I'm planning this one (plus upcoming projects for Detective and Sensation Comics) to be fairly brief. In this project, I'll be covering the Superman stories from Action Comics #1-12. If someone would care to pick it up from then, please feel free.

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Randy Jackson said:

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

They got Lois Lane right on the first try though.  I thought it was great how she told off the mobster that tried to cut in when Clark was dancing with her and then slapped the taste out of his mouth!  Plus, she wasn't worried about hurting Clark's feelings either - she really let him have it verbally as well.

I guess that is getting Lois right.

If I've never said so before, I'm nto a fan of Lois Lane. I've never understood what Superman saw in her, at least Pre-Crisis.. Sure, she was strong and willing to stand up for herself, but she was incredibly mean towards Clark and really didn't treat Superman any better. She was abrasive, fickle, shallow (there were any number of stories where Superman's appearance changed for some reason and she wanted nothing to do with him then) and quite frankly just plain mean.

Golden Age Lois Lane - at least so far - is a tough as nails, confident woman who believes she is as good as any man, and definitely any reporter (I have to admit she was mean to Clark Kent in these early days).  That's how I saw Lois in the Bronze Age as well (minus the meanness), and Post-Crisis she has been a wonderful character for the most part.  The Lois you're describing, in my opinion, is mostly the Silver Age Lois Lane, by far the most unlikable character in the Superbooks of that era.  She was a shrewish harpy with two goals in life: 1) to trick Superman into marrying her, and 2) to expose Superman's true identity.  Ughhh.  She was ok as a supporting character sometimes, but when she was front and center in the story, she was usually pretty awful.

Been away for a week, so I'm playing catch-up:

ACTION #3 - I like how GA Superman will do whatever he feels necessary to right a wrong - including having no qualms about breaking a few laws.  The laws protected people like the mine owner and did nothing to help the miner who was crippled.  Superman - with some help from Clark Kent - was taking on social injustice in a major way here.

ACTION #4 - I didn't enjoy this one, finding it long and meandering.  The premise was supposedly Superman addressing cheating in college football, but it felt more like Supes showing off while masquerading as Tommy Burke.  And using super-powers to win a game is still cheating, even if the other team intended to cheat first.

ACTION #5 - The best of the early stories so far.  Superman saving an entire town from disaster by using his brawn and his brains is always enjoyable.  I had to laugh when the editor fired Clark - shouldn't he have fired Lois?  She ignored her boss' orders AND caused the reporter to whom he assigned the story to miss out on it.  And yes, I know, despite what I said in my previous post, Lois is pretty awful - in general - in this story.

I don't know John, it seems to me that every appearance of Lois she's utterly mean to Clark for no other reason than he doesn't live up to her idea of what a man should be. From the comics I've read throughout the years, this continued pretty much through Crisis. It may have been softened a bit in the early Bronze Age, and she certainly wasn't as bad as her sister, but that's setting the bar pretty low.

I do root for Lois when she stands up for herself as a woman, but I cringe at the way she treats Clark and any other man around her when they don't live up to her expectations. Sure, I don't mind if she's mean to someone who means her harm, but frequently it seems that she treats almost everyone that way.

I suspect that the original intention was for Lois to be the sort of snappy dialog/insult-flirting character found in so many romantic comedies of the era, but the problem was that Clark rarely if ever snapped back, in either identity, which left Lois looking just mean, instead of part of an affectionately sparring duo.  If you try to imagine Rosalyn Russel & Cary Grant while reading the dialog, it almost works.  I suppose its also possible that Jerry Siegel honestly considered the castrating shrew to be the feminine ideal (some people are wired that way), because it does seem that he at least intended for Lois to be an appealing character.  Of course, by the Silver Age, that was no longer a concern, as Lois was constantly waffling between being a scheming harpy or a bad imitation of Lucy Ricardo, more often than not the butt of jokes that would have been unspeakably cruel if she didn't work so hard to deserve such treatment.

