Superman "Out of This World!" (comic strip, 1946)

Review by Bill Henley of the SUPERMAN Sunday newspaper comic strip
storyline "Out of This World!"; originally appearing in strips 326 through 338
of the strip, running from Jan. 27 through Apr. 21, 1946; review based on strips
reprinted in SUPERMAN SUNDAY PAGES 1943-1946, edited and designed by Dean
Mullaney and published 2013 by IDW Publishing/Library of American Comics, with
permission of DC Comics and the Siegel and Shuster families.  (I'll
probably write a more general review of the book and post it to this list and
Amazon, later.)  All these strips carry the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
byline, but the actual art is credited to Wayne Boring (whose distinctive style
is very much in evidence, despite officially still being a Joe Shuster
"ghost").  The notes indicate Jerry Siegel is probably the actual author,
though I have a theory of someone else who might have been involved, but I'll
get into that later.
I picked out this storyline from the book to review
in detail, not only because I got more of a kick out of it than any of the other
storylines in the book, but because I think it may possibly be a landmark
in the Superman mythos; the first story in any medium in which Superman leaves
Earth to travel in space and visit another planet.  I could be mistaken
about this, but I don't recall seeing or hearing of any earlier Superman story
set in space.  Technically of course the story is off-topic for the Silver
Age list, but it does have more of a proto-Silver Age feel to it than most
Superman stories from this early period.
(Strip 326, 1/27/46) 
Intrepid girl reporter Lois Lane is begging the editor of the Daily Planet (who
looks like Perry White but isn't identified by name here) to allow her to go
along witth Professor Vern, a famous scientist who has developed an
"atom-powered spaceship"  (named the "Polaris,") capable of reaching the
planet Saturn.  The editor suggests sending a male reporter would be more
appropriate, but Clark Kent begs off on the grounds that he's due for his
vacation; and when Lois snarkily suggests he's afraid to go, Clark merely
responds, "You're entitled to your opinion, Lois."  "Several days later,"
Perry (?) is convinced that Prof. Vern is no crackpot and has agreed for Lois to
accompany him. (Apparently at this stage the Daily Planet has only two
reporters-- even Jimmy Olsen hasn't shown up yet.)   Prof. Vern warns
Lois to strap herself down carefully as "the launching impact will be rather
heavy" as the spacecraft reaches the awesome speed of 700 miles per hour,"
enough to propel the ship "out of the Earth's orbit of gravity"!  (But this
sounded like a rather inadequate speed to me, and a check of Wikipedia confirmed
that escape velocity from Earth is actually 25,000 miles per hour.  As we
shall see, scientific accuracy about space travel is not one of the leading
merits of this tale.)  Lois-- clad in n outfit of jacket and jodhpurs which
makes her look like she's out fox hunting, rather than in a spacesuit-- 
finds herself floating in the cabin air, having forgotten to don the lead boots
for the "non-gravity sphere".  Meanwhile, the takeoff has been watched from
some distance away by Clark Kent, who begged off on the trip as Kent because I
may be of more help as SUPERMAN!"  And indeed, as she spots a meteor swarm
outside the spaceship windows, Lois reflects, "This is one of those moments when
I wish SUPERMAN were around!"
(Strip 327, 2/3/46):  Watching the
meteor swarm, Prof. Vern warns that "if any of the larger fragments hit us,
we're doomed!"  All he can do is to close the shutters over the fragile
plexiglass windows of the craft, preventing him and Lois from seeing what
happens outside..  Fortunately for them, the Man of Steel, unknown to
them,  is closely following the spaceship.  He puts on an extra burst
of speed and knocks the meteors out of the spaceship's path-- all but one. 
"OOPS-- there goes my fielding average!  That LITTLE one got by me!" 
The Professor is amazed at their good luck in avoiding collision with all but a
small meteor which bounces harmlessly off the outside of the ship; but Lois has
her suspicions about the source of their good luck.  Meanwhile, 
Superman is apparently fatigued by the effort of keeping up with the spaceship,
and he decides to "get back out of the breeze" (what breeze, in a vacuum?) and
lie back atop the ship's propulsion tubes, whose warmth will keep him cozy
despite the absolute zero temperature of space.  But "Don't relax too much,
Superman!  There's unusual trouble ahead!"
(Strip 328,
2/10/46):  Despite the caption's warning, Superman settles down for "a
little snooze" while riding atop the spaceship's propulsion tubes. 
