Deck Log Entry # 174 The Silver-Age Challenge---So You Think You Know the Man of Steel? Answers!

Pencils down!

 

This is exactly the way I like one of my quizzes to play out.  Everyone who took a shot at it did respectably well, either by getting the right answers to most of the list, or by being the first to nail one of the trickier posers.  Between the lot of you, nine out of the ten questions were answered correctly.  Yes, just like last time, there was one that got away from everybody. 

 

If there’s one thing I have to start taking to heart in preparing these brain-teasers, it’s not to underestimate Philip Portelli.  I barely had the thing posted, and he chimed in with six correct responses and four that were oh-so-close.  (Something unusual for him, he stepped into the one trap I had laid.)  At first glance, I thought that this quiz was over before it had barely begun.

 

My good pal, the Silver-Age Fogey, chimed in with five correct answers.  But---and I think this is maybe the first time this has happened---neither Philip or Eric is the top scorer.  That honour belongs to Fraser Sherman, who tallied seven correct out of ten, including one answer which had eluded everyone else.  So, Mr. Sherman, the bragging rights are yours, sir.

 

Time to check your work.  I’ll save the one that wasn't answered for last.  Not just to prolong the drama, but because I think you'll find the details interesting.

 

 

 

1.  Why did Clark (Superman) Kent most commonly wear a blue suit?

 

Everybody got this one right.  I figured it was the easiest question of the bunch, but I didn’t expect it to be that well known.

 

The teen-age Clark didn’t always wear a red sweater, nor did his grown-up self have nothing but blue suits in his closet, but that’s the way they were presented most often.  Richard Willis offered that a blue-and-red color scheme was used for Clark Kent’s clothing as a visual aid to key the very young readers that Kent was Superman, and he was probably spot-on about that.

 

In any event, it was one of those things which older fans began to write in asking about.  Much of Superman editor Mort Weisinger’s mail was from readers asking the same questions over and over, again.  Especially as the Superman mythos became increasingly more detailed.

 

Mort’s solution to answering the same questions repeatedly was to run various text pieces from time to time, explaining the finer points of Superman lore.  Weisinger’s eighty-page Giant Annuals were full of them, explaining everything from Krypto’s family tree to the secrets of Jimmy Olsen’s signal-watch.

 

It was young Clark Kent’s penchant for red sweaters that was first addressed.  The reason for them appeared as an item in the two-page text piece, “The Superboy Legend”, which was initially published in Superboy # 113 (Jun., 1964).

 

Eventually, a fuller explanation was provided, accounting for the adult Clark Kent’s blue suits and white shirts.  This appeared in Superman (Giant Annual) # 197 (Jun.-Jul., 1967), but you can read it for yourself here:

 

 

2.  Who was the featured villain in the only Brave and the Bold story in which Superman appeared after the title adopted a team-up format?

 

Over its twenty-eight-year publishing run, The Brave and the Bold underwent a few changes in format, but it’s most popularly remembered for pairing two DC heroes in a joint adventure.  In the wake of “Batmania”, B&B became a de facto “bat-title”, when the Caped Crusader became its permanent star, beginning with issue # 74 (Oct.-Nov., 1967).

 

Notoriously, DC’s most popular hero never took a turn as a co-star, either teaming up with his bat-buddy, or in the early days of the format, when both heroes were chosen arbitrarily.

 

Yet, Superman did sneak one Silver-Age appearance in the title---as a supporting character.  He served as the catalyst which eventually brought his cousin, Supergirl, and that Amazing Amazon, Wonder Woman, together for the first time, in the story, “The Revolt of the Super-Chicks”, from B&B # 63 (Dec., 1965-Jan., 1966).

 

But it wasn’t obscure enough to stump either Philip or the Fogey.  They both knew the villain of the piece was . . . Multi-Face!

 

 

3.  Who was the first character in a Silver-Age story to mention the Superman of Earth-Two?

 

When DC’s Golden-Age heroes were resurrected on Earth-Two, with the landmark “Flash of Two Worlds”, from The Flash # 123 (Sep., 1961), editor Julius Schwartz was reluctant to make any reference to Superman and Batman.  The obvious rationale for that is the fact that Superman and Batman had not ended their publishing runs, as did other heroes, whom Schwartz had revived as new characters.  There were no “different” versions of Superman and Batman; they had run continuously since the late thirties.  Thus, following that logic, the argument would be that Schwartz was afraid presenting an Earth-Two World’s Finest Team would confuse the readers with two Supermen and two Batmen whom were virtually identical.

