"Superman: "The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder"": A series of automobile accidents occur at an alarming rate across the nation. In Metropolis, while Clark drives Lois out on a date, a speeding car passes them by. They watch as it swerves a
Action Comics #48 is an issue of the series Action Comics (Volume 1) with a cover date of May, 1942.
- 1 Synopsis for Superman: "The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder"
- 2 Appearing in Superman: "The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder"
- 3 Synopsis for Vigilante: "Crime's Caravan"
- 4 Appearing in Vigilante: "Crime's Caravan"
- 5 Synopsis for Three Aces: "The Adventure of the Secret Submarine"
- 6 Appearing in Three Aces: "The Adventure of the Secret Submarine"
- 7 Synopsis for Mister America: "The Pied Piper of Doom"
- 8 Appearing in Mister America: "The Pied Piper of Doom"
- 9 Synopsis for Congo Bill: "Suddenly at War"
- 10 Appearing in Congo Bill: "Suddenly at War"
- 11 Synopsis for Zatara: "The Case of the Maddening Music"
- 12 Appearing in Zatara: "The Case of the Maddening Music"
- 13 Notes
- 14 See Also
- 15 Links and References
Synopsis for Superman: "The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder"
A series of automobile accidents occur at an alarming rate across the nation. In Metropolis, while Clark drives Lois out on a date, a speeding car passes them by. They watch as it swerves and crashes into an oncoming car! Clark and other motorists race to help the man trapped inside the vehicle. The passenger is in a panic over her husband's injuries. They had just bought the car with their life savings, not expecting it to go out of control like that. After the ambulance takes the injured party away, Clark inspects the wrecked car with his X-Ray vision and discovers the brake lining is worn out. This vehicle should never have been sold in such poor condition.
As the days go by, Clark continues investigating the series of accidents across the city. Every car that was involved was found to be in poor repair prior to the crash. He also discovered that every one of them was bought from the same company: Speed Motors. Sid Speed, owner of Speed Motors, calls the meddling Kent down for a little talk. Clark instead arrives at Speed Motors as Superman, where he finds its crooked employees at work on a wrecked car. But instead of fixing it, they're just hammering out the dents and repainting the shell so that it looks brand new, then their boss Sid resells it for a profit. Superman interrupts the crew and a fight breaks out. Of course with his super strength, the man of steel has no trouble dealing with the thugs.
Later that same day, Clark is back in his reporter identity as he and Lois pay a visit to Sid Speed's car dealership. They accept a salesman's offer to look at a few cars, in order to get a closer look. Each vehicle they are shown looks nice on the outside, but Lois and Clark each find a defect upon closer inspection. The salesman becomes furious and orders them to get out, but just then, Sid appears. He recognizes them as reporters and apologizes for his man's behavior, inviting them into his office for a chat. Sid tells them that if they would drop the story on his crooked auto business, he'd make it worth their while. Lois turns down his offer, making Sid angry. They were making a big mistake, he tells them as his strongarm thugs throw them out. A stranger approaches Clark and helps him up. Jefferson Smith, private investigator, who's been on the case of Speed Motors for quite some time. He lets the two reporters use his car to get back to the Daily Planet, Lois thanks him. Soon, however, Clark and Lois realize that the car they're driving is one of the defectives from Speed Motors. They learn this when the brakes go out and they're left speeding out of control down the road, while Clark steers trying to avoid the other cars. He suddenly pretends to fall out of the car so he can quickly change to Superman and pull the vehicle to a stop!
Back at the Planet, Clark slips away while Lois is busy typing an update on the story. As Superman, he pays another visit to Sid Speed, eavesdropping on a telephone conversation between Sid and a man he call "The Top". Sid was going to a meeting between the nation's auto-dealers, to discuss how to increase the profits even more. Clark follows him the whole way without his knowing. The dealers no longer want any part of the scam business, telling Sid they were going to go legit. Sid calls in his thugs and lets them help the dealers rethink their stance. Superman bursts in and takes care of the thugs. The other car dealers run for the exit. Jefferson Smith is among them. But Superman is onto him this time. Jefferson was really the Top, the man in charge of the whole defective used car operation! He gives chase to Jefferson, who in his panic, tries to escape in one of his own defective autos. The engine quickly catches fire and explodes, killing its occupant. Sid and his goon are arrested by the police. Clark returns to his mild-mannered guise, Superman's work is done.
