In the wake of April the 1st, allow me to show you the only prank I look back on with fondness rather than resentment.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Superman #145 awaits!

Writer: Jerry Siegel/Robert Bernstein
Penciler: Curt Swan/Al Plastino
Inker: Stan Kaye/Al Plastino/Sheldon Moldoff
Colorist: Uncredited
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $500.00

Previously in Superman: In the Silver Age, Superman was at the peak of his powers: Literally invulnerable, save for Kyrptonite and magic; a genius intellect admired around the galaxy; strong enough to move entire planets with his might.  Add to that an array of super-senses, super-ventriloquism and a supporting cast full of gems, the writers had to work hard to make such a paragon entertaining, but fortunately, the creators were up to the task.

Okay, the “Lois sets out to discover Superman’s identity” plot is pretty shopworn stuff, even for 1961.  But this issue has three things going for it: First off, Curt Swan on art, which makes everything better.  Secondly, it’s not Lois but her sister Lucy, along with Jimmy Olsen, who set off on the quest this time, in a sisterly favor for her forlorn and upset elder sis, worried that Superman will never love her.  And best of all, one of the candidates is a whip-smart science fiction author who doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop him from actually saving the day.  Our second story is a bit of a different offering…

This issue feels like a throwback to the weird 1950s Superman-era, with Clark Kent and Lois Lane investigating the latest amazing attraction in Metropolis, a circus that claims to be from another planet.  Of course, as Superman, Clark is aware that this is more than just a clever marketing gimmick, but that doesn’t convince him to stop Lois from eating interplanetary delights…

The implication is that he knows that the food won’t hurt her, but there’s still an undercurrent of “Ha ha!  Lois is dumb!” that I’m not happy with here.  Still, Al Plastino’s art is charming, making Supes not only look like his TV counterpart, but giving him wry expressions that make the gesture seem playful rather than snide and mean-spirited.  And his action-sequences, featuring a barrel-chested Man Of Steel leaping about, are pretty awesome as well.

Plastino’s Superman never seems to be flying so much as flinging himself through the air, and his answer to fighting a solar-powered enemy, the Interplanetary Circus’ secret weapon, is not only clever, but a good showcase of just how powerful this Silver Age Kryptonian really is…

Superman mops up the circus and sends them packing, with a wink at the camera when Lois calls their act “out of this world.”  It’s cute, but a little filler-y.  Of course, the real star of this issue is our final tale, which begins as Superman/Clark goes to bed on the night of March 31st…

Perry relays that he’s trying to reach Superman, and Clark agrees to “tell” The Man Of Steel about his summons, then leaps into action…

It quickly becomes clear that something strange is happening in the state of Denmark Metropolis, as Superman finds his boss is a Bizarro, and heads out to stop a disaster only to find his secret weapon cousin in action.  (At this point in their history, Supergirl was still keeping her existence a secret from the world, as she wasn’t quite ready to be a public figure, bullet-proof or never-so.)  It’s all quite strange…

Things get even weirder as the threat is thwarted, and Superman/Clark returns to The Daily Planet to go about his daily work…

The sight of a super-cat-and-dog battle in the midst of the Planet newsroom doesn’t seem to attract any undue attention, mermaid Lori Lemaris has legs and can’t swim, and Lois Lane is out on a date with her new beau, Mr. Mxyzptlk!  It’s enough to make a Man Of Tomorrow seriously worry about his sanity, especially when his high-school girlfriend arrives driving an ice cream cart…

Luckily, his three greatest foes are on the scene to save him from certain Kryptonite-irradiated death!  Why would they do that?  Turns out they’re totally not his enemies at all, you guys…

So, sharp-eyed Spoilerites: Did you figure out what is going on in this ridiculous (yet wonderful) tale?  The answer is here, although “Because awesome” is also an acceptable response…  People often like to mock the silly and whimsical tales of the Silver Age as unrealistic or “lame”, but this whole story is a hoot.  Indeed, it makes it feel like the readers and the creators are just pals, hanging out, sharing stories about the wonder that is Superman.

Also interesting in this 5o-odd-year-old comic?

Just in case you thought that “Holding the line at $2.99” was a recent endeavor, we find DC Comics valiantly attempting to offset the change to 12 cent comic books.  That battle was lot by 1964, partially because of the popularity of those upstart Marvel Comics guys, but it’s still a neat bit of history to see.  As for Superman #145, there’s a reason that it’s so fondly remembered by those in the know, providing one clever story, one okay story with a fun goofy hook, and one wonderful imaginary/prank tale that everyone should read (there’s quite a bit of it that I couldn’t go over, and I can’t just show you to whole comic book) earning a well-deserved vintage 4 out of 5 stars overall.  If nothing else, it’s one thing I can point to that shows that April Fool jokes aren’t always cruel and awful, so we’ve got that going for us…

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About Author

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.

1 Comment

  1. Personally, I collect the Superman: The Man of Steel run, but I have a few of these older Superman comics. They’re really good. I think they’re better than anything out today. Artwork, story, and characters are all very well done.

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