idea what the password is, Superman activates a trap door beneath his feet sending the Man of Tomorrow careening into a deadly spiked pit trap:

That is actually awesome.  Deciding this is no time to relax, Superman rises from the pit only to be met by a vat of acid being poured directly upon his head.  This, of course, does nothing and Superman tears the vat from its hinges before throwing it at the locked door, destroying both.  More importantly than that though we learn the first ever explanation for why Superman's costume never gets damaged when it really ought to be!  Are you ready for this?  Here it is!

Wow, that tells us a lot!  We learn that Superman's costume is invincible and that we were fools for ever viewing it as a plothole, that Superman is secretly a brilliant scientist despite this fact never having been hinted at before, and we even learn that he's kind of a dick for not sharing this miracle cloth with the rest of the world.

Behind the door Superman finds Mosely talking to Lex Luthor himself via television screen (WHY DID HE COME ALL THIS WAY THEN).  Mosely ask's Luthor for stock-market advice, which Luthor gladly gives, reminding Mosely that he gets 75% of his profits (!!) for this information.  Coulda done this by phone you guys, seriously.

Superman bursts onto the scene, shouting that Luthor's "evil career is ending NOW!"  This guy is smart enough to invent invincible cloth, but he can't tell a tv from a real person?  Superman's bullheadedness leads him into a trap: as two antenna zap him with powerful electricity the Man of Steel feels no ill effect and is instead charged as though he had spent the past year rubbing his feet on a carpet, a static charge he uses to destroy the vile television with a single light touch.

Protecting Mosely from the exploding tv's shrapnel, Superman then must rush from the cavern (Mosely cradled gently in his arms) as it does what evil caverns do best and collapses.  Once safely outside Superman asks Mosely just what the heck is up with that incense!  Remember that?  It's such a mystery!  You will be absolutely floored to learn that Luthor uses the incense to enslave prominent men across the nation.

Okay you probably figured that out quite a while ago, but don't get too cocky thinking you're better than Superman, I doubt any of us have invented invincible thread.

Superman asks Mosely for a list of the men Luthor has enslaved, which Mosely conveniently has in a giant walk-in safe back at his office.  As Superman enters the safe to retrieve the list, Mosely unsurprisingly locks him in.  Equally unsurprisingly Superman breaks out immediately!  As if it wasn't bad enough that Luthor used his own face to emit the mind-control gas, he also gives us underlings lists of everyone under his control? The guy wants to be stopped, it's all a cry for help.

Asking Mosely where Luthor's hideout is, the Man of Tomorrow learns that he will be meeting with his victims at the Garriston Tower. 

Fearful of what will become of him should his betrayal be found out, Mosely opts to kill himself by jumping from his office window.  Sadly for him, Superman leaps after him and tosses the man back inside before he can reach the ground.  Climbing back through the window himself, Superman then pinches a nerve in Mosely's neck, knocking the man unconscious.  I feel like I should that at the start of the story Mosely had black hair and was clean-shaven, while at this point he has white hair and a moustache.  This is obviously very inept continuity, but it's also important because...

By concentrating really hard Superman makes himself look exactly like Mosely, complete with gray hair and moustache.  Oh, cool!  We're just learning so much about Superman today.  I wonder how often he turns himself into Lois and stares at himself in the mirror before collapsing in a weeping heap on the floor. [edit: John Dyne of the Something Awful forums rightly notes that this power would be mighty useful in protecting a secret identity.  But why bother, eh?]

Superman, as Mosely, attends the Garriston Tower meeting but is quickly recognized by Luthor...who for some reason has gray hair.  But only for two panels, as his hair becomes brown for the next two.  Which is cool, except it's established that he's a flippin' ginger!

Having recognized Superman, Luthor orders his guards to attack which naturally does nothing.  Luthor, always one to plan ahead, makes escape in a plane built into the building's wall somehow.  God, I don't know.

