Action 52 – Superman vs the Emperor of the US, Vigilante reveals himself to Stuff, the Three Aces get trapped in time, the Americommandos, Congo Bill delivers cigarettes, and Zatara stops a kidnapping
I just love the cover for Action 52 (Sept. 42). It is the one and only cover from this era that features the heroes of all the series contained in the issue. It’s kind of curious that none of the other DC comics from the era ever did this. And as I always write about the cover featured hero in any blog entry, every series will be covered for this issue.
Siegel and Sikela’s Superman story is set in a possible future, so not actually canonical. In it, a man decides to proclaim himself Emperor of America – although he only takes over the US, and leaves the rest of the two continents alone.
To Clark’s mystifcation, every seems to support this. The Daily Planet staff think it’s a great idea, even Lois Lane and Perry White. Jimmy Olsen can be seen in cameo,with his back to the reader.
As the Emperor’s reign progresses it becomes more and more authoritarian. As one might expect from a self-proclaimed emperor. Superman discovers that the man has used a mind control machine to win people to his side, and destroys the machine, freeing the country.
The story is clearly meant to be read as a warning against authoritarianism, which would have been synonymous with the Axis powers at this time.
Mort Meskin and Cliff Young have the Vigilante deal with kidnappers who captures a children’s band in this story, but that’s really just a hook for the true purpose of the tale.
Up to this issue, Stuff had been taken care of by Greg Sanders, and worked as Vigilante’s sidekick, but had no idea the two men were the same. Stuff is clearly not the most observant boy. Greg finally reveals his identity to the boy.
This leads, quite logically, to Greg relating his origin. It does not change anything from the origin related in his first appearance, simply expands on it. Greg’s grandfather was an “Indian hunter,” who nonetheless was so admired by those he killed that they gave him an honourable burial. We also discover that Greg had begun his singing career before his father’s death, which makes more sense than beginning it at the same time he became Vigilante. The earlier version of this tale left that sequence of events unclear.
The Three Aces get a bit of a change of pace from the war stories that had become their meat and potatoes. They wind up flying into a remote valley to avoid a storm, and get trapped there. The valley is populated by other trapped soldiers, going back centuries, who continue to fight each other.
This allows the Three Aces to keep fighting the Japanese, even though the Asians got trapped their in the 10th century. Radium radiation is given as the reason no one can escape the valley. The Three Aces use lead from the armor of the captured Japanese soldiers to protect their plane engines from the radium, and escape.
The logo on this series changes for a second time, becoming the Americommandos, although there is no obvious difference in the strip itself, in this story by Joseph Greene and Bernard Baily. The story even alternates between calling Tex Mr. America and Americommando.
The story deals with a Nazi soldier who escapes from a Canadian prison camp and heads down to the US to wreak havoc. Fat Man does appear in the story, but in a small, non-speaking cameo.
Congo Bill is still in China in this Fred Ray story, continuing to help the war against Japan. It’s an odd mission that he is on, though, having to deliver a pack of cigarettes.
It’s a deadly trek that Bill takes to do this. The cigarettes are an effective decoy, as the Japanese do not question Bill’s possession of them when they capture him. Bill escapes, and makes it to the Chinese lines, where we learn that the rolling papers the cigarettes are in contains the plans for the Japanese attack, which they successfully hold off.
The issue closes with Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman’s Zatara adventure. An ice skater gets kidnapped, and Zatara uses his magic to torment the kidnappers.
While he probably could have rescued the ice queen more easily, the Zatara strip has become much more about goofy and amusing magical events than about serious action.