Action Comics #207 (1955)

Action Comics #207 (August, 1955)
“The Four Superman Medals!”
“Mystery of the Space Mutiny!”
“Man Against the Sea”
“Janu, the Human Chimp”
Writers – Otto Binder, Joe Malloy & Jack Miller
Pencillers – Wayne Boring, Jim Mooney & Edwin Smalle
Inkers – Stan Kaye & Wayne Boring
Editor – Whitney Ellsworth
Cover Price: $0.10

1955.  That’s like the very start of the days of the Comics Code Authority… and, hot-cross buns wouldja look at the size of that CCA stamp!

Let’s get to it… I have a feeling this is gonna be a long one.

Our first story opens with Superman… and he’s in quite the pickle.  Ya see, over the past four years he’s presented Superman Medals to people deemed to be heroes at the annual Policemen’s Dinner… and you’ll never guess who’s supposed to be the awardee this time around!  Okay, that’s a lie… you know it’s Clark Kent, I know it’s Clark Kent… we all know it’s Clark Kent.  Well, how can Clark Kent be there to get “pinned” by Superman… if he and Superman are one in the same?  In fact, Clark pretended to have to work late to excuse his absence in the first place… Before the ceremony can conclude, Lois runs back to the office to pick up her pal.

This leaves Superman and the Police Chief with the need to vamp for a bit… and so, Superman shares the story of his first Superman Medal presentation… when he awarded it to a coward!  Ya see, there was this jail break (featuring the Taylor Boys)… where one prisoner was too scared to flee.  This scaredy-cat was “Daredevil” Conners former high-diver… who landed kinda wonky this one time, causing him to completely lose his nerve… and turn to vagrancy!

Well, eventually Conners was released… and here’s where it gets confusing.  He gets a letter from the Taylor Boys to meet them at the docks… but the letter was really from Superman… who knew the Taylors would be at the docks… but couldn’t just round ’em up for… whatever reason?  I dunno.  Either way, at the docks Superman falls prey to a chunk of (gray) Kryptonite, and passes out.

The baddies tie Superman to the rock… and dump him into the drink.  As luck would have it, “Daredevil” Conners has seen the whole thing and decides he might just have one more dive in him!  We see Conners being awarded his Superman Medal, and during the ceremony he vows to “never be scared again”.

One story down, and still… Lois has not returned with Clark.  More vamping!  Superman Medal numero dos went to a man who refused it!  Here we meet Officer Wilson… a man who hoped to one day work alongside Superman.  He took part in many daring rescues and heroic acts hoping to attract his hero’s attention… but it seems like each time, Superman is busy elsewhere on the planet.

During the second annual Superman Medal presentation, Officer Wilson is presented with the award… but turns it down because he never actually worked with Superman, he was just doing his job!  Superman informs him that he had been watching him via his telescopic vision, and knows he’s gone above and beyond to make the world safer.

Well, Superman’s only got one story left to tell… so let’s get right to it.  The third Superman Medal was awarded to… a criminal!  Ya see, sometimes heroes get their intel from shady sources… like say, a man in a lead mask.  This man tipped Superman off to some bad dudes… smugglers and counterfeiters and whatnot.

Turns out that the man in the lead mask had, gasp, an ulterior motive… he was just trying to wipe out some of his criminal competition so his gang could have full control over the underworld!  Plus, that snazzy Superman Medal might afford him deeper access into things like… armored car companies (for some reason).

Superman is Johnny on the Spot for Leadmask’s first outing… because the Superman Medal he’s wearing is actually a dupe!  It has a tiny wireless setup inside it which allowed Superman to listen in on all his nefarious plans!

Okay, all three stories have been told… but there’s still no sign of Clark Kent.  Oh boy… at this point, Superman heads out “for some air”, but really goes to rifle through the police department’s Missing Persons files… where he finds a fella who looks exactly like Clark Kent… which, I dunno, doesn’t that also mean he looks exactly like Superman?  I dunno… either way, Superman tracks down the look-alike, and finds him to be (conveniently) amnesiac “like most disappearance cases”.

The story wraps with Superman actually being able to “pin” Clark Kent with a Medal.  Following the ceremony, the man asks why Superman had him pretend to be Clark Kent… to which, Superman grabs him and throws him into the Sun… er, takes him for a speed-flight.  Ya see, the faux-Clark used to be a test pilot… and the g-force of Superman’s flight helped jog his memory.  Never mind that the story actually ends with the pair in space…

Our second story features… Tommy Tomorrow.  We open with he and his aide Captain Brent Wood on patrol.  They receive a distress call from a Captain Cryle, who between gasps is reporting that he’s in danger and people are breaking down his door.  Tommy suggests Cryle was the victim of a mutiny and casually mentions that he didn’t hear a door being broken down… which, well… that’s going to be important… annnnd dumb.  Two weeks later, Tommy and Brent finally arrive to answer the call and meet with the Mutineers.

Tommy confronts the Mutineer’s physician, Dr. Blair.  He admits that there was a mutiny, yet still pleads innocent of any wrongdoing.  Tommy believes him, however, they’re gonna need to ‘splain.  He leaves them to do some deeper investigation.

