Reign of the Supermen #546: Super-Digby the Butler
Source: Superman vol.1 #182 (1966) Type: The real thing (since retconned)
Superman creator Jerry Siegel's last Superman story before he got fired for suing DC appeared in 1966's Superman #182, and it features no less than three new identities for the Man of Steel. So for the next three weeks, inclusively, we'll be looking at this historic story, "The New Lives of Superman". It all begins with Superman bringing a WMD confiscated by a dictator to the Pentagon, so the U.S. can ask the U.N. to outlaw it.
Superman seems naive enough to think the U.N. is that powerful, but doubly so if he thinks the Pentagon won't reverse-engineer the weapon themselves and add it to their arsenal. Simpler times. It gets simpler still. Perry White is equally convinced an article on this specific weapon in the Daily Planet will sway public opinion and force the U.N. to outlaw it, and sends Clark Kent to cover the weapon's test activation in a Pentagon lab. What?!
It can destroy armies, let's see what happens when we set it off in a closed room with reporters all around it. Thankfully, we have goggles! So okay, it's just a blinding bomb (might have said that earlier), and Clark's goggles are really, really crappy and fall off at the worst possible time. Now he has to make like he's been blinded.
Good to know the doctor checked on those poor guinea pigs first! Also, that Superman has untold control over his eye muscles so can play blind convincingly. So now what? Well, the Clark Kent identity is useless to him...
...and it looks like his friends don't care about it much either. Imagine that, a close friend and colleague is maimed for life and you just leave him to it. Lois, you take the "support" out of "supporting cast". Superman sets off to find a new and more useful secret identity. Why he needs one at all isn't particularly clear, especially since the Silver Age Man of Steel didn't really care about his life as Clark Kent. I mean, he could just have Supermaned-up a solution for Clark and saved himself a lot of trouble with a glib explanation (I bet he still will). But for now, he tries his hand at new aliases. The first of these is William Digby, a Englishman with a white mustache and graying temples (such a relief not to wear glasses anymore!). The first job the employment agency offers him is as a millionaire's butler, so he takes it because "no one can buttle better than Digby can buttle". Through an amazing application of X-ray vision, Superman quickly realizes that his new boss is keeping a big secret:
The guy's dirty and not surprisingly, he's got trust issues, so on a hunch, Superman tells him he's an ex-con whose real name is "Ghost-Fingers" Morgan (you definition of "real name" takes some liberties there, not-Clark), which gives Crighton, the millionaire who lets employment agencies choose his staff, an idea. He'll use Digby's past as a safecracker against him and frame him for his own crimes when the times comes. At this point, Superman is only keeping the job to stay close to a criminal, but one wonders why he ever thought butling was a good cover for a superhero. As a millionaire's personal manservant, he pretty much has to stick to his man all the time; when is he going to go on patrol? In fact, when an emergency arises with a train transporting yet another dangerous super-science WMD (same general, to keep casting costs down), Digby is forced to get everyone at the mansion drunk so he can slip away.
The Superman Special has everyone blind drunk by the next panel. Don't drink and drive, rick folks (oh right, you all have chauffeurs). Later, Crichton prepares to frame his butler for his own diamond heist:
Obviously, not-Clark overhears, and when the harbor police show up, it's an easy matter for him to ditch the planted evidence and reveal Crighton has the stolen diamonds in his possession. Easier still because the cops are as blind as Clark Kent is supposed to be.
AND it certainly doesn't help that Crighton's wife is a blurter. Crichton goes to jail, but the William Digby identity is "burned" and Superman takes off in search of another. Which is a story for next time!