Welcome back to Rotten Ink. For this update we will be chatting about something very cool, “Superman And The Mole Men,” the first film to feature the Man Of Steel and starred George Reeves as Superman who would go on to play the character in the awesome TV series from the 50’s! The thing about Superman is that the character is truly iconic and is a big part of Pop Culture in America and when thinking about topics that needed to be covered for Rotten Ink’s 10 Year Celebration, I knew that Superman had to be one of the topics as growing up the character was a. part of my childhood as I not only watched the George Reeves show but also read the comics, played the video games, had the toys, wore the shirts, watched the cartoons and even loved the films that have been released. And what is really cool about this Superman update is that I get to talk about the movie that started it all for many young fans in the 1950’s who loved Superman already from comics, radio show and even the movie serials, and soon after the movie’s release they got to see him every week in action on the TV show. So hold onto your seats as we are going for a quick update adventure ride with the one and only Superman as played by George Reeves.
Let’s first start off by taking a look at the film that the Photo Comic Graphic Novel we will be covering is based on, the first film to feature Superman. I want to remind you readers that the film’s write up will be taken from our friends at IMDB and that I will be writing about the film’s production, legacy and my thoughts. So let’s dive in and talk about Superman and his run in with the Mole Men.
Superman And The Mole Men (1951)
“Reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane arrive in the small town of Silsby to witness the drilling of the world’s deepest oil well. The drill, however, has penetrated the underground home of a race of small, furry people who then come to the surface at night to look around. The fact that they glow in the dark scares the townfolk, who form a mob, led by the vicious Luke Benson, intent on killing the strange people. Only Superman has a chance to prevent this tragedy.”
Superman was one of the most popular superheroes and most read comics of the time. This meant that other media was in his future like radio and movie serials, and in 1951 he made his way to the silver screen with his first full fledged movie! The film was written by Richard Fielding and was distributed by Lippert Pictures and was a quick and cheap production as they really wanted to cash in on the popularity of Superman with young comic book readers. Lee Sholem, who before this film had directed “Tobor The Great” as well as two Tarzan films with “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain” and “Tarzan And The Slave Girl,” was selected as he knew how to make kid friendly Adventure Fantasy films. The film’s plot was based on the Red Scare that was gripping America at the time and even has elements of classic Universal Monster Sci-Fi films thrown in to a comic book feel. When casting the film they casted George Reeves as Clark Kent aka Superman, Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane and Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren as two of the Mole-Men. The film was shot in only 12 days at RKO-Pathe Studios in California and survived a double purpose as they wanted to have a hit that would bring kids to the cinema and it was also used to try and see if people had interest in Superman so that a TV Show could be made. And it did both of that as the film was well loved by kids in the early 1950’s and later in 1951 “The Adventures Of Superman” hit TV screens as a syndicated show. The film was scored by Darrell Calker and later the film was cut into a two part episode with changes when the show was released. The movie over the years has been released on VHS, Laserdisc as well as DVD so if you want to see Superman’s first movie adventure it is out in the world for you to be able to do so. And for those of you wonder in 1951 this film was joined by such other Sci-Fi and Horror Classics in the theater and dive-in screens as “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “The Thing From Another World”, “The Man From Planet X”, “Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man”, “The Son of Dr. Jekyll” and “Bride Of The Gorilla”.
Growing up I was a big fan of George Reeves as Superman as the old classic TV Show would air all the time in reruns on “Nick At Night/TV Land” and I would watch and as a kid I do remember wondering where Lex Luthor, Braniac or Mister Mxyzptlk were, but somehow it never bothered me enough as I was always looking forward to watching Superman bring down the bad guys and save the day. I saw the movie “Superman And The Mole Men” after I had already been a fan of the show as I remember some local area TV Station aired it some Sunday afternoon and my brother and I were glued to the TV and enjoyed every cheesy moment. I mean how can you go wrong with Mole Men running wild in a small town and Superman must save them from an unruly mob who wants them dead cause they look different and have been accused of crimes they did not do all out of fear. The one thing that annoyed me for the longest time is how long this film took to get a proper DVD release that was not just an extra on another Superman release, and even the one that is out now is by Cheezy Movies so it has no extras of its own. And while this film is not the best Superman film made, it is a good one and I would have loved to have seen this film in the theater in 1951 as I could imagine just how awesome that must have been for the youth at the time.
