"Superman: "The Empire in the Sky"": Four influential men, science lecturer Carl Bransom, writer Nick Flaherty, politician John Standing and industrialist Freeman Chase, all vanish mysteriously. Clark Kent contends that these are no ordinary kidnappings, as all four have be
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- 1 Synopsis for Superman: "The Empire in the Sky"
- 2 Appearing in Superman: "The Empire in the Sky"
- 3 Synopsis for Vigilante: "The Origin of the Vigilante"
- 4 Appearing in Vigilante: "The Origin of the Vigilante"
- 5 Synopsis for Black Pirate: "The Ship Spies"
- 6 Appearing in Black Pirate: "The Ship Spies"
- 7 Synopsis for The Three Aces "Revolution in Central America!"
- 8 Appearing in The Three Aces "Revolution in Central America!"
- 9 Synopsis for Mr. America: "A Modern Flying Carpet"
- 10 Appearing in Mr. America: "A Modern Flying Carpet"
- 11 Synopsis for Congo Bill: "The Jungle Film"
- 12 Appearing in Congo Bill: "The Jungle Film"
- 13 Synopsis for Zatara: "The Man Who Could Control Minds"
- 14 Appearing in Zatara: "The Man Who Could Control Minds"
- 15 Notes
- 16 Trivia
- 17 See Also
- 18 Links and References
Synopsis for Superman: "The Empire in the Sky"
Four influential men, science lecturer Carl Bransom, writer Nick Flaherty, politician John Standing and industrialist Freeman Chase, all vanish mysteriously. Clark Kent contends that these are no ordinary kidnappings, as all four have been missing for weeks without a ransom demand. Just then, Bransom's family receive a ransom demand for $50,000. Clark goes to report on it. Although the press are being kept out, he hears that Mrs. Bransom wants to pay the ransom. Changing to Superman, he stakes out the drop location. When a man picks up the ransom, Superman stops his car and interrogates him. He finds out that the man, Jake Mobray, works for the Dirk Chadwick mob, and he doesn't know where Bransom is. Just then, a ray of light comes down from above and blows up Mobray. Superman visits Chadwick, and finds that he didn't kidnap Bransom, he just tried to extort the money. The ray comes back and blows up the building, killing Chadwick. Failing to find the source of the ray, Clark goes home, and goes to bed.
That night, Clark is kidnapped and taken to a vast city in the sky. He meets the other kidnapped men, and finds that they don't want to leave. He is brought before the leader, Zytal, who tells him that he is an interplanetary explorer who is gathering the brightest men to assist in his quest for knowledge, including Clark. Not satisfied with this explanation, he changes to Superman once alone, and investigates. He sees Zytal ripping away a face mask, revealing himself to be Luthor. He attacks Luthor, who uses a device to hypnotize him. Luthor sends him out to cause chaos. But when he sees Lois Lane being kidnapped by Luthor's hirelings, Superman rescues her. However, he delivers her to Luthor himself. When Lois and Luthor mention Clark, Superman changes back. Luthor dumps them both into a pit with a strange beast, after knocking out Lois. Superman defeats the beast and confronts Luthor, the hypnosis having worn off. Luthor shoots out the city-supporting anti-gravity device, and jumps off. Having no choice but to let Luthor go, Superman catches the city before it hits the ground. Back at the Daily Planet, Clark gets the story written up ahead of Lois.
Appearing in Superman: "The Empire in the Sky"
- Jake Mobray (Only appearance; dies)
- Dirk Chadwick (Only appearance; dies)
- Carl Bransom (Single appearance)
- Nick Flaherty (Single appearance)
- John Standing (Single appearance)
- Freeman Chase (Single appearance)
- Luthor's Explosive Ray
- Luthor's Hypnotizing Device (effective against Superman)
- Luthor's City-hovering Antigravity Device
- Luthor's stratospheric city
Synopsis for Vigilante: "The Origin of the Vigilante"
In the death house at State Prison, a tense assortment of officials and reporters, and the Vigilante, all bear witness to the electrocution of Killer Kelly. Before he's put in the chair, Killer Kelly vows to return from the grave and get revenge on the Vigilante. Soon he is pronounced dead. But Kelly and his gang have rigged the system; the doctor who administered the "fatal" jolt sent only 200 volts to the chair, then faked the death report, and soon would fake the cremation report too, due to being extorted by threats from Kelly's gang against the doctor's wife and children.
