Jerry Lewis Meets Superman

We covered the first of comedian Jerry Lewis’s encounters with the DC super heroes here, in the story in which he and his cast crossed paths with the most popular Caped Crusader of the mid-1960s, Batman.

Apparently, that issue must have performed well (which is no surprise seeing as how it hit the stands during the very height of the Batmania surrounding the television show) because Jerry went on to feature in a series of follow up stories that juxtaposed him with the big names in the DC super hero line. And next up, in JERRY LEWIS #105, was the Man of Steel.

“Superman Meets Jerry” was produced by the same creative team that had handled the earlier Batman and Robin adventure, writer Arnold Drake and artist Bob Oksner. Murray Boltinoff continued to be the editor. Drake was no stranger to straight super hero stories, having written DOOM PATROL and other such features for DC for years. And while Oksner was more of a humor artist than called upon to work on super hero titles, he would occasionally work on that side of the street. And once the 1970s arrived, he would often be called upon to ink Curt Swan’s pencils on Superman stories, as well as penciling several notable Supergirl and Mary Marvel adventures–Oksner’s specialty was cute young women.

Apparently, somebody–most likely SUPERMAN editor Mort Weisinger–wasn’t all that happy with the Metropolis Marvel being lent out to Boltinoff’s stable, and as such, he requested some changes to the cover. For one, the guy originally holding the gun on Jerry was Luthor, Superman’s arch foe who is also the villain in this story. For whatever reason, Mort insisted that this be changed, so Luthor’s name was expunged from the word balloon and he was given a comical moustache and hair. Additionally, Weisinger wasn’t happy with Oksner’s depiction of Superman either, and so a stat of a Wayne Boring figure from a splash page published in ACTION COMICS#210 more than a decade earlier was pasted on in its place. It’s an awful lot of work to not much return, I think.

That all said, while his popularity had momentarily been eclipsed by Batman, Superman still remained the best selling character in comics, with his titles always outpacing almost all other performers all throughout the decade, so this was a relatively big get for Jerry Lewis (albeit one where, because it was all the same firm, wasn’t that difficult to work out. Nobody was worrying about a need to ever reprint these stories–which is impossible for the moment due to rights issues.)

The story opens with Jerry Lewis, his bratty nephew Renfrew and their housekeeper Witch Kraft watching Superman on television. But it’s not a fictional program (although it’s set up to seem that way on the splash page.) Rather, Superman has been locked in pitched combat with a creature from outer space for three days and nights. The Man of Tomorrow finally is able to put the kibosh on it, but it turns out that it was really a robot created by Luthor–and that in detonating, it permeated his uniform with a fine grain dusting of kryptonite.

It’s all a plan on the part of Luthor to destroy his arch-enemy. With Superman unaware of the kryptonite dust next to his skin, it will steadily weaken him and ultimately destroy him. But before it does, Luthor will be able to use his kryptonite detector to locate the Metropolis Marvel in his civilian identity, thus revealing his most closely-guarded secret. And indeed, after 72 hours of hard fighting, Superman is beat–so much so that he falls asleep in a phone booth while changing clothes. The guy just wants to rest, but he figures he needs to put in an appearance at the Daily Planet as Clark Kent before he can crash. Sadly, editor Perry White has an assignment for Clark that just won’t wait.

Perry wants Clark to go interview Renfrew and Jerry–the kid has been selected by computer as the ideal example of the threat posed by the younger generation. So, still feeling woozy, Clark humps out to the Lewis household to conduct the interview–all the while Luthor is growing closer, following his kryptonite detector. In the course of the mayhem that follows during the interview, kent gets soaked head to toe, and is forced to change into some of Jerry’s clothes. Because he can’t wear his soaked costume, he stashes it among the wash in Jerry’s bathroom until he can retrieve it. Unfortunately for Kent, Witch Kraft picks that moment to do the laundry, and she discovers the Superman costume within.

Upon being shown the costume by Witch Kraft, Jerry thinks it’s simply a knock-off costume, but he can’t help but try it on himself. And that’s the very moment when Luthor shows up, kryptonite detector in hand. He figures that Superman should now be weak enough for him to finish off, and so he pursues the non-powered Jerry as the comedian makes a run for his life. Meanwhile, having detected the scuffle but not yet aware of the extent of his power loss, Clark Kent attempts to come to the rescue by crashing through the wall, and instead knocks himself silly.

Jerry leads Luthor and his henchman on a merry chase, the indestructible costume preventing him from being shot apart from his head, which is still vulnerable. Eventually, Renfrew and Witch Kraft become aware of Jerry’s distress and join in the chase. As does Clark Kent once he recovers from being stunned. Having taken off his costume, his powers are coming back to him. Eventually, the chase leads to a junk yard, where Jerry protects his head with a heavy lead kettle. Clark is able to assist him from a distance by using his super-breath as a suction to lift up most of the kettle’s weight, the sort of trick he would routinely perform in his own stories to safeguard his identity. But this time, he’s in a JERRY LEWIS comic, and so instead he ends up sucking up a nearby swallow who accidentally flies into the path of his super-breath. It’s a really good gag, especially for the period.

Undaunted, Superman again uses his super-breath, this time to suck the costume right off of Jerry’s body–a sequence that doesn’t really make any sense, but again, was typical of the kinds of things Superman would do routinely in his own stories. Having become aware of the kryptonite permeating his costume, the Man of Steel proceeds to blow all of the dust out of it. Then, once again properly attired, he polishes off Luthor, who expects him to be weak and sickly, with a single punch.

And that’s the wrap up–except for a half-page denouement that indicates that Clark Kent never finished up his interview with Renfrew. In fact, he’s considered missing, and when we cut to deep space, we learn why. Seems that Superman has taken off to fight some outer space monsters again, a task he finds less tiresome than dealing with Jerry and his obnoxious nephew. And on that note, the story has reached its end. But there would be two further tales forthcoming, which we shall cover in the days ahead.

This issue also included a general ad for Superman promising that a new kind of Man of Steel was coming in the next year. This turned out to be an attempt to plug some abortive changes to the hero’s series–things that were tried half-heartedly and then discarded. It was a sign, though,that maybe the character’s unequaled popularity was beginning to slip a little bit, that he was out of touch with the times. Actually, it was the creators and editors who were out of touch, but this wasn’t a situation that would start to be remedied until the 1970s and 1980s. Still, it is a very nice ad.

6 thoughts on “Jerry Lewis Meets Superman

  1. Lex’s disguise on the cover didn’t fool my cousins nor me in ’67! This didn’t make us laugh as much as the Batman spoof, though it would grown-up Chester in a few years. Probably because the best gags were based on the ridiculous things that Superman did in his own titles, that were always portrayed straight. As young men, I don’t think we appreciated having our suspension of disbelief teased. How the times would soon change!

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  2. *Editor’s note: “though it would MAKE grown-up Chester LAUGH in a few years.” – Ed. (I used to wonder who Edward was.)

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  3. My pre-Crisis knowledge isn’t what it could be so I’d love to read about how DC modernized in the 70s from your perspective, Tom.

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  4. The verbal gags are reasonably chuckle-worthy. I was amused by “first ball for the ping pong season”, “soft-spoken journalist”, and “numbered … numbers a large one”. The plot works well enough for a farce. The slapstick elements aren’t popular now, but it’s aged better than many other things of the time. All in all, I’d say this delivers, as clean humor entertainment.

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