Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Superman (Dawn of the Silver Age: 1955 - 1959)


By Deejay Dayton
Jan 3, 2017 - 13:12

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The period of 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age, was one of rebirth for Superman.  These were the years during which Kandor was introduced, and Kryptonian elements really began to permeate the series. Superman would get some strong new villains, and the supporting cast would grow as well.  Locations would even become important, with two homes for the character getting firmly established.

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In this period, we learn a lot more about Krypton and Superman’s early years.  In Superman 106 we find out about the hero’s very first super-feat.  A scientist is doing research on Superman, and his earliest activities as Superboy in Smallville.  Perry White decides to help him out, ordering his staff to find the earliest Superboy deed they can. Superman is quite suspicious about all this.  The scientist has a bad reputation, years earlier he had caused a panic with a false report of an approaching meteor. But as nothing the scientist is uncovering seems dangerous to him, Superman helps out, telling them all about his voyage to from Krypton to Earth.  Superman is now able to remember this, and even his parents, though of course he had no memory of Krypton in earlier tales.  From this point on, his super-memory will allow him to recall a huge amount of Kryptonian details. On the flight, baby Superman got out and played with a comet, which wound up diverting its path.  This was what the scientist was after all along.  His forecast years earlier had been right, but Superbaby saved the Earth without realizing it.

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Jor-El gets to star in a story in Action 223. Superman goes hunting in space for remnants of Krypton, and finds some good chunks that contain his father’s lab and journal.  At this point, the notion that the planet turned to kryptonite upon exploding has clearly not been solidified, as Superman has no trouble in the ruins. The rest of the story is Jor-El’s journal, and we see the scientist discover the impending destruction of his world. Jor-El picks Earth as the destination for his escape rocket, after re-creating its gravity in a valley, and discovering that it will endow Kryptonians with super-powers. 

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The idea that sunlight is the key to the powers has not yet been introduced. Jor-El even gets to use these powers to fight crime and protect the Earth, preventing some Kryptonian thieves from stealing his rocket plans to invade Earth. Lara is completely side-lined in this story, just hovering around as Jor-El sends his son to safety at the climax of the tale.

This was the first story to feature Jor-El and life on Krypton, but it would spawn many more.

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In Superman 113 a kryptonite meteor lands on Earth, and it contains a helmet, which is a recording device used by Jor-El.  Wearing it, Superman learns the story of when his father acted as a hero to save Krypton from an invasion by an alien race, the Vergoans.  Jor-El heads out to the asteroid the aliens are using a base, and discovers that, off his planet, he has super-powers. This story is also the first time that Superman’s Kryptonian name is revealed, Kal-El.  Although his super-memory allowed him to remember the flight to Earth, he did not recall what his parents called him, apparently. The story gets interrupted as giant plants begin destroying Metropolis.  A mad scientist is behind this, but the point of the interruption is to allow Superman some action – and he uses the same technique he had just learned that his father had used to protect Krypton. Jor-El learns that the Vergoans were planning to destroy Krypton, using the released energy to power their failing sun. 

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The queen of the Vergians, Latora, explains that they chose Krypton because it was doomed to destruction anyway.  According to this story, that is how Jor-El discovered that Krypton was going to be destroyed. Back in the present, Superman defeats the mad scientist on the loose, and then seeks out the Vergoans. They are still hunting for a way to power their sun, and Superman takes care of that for them.  Latora, who looks much the same as she did in the flashbacks, despite the twenty some year difference, really ought to be the villain of the story, but Superman treats her as a damsel in distress anyway. Probably because of the detail of Jor-El learning about Krypton’s doom from Latora, this story was ignored by later continuity.  The other problem was the notion of Kryptonians gaining powers simply by leaving their planet.  Once the idea of their powers coming from the yellow sun were introduced, this story became “wrong.”