From here we get some silly science having to do with outrunning the speed of light via wormholes or something… which makes me wonder why they didn’t just take a wormhole here to begin with… I mean, that beats the hell out of a two-week trek, right?  Anyhoo… he states if they can beat the light to where it would be in one week’s time… they can film the entire mutiny and play it back.  Ay yai yai.

Whattayaknow, it works… Tommy returns to the Mutineers’ planet with the footage… and learns that there was in fact a mutiny, just as Blair said… but also, the Mutineers (really, the “mutineers”?, oof) are completely innocent!  Ya see, Captain Cryle saw a meteor swarm approaching and planned to outrun it.  Seems fine… however, we now learn that Cappy had a bum ticker, and any increased velocity would likely cause him a fatal heart attack… and that’s when the mutiny began.  The crew didn’t want to lose their Captain.  Spoiler alert… he dies anyway.

But, what then of the distress call?  I’m glad you asked… well, that was just the Captain talking in his sleep while having a nightmare.  Toldja it was dumb.  Anyhoo, the Mutineers are cleared and everything’s hunky dory.

Next up is a text piece, which is special because it’s the first text piece I’ve ever read!  I usually skip these things… and after reading this one, I see how right I was to do so!  It’s the story of a man heading from Ecuador to Fiji in order to take a job.  He travels via raft, and it’s a heckuva trip.  Next!

Our final story is… oh, c’mon… Congo Bill?  Alright… we open with the thrilling scene of Bill, putting on his boots.  Suddenly a lion sticks it head into the tent-flap.  Bill, not having his rifle nearby (too bad, that) decides to try his luck taking the beast on in “bare-handed battle”.  It turns out it’s actually his… I dunno, primal pal (?) Janu playing a practical joke using a prop lion-head from a visiting acting company’s trunk.  Wouldn’t a master… whatever he is, like Congo Bill know the difference between a real lion and a prop?


Anyhoo, it looks like Congo Bill’s current gig is escorting an actor named Tony across the jungle to a port town.  Their chat is interrupted by a geek named Lester, who claims to have caught a tiny animal in his snare.  Well, it turns out that “tiny animal” is actually a hippo… that’s about to charge!  Congo Bill, friend to nature, punches it in the nose.

The practical jokes keep coming as Janu finds a (very lifelike) chimp costume… and puts it on, because he’s a dumb kid.  At the same time, Congo Bill notes that a nearby volcano looks like it’s getting ready to blow.

Lester sees Janu-as-chimp and decides to capture him as a pet… that costume is pretty convincing… even if Lester is a bit of a dope.  Janu-chimp is tossed into a cage, where he begins to plead his case.  Wha—?  A talking-chimp!

Lester runs over to the grown-ups to show off his fantastic find.  Mark Trail Congo Bill knows it’s really his little pal Janu, but decides to play along to teach the kid a lesson.  While Lester and Tony consider taking the chimp to Hollywood, the volcano “blows it’s top” sending a large rock into the tree they are standing under… causing a branch to come down and crush pin Bill down.  Oh yeah, and the animals begin to stampede.

Janu thinks fast and uses the momentum of one of the stampeders to break out of the cage.  From there he hops around the perimeter setting leaves on fire, knowing the animals won’t cross.

Not only does Janu set the leaves on fire… his chimp-suit also goes up in flames!  The story ends with Janu being regaled for his heroic act, while Lester tries to get Janu’s pet chimp Chota to speak.  Wonk wonk.

Welp, can’t say kids didn’t get their dimes’ worth back in the mid-50’s.  But, whew… a lot of this was pretty boring.

I’m pretty sure I read the most boring story ever written today… but I’m not sure if it starred Tommy Tomorrow or an unemployed fella who rafted from Ecuador to Fiji.

Let’s get Tommy out of the way.  This was almost aggressively dull, and I swear it took me multiple tries to get through the six-pages it spanned.  The thing of it is, though… it’s not a completely terrible story.  There’s some neat science fiction here, and the idea of beating the speed of light somewhere is interesting and fun in a tin-can robot sort of way.  That said, the story put me to sleep.  Though to be fair, I’m sure a child in the 50’s would get more out of this than I did.

The Congo Bill story was… I wanna say, also pretty dull… while at the same time, decently fun.  It reminded me a lot of syndicated strip Mark Trail aesthetically, and it’s light tone was appreciated after the slog that was Tommy Tomorrow and the text-piece.

The lead-off story was… eh.  It was a Superman story… but one I don’t think I’d ever need to read again.  This is pretty much what I thought Superman stories were when I was a kid… just him trying to keep his secret identity a… secret.  Low-stakes storytelling with “creative” ways to keep his “C.K.” under wraps.

The stories of the Medals were… I dunno, a way to fill pages, I suppose… and were decent enough “asides”.  The bit with Superman digging through the missing persons files though… woof, that’s some wacky and convenient stuff.  I know stories of this era really don’t lend themselves to analysis… and it’s probably a bit unfair for me to look at them like I would a (more) contemporary book… but, we’re already here.

Overall… I think you could probably get through life just fine without reading this comic book.  Sure there’s some fun here… if you’re a fan of some sillier pre-Silver Age stories, there is a lot to dig.  If you’re a fan of vintage ads… even more!  To my knowledge, this issue has never been collected (nor has it been made available digitally)… and I wouldn’t recommend paying more than a few bucks for it should you come across it “in the wild”.

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