The Golden Age of comics is over 75 years old, so it’s expected that classic characters like Superman and Batman may have behaved a little differently. This Superman couldn’t fly and was about as fast as your average speed limit on major American highways. His era was characterized by fighting lobbyists, gangsters, and mad scientists with an odd affinity for shaved heads. While the Silver Age is most well known for absurd stories, the Golden Age had its fair share of hysteria as well.
1) Superman and Peter Peeker (Superman vol 1 Issue 7)
This issue is hilarious for a couple reasons. Perry White is distraught that the Daily Planet keeps getting out scooped on stories about crimes committed by “The Black Gang” by a journalist from a rival newspaper. Hold that thought; The Black Gang? How generic is that name? It’s a color and then a noun. That’d be like naming a character Green Lantern, or Red Hood, or Blue Beetle, or … oh.
So what’s the name of the journalist beating the Daily Planet to the deadline? Peter Peeker. Firstly, take a second and say that name out loud. Did you laugh? Cause I did. Secondly, come on, we’re two letters away from another famous guy who works for a newspaper and always gets the story before other tabloids. However, considering this story appeared in November 1940, it’s obvious that either Stan Lee took some inspiration from the Superman comics he read as a kid, or Jerry Siegel is a time lord with a weird sense of ironic humor.
Perry sends Lois and Clark to investigate the Black Gang story. When Clark arrives at Lois’s apartment, he learns Lois bleached her hair as a disguise. She then convinces Clark he needs to remove his glasses to seem less conspicuous. He reluctantly agrees and takes them off. Lois comments that she didn’t realize how handsome Clark was until now. That’s it. Then they leave. This ace reporter has Superman ‘un-mask’ himself right in front of her and she decides, “Wow, you’re really handsome, Clark. Alright let’s go to a nightclub.”
No, but that’s where they go to investigate; a nightclub. The Green Hat nightclub to be precise (there are those creative naming skills again.) Luckily, they happen to run into Peter Peeker there. After Lois and Clark tell him their phony cover stories, Peeker excuses himself and leaves. Lois then gets asked to dance by a mysterious stranger, Frank Jordan, (in case this wasn’t sounding too much like an episode of Jersey Shore already) and, surprise, she gets kidnapped.
Where’s Clark you ask? Well, a girl who knows Frank distracted him, then asks Clark to take her home in a cab, and before Clark can yell, “Cabs are here!” the Black Gang hijacks their car. Clark escapes into the woods where he changes into Superman. He over hears that the woman works for the Black Gang and that it was a trap (No way!) He follows the car back to their hideout where he sees Peeker, revealed to be working with the gang, enter the garage. Inside, the criminals found Lois’s I.D. badge and realize her true identity. Before the criminals can kill her, Superman takes a page out of the Kool-Aid guy’s hand book and bursts through the wall.
He catches the bullets, ties up the gang, and saves the day. The next morning, Perry has a good laugh with his top two reporters who, if one of them wasn’t an alien refugee from another planet, would’ve been killed pretty effortlessly by recklessly falling into the gang’s trap. Now bring me more pictures of Superman!
2) Superman is The Replacements (Action Comics vol 1 Issue 4)
Superman over hears that the Dale University football coach, Randall, has hired two ruffians in the game between Dale and Cordell University. He plans to have the two men beat up the Cordell quarterback so his team can win the game. Planning the long game, Superman infiltrates the football team posing as Tommy Burke, a backup player. How does Superman pose as Burke? Well, he drugs him. With a hypodermic needle. See, he found Tommy taking a long walk after his girlfriend told him she’s breaking up with him to date the tennis star Wallace Dodd, then Supes stabs him with the needle and assumes his identity. To take it a bit further, Superman keeps Tommy sedated with a sleep inducing drug. Weird, right?
As expected, Superman dominates the Cordell v. Dale University game. We’re talking Seahawks vs. Broncos 2014 level decimation. Tommy Burke escapes from captivity in time to watch himself become a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. The two henchmen try to stab Superman, but much like his rushing capabilities, Superman can’t be touched on the field. In other words, he sacks the assailants like Charles V sacked Rome.
“You know why I’m here.”
Coach Randall realizes his career is over, and he resigns at half time. Burke’s girlfriend, having seen the game, decides to take him back (how not shallow of her.) Superman and Burke trade places, and as the second half begins, Burke is KO-ed faster than Bethe Correia in the Rousey fight. When Burke wakes up, his girlfriend tells him to retire from football. Considering he’d been stabbed, drugged, and had his identity stolen over the past few days only to be utterly devastated his first few seconds of play, he decides it’s for the best and agrees.
3) Superman breaks the 4th Wall (Kinda) (Superman vol 1 Issue 19)
This story is truly ridiculous. Clark asks Lois to go on a date with him because they both have the afternoon off. Lois decides they should go to the movie theater because a new Superman cartoon is playing. Friendzoned by yourself: classic Kent. They arrive at the theater and take their seats as the movie begins. Strangely, it opens with an advertisement to follow Superman’s stories in Superman and Action Comics. Lois explains she’s never seen those magazines, and Clark chalks up the strange occurrence to the cartoonists being ‘clairvoyant.’
The cartoon begins when one of the mad scientists Superman has fought before breaks out of the Prison Island where he was jailed. The movie then pans to the Daily Planet building, which Lois quickly recognizes. Realizing what’s about to happen, Clark says something is stuck in his throat and rushes out of the theater in a panic; Lois follows him, narrowly missing the reveal in Perry’s office.
Clark and Lois then re-enter the theater and return to their seats to continue. The mad scientist has now created a giant robot which is headed for the city. It attacks a plane that is flying low, causing it to crash, but not before the pilot gets a message through. Air traffic controllers make a call to the Daily Planet, inciting Clark to panic and knock Lois’s purse onto the floor to distract her. Lois begins to fumble for it – and as anyone who’s dropped something on a movie theater floor knows, it’s a race against time before it disappears in the void. While she’s looking, Clark punts the purse under the seats further away. What’s worse is he’s justified because on the screen they show Perry White giving the story to Lois and Clark!
Are you imagining this scene right now? Clark is watching his everyday life, his secret identity, being put in jeopardy right before his eyes, and the only way he can think to prevent Lois from seeing this is by causing minor inconveniences to distract her. This seems more like a scene out of a Monday night sitcom than a Superman comic at this point.
“Hey, remember that time you didn’t look behind you? Cause don’t.”
Lois eventually gets her purse and they watch as Superman destroys the robot, stops the mad scientist, and saves the day. Clark then gets up and pulls Lois out of her seat, making his way for the exit. He explains the movie made him feel “dizzy” and they have to leave. Lois retorts by mockingly calling him a ‘weakling’, and they exit. Clark turns right before he leaves to see Superman on the screen give him a nod and wink.
Seriously, what is happening?
Clark, word of advice:
One, if you want Lois to fall in love with Clark Kent, stop being the world’s biggest goober every time she decides to be around you.
Two, when your whole life starts playing out before you on the silver screen, don’t re-enter the theater.
Three, when your cartoon self winks at you from the movie screen, don’t pretend like that’s normal. I realize you live in a world with aliens, giant robots, and crazed evil scientists – but seriously, that should raise a few red flags.