The Mole-Men who live under the Earth are the “Bad” guys of this first Superman movie but are they really all that bad as they are brought to the up to the surface world due to the actions of mankind who affected their world with their quest for oil and gas. And because they feel they are being attacked they go on the attack and come above ground with their weapons and are looking for answers when one of their own is shot and injured by a mob of humans who hate them because they look different. The Mole Men also have their skin glows in the dark and they are short in height. The Mole Men in the film are played by actors Billy Curtis, John T. Bambury, Jerry Maren and Johnny Roventini all who do a great job in the role and while Mole People might not be the meanest or deadliest foes Superman has fought in the movies they sure are strange and interesting ones.
George Reeves was born on January 5, 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa and had it semi rough growing up as his father left the family almost after his birth and he and his mother moved around and stayed in Kentucky as well as Illinois. And finally they settled in California and that is when Frank Bessolo entered their life and he married George’s mother and adopted him at the age of 13, and after 15 years of marriage the two separated and his mother would lie to him and say that Frank committed suicide…when in fact he was alive and well and would pass away many years later and George was unaware of this fact for many years. And starting around 1939 is when George Reeves started his acting career and even landed a small role in the film “Gone With The Wind” and through the 1940’s would be in many films including titles like “The Fighting 69th”, “Torrid Zone”, “Dead Men Tell”, “Jungle Goddess”, “Samson And Delilah” and “The Good Humor Man” to name a very small few, as while he was never a main leading man he had that star quality. And in 1951 his luck changed when he was casted as Superman in both the film “Superman And The Mole Men” as well as the TV Show “The Adventures Of Superman” that would last 6 seasons and a total of 104 episodes and was a super popular show among kids and adults and George Reeves was Superman in the publics eyes. And this big role would also be a curse while he would get some small work during and after his run a Superman much of his roles had him playing the superhero such as his 1957 appearance on “I Love Lucy” on the episode Lucy And Superman. But in is personal life Reeves was said to be depressed over the typecasting of the Superman role and on June 16, 1959 it is said that George Reeves committed suicide by gunshot, while other do think that he was murdered and it was cover-up. George Reeves is one of the best actors to ever play Superman and is for me on par with Christopher Reeve as I think both of them embodied the heroic nature and character. While George Reeves was gone from this world way to soon his work lives on and his biggest cursed role is why he is still a well-loved actor to this day.
The tragic death of George Reeves was really a bummer to his fans and sadly for some has tainted the joy his portrayal of Superman brought them as it’s been rumored that that role is what drove him to depression, but please do not allow this tragic event to ruin your love for the show as it really is a fun and wholesome entertainment that is still enjoyed to this day. And now we are at the part of the update that we will be reviewing this Photo Comic Graphic Novel that was released by Fanzine and thanks to Amazon for having this graphic novel in stock and making this update possible. I also would like to remind you that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. Now if your are ready lets look up to the sky as is that a bird? A plan? Or is it just Superman done as a Photo Comic?
