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!