Richard Willis said:

The cover of Action #2 didn't show Superman nor did it even mention him. This wouldn't last long.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Superman appears on the covers of Action #1, 7, 10, 13, 15, and 17, and then beginning with #19 he's featured on the cover each month going forward.  With issue #9, going forward there's a blurb about Superman whether he appears on the cover or not, although a few times it's just a corner box of him.

By contrast, Batman appears on the covers of Detective #27, 29, 31, and 33, and then every month starting with #35.  There is a blurb about the Batman on the four issues he does not appear on after his debut.

While I was researching my article for CBR, "Superman: The 16 Most Important Firsts in His Life," I came across an article that stated the Action Comics editor wasn't impressed with the Superman feature and insisted that he not appear on the cover ever again. That changed after the sales figures came in -- which, as we know, took about six months back in those days -- and National saw a noticeable bump in sales whenever Superman was cover-featured.

If you'll forgive me, I don't buy it. At that point the logos on DC's titles were designed to look similar. The covers mostly carried non-feature images, and the ones on Detective Comics and New Adventure Comics were adventure images. (More Fun Comics's were mostly gag ones. #30's is an exception.) It looks to me like DC used the cover-approach on Action Comics it was using on those other titles.

The non-use of Superman may have been partly an artefact of the covers being produced by DC and the stories being produced by Siegel and Shuster. DC may have assumed putting Superman on the covers meant having Shuster do them. Oversight could've been a problem, and the DC guys may have feared his style was too crude. It looks to me like the second Superman cover (#7) took its image from the story in #1, and the third (#10) from the story in #2, so it may be in those cases DC extracted the panels and said "like this".

Fred Guardineer did the Zatara covers on #12 and #14, but he was the regular cover artist at that point: he did the generic covers from #8. The GCD credits him with the fourth Superman cover (#15). It credits the third (#13) to Shuster, but I could believe Guardineer had a hand in it.

According to the GCD the editor of the early issues of Action Comics was Vincent Sullivan. I suppose the reference might be to Harry Donenfeld.

Action Comics #6 - "Superman!"
Published: November 1938
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Artist: Joe Shuster

Clark Kent is introduced by his editor to Nick Williams, who professes to be Superman's manager. Williams tells the two about all of Superman's endorsements, He tells Kent he can get him an interview with Superman.

An office boy overhears the conversation and tells Lois about it. She plans to see Superman as well.

Clark is flabbergasted that Lois is actually speaking to him, especially since he's been trying to date her for months with her being cold at best. She asks him if he'll take her out tonight, but he realizes that's when he's supposed to interview Superman and he declines. She then manipulates him by asking if he'd prefer his assignment or her--it works, and he tells her he'll take her out that evening as long as she accompanies him on his assignment. She accepts. As they part, both of them are thinking about how easy it is to manipulate the other (I thought that didn't start until the Silver Age).

That evening, Lois is excited to be seeing Superman tonight, but is dismayed when Clark shows up early to take her out before his assignment. He takes her to a nightclub, where a singer sings a song about a man being a Superman (the song lasts for a page, which is a page too long in my opinion). Lois is enthralled by the song.

In Williams' office, he and a guy dressed as Superman are meeting. The guy dressed as Superman asks Williams if this is a really good idea, doing an interview like this, but Williams tells him that the publicity will allow them both to clean up. Williams has even set up some feats of strength using gimmicked props to prove to Kent that he's the real deal. Williams tells the actor that since Superman is likely a myth, someone might as well cash in on his name.

Back at the nightclub, Lois suggests they have one more drink before leaving for the interview, then she drugs Clark with a sleeping pill. She then hails a cab to go to the interview.

As Clark was obviously unaffected and shamming, he changes to Superman and follows Lois.

Williams admits Lois and buys her story about her having to take Clark's place. She asks if Superman will be there soon, and he tells her that he should be there any minute. He snaps his fingers, signalling the actor on the ledge outside to make his entrance. He enters, and begins showing off for Lois, lifting a desk over his head with one hand and then bending a steel bar in his hands.

He asks Lois if she's impressed, and she tells him that no, she isn't and that she's going to prove that both of them are fakers. She then lifts the desk herself to show that it's constructed from cardboard, then bends the bar back straight as it's made of aluminum. She then gives them the final nail in the coffin, as she's already met Superman and knows that this actor isn't him.

