Tag Archives: Bill Finger

Superman 170 – the John F Kennedy story, and Lex Luthor courts Lara

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Despite the absurdity of the cover scene on Superman 170 (July 1964), there is actually no need for it to be an Imaginary Story.

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The issue opens with the delayed story that has Superman working for John F Kennedy on his program for improving the health of American youth.  Bill Finger and Al Plastino put this story together, and it was pulled because of the president’s assassination.  At the request of Johnson, the story was run in this issue, despite Kennedy having died.

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Lana Lang is doing a television special on how Americans are behind Europeans when it comes to health.  Apparently nothing has changed in 50 years.  Kennedy gets Superman to promote health among the youth, and he does so over the next few pages.

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But eating well and working out is not just for the young, and Clark Kent has to fake weakness as Perry White puts the Daily Planet staffers through their new health regime, despite the complaints of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

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The health program serves Clark well when the staffers get trapped during a hike, and Clark can claim its Kennedy’s workout program that has increased his strength enough for them to escape.  Supergirl cameos, along with her fan club, and Jimmy Olsen’s.

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Now for the cover story, by Siegel, Swan and Klein.  Luthor escapes from prison, and decides to head back in time to Krypton, woo and win Lara, and by doing so prevent Superman from coming into existence.

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The plan works pretty well at the start.  Luthor claims to be the hero of the planet Marlat, with some faked movies to back up his story.

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He wins the trust of the Krytonians when he warns them about Brainiac coming to steal Kandor. No one believes him, until it happens.  But once it has, the council are happy to listen to Luthor.

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Lara is quite taken with him, despite being engaged to Jor-El.  Luthor arranges for Jor-El to get trapped while on an exploration, and quickly wins over Lara.

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They get to the wedding ceremony, and Jor-El is racing frantically to stop them, as if this were The Graduate.  But fate intervenes, as Luthor’s anti-gravity device wears out, and he collapses under Krypton’s higher gravity.  He has to admit that he is really from Earth.  Once he has admitted being a liar, they brain scan him, and find out that he is from the future, and send him back to Earth.

So really, there was no need to make this an Imaginary Story, outside of making the reader think there was a possibility of Luthor’s plan succeeding.

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Superman 112 – Clark Kent’s apartment block, Superman’s costume troubles, and the three strongmen

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Atlas, Hercules and Samson appear on the cover of Superman 112 (March 1957), but alas there are no mythological heroes in the issue itself.

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Clark Kent’s apartment is introduced in this story, by Finger, Boring and Kaye, as well as a number of his neighbours.  While the address would remain canon, 344 Clinton St., the neighbours introduced would not be recurring characters.

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Most of the story is a feel-good tale, as Superman uses his powers to help out those in his building, without their knowledge.

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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.

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Luthor returns in a story by Coleman and Plastino, altering the properties of Superman’s costume to make it a menace to him.

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It’s not a bad story as such, but the science is lame.  Somehow a spectroscope is able to cause the costume to cause destructive warps.  With as little explanation, Superman is able to treat his costume to withstand Luthor’s effect.

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The cover story for the issue is the final tale in the book, by Coleman, Boring and Kaye.

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Three sideshow strongmen, who costume and name themselves for mythological heroes, show off strength that rivals that of Superman.  But the men are not evil, they just want to profit off their new abilities.

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Investigating, Lois Lane discovers that they all gained their strength from exposure to a scientist’s experimental ray.  Lois uses it on herself, and also gains super-strength.

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Superman discovers that the effects of the ray are temporary, and rushes around to rescue the three men, and Lois, before they wind up causing their own deaths when their strength vanishes.

Superman 110 – Luthor’s enlarging ray

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It may be a few years later, but I feel safe to say that the cover of Superman 110 (Jan. 57) was inspired by the movie Them!

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Luthor develops an enlarging ray in this Finger, Boring and Kaye story, using it on ants, as seen on the cover, but also on a small piece of kryptonite dust that he has found, turning it into a giant rock.

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As Superman deals with the various enlarged menaces, a flying saucer also shows up.  The pilot of the saucer begins attacking Superman with mysterious beams.  But Superman fares well against both the giants and the beams.

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When the pilot of the saucer publicly concedes to Superman, proclaiming him Emperor of the Earth, Luthor has had too much, and uses his enlarged kryptonite on the hero, only to find that it has no effect.

The ending is a bit much, with the saucer pilot revealed as the real Superman, while the one who stood up to the kryptonite was a Superman robot.

Superman 97 – Superman’s memory, and Superboy’s farewell

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Super-memory is at the core of the cover story of Superman 97 (May 1955).

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Finger and Plastino spin this tale. To root out a criminal hiding with hoboes, Clark Kent goes undercover, taking on the identity of a former sideshow performer, known for his amazing memory.  Lois Lane worries about how Clark will be able to fake it, but between his super-memory and his powers, there is little difficulty.

