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Posts tagged ‘Lex Luthor’

Superman (Early Golden Age)


Superman continued to be the most successful character in comics through this period.  His solo book quickly went from being a quarterly to a bi-monthly, and he would also get the lead slot in World’s Finest Comics, a follow-up to the New York World’s Fair specials, that would feature both Superman and Batman.

Every story is credited to Siegel and Shuster, but this is blatantly untrue.  Shuster stayed with the strip longer than he did on any of his other creations, but the sheer volume of Superman stories necessitated bringing on other artists.  Some were definitely of lesser ability, but by far these men did a much better job of keeping the look and feel of the series.  Wayne Boring would have the greatest influence, under his pen Superman’s crest would take on its “normal” shape, but Jack Burnley executed some beautiful stories as well.

Aside from occasional mentions of Krypton in the opening blurbs, nothing more is shown or mentioned about Superman’s background.  We learn in one story that he has no living relatives, but we have yet to learn anything about the Kents.  We do get to see Clark’s apartment in Metropolis a few times, though it has little distinguishing character.  The most notable thing we learn about Clark is that he has a massive clock collection.  This proves to be of significance in Action 73,” The Hobby Robbers,” but is never mentioned again.  The curious justification for his collection is that he is fascinated by clocks because time seems to stand still when he moves at super-speed.

Superman’s vision powers get a lot of play in this era, and expand from merely x-ray and telescopic vision to include microscopic as well.  In Action 69 we learn that his x-ray vision cannot see through lead.  He uses super-breath for the first time, and super-hypnosis gets almost over-used as a way to prevent Lois from discovering his identity. He is credited with having a photographic memory. Yet at the same time his invulnerability seems to decrease a bit, as he is frequently knocked out by electric guns and paralysis rays.  The reason for this is obvious, it builds suspense in the stories, and enables Superman to show his fortitude in overcoming the effects of the weapons and breaking free.

By the end of this period Superman is clearly flying, but there is no one issue that can be referenced as the moment that changed.  While the narrative will still talk about him leaping and jumping, we see him execute impressive aerial turns, and battle planes.  In 1941 the text simply stops describing his movements this way, though he will still hang on to the exteriors of buildings rather than hover.  In Superman 15 one of the villains exclaims “you can fly!” and from then on he clearly can.

Superman continues to deal with the bad guys harshly.  He throws one man into the path of a bullet intended for Lois, and tricks two saboteurs into drinking “deadly narcotics” that they plan to poison the reservoir with.  In numerous stories the villains are abandoned to die in plane crashes or burning buildings.

The resiliance of Superman’s costume gets addressed in Superman 5, as we learn it is made from a special cloth he invented himself.  In Superman 17 he constructs his “Citadel” in a remote mountain chain.  It has a massive and impressive doorway, an art deco gem with a large “S” crest prominently displayed, so there is no doubt about whose place this is.  But the Citadel rarely appears, and all we see of the interior is a small trophy room and an extensive work out space.

As the era begins, Clark is working for George Taylor at the Daily Star, but by 1941 he is at the Daily Planet under Perry White.  These changes were done to correspond to the popular Superman radio show, but are poorly executed in the comics.  In Action 22 the Daily Star sends Lois and Clark to the European country of Galonia after it is invaded by Toran, but in issue 23 they file their story on the invasion with the Daily Planet.  George Taylor’s appearance alters, as he becomes older, heavier and starts smoking a cigar.  In Superman 7, he abruptly changes names to Perry White, though visually this is clearly the same man.

Superman 5 introduces the publisher of the Planet, Burt Mason, and more staffers debut in the story “Freedom of the Press” in World’s Finest 13, as the Planet celebrates its 100th birthday (meaning it was founded in the spring of 1844.)  We meet Old Sanford, the news editor and Happy, the photographer.  We also learn that Perry White began as a newsboy for the Planet, and worked his way up.

Lois Lane remains the most important staffer, aside from Clark, and is even gets to take Perry’s place as editor in Superman 18.  She is still stuck writing her advice to the lovelorn column (though she foists that job on Clark during his stint in charge), while taking rash actions to pursue more serious stories.  Her curiosity lands her in jail more than once, and of course puts her in danger almost constantly.

In Superman 11 Lois first notices that Clark is never around when Superman is, and she wonders “is it possible that…?”  This goes on for about a year, until a story in Superman 17 in which Lois tries to prove Clark is really Superman.  She fails, of course, but will go on trying for decades.

