World’s Finest 6 – Superman vs Metalo, the Sandman vs Nightshade, Star-Spangled Kid begins, Aquaman guests, and Batman’s identity exposed on live radio

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The heroes meet the new recruits on the cover of World’s Finest 6 (Summer 1942).

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Jerry Siegel and John Sikela run the first version of what would become a major Superman villain in this story.  Metalo bears only a slight resemblance to the later versions of Metallo, largely because kryptonite had not yet been conceived.

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Superman gets the blame when a “man of steel” grabs a railway car and flies away with it. Clark Kent learns of this when the Planet runs a story on it.  Jimmy Olsen makes an early, and named, appearance in this story.

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The complete absence of any super-powered villains at the time makes the accusation somewhat understandable, but Superman is not pleased, and flies out to find him.  This story has a great illustration of telescopic vision, a nicely inset close-up in a beautiful overview of Metropolis.

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Superman finds the real thief, Metalo.  He believes this to be a robot, made of a super-strong metal.  Metalo is strong enough to prove a real difficulty for Superman, who is not used to being thrown around or beaten senseless.

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Metalo kidnaps Lois Lane, because that’s sort of mandatory.  Superman tracks him down, and finds that the villain is not really a robot, but an inventor in a special metal suit.  The brief, climactic battle sees Metalo fall into a volcanic crevice, and Superman believes him to be dead.  We see that Metalo survived, and the story even hints at a return, which never happened, unfortunately.

It would be 17 years before a new Metallo would be introduced, only to be killed off.

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Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s version of Sandman shows up in this issue, along with Sandy, the Golden Boy.  They are pitted against Nightshade, a very nasty looking villain.

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Nightshade operates a magic forest of deadly plants.  He offers this as an impenetrable hide-out for crooks on the run, in exchange for part of their loot.

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Sandman and Sandy discover that the plants are not real, but plastic and metal, operating under Nightshade’s control.  And Nightshade himself is simply wearing a mask.  Still, it all looks just great.  There is no element of dreams, which had already become a feature of the hero’s run in Adventure Comics.

Nightshade returns in the 80s, in the pages of All-Star Squadron, but under the name Ramulus.

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The Star-Spangled Kid begins his run in this book, with a story by his creators, Jerry Siegel and Howard Sherman.

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Sylvester Pemberton and his family are attending a debutante ball, when a thief named the El barges in to rob the guests.  Sylvester calls Pat Dugan,the family chauffeur, and the two change clothes to become the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy.  No powers for these two characters, just awful costumes.  I confess I find this series almost entirely without appeal.

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They do have a souped-up car, created by Dugan, the Star-Rocket Racer, which appears in this tale.  They catch the Eel with the aid of Breezy, a young boy who has been staying with the Pembertons, a supporting character in the Kid’s own series in Star Spangled Comics.

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Aquaman, recently introduced in More Fun Comics, gets a one-off tale in this issue, by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris. The story deals with a lonf time felon running an underwater zoo, stealing Aquaman’s fish friends.  One might wonder why stealing fish from the sea is a crime, but it is in Aquaman’s mind.  Good thing Sea World did not exist at this time, or Aquaman might have destroyed it.

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Aquaman does not yet have the ability to control sea creatures, but still uses them to defeat his enemies, breaking open a tank of electric eels, who electrocute the bad guys.

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Some of Batman’s major villains make their first appearances in World’s Finest in this tale, but none are actually the the root of the problem Batman must face in this story, by Joseph Greene and Jerry Robinson.

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There is a Batman radio program, which the hero pops in on, although an actor plays the role (in a Batman costume, for some reason).  The Joker, Penguin and Catwoman all listen to the show.  Perhaps they are hoping to get some pointers.  If so, they are not the only ones, as a series of crimes begin that match those on the show.

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The Bat-Signal, recently introduced in Detective Comics, makes its first appearance in this book as well, being explained to a puzzled citizen.

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The story is actually pretty good.  It has a number of diverse elements that come together, including an aging actor, and a crook who has figured out Batman’s identity, and vows to reveal it during the broadcast.

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While Robin just frets, Batman enlists the actor to play the role of Batman, to prove that he and Bruce Wayne are two different people.  It’s quite a performance, considering that the actor has already been shot, and is dying, while pretending to be Batman.

 

 

 

 

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