Posts tagged ‘Ultra-Humanite’

Action 21 – Superman meets Terry Curtis, and Clip Carson in Algiers

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It’s really hard to determine what is going on on the cover of Action 21 (Feb. 40).  Is Superman leaping away from the ship?  Or is he maybe coming down from somewhere?  The difference in size of the men at the gun, and Superman, would imply that he is far, far closer than they are.  What are they firing at?  Is Superman stealing a missile from them?  If they are good guys, why is he flying away from them?  If they are bad guys, why is he flying away from them?

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Siegel and Shuster, with Paul Cassidy on inks, wade into nuclear weapons in this issue, as scientist Terry Curtis works on an atomic gun.  His lab explodes, and Clark Kent is caught in the blast.  Curtis is amazed when Clark shows no sign of injury.  Clark, for his part, is fascinated with the work Curtis is doing, and writes it up for the Daily Star.

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Dolores Winters, the Ultra-Humanite, reads Clark’s article, and starts to romance Curtis, wanting to get the gun.  The Ultra-Humanite is always referred to as female in this story.  So the Ultra-Humanite might also be considered the first transgendered villain in comics.  Clark becomes suspicious when Terry mentions that his new girlfriend resembles the famous actress, and sure enough, Terry gets kidnapped.

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Superman follows them to the Ultra-Humanite’s lair, a city inside a volcano.  Although the text still insists that Superman is leaping, he executes a mid-air turn to land on the wing, which he does so gracefully, it goes unnoticed.  A long way from pavement smashing to bits.

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Superman frees Terry and smashes the Ultra-Humanite’s devices, as Dolores leaps to her apparent death in the exploding volcano.  This is the final appearance of the Ultra-Humanite in the Golden Age.  He would next be seen, in the body of a mutated white ape, in the early 80s in a Justice League of America/Justice Society of America/Secret Society of Super-Villains team-up in The Justice League’s book.  A couple of years later, he would get a story set shortly after this one, in the pages of All-Star Squadron.  Terry Curtis, who makes his only Golden Age appearance in this story, returns in All-Star Squadron as well., for a much more important role. The final panel promotes the Spectre, soon to debut in More Fun Comics.  Jerry Siegel was the writer on that series as well, though the art was by Bernard Baily.

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Clip Carson’s story takes him to Algiers, and Sheldon Moldoff takes over the art.  The tale itself is mediocre, many of them now would be, but at least it is lovely to look at.

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Clip gets hired to escort a shipment of food to a sheikh, who thanks him, and wants to keep him prisoner.  Clip disguises himself as an Arab to escape, and confronts the man who sent him.  He was really running guns, and Clip beats the guy up and turns him over to the authorities.

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Action 20 – Superman meets Dolores Winters, Pep Morgan becomes a mechanic, Clip Carson plays the harmonica, Tex Thompson needs a rescue, and Zatara faces the Moon Men

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The cover of Action 20 (Jan. 40) continues to feature Superman, if not the story that he was in.

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George Taylor sends Clark Kent out to Hollywood to do a series of stories on movie stars for the Daily Star.  It’s actually meant to be his vacation time, but Clark does not complain.  Taylor looks definitely stockier than he used to.

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Siegel and Shuster start his Hollywood time by having Clark meet actress Dolores Winters.  Although she is friendly at first, and agrees to an interview later, she becomes cold and distant, cancelling it when Clark shows up.

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Dolores invites a bunch of Hollywood big names to a party aboard her yacht, which she turns into a big kidnapping.

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Superman is on the case.  He uses his x-ray vision, which is shown closer to the way it would be, as beams emerging from his eyes.

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Superman reaches the ship, and one look into Dolores Winters’ eyes is enough to convince him that, somehow, this is really the Ultra-Humanite.  Probably because there was no easy way to have him figure it out.  And Dolores explains how his/her men put his brain into her body.

She dives overboard at the end, escaping from him, but will return.

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Pep is still in his hometown in this Guardineer story, and is playing baseball on the city team when Jimmy Dee crash lands his plane on the diamond.  Pep helps save the man, who offers him a job as his mechanic as he competes in the Air Races.

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Apparently aside from needing no qualifications, the mechanic sits in the rear seat of the biplane – perhaps to perform repairs while the fly.

