World’s Best Comics Vol.1 #1 - cover date March 1941
Superman debuts in his third ongoing title for National, an adventure anthology book based on the formula established by the company’s earlier “World’s Fair Comics” experiments. Sharing the page count with Superman were Detective Comics’ gun-toting mystery man Crimson Avenger and Flash Comics’ magically gifted Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, among other such colorful types as The King, the military trio Red, White and Blue and lesser-known tough guys with the appealing names of Punch Parker and Lando, Man of Magic.
Of course, the most high-profile of Superman’s co-stars was Batman, still relatively new to the scene but a popular enough character to warrant tying the Man of Steel for the number of ongoing appearances. While neither character had yet met, this was their second appearance together, and they’d share this book in one manner or another for the better part of the next forty years.
Inside the book, Superman receives an Action-sized parcel of adventure pitting him against The Rainmaker - a disaster-engineering baddie armed with a machine to manipulate the weather. The story goes much as expected, with the Man of Tomorrow triumphing against nature’s rawest fury and saving another town from a wrecked dam with such clean precision you’d think he majored in Wrecked Dams in college.
One key scene underlines Superman’s early ruthlessness; we’re familiar with our defender of the underdog threatening crooks with bodily harm of all varieties, and we’ve seen him unperturbed by the sudden death of the deservingly corrupt. In this debut episode of World’s Best, however, we see Superman willfully send someone to their death – while the Rainmaker’s storms rage and the burst dam’s terrible floodwaters roil below, Superman kicks the villain’s house, occupant and all, off the cliff and into the tumultuous deluge.
The Rainmaker emerges unhurt, luckily, only to perish by his own actions later in the story, but his survival certainly owes nothing to Superman…