She actually almost succeeds, though doesn’t realize it, in Action 61’s “The Man They Wouldn’t Believe,” as Lois pretends to fall for Craig Shaw in hopes of getting evidence that he is a criminal, even accepting an offer of marriage.  Clark fears losing her, and reveals that he is Superman, though Lois does not believe him.  All his attempts to prove it backfire – he gets shot, but the gun has blanks, he lifts a weight that turns out to be a prop. When Lois’ scheme gets revealed, he breathes a sigh of relief.  Strange relationship these two have.

Lois has an aunt, Berenice, who is a Hollywood screenwriter and marries prominent actor Lionel Brainerd in Superman 24, and she also has an unnamed sister, married to an unnamed husband.  They have a daughter, who has a name, Susie.  Susie debuts in Action 59, but gets developed in Action 68 as a teller of fibs, which Superman makes come true.

Jimmy Olsen is slowly and sporadically worked into the comic.  Again, this was a character from the radio series, retroactively combined with the unnamed office boy that appears in occasional issues.  In Superman 5 the boy has brown hair, but no name.  In issue 13 he is finally called Jimmy, and gets the surname Olsen in Superman 15.  He still does not look quite like he would, though a red haired, bow-tied elevator operator looking much like how he would eventually appear had a cameo in Action 38.  Jimmy gets the red hair and bowtie in Action 49, and a few months later, in World’s Finest 6, he and Clark become friends.

Jimmy’s appearances are largely confined to small, supporting roles, until Action 71’s “Valentine Villainy.”  This story is more comedic than anything else, as Jimmy’s valentine’s day present for a girl he has a crush on gets mixed up with Clark’s joke present for Lois, and a stolen diamond necklace.

The Daily Planet’s iconic globe debuts in this era, though for some reason it failed to capture the interest of the various artists, and is not ever shown clearly on in detail.  When we first see it, in Superman 11, it is from a distance, and it resembles Saturn, with its rings.  This is how it would also appear on the masthead of the paper itself.  But for the rest of this era, on the rare occasions we see the globe, it appears to be a simple sphere perched atop the building.  In Superman 25 we do see the Daily Planet lettering, though it does not seem to circle the globe, but appears attached to the roof of the building independently.

The rival newspaper The Morning Herald has a number of appearances.  It gets taken over by criminals at one point, and in a later issue its star reporter, Scoop Carter, is revealed to be the leader of a criminal gang.  Nonetheless, the paper itself is a legitimate contender with the Planet, as two work together, and with another journal, The Evening Standard, in Action 37 to combat a crime wave.

Metropolis Police Sergeant Casey is introduced in Superman 6, and would make frequent appearances until Superman 23.  He is a no-nonsense cop, who does not trust Superman for quite a while,  not until Superman has saved his life twice.  Casey gives Lois access to crime scenes in exchange for being mentioned in her articles, but he also gets exasperated with both Lois and Clark for constantly butting into investigations, and arrests both of them at different times.  In Superman 9, Casey is pursuing a car with hoods who have kidnapped Clark, when Lois drives right into the middle of the shoot out.  Clark is thrown from the car, Lois slams her vehicle into Casey’s car to stop him from running over Clark, and all three blame each other for letting the criminals escape.

The Ultra-Humanite returns for two more appearances at the start of this period.  He has actress Dolores Winters kidnapped, and has his brain exchanged with hers before starting another crime spree.  He/she also has nuclear scientist Terry Curtis captured, and forces him to develop a disintegration ray.  Superman frees Curtis and destroys the Ultra-Humanite’s base in an extinct volcano, believing him dead.  Though this was the last appearance of the Ultra-Humanite until the 1980s, his survival was revealed in the pages of All-Star Squadron, as well as the fate of Terry Curtis, who would be transformed into the villain Cyclotron.

Luthor debuts in Action Comics 23, with no first name but a healthy crop of red hair.  He would go through the entire period without getting a first name, but his hair would not last more than a year.  He is first seen as the manipulator behind Toran’s invasion of Galonia, hoping to set the world at war so that he can march in and take over after everyone has been weakened.  He operates out of a base on a platform high in the stratosphere, suspended from a dirigible.

