Action Comics vol.1 #77 - Cover date October 1944
The Prankster returns once again with an inspired scheme to use faked newspaper headlines to manipulate the buying and selling of entire empires. It’s the second time the Prankster’s plan has involved the Daily Planet in some capacity, which of course quickly brings him to the attention of Superman.
The cover to this issue famously declares “Another Superman versus Prankster adventure” in a banner below the title, as a nod to the popularity of the funny little villain and his repeated schemes to baffle, insult and embarrass the Man of Tomorrow.
Superman vol.1 #30 - Cover date September-October 1944
Lois stars in her third solo installment, and features prominently in the opening story to this issue (which involves Superman and Clark Kent switching roles, or at least pretending to, for Jimmy’s and Lois’ benefits), followed by Superman helping set a rightful heir to a foreign throne back in charge of the country which was stolen from his ancestor.
More importantly than any of these, though, is the comic book debut of Mr.Mxyztplk, and - unlike his newspaper appearance - this story focuses entirely on his peculiar brand of mischief.
Fans of the animated Superman series from the 1990s will recognize some of the elements of the story, from Mxyztplk’s bulb-headed, purple-suited appearance to his faking death after a truck collision and, of course, loudly awakening the forgetful “McGurk” (actually the famous Rodin statue The Thinker) at a Metropolis museum.
The incredibly popular imp causes a number of ruckuses around the city, engages Superman in a super-breath contest - not something that happens every day - and eventually laughs himself right back to the magical dimension of Zrrrf - for a short while, anyway, as he quickly proves to be one of Superman’s most popular foes.
World’s Finest Comics vol.1 #15 - Cover date Fall 1944
Superman caps off this adventure involving tire thieves by admonishing his readers to avoid buying goods off the Black Market. The subsequent mental image of the legions of underage and prepubescent Superman readers swearing off illegally purchased car tires is charming, of course.
Meanwhile, we see the return of a super-trope left generally abandoned in Superman’s first year or two of publishing - he converts a crook to the straight and narrow by showing him the inspiring image of others’ sacrifice.
Action Comics vol.1 #76 - Cover date September 1944
Superman is a supporting character in his own comic, taking a backseat to a determined young heir who must follow his adventurous father’s footsteps around the globe in order to earn a hefty inheritance. Superman provides the handy last minute salvation at the usual crossroads between conflict and capture, but for the most part this story plays out in the model of the popular adventure strips which were found in America’s newspapers, with young Roger Carson accomplishing much by himself.
Unusually for a Superman story, it’s published in 1944 but set in 1939 - the better to catch up with Roger as the hard-battling captain of a navy vessel in the Pacific Theater.
Action Comics vol.1 #75 - Cover date August 1944
The Man of Steel matches wits with a wily crook named Johnny Aesop, who finds inspiration for his clever crimes in the Fables of his namesake and taunts Superman with a series of clue-besotted notes. Although the story is credited to Jerry Siegel, it’s a formula that bears the fingerprints of perenially undercredited authorial juggernaut Bill Finger, for whom hero-baiting gimmick criminals were a frequent staple.
Superman vol.1 #29 - Cover date July-August 1944
The Prankster sets himself up as The Wizard of Wishes and Superman battles The Tycoon of Crime, the latter of whom looks - with his fat, foolish appearance, comical costume and press-button gadgetry - as though he would have happily fit the mold of other returning villains like the aforementioned Oswald Loomis, Toyman, and Wolfingham. He does use a ferocious intellect to deduce Superman’s sole weakness - well, it’s only hypnotism, which has brought the Man of Steel low before, but it’s still an impressive first outing.
Lois receives her second solo installment, and the issue closes on Clark being erroneously identified as a potential heir to a wealthy Kent, although he muses that he has no relatives (whatever future issues may have to say on the subject).
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - July 1944 to January 1945
The vast majority of these episodes are, like the rest of 1944’s radio serial adventures, missing and considered lost. This is a terrible shame, since two recurring characters are introduced in this six-month period; The terrible, brilliant and horrifically ugly Nazi assassin Der Teufel and Perry White’s comical assistant “Poco”, former court jester from Planet Utopia.
Luckily, both characters show up again in better-preserved stories further down the line.
The titles of the episodes from this six-month period include:
"The Seagull, North Pacific Adventure" (July 1944)
"The Mystery of the Aviation Freight Lines" (July 1944)
"The Society of the Crimson Robe" (July - August 1944)
"Ghosts of the Air" (August 1944)
"The Scorpion" (August - September 1944)
"Der Teufel’s Atomic Pistol" (September 1944)
"The Mystery of the Mummy Case" (September - October 1944)
"Dr. Roebling and the Voice Machine" (October - November 1944)
"Planet Utopia" (November - December 1944)
"Lois’ Phony Uncle John" (December 1944)
"The Missing Santa Claus" (December 1944)
"The Man in the Velvet Shoes" (December 1944 - January 1945)
"King Jimmy Olsen" Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - July 20, 1944 to October 28, 1944
Probably the first story in which Superman’s trusty pal Jimmy finds himself thrust into some unlikely and fantastic scenario which leads the Man of Steel into action, Jimmy is crowned the king of a super-scientific alien land as part of a scheme by its ruling council to overthrow the monarchy and conquer the world.
The best-known version of Jimmy Olsen - although it was largely contained to Jimmy’s own comic from 1954 through 1974 and rarely reflected in other media - is, of course, the “Jimmy-of-the-week.” Through magic, weird science or pure happenstance, Jimmy would become Elasti-Lad, or The Human Porcupine, or a werewolf, or ancient Rome’s own rock musician, and so on.
The original Jimmy Olsen of the comics and radio, though, was a tough, resourceful and courageous kid whose brushes with adventure were no more unusual or supernatural than anything that befell the rest of the cast. If his absurd Silver Age adventures have a predecessor, then it’s likely this story …
Action Comics vol.1 #74 - Cover date July 1944
As this blog takes pains to emphasize, there are trends and motifs which repeat themselves throughout the early years of Superman’s debut; frequently, Superman has had the opportunity to play Guardian Angel to some lovelorn and lackluster poor soul who has, for whatever reason, lost his confidence. It’s not unusual in these circumstances for Superman to adopt the likeness and identity of the underdog in question, performing super-feats disguised as exceptional competence.
However, lovelorn inventor and cool customer Adelbert Dribble turns the tables on the Man of Steel and takes his lovelorn situation into his own hands by not only capturing Superman but taking his place!
Helium-filled muscles and an under-the-cape propeller fill out Adelbert’s ersatz Superman uniform, and honey-trap worthy of Luthor or Ultra - impact-absorbing rubber walls suspended by shock-resistant springs - keep Superman out of sight while Adelbert woos his once dismissive lady love.
In upcoming years, stories where Superman’s recurring themes are reversed become more common - he’ll lose his powers while someone else will gain them, one of his supporting cast might undertake a secret identity which Clark Kent will pursue to uncover, and so on. Adelbert Dribble reverses Superman’s own do-goodery, however, which is a notable oddity in the overall scheme.
World’s Finest Comics vol.1 #14 - Cover date Summer 1944
In the middle of the desert, Hermit Jim is furious that a mining operation is setting up camp next to his claim - and he has a right to be incensed, they’re close to stumbling on his horde of gold, collected over thirty years of prospecting. Superman saves Jim and the gold - and Lois, who gets involved in the mess - from crooks, and reconciles Jim with the miners.
Two or three years ago, however, this story may very well have played out much differently, with a crooked mining camp infringing on the hardworking individual’s rightful land. The setting of Superman has changed noticeably since its fiery days of activism.