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At any rate, Jimmy passes out and with no teaching time whatsoever, Pep takes the controls and wins the race.

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Bob Kane continues Clip Carson’s adventures in Kenya.  Clip gets captured by the raider he is meant to stop, Wolf Lupo.

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Things look bad for Clip, but he pulls out his harmonica and starts playing, which calls the tribe he had showed it to last issue.  They rescue him.  So it’s not really Clip that is the hero of this issue, just the most musical person in it.

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Bernard Baily concludes Tex Thompson’s battles with the zombies in this issue.

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It’s not that great a story, and really I only included it to show this page, with both Gargantua, and Africans in it.  These are all black people, so one would expect them to be drawn in a similar style.  But that is not the case, not at all.  The Africans actually look like Africans, more or less, while Gargantua still appears as a caricature.

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Guardineer sends Zatara on another mission against aliens in this adventure, which begins as a poisonous mist starst circulating.

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Zatara meets a fairy-looking woman, Nala, who helpfully explains that the mists are sent by the Moon Men.  Despite being from the Moon, they have set up in a secret city in India.

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Nala leads Zatara to the city, and he uses a variety of magic acts to defeat and humiliate the Moon Men, before working with Nala to use their own poisonous gas against them.

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Together they completely wipe out the Moon Men.  It’s bloodthirsty Zatara back in action.  But Nala is happy with him, offering to take him to the Moon.  Despite her promise, and that of the editor announcing that next issue will see Zatara on the Moon, it never happens.  Or if it did happen, it consisted of events unsuitable for a children’s comic.

Action 19 – Superman and the purple plague, Pep Morgan goes home, Clip Carson goes to Africa, Tex Thompson vs the Zombies, and the Three Aces solve a friend’s murder

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Superman is back on the cover of Action 19 (Dec. 39), and will stay there from now on.

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A purple plague hits Metropolis.  The doctors are baffled, and the death toll keeps on rising.

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Clark Kent is shown to be immune to the plague, because of his “super-resistance” to disease, another new attribute of his powers.  Though what really strikes me about this page is the horse drawn cart full of rotting bodies.  This seems anachronistic, but I expect that it is not.  Movies from the time period show horses and carriages in towns, so perhaps they were still used this way.

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The Ultra-Humanite is behind the plague, and makes an appearance relatively early in the story, rather than being saved for the last few pages.

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The Ultra-Humanite is trying to kill the doctor researching a cure for the plague, but Superman rescues the man, falling into the hands of the Ultra-Humanite himself.  An electric gun is capable of knocking Superman out, though not seriously wounding him.  The villain attempts to use a mind-control device on Superman, but it fails.

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The Ultra-Humanite really seems to be dead at the end of this story.  Is he?

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Pep Morgan, back in the US, heads home to Ardale in this story by Fred Guardineer.  But nothing seems to go smoothly for Pep anymore.

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Escaping thieves hop the train he is taking, though Pep alerts the police, who are there and ready to capture them when the train pulls into town.

We briefly get to meet his parents, and another boy, who seems to be his younger brother.

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The gang the thieves belong to try to take vengeance on Pep, but he evades that, and the gang gets captured.

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Clip Carson heads to Kenya (spelled Kenye) in this Bob Kane story.  He gets hired to protect a shipment of ivory from a notorious raider, Wolf Lupo.

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Clip must be considered quite a threat, as Lupo’s men try to kill him the first night, putting a cobra in his tent.  Clip falls into the hands of some cannibals, but manages to win them over by playing a harmonica.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Bernard Baily also sends his hero to Africa, with Bob Daley and Gargantua T Potts tagging along.  There was just no space for Ali Baba.

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Tex is asked to help find a missing son, who left behind a note announcing that he has been attacked by zombies.  Now, zombies in the 1940s were not exactly the way we envision them now.  The whole brain eating thing was not a part of the concept.  Zombies were slaves, unable to act of their own volition.

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There is an appallingly awful sequence with Gargantua befriending a monkey, which I am not even going to show.

The story continues in the next issue.

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The Three Aces return.  They are flying in formation with their fellow reservists, when one dies mid-flight.  They discover his widow in the arms of one of their buddies, and fake them out into confessing murder.

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Although there is some aerial action at the start of the story, the rest of it reads like any other mystery.