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In Superman 131 we read about an apparently uneventful day in Superboy’s life. He helps a toddler, saves the briefcase of a reporter, and comes to the assistance of a girl stuck in a mask at a party. The end of the story reveals to the reader that Superboy had spent the day helping Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Lois Lane.  It’s not that much of a surprise, but a decent enough tale.

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Superman 125 deals with Clark Kent at university, covering his identity with his fellow students, as well as a professor determined to prove he is Superboy. The story ends with Clark hooked to a lie detector, but passing the test when asked if he is Superboy.  He was not lying.  This story marks the first day he began to think of himself as Superman.

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Superman 129 explores Clark’s university days more fully. Clark meets and falls in love with another student, Lori Lemaris, a young woman confined to a wheelchair, after coming to her rescue. Clark proposes to her, but she refuses.  She reveals that she has telepathic powers, and knows he is Superman, but nothing more.  Figuring that there must be something very wrong with any woman who would reject him, Clark decides to spy on her, and begins to believe that she is a foreign agent.

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Superman is openly relieved to discover that Lori is really a mermaid from Atlantis, who had come to the surface world to learn their ways.  Lori Lemaris returns to Atlantis at the end of the story, but would become a regular supporting character in the Superman books during the Silver Age.

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We even get to learn about where Clark Kent lives during these years.  His apartment is the centre of a tale in Superman 112. While the address would remain canon, 344 Clinton St., the neighbours introduced would not be recurring characters. Most of the story is a feel-good tale, as Superman uses his powers to help out those in his building, without their knowledge. The plot is driven by a private detective trying to figure out the connection between Superman and Clark Kent – although he misses the obvious, and ends up deducing that Clark gives Superman information on crimes to deal with.
During these years both Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane would be featured in their own books, but both would still receive some stories in Superman’s series where they were the centre of the action.

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My favourite Lois Lane tale in Superman’s books at this time appears in Superman 129.  Lois is interviewing a scientist who has been working on a teleportation machine.  Superman’s x-ray vision causes the machine to explode, and Lois appears to have blown up as well. Superman finds himself seeing Lois Lane’s ghost, in both his identities.  And though he can see her, neither Perry White nor Jimmy Olsen can.

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But it turns out Lois is just out of phase with reality, and it’s when Superman uses x-ray vision that he can see where she is.  There is a very sensitive electric typewriter, and Lois manages to communicate through it, explaining what has happened to her.  Superman fixes the teleportation machine enough to bring her back.

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Jimmy Olsen is at the core of the tale in Superman 123, but it’s more noted as having a forerunner of Supergirl. Jimmy Olsen is given a magic wishing stick, and the stories three chapters each detail one of the three wishes the stick gives him.  The first chapter sees Jimmy bring to life a Super-Girl, to be a companion to Superman. Aside from the red skirt, this Super-Girl is identical to the one that would be formally introduced the following year.  But in this story she and Superman are romantically involved, to the dismay of Lois Lane. But the two find it difficult to work together, and Super-Girl almost winds up exposing Clark’s identity. In the end, she sacrifices herself to save Superman from kryptonite. And this was only the first chapter! The second chapter is a bit of a let down.  The wishing stick gets stolen, and the bad guys wish for Superman to lose his powers.  Superman has to survive until Jimmy gets the stick back, and cancels the wish.

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The third chapter sees Jimmy write down his wish, only to screw up a word, and instead of wanting Superman to meet his parents, he instead wishes for Superman to mate his parents. The story does not explore that concept nearly as fully as it might.  There are no forced breeding chambers, for example.  But it does have some similarities to Back to the Future, as Superman has to bring together Jor-El and Lara. The two are working undercover for the Kryptonian version of the F.B.I., but get rounded up and sentenced as criminals.  They are shot out into space to be reformed by crystals over hundreds of years – an improvement over the method used on Mala and his brothers, of simply being shot into space permanently.  Obviously, this story pre-dates the Phantom Zone. In this story, there is mention of an identity brand that all Kryptonians have, but this terrifyingly authoritarian notion does not get carried forward.

