Reign of the Supermen #543: Superman, Football Star

Source: Action Comics #4 (1938)
Type: Disguise
The Golden Age Superman was well-suited to American football, but you won't find his career stats in any sports history books because he was impersonating someone else the whole time. The story began as most stories do, with a hit and run landing the distraught driver to the railroad tracks to commit suicide, Superman intervening too late so the train hits the car and stops, and the driver dies of a heart attack in his arms. From that irrelevant teaser, Superman sneaks into the train to check on the passengers and overhears a conversation between a crooked college football coach and some thugs. To save his bacon, he plans to fill his team's ranks with mobsters and win by whatever means necessary. That's just the kind of thing the Golden Age Superman likes to tear down! So he finds a player from the opposing team, Tommy Burke, and with a little grease paint...
Superman - Master of Disguise! How good is this make-up?
Very, very good. The real Tommy has just come back from getting dumped for a tennis star by his girlfriend Mary, on account of his being a substitute for six seasons and only going on the field for a single game. She's done with this loser. His night goes from bad to worse when his double shows up and... pricks him with a hypodermic needle?! Tommy wakes up a prisoner in his own apartment, never knowing this double is the heroic Superman. He's just had his life stolen from him with no explanation! Superman-as-Tommy's first day at the stadium makes him realize he isn't exactly the most respected member of the team, and when he dares stand up for himself...
Everyone is surprised he can take this much punishment, and dole it out too. The coach walks in and sees the aftermath, and benches rabble-rouser Tommy from practice on the spot. Superman goes out on the field anyway and uses powers to dominate and earn a spot in the season's last game.
He's so good, the coach brags about him to the papers and soon, the thugs from the opposing team show up at his apartment and kidnap him so he can't play in the Big Game(TM).
Superman hiding in the ceiling is the creepiest thing, isn't it? He does make sure they don't harm Burke, but is happy to find they've taken him off his hands. At the game, the crooked coach is pissed that Burke has apparently escaped because he's on the field.
Sadly, the goons never make good on their threat. A signal is never given and no one ever tries to shiv Superman. I mean, we know the result, but the thugs don't really try anything. It's just Superman dominating in every aspect of the game. The cheating team gets smoked. Meanwhile, Tommy Burke really DOES escape and is about to call a cop after his impersonator, when he overhears his ex Mary swoon over his performance on the field, ignoring her tennis jerk completely. Then he cheers. At the end of the half, Superman's racked up so many points, he switches places with Tommy for the second. You'd think now would be a good time to get Tommy shivved, but no. He just starts sucking real bad and gets taken out.
At least his gets Mary back AND never has to play football again. All this time, this was a story about Mary outgrowing being a sports groupie. Who knew.

Now, I have no proof of this, but maybe this episode was the inspiration for Clark Kent ACTUALLY being a football star in John Byrne's post-Crisis re-imagining of Superman.
Well, maybe!


Delta said...

Emily Aster says: "Hmm. I do like the knife."

Siskoid said...

Possibly been too long since I read Phonogram, so I'm not sure I get the reference?

Martin Gray said...

Or maybe not! Great post, and I have to say, Tommy doesn't half look natty when we first meet him. Or rather, Tommies.

Isn't it amazing what you can do with greasepaint - I expect Superman was using his forgotten super-power of face morphing without realising it.

And if there'd been an Earth One version, he would, of course, have used low-intensity super-hypnotism ...

Delta said...

Emily's talking about the band of that name, but the repeated use of the definite article here pinged me as unusual.


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Orville The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine