I Just Finished – Superman (1939) #150

As was typical of the times (1962), this issue contains three stories. The cover actually references the third and shortest of them, “When the World Forgot Superman.” These were the days when the editor (Mort Weisinger, if memory serves) would have the artist draw a sensational cover, depicting an incident likely to make a reader ask, “How could that ever happen?!” And then the writer would be told to make that happen in a story. In this case, Superman returns from a mission in space to find that no one in Metropolis knows who he is, although, appropriately, they still know Clark Kent. How could this happen? Well, the answer is pretty obvious, if you know your Superman lore.

The issue opens with a Krypton story. These are my favorites from the time, even if they so often tell and re-tell the story of baby Kal-El being launched into space. Interesting this time out is that baby Kal-El is actually speaking as Lara puts him into the rocket. I always wondered why we never heard a word out of the kid, considering the first origin story I read opens with Lara saying to Jor-El, “I’m worried about our son, Kal-El. He’s over a year old, and he hasn’t started reading yet!” There’s some eyebrow-raising moments in this one, as when Supergirl feels sorry for a boy in ragged clothes, being made fun of while he fishes by kids who are clearly wealthier. So she attaches a whale to the poor kid’s hook and then flies away, happy with herself. So, um, the kid wasn’t pulled into the water to drown? And did you really just stick a hook into a member of one of the most intelligent species on the planet? Ah, the Sixties. The cringier moment is when Kal-El and Kara decide to build a replica of Krypton on an empty planet, and people it with android doubles of their dead parents, among thousands of others. I do love the notion that the Superman family could just build androids willy nilly, but the idea of building android replicas of your dead parents, so you could visit them once a year on the anniversary of their deaths, just seemed a bit macabre. Also, the story has no actual conflict, no problem to solve. Artistic anomalies worth noting are the cameo appearance of a very early version of Brainiac, not looking particularly androidish at all, and a version of the Phantom Zone in which the Phantoms dwell amongst buildings in a city, instead of just hanging out in gray mist.

The second story about a duel between Lois Lane and Lana Lang is about par for stories of these two in the 60s. It’s pure sitcom, with both women and Superman trying to out-clever each other, leaving all three of them looking like idiots. I often wondered why any two of them would want to wind up together. In these stories, none of them were particularly likable.

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