 

The problem with that line of thinking is the same circumstances applied to Wonder Woman---she had been published continuously since the Golden Age and there was no dramatically different Silver-Age version of her.  Yet, she had been one of the first Golden-Age stars that Julie Schwartz had shown on Earth-Two---in “Vengeance of the Immortal Villain”, from The Flash # 137 (Jun., 1963).  Evidently, Schwartz wasn’t concerned about the fans being confused by virtually identical Amazon Princesses on both Earths.

 

I suspect the major reason why Schwartz was unwilling to go near the idea of a Superman and Batman on Earth-Two was it meant crossing the editorial fiefdoms of Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff.  It was their proprietary attitude that had minimised the World Finest Team’s participation in Justice League of America for its first two years.

 

The existence of an Earth-Two Batman was shown for the first time in “The Strange Death of Batman”, from Detective Comics # 347 (Jan., 1966).  But it was a bit of a cheat; the Earth-Two Caped Crusader appeared in an alternate ending to the story, imagined by Gardner Fox.  It didn’t “really” happen.  Notably, this story appeared after Julius Schwartz replaced Jack Schiff on the title.

 

Imaginary Tale or not, that appearance of the Batman of Earth-Two opened the door for the admission of his now-adult partner, Robin, into the Justice Society of America.  This took place in the first half of the annual Justice League/Society cross-over---JLA # 55 (Aug., 1967).  At his induction, the now-grown-up Boy Wonder mentioned that his senior partner was “semi-retired”.  A reference to the Earth-Two Batman could be expected, but writer Gardner Fox took readers by surprise with the first Silver-Age acknowledgement that a Superman existed on Earth-Two.  This came when Robin and Wildcat did battle with the criminally irradiated Marty Baxter, a.k.a. the Smashing Sportsman, as Philip and Mr. Sherman both knew.

 

  

4.  On what television series did Clark Kent fill in as guest host because of his resemblance to its star?

 

Now, I knew if I had asked the question this way---“What celebrity did Clark Kent fill in for as a guest host?”---it wasn’t likely to stump anyone; simply running it through Google would produce “Steve Allen”.  Besides, I knew those of you “of a certain age”, like myself, would know that, already.  So I got a little devious.  I didn’t ask for the name of the star; I asked for the name of the series on which Kent substituted as host.

 

It’s a sneaky question because the story in which Clark Kent filled in for Steve Allen was “The ‘Superman-Lois’ Hit Record”, from Lois Lane # 45 (Nov., 1963), which hit the stands in the last week of September, 1963.  And I knew that the folks who did remember Steve Allen mostly remembered him from his time as the host of NBC’s Tonight show.

 

However, Steve’s stint as Tonight host ended in January, 1957---over five years before “The ‘Superman-Lois’ Hit Record” saw print.

 

What was running at the time Lois Lane # 45 sat on the spinner racks was The Steve Allen Show, which had aired since 1956 over different venues (NBC, 1956-60; ABC, 1961; syndication, 1962-4).  Thus, Clark Kent was filling in for Steve not as host of the Tonight show, but as the star of Allen’s own show.

 

And, just in case someone tries to pull one out of left field by arguing, “Well, maybe on Earth-One, Steve Allen was still hosting the Tonight show in 1963,” nice try, but that’s all.  In the panel immediately before Kent’s appearance on stage, we see Perry White assigning Lois to cover The Steve Allen Show, by name.

 

Philip, alas, walked right into the snare.  But Don Mankowski caught the right time-frame and was the first to give the proper answer.

 

 

 

5.  Superman once ran for the office of United States Senator from the state in which Metropolis was located.  Why was the Man of Steel disqualified from the race?