Meanwhile, Prof. Vern is concerned that the spacecraft seems to be difting a few
degrees off course, which may prevent it from reaching Saturn-- "or back to
Earth, for that matter!"  Lois takes the danger philosophically; "Well, if
a trip like this was just like catching the five-fifteen (presumably referring
to a commuter train back on Earth) there wouldn't be any excitement in
it!"  But there may be too much excitement even for Lois, as the ship is
pulled toward "a huge twisted mass floating in space... the flotsam and jetsam
of the universe, a sort of Sargasso Sea of infinity!"  The mass has
magnetic powers and the craft is forced to make a crash landing on the central
(Strip 329, 2/17/46): The sleepy Superman gets a rude
awakening as the crash landing knocks him off the outside of the spaceship where
he has been dozing.  He is himself unharmed, but filled with remorse as he
realizes that his ill-timed nap may have cost the lives of his more mortal
traveling companions.  Entering the spaceship, he finds Lois and Prof. Vern
strapped into their seats, seemingly uninjured and open-eyed, but unmoving with
no detectable heartbeat or pulse!  "Great Scott!  Then-- they must
be-- DEAD!  But I can't-- I WON'T-- accept that answer!"  Rummaging
among the scientific equipment the Professor brought along, Superman finds a
pair of oxygen helmets designed for use in case the spaceship cabin pressure is
lost.  Hoping that the extra supply of oxygen will revive them, Superman
places a helmet first on Lois and then on Vern.  "Vern, the great
scientist, is probably more important to the world than Lois-- but I'd be less
than human if I didn't look after her first..."
(Strip 330,
2/24/46)  20 minutes later, Lois still stares glassy-eyed and unmoving from
inside the oxygen helmet.  But the Man of Steel still refuses to believe
she is actually dead.  At last, "long minutes later," Lois awakens with a
start and asks, "Wh- what happened?"  "At least she didn't say 'Where am
i?'  They ALWAYS say that!  But the important thing is she's
alive!  And so is Prof. Vern!"  When Lois asks how Superman got there,
our hero merely snaps, "Never mind that now!", too embarrassed to admit how he
was dozing atop the spaceship when it crashed.  Emerging onto the planetoid
surface, the travelers find it composed of pieces of other planetary bodies and
even "rusted ruins of other spaceships, proving that we are not the first
interplanetary explorers!"  But before they can observe further, Superman
spots another meteor swarm heading their way and leaps to intercept it. 
When they re-enter the ship, Lois admits to feeling light-headed, and Vern
directs her to recharge her oxygen helmet from the "main reserve tank". 
But then one more meteor crashes through the hull of the ship and punctures the
reserve tank!  The vital oxygen is escaping!  "Then-- we;re DOOMED!",
Lois cries.  "Doomed INDEED!",. Superman reflects, "Unless I can do
something about it!  But WHAT???  Whatever it is, it had better be
super-SOMETHING!"   And the strip's ending caption promises "The
Super-Stunt of the Year!"  for the next week.
(Strip 331,
3/3/46)  It's quite a stunt, all right; the Man of Steel flits around the
cabin at super-speed, somehow gathering up the escaping oxygen in his bare hands
and super-compressing it to a consistency "something like snowballs!"  He
returns the oxygen to the tank and repairs the tank, and now Vern and Lois have
the means to replenish their oxygen helmets.  They finish their tour of the
planetoid surface and speculate on whether the derelict spaceships lying around
were "robot ships" or perhaps had "human occupants (who) have long since
mouldered to dust!"  Soon the Professor is ready to continue their space
voyage, but he needs a launching platform for his ship.  No problem, says
Superman; "I could build you one in a jiffy-- but why bother?  I'LL be your
launching platform!"  Pushing on the ship from outside, Superman enables
the craft to escape the intense magnetic attraction of the planetoid.  When
Lois and Prof. Vern marvel at his feat, our hero shows that his usual brash
attitude has returned despite his brush with failure and mortality; "Easy when
you know how!"   But as they resume their flight through space, the
travelers encounter other space voyagers- in "heavily armed rocket craft bearing
down on us for each side!"  Superman suggests, "If they're looking for
trouble, I can oblige them!", but the Professor urges, "They seem to want us to
go along with them-- and it may prove very interesting to agree!"
332, 2/10/46):  The Man of Steel still grumbles, "I don't like being pushed
around-- even by rocket ships!", but Vern persuades him to follow along with
theother ships so that they can meet the inhabitants and achieve "the scientific
scoop of the century!"  But where are they headed?  An instrument
called the "sonic telephone" shows "nothing but empty space ahead", and Superman
gets the same result peering forward with his "super X-ray vision".  But
Vern insists, "The hyperadar shows there is SOMETHING ahead-- evn if we CAN"T
see it!  And sure enough, suddenly a planet appears to sight, now only "a
few hundred miles" away.  "Obviously the planet is ringed by some sort of
gas or vacuum which is impervious to sight-- even your SUPER-sight,
Superman!"  As they descend toward the planet, they sight a "great city"
and are directed toward a landing strip,  As they land and emerge from the
ship (seemingly omitting such minor details as checking for a breathable
atmosphere for Vern and Lois), they are greeted by a very human-looking fellow
in an orange and white spacesuit uniform and finned helmet.  "Welcome to
SUPRANIA, Miss Lane... Professor Vern... Superman!"  Lois is astounded that
these people already know exactly who they are, and even Superman admits, "As
amazing as I am-- I'm amazed!"  "Next week: The Secrets of
(Strip 333, 3/17/46):  Their greeter, who introduces
himself as Evad, explains that the Supranians have "had Earth under
radio-telescopic observation for hundres of years" and have learned English as
well as the identities and achievements of their three visitors. 