Superman catches the plane in a single mighty leap, and sends it crashing into the ocean below.  Declaring this to be "The end of Luthor" Superman doesn't think to search for a body, and we end with Editor George Taylor congratulating Clark on finding the list of Luthor's victims and having restored the United States to its former prosperity.

Note the "moustache dissapearing" lines.  Classic.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In Which Superman Investigates a Strange Odour

Superman has once before done battle with a failing economy, but has he done it within the pages of issue 5?  No, so it's all new to us!

Editor George Taylor sends ace reporter Clark Kent to interview Metropolis' "leading men of finance" to learn just what is up with the "worst depression" in United States history!  Frustratingly for the reporter, Clark is fed placating words by these rockstars of the financial world, and his questioning leads him no closer to discovering the truth of the matter. He does however notice that in every office he visits there is the same "sickeningly sweetish odor of incence".  His curiousity getting the better of him Clark eventually asks one of the men, Gregory, what the source of the odour is only to be met with nervous uncertainty.  Not believing the man's explanation that the odour is just a "peculiarity" of his, Clark stops and listens outside his office, an act which causes him to overhear Gregory reporting Clark's presence to a mysterious person on the other side of the phone.

Once outside the office Clark notices a bomber flying over the city, ready to discharge its deadly payload on the unsuspecting populace.  Leaping into an alley, Clark removes his outer clothing instantly transforming himself into his alter-ego: Superman!  I hope he uses a phonebooth soon.  Give the public what they crave!

Superman leaps toward the bomber, noticing in mid-air that its bombs are headed directly for The Daily Planet offices!  Catching the bombs before they can reach their target, Superman then drops them in the river...thus making them someone else's problem I guess.  Defuse them?  Detonate them somewhere harmless?  Nah, just drop 'em in the river.

Reassuming his guise as Clark Kent, our hero deduces that Gregory likely ordered this hit on the Planet in order to put a stop to the reporter's snooping.  Really?  I think having Clark quietly killed might be a little more effective than bombing his workplace from the sky!  You can't even play something like that off as an accident!  Hell, he didn't even allow Clark time to get back before trying to blow the place up.

Clark's next course of action is to return to Gregory's office and interrogate him about what the hell just happened.  Gregory tells Clark that he has just phoned the police and informed them someone is coming to kill him.  As Clark turns to look out the window in search of confirmation, Gregory shoots himself explaining that his orders were to frame the reporter for murder.

Clark obviously has no intention of being arrested, and leaps out the window before the police see him.  Circling the building Clark re-enters as though he had just arrived and informs the police that it is not a murder case at all, but (noting the bullet's angle of entry) a suicide!  No one finds it strange that Clark noticed the angle of entry at a glance from the otherside of the room.

Witty references abound!

Having phoned the office to deliver his report thus far, Clark next heads back to the previously visited (offscreen) finance office of Mr. Mosely to get to the bottom of the strange incence mystery.  Unforuntately Clark's revisitation is cut short as he is denied entry by the office's secretary, and summarily tossed on his ass.

Having no intention of giving up Clark uses his superior strength to dig his fingers into the brick of the building, and Spiderman his way to Mosely's private office.  Hiding in a closet, Clark overhears Mosely and two generic thugs gloating about all the money they're raking in while the rest of the country suffers.  In a baffling sequence one of the thugs hangs his coat on a hook next to Clark's face while Clark thinks "-Didn't see me!  Whew!-", only to have his feet be spotted in the subsequent panel.  What was the point of that?  Was it meant to be funny?  When telling a joke the audience shouldn't have to wonder if it was even meant to be one.  Here, take a look for yourself:

Is that funny?  Does it even flow naturally? 

Back to business, the thugs yank Clark out of his hiding place, only to have him break free and dash to a previously unmentioned curtain from behind which the strange odour is apparently emanating.  Pulling back the curtain, Clark reveals:

YYYEEESSSS!!!!  Finally, a real villain again!  I mean sure, it's the same one it always is, but beggars can't be choosers as they say.