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Perry White gets a story dealing with his son, but it is not the same son, William, who appeared in an earlier tale.  The story in Superman 108 introduces Perry White, Jr.  Like the other son, who is not mentioned at all, Perry becomes a Daily Planet reporter. Perry’s relationship to his son is not kept as a secret, as it had been with William, giving both characters more to play off of.  And Perry Junior spends the story trying to prove that Clark Kent is really a mob boss, Mr. Wheels. But in the long run Perry Jr. fared no better than William, as neither ever made a return.

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Superman 133 provides a new version of how Clark Kent got hired at the Daily Planet. Clark moves to Metropolis, with no idea what job he intends to find, despite having taken journalism in university.  Only when his landlady accuses him of being a criminal does he decide to become a reporter.  He heads to the Daily Planet, meets Lois Lane (ignoring all other first meeting stories), and despite showing off his impressive memory, gets sent on a loser assignment at the zoo. Clark turns a dud story into a scoop by disguising himself as a gorilla and getting into a fight with another one.  But Perry is not impressed, as this was an accident. 

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He sends him out a second time, and again finds fault with him, despite his story. Perry than gives him kryptonite, and orders him to get a photo of Superman with it.  Really?  This is what you have to do to get hired at the Daily Planet?  Why does Clark not just try another paper? Anyway, he takes the picture at super-speed, and Clark gets the job he fought so hard for.

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The International Daily Planet, which had been introduced in the previous period, makes a return during this era, in a tale in Action 211. Curiously, Perry White refers to this as the anniversary of the first editions, which were shown in the earlier story, but lists different countries.  France is still there, but now alongside Greece, Italy, Holland and Japan.  One can only guess the editions in England and India were not successful. At Perry’s request, Superman flies from country to country performing super-stunts to be photographed. 

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Superman expects to see these on the front pages of the various editions, but they never wind up making the papers. Superman starts to worry that he is no longer news, and his stunts become larger and more outrageous. As it turns out, all the pictures were being collected for a cover montage, which makes Superman very happy.

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During this time there are some tales, like the Supergirl one already mentioned, which were part of the development of later tales and concepts.  As an example, the tale from Action 222, which sees Superman get turned into two people. Superman is ground zero at a “q-bomb” test, which splits him into two beings. They are virtually identical, the only difference being that only one has telescopic vision, while the other has x-ray vision.  Off of this, they name themselves Superman-T and Superman-X.  It’s an interesting situation, and neither one is the “real” Superman over the other. The story doesn’t really delve into the possibilities of there being two Supermen much, content to use it to divert Lois Lane’s eternal suspicion that Superman is Clark Kent.

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As the story reaches the ending, Superman-T, who has noticed something odd happening to his skin, steals a golden idol.  Superman-X thinks that his twin has turned to crime, and tries to stop him. In actuality, Superman-T has figured out a way to sacrifice himself into a meteor, which returns whatever Superman-ness he had to Superman-X, who becomes just Superman again.

This story would be reworked in a number of later tales, from Superman-Red/Superman-Blue, to the Sand Superman, and the Superman split caused by Satanis and Syrene, among others.

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Long after the mountain Citadel, and before the Fortress of Solitude, Superman created himself a fort in Superman 117. Luthor plays a small role in the story, having Superman use his powers to destroy a device, which was really a decoy.  Unwittingly, Superman opened a passage to another dimension, allowing creatures to come through. Superman constructs a fort outside of the city, stocking it with trophies and exotic creatures – a clear forerunner of the Fortress. But in this case, it’s all a big trap.  Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen come to investigate, and Superman has to keep them out of the way as the other-dimensional beings fall for the deadly treasures in the fort, eventually fleeing Earth.

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The actual Fortress of Solitude makes its bow in Action 241, although it’s called Fort Superman in this tale. The Fortress has its odd directional marker key right from the start, and Superman’s penchant for creating duplicates of his friends is the first thing shown.  As well as rooms dedicated to Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Batman, there is a Clark Kent room, in case anyone should happen to break in. Other elements of the Fortress resemble the Batcave, with the trophy and weapons. 