In Preston City, Killer Kelly and his gang and their tommy guns go right back into the bank-robbing business, and they gun down whoever gets in their way. Meanwhile Vigilante has resumed his ordinary identity as Greg Sanders, singing cowboy. One day at a rodeo a dangerous steer gets loose, and Greg deftly brings down the charging beast with a lariat, then claims that he'd only gotten lucky. Sanders has his own radio show and is dating blues singer Betty Stuart. She of course thinks he's a big phony and wishes he could be more like the Vigilante.
Sanders learns that Kelly is mysteriously back in the robbery racket, and gets a hunch. That night, in that town, the very wealthy Van Ardsley family will be holding a costume ball; this would be a likely robbery target for Killer Kelly's gang. The Vigilante shows up at the ball, disguised as the Vigilante. Killer and his gang show up, disguised as pirates. Lariat mayhem ensues. Betty Stuart has also shown up, mostly as her own gorgeous self in a domino mask, and she gets grabbed by Kelly as a hostage, to cover his escape. He makes it to his convertible, punches Betty hard, and peels out. Vigilante pursues, on the running board of a commandeered taxi, and leaps onto Kelly's open car, but Kelly's still packing a pirate cutlass, and repels this boarder with a knockout smack to the head.
Vigilante recovers consciousness, tied up, in a basement, while Kelly explains how he survived his "execution," then exposits about how the room will soon flood with deadly gas. Then Kelly leaves. But luckily a bucket of water is nearby, and luckily Vig is tied up with rawhide thongs which, as all westerners know, expands and softens when soaked in water. So Vigilante gets himself untied, and the gas turns out to be flammable, so he applies a match to it and neutralizes that threat. Then "Slats," one of Kelly's hoods, shows up to make sure that Vigilante is dead; down goes Slats. Then the phone rings, and it's Kelly, telling Slats to hurry up and get to their next crime scene, a safe-cracking at J. R. Rockrich's office. So Vigilante hurries over to that address, and climbs in through an upstairs window, engages the gang, lassos Kelly and flings him out the window, followed by two more thugs, all of whom land on some telephone wires, many feet above the street. Vigilante calls the police to come collect them.
The next day Greg Sanders is back at the radio studio signing autographs, while Betty Stuart looks on in mild disgust, wishing again that this drugstore cowboy could be more like the Vigilante.
Appearing in Vigilante: "The Origin of the Vigilante"
- Vigilante (First appearance) (Flashback and main story)
- Betty Stuart, blues singer (First appearance)
- Killer Kelly (Single appearance)
- his gang, "Slats", others
- Mr. Van Ardsley
- Sheriff Sanders (Greg's father) (Flashback only)
- Greg's unnamed grandfather (Flashback only)
- unnamed prison doctor (Single appearance)
- Preston City
- Vigilante's Lasso
Synopsis for Black Pirate: "The Ship Spies"
A crew of cutthroat pirates plot against their enemy, the Black Pirate. They send a spy aboard his ship in the guise of a castaway who needed rescuing. Bonnie feels that something didn't seem right about the man, but Jon laughs her off.
That night, the spy locks Valor in his quarters and signals his ship, which is following in the distance. The Black Pirate manages to escape through the window and climb back aboard, where he angrily tosses the spy overboard. Rousing his men from sleep, Valor orders them to the cannons. Shots are fired at the other vessel. Unable to take the attack, the enemy pirates retreat!
When it's all over, Jon reflects that he had almost lost his life instead of the spy, today.
Appearing in Black Pirate: "The Ship Spies"
- two cutthroats and their crew (Single appearance)
- spy (Single appearance)
- Black Pirate's crew (Final appearance)
- Jon Valor's ship
Synopsis for The Three Aces "Revolution in Central America!"
Flying in low over Central America, Will, Gunner, and Fog witness a conflagration of bomb blasts and guns going off. When they land to see what is going on, the Aces meet Miguel Miranda, a revolutionary who steals their planes for himself.
Appearing in The Three Aces "Revolution in Central America!"