The thugs sock Clark in the kisser for having seen too much, and lead him at gunpoint to an open elevator shaft, down which he is subsequently thrown.  You know, Clark is really lucky no one ever shoots him, unless he's constantly carrying around some ketchup packets to burst he'd have a hard time explaining himself.

The thugs come to dispose of Clark's body and are met with a man in blue/red underwear who, they are surprised to find, cannot be hurt by bullets.  Disposing of the thugs, Superman then climbs to the roof of the building across from Mosely's and watches (using X-Ray vision!) as the villain is ordered via statue to meet with Luthor himself.

Mosely climbs aboard a newly arrived autogyro and heads toward Luthor.  Superman gives chase, but is quickly spotted.  Annoyed by the gyro having turned its guns on him, Superman leaps into the air and tears its whirling blades apart.  This results in both him and the ejecting Mosely plummeting toward the earth, and their certain doom...

Terrible perspective -OR- How does Mosely even fit in that thing?

The exciting conclusion tomorrow!

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Superman and the Newspaper Wars

The second story in issue 5 gets off to a rip-roaring start when unpopular politician Alex Evell (his name makes me trust him) forces Zachary Collum (giving his name because Siegel did, maybe it'll be important!) to sell his paper the Morning Pictorial, under threat of his wife and son coming to harm.  Clark and Lois find this news unbelievable for an entire panel before we cut to a city council meeting where Representative Barnes is angrilly requesting a probe of Evell's actitivites.  "As a result, honest up-right Barnes is denounced in the Morning Pictorial as a rapscallion." and never heard from again, in this story at least.

The Pictorial's new agenda becomes even clearer when, in response to some thugs complaining to him about the cops busting up their various operations, Evel prints a headline declaring the police department guilty of "third degree methods."  Are papers allowed to print blatant lies?  I actually don't know.  If you value your sides you won't look at the article's author though.  Consider yourself warned!

Clark interviews the chief of police who confirms his suspicions of the article consisting entirely of lies, which then leads Clark to write an article of his own revealing the truth.  This in turn leads to Evell confronting Daily Planet publisher Burt Mason (who?).  Evell says that despite his outrage at the situation he will "consent" to buying the Planet, a piece of information that leads Mason (who?) to kick him out of his office.  Evell declares war.

And by God he means it: we next see Clark and Lois rushing outside the newspaper office to witness the still-in-process burning of a Daily Planet news truck.  The thug who commited this act of arson is casually standing in the street admiring his handiwork, and so is on hand to tell L&C there will be more damage if Burt Mason (who?) doesn't consent to selling his paper.  To make sure they understand he means business the thug then hilariously pie-faces Clark.  Lois is naturally dissapointed that her companion isn't a "he-man" and storms off.  Neither of the two think to call the cops.

Editor George Taylor fears for Lois' safety on the now-dangerous streets and orders her to remain in the building, while Clark timidly beats feet to get some "RED HOT NEWS".  Once out of eyeshot of his compatriots, Clark reveals himself to be none other than the Last Son of Krypton - Superman!

Superman muses to himself that the Planet is too conservative a paper to hire thugs, leaving him its only defender.  I would make a joke about the police not existing in this universe, but they've already been featured within this very story.  Whatever, Superman does what he wants!

We next see Superman as he observes the Daily Planet trucks leaving to deliver the latest edition. The trucks are not even able to split into their various routes before they find their path blocked by thugs driving Pictorial trucks.  The thugs emerge from their vehicles, promising to smash the skulls of the opposing paper's drivers. (wow!)  Superman ain't one to stand around during this kind of thing, so he leaps between the two newpaper deliveryman armies and begins to smash the thugs' trucks.  It's kinda awesome:

Next an armoured truck hurtles towards our hero, described as "tank-like" it is clearly being built up as a threat to Superman.  Of course, our man flips it over immediately without giving it a second thought.  Honestly, I'd be pretty bummed if I had bought an armoured Superman-destroying contingency truck only to see it be defeated within three panels, two of which are just Superman tossing it aside like it's made of paper.

