Action Comics vol.1 #62 - Cover date July 1943
How long will Superman live? It’s a question with which the writers have often had to wrestle, If he does age, how long will his vitality and youth persist? Will his powers weaken with age? And what of Superman’s crusade against crime and injustice, is it a war he can ever win?
Since the Seventies, we’ve been comfortably presented with a minor parade of older Supermen gone gray at the temples - the Superman of Earth-2, the Superman of Kingdom Come, the Superman of Batman Beyond - but in this first foray into the concept, the Man of Steel hasn’t aged a day.
It’s the year 2143 - two hundred years into this story’s future - and Superman is not only as young and vibrant as his present-day self, but he has more leisure time; his war on crime has borne such fruit that the idea of villainy is unknown in this far-flung time. The champion Superman spends his days turning his terrific mind to scientific advancement and leisurely listening in as old acquaintances pass his legend on to younger generations.
World’s Finest Comics vol.1 #10 - Cover date Summer 1943
Superman confronts the purple-clad, goggle-eyed Insect Master, who reasonably enough is able to command insects to commit his acts of evil. Saving Metropolis from a deadly swarm, the Man of Steel is nearly killed – or lengthily inconvenienced, anyway – by a quicksand trap at the Insect Master’s infested swampland hideout, the site of his own apparent death …
"The Sneer Strikes!" Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - June 28, 1943 to August 21, 1943
More than a few fictional characters toured the Japanese-American internment camps which dotted the west coast after 1942, the goal of their tours largely being to console the uneasy consciences of Americans troubled by the objectionable actions of their government towards literally tens of thousands of their fellow citizens. Clark and Lois visit one camp and - following a superficial tour - find it good, effectively stamping the entire controversial endeavor with Superman’s approval. A low point in Superman’s history.
Making their judgment call from the tourist perspective, Clark and Lois find the interned citizens of Japanese descent to be “decent, hard-working, honest Americans” … for the most part. Fifth column activities - unsurprisingly, given the circumstances - nonetheless pop up in the camp, necessitating Superman’s intervention.
This time, last year, in the newspaper dailies, Superman was clashing with the insidious Japanese agent The Leer, who destroyed himself rather than risk capture. Now, the Leer is back — or so it seems, as it’s actually the original agent’s lookalike brother, his face also contorted in a permanent rictus.
"Society of the Flamingo" / "Mr. Prim and the Dragonfly Adventure" / "The Genie in the Bottle" / “The World of the Future”
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - July - August
These radio episodes are missing in their entirety, meaning it’s only their intriguing titles which are left to guide our imaginations. At the very least, we’re left to ponder - was Mr.Prim a friend or foe? Was the Society of the Flamingo farcical or felonious? And what wonders were included in the Genie in the Bottle and the World of the Future?
Action Comics vol.1 #61 - Cover date June 1943
Lois’ affections are won over by a charismatic, showboating man-about-town (and suspected crook), and Superman is left with only one solution - win Lois back! But first he must make her aware that his much-loathed civilian identity only masks the courage and power of Superman.
Unfortunately, contrivance follows contrivance in prohibiting Clark from successfully revealing his secret to a dubious Lois, and by the time he’s given up, her new paramour reveals himself to be a fraud. Still, it’s only last issue that Lois was dreaming of hooking Superman in matrimony, so the romance has come back to the book after a long absence amidst war and fantasy stories.
Superman vol.1 #22 - Cover date May-June 1943
At this point, Superman has not only fought mole people and mermaids, but he’s saved Santa Claus from the Nazis, stood in for Cinderella’s fairy godmother and shown up in the far-future without so much as a grey hair. It’s no small leap of logic, then, that Superman would live in a world peppered not only with the airplane-smashing imps of World War II, the gremlins, but at least a pair of different gremlin races. Adolf Hitler is assisted in this story by the elf-like Squiffles, mischievous supernatural creatures under the command of their monarch, a king-sized green gargoyle with the conceivably fifth-dimensional moniker of “Ixnayalpay” - although they precede the debut of Mxyztplk by a solid year.
The Prankster returns with an unlikely scheme involving having copyrighted the alphabet, and a third tale in this issue features Superman and Lois helping a neighborhood big shot regain his run of good luck.
The changing nature of Superman’s relationship with the authority figures in his fictional world and his increasing acceptance as a role model in the real world introduce an unfortunate sense of hypocrisy in the final story of this issue; a bow-wielding vigilante calling himself Robin Hood takes aim at corrupt landlords, petty gangsters and assorted millionaires, robbing their riches and redistributing them among the poor. Although the modern-day Robin Hood is arguably following in Superman’s earliest footsteps, the Man of Steel is nonetheless called in to round up the verdant vigilante. Hood’s mid-story switch to self-indulgent robbery - he’s the victim of a silver-tongued gangster who convinces him to embrace ill-gotten wealth - saves the reader from wondering what moral difference really exists between a crusading superhuman tossing crooked politicians over telephone lines and a fanciful archer robbing from crooks to feed the poor…
Action Comics vol.1 #60 - Cover date May 1943
The supporting cast as superhero is a revered tradition in the superhero books, so while Jimmy (Elastic Lad) Olsen and Lana (Insect Queen) Lang might be the two most famous examples, it’s Lois Lane who starts the tradition.
It might be a bit of a cheat to pack a second dream sequence following last Action’s mashup of the Cinderella story, but there’s no other way for this issue’s debut of LOIS LANE - SUPERWOMAN to happen.
Injured and dreaming of having received a blood transfusion from the Man of Steel, Lois returns to vitality bursting with tremendous power. It’s not long before she adopts a lookalike Super-uniform of her very own and takes to the skies above Metropolis. Before long, she’s doing everything Superman does - playing guardian angel to a lovelorn couple, stopping errant vehicles, and clashing with her own supervillain - the leering Dr.Skowl!
Cowardly Clark even shows up in the dream to try and unmask Superwoman, but not before she has a chance to pin Superman down on the question of matrimony.
"The Nefarious Noname"
Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - April 19, 1943 to June 26, 1943
Superman has pledged to patrol within America’s borders for fifth columnists and saboteurs, but Clark meanwhile - remember that he had previously tried to enlist in the Army, but been rebuffed - jockeys for the coveted position of overseas war correspondent for the Daily Planet.
Uncovering a spy ring leads Superman to the doorstep of the four-eyed giant Noname. Aligned - for unexplored reasons - with the Axis, the well-dressed titan is also possessed of tremendous mental abilities, and spends a few episodes of the strip rebuffing the Man of Steel behind an impenetrable wall and generally buffeting him about with telekinetic force.
The unusual character of Noname is never truly explained - where he comes from, from where he derives his amazing powers, whether he’s even human and what a creature of such amazing abilities gains from allying himself with the Axis - but the breakneck demand for new menaces sometimes makes the answers to these questions a luxury …
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - May-June 1943
The scarcity of episodes from this era is a genuine shame, if owing almost entirely to the presence of The Meteor From Krypton among 1943’s catalog. Although Jerry Siegel had intended to introduce what we know today as Kryptonite in an earlier story - the unpublished K-Metal From Krypton, editorially kiboshed owing to Siegel additionally upsetting the apple cart by having Lois permanently learn Superman’s dual identity - it’s here, on the radio show, that Superman’s fatal weakness debuts, and the name of Superman’s home planet becomes first known to Superman’s supporting cast.
The episodes from this missing two-month period include:
"Master of the Dream World"
"The Ghost Squadron"
"The Meteor from Krypton"