Action 17 – The Ultra-Humanite sinks a ship, Pep Morgan on a ranch, Marco Polo ends, the Gorrah returns, and Zatara in Ophir

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It’s hard to tell whether the soldiers are more amazed at Superman, or the really strange looking tank that he is lifting on the cover of Action 17 (Oct. 39).  He not only gets the cover image this month, the bullet with his picture sticks around as well.

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Siegel and Shuster once again save the Ultra-Humanite for the last few pages of this story.  It begins with a ship sinking, and Superman heading out to help.

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Reporting on the disaster as Clark Kent, he learns that sabotage was responsible.

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Skipping ahead to the pay-off, the Ultra-Humanite was behind it.  Superman suspected him when he overheard a phone call, which did not pass through the telephone lines, but was beamed directly to the phone.  Superman actually had to lift up a receiver to listen in, though.  No super-hearing yet.

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It’s questionable whether the Ultra-Humanite ever makes a physical appearance in this story.  The person that talks to Superman is simply a projected image of him.

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Mr. Smith is so pleased with Pep that he asks him to come to the ranch, with him and his daughter.  Is Mr. Smith trying to set them up?  I certainly think so, reading everything I can into these stories.  Arriving at the ranch, they see one of the hands, Pedro, abusing the horses and fire him.  He vows vengeance, which will comprise the rest of the tale.  No time for romance.

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Pep saves Mary from a rattlesnake, shooting it.  Although honestly, Guardineer’s art makes it look like bullet misses the snake.  Maybe it dies of fright.  The Pedro starts shooting at them.  Later, he sets the cabin on fire.  This is one seriously disgruntled ex-exployee.

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Pep finally tackles Pedro.  It’s a good story, marred by the rendering of Pedro’s accent.

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The Adventures of Marco Polo end in this issue, without ever making it to Kublai Khan.

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Marco fled his abusive slave owner in the previous issue, and got lost.  He is rescued in this one, and treated kindly by a powerful man, who turns Polo’s former owner over to him.  The man starts to run, and that’s where the story cuts off.

Now, since we know what happened to Marco Polo, I think he caught the man, extracted the locations of his father and uncle, and they got back together, and figured it was time to move on to China.  They were so humiliated about being sold into slavery that Marco chose to just leave all of this out when he told his story to Rusticello.

Marco Polo appears in a variety of DC comics over the years, but never again gets his own series.

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Tex Thomspon heads to Istanbul in this story by Bernard Baily. He has been called in by the president of Turkey to oversee the safety of the Dardanelles.  Quite an honour!

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With Bob’s help, Tex disguises himself as a Turk, and that actually looks pretty good.  Gargantua is only in the first couple of pages, and that helps the story as well.

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The story then jumps back to the apparent death of the Gorrah a year or so ago, and shows how he survived, vowed vengeance on Tex, and eventually tracked him to Istanbul.  It’s really no surprise that the Gorrah is back, as he is shown by the logo.

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Tex spots the Gorrah, as he walks openly through the streets of Istanbul.  But then, nobody else reacts to seeing the one-eyed creature, so I guess he feels at home.  Tex has found a new sidekick, Ali Baba, who accompanies him as he follows the Gorrah – and walks right into a trap.  Tex’s make-up was not as good as it seemed.

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Zatara comes to aid of a young woman in distress in this tale by Fred Guardineer.  They are all on a ship bound for Europe, where Zatara is going on vacation.  In the late summer of 1939.  Because Zatara either never reads the news, or finds battlefields peaceful.

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Doesn’t much matter, they don’t make it to Europe anyway.  They are taken away to the magical city of Ophir.

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Sepat, the Queen of Ophir, wants the young woman so that she can drain the youth from her and regain hers.

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Zatara is kept from being all-powerful simply by tossing a blinding liquid into his eyes.  He has no eye wash spell, and must wait for a combination of sweat and tears to clear his eyes.  By then, the transformation has already happened.

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Zatara calls upon the power of the flame of Atlantis to reverse Sepat’s aging, and the two women return to their proper ages.

Sepat both flirts with Zatara, and threatens him.  You know they will meet again (because the narration in the last panel says so.)