(Hmmmm.... "Evad"?  That's backwards for "Dave"... and the scientist in
this storyline is named Vern.   There was a fellow named David Vern
who wrote pulp science fiction and comics (including Superman stories during the
1950's, according to Jerry Bails' "Who's Who in American Comics:), sometimes
under the pseudonym "David V. Reed".  Was he perhaps a buddy of Jerry
Siegal, who snuck in-joke references to him into this story?  Or could it
be that Vern actually ghost-wrote or assisted with this storyline?) 
Superman is uncharacteristically humbled; "They call ME Superman-- but you
Supranians seem to have out-supered me!"  Evad  "Not at all,
Superman.  We've admired you greatly!'  Evad offers the Earth
travelers some much-needed Supranian hospitality, including hot baths and
food.  Lois enjoys the promised bath and then is dressed by her female
Supranian attendant in a Supranian-style gown.  Superman and Vern also
enjoy a separate bath, and Vern is given male Supranian garb while our hero puts
his regular costume back on.  Superman comments that, "If you Supranians
know so much about Earth... you must also know the secret of my true
identity!"  Evad:  "That's right, Superman... but have no fear! 
We will not disclose your secret to Miss Lane and Prof. Vern (the latter of whom
is standing right there and is probably pretty curious) IF!"  ""That sounds
like a fairly big 'IF', Evad.  What is it?"  Evad evades the question,
even when Superman warns that if he doesn't like the "if", he may do something
about it, and insists on the travelers going on to meet the Queen of
Suprania.  (Interesting, isn't it, how all these planets are so
tremendously advanced past Earth in technology but haven't advanced in
government past the stage of absolute monarchy?) 
(Strip 334,
3/24/46):  Evad, Superman and Vern are rejoined by Lois, and Superman notes
that Lois looks "particularly fetching" in her Supranian costume, which Lois
admits is comfortable, though she feels like she's "walking around in a bathing
suit" (I'm not sure why, the gown covers about as much as an Earthly evening
gown.  Did Boring not draw exactly what Siegel, or whoever, had in mind for
Lois' new outfit?)  Lois points out that the Man of Steel himself is still
wearing his same old costume, and he responds, "You know me, Lois-- once a
Superman, ALWAYS a Superman!"  You may be speaking too soon,
Supes...   The visitors are introduced to Her Majesty Queen Arda of
Suprania.  Lois: "She's gorgeous!  Like one of the ancient queens of
Egypt!"  Superman: "Attractive, yes-- but not quite my type!  She
gives me the creeps!"  (Perhaps Arda's choice of pets,a pair of
Earthly-looking leopard-like cats, helps cause his unease.)  Arda is more
welcoming to the travelers than they might perhaps want:  "We hope you will
be happy here-- for the rest of your lives!"  Yes, this is the "if" Evad
spoke  of.  "We know how greedy Earthlings are.  We cannot risk
having any of you go back and disclose the existence of our planet!" 
Supeman points out that with his super-powers, "I could carry Lois and Vern back
to Earth-- and you could do nothing to stop me!"  Queen Arda: "Are you
truly so powerful?  Let me see you lift yonder weight?"  Lois scoffs
that Superman will lift the heavy weight like a feather, but in fact Superman is
unable to lift it off the ground!   "Next week: Superless
(Strip 335, 3/31/46):  Quickly, not-so-Superman tests his
powers of flight and X-ray vision and finds that they also are not working
normally.  "A scientific phenomenon, I suppose... something in Suprania's
atmosphere..."  (This was, of course, long before the idea was developed
that red sun rays on other planets could deprive Supes of his powers.)  But
Her Majesty Queen Arda grandly declares, " Super-powers or not, you are the one
man in the Universe for me!  You will rule Suprania besides me-- AS MY
HUSBAND!"  The intended groom tries to "decline the honor," but Arda warns
that if Superman does not accompany her to the altar, both Prof. Vern and Lois
Lane will die!  Vern and especially Lois urge Superman to reject that
choice; "I'd RATHER die than have you marry ANY other woman-- ESPECIALLY
her!"  But Superman responds, "Thanks, Lois... Vern... but, Your Majesty,
you leave me no choice!  I WILL MARRY YOU!  "Next week: Supernan's
Wedding Day!"
