Tag Archives: Dick Sprang

Superman 123 – Jimmy Olsen’s magic wishing stick


A Super-Girl is introduced in Superman 123 (Aug. 58) by Binder, Sprang and Kaye, but she is not the one who would shortly gain her own series in Action Comics.


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.


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.

World’s Finest 131 – Superman and Batman vs the Crimson Avenger (sort of)


A new Crimson Avenger appears in World’s Finest 131 (Feb. 63), in a story by Finger, Sprang and Paris.


This Crimson Avenger is an aspiring crime fighter.  He has some impressive weaponry, but his lack of experience makes him more of a hindrance than a help to Batman and Superman.  He claims to have taken the name of an earlier hero, which must be a reference to the original Crimsons Avenger.  That’s a little on the awkward side, as we are now well into the “Earth-1” period, and there is no way this person could have known of the Earth-2 Crimson Avenger.


The Crimson Avenger refuses to face his incompetence, and gets furious when the newspapers mock him.


When Superman and Batman next face the Octopus Gang (the villains throughout the tale), the Crimson Avenger appears to be working on their side,  But Batman quickly deduces that this is not the same person as before.  And, indeed, the gang captured the wanna-be hero, and one of the hoods took his place.


In the end the guy really does help Superman, Batman and Robin take down the Octopus Gang, but also realizes that he is simply not cut out for crime fighting, and retires.  We never see this version of the Crimson Avenger again.

World’s Finest 123 – the Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team return


The Bat-Mite/Mr.Mxyzptlk story was so popular that the team returned even before the Joker/Luthor team did, in World’s Finest 123 (Feb. 62), once again told by Coleman, Sprang and Moldoff.


It’s an excellent follow-up story.  Superman, Batman and Robin are all quite secondary to the imps, as they come to Earth independently, but wind up mixing their magic, creating a creature that neither is able to stop, or unmake.


Everything the two 5th Dimensional beings do simply causes the creature to alter even further, creating more and more of a problem for the heroes, who are, frankly, all but useless in this tale.


The most they achieve is when Batman suggests that Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk create a duplicate monster to deal with the first – conveniently, after the creature has become a living magnet. Creating a duplicate causes the two to attract, and destroy each other.

World’s Finest 118 – Superman traded for an alien, and Miss Arrowette returns


Lots of terrible looking aliens in World’s Finest comics from this era.  But as I need to write about World’s Finest 118 (June 1961), I have to cover this story.


As the cover implies, Superman gets traded for an alien creature in this Coleman, Sprang and Moldoff tale.  An alien criminal caused the exchange.  Batman and Robin deal with the beast, who is gaining powers on Earth by eating iron ore.  Meanwhile, Superman’s powers function differently on Xeron, the planet he is trapped on.


Superman has to defeat the villain and get back to Earth before Batman and Robin destroy the Skran, which would trap him on Xeron.  He succeeds.


Wood and Elias bring back Miss Arrowette in this story.  After noticing that Green Arrow does not respond to an arrow-signal, she gets her bow and quiver and heads back out as Miss Arrowette.  or as Bonnie King.  With no costume, there isn’t much difference.


Despite the help that she is providing, Green Arrow, Speedy and even the police are pissed off at her.  Bonnie believes the archers are ill, and not on their game, and decides to be their “guardian angel” until they recover.


A good motivation, if the wrong logic.  In fact, the heroes are trying to let the villains escape, to tail them back to their boss.  Miss Arrowette keeps messing the plans up.  All becomes clear in the end, and the bad guy gets caught.  Green Arrow ends the tale insisting that Bonnie stop being Miss Arrowette.

On the other hand, he apparently also starts dating her, as Oliver Queen, as they are shown going to an amusement park together in her next appearance, in Justice League of America.

World’s Finest 113 – the first Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team-up, Miss Arrowette debuts, and Tommy Tomorrow comes to 1960


World’s Finest 113 (Nov. 60) is a treat from cover to cover.


Jerry Coleman, Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff open the story with the first meeting of Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk.  Bat-Mite shows up first, causing problems for Superman so that he can watch his heroes, Batman and Robin, in action.


