Type Comic
Date 1940-02-22
Tags questionable morality, hypnotism

Action Comics #23

Action Comics #23 (1940-04)

Superman

Clark and Lois continue to cover the war between Galonia and Toran. Suddenly, a shell explodes nearby, and Lois is knocked out by the blast. At this, Superman leaps into the sky, grabbing the incoming shells and throwing them back towards the border, destroying the artillery assaulting them. When Lois revives, they continue on to the army headquarters, where they interview General Lupo. He tells them that the war is expected to end soon--in two hours, "all firing will cease and a party of Toran officials will drive into Belgaria under a flag of truce to discuss peace terms".

Clark intends to take some pictures of the event, but clicks the shutter just in time to capture an image of the Toran envoy being destroyed. He confronts General Lupo about the event, and the general assures him that it must have been merely an accident. As Clark leaves, though, he overhears the general making a very suspicious phone call, and decides to secretly follow him. He follows Lupo to a mountain, where he inexplicably disappears into a rock face. Superman tears apart the rock to follow him inside, and sees Lupo staring at a wall, which soon morphs into a stone face. He reports that the "plans have been carried out. The war will be prolonged!"

Superman is incensed by the general's actions, and threatens that if he doesn't tell Superman what's going on, he will "have [his] brains dashed out against that wall". The frightened general tells Superman that soon a nearby neutral country will be bombarded by unmarked planes. This is all the plan of someone called Luthor, who wants to "engulf the entire continent in bloody warfare". Superman asks who Luthor is, but the general has no chance to answer--the face on the rock rematerializes and shoots out a green ray that slices him in half. Superman, of course, is immune, so he destroys the rock face, which causes the entire cavern to cave in on him.

Superman frees himself just in time to intercept the squadron of planes headed toward the neutral country. He leaps aboard one and uses its gun to shoot down two of the others. He then grabs two of the planes and smashes them together, and rams the final one with the plane he is flying in.

Following this, Superman changes back into his 'civilian' clothes, and attempts to warn the warring nations that this situation was set up by some madman. They don't believe him, but Luthor learns of this warning, and decides that Clark is a threat, and must be eliminated. He sends his lackeys out to take care of it, but they kidnap Lois, instead. They bring her back to their dirigible and imprison her, but she notices that her guard is different from the the others--that he is not under Luthor's hypnotic influence (They were hypnotized? Who knew!). She blackmails the guard into taking a note to Clark, who, as Superman, follows the guard, and rescues Lois.

Unfortunately, while Superman is nigh invulnerable, Lois is not, and Luthor takes advantage of this fact, threatening to kill Lois if Superman will not do as he says. Backed into a corner, Superman agrees, and allows Luthor to chain him to a wall and continuously fire four of his ray guns at him. Though Superman is able to resist these rays, they do sap his strength, so he makes a last, desperate attempt, destroying the rays and escaping with Luthor as a hostage. He causes the dirigible to crash to the Earth, leaping to safety with Lois.

Now that the warring nations have seen the giant dirigible fall from the sky, Clark is able to convince them that the war really was orchestrated by a madman named Luthor. With that, the war is ended, and Lois and Clark will return to Metropolis.

In this story, the paper Clark works for is called the Daily Planet (rather than the Daily Star) for the first time.

Supermen of America

Another pointed message to the Supermen of America club members, this month. The three pillars of the club, strength, courage, and justice, are discussed, and it is argued that strength or courage alone are meaningless. Finally, it is argued that these two virtues must be exercised justly:

And then we must stop to consider whether we are using our STRENGTH and our COURAGE in the interests of JUSTICE. There is certainly nothing admirable in being strong and courageous in the name of a cause which lacks JUSTICE. The aggressor nations are strong, and no doubt have many brave men in their ranks--yet, because they have forgotten JUSTICE, they are cordially hated by the freedom-loving peoples of the world.