- Miguel Miranda (Single appearance)
- The Aces' Planes
Synopsis for Mr. America: "A Modern Flying Carpet"
The Queen Bee organizes a large number of gangsters for a massive radium theft, which has the side-effect of greatly reducing the city's crime rate. Mr. America takes advantage of this lull by spending time in his secret laboratory, in a shack in the woods, perfecting a working flying carpet. Meanwhile, Bob Daley is bored and grumpy, so he creates his own costumed identity, as Fat Man, and soon stumbles upon a secret criminal lair, where the Queen Bee is putting the finishing touches on her big plan. Bob gets into trouble, but he is soon aided by Mr. America and his flying carpet, and working together they are able to stop a radium robbery. But the Queen Bee escapes.
Appearing in Mr. America: "A Modern Flying Carpet"
- Bob Daley (First appearance as Fat Man)
- Mr. America's flying carpet (First appearance)
Synopsis for Congo Bill: "The Jungle Film"
Bill and his friends stumble upon a movie crew shooting a jungle film. The director, Hugo Von Eller, has been having all sorts of trouble finishing the movie. One of the actors has died under mysterious circumstances, and his main actress just fell ill. Bill suggests that Sheila could fill in for the sick girl, while he and the Professor keep an eye out for any further trouble.
In the next scene, a trained lion is used, and when Sheila fires the gun, the animal is supposed to retreat back to its cage. But during the actual shoot, when Sheila fires, nothing happens. The blanks hadn't been loaded, and the lion is about to pounce! Bill fires his own weapon, killing the beast in mid-flight. Now that someone has tried to bump off Sheila, Bill is determined to find whoever is responsible. He reads through the script, then asks the director about the final scene. It takes place in a cave, where his lead, Tomkins, would be forced to blow himself up rather than submit to capture. The TNT had already been set, plans are for the scene to be shot tomorrow. Bill decides to investigate the cave in question. An elephant graveyard rested inside the cave. The bones of the long dead creatures gave Bill an idea of the saboteur;s motive. Now he just needed to find out who. Back at the set, Bill announces to the crew that he has found irrefutable proof of the killer's identity. In his tent is an object with the culprit's fingerprints, which he would just need to analyze.
Later, as Bill waits in his tent, a stealthy figure appears. It's Tomkins, the actor! He grabs the gun and points it at Bill, but the weapon isn't loaded. Tomkins tries to run for it, into the cave, chased by Bill. A misstep causes Tomkins to accidentally trigger the dynamite, setting off the explosion meant for the movie's finale. Tomkins is killed as the cave collapses.
The director can't understand why Tomkins tried to sabotage his own movie. Bill explains that it was greed that motivated him. When Tomkins saw the ivory tusks of the dead elephants, he was hoping to sell them and make a fortune. The blowing up of the cave would have made it impossible, so he did anything he could think of to stop the production. Ironically, he ended up dying in the explosion meant for his character.
Appearing in Congo Bill: "The Jungle Film"
- Professor Kent
- Sheila Hanlen
- Tomkins, an actor (Only appearance; dies)
- group of natives (Single appearance)
- Hugo Von Eller, movie director (Single appearance)
- his crew: Winters, others
Synopsis for Zatara: "The Man Who Could Control Minds"
While on a stroll through the city, Zatara spots his old enemy, the Tigress, walking into a bank with a man he recognizes as Frosty Parke, notorious criminal. Making himself invisible, Zatara follows them inside, where he witnesses them hold up the bank manager. When Parke heads to the safe, Zatara whispers a spell to make the safe come alive! It fights back when the surprised Parke tries to open it! Suspecting her old foe at work, Tigress escapes before the police can show up. Frosty Parke was taken to the hospital for his wounds.
Several days later, Frosty overhears a conversation between two doctors about an experimental device that lets the user give a command to another person, who would then have to obey. He sneaks into the lab and tries on the device, a piece of metallic head wear connected to a machine with cables. There was a cat being kept in the lab, so Frosty tries out the device on it first. To his great surprise, when he orders the cat to speak, it not only obeys his command, it also speaks to him in human language! But the cat knows Parke doesn't belong in there, and it starts calling for help. Startled, Frosty starts to run. But he forgets that he was still wearing the headgear. The cables are pulled loose, sending rays of energy directly into his brain. Frosty somehow feels different... and he no longer seems to be in pain. When he tells the nurse in the lobby that he was leaving early but that he didn't have any money to pay the bill, she happily excuses him and hands him all the cash in her purse. A doctor gives him the clothes off his back when commanded, and at a car dealership, Frosty tells the salesman he was taking one of the cars for free, and was given the keys just like that! Frosty drives out to meet Tigress, to tell her of his new power.
