Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lois Lane #13

This is a classic example of Weisinger's puzzle covers. The idea was to present a startling situation on the cover, with the hope that the kids would be compelled to pick up the comic and leaf through it to find out what shocking secret had compelled Lois to wear a lead mask. Weisinger knew through focus-group type studies that he had done that kids who actually picked up a comic and flipped through it were much more likely to purchase that actual issue, and thus his goal was to get them to grab the issue off the spinner rack.

The first story features a visit to Lois' hometown of Pittsdale. The local newspaper, where she got her start as a reporter, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Perry kindly gives her the weekend off, but when she checks for a flight, she finds that the Metropolis Airport is all fogged in. Fortunately Superman takes pity on her and flies her back to Pittsdale. He agrees to stay the weekend:

Pop Lane realizes what a great son-in-law Superman would make when the Man of Steel helps out with some of the chores:

But when he pitches the idea, Superman demurs with the usual, "She'd make a wonderful wife, but my enemies would attack me through her," line. Unfortunately, a local snoop heard only the first part of the conversation and the rumor that Superman and Lois are getting married spreads like wildfire. And, as must happen in all comedies, it is decided that it would be too embarrassing to admit the truth, and thus they pretend to be ready to go through with it. Lois gets a visit from a former beau:

Yes, I am sure that Hector was once a hunk, before he started wearing the Joker's outfit. Pop Lane is generous to a fault:

But just as it looks like the wedding is inevitable:

Remember, Superman had to leave at six to photograph those stars, so the wedding has to be called off until the next time they're back in Pittsdale.

Comments: An extremely silly, slapstick story, that mines a lot of the same ground used for the rural comedies at CBS (Andy Griffith, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction) in the 1960s, although this November 1959 issue actually predates those shows.

Next up is Alias Lois Lane. Lois visits a western US town with the intent of getting a photograph of a TV star who's on his honeymoon. She dyes her hair blond to disguise herself, but a couple of crooks realize she's the spitting image of the famed girl reporter;

They blackmail her into helping them out (although she really goes along with their plot to get a scoop). Of course, they want her to imitate Lois Lane, but while her appearance is successful, she's nowhere near as smart or sophisticated as the genuine article:

But through effort, they teach her to recognize Lois' friends and to mimic her voice:

Hmmm, anybody hearing echoes of, "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,"?

But she enjoys ticking them off by getting things wrong, to the point where they're ready to give up hope. But then she manages to get saved by Superman:

Yep, it seems pretty obvious that an inspiration for this story was My Fair Lady, as one of the key songs in that Broadway play (and later movie) was "She Did It!" at any rate, the crooks now reveal their plot; they will have Lois photograph Superman with a special camera that contains Kryptonite, letting them steal a valuable mouse. Mouse? Superman explains:

As I have discussed before, animals being shot into space was a hot topic around then.

Comments: Cute take-off on the My Fair Lady theme. One interesting note: In both this story and the previous one, the pretext for the initial situation gets ignored the moment the real plot is introduced. Remember, Lois went back to Pittsdale for the 100th anniversary of her newspaper, but that never comes up once they get to the Lane family farm. Ditto with this tale, in which Lois never gets the photograph of the TV star and his blushing bride.

The finale is the cover tale, and it reveals the downside of puzzle covers; the story they represent is often wacky and filled with incredible coincidences. So it is with this tale, which starts out with Superman saving Lois and expressing exasperation with her curious nature:

The next day he spots her car crashed into a tree and rushes to the Daily Planet to see if she's okay:

He suspects that she was badly disfigured in the car crash, but that turns out to be wrong. Instead, Lois had attended a nightclub the evening before, where she watched a magic act:

And sure enough the first two people who see Lois the next day react oddly. When she looks into a lake:

She wraps herself in bandages, but realize this will not conceal her from Superman, so eventually she gets a welder to fashion the lead mask. Yet when Superman later removes the mask, it turns out her face is perfectly normal; all the magician had done was to plant a hypnotic suggestion in her mind that she would look like a cat the next day. But what about the people who reacted so strangely to her?

Comments: Clearly one of those stories where Weisinger came up with the cover idea and then assigned his writer the chore of creating a story where it happened. Incidentally, Lois got the head of a cat in another story appearing in Jimmy Olsen #66 a few years later.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dynamo #1

In addition to launching the THUNDER Agents as a group, Tower also published a few solo books for Dynamo (four issues) and NoMan (two issues).

This one starts out with a Wally Wood-illustrated story. Somebody is bombing radar installations and space observatories. We can rule out the commies:

So it appears to be coming from space. They decide to send NoMan on a one-way trip to the moon, as he can always beam his mind back to another android body on earth. This is an imaginative use for NoMan's powers. They've even planned for the possibility of the rocket crashing early:

However, he does not report back immediately, and so Dynamo volunteers to go on a second rocket:

Just after he blasts off, NoMan returns. He radios Dynamo to land on the light side of the moon, as the dark side is crawling with aliens. However, even on the exposed side there's a welcoming committee:

Using his strength, he hurls a boulder at the alien ship. When robotic tanks arrive, he hops into one of them and gets a ride to the alien HQ. But he is captured and imprisoned in a glass tank without a helmet, so he can't escape. But NoMan pops back up to his android body that is already on the moon and gives him a helmet. Dynamo defeats the aliens and rides back to earth on one of their flying saucers.

Comments: An entertaining story featuring good use of the NoMan character.