Some time later, the newspapers all contain the front page story of Speed Motors' criminal activity. Lois gloats to Clark, until he shows her the story he wrote. She may have printed the Speed Motors story first, but Clark was able to put out an even bigger story about how the reformed car dealers donated all the wrecked vehicles to the US Army, giving them plenty of scrap metal to help in the war effort. Lois is peeved. Someday she'll find out how Clark always comes out ahead. Maybe if she asks Superman, he'll know.
Appearing in Superman: "The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder"
- The Top (Only appearance; dies)
- Sid Speed (Single appearance)
- John (motorist) (Single appearance)
- Several thousand defective cars
Synopsis for Vigilante: "Crime's Caravan"
One night in New York, a man spouting poetry drives up to a parking garage. The attendant starts to approach, but the driver pulls out a gun and blasts him in the chest. He then signals his buddies, who were hiding in the shadows. They load car after car into their trucks, thirteen in all, and casually drive away with the stolen vehicles. As they head down the garage ramp, they pass by an old sports racer, driven by Greg Sanders. The famous radio singer pays no mind to the strange sight of a truck hauling cars out of the garage; at least not until he discovers the body of the attendant further up the ramp. He pulls his scarf over his face, becoming the Vigilante once again. Vigilante gets on his motorcycle, parked inconspicuously further back in the garage, and starts chasing the truck from before. Closer and closer he gets, until it's within roping range. But before he can pull out the lasso, a man in a wheelchair crosses the street in his path. Vigilante quickly takes a dive, avoiding a collision with the poor invalid. Greg gets back up and heads around the corner where he swore the truck went, but all that was there was an empty alley. There was no place the truck could have passed through. Maybe he was mistaken. Strangely, the wheelchair-bound individual had also disappeared.
The next day, Stuff bugs Greg Sanders at the studio, asking him to tell Vigilante that he was ready to help him take down the automobile snatchers. Greg brushes him off for now, and heads inside to work. Stuff sulks in Sanders' car until he falls asleep in the back seat. Two members of the car theft gang appear. Not noticing the vehicle's current occupant, the crooks steal Greg Sanders' car to add to their ever-growing collection. When Stuff awakens, he is surrounded by no-good carjackers arguing about what to do with him. He shouts at them that Vigilante will rescue him. The arguing stops when he mentions Vigilante. So the kid knew him? A man in a wheelchair, the same one that got in Vigilante's way last night, approaches Stuff. It was the gang's boss, The Lash! If this kid and Vigilante knew each other, he reasoned, they could use Stuff as bait to lure Vigilante into a trap. Greg Sanders returns after work a few hours later. He wanted to surprise Stuff with a new cowboy outfit he ordered for him. But then he notices his car was gone! The newspaper boy nearby saw it leave with a kid in the back. It had to be them! Greg turns a corner and changes to Vigilante. When he had chased those car rustlers before, they had disappeared down an alley. He would check there first in case he missed something last time.
As Vigilante enters the alley, a couple of thugs were watching from a high window. A switch is pushed, and the street beneath Greg's feet lowers to form a ramp underground. Greeting him at the bottom was the wheelchair bound man, the Lash, taunting him. Vigilante chases Lash, who rolls with speed down the halls and up a spiraling ramp. Vigilante takes a shortcut, using his rope to climb up an empty elevator shaft! At the top are Lash's thugs, and behind them is Stuff, tied to a chair. Vigilante beats up the group but gets hit from behind by the Lash. Stuff watches in a panic as his friend is tossed down the elevator shaft and forgotten. The criminals laugh about it and get back to work stealing cars. But Vigilante wasn't dead. He had managed to catch hold of a ledge on the floor below and pull himself up. He heads back upstairs to untie the surprised Stuff, then the two of them rush out to capture the Lash and his gang.
The car thieves drive their trucks in a procession down the street. Vigilante jumps out in front of their path like a ghost come to haunt them. The lead driver gets spooked, swerving into a fire hydrant! The others get out of their vehicles and rush the not-dead hero. This time, Stuff backs his friend up by leaping from the top of a truck onto some of the goons. He holds his own in the fight, while Vigilante goes after the boss. The Lash pulls out his poison-tipped whip and swings it towards the meddlesome cowboy. At the same time, Vigilante hurls his lasso, catching the whip and yanking it from the Lash's grip! The Lash had one more surprise, he leaps up out of his wheelchair and makes a run for it. It's no go. Vigilante tackles him easily and ties him up. With the gang defeated, the police are summoned. Finally the rash of car thefts has come to an end!