Tex Thomson

Just a note, here. I've been ignoring most of the comics which I didn't find immediately interesting, so the ones I've been reading (and commenting on, here) are probably not representative of the magazine as a whole. The other comics, I felt, are generally boring, and very often racist, too. A handy example from this month's Tex Thompson:

Zatara and the "Treasure Tower"

By chance, Zatara runs into an old schoolmate, Rick Evans. Upon recognizing Zatara, Evans exclaims that Zatara is just the man he needs--and his need is made clear when two men in a car suddenly shoot at him. Zatara takes care of that problem, and Evans explains the situation. Evans has discovered the location of a tower where an eccentric builder, Kartzoff, hid some very valuable jewels. Evans asks Zatara for help stealing the jewels, in exchange for a share of the wealth. Zatara agrees, so they head off to Mud Pond in the state of Maine, where the jewels are hidden.

However, these two are not the only ones seeking the jewels. The men who were shooting at Evans, it turns out, were hired by the Tigress to get the map from Evans. She sends them to try to steal the map again, but they're once more defeated, so she resolves to find the jewels herself. This she does by finding out which way Zatara went and following him in her "speedy car".

Zatara and Evans stop by an inn, and Zatara heads out with a local girl, Kay, to investigate about the tower. As he leaves, he spots the Tigress, who has unknowingly chosen the same inn to stop at. He makes himself invisible, so that she will pass him by, but when she gets in the inn, she sees Evans, and attacks him and steals the map. I suppose Zatara really didn't think that through. Anyway, the girl shows him the tower, warning him that it is very dangerous, and none who have entered the tower have safely left it. As a reward for her assistance, he makes her beautiful. She's overcome by gratitude at this: "For this I shall be your slave forever! I- I shall even enter the tower with you! To- to help you!"

Zatara returns to the inn to find Evans missing. He quickly turns all the walls and ceilings in the inn to glass, and sees Evans, unconscious, in a room with the Tigress. He collects them both, then puts the Tigress in her car and causes it to grow wings and fly her home.

In order to get ahead of the Tigress, who will surely not give up so easily, Zatara and Kay go for the tower quickly. Outside the tower, they're attacked by the Tigress's henchmen, but Zatara fends them off, in his inimitable style.

When the Tigress herself shows up, Zatara saves her from some quicksand, commenting, "I don't know why I'm always saving you from the fate you deserve." The Tigress replies, "I'm your friend now, Zatara."

After entering the tower, they are greeted by a figure that warns them away. Kay tells Zatara that the walls in that room will crush them, but Zatara ignores her and, in shadow form, follows the man who met them to a control room. The man intends to kill them, and Zatara returns and the three leave the room just in time to see the ceiling and floor crash together, which would surely have been fatal. The tigress comments that they would have been crushed like pancakes, which gives Zatara an idea. He magically flattens them, like pancakes, so that they can be safe even if the room closes in on them.

Leaving the girls behind, he returns to the control room, where he turns the man to stone, and searches for the treasure. He finds it, but the man frees himself from Zatara's spell, revealing that he himself is Boris Kartzoff, and announcing that they will die together. He attempts to crush them all, but Zatara, Kay, and the Tigress escape, and Kartzoff is destroyed along with his tower.

Okay, so I have one big problem with this--and it's not unique to this particular Zatara story--which is that Zatara was totally happy to go steal this guy's money. I mean, he wasn't even a dead eccentric builder. He was still alive, living in that tower. So, basically, Zatara and his pal decided to break into the guy's home and steal his entire fortune, and it ended up with the guy killed by his own home collapsing around him, yet Zatara is the hero. I'm not trying to justify murder, here, and I know they claim that Kartzoff's whole purpose was to lure people to the tower so that he could kill them, but Zatara had no business being there, anyway. If people wouldn't have tried to steal Kartzoff's jewels, there would have been no problems. But Zatara is the gentleman adventurer, so anything he does that is in service to adventure is pretty much going to be considered morally justified, in his stories. Disappointing.