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But the most distinctive part is the Interplanetary Zoo.  In this story, it is simply a collection for Superman’s own amusement, but in time it would take on more of the character as a prison for alien beasts that Superman does not want to kill. The plot of the story has Superman increasingly concerned, as evidence indicates that someone has succeeded in entering the Fortress.  It turns out to be Batman, in a surprise cameo.  The two characters had been regularly teaming up in the pages of World’s Finest for a few years now, but this was one of the first in a Superman book to show them as close friends.

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What appears to be a simple, one-off tale in Action 210 really functions as an introduction to the character and his origin, as Superman gets a theme park built in his honour.  I noticed, though, that this story also opens the floodgates for the Daily Planet orb. It had appeared before, going all the way back to the 1940s, but had not been a regular feature on the building.  In this story, the globe appears prominently on the cover, as well as on the model of the Daily Planet building in Superman Land.

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Luthor shows up, in disguise, with another piece of synthetic kryptonite that he has made.  It’s a half-hearted attempt to kill Superman, though, and is largely there to provide some dramatic tension, and to include both Luthor and kryptonite in this overview of Superman. And, in an indirect way, this story also explains why, from now on, everyone seems to know of Superman’s origin, and the properties of kryptonite.

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Kryptonite is also central to Superman Island, the cover story for Action 224. It is one of those stories that just leaving you shaking your head in puzzlement. Superman builds a giant island in the shape of himself, even colouring it appropriately, and then demands that no one set foot on it.  Of course, this is more than Lois Lane could possibly handle, and she sets out to get onto the island. Some thieves, who figure Superman must be hiding something of value, have also found their way onto the island.  They capture Lois when they run across her, because everyone captures Lois. 

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They do find a hidden secret, which Lois has already figured out. Superman has been gathering up all the kryptonite he could find.  It was intended to be used as a power source, but the experiment to convert it failed.  Superman tosses the island and all its kryptonite into space.  BUT, if you want to hide all the kryptonite and use it in an experiment, why build something that will attract so much attention?  Why not just put up a big sign saying SECRET STUFF HERE!

Aside from that annoying element, the important thing in this story is the amount of kryptonite shown to be on Earth. Up to now, it has been synthetic kryptonite, created by Luthor, that has been used in stories.  This tale makes it clear that there is more than enough lying around for anyone to use.

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Super-apes became almost a subgenre during this period.  The first to appear was the Super-Ape from Krypton, who debuted in Action 218. Reports come in to the Planet about a flying ape.  Superman heads out to investigate, and finds the rumours true.  The ape can not only fly, but also talk. The ape is from Krypton as well, sent, along with his family, in a series of test rockets by others planning to flee the exploding planet. People are out to capture and exploit the ape. 

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Lois Lane gets involved, if only to get captured.  But in a change of pace she winds up freeing Super-Ape, who frees her in turn, with Superman not needed for his usual rescue. At the end of the story, Superman flies the ape to the planet where the rest of his family is, and we never see this character again. 

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It wasn’t too long before we met another super-ape, in Action 238, King Krypton. Unlike Super-Ape, King Krypton cannot speak.  He gets his name from Jimmy Olsen, after Superman discovers that the ape arrived on Earth by a rocket from Krypton. The surprisingly white African natives have fashioned spears out of kryptonite to keep King Krypton at bay, but those spears also take down Superman.  The two Kryptonians, man and beast, are pitted against each other in an arena.

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At the climax of the battle, King Krypton sacrifices himself to save Superman, and in doing so reverts to his human form.  He had been a scientist on Krypton, working on an evolution ray, which backfired and turned him into an ape.  He had been shot into space in the hopes that cosmic rays might cure him, but drifted until he reached Earth.