Appearing in Vigilante: "Crime's Caravan"
- The Lash (First appearance)
- Shakes (Single appearance)
- Augie (Single appearance)
- Vigilante's Lasso
- The Lash's Poison Whip
Synopsis for Three Aces: "The Adventure of the Secret Submarine"
Fog, Gunner, and Will fight their way free of a Japanese battleship that took them prisoner.
Later, they pick up a radio signal that frequently disappears. Figuring it's being sent by a submarine, the Aces fly over to the area of the last transmission and wait. The enemy sub rises out of the water, and the Aces fire their planes' guns at it until it's destroyed!
Appearing in Three Aces: "The Adventure of the Secret Submarine"
- Roosevelt's Captain
- Aircraft Carrier "Roosevelt"
- The Aces' Planes
- Japanese Battleship
- Japanese Submarine (Destroyed)
Synopsis for Mister America: "The Pied Piper of Doom"
Tex Thompson and Bob Daley take time off from the hero racket to have a relaxing time in the town of Hamlin. A Red Cross fundraiser event was occurring at City Hall, and all the rich bigwigs were there. A frail old woman sold flowers to each attendant, though when Bob asked for one she refused, saying they were only for the important people. Later, after everyone has taken a seat, a strange melody is heard carrying across the wind. In a moment, the richest and most influential men in the crowd stand up and move, in a trance-like state, towards the door. Outside, more people were marching down the street, led by an oddly dressed fellow playing the flute. Bob stayed put to keep the men at the fundraiser from leaving while Tex, donning his Mister America costume, followed the other hypnotized townsfolk. Their trail disappeared at the edge of the ocean. The footsteps of an approaching stranger warned Tex to find a hiding place. From the bushes he watches as the frail old flower-seller headed down the path towards the same location where the men disappeared. The old woman suddenly stands up straight and removes her rubber mask, revealing the Queen Bee! Tex watches as she, too, disappears beneath the water. At the same time, back in city hall, the spell that has taken hold of the crowd suddenly subsides. Everyone returns to their senses, and Bob takes that as his cue to find his friend Tex and help him, as only Fatman can!
Meanwhile, inside an underwater hideout, the Queen Bee commends her Pied Piper for a job well done. They had nabbed some of the richest men in town. Even though the mayor and all the big-wigs in city hall were stopped from joining the march of the flute, she was confident they'd grab them tonight, while the drug from the flowers she sold were still fresh in their systems. After which, she'll set a high ransom for each man's safe return.
Bob has donned his Fatman garb and heads out the door. Something on the ground catches his eye, one of the flowers the old woman had been selling. He picks it up, noticing an odd aroma coming off of it.
Tex finds a hidden hatch leading to the underwater bunker. The Queen Bee and her goons get a surprise when a red-white-and-blue feather whizzes past them, followed by Mr. America! Queen Bee orders her men to kill him, but changes her mind when one of them aims his Tommy-Gun. She calls out too late, the bullets miss the masked meddler and strike the wall of the hideout, letting water suddenly pour in! The Queen Bee and her men escape while Mr. America quickly unties the ropes binding the prisoners. One by one, he helps them out of the flooding bunker, until all are safely back on land. Tex flings out his flying cape and rides it back to town. Down below, he sees the Pied Piper once again leading a crowd of hypnotized rich socialites and important government officials on a march with his flute. And Fatman was among them! Up ahead, the Queen Bee and her gang were waiting, armed with machine guns. Mr. America had to act fast, but how can he break the spell? His answer comes in the form of a sneeze. Bob's sneezing just woke him up from the trance! Tex rushes to a nearby store and asks for all the red pepper they have. He flies over the crowd, sprinkling them with the pepper until they're all sneezing. The trance fades, and they are all back to normal! They begin to fight back against the thugs for trying to kidnap them. The Piper tries to get away, but Mr. America decks him. The criminal scheme is foiled, though its mastermind, the Queen Bee, has gotten away again. Bob assures Tex that next time, they'll catch her for sure!
