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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Friday, October 29, 2004

Action Comics 133

My pal Jon Knutson is a tireless poster of cool comics covers on the DC HISTORY mailing list:

Recently, thanks largely to Jon, I have become increasingly aware of how many Superman stories have never been reprinted by DC Comics. I see these intriguing covers and I grab for my well-used copy of Michael L. Fleisher's THE GREAT SUPERMAN BOOK - originally published in 1978 - to learn whatever I can about the stories which inspired the covers.

Case in point: ACTION COMICS #133 [June, 1949].

Here's what Fleisher wrote:

BLOTZ, EMMA. A beautiful but unscrupulous young woman from the town of Gopher Junction who, in collusion with an accomplice posing as a famous woman scientist, pretends that she is Helen of Troy, newly transported to our era via her accomplice's "time machine," as part of a scheme to cash in on Helen of Troy endorsements for such products as cosmetics, clothing, and jewelry. The bogus Helen, who is ostensibly transported through the time barrier to twentieth-century Metropolis as part of a city-sponsored effort to locate "the world's most perfect girl" as a fitting mate for Superman, is exposed as an imposter by Superman in June, 1949.

"The World's Most Perfect Girl" was written by comics legend William Woolfolk and drawn by Al Plastino, who also drew the cover shown above. The editor of record was Whitney Ellsworth, but, back then, he was listed as the editor of all DC titles.

Fleisher's description of the story amuses me and also puts a question in my mind. The amusement comes from Superman's position as a kind of "safe" rock star in the late 1940s through most of the 1960s. Everybody loved him, except when they were tricked by the machinations of some villain. Everybody felt close enough to him to feel comfortable butting into his personal life by trying to set him up with his perfect sweetheart. I can easily imagine the teen magazines of the day running features like "What Superman Looks For In a Girl" and "100 New Superman Photos!"

The question is...could the Superman writers of today come up with an entertaining story involving Superman in something as down to earth as the scam perpetrated by Emma Blotz and her accomplice? Or have they elevated Superman to such a position of near-Godhood and his adventures to the point where anything less than the fate of the entire universe seems beneath him? That's not a question I can or want to answer, but I would love to see the current writers take a whack at answering it in their stories.

Backing up the 12-page Superman story in this issue of ACTION COMICS, we have:

Tommy Tomorrow in "Hollywood of Space" by writer Otto Binder, penciller Curt Swan, and inker John Fischetti;

Congo Bill in "The Man Who Hunted Thrills," both pencilled and inked by Ed Smalle;

The Vigilante in "The Gold Rush Comes to Gotham City" by John Broome and Dan Barry; and,

"Little Pete" and "Jerry Jitterbug" gag pages by the prolific Henry Boltinoff.

While we all wonder where Batman and Robin were while the Gold Rush came to their hometown, I'll note that THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE [34th edition] believes a near-mint copy of ACTION COMICS #133 would sell for $775. The second edition of THE CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs it at $525. I couldn't find any recent sales on ongoing auctions of the issue on eBay.

The spiffy thing is that, if I live long enough and DC Comics stays in business long enough, all of these Superman stories I've never seen will be reprinted. We probably don't thank the company offer enough for its Archives editions.

Thank you, DC Comics.

And thank you for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with a full-length column.

Tony Isabella

<< 10/28/2004 | 10/29/2004 | 10/30/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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