Later, Zatara learns through the news that Frosty Parke has the power to command minds. He's been robbing banks with Tigress simply by telling the clerks to give him all the money. Zatara questions the doctors at the hospital, and finds out about the experimental mind machine. Now that he knew how Frosty got his ability, the master magician had some idea how to stop him. First, he tracks him down to the Steel Works, where Parke was in the midst of stealing the workers payroll. A spell is cast, and the bag of money comes alive and boots Frosty out of the building! Then, his car starts berating him as it carries him on a high speed ride down the street. The car splits itself in two to avoid crashing a lamp post. Frosty is ejected out of the angry vehicle in front of the Tigress. She figures Zatara is playing his tricks on them. When he appears in front of them, instead of surrendering, Parke uses his power to command the magician to climb to the roof of a building and jump off. Zatara had no choice but to obey. As he climbed the steps, Zatara found that though he was fully aware of what he was doing, he couldn't stop himself. He reaches the roof, and though he tries in vain to fight against it, he steps over the edge and begins to fall. Tigress can't bare to watch. Though Zatara was her enemy, he had always been fair with her. But just then, Zatara floats safely the rest of the way to the ground. Frosty can't understand what went wrong. Even when he tries ordering Zatara again, his powers suddenly seem to have stopped working! Zatara explains that Parke's abilities were only temporary, and like a battery, they eventually lost their charge. He now tells Frosty and the Tigress that he would let them leave town before the police showed up, provided they go straight from here onward. They both agree.
Back in the hospital, the inventor of the mind-control device gets to work smashing it up. It was just too dangerous for a machine like that to exist. It's destruction was a load off Zatara's mind.
Appearing in Zatara: "The Man Who Could Control Minds"
- Tigress (Final appearance)
- Frosty Parke (Single appearance)
- Mr. Baker, a bank manager (Single appearance)
- unnamed scientist (Single appearance)
- Mind Control Device
- Published by Detective Comics, Inc.
- After this issue, the Black Pirate serial moves from Action to Sensation with Sensation Comics #1.
- Congo Bill: At the end of The Jungle Film, Congo Bill, Professor Kent, Sheila Hanlen and all the members of Hugo Von Eller's movie crew know the secret location of a sealed-off, massive, ivory-rich "elephants' graveyard."
- The Empire in the Sky is reprinted in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 3, (under the title of "City in the Stratosphere") in Superman Chronicles Vol. 7 and Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 2.
- In this story, Lois Lane is kidnapped for the 14th time.
- Luthor was last seen in Superman #13 and will next appear in Action Comics #47. This is his eighth big and evil scheme.
- On Earth-Two Clark Kent worked at the Daily Star under George Taylor while Perry White remained a reporter and Superman fought a red haired Luthor. However, there was a close hypertime reality (Earth-Two-A) which regularly interacted with Earth-Two resulting in distortions such as (but not limited to) Clark Kent working for the Daily Planet under editor Perry White and/or Superman fighting a bald Luthor.
- Mister America has a flying carpet, that he invented.
- Origin of the Vigilante is reprinted in Secret Origins #4 and Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman: The Deluxe Edition.
- Prior to his introductory story, the Vigilante has apparently already had enough adventures to be recognizable to the general public, and he had definitely played a role in bringing Killer Kelly to justice the first time.
- In this story, the Vigilante gets knocked unconscious and falls off a speeding car, when Killer Kelly smacks him in the face with the hilt of a cutlass. That was his first recorded concussion.
- Coal gas is flammable, and many early 20th-century houses, especially in old, eastern cities, had pipes connecting them to a commercial or municipal coal-gas supply. It was an incredible fire hazard, and was phased out very quickly when electricity became widely available. Coal gas is also deadly to anybody who breathes enough of it for long enough. So at least that part of Vigilante's escape wasn't just some incredible fluke.
- In The Man Who Could Control Minds, Tigress' bank-robber partner Frosty Parke briefly gains control of a device that is the functional equivalent of "the Anti-Life Equation."
- This is the Tigress' 13th and final appearance in this feature. Over the past three years, she has escaped from Zatara at least two previous times, been arrested at least twice, and teamed up with Zatara thrice.
- In this issue's Congo Bill story, Professor Kent is introduced as "James Kent," which contradicts Action Comics #37 which gave his first name as "Joe."