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The most important of the super-apes was Titano, the giant ape with kryptonite vision, who was introduced in Superman 127. Clearly inspired by King Kong, the ape begins as a chimp sent into space in a rocket, the way that countries used to do frequently in the late 50s.  For research, or so they claimed. Anyway, little Titano goes through some cosmic radiation and becomes a giant beast, as well as gaining the ability to shoot beams of kryptonite from his eyes.  I believe the same thing happened to Laika, but the Russians covered it up. Titano is innocent but destructive, and Superman cannot get anywhere near him.  But Titano trusts Lois, and she gets him to put lead glasses on as part of a game.  Superman then sends the ape backwards in time, leaving him in the prehistoric era to romp at will. Enjoyable, and leaves a possible return for Titano, which came about a couple of years down the road.

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I have already mentioned two stories that featured Luthor as the villain, and he would appear in eight others during these years, as usual being the opponent that Superman faced the most.  There were some very weak ones along the way, such as the story from Superman 101 in which Luthor tries to make the hero spell out “Superman – our blockhead.”

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Luthor builds the earliest version of his super-suit in Superman 106, draining off Superman’s powers to charge it, but also imbuing it with his weakness to kryptonite.  He enlarges kryptonite in issue 110, and manages to get his hands on Superman’s costume and impersonate him in Action 236. In Action 257 Luthor invents a machine that gives people super-powers, but chooses to test it on Clark Kent.  Superman is then able to use his powers openly as Clark, but also pretends that the machine has the side effect of making one generous to charities, so Luthor will not use it on himself.

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In Action 249 Luthor becomes an early version of the Kryptonite Man. Luthor has developed a way of ingesting kryptonite, which turns him green and allows him to emit the deadly radiation, with no ill effects himself. Luthor seeks out Superman, who flees when he gets exposed to his radiation. Superman attempts a number of ways to overcome Luthor’s power, but with little success.

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Eventually he develops a kryptonite-proof suit, which is cool enough to warrant a cutaway diagram. Luthor does manage to force him to remove the suit, but with Jimmy Olsen’s help, he tricks Luthor into thinking the radiation has worn off, and Luthor takes the antidote to the serum, making himself normal, and easy to catch.

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The Luthor tale in Action 226 is a forerunner of the Bizarro story. A giant, white, monstrous alien is found buried in the Earth, and brought back to Metropolis to be displayed. Luthor attempts to kill Superman, firing a synthetic kryptonite bullet. It misses the hero, but hits the monster, and the radioactivity brings the creature out of its dormant state.  It promptly goes on a rampage, but an unusual, collecting broken glass along the way. The creature also displays powers that are similar to Superman, although sometimes backwards, like flame breath instead of cold breath.

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In the end, it turns out to be a perfectly rational alien, who had crashed on Earth, and was suffering greatly due to our climate.  Superman helps send him back to his ice world. Luthor’s appearance in the story is so minor, but is one of the things that does make this reminiscent of Bizarro.

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Bizarro had been introduced in the Superboy comic the previous year, but the character died at the end of the story.  Action Comics 254 and 255 bring the character back as an adult.

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Luthor has acquired the plans of the machine used in the earlier story, and with the help of his assistant, Vekko, he recreates it. Luthor lures Superman, and uses the imperfect duplicator on him, creating a new Bizarro, who nonetheless has the memories of dying as the original.  But Luthor was expecting an obedient slave with Superman’s powers.  Bizarro runs amok right from the start. His invulnerability is clear to see as the military does everything, including nuke him, trying to stop Bizarro. Since Superman is in love with Lois Lane, Bizarro is as well.  He builds a ramshackle home for them, and brings Lois there to propose.  She rejects him, politely, insisting that she loves only Superman.

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Bizarro than has probably the most complicated thoughts of his life, as he uses the imperfect duplicator on himself, creating a perfect Superman.  He sends this one to propose to Lois, while using kryptonite to keep Superman away. Vekko, incidentally, does not appear again until John Byrne’s reboot of Superman, where he returns as Luthor’s assistant during the creation of Bizarro.

