Fans have waited a long time to see Superman and Batman together on the big screen for the first time.  But I’ll be you didn’t know how long Golden Age fans had to wait to see our heroes together on the comics page…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Superman #76 awaits!

Superman76CoverSUPERMAN #76
Writer: Edmond Hamilton/Bill Woolfolk/Bill Finger
Penciler: Curt Swan/Al Plastino/Wayne Boring
Inker: John Fischetti/Stan Kaye/Al Plastino
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4,000.00

Previously in Superman: Though both heroes had been active for nearly 15 years by 1952, Superman and Batman had only briefly shared story space in All-Star Comics, where they were both honorary members of the Justice Society Of America.  (At the time, JSA members who had their own titles were removed from the team’s main roster; Flash and Green Lantern were absent for several issues for this reason.)  World’s Finest Comics had debuted in 1941, featuring monthly adventures of both Superman and Batman, but always in separate tales, and Batman was a recurring guest-star in the Superman radio serials (initially to cover for absences by Superman’s voice actor, Bud Collyer.  But, by 1952, the fortunes of comic book superheroes had changed, with Big Blue and the Dark Knight among the few caped crusaders still in evidence, leading to this issue’s introduction of The Mightiest Team In The World…


Both Superman and Batman, by strange coincidence, have chosen to take a little well-deserved R&R, and even more amazingly, both have booked passage on the same ocean cruise aboard the S.S. Varania.  (At least it’s not the Titanic, right?)  Through an even more amazing coincidence, a booking error puts both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent in the same cabin…


The flaming tanker is part of a distraction by a diamond thief who, using a flame-proof suit, wades in and steals a cache of priceless gems, believing that no one can stop him.  He doesn’t count on the world’s greatest heroes, just a few yards away, each of whom hopes to go into action unseen.

It… doesn’t work out quite that way.


Leaping into action, the heroes move to deal with the danger of flames and/or a massive explosion, and also to save the trapped Lois Lane (who bravely rushed in to cover the conflagration for the Daily Planet.)


Realizing that their thief is among the Varania’s passengers, Superman and Batman arrange for passage in their second identities, knowing that if they have to go into costumed action, it’ll be incredibly difficult to support their secret identities…


Things get even more complicated when Lois Lane arranges for her own passage on the ship to cover the superheroes’ activities, taking over the cabin vacated by a passenger frightened off by the fire and chaos.  Clark feigns a bout of seasickness, and Bruce agrees to stay and take care of his unexpected roomie’s infirmity, while the Man Of Steel convinces Batman to court Lois’ attention and keep her distracted from matters that rhyme with ‘schmecret fidentity.’  Lois overhears, and begins playing along with Batman’s flirtations, causing a rift between comics’ most fractious couple…


The Batman’s detective skills root out the man he believes to be the arsonist/thief, but Superman’s x-ray vision fails to ferret out the diamonds, causing the heroes to have to get creative.  Performing super-stunts in front of the dazzled passengers, the World’s Finest team are distracted just long enough for Mr. Smilter to put his own plans into motion…


Aaaand Superman hucks Batman at the escaping helicopter like a yard dart, using his super-accuracy to keep from chucking him right into the rotors, I’m sure, allowing the Gotham Guardian to bring down the criminal, even deducting where  the diamonds were hidden (inside the lead barrel of the thief’s gun), but a too-quick recovery by Clark Kent leads to a greater problem for our heroes…


Fortunately, the combined mental power of Darknight Detective and the Metropolis Marvel concoct a scheme so clever, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel, using super-speed to fix one secret identity problem, and good old-fashioned lying to take care of another…


Of course, it’s Lois who has the last laugh, and supporting my theory that she is totally in on Superman’s identity shenanigans, and enjoys toying with her bulletproof beau.   Though it’s hard to tell, thanks to the inking of Stan Kaye, this story features future Superman stalwart Curt Swan pencils.   His new-look Superman would reinvigorate the character in the following decade, but this issue also features a backup story by Wayne Boring, whose Superman is to the 1950s what Swan’s would be to the 1960s…


Boring’s barrel-chested Superman, leaping from place to place, is one of the most wonderful parts of 50s DC Comics to me.  Of course, another Superman stalwart, Al Plastino also delivers a backup story in this issue, as we’re still close enough to the Golden Age for each comic to have multiple stories, comedy strips and single-page science features.


Honestly, folks, a Superman comic featuring Swan, Plastino and Boring is probably worth the price of admission (or, at least, the price of admission if you’re not dead-set on dropping four grand on a pristine copy), but this issue’s historical significance makes it even more valuable than other issues of this vintage.  Moreover, at no point did Superman murder anyone, nor did Batman growl that the Man Of Steel was an inhuman monster who had to be stopped…

…but, there’s no sense in being all negative about it.  Superman #76 is a comic that created a metaphorical monster by combining metaphorical chocolate and peanut butter into one, presaging World’s Finest Comics decades-long run of team-up stories, as well as establishing the foundation for the shared universe that we know of DC today, earning a very solid 3 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a strange story, and one that has been revisited a number of times, but it’s the genesis of all Super/Bat teamups (even the violent intercession that is ‘Batman V Superman’.)

SUPERMAN #76 (May-June 1952)


An artifact of a different time in comics, featuring a series of quick, clever stories by an impressive creative roster. Also: No snapped necks.

User Rating: 2.48 ( 2 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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