Some of the thugs attempt to escape in a stolen Daily Planet truck, an egress which is quickly cut short when Superman places the truck on top of an industrial smokestack.  I guess the Planet didn't need that truck anyway.

Things go typically insane as a Pictorial thug attempts to run over a newsboy along with his stand, and another runs a Planet truck off a cliff.  These thugs are in no way anonymous mind you, they're all driving Pictorial trucks, their affiliation is clear.  Even if they manage to stop the Planet from being circulated for a day, they'll still have murdered in the name of Evell and his paper.  Did anyone think this plan through?  I'm not just talking about Evell either, I'm wondering if Jerry Siegel read this before sending it to print.

Naturally, Superman saves the aforementioned potential victims before any harm can come to them.  One guy does get thrown through a reinforced plate glass window and is never seen again, but Superman can't be expected to save everyone!  Come on!  He does take the window-throwing thug and, informing the man he had better tell his boss to cut it out, throws him through Evell's office window.

As the thug delivers Superman's message the Man of Steel hangs from Evell's window ledge, hoping to hear important secrets.  Unfortunately Evell notices his fingers gripping the ledge, and in an attempt to dislodge our hero smashes his digits with an axe.  This has the obvious effect on the axe, but surprisingly Superman turns tail and runs.  However an instant later he returns and listens in once more, knowing that Evell would never suspect him to return so quickly.  I guess Siegel knew the old "Superman hangs from window, overhears plot" gimmick was getting old, so he introduced a bit of utterly pointless spice!  Nevermind the fact that we've already borne witness to Superman's heightened sense of hearing, a power that should really make window-hanging obsolete.

From his position outside the window Superman hears Evell call Lois Lane, pretending to be from "Bentley Hospital", and asking her to come check on an injured Clark Kent!  The fiesty and concerned Lois breaks Editor George Taylor's house arrest rule and rushes to the hospital, where she is immediately (and typically) kidnapped by a thug.  Having overheard the plan Superman, instead of stopping the kidnapping in one of a million different ways available to him, clings to the bottom of the getaway car as it escapes.

The thugs take Lois into a room and prepare to shoot Superman should he attempt to save her, which he does.  As usual, Superman puts off the saving to make it as difficult as possible.  Just so we know that the guy whose head smashed into a curb while clinging to the bottom of a speeding car is invulnerable the thugs shoot him with an Elephant gun to no effect.  Ohhhh, he can't be hurt!  Now I get it.

At this point Evell is so desperate to kill Superman that he decides to burn the building to the ground, killing Lois and his own hired thugs along with him.  Naturally Superman saves everyone, and the betrayed thugs agree to testify against Evell.  That Collum guy (see?  Knowing that name was totally important!) from the opening gets his paper back, and Clark is hilariously denied a vacation because now that the Planet has competition he is needed more than ever.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Superman vs. Gambling

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Superman Issue 5!

To start this exciting Superman adventure intrepid reporters Lois and Clark bear witness to a crooked convenience store owner tricking kids into losing their lunch money on his slot machines.  The guy is clearly a total jerk (what does he want with a few nickels anyway?), but even still the panic with which Lois/Clark interrupt the children's slot-use is a bit over the top.  The guy kicks them out of his store, and Lois can't help but call Clark a coward for not kicking the crap out of him.  Was beating people up for doing stuff you don't like really common in the 40s, or is Lois just crazy?

One of the boys realizes he will be late for school due to his newfound gambling addiction, and rushes into the street without looking both ways first!!  Heck, they were probably going to teach that lesson in class today, another failure of the public school sysem.  Clark sees the boy about to be hit by a truck, and leaps to his rescue.  This act of heroism is met with high praise from the truck driver, and even Lois!  Fearing they are on to his secret identity, Clark takes this opportunity to faint.

"Good, you should be."

Entering a store in search of a glass of water to calm Clark's jangled nerves, L&C discover yet another slot machine!  Looking at the shopkeep's moustache Clark deems him to be an upstanding citizen, and asks why he'd have a child-corrupting devil machine in his store.  The moustachioed proprietor explains that "Slug" Kelly and his toughs (enough with the toughs!) forced him to make use of it.