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In the second part of the story Lois, not being a total idiot, realizes something is wrong with the Superman proposing to her.  Bizarro then winds up in battle with his own creation, for the love of Lois, who does not want either of them. Bizarro tries to enlist Superman in the battle, but the second Bizarro dies in a cloud of kryptonite dust.  The second duplication returning that weakness. Since Lois refused him as Superman, Bizarro decides to make a play for her as Clark Kent.  Superman has to act quickly to prevent him from giving away his identity.

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Finally, Superman uses the imperfect duplicator on Lois Lane, creating a Bizarro Lois.  The two Bizarros act as if they were made for each other, and fly away to find their place in the universe.

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There are four stories during this era that feature the 5th Dimensional imp that Superman has been dealing with, though along the way his name gets altered slightly.

The Mr. Mxyztplk tale in Action 208 introduces the notion that others can move from one dimension to another by saying their name backwards, as long as they are in Mr. Mxyztplk’s presence.  In most stories, this will result in them heading to the 5th Dimension, but in this story, Lois Lane gets transported to the 8th Dimension. The imp then spends the rest of the tale trying to get Superman to say his name backwards, while Superman outwits him, and eventually tricks him into doing it himself, which brings Lois back.

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Issue 103 features a tale in which Mr. Mxyztplk has a form of insurance against saying his name backwards, but the story in Superman 105 is far more fun. The imp decides to adopt a disguise, so that Superman will not be able to find him, and chooses to become a reporter on the Daily Planet. This story ignores earlier tales in which Mxyztplk knew Clark was Superman. Lois Lane could have easily fit into this story, as Mxyztplk is determined to get the biggest scoops for the paper, and uses his magic to ensure this. But the story is primarily played for comedy, with the two enemies working side by side at the paper, unaware of each other’s identities until the conclusion.

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After a break of three years the imp returns in Superman 131, but by accident or design, the name was altered from Mxyztplk to Mxyzptlk, just at the right time for this to count as the first appearance of the Earth-1 Mr. Mxyzptlk. The story does not treat him as a new character, Superman knows exactly who he is, and even has a number of flashbacks, though not to stories that were actually published. 

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This tale gives a very scientific reason for the backwards speaking to send Mxyzptlk back to his home turf. The imp has a warning alarm in his hat in this tale, preventing Superman’s usual tricks from working on him. So Superman has a tape of Mxyzptlk speaking rigged to play his name backwards.  This works, although only because of the scientific basis for the transfer.

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Metallo makes his debut in Action 252. There had been an earlier version, Metalo, who faced Superboy, but that character made his only appearance before the introduction of kryptonite. John Corben, a journalist, embezzler and thief, gets into a car accident, but is found by a benevolent doctor. Horribly injured, John wakes to discover that he has been given a robotic body, although on the surface he still appears normal.  He no longer has a functioning heart, and must be powered by a radioactive substance.  Uranium is keeping him alive, but the doctor refers to another thing that could be used, before collapsing. Corben gets a job at the Daily Planet, where he tries to romance Lois Lane.

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In the evenings, he makes the most out of the strength his robot body gives him, raiding places for the uranium he needs to stay alive.  The superhuman nature of the thefts prompts the media to give him the nickname Metallo. Corben happens to look identical to Clark Kent, and also Superman (obviously), a trait never ascribed again to the character.  He learns that kryptonite will also power him, and searches for it at a Superman exhibit being set up.  With the kryptonite in his “heart,” Superman is powerless to stop him It’s all a great set-up.  But the story ends far too abruptly, as Metallo collapses and dies.  You gotta wonder why they were so determined to prevent good villains from returning. It was not until the 70s that Metallo came back, as Corben’s brother.  In the late 80s, when John Byrne rebooted the Superman series, he brought back John Corben, and was pretty faithful to his origin.