 

 

 

Action 14 – The Ultra-Humanite returns, Pep Morgan rows, Clip Carson debuts, Tex Thompson gets confused, Chuck Dawson saves the ranch, and Zatara finds the Fountain of Youth

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Zatara gets his second, and final, cover appearance in Action 14 (July 1939).  The image even represents his story!  Superman once again gets his little bullet to the side of the cover.

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Siegel and Shuster bring the Ultra-Humanite back in this story, though that’s not clear until the last few pages.  I guess the idea was to keep him like a Professor Moriarty, in the background.  While this was a common trick in novels to keep a powerful villain shadowy and ominous, it does not work as well in these stories.

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This story starts off dealing with an attempted murder in the subway system.

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Superman’s inability to fly comes up again.  He tries scaring a confession out of one hood by dangling him out a window, only to have his compatriots push Superman all the way out.

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The bad guys start to flee, with Superman in hot pursuit.  Only when their car vanishes does it become clear something big is going on.

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And it’s the Ultra-Humanite, back for the last couple pf pages, and another woefully inadequate death-trap.  The Ultra-Humanite explains his survival, using a parachute, but the experience was clearly traumatic for him, as he has lost what little hair he had.  The red headed assistant, who may be Lex Luthor, is at his side again.

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Superman escapes the death-trap, and the Ultra-Humanite escapes Superman, plotting his revenge in the final panel.

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Pep Morgan’s voyage home continues in this story, by Guardineer.

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The ship gets caught in a terrible storm, and it does not help matters any that one of the mutineers is still on board, killing off members of the crew.

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The ship begins to sink, and Pep gets the opportunity to show of some of his athletic prowess.  Not only does he row the lifeboat, he dives in to rescue the pilot of a seaplane that has also crashed as a result of the storm.

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Clip Carson, Soldier of Fortune, was created by Bob Kane, debuting less than a month after Batman.  Clip travels to exotic locations, fighting even more exotic villains.  This should have been a big hit, but maybe it’s the giant grin always on Clip’s face, or his constant upbeat chatter, but he fails to be a hero you are interested in.

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His first three-parter sees him in Egypt, meeting archaeologist Jim Blake, on the track of buried pharonic treasure.

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There is some really good art by Kane in this strip, better than his work on Rusty and his Pals.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Bernard Baily has also notably improved, as this issue Tex Thompson demonstrates.

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The story is not the greatest.  Bored, Tex puts an ad in the paper, looking for people to help, as Bob Daley takes a short vacation.  Tex goes to see a woman concerned about her father, but he barely learns what the case is about before they get attacked.

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Tex wakes up, to find a different woman there, insisting that Tex was drunk, and there never was any other woman.  Tex has no idea what is going on.

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Bob shows up, which helps Tex get a grip on his sanity.

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The resolution to the story becomes tortuously convoluted, but there are some great moments along the way.  The bandaged patient, really the first woman, now held captive, is straight out of The Lady Vanishes, and I do think Hitchock’s early films influenced this one-shot story.

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Hey, whatever happened to Chuck Dawson?  I wrote about him in the first issue, but haven’t touched on his series since.  Well, that’s largely because it’s very repetitive, even the art.

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A serial has been running, with Chuck trying to get his land back, as I mentioned before, but long the way Chuck discovers Burwell is sending out men to take over the Diamond H Ranch, and heads there to warn them, and of course help them battle Burwell’s men.  The daughter of the rancher, Virginia, gets captured, and the foreman, Zebe, joins with Chuck to find and rescue her.

This sort of ties up with this issue.  The Diamond H Ranch is saved, and Zebe and Virginia are re-united, but Chuck is no closer to getting vengeance or his land.

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Zatara hears of the Fountain of Youth while at the Explorer’s Club, and sets out to find it in this Guardineer tale.

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Zatara leads an expedition to the lost “Red City.”  It doesn’t go nearly fast enough for him, and he seems to have remembered his flying spell, which speeds things up.

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He encounters the mysterious snake woman from the cover, but she is really just a decoy, not the guardian of the Fountain.

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Zatara dispenses with the snakes, and uses his magic to draw the location of the well from the mind of the guardian.

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Zatara sends Tong in to retrieve the water from the Fountain.  What are servants for, after all?  The water does seem to make Tong get younger.  But the water itself warns them not to drink it.  Though Zatara and Tong make it back safely, presumably with the water, they do not drink it.

