"The Mystery of the Golden Nail"
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - March 1945
Superman and Jimmy encounter a group of mystery surrounding golden nails, painted red to avoid detection. The resolution of the mystery is anyone’s guess, as vital parts of this radio serial remain missing.
Action Comics vol.1 #82 - Cover date March 1945
Superman comes very close to finally facing another supernatural foe but, in a twist reminsicent of Scooby-Doo, we find a man under a rubber mask.
A dam project is interrupted and undermined by the sinister, sometimes-rhyming Water Sprite, a horrific fanged creature who claims to speak for supernatural forces invested in the running waters. When Superman intervenes, he discovers that the costume and posture are all a ruse, and the Water Sprite is actually the man responsible for building the dam - he evidently wanted to destroy it in order to hide the use of shoddy materials, then blame the event on the inhuman Water Sprite.
Most of Superman’s foes at this point are the lightly comical, from Toyman to Prankster to Mxyztplk, so an apparently mythological monster-man makes for an interesting break to the rhythm.
"The Obnoxious Ogies"
Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - February 12, 1945 to March 31, 1945
The Superman staff is obviously having a great deal of fun with its assorted imps, gremlins, squiffles, pranksters and fibbers, so it’s no surprise that they add the colorful (or color-less, actually) Ogies, a pair of invisible and intangible sprites inherited by Superman thanks to the largesse of a grateful ship’s captain.
As the Ogies are unwilling to leave Superman’s company, the Man of Steel must come up with all sorts of clever plans to mask his dual identity from snooping eyes he can’t even see, and meanwhile must contend with the Ogies’ audible voices causing all sorts of misunderstanding (they fawn over Lois Lane, which the girl reporter mistakes for the otherwise bashful Superman’s own affection given voice), adding new levels of difficulty to his already-complicated life.
Action Comics vol.1 #81 - Cover date February 1945
It would be interesting to map all of the amusement park “Lands” which populate Metropolis in these early Superman stories, as it’s a not-uncommon go-to premise for the Man of Steel’s adventures. The city must have preceded Orlando for number of attractions.
In this case, wealthy John Nicholas, who grew up an orphan, pledges in his will to use his millions to build Fairyland Isle to entertain children who are poor as he was. His unscrupulous nephews arrange a series of (ideally harmless) accidents to occur at the Park, in order that it’s shut down and the remaining fortune reverts to them, but it all goes awry, the nephews find their virtue, Nicholas turns up alive anyway and the family quartet rededicate themselves as one to promoting Fairyland Isle and similar parks across the world.
A strange interlude in the story occurs when Lois - smoky-eyed and sultry in an elegant emerald green outfit - dons a schoolgirl outfit and convincingly passes for a pre-adolescent (in order to get closer to the story). Amusingly, even Clark is bamboozled by the get-up, which has largely involved nothing more than a change in hairstyle, a change in manner, and -well - a pair of glasses…
More Fun Comics #101 - Cover date January-February 1945
Not since the launch of Superman in 1938 had there been such an important new creation in the Man of Steel’s personal franchise - the introduction of Superboy.
Siegel had previously pitched Superboy series on two other occasions, in 1938 and 1940, but it was only in 1944 - when Siegel was serving overseas - that plans were put into action. In early 1945, the Boy of Steel debuted without Siegel’s permission or management. It was a turning point in the already-contentious relationship between Siegel and Jack Liebowitz, National’s publisher, who appeared to be wresting complete control of the franchise while its co-creator was called away.
The ownership issue of Superboy eventually led to the courts, with Siegel retrieving his rights to the character from National - but allowing them to continue publishing the character as the owner. Never a savvy defender of his legal rights as much as his ethical rights, Siegel effectively signed away Superboy in the wake of having just won him back.
As for Superboy himself, he debuts to almost no fanfare at all - not only is he not featured on the cover, but he’s not even mentioned (alongside co-inhabitants Johnny Quick, Aquaman, Spectre, the comedy team of Dover and Clover, and the book’s foremost attraction, Green Arrow).
In a terse, five-page retelling of Superman’s (and now Superboy’s) origin, we see more of Krypton than any other comic has yet shown, as well as what is very likely the first image of a pleasant, aged Kent couple doting over their lovable, adopted super-infant.
Rather than being encouraged by his dying father to mask his great powers behind a meek disguise in order to better serve humanity, it’s young Clark who determines that he must hide his light under a bushel.
Although the brief tale doesn’t leave much room for nuance, it’s also insinuated that Clark invents his Superboy identity out of whole cloth - as he does his costume, which he sews himself (predating the home-ec handiness of Peter Parker by a couple of decades).
Obviously, there’s little in the way of canon in these early stories - the radio serial alone has upended Superman’s origin for its own purposes, at the very least - but Superboy’s presence will dramatically change all sorts of assumptions about the character of his older self, in short order.
Superman vol.1 #32 - Cover date January-February 1945
Behind one of the most iconic covers of Superman’s lengthy career, the Man of Steel finds himself afflicted with amnesia and left to wander the streets of Metropolis in a vain attempt to discern his own civilian identity. To the credit of his assumed alternate ID, even Superman finds Clark Kent to be too timid and anemic to be Superman’s alter-ego.
Following that, Superman confronts a so-called “Death-Bird” menace at a luxury ski resort, discovering fake ghosts and subversive schemes worthy of a Scooby Doo episode. While Lois dramatically breaks up a pickpocketing ring in her solo adventure, the issue wraps up with Toyman disguising himself as a master toymaker (which is to say, a master toymaker other than one wanted by the police) whose clever inventions allow him entrance to the homes of the wealthiest Metropolitans.
The cover of this issue is striking and finds itself reproduced in homage and merchandise, but it doesn’t tell much of a story - where is Superman that he’s pelted from all sides by electricity? Typically, when the image is expanded upon, it’s the center of fuming storm clouds, but there’s no clue as to context here, merely an affirmation of indestructibility - which is often the appeal of Superman as a character, that he can survive terrific abuse in the pursuit of adventure.
"Superman’s Service for Servicemen Continues"
Superman Sunday Newspaper Strip - Jan 7 through Feb 25 1945
By September of 1945, the conflicts in Europe and the Pacific Theater will be largely concluded, and so also Superman’s Service for Servicemen - a more-than-year-long story arc in which Superman answers direct requests for assistance sent to him by America’s armed services - winds to a close over the course of the year.
Early in 1945, Superman entertains soldiers stationed in the Aleutian islands by bringing them all the warmth and wonders of a tropical island paradise (including dancing girls), helps along a romantic triangle between a young woman and her two noble beaus stationed overseas, and reminds the folks at home that a soldier’s morale depends on receiving encouraging correspondence from home.
The titles of these arcs are as follows:
"Aleutian Dancing Girls" - January 7, 1945 to January 14, 1945
"The War Medals" - January 21, 1945 to February 11, 1945
"If You’re Not a Fighter - Be a Writer" - February 18, 1945 to February 25, 1945