Monday, April 13, 2009

His Lordship, Clark Kent!

Here we have the oldest comic I own, Action 106, cover-dated March 1947. Its cover story is "His Lordship, Clark Kent."

The cover illo (by Wayne Boring?) is a bit of a cheat. Because Superman himself doesn't become a British lord, only good ol' CK.

Check out the humorous splash page for the story. Clark and Lois stand in a drawing room with Superman sneaking in through a secret panel. Above the fireplace is a painting of the happy/tragic faces of Greek drama, along with Clark's and Superman's faces. The Superman face is winking at us.

The first page depicts a Brit appearing at the Daily Planet, and the second page sinks the hook: Clark Kent is the long-lost Bertram, hereditary Baron of Edgestream.

Dazzled by the prospects of such a story for his paper, Perry demands that Clark cross the Big Pond and report on the outcome.

On the top of the next page, as Clark boards a cross-Atlantic plane, the narrative takes on a strange resonance for me: "Clark cannot be sure he is not a long-lost British noble - for he knows only that he was an orphan reared by a kindly couple who found him."

In other words, in 1947, Superman did not know that he came from Krypton!

In a deathbed meeting with the dying Baron Edgestream, Clark finds he has been drawn into a family quarrel with wide implications. The old man knows that Clark isn't the heir, but he has selected the Planet reporter in place of the next in line, a scoundrel named Julian Fyffe.

Soon Clark investigates the family archives and discovers a long-hidden photo of the real Bertram as a babe, revealing a star-shaped birthmark on the boy's shoulder.

Time passes, and Clark learns of his vast holdings, including a series of coal mines. When Clark and others take a tour of the mines to investigate their alleged unsafeness, guess what!

That scoundrel Julian, having failed in several previous attempts on the life of "His Lordship, Clark Kent," goes for broke, dynamiting the mine and burying Clark, Lois, and several miners, including Eddie Pike, the miner who's been the most active agitator for mine safety.

Who, we discover, has a certain star-shaped birthmark on his shoulder.

Yep, the baddies confess, and the real Bertie becomes Lord of the Manor, while Superman builds new, safe housing for the workers.

Well, it's a typical 1940s Suprman tale, with a lot of silliness yet with some real social issues -- does rank make one man more important than another?

I think not. What do you think?

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