 

Many of you seemed to know the story which contained the answer to this question.  It was “Lois Lane’s Anti-Superman Campaign”, from Lois Lane # 62 (Jan., 1966).  I first mentioned this tale almost three years ago, in my Deck Log Entry on temporary Daily Planet editor Van Benson.  (Nice to know you guys pay attention.)  But interestingly, only one of you was able to give me the reason the story insisted that Superman was ineligible to serve as a United States Senator from the state in which Metropolis was located.

 

Lois Lane, who was running for the same seat, was also disqualified.  In her case, it was because she was under the age of thirty.  Per the U.S. Constitution, one must have “attained to the age of thirty years” in order to serve as a senator.  But, as Fraser Sherman knew, the Man of Steel was ineligible because he failed to meet a state requirement to serve---the candidate must have been born in the state, which Superman plainly had not been.

 

Oh, and yes, Mr. Mankowski, Perry White was, indeed, appointed to fill the seat until a special election could be held.

 

 

 

6.  Name the team of crime-fighters in which Superman was not only a member, but he was appointed its permanent chairman.

 

This one wasn’t as obscure as I’d thought it would be.  Philip, Mr. Sherman, and the Fogey all knew it right off.

 

In World’s Finest Comics # 89 (Jul.-Aug., 1957), most of “the Batmen of All Nations”---the Musketeer, the Knight and the Squire, the Legionary, and the Gaucho---reunited with Batman and, joined by Superman, established “The Club of Heroes”.

 

Despite his best efforts to let someone else have the honour, Superman was named, by the acclamation of the other members, as the club’s permanent chairman. 

 

“Permanent” being a relative term, as the Club of Heroes was never seen, again.

 

 

 

8.  Unlike other articles from Krypton, green kryptonite did not become indestructible under the rays of a yellow sun.  So why didn't green-k meteors burn up in Earth’s atmosphere before reaching the ground?

 

This one didn’t give anyone a problem, either.  Everyone who participated got it right.  As originally related in “The Curse of Kryptonite”, from Superman # 130 (Jul., 1959), kryptonite cannot chemically combine with oxygen, thus making it immune to friction heat.  This detail was iterated in “Hercules in the 20th Century”, from Action Comics # 267 (Aug., 1960).  It became the first of three reasons provided in the Superman mythos for why so much kryptonite landed on Earth.

 

Kryptonite’s resistance to friction heat was added to Weisinger’s “Superman Legend” text piece when it was reprinted in Superman # 225 (Apr., 1970).

 

 

 

9.  If you want to find it, go to 28 degrees North latitude/50 degrees West longitude.  What did Superman put there?

 

It was his answer to this question that bumped Mr. Sherman up to the top-scorer spot.  He reëvaluated his response and realised that the coördinates I provided were not to the location of his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic.  Rather, they marked a point smack-dab in the middle of the Sargasso Sea, which he remembered was the site of the Man of Steel’s short-lived underwater Fortress.

 

In “The Super-Merman of the Sea”, from Action Comics # 244 (Sep., 1958), Superman constructs a new Fortress under the ocean, as part of a hoax to prevent two mer-people from outer space from melting the polar icecaps and flooding the Earth.  At the successful conclusion to the adventure, the undersea Fortress was promptly forgotten, as most plot devices usually are.

 

That is, until “Superman’s Day of Truth”, from Superman # 176 (Apr., 1965).  The events of this tale occur on a day when Kryptonian tradition requires that the Man of Steel speak nothing but the truth.  While testifying in court as a witness in a criminal trial (where you'd expect he'd be telling the truth, anyway), Superman is asked by the defence attorney to provide the location of his Fortress of Solitude.

 

Without hesitation, the Metropolis Marvel replies, “You’ll find my Fortress at 28° North latitude, 50° West longitude!”

 

At the end of the story, we learn that Superman wasn’t quite as cavalier about revealing one of his closest secrets as it seemed . . . .

 

 

 

10.  What gift did Superman give to his good friend, the Batman, to commemorate their one-thousandth case together?

 

Philip and Mr. Sherman nailed this one so fast that it made me think that I should have asked what the Man of Steel gave the Gotham Gangbuster for their nine-hundred-ninety-ninth case, instead.  (And, yes, that was shown, too.)