He makes two more appearances the following month, both in the pages of Superman 4, threatening Metropolis with an earthquake machine, and then attempting to raise the sunken city of Pacifiq, stealing the oil from Oklahoma to power the machines to raise it, and flooding the California coast as the city rises.

In his fourth appearance, in Superman 10, Luthor is suddenly bald, with no explanation, having developed an invisibility ray that he uses to enable his gang to rob banks. Perhaps he tried out a prototype of the serum on his hair and it went invisible and never came back.

In Superman 12 he creates giant animals on Baracoda Island, intending to use them as weapons.  Luthor attempts to disguise himself in his next two stories, pretending to be an alien conqueror, Zytal, in Action 42, and going by The Light in Superman 13, as he kidnaps a senator.

This makes he suspect that he is really meant to be the villain in Superman 14.  A man wearing green robes and a hood, calling himself Lightning Master, appears in that story, blackmailing Metropolis with a destructive lightning weapon.  Lois unmasks him dramatically in one panel, and it is a bald man who looks like Luthor, but the text tells us she does not recognize him, and he dies at the end of the story.  It’s hard to believe that the big unmasking scene would have been there if we really weren’t to recognize the man under the mask.

As well, in his next appearance, the first part of the Powerstone story in Action 47, Luthor is wearing the same green robes that Lightning Master wore, though without the hood.  This is the best Luthor story of the era.  He creates a machine that uses electricity to give himself super-strength, and the ability to electrify things and electrocute people.  He tricks the wealthiest men in Metropolis, taking them hostage at a dinner party, and forces Superman to penetrate a trap-layered ancient underground city to retrieve the Powerstone for him.  Superman gets the stone, but turns a fake over to Luthor.  His electric powers having faded by this point, Superman captures Luthor.  But the story itself continues in Superman 17. Luthor is sentences to the electric chair, but that simply recharges him, and he escapes and manages to trick Superman out of the Powerstone.  This enables Luthor to grow to giant size, and also allows him to strip Superman of his powers.  Superman wins only by tricking Luthor in return, goading him into running across a ceiling, allowing Superman to grab the necklace with the Powerstone as it dangles down.

The Powerstone would also return in the pages of All-Star Squadron.

Luthor makes only one more appearance in this era, in Superman 18’s “The Heat Horror,” using a meteor as a base from which to torment Metropolis with a heat ray.

The Archer faces off with Superman in issue 13 of his comic.  This guy just had an ordinary bow and arrow, and was no match for Superman.  The only reason he merits a mention here is that he was used as a Batman villain in the 60s tv show, played by Art Carney.

The Puzzler has two encounters with Superman, his debut in Action 49, and a return in Superman 20.  A professorial looking man, with glasses and a van dyke beard, the Puzzler considers himself a master of games, and embarks on a criminal career using gaming strategy, leaving behind half a bent nail puzzle as his trademark.  His second story is the better of the two, as he seeks vengeance against card players that have bested him, killing them in appropriate ways (like budgeoning the poker player with a fireplace poker.)

World’s Finest 6 is the only appearance of Metalo, the golden age predecessor to the later major villain.  This Metalo is simply a man in a powerful metal suit, though for much of the tale people believe him to be an alien robot.

Action Comics 51 is the debut of the Prankster, a masterful con artist who resembles a vaudeville comedian, with his oversized collar and ugly green plaid jacket.  The Prankster pretends to rob banks, but in fact leaves money for them each time.  This is all a plan to have one banker open his vault, with millions in jewels and stocks inside.

His return in Action 57 sees him hoodwink other criminals, getting them to front him thousands of dollars that he uses to get himself pardoned, and by starting an “appreciation” business, gets him well-loved.  It’s all another scheme to allow him access to the wealthy, but after paying back his criminal investors, he robs them as well.

After a failed attempt to copyright the English language in Superman 22, and an elaborate blackmail scheme using rewards for lost pins in Action 69, the Prankster returns to his usual style of con job in Superman 29’s The Wizard of Wishes, making people’s dreams come true as a set-up for robbing them.

The Toyman makes his first two appearances in this era, debuting in Action 64, an aging toy maker with a mop of long curly blond hair, who has decided to use the toys he builds for crime.  In this first tale the toys prove to be bombs.  He uses a toy Superman to escape from prison in Superman 27, and opens a high-end arcade, using it to entertain the crowds while he robs them.  His hair changes to brown in this story, which it will remain.