Lois heads to Slug's hideout, Clark timidly following along.  Unfortunately asking Slug to stop stealing lunch money from grade-schoolers only leads to him locking our heroes up.  Letting the two sweat for a while in captivity, Slug eventually brings Lois a paper to sign admitting that her editor (George Taylor, for you trivia buffs!) is in league with Slug in the slot-machine biz, and that Lois herself is their go-between!  Lois refuses to sign, until Slug threatens the life of Clark Kent.  Unwilling to let an innocent suffer when she can do something about it, Lois signs the fraudulent paper.

But little do they all know, Clark Kent is actually Superman!  Still locked in a seperate room, Clark changes into his blue tights and blasts the door from its hinges sending "screws and bolts flying" through the air!  The next panel brilliantly shows him catching it before it can hit the ground, as Superman states he doesn't want to make too much noise lest anyone hear him.  There are probably quieter ways of opening doors than punching them off their hinges, but I can't think of any and neither can Superman!

Look at this asshole, he even shouts "Make way!" as he punches it! 

Obviously Superman isn't afraid of getting hurt by these ordinary dudes, so he's likely being "quiet" to spare Lois potential harm.  Of course the next thing he does is shout "I'm on my way!" as he runs down the hall, and straight into a thug.  Being run into by a charging Superman isn't something a person is likely to recover from quickly, so I assume a good amount of time takes place between the panel where Superman bumps the guy and the next where the poor fool pulls a gun.  Superman, naturally, slaps the bullet back into the gun thus disarming the thug.  We know he loves to show off, but what about being quiet??  For Lois' sake, man!

The very next thing he does is go into a room full of slot machines and punch the shit out of them, before throwing them through the wall and into the building's back lot.  Is that quiet??

Evidently not!

The thugs find him destroying more machines, and fire their tommy guns at him to no effect.  Next they try gas, and Superman...

Oh my God!  This is too much.  Lois is in danger, and this guy decides to pretend to pass out for fun?  Is it too late to call someone competant?  The Bizarro of this world must be one heroic dude.

The thugs try to kill him with blunt objects while he's down, with an obvious conclusion.  Let's just, not get into it. 
Superman "awakens" and the thugs next try to kill him with torches they pulled from God knows where, perhaps mistaking him for Frankenstein's monster.  Tossing the torches aside, and setting the building ablaze in the process, Superman takes the time to recover some documents from a vault.  Slug and his men flee the building, leaving Lois and "the strong man" to burn.

Oh yeah, Lois!  Well hey, she's passed out from smoke inhalation because someone was too busy dicking around to save her.  This is what she deserves for selflessly sacrificing on your behalf not two minutes ago, Superman you ass.  No worries though, Superman carries her outside before going back for "Clark" (actually the secret documents!).

Things begin to wrap up: as Lois' admission that her editor was in cahoots with Slug is printed in a rival paper Clark uses the stolen documents to prove the claim false.  Superman then goes around town smashing up all the slot machines, while Lois gets kidnapped by Slug and his cronies as they drive out of town!

The kindly moustachioed shopkeep decides to get rid of his own slot machine before Superman arrives, an act which the passing Slug plans to put a stop to.  However, before Slug can harm the old man Superman intervenes and saves both the moustache and Lois.

Carrying Slug to the local public school, Superman makes him tell the children that his machines were fixed and they never could have won.  Which, really, isn't going to dissuade them from gambling.  "Oh, the fixed machines are gone?  Great, now we can gamble safely!"  Another good job, Superman.

The story finally (finally) comes to an end as a police sergeant is unable to arrest Slug due to lack of witnesses to his confession...until hundreds of children pour into the station!  How the hell did they know?  Creepy psychic kids.

Just to drive home how angry slots make Superman, we end with him looking directly at us with more disgust than I think I've ever witnessed in a human being.  I'm so sorry Superman, I will never gamble!