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Clark is well-prepared for this one, even to the point of wearing a bullet-proof vest, to conceal his identity when accused of being Superman.  A pretty good story.

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Jerry Coleman joins Boring and Kaye for a story that is largely an extended flashback to Superboy’s last day in Smallville.  Clark has graduated high school, and his parents are now dead.  He is heading to Metropolis, and has chosen to let the people in Smallville know that Superboy is leaving as well.

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There is some identity covering stuff, but most of this is quite touching, as he performs some last deeds for the benefit of the town, and makes a parting gift for Lana Lang.

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The most famous scene in the story has the townspeople form a giant farewell message to Superboy.  This one panel is duplicated in many stories over the years, often to represent this entire tale.

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Superboy makes a giant cake for all the residents of the town, some of whom choose to keep their pieces.  Even these Superboy cake slices will return in a later tale.

Superman 90 – Superman covers his trail, and steals world monuments

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Superman’s past in Smallville is the basis for the cover story in Superman 90 (July 1954).

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A noted historian comes to Smallville to write a book about Superman’s early life, and asks the hero for help.  Superman does, but also works to hide all signs that would give away his identity, which is, you know, most everything.

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Chiefly, the story is an excuse for Hamilton and Plastino to show Superbaby scenes.

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Finger, Boring and Kaye make Superman into Luthor’s accomplice in this story.  Luthor informs Superman that he has rigged the Statue of Liberty, as well as various other monuments around the world, with deadly bombs that will go off if tampered with.  He demands Superman bring him all the monuments.

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Then Luthor offers to return them, bomb-free, for a million apiece.

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Luthor is shocked when Superman starts throwing the monuments at him.  But these are all fakes.  Superman took the read ones and immersed them in a river to neutralize the bombs.

Superman 87 – The Thing from 40,000 A.D., and Superman vs the Prankster – the stage play

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The Thing from 40,000 A.D. debuts in Superman 87 (Feb. 54), in a story by Finger, Boring and Kaye.  The title alludes to the successful science-fiction horror film, “The Thing from Another World,” while the character itself bears a strong resemblance to the alien from “Who Goes There?” the short-story that inspired the film.

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The biggest difference is simply the beginning, in which the mysterious creature from the future lands on Earth, just outside Metropolis.  Then it begins taking on the characteristics of those it is near.  Because this is a comic book, and not a horror film, the Thing does not kill and/or assimilate those it copies, but it does take on their knowledge and characteristics.

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The Thing impersonates a few people, as it hunts down a huge synthetic diamond.  It takes on the form of Clark Kent, and, later, Superman.

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This leads to a great Superman vs Superman battle.  The two are equally matched, and Superman is at a loss to figure out how to defeat him.

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Their fight takes them to a nuclear test site.  Superman survives ground zero, but the Thing is apparently destroyed.

It isn’t, but it does take over thirty years for the character to return, in DC Comics Presents.

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Woolfolk and Plastino bring back the Prankster, not seen for a couple of years now.

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An all-reporter stage production of Superman battles with the Prankster is being put up, and Clark is recruited to play Superman.  The Prankster decides to mess with the production.  Like they couldn’t see that coming.

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There are some good scenes along the way.  Just the fact that he hasn’t been in every second issue makes this more refreshing.

Superman 78 – The Beast from Krypton, and Lois Lane meets Lana Lang

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Krypton stories are coming strong now.  The previous issue dealt with a scientist who had contacted Jor-El, and travelled by matter-transmitter to Krypton before its destruction, and in Superman 78 (Sept/Oct 52) Finger, Boring and Kaye have the first of many Kryptonian monsters come to Earth.

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Jor-El appears in this story as well, helping to create the monster with one of his experiments, and then shooting it into space.  That seems to be his all-purpose answer to problems.

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The creature survived in the void of space, and made its way to Earth.  Some great art on this.

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The monster begins its rampage, and Superman is surprised at how much trouble he has dealing with it.  Then he spots its collar, and learns his father’s connection with the beast.

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The climax has a great demonstration of the cape’s infinite stretchiness, and it even withstands an atomic blast, as the creature dissipates.

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Hamilton and Plastino introduce the adult Lana Lang in this story.  Lana had been around for a few years in the Superboy series.

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Lana comes to Metropolis, hoping Clark will help her get a job as a reporter.  Perry has no need of her, but she wangles a story out of him anyway, on Superboy.

Lana moves in with Lois, and they discuss their relationships with Clark Kent, and suspicions about him.

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The story revolves around an old film tape, which would reveal who Superboy was.  Lana gets the tape, wanting it for her story, while Lois tries to stop her.  Lois isn’t even interested in Superman’s identity in this story, in which she actually behaves nobly, in comparison to selfish Lana.

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Superman makes a new film, which shows him and Superboy as different people.  Lana gets a job with a national wire service, and leaves Metropolis.

The next time we see the adult Lana Lang is in Lois Lane’s first Showcase issue, which re-writes and updates this story.