The Puzzler, the Prankster and the Toyman are not given any other names in these stories, and even the last villain introduced in this era would not get his “full” name revealed yet.  Called only Wolfingham in his debut, and Wilbur Wolfingham in his return appearance, the self-proclaimed King of the Confidence Men had stories that were much more comedic than the other villains.  In his first tale he takes advantage of aging actors, getting their money for a phony film company, and in the second he plays an elaborate scam on a town devastated by a tornado, buying up their land cheaply, then fleecing them further by getting them to invest in a phony oil well.  Superman gets the townsfolk their land and money back, and makes the oil well really work.  The most curious thing is that despite attempting to murder Lois during the course of the story, Wolfingham is allowed to walk away with no repercussions.  Even Lois feels badly for him at the end.

The basis for what would become the “Imaginary Stories” is paid in this era, though by and large, not well.  Superman 19 has a tale in which Superman reveals his identity to Lois following a car crash, but this turns out to just be a dream.  Action 59 has Clark fall asleep while telling Susie the story of Cinderella, and dreaming himself into the story.  In issue 60, Lois gets hit by a car, and while undergoing surgery dreams that she gets a blood transfusion from Superman and gains powers, becoming Superwoman.  The last of these, in Superman 24’s “The Perils of Poor Lois,” is likely the best, if only because it doesn’t use the dream cop-out.  After watching a revival of an old melodrama, and getting their heads stuck in posters, Lois and Clark imagine being in a period melodrama.

There are a few stories that play with the medium of comic books.  The Funny Paper Crimes, in Superman 19, pits him against newspaper comic strips that have come to life.  This story would be re-told in a Superman-less post-Crisis reality in the pages of Al-Star Squadron in the 1980s.

Action Comics 55 has a wonderful story that deals with the comic strip L’il Abner (though he is called Tiny Rufe.)  Daily Planet cartoonist Al Hatt (Al Capp) heads out into the remote backwoods for inspiration, and comes across a hillbilly town, Tiny Rufe and his girlfriend Maisy Dae, and creates a comic strip based on their lives.  When Rufe and Maisy decide to get married, Hatt gets terrified that the comic will lose readership.  In reality, L’il Abner and Daisy Mae did not get married in the strip until 1952, but one can easily see the correlation here with the Superman-Lois Lane romance.

Superman 25 features one of the most “meta” of the stories.  A popular comic strip features the super-powered character Geezer.  Lois and Clark are assigned to do a story on the comic’s creator, and find a nerdy, overworked artist and writer, with a factory churning out Geezer stories.  Clark uses his powers to impersonate Geezer to get the artist to care again about his creation.

My favouite story from this period is by far the most “meta”, Superman 19’s “Superman, Matinee Idol.”  The story was published in conjunction with the release of the first Superman movie serial, a beautifully animated work that is still admired.  Lois and Clark attend the premiere, and Clark resorts to all manner of tricks to prevent Lois from seeing the parts of the movie that reveal his identity.  Even the art takes on a meta element, as the side of all the panels are black with little white rectangles running along the sides – resembling film stock.  The best moment has a mystified Clark wondering who Siegel and Shuster are, deciding that they must be clairvoyant to know so much about his life.

Superman continues in the Late Golden Age

Superman:  Action Comics 20 – 74  (Jan 40 – July 44)

Superman:  4 – 29  (Spring 40 – July-Aug 44)

New York World’s Fair 40

World’s Best Comics  1  (Spring 41)

World’s Finest Comics  2 – 14  (Summer 41 – Summer 44)

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Superman


Superman was like nothing ever seen before in comics.  Not just because he was a super-powered alien who fought crime, the rampant success of the character was unheard of.  In a little over a year after his first appearance, Superman became the regular cover feature on Action Comics, changing forever the way covers were done, he had spun off into newspaper serials, and most ground-breaking of all, had been rewarded with his own comic book.  The first issue simply reprinted his first four stories in Action Comics (with an additional six pages for the debut tale), and the following two issues were a mix of reprints and recut newspaper stories.

It was the crowning achievement for Siegel and Shuster, and unlike their other series from the era, Shuster would stay on Superman until his eye problems forced him to retire.  Shuster had an amazing skill at making the outrageous look commonplace.  None of Superman’s powers would have been impressive if the art had made them laughable.