Appearing in Mister America: "The Pied Piper of Doom"
- Mayor (Unnamed) (Single appearance)
- New York City
- Mr. America's Bullwhip
- Mr. America's Flying Carpet
Synopsis for Congo Bill: "Suddenly at War"
Bill is paddling down a jungle river in the East Indies with Lieutenant Barlow, an aviator whose plane had been shot down three months before, whom Bill had rescued. They come across a village whose inhabitants are nowhere in sight. They enter the mayor's house, where they're immediately besieged by Japanese soldiers. The head officer tells them that his men had occupied the village a month ago, in preparation for a planned attack against the American Garrison on Webb island. Bill makes a daring play, punching out the officer so he and Barlow can escape. Bill makes it to the beach, but there was no sign of Barlow. He feared the Japanese managed to silence him. Nothing else to do, he found an abandoned native's canoe and took it out to sea.
For one long, agonizing week, Bill traveled across the Pacific. Finally, on the eighth day, he sights his destination: Webb Island. He is greeted on arrival by the Marines' Captain Reilly. The story of the Japanese attack plan is related. Captain Reilly assures Bill that while they may only have a small force on the island, he and his men will fight tooth and nail against all invaders. Just then, the roar of planes is heard. The attack has begun! The enemy planes dive bomb the garrison, and are met by a hail of bullets and grenades. All goes well for the Marines until a lucky shot from a Japanese pilot destroys the radio station, cutting off the base's contact with the outside world. Japanese ships are soon sighted off the coast. They'd be sending out barges full of men ready to give their lives to take out Reilly and his unit! The Marines are able to push back the invading forces in close quarters combat, making it impossible for the enemy planes to fire, unless they wished to hit their own men.
Dusk, and a moment's reprieve from the battle. The first round belonged to Captain Reilly and Bill, but they couldn't hold out indefinitely. Bill hears another plane coming in, though this one seemed to be having engine troubles. He tells the Captain to hold fire and give the plane a chance to land. It was a Japanese model, but the inhabitant happened to be friendly. Lieutenant Barlow! Back during his and Bill's encounter at the village, he had been hiding in the jungle for a few days, until he was able to steal one of the Japanese planes.
Together, Bill, Barlow, and Reilly devise a plan. They needed to send for reinforcements, but the radio was out. The Japanese warships had radios on board, however. Bill volunteers to sneak aboard one and send a message out. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Barlow would fill the plane he stole with explosives and fly it over the aircraft carrier, blowing it to bits. Wishing Bill luck with a "Cheerio old man" and "Thumbs up!", Barlow returns to the pilot seat and takes off, while Bill readies his canoe.
Maneuvering alongside a Japanese destroyer, Bill silently climbs to the deck. Barlow's plane is spotted overhead, but because it's one of their own, the Japanese hold their fire. The guards are drawn away from their post, making it easy for Bill to slip in the radio room. He begins to tap out a message in Morse code, calling for aircraft reinforcements to Webb Island. Outside, Barlow circles the carrier. He knows he can't afford to miss, so the only way to be certain is to sacrifice himself and dive straight towards the target! The plane hits the carrier dead center, creating a massive explosion! The carrier and all the planes on deck sink beneath the waves. Bill, having no idea of his friend's sacrifice, fights his way off the destroyer and swims back to shore.
Next morning, the American reinforcements arrive, intercepting the Japanese fleet and sinking every last ship. On Webb island, a memorial service is held for the fallen, including Lieutenant Barlow. Bill salutes as the U.S. flag is lowered to half stance, remembering his friend's sacrifice, and his final words to him; "Cheerio, old man... Thumbs up!"