Superman And The Mole Men GN **1/2
Released in 2020 Cover Price $13.00 Fanzine # 1 of 1
Lois Lane and Clark Kent travel to the small town of Silsby to write about the worlds deepest oil well, but when they arrive to cover it they are shocked when they are told by foreman Mr. Corrigan that the well has been shutdown and word had come down from the top of the company to do so. As Clark and Lois are about to leave he notices that all of the workmen’s tools are thrown into a hole and this intrigues him. When the Oil company puts them up in a motel for the night and keys the a company car Lois and Clark decide to visit the Oil Well again and head toward it, meanwhile at the well three little Mole Men come out of the ground and scare the old night man to death! And when Lois and Clark show up and find the body, Lois spots the Mole Men and freaks out and the sheriff is called up and she has to tell him what she has seen and that she thinks the Mole Men she spotted is who killed the watch man, and when the Doctor shows up he rules the death a heart attack. And while Lois heads back to the hotel Clark stays with Mr. Corrigan to wait for the Undertaker and when everyone is gone Clark gets the truth out of Corrigan about the well closing and that they found possible radiation, living organisms as well as that the center of the Earth is hollow! And things get worse when the townspeople find out about the creatures Luke Benson feeds them all fear and creates mobs in order to kill the visitors as they all now think that they are dangerous because the stuff they touch starts glowing. And when the Mole Men make the mistake of trying to befriend a young girl who’s mother freaks out, the townspeople are filled with rage and go on the hunt, and even when Clark sneaks away to turn into Superman he can not get them to calm down as Luke is the issue as he keeps winding people up. Luke and his mob end up shooting one of the Mole Men that Superman has to rush to the hospital, and they think they burn the other alive in a shed who by luck escapes and goes back down the oil well. As Luke and his mob head toward the hospital when the find out the wounded Mole Man is there as they want to kill him Superman runs them off just as more Mole Men appear with a laser gun in order to get their wounded friend back, and Superman is able to return the would Mole Man to his people as well as save Luke from a laser blast and in the end Superman and Lois watch as the Mole Men blow up the entrance to their world as they just want to be left alone.
What a fun and simple Photo Comic GN that does a good job of bringing the film to the pages and feels like a quick read and is truly a wholesome Superman adventure. As the plot is very simple and has Superman trying to teach a small town that just because someone is different does not mean you should hurt them. Superman does his best to try and keep law and order as a town goes wild and crazed and mob rule is the mindset all do to one mans hate filled words. Superman also does a great job of saving the Mole Men and the town people from being killed and shows that he hates bullies as well as the miss use of guns as at one point he takes all of them from the mob when someone almost shoots Lois Lane by accident. Luke Benson is a total idiot who hates to hate and over takes the town by making every one afraid of the unknown and they even over take the law as they over power and lock up the sheriff! And even after being a scum bag to everyone and causing injuries Superman still saves Luke from taking a laser blast to the chest. The Mole Men are not bad at all and are just discovering the upper world and mean zero harm, and because of their strange look they are hated and hunted and one is injured badly and his own people are forced to try and rescue him and when they do so they blowup the entrance to their world as they want nothing to do with mankind. This Photo Comic also took a black and white film and took stills and added color to them and oddly it works in a charming way, as the colors are basic but some how it adds to the fun nature of this story. And once more I have to stress this comics plot just like the movie is very simple and yet now in days has that classic feel of being good and understanding is what is right. The cover for this graphic novel is a little boring and underwhelming and the interior is stills from the film that have been colored in and dialogue added in, so that is good if you like photo comics. Over all this is a great read if you like the film its based on or just very kid friendly Superman stories, while I do think the cover price is a little high I do say its worth a buy for fans. Check out the photo art below to see they style used in this comic.
So as you can see, this Photo Comic Graphic Novel is a pretty good and entertaining read, but I know for many of you readers the fact that it is a Photo Comic will scare you away from checking it out, and I do understand as these type of comics are not for everyone. But I say if you like Superman as played by George Reeves I would give this at least a chance no matter how you feel about the style of comic. I should also note that Anthony Koontz is the man behind Fanzine and these Photo Comic Graphic Novels and he has also done ones based on “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and “Brain The Wouldn’t Die” and yes both of those will be getting the Rotten Ink treatment sometime in the future. So we are now getting even closer to our big Christmas Eve update and the next topic is something that many of you fellow kids of the 80’s will remember as it will be SilverHawks! So until next time read a Superman comic or three, watch a Superman film or two and as always support your local Horror Host…and I know those of you from Cleveland, Ohio did as you guys had Superhost! See you next time for a screeching silver metal hawk good time.