Action Comics #8 - "Superman!"
Published: January 1939
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Artist: Joe Shuster
We open in juvenile court, as one Frankie Marello attempts to defend himself from a charge of assault and battery. The judge is about to sentence him when Frankie's mother intervenes, making a plea on her son's behalf, saying that his environment is why he's so tough, but that with a second chance he'd have an opportunity to overcome his upbringing. Clark Kent is in the courtroom, and while he agrees with the mother, he suspects the judge will not be forgiving.
Frankie's gang are also watching as the judge sentences Frankie to two years in the boys' reformatory. Frankie's gang blames someone named Gimpy, and plan to meet that evening to discuss what to do. Kent overhears them talking and decides to investigate as Superman.
Later that evening, Superman listens in on the boys' meeting. Apparently Gimpy is their fence and promised that he'd protect them if anything ever happened, and now that he didn't help Frankie, they're pretty ticked off. They decide to go and visit Gimpy.
They head over to Gimpy's junk shop where he's working that night. The boys burst in on Gimpy counting money, and ask him why he didn't spend some of it on a lawyer for Frankie. He tells them that business has been bad, but the boys are not going to be dissuaded. One of them grabs a heavy wrench from a nearby table. Thinking desperately, Gimpy hands each boy a slip of paper with an address on it--each address is a place where they can make a huge score that evening. The boys take the slips and head off to do the crimes.
After the boys leave, Gimpy calls up the police to tip them off to the burglaries, in order to get rid of them. However, Superman interrupts Gimpy during the call, hanging up the phone. Superman roughs Gimpy up a bit, then tells him he has one hour to get out of town. Gimpy agrees to leave.
Superman then races off to save the boys from the police. One of them is interrupted by the police, but Superman snatches him away. The two of them go to save the next boy, but he's already been caught. Superman chases down the prisoner transport and lifts up the back, causing it to stop moving. He then frees the boy from the back (aiding and abetting), then takes both boys to rescue the others.
Superman catches the next boy in the act of stealing silverware from someone's home. He returns the silverware and takes the boy with him. Finally he stops the last boy before he can complete breaking and entering into another house.
Superman takes the boys back to the tenements and tells them he wants to talk with them. He explains to them how Gimpy has been taking advantage of them the whole time, and that Gimpy was the one who tipped off the cops to their evening burglaries. The boys get angry and decide they want to do something about Gimpy that very moment.
Gimpy has been listening in to their conversation, and he's armed with a rifle. He begins shooting at the boys. Superman stops the bullets. He then grabs Gimpy and tosses him into the river.
One of the boys sneaks up behind Superman and hits him in the head with a wrench, but it has no effect. Superman then gathers the boys and tells them he's going to put a little fear into them. He leaps up to the telephone wires and does a balancing act while holding the boys, pretending to lose his balance several times. He then leaps high into the air with them before bringing them back down to the ground. Then he asks the boys if they want to do that again. Being teenage kids, of course they tell him yes, because it was fun.
Superman relents, and the boys tell him they want to be just like him. Superman wishes there was more he could do for the boys, ad he feels it's their environment that's making them turn out this way. He then overhears a newsboy shouting about a cyclone that's wrecked several communities and left many homeless, and that the government would rebuild quickly. This gives him an idea.
Superman has the boys run around to the various tenements and tell those living there to vacate their homes and take all of their valuables. After they've left, Superman destroys the tenements )destruction of private property).
As the residents flee, they tell the police that a maniac is destroying their neighborhood. The army infantry rushes in to intervene, but are unable to stop Superman. A squadron of bombers comes through next and does much of Superman's work for him.
Superman leaves, and sure enough, the government builds new low income housing in the area. Later, Clark Kent interviews the chief of police, who tells him that they're trying to apprehend Superman, but secretly they're glad he did what he did.
My rating: 3/10
Ah, now here we have the "mad lunatic" Superman that I remember. I can certainly appreciate what Siegel and Shuster were going for here, but this story is almost as bad as All-Star Batman and Rogin the Boy Wonder.
I'm not going to get into the argument as to why the kids are delinquents, but rather deal with the story elements as presented. These kids are pretty much hardened criminals as this story begins and not much happens to change that. They still assault Superman even after he saves them from Gimpy and other than lip service it's hard to say that they've changed at all. Speaking of Gimpy, I'm amazed that he survived being tossed into the river, and that Superman didn't at least restrain him for the police at some point.
Then of course, there's Superman's efforts at "urban renewal" which are also pretty ridiculous when you get right down to it. You can understand his reasoning, but it leaves a large number of people homeless for a lengthy period of time (I'm sure those high-rises didn't spring up overnight), not to mention that it didn't really fix the problem of the neighborhood being economically disadvantaged or the inhabitants not having the wherewithal to change the situation.
I could forgive all of this if the story was a little more fun, but it's really pretty mediocre in it's execution. The excitement of previous issues just isn't there.
Anyway, sure this is what I expect from Siegel/Shuster Superman, and it's well meaning, but the story just doesn't hold water.