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Brainiac, one of Superman’s greatest villains, gets introduced in Action 242 in a story that also introduces the bottle city of Kandor. Brainiac looks very different than he does on the cover of the issue, and I have a theory about that, which I will get to later.  In this story, he is introduced as an alien, who travels around in his spaceship, shrinking and collecting cities from different worlds. He has a pet of sorts, a white alien monkey-type creature called Koko. Brainiac shrinks Paris and brings it to his ship, with Superman in hot pursuit. 

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Brainiac puts himself into a suspended animation sleep, as he prepares to travel back to his base.  Superman takes advantage of this situation.  He finds Brainiac’s collection of bottled cities, and enters the one Brainiac seemed to value above all others.  Superman discovers that he is in the city of Kandor, stolen by Brainiac before Krypton exploded.  Professor Kimda, who had been the college roommate of Jor-El, serves as Superman’s guide as he explores the city, in which he has no powers.  Again, gravity is given as the sole explanation for his abilities.

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Not very much is seen of Kandor in this story, nor are any other Kandorians brought into the tale. Superman returns the various bottled cities to their homeworlds, but as he cannot do that with Kandor, he brings it back to his Fortress.  Kimda uses the last re-enlarging charge on Superman, which leaves his own people stuck in their bottle.  A nice move, but probably not very popular in Kandor. Now, as to the cover. The image of Brainiac is so very different from that in the story, but is the way the character will look in later tales.  I have a feeling that the story was written with Brainiac intended to be a one-shot villain.  After all, it ends with him heading out into space, not due to awaken for years.  But then, they decided that this character deserved to be brought back, that his connection with Kandor was too important to just drop.  And the look of Brainiac was improved, and then used on the cover.

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Kandor would serve to spawn a number of stories in this era as well.  In Action 245 Superman brings Lois to the Fortress of Solitude. Lois finds the bottle city of Kandor, and promptly knocks it over, cracking the bottle and releasing Zak-Kul.  Nice one, Lois. Zak-Kul uses a plastic surgery machine that Superman has, just lying around the Fortress.  He makes himself look like Superman, and Lois then gets stuck having to pick which of the two is the real one.  Superman intentionally loses her test, and is put into Kandor. 

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His reasoning is odd, not wanting to fight with Zak-Kul with Lois around, as he will eventually have to fight him with who knows how many people around. A little more is shown of Kandor, but it’s a generic science-fiction fantasyland, rather than anything specifically Kryptonian. Superman escapes from the bottle by shrinking between its molecules, restores his size, and defeats Zak-Kul, who returns to prison in Kandor and never appears again.

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Jimmy Olsen also gets taken to the Fortress, and interacts with Kandor, in Action 253. Kandor seems to be in a much larger bottle than it was previously.  Did he replant them? Coming back to Metropolis, Jimmy is arrested by the police for not revealing a source, a typical situation for reporters in stories.  But Jimmy will have none of it, and suddenly displays super-powers, using them to escape. He winds up in a confrontation with Superman, who spends far too long being puzzled over his friend’s behaviour. 

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Superman suspects the visit to the Fortress is connected with Jimmy’s change, and he is right.  This is not Jimmy, but an identical, Kandorian, villain.  He escaped using a body-transfer ray.  Superman sets things right before El Gar-Kur can destroy Kandor.  This Kandorian Jimmy never appears again.

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While Superman’s cousin Supergirl had been introduced in the same issue of Action Comics that saw Metallo debut, she had appeared in her own strip in that book.  Her first appearance in a Superman story came in Action 260, though she is in disguise for much of it. Lois Lane gets swept up in a tornado, and is surprised to be rescued by a super-powered woman, Mighty Maid.  She immediately starts flirting with Superman, who responds. Mighty Maid is an other-dimensional creature, with powers identical to Superman.  They work together well, as Lois gets more and more despondent.  Finally, Superman proposes to her. 