 

This banner event occurs in “Exit Batman---Enter Nightman”, from World’s Finest Comics # 155 (Feb., 1966).  When the tally shows their next adventure will be their one-thousandth case as a team, Superman decides to honour  the Batman, as his good friend and partner.  Leave it to Superman to do things up in a big way.  Instead of presenting his best bud with a gold watch or a plaque, the Man of Steel hands him a mystery to solve, one that will be “a supreme challenge to his genius!”

 

When a new costumed hero, Nightman, appears in Gotham City and upstages the Batman on a critical case, the Masked Manhunter contemplates hanging up his cape and cowl.  Instead, Superman persuades him to uncover Nightman’s true identity.  Batman accepts the challenge, unaware that the secret of Nightman’s identity has been cunningly concealed by his super-pal.

 

But, as the Man of Steel discovers, they don’t call Batman “the World’s Greatest Detective” for nothing.

 

 

 

And that brings us to the one question which had everyone scratching his head . . . .

 

7.  According to DC, what was Superman’s age?

 

All of you were aware that Superman is now considered perpetually twenty-nine years of age, as established in Superboy # 171 (Jan., 1971).  But you also realised that the cover-date of Superboy # 171 fell outside the parameters I set down for a correct Silver-Age answer.

 

So, O.K., you have to toss “twenty-nine” out as a correct response---or do you?  In its stories, DC had always played it kind of loose on the subject of Superman’s age.  There were hints from time to time.  Perhaps, “indications” would be a better term.  Such as---remember the story that provided the answer to question number five above?---“Lois Lane’s Anti-Superman Campaign” 

 

That story insisted that Lois Lane was ineligible to serve as a U.S. senator because she had not yet reached the Constitutionally-prescribed age of thirty.  But they came up with a different reason to disqualify Superman, and that reason was a bit of a stretch.  If DC had intended for Superman to be twenty-nine, the story simply could have disqualified both Lois and the Man of Steel for not being thirty years old.

 

Something more direct, but still not very specific, could be found in “Clark Kent’s Great Superman Hunt”, from Superman # 180 (Oct., 1965), when Clark alludes that Superman is “over thirty years of age.”

 

In fact, most of you guessed “over thirty” or “in his thirties”.   Philip and Richard Willis were brave enough to go with specific ages---“thirty-five” and “thirty”, respectively.  Unfortunately, their courage was not rewarded, since neither answer is correct.

 

But the Silver-Age DC did provide a specific age for its most popular character.

 

You just wouldn’t have found it in a story.

 

As I mentioned ‘way back in the answer to question number one, Mort Weisinger hated answering the same fan questions repeatedly.  But informative text pages weren’t his only means of dealing with the same nagging queries.  Early in his tenure as Superman editor, Mort created a form letter to send to eager letter-writers.  It served as an early version of a F.A.Q., addressing the questions he most often received:  What are the various kinds of kryptonite?  Who are the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes?  What does “DC” stand for?  How do I get my letter printed?  How do I subscribe to your magazines?  How do I become a writer or an artist for your comics?  And a wealth of other subjects.

 

In fact, the amount and range of material that Mort managed to address in a single two-sided letter is impressive.

 

But perhaps more impressive is the fact that, in one of the middle sections, Weisinger was willing to provide reasonably specific ages for his main cast---as you can see in the excerpted version of the letter below.

 

 

 

So, if you had written to one of the Superman titles back in the Silver Age and received Mort’s form letter in reply, then you would have known that Superman was . . . “about 32.”

 

You guys can go out and win some bar bets, now!

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You know, I never thought about it until just this second, but  Lana Lang would have to be a couple of years older than Lois Lane!

I always assumed Lois was at least a few years younger than Superman, probably from stories like "Lois Lane's Anti-Superman Campaign." And I always assumed Lois and Lana were the same age, which was sort-of a genre requirement (Betty & Veronica, Gwen Stacy & MJ Watson, etc.), and that would also put them on equal footing in their pursuit of Superman. And, clearly for the letter above, Weisinger and DC considered the girls the same age.

But it just occurred to me: Whenever we see Clark Kent in class in high school, we generally see Lana Lang. Which means they're probably in the same grade, which means they're the same age, or close to it. Possibly Lana was a class back, so there would only be one year in which they weren't hanging out together, so all of the Lana-Clark high school stories must be compressed into two years. It seems unlikely Lana was two classes back, which would compress all those stories into one year -- and leave Lana in high school for the first two years of Clark's college years at Metropolis U. That seems unlikely for a variety of reasons, not the least of which we never saw that scenario.

