"Lois Lane, Millionaire" Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - December 4, 1944 to February 10, 1945
Lois Lane stands to inherit a small fortune from her recently deceased great-granduncle, unless an unscrupulous lawyer can take advantage of the strange stipulation - Lois, as the sole heir, if unmarried, has ten days to find a husband.
Superman is, naturally, her first choice, But the Man of Steel’s dogged persistence that Lois should fall for him in his Clark Kent guise leads to the closest near-reveal of his dual identity to date (excluding only his deliberate and misunderstood unmasking in a previous issue of Action).
Superman’s connubial slipperiness leads Lois into the arms of a dashing con man who, ultimately, underlines the problem with anyone pitching woo at Superman’s Girlfriend - who in their right mind wants to get Superman angry at them?
Of course, Lois fails to inherit the money, but it all works out for the best, and the romantic status quo is reestablished in time for the next adventure.
Action Comics vol.1 #79 - Cover date December 1944
Dom Cameron returns to the scripting duties for another outing of J.Wilbur Wolfingham, the con-man who can’t seem to con anyone but himself. This is the second of three appearances of Wolfingham in the same year - once each in Action, Superman and World’s Finest. Two of Superman’s other “funny little” villains (Prankster and Toyman) received much cover fanfare in their appearances, and even Superman impersonator Adelbert Dribble showed up on the cover of his single appearance.
This issue marks Wolfingham’s first gracing of a cover, although he doesn’t so much as share it with Superman as much as he imagines Superman’s presence. Still, it’s an important graduation for a solid, recurring villain.
Superman vol.1 #31 - Cover date November-December 1944
Luthor’s been a rare sight in this book lately, but he returns with the power of SOUND (i.e. super-destructive tuning forks) now added to his arsenal of anti-Superman weapons.
Lois continues to appear in her slate of stand-alone, shorter features which bear some resemblance to the comic strip in their lightly comic touch (although she gets to do her fair share of actual investigative reporting), and a final story in this volume involves Superman assisting a natural history museum with its attempts to build a valuable stock of displays in spite of efforts at sabotage.
Most interesting story in this volume, however, involves a tale told from the perspective of Lois Lane’s heretofore unseen pooch Flip - the only creature on Earth to know Superman’s dual identity! We all change our clothes in front of the dog, I suppose. Regaling his pup pals with the story of his derring-do alongside the Man of Steel, Flip’s story is another example of the book’s attempts to find new and curious perspectives from which to tell the ‘same old’ crimefighting stories which are its current bread and butter.
Action Comics vol.1 #78 - Cover date November 1944
In this very unusual story - scripted by Alvin Schwartz, a writer of whom it might also fairly be said was an unusual man - Superman befriends the owner of a diner in the bohemian part of Metropolis, a colorful Russian character named Sergei who trades sandwiches and soup for artwork from his eccentric clientele, charges on a sliding scale, and deliberately keeps customers out so he never has to rush his cooking. We have similar places here in Seattle.
Alvin Schwartz was an important figure in Superman’s history - a prolific contributor, he wrote Superman and Batman’s first teamup in World’s Finest and the first adult Bizarro story (Bizarro had debuted in an Otto Binder story for Superboy) complete with now-trademark speech patterns. Conflicts with editor Mort Weisinger drove Schwartz away from comics.
A deeply intelligent man, Schwartz had a temperament which made him an excellent fit for superhero comics - he was profoundly interested in Jungian psychoanalysis, Eastern mysticism, Wilhelm Reich’s theories of Orgone Energy, to name only a few of his many sidelines.
Following his departure from the comics, Schwartz claimed to have “met” Superman - or the tulpa of Superman, the idea of the character given physical form - in the very quotidian environment of a New York taxi cab.
"Superman’s Secret Revealed!" Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - October 30, 1944 to December 2, 1944
A broken teletype machine in a small-town affiliate of the Daily Planet produces a mangled headline which ties Superman romantically with a recently-engaged heiress. Connecting a handful of dots leads the Planet to reveal Superman’s secret identity as being the heiress’ actual fiancee, an unscrupulous cad who’s marrying to wealthy gal in order to fleece her blind and pay off her gambling debts.
The DNA of the Superman stories is slowly beginning to turn inward, focusing more on plots and problems within the chief supporting cast, particularly here as Superman’s primary goal isn’t so much disabusing the public of the misinformation which the Planet published or saving a young heiress from a predatory fortune-seeker, but saving Lois from the embarrassment of having her scoop exposed as a lie.
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.