Because the first six pages were missing from his debut tale, there was no real origin given for Supeman until those were printed in Superman 1.  In Action Comics 1 we simply learn that he was sent off in a rocket by his scientist father from a planet that died “of old age”, landed on Earth, and was briefly in an orphanage.  In Superman 1 we learn that the planet’s name was Krypton, get to see the rocket in more detail (it’s the one from Slam Bradley), and see that it landed in a farmer’s field.  He is found by an elderly couple, the Kents, who bring him to an orphanage, then return to adopt him.

He has powers from the very beginning, and we see the Kents lecture and train the young boy in using them well.

In these early days, Superman cannot fly.  He can leap great distances – an eighth of a mile is cited in the first story, and we see him jump over tall buildings.  While at first he crashes into the sidewalk when he lands, sending concrete flying, within a few issues he is able to land on a window ledge, and also able to execute turns and rolls while in the air.  He often moves from place to place by running on phone wires.

He is extremely strong, able to stop a train, hold up a bridge, and lift an elephant, and nothing seems to be able to injure him.  Text refers to “nothing less than a bursting shell can penetrate his skin.”  We don’t see that put to the test, but he withstands clubs, bullets, even a buzz saw without pain.

He can run faster than a train, and swim faster than a ship. He can also spend an extended time underwater, not needing to breathe.  He is also resistant to illness.

His x-ray vision and super-hearing are used only in a couple of the stories at this time.  In others, he hangs from the outside of buildings, hides behind furniture, even listens on a phone extension to spy on others.  His x-ray vision is referred to in issue 11, and in issue 18 is shown for the first time.  We see beams leave his eyes (much the way heat vision would later be shown), and a wall become semi-transparent, so he can see the people talking inside.

In the extended version of the first story, we see young Clark come to the Daily Star, applying to editor George Taylor for a job, and getting one by the end of the story, the scoop on Superman.  George Taylor is clearly older than Clark, but not by much, and looks like he would do well in a bar brawl.

Lois Lane is already working at the newspaper.  She writes advice to the lovelorn, while longing for real newspaper work.  She is willing to risk her life for a story, but also thinks nothing of lying to Clark to steal a story out from under him.  After a couple of rescues, she realizes she has fallen in love with Superman.  Clark has fallen for her, and even takes her out on a date, but to preserve his secret identity he acts like a coward, and she has nothing but contempt for him.  When Clark first learns of Lois’s feelings for Superman he has to go off and laugh to himself.

In Action 6 and Superman 3 there is a young blond office boy.  He is not named, but retroactively these are considered the first appearances of Jimmy Olsen.

Action 7 introduces another staffer at the Daily Star, Curly.  Curly is a loudmouth braggart and a prankster, with Clark as his victim.  At the conclusion of the tale, Clark uses his powers to get revenge on Curly.  Although Curly is not seen again, in the Bronze Age sportscaster Steve Lombard would be introduced, with a similar relationship with Clark.

There was a rival newspaper to the Daily Star in issue 18, the Morning Herald.  The Herald is shown as a sleazy rag, willing to ruin a senator’s reputation in order to sell papers, while the Daily Star represents responsible journalism

Although he had the cover of Action Comics #1, and the lead spot was his without exception, Superman would not be featured exclusively on the covers until the end of the period.  Most covers had just the generic actions scenes common to all books.  In issue 12, a cover that featured Zatara has a small circle on it, mid-cover, with an image of Superman bursting through chains and a small logo.  This circle would be moved into the upper left corner with issue 16, and would eventually become the DC Bullet.

Superman’s costume was largely the same from the start as it is now, the biggest difference being the crest.  In most panels, it is not clear at all that there is meant to be a “S” in the crest, as it is triangular, and relatively small.  But then, in many stories from this era Superman is not in costume for much of the time.  He is just as likely to go in disguise as a worker or an athlete as he is don the cape and tights.

Superman is also fairly ruthless in pursuing his goals.  He throws criminals in the air or off of buildings to extract confessions, causes a mine collapse to trap wealthy partiers who do not appreciate the risk miner’s face, drugs and imprisons an innocent man to facilitate taking his place to outwit gamblers, and tears down an entire slum to force the city to build decent housing.

The police are obliged to hunt him down, but are not for the most part too concerned about doing this, even the police commissioner is on Superman’s side.  Metropolis is his home base from the start, but we learn little about the city, simply that is has a lot of really tall buildings.