Mr. Mxyzptlk then show up, irked that someone else is pestering Superman.  The fact that Bat-Mite does not in any way view himself as a pest or a problem contrasts the two other-dimensional imps nicely.  They argue over which hero is superior.


Mr. Mxyzptlk enjoys goading Bat-Mite, who hurls Batman and Robin into the path of a fire “breathing” monster, just to prove that they can beat him.  You really have to feel sorry for Batman and Robin.


It’s Mr. Mxyzptlk’s repetition of the word pest that gives Bat-Mite his brilliant idea. He uses his magic to mess up everything that Mxyzptlk does, and the heroes keep laughing, which just annoys Superman’s foe even more.


Mr. Mxyzptlk gets so mad that he ups and leaves, returning to his dimension.  Bat-Mite feels that he has helped the heroes win, but their stern expressions let him know there is no gratitude coming to him, and he leaves as well.

Too great a story not to have a follow-up, and this would be a “villain” team that would return many times over the years.


Dave Wood and Lee Elias introduce champion archer Bonnie King, who adopts the identity of Miss Arrowette in this story.  She apparently feels no need for a mask, or any form of disguise, and later continuity would ascribe this to her lust for fame.


She is cut from much the same cloth as Batwoman. She has a quiver of trick arrows, largely with a feminine “bent,” like a handkerchief arrow, and a needle and thread arrow.


At the climax of the action she sits back, as Green Arrow commands.  But he does use her hairnet arrow to capture the bad guys.  She insists that she will not become Miss Arrowette again, agreeing with Green Arrow that it is too dangerous.  He has his doubts about her sincerity.  These are merited, as she returns to action the following year.


Tommy Tomorrow pursues a felon back in time to the “present” in this story by Jack Miller and Jim Mooney.


Tommy encounters a young boy on a toy fire engine a couple of times during the course of the tale.  He briefly gets tossed into prison, assumed to be insane, but escapes with ease, thanks to his future tech.


As the story ends, Tommy learns that the boy has the same name he does, probably making him an ancestor of Tommy.

World’s Finest 111 – Superman rules a forgotten city, and Clock King debuts


Superman loses his mind in World’s Finest 111 (Aug. 60), thanks to Finger, Sprang and Moldoff.


There is some really fun art on this tale.  Superman is tracking a wanted felon in South America, but disappears after a volcanic eruption.  I enjoy the inset of Superman being hurled by the blast, and the map of where he gets “lost.”


Batman and Robin go in search of Superman, and find him ruling the city of a forgotten tribe.  Kudos for saying that it is “like” an Aztec or Mayan city, rather than moving either people far south.


My favourite part of the story has nothing to do with Superman’s amnesiac rule as king, or the plot about the wanted felon.  Instead, it’s the native wall paintings showing Superman’s feats since arriving.


It’s even the wall paintings that restore Superman’s memory, after Batman paints him changing to Clark Kent.


The Clocl King makes his debut in this story, by Herron and Lee Elias.  It’s clear that he was intended as another one-shot villain.  We do not ever learn his real name, or what gave him his clock motivation.  His costume is staggeringly garish, but memorable.  And his hourglass deathtrap is the real kicker.


The Clock King’s crime spree grabs the interest of Green Arrow and Speedy, who pursue him, only to fall (literally) into his trap.


It’s a shame that the story is only 6 pages long.  The trap dominates the last couple of pages, but even so it’s not that hard for Green Arrow to escape, thanks to a suction cup arrow.

Clock King returns a year down the road in an early issue of Justice League of America, although he is called King Clock in that story.

This story was adapted for the Batman tv series. It retained the name of the villain, though not his costume, and the hourglass deathtrap.

World’s Finest 104 – Luthor captures Batwoman


The story by Finger, Sprang and Moldoff from World’s Finest 104 (Sept. 59) is not one of my favourites, but it does have both Lex Luthor and Batwoman, so I have to include it.