Lois then attempts to leave, but Williams stops her, grabbing her by the wrist. He pulls her over to the window and tells the actor to help him throw her out the window. The actor balks at murder initially, but Williams talks him into it.

They toss Lois out of the window, She falls several stories to her doom, her body hitting the sidewalk with a sickening crunch as entrails rain over the passersby--okay, I'm fibbing. Superman was outside and he catches her before she hits the ground. He puts her on the ground and then goes after Williams and the actor.

Williams and the actor have seen the rescue and decide to hightail it out of there. They take an elevator, thinking Superman can't follow, but Superman grabs the cable and hauls them back up to the floor he's on. The actor attacks Superman and ends up with a broken hand for his trouble.

Superman grabs the two men and Lois and takes them all to the police station. Dumping the men outside, he tells Lois to go inside and press charges for attempted murder. Williams attempts to bluff his way out of the charge, but the actor, seeing Superman watching, decides to confess.

My rating: 7/10

This is a reasonably exciting tale, although part of me wishes that Williams was less of a criminal and more of an opportunist. I kind of wanted to see him attempt to bluff that his Superman was the real one and get shown up. Oh well.

Superman crime watch: Hmm. He doesn't really commit any crimes here, other than intimidating his doppelganger at the police station.

Lois character watch: Lois is her usual charming self, manipulating and then drugging Clark (hey, anything is excusable to get that scoop, right?). She's also dumb enough to expose the two crooks and then expect to walk away unmolested when she could have simply written her story the next day and exposed them there. This pretty much sets up a pattern for much of her existence--you can respect her for being tough and doing what it takes to get her story, but she also puts herself at risk frequently when she doesn't have to.

Did Clark see Lois drug his drink or could he taste the drug? Since it wouldn't affect him I would think it would be one of the other.

He drank the drug and tasted it, but I don't think he saw Lois put it into his drink.

It's a good story but I'll grant you not Lois' finest hour.  

I wonder if it is a commentary on the many imitations that sprung up at other comic companies.

Had imitations started that early?

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

It's a good story but I'll grant you not Lois' finest hour.  

I wonder if it is a commentary on the many imitations that sprung up at other comic companies.

Action Comics #7 - "Superman!"
Published: December 1938
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Artist: Joe Shuster

At the Daily Star, one of Clark Kent's coworkers, Curly (an ancestor of Steve Lombard perhaps), is making fun of Kent's meekness. He plays a trick on Kent by pulling out his tie, knowing that Clark won't do anything. After he enjoys his trick, he decides to do it again, and even Lois is annoyed by his bullying of Clark.

Lois tells Clark that his editor wants to see him in his office right away. Clark's editor tells him that Jordan's circus is opening in town and that he thinks it would be a great idea to get an interview with the owner. Clark agrees to do it.

When Clark arrives at the circus, he overhears the owner having an argument with another man. The man apparently wants to buy in to the circus, but the owner doesn't want him as a partner. The man--apparently the owner's creditor--tells the owner that he doesn't have a choice as the debts are coming due, so he can either take him on a a partner or lose everything. The owner tells the man--one Derek Niles--that if he takes him on as a partner that he will lose everything including his self respect. Niles then tells the owner that if he's planning on raising the money through performances that he's got no chance, as audiences are staying away. Niles then leaves, bumping into Clark on the way out.

The owner realizes that Niles is right and despairs, having no idea how he can raise the money. Clark enters to do his interview. The owner--Jordan--does his best to publicize the circus and how great it is. He also tells Kent that he's hired hundreds of additional workers to handle the overflow crowds he's expecting. Clark leaves, lamenting Jordan's bravery in the face of such overwhelming odds.

The circus opens it's first show, but very few people show up to see it. However, Clark Kent is in the audience, and he decides that the circus needs Superman's help.