 

 

Action 13 – Superman’s first villain, Scoop Scanlon ends, Pep sails for home, and Marco Polo goes on sale

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Superman gets the cover of Action 13 (June 1939), and the story itself, while not having a train rushing into a river, does have the first genuine villain, as opposed to ordinary criminal, that Superman would face.

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Siegel and Shuster begin the story much like the earlier ones.  A protection scam is being pulled on cab drivers, and Superman sets out to defend the little guy.

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It’s clear the character is not yet able to fly.  While pulling his standard scare-the-bad-guys jump around, the hood tries to break free, making Superman miss the edge of the building, and both plummet towards the ground. Superman manages to stop his fall by grabbing the side of the building.

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But aside from that, it all feels pretty standard.  The scam is broken up, the bad guys arrested, and Clark writes a story for the Daily Star all about it.  The story could easily end here – but it doesn’t.

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The final few pages see the men freed before they can reach prison.  Tracking them down, Superman meets their leader, a balding genius, whose frail body keeps him confined to a chair. He calls himself the Ultra-Humanite, and plans “domination of the world!!” in bold.

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The Ultra-Humanite clearly has no idea what he is dealing with in Superman, and tries to kill him with a buzz saw.  The saw blades shatter when they touch him, sending broken bits around the room.  In that scene, one can see a red-haired assistant to the Ultra-Humanite.  In the Generations miniserieses (a terrible word, but what else is the plural of miniseries?), John Byrne makes this man Lex Luthor.  Indeed, I see no reason it should not be, it helps give backstory to the character, something sorely lacking when he finally shows up.

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The Ultra-Humanite tries to escape by plane, but Superman just smashes it to bits.  He finds no trace of the villain, and wonders if the Ultra-Humanite really is dead.  He isn’t.  He’ll be back.

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Scoop Scanlon has his final story in this issue.  But rather than write it up the usual way, I feel somewhat inspired to share what I feel was the conversation he had with his editor, right after the events in this story.

Scoop:  Wow, boss, that was quite a case!

Editor:  Scoop, sit down.  We need to have a talk. I sent you to cover a wedding!  A wedding!  And what happens?  You don’t show up, you don’t call in.  You get all mixed up in some stupid story about cursed jewels from India, which is all a cover for a bunch of murders, and do you call the police?  Do you let them know about the murders?  No!  You steal a dead body!  You took a dead man and moved him somewhere and hid behind him to fake his voice and scared the crap out of the killer.  Call the cops in, Scoop!  This is not your job!  I don’t know what to do with you, I really don’t.  You were just shot, Scoop, you spent a month in the hospital getting over it.  You still shouldn’t be back at work.  I put you on the wedding story to keep you out of trouble, but I just can’t manage to do that.  I don’t want your blood on my hands.  You’re fired, Scoop.  Pack your bags.

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At which point Scoop pulls out his gun and shoots the editor, and then goes on a mad crazed shooting spree until he is gunned down by the police.

Which is why we never see Scoop Scanlon again.

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One issue after accepting the job of bodyguard to a dictator (which this issue openly calls the man), Pep Morgan packs up and heads back to the US in this Fred Guardineer story.  One can only assume the rebels have regrouped, and begun a deadly assault on the capitol, forcing him to flee.

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Pep is the only paying passenger on the voyage, but there is another.  A pirate captain, being brought back in the brig.  He gets free, and starts a mutiny on the ship.

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It’s kind of refreshing that Pep does not single handedly take down the mutineers.  Rather, he contacts the US navy, who intercept the ship with a destroyer.   But is it not unusual that Pep is so easily able to contact them?  Is this the first contact he had with the navy, or did his days in Latona (they only name the country once he is leaving it) give him connections in Naval Intelligence?

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As the Marco Polo story continues to deviate from the source book, it becomes a lot more action oriented.  And that’s the prime reason it deviates, really.

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The story still seems to be taking place in Persia, though they have continued east, and now seem to be around people who might look like Asian caricatures.  Very hard to nail down races in that sort of art style.  The Polos are captured and split up, sold in a slave market.

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This issue also features and ad for Superman 1.  This is just barely a year after the character debuted, and shows how wildly popular Superman was.  Up to this point, there had never been a comic book devoted entirely to one character.

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