Appearing in Congo Bill: "Suddenly at War"
- Lieutenant Barlow (Only appearance; dies)
- U.S. Marines
- Captain Reilly (Single appearance)
- Native Canoe
- Japanese Planes (Destroyed)
- Japanese Carrier and Destroyer (Destroyed)
Synopsis for Zatara: "The Case of the Maddening Music"
In a concert hall, a large audience tonight, as Jan Haarl, great pianist, plays a haunting melody. The music starts to have a strange effect on one young man, Bob Barth. In a fit of madness, Bob suddenly pulls out a knife. He lunges for the front row, where an older gentleman was sitting. Luckily, Zatara was also present in the audience. He uses magic to make his arms grow longer so he can reach Bob and restrain him. Jan Haarl stops playing as the young man is escorted out. He curses under his breath as the older man gets up to leave. Haarl starts to play another song. The harmony brings his target back to his seat, though he tries to fight it. Above, in his own private box seat, Zatara is visited by Bob Barth's wife, Myra. She wished to thank him for stopping her husband from committing murder. Bob has been placed under a hypnotic spell, she explains, ever since he started taking music lessons from Jan Haarl. The man he tried to kill was Lucius Gordon, the president of the National Bank. Haarl hated him ever since Gordon had fired him from his job, leaving him out in the cold where he nearly starved. Myra knew he was using Bob to get his revenge. Zatara agrees to help.
After the show, Lucius and his wife head to the car, where their driver was waiting. Watching from his own vehicle, Jan Haarl pulls out his flute and begins to play a melody. The Gordons' driver suddenly feels an overwhelming urge to follow Haarl's car. Zatara and Myra arrive just as the two vehicles round a corner With a spell of flight, the master magician and his lady companion follow from above. The Gordon's car pulls up to a huge tower that's been built into the shape of a violin. Like sleepwalkers, Lucius and his wife follow the musician inside. Zatara and Myra watch from outside with the help of a spell that lets them see through the wall. Haarl is playing the violin for his captive audience, calling it a "concert of death"! The wall behind him fades, Zatara enters, casting another spell targeted at the Gordons, making them vanish from sight, to reappear in their home. Infuriated at losing the bank president, Jan Haarl turns his music on Zatara and Myra. With a sudden desire to kill themselves, the duo leap out the tower window where the rocks await them below! Haarl then summons his men; it's time to rob the National Bank.
The moment the music stopped playing, Zatara regained his senses mid-fall. He immediately makes himself and Myra lighter than air so they can fly back up to the clouds. A car is spotted leaving the tower. Zatara helped Myra get to safety before following the criminals vehicle. He trails it to the bank, where the musician's thugs walk inside carrying a radio. When the security guards draw their guns, the bandits turn on the radio. A queer tune sounded over the speaker. The guards stand in place, dropping their guns as the music hypnotizes them. The thugs head for the vault, not realizing that Zatara had already cast a spell over them. As soon as the vault door is opened, they are accosted by horrible hallucinations! Running in terror right back into the arms of security, who have been broken out of their trance, Haarl's henchman are arrested. With that taken care of, Zatara returns to the musician's tower. Jan Haarl, hearing of his men's failure, hijacks the local broadcast and begins to play a song of murder. Everyone in the city that hears it will try to kill one another. One of those victims would surely be Lucius Gordon. As the music plays, people do indeed begin to turn on each other. With earplugs in place, Zatara works a spell on the tower. High walls encircle it, cutting the broadcast off. Haarl is unaware that anything has gone wrong at first. But then his music echoes off the surrounding walls and return to his ears in force. He is driven mad by his own song and jumps out the window to his death!
A few weeks later, the concert hall plays host to a new musical wonder. Zatara and Myra listen to the notes of Myra's husband, Bob Barth, who finally came into his own now that he's free of Haarl's influence.
Appearing in Zatara: "The Case of the Maddening Music"
- Myra Barth (Single appearance)
- Jan Haarl (Only appearance; dies)
- Bob Barth (Single appearance)
- Lucius Gordon (Single appearance)
- Martha Gordon (Single appearance)
- Donald (Single appearance)
- Ed (Single appearance)
- Molly (Single appearance)
Copy Edit Needed
- Published by Detective Comics, Inc.
- This issue's Congo Bill: "Suddenly at War" is evidently set in March, 1942, based on Japanese forces having completed their take-over of the Dutch East Indies at that time. The entire invasion took only three months.
- Mister America: The character in the Pied Piper of Doom is unique to that story and shouldn't be confused with the more famous Flash villain the Pied Piper.
- Mister America's cape doubles as a flying carpet.
- Superman: The Adventure of the Merchant of Murder is reprinted in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 3 and Superman Chronicles Vol. 9.
- The Three Aces destroy one more enemy submarine.
- Vigilante gets head-konked hard enough to lose his balance, if not his other senses, one more time.
- 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.