Superman is ‘the friend of the helpless and oppressed.”  Most of the stories from this era see him dealing with concepts of social justice – wife abuse, underprivileged  children, workplace safety, and reckless driving would all be featured in these early tales.  He faced off against gangsters, gamblers and thieves, but in one story, about dangerous driving, he went after used car dealers, corrupt police, shoddy manufacturers and lobbyists.

He did get his first major villain in these tales, though, the Ultra-Humanite.  This bald mad scientist debuted running a cab protection scam, and Superman defeated him without too much effort, but the Ultra-Humantie returned for two more battles, once being behind shoddy bridge construction, and finally releasing a deadly purple plague on the city.  Hr briefly captures Superman using an “electric gun,” but stupidly ties him up to a sawmill buzz saw, which sends broken bits of metal flying dangerously around the room when the blade makes contact with Superman.  His mind-control device fails entirely, and when the electric gun explodes, it appears the Ultra-Humanite has died.  He didn’t, and returns in the Early Golden Age, but so would one of his assistants.  In the first two Ultra-Humanite stories, among the people he has working for him there is a red-haired man.  He is not named, or ever shown clearly.  The best panel we get of him is when the sawmill blades are flaying around and one almost cuts him.  In the “Generations” mini-serieses (not a word, but I’m going to be using it a fair amount), John Byrne makes this man Lex Luthor, and I have to agree.  Fits well with my earlier Lex Luthor appearance in Radio Squad.

So much of this era is very unlike what Superman would become, both in powers and in the way the stories were told, but one issue, Action Comics 5, would have the essence of the Superman “format” to come.  George Taylor intends to send Clark out to cover the possible collapse of the Valleyho Dam, but Lois wants the story and lies to Clark, sending him off on a story that doesn’t exist.  Clark discovers the ruse, heads to Valleyho as Superman, deals with the dam collapse and saves Lois’ life.  Lois returns to file her story, only to discover that Clark has already given his to the editor.

There is a remarkably prescient story in Action 6, dealing with merchandising the Superman image.  They really do try to take it to a preposterous degree, but history has done them better.

Superman appeared in the 1939 New York World’s Fair, even making a cover appearance (though his hair was blond, so it doesn’t much look like him.)  As Clark he is assigned to cover the Fair, and he manages to get Lois assigned to it as well, though of course she shows no gratitude.  As Superman he helps construct the Infantile Paralysis Pavillion, and while touring the Marine Transportation Exhibit with Lois, they come across fugitive Nick Stone.  At the end of the story, after Stone is apprehended, there is a lovely panel of Superman with Lois in his arms, and fireworks going off in the background.

There were no actual guest appearances by other characters in the series, but both Batman and Sandman would have teasers for their upcoming series at the end of Superman stories.  The one for Batman makes Action Comics # 12 the real first appearance of the character, but as the Sandman had already debuted in New York World’s Fair, the teaser was technically his second appearance.

Superman continues in the Early Golden Age

Superman:  Action Comics  1 – 19  (June 38 – Dec 39)

New York World’s Fair 1939

Superman 1 – 3  (Summer – Winter 39)

Radio Squad


Beginning under the name “Calling all Cars”, this was the fourth series created by Siegel and Shuster for DC.  Radio Squad refers to a police car equipped with a police band radio, something I guess was new enough in the 30’s to make it exciting.  Sandy Kean is the hero of this series, another rough and tumble man’s man, like the bulk of Siegel and Shuster’s protagonists.

For the first two years of its run, Radio Squad just had two-page stories, and developed in a very different direction than Federal Men.  Many of the tales had a light-hearted quality to them.  You can almost hear a “whomp-waa” sound over the final panel.  As an example, in issue 25 they see a box fall from the back of a truck.  Sandy retrieves it, and they follow the truck, turning on the siren to alert it.  The truck speeds away, they chase it and run it off the side of the road.  It turns out the driver is smuggling alcohol, but the box that fell off the truck and started it all contained nothing but aspirin.  Whomp-waaa.

