World’s Finest Comics vol.1 #6 - Cover date Summer 1942
Jimmy Olsen debuts in the comics courtesy of this issue, name and all (an earlier unnamed copyboy is often credited as being Jimmy’s first appearance in the comic, but without having a name assigned to him, is he really Jimmy? Imagine his existential dilemma).
Also debuting in this episode is the malevolent Metalo, not to be confused with the later “man with the kryptonite heart” who spelled his sobriquet with two “L”s. Decked out in invulnerable armor and lurid purple cape, capable of flight and gifted with tremendous strength, Metalo undertakes a series of crimes across Metropolis of which the authorities understandably accuse the Man of Steel.
Superman is now no stranger to the super-villain, the world-conqueror and the mad scientist, so does Metalo represent anything previously unexplored in the genre? Well, for the first time, Superman is facing his equal but opposite number – possessed of all of the Man of Tomorrow’s mighty powers, decked out in a cloaked costume, masking his true identity behind a fanciful name. Admittedly he’s not quite the mirror duplicate that enemies like Bizarro, Ultraman or Super-Menace might eventually be, but he is, at least, the first.
Like so many villains before him, Metalo appears to die at the end of the issue, but unusually for the medium, the readers are shown that he survives – to vow and plot his revenge! In a wonderful sort of irony, though, Metalo thereafter vanished entirely, and didn’t return to the comics for three decades…
Superman Unchained #4 cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
BREAKING: Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have found their Wonder Woman. They’ve cast Gal Gadot in the iconic role and she will be part of Batman Vs. Superman,
Well well well… What do we have here?
Superman Unchained #6 variant cover by Joe Jusko and Dave Johnson (after Action Comics #153)
The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther
Superman missed out on becoming the first comic book superhero to appear live on the silver screen – that honor goes to his Fawcett Comics’ rival Captain Marvel by way of his very popular 12-part serial the year previous (technically, comic strip hero Dick Tracy beat both of them to the punch with a trio of popular serials between 1937 and 1939) – however he has the honor of being the first comic book superhero to make the leap to prose. In 1942, The Adventures of Superman debuted, written by George Lowther and featuring interior artwork by Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster.
The bulk of the story centers on Clark Kent earning his reporting credentials by way of exposing a freighter full of skeleton pirates and a Nazi plot, however the most interesting part of the book is the opening chapters. As the only other writer besides Jerry Siegel at this point to catalogue the adventures of the Man of Steel, Lowther effectively has carte blanche to extrapolate on Superman’s youth, from Jor-L’s impassioned plea to the ruling council of Krypton and desperate rush to save his child, to the adopted Clark’s difficult childhood on Earth.
Lowther’s vision of Clark’s childhood is a surprisingly complex one. Not yet a powerful man of determination and resolve, the young Clark Kent finds his powers a mystery and a burden. Guilty, embarrassed, unsure of himself, his growing powers actually undermine Clark’s confidence – although he finds spontaneous joy in suddenly leaping tremendous heights with only a gentle push.
Although writing a book which was ostensibly aimed at the juvenile market, Lowther wrote against type for boys’ adventure; His young Clark Kent suffered the insecurities and doubts of a deeply sensitive boy at that age. In many ways, it resembles the current iteration of young Superman with which we may find familiar from the motion pictures or the television show Smallville, and certainly must have resonated to some degree with Superman’s co-creator Jerry Siegel, whose own childhood must have been punctuated with similar insecurities.
"The Superman Truck"
Superman Sunday Newspaper Strip - June 14, 1942 to September 20, 1942
Superman enters the lexicon of his fictional world much in the same way he entered the lexicon of the real world – as advertising. A “Superman Truck” is unveiled, a tremendous transport vehicle which, five years prior, might’ve been called merely Colossal or Titanic. It’s tough to decide if Jerry Siegel is presaging the preponderance of “Super-“ this and “Super-“ that’s which would be marketed in the wake of his enormously popular co-creation, sneering at the common acquisition of the term which propagated in his own day, or is merely building his hero’s in-canon reputation.