The never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American
way is beginning to become more treacherous. For the first
time, the Man of Steel faces a villain who will plague him
for the next seventy years: Lex Luthor. As this historic rivalry
begins, Superman, in his guise as Clark Kent, joins forces
with Lois Lane, as they become European war correspondents
covering the conflicts that will eventually become World War
II. But even with these monumental new challenges, the Man
of Tomorrow maintains his reputation as a champion of the
helpless and oppressed by battling jewel thieves, blackmailers
and predatory mobsters...
volume of chronological reprints covers the first half of
1940, with comic-strip adventures from the pages of Action
Comics #21-25, Superman #4-5 and New York Worlds
Fair Comics #2.
period marks a number of firsts for the series, especially
during Action Comics #23. The DC logo makes its first
appearance on the cover of this edition, and from this point
on, the newspaper for which Clark works is referred to as
the Daily Planet rather than the Daily Star.
Clark and Lois head off across the Atlantic as war reporters
for a two-issue arc (another first) entitled Europe
at War, which starts in #22, but they return to find
that the name of their newspaper has changed. Neither of them
seems to notice, though! Europe at War, Part 2
also sees the debut of Luthor, who is apparently an instigator
of the Second World War! Though the USA had yet to enter the
war, we see the European conflict represented by two fictional
nations, Galonia and Toran.
(who is not yet afforded his first name, Lex) looks somewhat
different to the evil genius we know today. He has a full
head of red hair, rather than the bald look previously sported
by the Ultra-Humanite. In character, he is actually very similar
to Ultra, describing himself as: Just an ordinary man
- but with th brain of a super-genius! With scientific
miracles at my fingertips, Im preparing to make myself
supreme master of th world!
prior to this story, Ultra himself/herself/whatever puts in
another appearance, complete with a volcano base (decades
before Blofelds in You
Only Live Twice)
in The Atomic Disintegrator (Action Comics
powers continue to develop during this volume. In Luthors
Incense Machine (Superman #5), he demonstrates
total recall and - rather more incredibly - the ability to
alter his facial features at will! He has impersonated people
before this, but previously only people whom he happens to
resemble in the first place. Though he cannot fly yet, he
is well on his way to doing so. He spends increasing amounts
of time in the air, and we even see precursors of certain
catchphrases-to-be. In The Wonder Drug, a guard
sees the shadow of an object passing overhead, and wonders
if it could be a bird (no, and its not a plane either
- its Superman). In Superman at the Worlds
Fair (New York Worlds Fair Comics #2),
the Man of Steel says: Up... up! as he leaps away
into the sky.
Kryptonite would not be invented for another few years yet
(and in another medium, the radio), we see a forerunner of
it in Europe at War, Part 2: a green ray that
manages to weaken Superman. We also see Lois making an early
attempt to discover the heros secret identity, in Amnesiac
Robbers (Action Comics #25).
is still decidedly rough and ready, and ruthless with his
enemies, allowing wrongdoers to die on numerous occasions:
in a submarine explosion, in a car crash, and in various aircraft.
However, we see the emergence of his more familiar moral stance
in stories such as The Wonder Drug. Here the Man
of Tomorrow ponders that he: cant stand by and
let someone be killed, no matter how much he deserves it...
Joe Shusters characters are still sometimes hard to
differentiate, especially his brunettes, who tend to all look
like Lois. Even the colourist gets confused when it comes
to telling some of the many mobsters apart.
these tales today, they comprise a fascinating historical
document rather than being thoroughly engaging and enjoyable
stories in their own right. Still, no true Super-fan should
miss these captivating chronicles.