That evening, Superman approaches the circus to talk to Jordan. Jordan mistakes him for a burglar. He grabs a gun and shoots Superman, with the bullets bouncing off his body. Superman takes the gun and crushes it in his bare hands. Superman then tells Jordan that he wants a job with his circus. When Jordan complains that he already has a strongman, Superman tells him to step outside. He then lifts Jordan's wagon over his head, tosses it across the midway, then kicks it over the horizon. Since he's now lost his office and sleeping quarters, Jordan hires Superman. He tells him that he can't afford to pay him, but Superman then tells Jordan that he is Superman, and that he'll be a great attraction. Jordan has heard of Superman and finally gets excited. The next day, posters go up all over town telling people that Superman will be performing at the circus.

At Niles' office, one of his men bursts in and tells Niles the news. He's not sure what to make of it, so he plans to go and see what's going on. We also see that Lois is extremely excited and plans to attend as well.

At the circus, the crowds are huge. Niles isn't very happy either. Jordan can't believe his good fortune.

The show starts, but he crowd is unimpressed. They want to see Superman. There's such a clamor that they interrupt the show to bring Superman on. Lois shivers with anticipation.

A strong man shows up and starts doing feats of strength. The crowd is livid, thinking they've been swindled. However, above the crowd is Superman, leaping towards a trapeze. He misses the trapeze but easily lands safely on the ground, thrilling the crowd. Superman proceeds to put on a great show to the glee of the crowd.

Niles leaves the circus flustered and needing some place to think. He realizes that at this rate, Jordan will be able to pay off his debts in no time. His man asks if he has any ideas, and Niles suggests that if accidents started happening around the circus, people would start staying away thinking the circus was jinxed.

Lois goes to see Superman after the show, but is turned away as Superman isn't seeing anyone. Since this is Lois Lane, however, she won't take no for an answer. She decides to hide on the circus grounds overnight so she can catch Superman the next day.

Lois sneaks into the big top at the end of the night, but spots a prowler. It's one of Niles' men, cutting through one of the tent supports. He spots Lois and captures her. One of the circuses' watchdogs catches the man, but the dog is kicked unconscious (boo!). He then hauls Lois away--he knows that she's seen his face and can identify him.

He takes Lois to Niles' office. She comes to tied up. Niles tells his man, Trigger, that it was a mistake to bring Lois here as now he has to get rid of her. He tells Trigger to go back tot he circus and report back to him as the accidents begin to occur.

Back at the circus, Trigger seats himself for an easy getaway as the first 'accident' happens--one of the lions escapes it's cage. However, Superman swiftly catches the lion, overpowers it and puts it back in it's cage.  

Shortly thereafter, one of the trapezes breaks mid-performance, but before the trapeze artist falls to her death, Superman saves her. Next, the tent pole begins to sway, but Superman is able to repair the damage and protect the crowd.

Superman then notices the watchdog barking furiously at Trigger. He then confronts Trigger and asks him what he knows about the 'accidents' that have been happening. Trigger won't say anything, so Superman tosses him up in the air and catches him on the way down. He repeats the process until Trigger is ready to talk. He tells Superman that Niles hired him and that he plans to kill a girl reporter.

Superman rushes to Niles' office in the nick of time to save Lois. Niles tries to shoot superman, but when he sees the bullets bounce off his body, he faints. Lois wants to thank Superman, but he's already left. The circus is able to pay it's debts.

Back at the office,Curly torments Clark again. Clark decides he's had enough, and Curly later finds all of his clothes pulled off faster than he can move much to the enjoyment of the others in the office.

My rating: 6/10

This isn't a bad story, except for one thing--we never really figure out why Niles wants the circus in the first place. Usually with stories like this, we find that the circus is a great way to smuggle something or has some similar usefulness for crime, but here it's just "Niles gotta have it.". Even if Niles was just looking for a business for money laundering purposes, there had to be easier ones with more agreeable owners.

Lois watch: Lois doesn't come off badly here at all, at least in comparison. She shows some compassion for Clark while he's being tormented by Curly. She does make her usual boneheaded decision to sneak into the circus after hours (I was quite amused by her pronunciation of "oh, a prowler" when she runs into Trigger given that she was as much an interloper as he was), but she's not too bad. It's also amusing to see her complete and utter adoration of Superman as she gets incredibly giddy from his appearances in this story.

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