(Strip 336, 4/ 7/46) Superman makes clear that he is
marrying Arda only under duress and not because of any attraction to her. 
"But really, I'm not such a bad sort!", the Queen insists.  "You'll get
used to me... you might even come to CARE for me!  After all, I'm not
HOMELY, am I?"  When an outraged Lois calls her "repulsive," the Queen
warns her,  "Keep a civil tongue in your head or I'll have it
removed!"  She directs Supeman to prepare quickly for the wedding ceremony
which will take place in just one hour!  (Funny, again, how these faraway
alien planets have the same units of time as Earth.)  When ordered to
change from his super-costume into some absurd=looking "wedding robes," our hero
has a small tantrum and is pleasantly surprised when he pounds his fist on a
marble pedestal and it shatters!  "Then -- I haven't lost my
super-powers!  I've been TRICKED!"  Evad admits rather easily being a
party to the Queen's scheme, but not a willing one; "I can now tell you that I
love Arda!  She's not a BAD woman, and with me to help her rule..." 
Superman directs Evad to come along with him as he arranges, "a happy ending all
around," and directs Vern to take Lois back to their spaceship.  Bursting
into Arda's throne room, Superman promises her "a REAL demonstration of my
super-powers!"  "What do you (Gulp!) mean?"
(Strip 337,
4/14/46)  Superman demonstrates how he has been tricked by Arda. 
Since he thought the weight he was to lift would be an easy one, he used only a
little of his super-strength and was baffled when he could not lift it-- because
a powerful electro-magnet hidden in the floor kept him from doing so. 
However, when he really tries, he can lift the weight from the floor despite the
magnet.  Likewise, he can leap and fly around the room despite the magnetic
coating that was placed on his boots to make him think he could not fly. 
And the walls of the throne room were (wait for it...) coated with lead to make
him think his X-ray vision was failing.   Arda tries to excuse
herself; "All's fair in love, eh, Supeman?"  "So they tell me!  That's
why I think it wold be fair if you were to get the SPANKING you deserve!" 
"You-- you wouldn't DARE!"  "I'm not going to spank you-- Evad is-- he's in
love with you and he'll make a good king, but he'd better start right by showing
you who's going to be boss!"  Evad is at first reluctant, but at Supes'
urging he takes Arda over his knee and delivers the called-for
chastisement.  Superman:  "I wouldn't miss this for the world!" 
Evad: "Maybe it will cost me my head-- but I wouldn't miss it for the world
either!"  (Next perhaps to the cruel racial stereotypes of Japanese and
Germans seen in some of the wartime strips, nothing in this book of strip
reprints shows the effect of changing times and mores as much as this scene and
one other earlier in the book.  As the current brouhaha over football
player Ray Rice shows, a powerful male spanking or hitting a woman just isn't
socially acceptable, let alone fodder for a comic-strip laugh, any more. 
Not that it should be.  Here, Superman leaves the spanking to somebody
else, but in an earlier strip reprinted in this book-- the one for 10/24/1943--
Superman delivers a spanking himself to a home-front hussy guilty of scheming to
break up a soldier's romance with another girl.) 
(Strip 338,
4/24/43):  At first Queen Arda is outraged by the spanking and threatens to
have both Evad and Superman beheaded, but then, "And yet... you ARE strong and
masterful, Evad... and even a little bit handsome!  I MAY permit you to
marry me..."  Evad:  "Ill think it over, Your Highness!"  Arda
still wants to have Superman beheaded for putting Evad up to the spanking, but
Supes declines the honor and heads off to take Lois and Prof. Vern back to
Earth.  Of course, there's always somebody who doesn't get the word, and as
the good ship "Polaris" makes its liftoff, "Arda's guardships, still under
orders not to allow the visitors to escape, cut loose with their blasting
atom-cannon!"  Fortunately, the Man of Steel is able to push the ship out
into distant space fast enough to outdistance the pursuing Supranian
vessels.  "We're in the clear now and we'll be back on Earth in short
order.  You should have some great newspaper stories for the Daily Planet,
Lois..."  Lois: "Trouble is, nobody'll BELIEVE 'em!"  Prof.
Vern:  "You know, I'm afraid nobody at the Scientific Society will believe
ME, either!"  The strip ends with a preview of the next storyline (which
I'm not reviewing in detail), a more typical tale for the period in which
Superman takes a hand in a romantic triangle among circus perfomers Sadface the
clown, strongman Breakstone and high-wire artist