As more and more of these pieces get written, we begin to get down to those titles that had a number of different issues within that Windfall Comics box that I bought for $50.00 back in 1988. Which is to say, expect to see a preponderance of Mort Weisinger-era Superman titles in the weeks ahead. By the 1980s, interest in these books was at something of a low, and given their high circulation numbers, they were still both plentiful and cheap. So they made up a good portion of the allotment I had purchased. Which was fine with me, I was simply looking for reading entertainment and not value particularly. The whole venture had already been such a windfall–hence, the overarching title of these pieces.
Editor Weisinger was always highly attuned to the interests of his young readership, and quite often he’d commission stories in response to their questions or ideas. I have a feeling that this story, which sets out to explain why Superman must maintain his closely-guarded secret identity, was one of these, as many readers must have asked why this was such an overwhelming concern for the Man of Steel, even among his close friends. It’s labeled right up front as an Imaginary Story, so right off the bat, you know that anything goes herein–we aren’t bound by the typical conventions of the series. However, there really wasn’t any need for Mort to classify this tale in that fashion, as nothing within it breaks the boundaries he had established. The story was written by Leo Dorfman with artwork by Curt Swan and George Klein.
The story has a very simple conceit, one that is explored in multiple ways throughout the tale. It opens with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen being taken hostage by a criminal who’s out to steal some valuable radium from a hospital safe. Clark laments that he could dispatch the man easily, but not without revealing his true identity as Superman. From there, the narrative shifts into a series of fantasy sequences that explain just why Superman must keep his true self hidden. In the first, when Superboy is convinced by his parents to go public, they wind up being shot down by a vengeful gunman whom Superboy had previously brought to justice. Thereafter, as Superman, the Man of Steel is forced to operate openly, which results in him being hounded by well-wishers around the clock all the time. He attempts to withdraw to his Fortress of solitude, but the company of his robots doesn’t do anything to relieve his loneliness.
In a second vignette, we see what might happen if superman let his closest friends in on the secret. Here, Jimmy Olsen inadvertently provides a clue that allows the underworld to pierce the Man of Steel’s disguise and then wipe out his super-powers with Gold Kryptonite. In another scenario, reveals himself to save Jimmy, thus sacrificing his Clark Kent identity. He works to establish a different alias, but without the ability to create paperwork for himself, a Birth Certificate and so forth, he’s unable to get any sort of worthwhile job. Finally, the episode wraps up with Kent using his super-powers in a ridiculously absurd fashion to safeguard himself and Jimmy and the other hostages and to foil the criminal who has captured them. His secret identity, of course, is still safe.
Next up is another edition of the Metropolis Mailbag, where Mort printed correspondence with his readers and answered some of their questions. Typically, these answers were often in the service of plugging stories that were either on sale at that moment or would soon be.
We also get another great Ira Schnapp 2/3 page House Ad for one of the DC Annuals, this time the first FLASH Annual. This ad even remarkably mentions artist Carmine Infantino by name. At this time, DC still wasn’t running story credits for the most part, not wanting any particular creator to grow popular enough to demand changes in how they were being treated. This seems to indicate that Carmine was already a trusted member of the family, even before he moved into management.
Supergirl had moved into the back-up slot in ACTION COMICS by this point, and she’d grown popular enough over the years to where the length of her story matched that of the Superman lead in every issue. So in a sense, she was a co-headliner–from time to time, her story would even be given the front cover image (though, in fairness, those tended to be instances in which Superman played a role in her story as well, so that he would be present.) This particular story was written by Leo Dorfman and illustrated by Jim Mooney, with some corrections work done on it by John Forte–I almost said “uncredited”, but then nobody was credited in this issue.
The Supergirl stories tended to have relatively low stakes from an action-adventure standpoint, leveraging all of their storytelling skill in putting the Maid of Steel through a series of emotional tortures. In this particular one, Supergirl is baffled to encounter a young woman who absolutely hates her, to the point of not wanting Supergirl’s help when her life is in jeopardy. Rather than moving on like a normal person would–not everybody is going to love you, Supergirl!–the Maid of Steel instead obsesses over this woman, Karen Blair, and contriving ways to win her over through the use of her super-powers. That aspect really has to break some part of the super hero code but it’s probably the most realistic aspect of this story. Try though she might, though, Supergirl cannot win over her hater.