Luthor sends men to rob a science exposition, but is also doing a demonstration there, in disguise.  He pretends that he has built a matter-transmitter.  It’s all part of a plot to kill Superman.


Batwoman trails Luthor’s men, and gets captured.  Her only real function is to warn Batman and Robin about Luthor’s plot to kill Superman in the matter-transmitter.  They do not reach Superman in time, but he had figured out Luthor’s plot on his own anyway.

World’s Finest 103 – Superman and Batman and the Sorcerer’s Treasure


Superman, Batman and Robin have their hands full in World’s Finest 103 (Aug. 59), as two men go in search of four deadly weapons, in a story by Finger, Sprang and Paris.


The story opens as Batman and Robin deal with a giant green dragon, released from a magical box.  The man who released is one of two antique shop owners who are tracking down four “Sorcerer’s Treasures.”


The two men are fighting to acquire them, while Batman and Robin are joined by Superman is trying to prevent anyone from getting them.  There is a prism that reflects any attack, a glove that fires disintegrating power blasts, and a cloak of invisibility.


The heroes triumph, and Superman throws the “treasures” into space.  They appear to be destroyed in the last panels of the story, but their magical nature must preserve them.  They return to Earth eventually, and the quest to retrieve them is one of the big storylines in Secret Society of Super-Villains in the late 70s.

World’s Finest 102 – the caveman from Krypton, and Tommy Tomorrow begins


A Kryptonian throwback lands on Earth in the Finger, Sprang and Paris story in World’s Finest 102 (June 1959).


The caveman lands and goes on a rampage.  Superman is amazed when the creature uses x-ray vision, and after examining the rock he landed buried within, realizes that he is from Krypton.  It’s an outrageous coincidence, but commonplace in the Superman mythos.


The situation becomes complicated when hoods go around with a fake caveman to scare people off.  They get ahold of Batman and Robin, and keep Superman at bay with kryptonite, but the caveman is the one to capture the bad guys, tossing their car off a cliff.  Superman saves their lives, and is about to tackle the caveman when he simply keels over, dead.  Superman has a sort of explanation, about cosmic rays and kryptonite.


Tommy Tomorrow moves over to World’s Finest from Action Comics, having lost his spot to Supergirl.


Arnold Drake and Jim Mooney start his run here with a story that is completely along the lines of most of his tales.  With his pal Brent Wood, Tommy Tomorrow is on the case of space raiders who seem to have taken control of a giant space-bird that spits tar.  We see a number of odd alien creatures before Tommy figures out that the space-bird is really a ship in disguise.  They use the other alien creatures to capture the raiders.

World’s Finest 101 – Superman and Batman vs the Atom-Master, and Tomahawk ends


The Atom-Master gets introduced by Finger and Sprang in World’s Finest 101 (May 1959).


The story begins as it appears that Batman and Superman have gone on criminal sprees.  In fact, these were just illusions of the heroes, accompanying actual criminals, working for the Atom-Master.  He has a really large helmet with which he can create these illusions. He decoys Superman and Batman away from more crimes by his gang, as they deal with illusions of disasters.  Finally, the heroes notice that the illusions cast no shadows. Took them a long time to see that.


The Atom-Master has been using the loot to finish off a machine that will make his illusions reality.  Superman knocks him out and takes his place.  He creates an illusion of a dinosaur, which his gang believes is real, in order to capture them.

Atom-Master returns in the 80s as a member of the Forgotten Villains.


I had not intended to skip over Tomahawk’s series in this book, but it seems that is what happened.  None of the stories really had anything stand out about them.


It also doesn’t help that most of them are a bit too white supremacist for me.  In this one, Tomahawk and the cavalry scare off attacking natives by using scarecrows.  They then allow the natives to find out they are being tricked this way, so that they will not expect that the scarecrows they face in battle are real soldiers dressed that way.

Dave Wood and Bob Brown were not going out of their way to be offensive, and the story is clever.  But it’s so hard to read a story where the message is that the whites are so much smarter and more entitled to the land than the natives.

Though his series ends in this book, his own book continues for many years.