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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Thursday, December 2, 2004

Superman 95

Collecting my thoughts before writing my next "Tony's Tips!" column for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, I was surfing the blogs and found the above cover. There's something about goofy old SUPERMAN covers that stops me in my tracks every time.

My delight increased when - paying a quick visit to the GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] - I discovered the story depicted on the cover of this issue was written by friend and fellow World Famous Comics columnist Alvin Schwartz. I had to learn more about it and went to my well-read copy of THE GREAT SUPERMAN BOOK [Warner Books; 1978] by Michael L. Fleisher.

Let's go through this issue together.

SUPERMAN #95 [February, 1955] had three Superman stories, each of them ten pages in length. The cover is tentatively identified as being pencilled and inked by Al Plastino who also pencilled and inked the cover story and one of the other interior stories. The editor of record was Whitney Ellsworth, but the hands-on editor was likely either Jack Schiff or Mort Weisinger.

Superman 95 page 1

"Susie's Enchanted Isle" was the lead tale. It was written by Bill Woolfolk, pencilled by Wayne Boring, and inked by Stan Kaye. Susie Tompkins was the eight-year-old niece of Lois Lane. Fleisher describes her as "a freckled-faced youngster with an overactive imagination who is forever making mischief by concocting tall tales." Superman met her in ACTION COMICS #68 [January, 1944] and she would appear in several more stories throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Here's what Fleisher says about this one:

In February 1955, after idly pressing a button on a newly invented time machine, Susie suddenly finds herself whisked across the time barrier into the ancient past, to a sultan's palace in the fabled era of the ARABIAN NIGHTS, where, in inimitable Susie fashion, she regales the sultan with extravagant fibs about a golden dragon that breaths golden flames, an enchanted river that comes whenever you call it, an exotic plant whose fibers can be woven into a flying carpet, and a fabulous genie that is hers to command.

So impressed is the sultan by these fantastic tales that he confiscates Susie's time machine in order to force her to use her "magic powers" to make them come true, thus forcing Superman, who has hustled across the time barrier to rescue Susie at the request of a frantic Lois Lane, to assume the role of Susie's magic genie - and to exercise every last ounce of his super-ingenuity - in order to transform Susie's extravagant fantasies into realities so that the sultan will agree to relinquish the time machine and allow Susie to peacefully depart his kingdom.

I've never read this story, but I wouldn't be surprised if the reason Superman didn't simply use his powers to find and take back the time machine had to do with his respecting the sovereignty of a foreign nation. Expediency is not heroism.

After this tale, Susie would not make another appearance until ACTION COMICS #484 [June, 1978], the flashback story in which the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane were married.

Next up was a two-page "Varsity Vic" gag strip by cartoonist Henry Boltinoff, a prolific contributor of such features to the DC comic books of the 1940s through the early 1970s.

As noted above, "The Practical Joker" was written by Schwartz and drawn by Plastino. Here's the Fleisher report:

WELLS, POINDEXTER. The nephew of Frank Wells, publisher of the Daily Planet, and an inveterate practical joker whose fondness for rubber snakes and exploding cigars causes pandemonium at the Daily Planet until a series of events persuade Poindexter that his seemingly harmless pranks contain the potential for grievous harm to others. Kidnapped by members of the "Avenue Ten" gang while bravely impersonating Clark Kent - the anticipated target of gang vengeance - Wells courageously turns the tables and apprehends them all.

This seems to be a neat little human interest story, the kind I'd like to see more of in super-hero comics. It's too bad DC has gone all "Hollywood explosions" and "if it bleeds, it leads" on its characters and its readers.

Alvin's story was followed by "The Saga of the Soda," a two-page text by Ben Boltson which the GCD identifies as the "story of ice-cream soda."

The GCD doesn't yet know who wrote the Plastino-drawn "Jimmy Olsen, Super-Reporter" tale which closed out the issue, but it does state this is the adventure in which the intrepid young reporter "finally shows freckles." Fleisher reporters:

Superman sets out to teach Jimmy Olsen a well-deserved lesson in the follies of showing off, only to have his well-intentioned efforts backfire when a series of bizarre coincidences combine to convince Jimmy - as well as his employers on the Daily Planet - that he has somehow become endowed with the extraordinary abilities of a "super-reporter," enabling him to unravel unsolved crimes and perform other journalistic miracles by means of his remarkable, inexplicable "sixth sense" for news. Unwilling to publicly humiliate Jimmy, Superman feels obligated, for a time, to make his young pal's wildly improbably news "hunches" appear to come true, as when he surreptitiously entices a Metropolis numbers racketeer into making an attempt on the life of a city councilman after Jimmy has predicted that such an attempt will take place. Ultimately, however, Superman confides to Jimmy that it is he who has been responsible for Jimmy's reportorial super-feats, and, although the two friends never divulge the truth to Jimmy's colleagues on the Daily Planet, it is clear that Jimmy has learned a must-needed lesson in humility.

Geez! Supermen entices a racketeer into trying to kill a city councilman? As part of a plan to teach Jimmy a lesson? If I wrote this story, I wouldn't want anyone to find out either. That is so wrong on so many levels.

Superman playing such oft-cruel pranks on his friends to teach them a lesson was a common theme after Mort Weisinger took over as editor-in-name of the Superman mags. That doesn't help me identify the writer of this story, but I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't someone Weisinger would work with later, say a Robert Bernstein or a Leo Dorfman. Any one want to play literary detective and prove me right or wrong?

To the best of my knowledge, none of the stories in the issue has been reprinted, but I don't think I'll be shopping for a copy soon. According to THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE estimate, a near-mint condition copy of this issue would sell for $525. The Guide identifies it as the last pre-Comics Code issue of the title.

The second edition of THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs the near-mint value of the issue at $335, which is still beyond my limited resources. I wonder how long it will be before this shows up in one of DC's Archives.

However, on eBay, I noticed that a "complete but fair" copy of SUPERMAN #95 with a damaged cover sold for $10.95 on two bids, and a good/very good issue failed to receive even its starting bid of $29.99. If that unsold copy gets listed again at that price, I'll likely bid on it.

Before I call it a column, let's have a shout-out to CAPTAIN COREY. I saw the cover of SUPERMAN #95 on his blog and it inspired this column. You can read said blog at:

http://captaincorey.blogspot.com

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

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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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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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