And that’s due to the fact that Karen is convinced that the rocket ship that brought Supergirl to Earth from Argo City was responsible for the death of her father and the crippling of her brother. Of course, Supergirl is innocent, and she takes Karen to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in order to prove it. There, the pair use Superman’s handy Chronoscope, with which they can view past events. And sure enough, Karen’s dad perished due to his own experiment, nothing to do with Supergirl. The Maid of Steel also takes a panel or so to introduce Karen’t bother to surgeons who operate on his legs, allowing him to walk again, and duplicated the plans for Karen’s father’s Light-Transmitter so that he will get credit for his great invention. By the final panel, Karen is a devoted fan of Supergirl–as all must be, no matter the cost!
The issue closes with an installment of Henry Boltinoff’s long-running filler strip Super-Turtle, as well as another one of Mort Weisinger’s delightful Coming Super-Attractions ads. Lois Lane uses a Love Detector on Superman! Ma and Pa Kent had an earlier super-powered son before Superboy! The female members of the Legion of Super Heroes face the Crimson Doom at the hands of Satan Girl! These little bite-sized ads did a great job making every one of these titles a must-see event.
9 thoughts on “WC: ACTION COMICS #305”
House ads at both companies were so much more intriguing back then. As were comics covers, as they had to get us to Buy This One Not The Other One.
This is a fun comic. How many of your readers here can spot what’s unusual about the cover?
No cover price?
Correct. A sloppy production error, or a piece of paste-up type that fell off en route to the engraver.
Even as a kid, I found those explanations a brush-off. He has the resources of the entire Justice League, as well as being a close personal friend of a billionaire master detective, not even counting all the people in various government agencies who would love to do him a personal favor. A fake identity with full documents is his for the asking. If he wants to just socialize as Superman, he doesn’t have to stay in the Fortress with robots. He can hang out with any of the Justice League or even visit friends on other planets. If he wants to LARP as a human for a bit, he can just show up somewhere as “Cal Ellis” who is new in town or some such. He doesn’t need a formal job. If he doesn’t have a slush fund from people who want to reward him, even very simple stuff like going to places which pay “cash for gold” will give him enough money for walking-around expenses. In the real world, there’s people who live “off the grid” avoiding SSN’s and other documentation. It’s harder these days than decades ago, but it happens. And they aren’t gods with no food/shelter/medical needs.
There’s no avoiding that “Clark Kent” was an extremely weird thing for the godlike alien to be doing.
The Supergirl story isn’t too bad. It’s very common for someone to get upset when even random people hate them for no apparent reason (i.e. “What did I ever do to you that you hate me so much?”). Just think about fan reactions on the Internet! Kara feeling this stuff more acutely than Kal was one way of making her a distinct character in her own right.
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It wasn’t played up in that era but since the man was raised as Clark Kent by Ma and Pa Kent, it doesn’t seem weird at all to me that he’d hold on to that identity. Superman to me is his job. Clark is hw he lives life.
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The Byrne-reboot Superman didn’t get his powers until he was an adult, and might as well have been a Marvel mutant (there’s a wink about this in one of those first issues). But in the Silver Age, boy Kal-El was never interacting as a nonhero/”off the clock” with humans unless alone with Ma and Pa. That is, with anyone else, “Clark Kent” was an act he was putting on from the start. Maybe one could say he was doing it because his parents wanted him to do it. But when they died, and he moved away, why continue such a charade?
Because as Steve says, it’s already how he interacted with the world. I get your point but I don’t see it the way you do.
As Clark put it once, being Superman is like being rich — you have to wonder how people would treat you if you weren’t.
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“The Condemned Legionnaires” story with Satan Girl is one of my favorite Silver Age Legion stories.
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