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Perry White adds insult to injury as he makes Lois cover the proposal. But Mighty Maid is really Supergirl, and the whole thing has been a hoax, intended to fool some aliens who plan to attack Earth, simply because Superman lives there.  With the announcement that Superman intends to leave Earth, they give up on their plans. The story ends as Superman saves Lois from falling off a building, supposedly by accident.  I think she jumped.  He uses Supergirl’s real age (15) as the reason the wedding was called off.

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A full-length story in Superman 134 brings in not only Supergirl and Kandor, but also Krypto, Superboy’s pet, now shown to have aged remarkably well during the years in which Clark reached adulthood. The entire first chapter of this story consists of Superman on a rampage.  Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen continue to have faith in him, and try to figure out what is going on.  Lois believes it must be a Superman robot, and they lay a trap for him, but he proves himself a real Kryptonian. The second chapter explains just what is going on.  Kull-Ex is a Kandorian, who has switched places with Superman, leaving him powerless and trapped in Kandor. Zull blames Jor-El for sabotaging his father’s invention.  We learn that Jor-El had patented an inexpensive form of transport, which wound up getting named for him. Supergirl hears about the rampage, and immediately realizes that the man is an impostor when he does not recognize her.  Supergirl shares her whole origin story with Zull-Ex, who in turn explains that he has left Superman in Kandor.  Sure helps speed the plot along.

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So Supergirl pulls Superman out of Kandor with a pair of super-tweezers. Then Krypto joins Supergirl as they rip the entire Fortress of Solitude out of the ground, and fly it through the time barrier, so that Zull-Ex can see that it was he himself, as a child, who wrecked his father’s plans. They return to the present, Zull-Ex explains to the president that he was impersonating Superman, and then heads back to Kandor, as Superman emerges. Zull-Ex is never seen again.  Certainly sentenced to the Phantom Zone for his actions, I expect he was so guilt ridden he never joined any of the nastier ones in their escapes.

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Finally, I have to bring up the subject of “Imaginary Story”s.  These were out of continuity tales, the forerunners of the Elseworlds stories that would become so prevalent in the 90s.  Superman 132 launches this concept with a full-length tale that explores a reality in which Krypton did not explode. The story is presented as a computer simulation, a gift from Batman and Robin. With no reason to shoot his son into space, Jor-El and Lara raise Kal, and even give him a brother, Zal-El.  Kal joins the Kryptonian version of the boy scouts, and as a good deed helps a middle aged couple of Earth – Ma and Pa Kent.  With no alien baby in the field, they head to an adoption agency and pick up a somewhat startled looking young girl.

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Kal has dreams of becoming a space explorer, but his computerized aptitude test does not rank him anywhere near high enough, and he instead is made a lab assistant for Dr. Xan-Du.  Xan-Du is working on an enlarging ray, but instead it winds up endowing super-powers.  Both Xan-Du and Krypto get exposed to the ray. Xan-Du adopts the secret identity of Futuro, and becomes a super-hero on Krypton.  The story weaves back and forth between things that are different, and things that are the same – Kal-El still winds up dressing as Clark Kent, for example.  Jor-El and Lara, as well as Zal, all wind up dying in a crash, so Kal still winds up an orphan. Kal learns Futuro’s identity, and becomes his “Jimmy Olsen,” complete with signalling device.  He also saves Futuro’s life, which leads to a re-assessment of his aptitude test.  They find that the machine had a short, and Kal is qualified to become a space pilot.

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 The Superman suit returns, as a design for Kryptonian pilots, although the only person we see wearing it is Kal.  Lois Lane gets into the picture, coming to Krypton and falling in love with Futuro. The story ends as Futuro and Lois Lane head back to Earth to marry.  Futuro uses his ray on Kal, leaving him the Superman of Krypton. Not a bad story, despite the amount of “coincidental” things that are just the same (like the use of the costume). 



Superman continues in the next period, 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age.

Superman: Action Comics 208 – 260 (Sept 55 – Jan 60)

Superman 100 – 134 (Sept 55 – Jan 60)

Next up – Batman!


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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