The second story is A Day in the Life of Dynamo, drawn by Mike Sekowsky. Len Brown wakes up and decides to ask for a raise due to all the risks he's taking as Dynamo. His boss sends him via a teleporter to Hong Kong, where the local THUNDER office turns out to have been taken over by a communist hero:

The reds have planned this so that Dynamo will be unable to prevent a giant robot from running amok in New York City. But then some apparent THUNDER Agents come up through the floor and chase off the communists. Unfortunately for Dynamo, they're not really with his group:

They have an old acquaintance of his with them:

But when she learns that the Subterraneans' plan is to start a global thermonuclear war, the Iron Maiden frees him. She sends him back to New York via a missile, and he defeats the robot to save the city.
Here's a little cultural reference that non-Boomer readers might miss:

In the 1950s and 1960s, "Made in Japan" meant that the product was shoddy and of inferior workmanship. Of course, ironically in the intervening years it became synonymous with high quality and dependability.

But he gets little respect from his boss:

Comments: Clearly intended to be an off-beat tale. Len never does ask his boss for that raise.

We get a super-villain team-up by Crandall and Wood in the next story, as Demo and Dr Sparta meet:

Dr Sparta's assistant has an interesting way of springing them from jail:

The villains manage to send Dynamo to a valley that time forgot, with cavemen and dinosaurs. But he convinces the cavemen that he's a legitimate god with the strength he gets from his belt and they show him the way out of the valley to where Demo and Dr Sparta are.
Comments: Solid, entertaining story and Crandall and Wood work well together.

The fourth story came as a bit of a surprise. Here's the splash:

I have to admit, I was unaware that Ditko worked for Tower. What a treat the art is in this story! We learn that 20 years earlier, the Subterraneans had captured a human orphan, and raised it to have incredible strength and mental abilities:

But despite his supposed cold-hearted nature, he reacts instinctively to save a young woman:

Who just happens to be a THUNDER agent, getting him into the headquarters, where he attacks Dynamo:

And Dynamo looks doomed until:

Andor returns to the Subterraneans, where he kills the scientist responsible for raising him.

Comments: Beautiful art and an entertaining story. There are hints that Andor might return, but if he did, it was not during the 1960s run, according to the GCD. Correction: As pointed out in the comments by Earth-Two, Andor does return in Thunder Agents #9 in a Lightning story. Discussion here.

The final story is another offbeat tale about Weed, a THUNDER agent with no special powers. He senses this is causing him trouble with the ladies:

Fortunately for him, it's an urgent call requiring the services of Lightning, who was just about to drive away with his "beautiful chick". She decides to go out with Weed instead, and they stop at a nightclub for a magic act:

The magician is a hypnotist, and convinces Weed that he has super-powers like flying and enormous strength. Obeying the comic book law of delusions, the other THUNDER agents humor him:

They follow him back to the hypnotist, but a caught off guard by a sleeping gas.
Meanwhile, Weed has discovered that he doesn't really have super-powers. But:

He rescues Dynamo and Lightning, and in the end he even gets the gal:

Comments: Amusing ending. Weed must surely be one of the very few heroes to smoke cigarettes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trivia Quiz #38: Answers

1. Which of Jor-El's official duties did he hate?

Jor-El hated being Krypton's official executioner. Of course, by "execution" what they meant was putting the prisoner into suspended animation and shooting him into space. It was his distaste for this duty that led to him inventing the Phantom Zone projector (aka Punishment Ray).

2. When the young Jor-El was cramming for his exams, what trick did he use to maximize his study time?

Jor-El used the Time-Stretch Globe.

3. What invention of Jor-El's led to him being elected to the Science Council?

The Phantom Zone projector (aka Punishment Ray) resulted in Jor-El's election to the Science Council.

4. Jor-El was stuck in the Phantom Zone twice when the projector failed to bring him back. What two people repaired the projector on those separate occasions?

The first time, Lara repaired the machine, from which baby Kal had removed a necessary part:

The second time, Lex Luthor (temporarily reformed by a ray that Jor-El had invented) saved him:

5. When Jor-El first got married, where did he work?

Jor-El worked at a missile base.

David got part of #4 correct. Blaze contributed the other part of #4 plus #2 and #5. Michael Rebain gets #3 plus part of #4. I stumped my readers with #1, although Michael Rebain was close.

Adventure #231

I'm not much on the Superbaby stories as a rule, but this one is definitely top-notch. Superboy decides as a teenager to repay some kindnesses that he experienced as a boy. For example, Cal Bentley, who now runs an amusement park, once saved baby Clark from destroying a train and revealing his secret identity:

Another man rescued the tot from his first encounter with Kryptonite:

Not surprisingly, Clark refuses payment for helping these men out as a teen. However, one of the men (now a wealthy miser) who saved him from losing Pa Kent gets a nasty surprise when Superboy presents him with the bill for mowing his lawn:

However, it's all for a good cause, as the penny-pincher learns:

Superboy even thinks of the boys he's beating out for the jobs that he takes for the people who helped him out as a baby:

Nice little touch there. And in the end, there are just two people left to thank:

Comments: A superb story, with wonderful characterization for Superboy. The way he repaid the miserly rich man was particularly deft.

The Aquaman story is one of many from the Silver Age about a predicting machine:

As must happen in all such tales, the first two predictions come true. Will Aquaman really experience "dying" at the hands of one of his finny friends? Sort of:

The dye gets all over him, get it? Comments: Cute, if formulaic.

In the Green Arrow story, a local manufacturer is producing mini Arrowcars for sale. The local Green Arrow fan club tries them out:

But some crooks take advantage of the opportunity to steal the original, forcing the Emerald Archer and Speedy to use one of the kiddie-mobiles. The fan club helps out:

And eventually the crooks are caught and the Arrowcar returned to its rightful owners.

Comments: I liked the clever use of the mini-Arrowcars.