The series began with a four part serial dealing with the Purple Tiger Gang.  Sandy pulls over a speeder, who turns out to be the daughter of the Police Commissioner, and spanks her by the side of the road.  She complains to her father, who thinks that she really liked it and probably now has a crush on the cop.  As creepy and disturbing as that all is, it’s also fairly typical for the era.  Anyway, she gets kidnapped (her father likely thought she was super in love with that), and held by the Purple Tiger mob, who are willing to exchange her for all the info the police have on them.  Which, in fact, is nothing.  They’ve never heard of these guys.  But then you wouldn’t expect a criminal organization that would call itself the Purple Tiger Gang to be too on the ball.  Sandy puts together some fake evidence, rigged with an “electrical signalling contrivance” that allows him to follow and apprehend these losers.  The electrical signalling contrivance seems a ridiculously complicated way of saying a bug, but I doubt those even existed at this time, and it would have seemed like something from James Bond.  If he existed at this time.  Which he didn’t.

Issues 17 -22 (with a gap in issue 20) see a story that expresses a lot of frustration with the legal system.  It begins with a woman calling the police because she is upset that her son gambles.  Sandy responds to the call by physically threatening the boy, and then they head to the casino he frequents and arrest the man who runs it, Dan Bowers.  His lawyers get him off, and he has Sandy brought up on charges of false arrest.  There are a couple of chapters devoted to trials of Sandy, and then Bowers, that are laiden with perjury and faked evidence.  Finally the governor himself intervenes, sickened by it all (and Sandy is just as bad as Bowers in the trials), announcing that the legal system is a joke and Bowers should just go to jail anyway.  I’m not sure that having the governor just call off trials and ship people off to prison is an improvement, but Sandy seems happy.

He also gets a partner in that serial, named Jimmy Trent, though his first name would change to Larry after a year or so.  Maybe one of those was a middle name .

From issue 23 on the stories would be all self-contained, leading the series more towards the light-hearted style I mentioned previously.   But issue 23 would also have a greater significance, or so I will argue.

I hereby declare that the Radio Squad story in More Fun 23 (Aug 37) is the first appearance of Lex Luthor.

The story deal with a red haired scientist who creates giant armoured radio-contolled cars that he smashes into other cars to kill those inside.  He does this out of a twisted sense of vengeance, as his son was killed by a reckless driver, though he kills people at random.  Sandy catches him at the end of the story, but at no point is guy ever given a name.

Lex Luthor would officially debut a few years later, a red haired evil scientist seeking world domination, and never given any back-story at all.  The bald version, with the grudge against Superboy, was the Earth – 1 Luthor, the Earth -2 version only met Superman when they were both adults (for more on Earth-1 and Earth-2, wait until I reach the Silver Age, likely next year some time).

As both the character in More Fun 23 and the original Lex Luthor were drawn by Shuster, it’s not that surprising that they look virtually identical, and I will happy concede that I do not believe Siegel intended them to be the same person when he created the two men, but comic book history is all about filling in the blanks.  This was Lex Luthor, a scientist who went mad with grief over his son’s death, and after a brief prison term after being caught by the Radio Squad, emerged with plans to control all of society, which brought him into conflict with Superman.

OK, back to Radio Squad.

With issue 33 the stories expand to 6 pages in length, and become more serious, though the series never really reaches the level set by Federal Men.  Sandy and Larry deal with an embezzling banker, a corrupt cop, a pyromaniac fireman, even the criminal son of the Chief of Police, as well as the usual lot of murderers and jewel thieves and such.  They have to disguise themselves as women to catch a man who mugs women – though Larry had to go in drag in a earlier story as well, to catch a man robbing couples on Lover’s Lane.  Larry is so good at doing this he is ordered to do a female impersonation at the Policemen’s Ball.

Sandy is reckless to a fault.  In issue 40 he rams the police car through two cars set up as a roadblock, to Larry’s horror, and justifies his action by saying “what difference does it make if we die now or forty years later?”  I would not want to be Sandy’s patrol partner.

In issue 44 they have to deal with a thief who has devised a method of becoming invisible, and cleverly put dye into the sprnkler system, hooking it up to go off when the jewels are removed from their base, exposing the thief.

In issue 45 Sandy is framed for murder by Dirk Stevens, convicted and sentenced to death, but freed by other policemen on his way to the electric chair.  He tracks down the actual Stevens, who gets mauled by a bear.  Sandy shoots the bear, and in recognition of his attempt to save his life, Stevens writes out a confession before he dies.

With issue 49 Shuster left the series, though Siegel would continue as the writer.

Radio Squad continues in the Early Golden Age

Radio Squad:  More Fun  11 – 20  (July 36 – Oct 37),  22 – 50  (Dec 37 – Dec 39)

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