One possibility leaps to mind: Lana was so smart she was jumped ahead a couple of grades, and therefore went to school contemporaneously with the young Boy of Steel, while being two years younger. Of course, that doesn't explain stories where baby Lana and baby Clark are roughly the same size, or how mature Lana looks in high school. But maybe that's just one of those impossible things I have to cheerfully accept before I crack the cover of a Silver Age Superman book!

I know that Weisinger essentially puts Lois and Lana at the same age above, but how does that square with Lana's Smallville appearances as an age-appropriate contemporary of Clark Kent? Is there any other evidence to consider, Commander?

For that matter, I always thought that Lois was at least a year or so older than Clark--after all, she was already well established at the Daily Planet when he first applied for a job there, and that was at a time when it had to be harder for a woman to work her way up the ranks than a man.  Of course, Jimmy Olsen was a mere "cub reporter" for decades, so I don't know what to make of the Planet's career paths.

As for Lois Lane's age, I distinctly recall a house ad -- back when they were running house ads on the lower third of a page, with the upper two-thirds devoted to the story -- that specifically stated Lois Lane was 23.

Her age is given as 22 in the one for Lois Lane #1 reproduced here.

This issue had Clark, Lana and Lois in high school at the same time.



Philip Portelli said:

This issue had Clark, Lana and Lois in high school at the same time.

 

Actually, it didn't.  I just re-read the story twice, and neither Clark nor Lana are shown attending school.  (In fact, Superboy doesn't appear as Clark Kent in the tale, at all.)  The teen-age Lois is shown attending Pittsdale High School, in "an advanced class for bright students.".

Given the publication date of Superboy #90, it's safe to assume (and yes, I know about the response to that!) that both Clark and Lana were still in high school.


Philip Portelli said:

Given the publication date of Superboy #90, it's safe to assume (and yes, I know about the response to that!) that both Clark and Lana were still in high school.

Ah, I get what you were driving at, now.  (I had taken your comment to mean that all three of them had been shown in the same class or something.)

The thing is---high school has a range of four years, from the ninth to the twelfth grades.  More than enough to account for Clark being a year or two older than Lana or Lois.  The problem, as Cap pointed out, is reconciling some of the other scenes showing Clark and Lana in the same class.

But it's not necessarily insoluable.  In fact, I'm going back through the old Superboy stories now to see if they'll conform to a possible explanation.

I have a vague idea there was another teen Lana and Lois story, in which Lois did come to Smallville, but I might be mistaken.


Luke Blanchard said:

I have a vague idea there was another teen Lana and Lois story, in which Lois did come to Smallville, but I might be mistaken.

Nope, you're not mistaken at all. The story that's rattling around in back of your mind is probably "Superboy Meets Lois Lane", from Adventure Comics # 261 (Jun., 1959).  In this tale, teen-agers Lana Lang and Lois Lane chance to attend the same summer camp, Camp Hiawatha, near Smallville. (Even though Camp Hiawatha isn't anywhere near Pittsdale, Lois chose the camp because of its nearness to Smallville; she was hoping for a chance to meet Superboy.)  It was sort of a Junior Miss version of the usual secret-identity snooping and "Which one of us does he prefer?" Lois/Lana plots.

And for completeness' sake, I'll throw in "Lois Lane's Plot Against Lana Lang", from Lois Lane # 50 (Jul., 1964), in which an adult Lois "borrows" a time machine invented by Professor Potter and travels back to Smallville during Superboy's time.  Her purpose:  to interrupt the relationship between Lana and the Boy of Steel before any romantic notions can blossom.

Lois fails to sabotage Lana's relationship with Superboy as miserably as Lana failed to prevent Superman's romance with Lois in Superboy # 90.

Thanks, Commander. I don't think I've read those, though. I think I have read the Superboy #90 story.

Commander, you thought that I thought that Clark, Lana AND Lois went to the SAME high school???

Me????

You sure know how to hurt a guy!

*sob*

;-)

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