Superman in “Conquest of a City”

This is the second write-up in this series and I am already abandoning my intended plan. I was to go through the episodes of the Adventures of Superman radio show and explore the stories that deal explicitly with Superman facing off against bigots. There are two reasons I am straying into different territory for this post: 1) I have the attention span of someone who isn’t even going to properly finish the analogy in this sentence, and 2) If you are talking about Superman fighting bigotry in this time period, there’s a particular enemy that looms over the conversation.

Nazis came up in “The Hate Mongers Organization” and in Superman Smashes The Klan but I feel like I ought to focus on them for a bit, just to get them out of the shadows. While Superman didn’t fight the Nazis as much as some other superheroes, notably Captain America, there are plenty of stories like this so I’m not intending to be exhaustive. Let’s just take a taste.

“The Conquest of a City”


On his walk to work, Clark (Superman) Kent sees that the population of Metropolis is not taking the threat of the fascism seriously enough, not helping out with the war effort. He gets Perry White’s permission to write an opinion piece with the headline “Open Your Eyes — Before The Foe Closes Them – Permanently!” The article is a big success and is picked up by other newspapers across the nation.

Soon after, a lawyer named Carl Bland shows up at the Daily Planet with an idea. He was impressed with Clark’s article, but suggests they could go further by staging a mock invasion of the city to show the populace what the dangers posed actually look like. Bland, it turns out, is the director of the Izan Athletic Club, which has hundreds of young men who would be able to play the role of Nazi invaders. Clark and Perry think it sounds like a good idea, so they go agree to the idea and put the Planet’s resources into promoting the mock invasion.

Unexpectedly, it turns out that the Izan Athletic Club is actually a cover for an actual Nazi group (I will now permit you a fifteen minute break to recover from that plot twist). They intend to use live ammunition during the mock invasion to turn it into a true invasion.

Clark and the Mayor of Metropolis are among a group of prisoners forced gunpoint to dig their own graves. It’s only when one of the Nazi soldiers accidentally discharges their gun and Clark sees the shot knock a branch off a tree that he realizes the threat is real. Clark is made to stand before his grave and face a firing squad. He can’t become Superman in front of everyone, so when he is shot, he falls backward into the grave and out of sight. The Mayor gleefully volunteers to be the next one shot, but is saved when Superman digs a sinkhole under the firing squad.

Superman warns the Mayor that the invasion is real and Bland escapes to radio his other groups that Superman is on the scene, so they need to work faster to achieve their objectives. We’re given a series of scenes in which Superman prevents disasters. The invaders try burn alive a station’s worth of police, they try to steal munitions from the city armory, they try to bomb the airport and poison the reservoir. Superman stops them all. Finally, Superman confronts Bland himself as he tries to blow up the city’s power plant.

After capturing Bland, Superman suddenly declares: “I just remembered… Lois… Lois Lane!” and apparently the story just remembered her too, because it had not been previously mentioned that Lois was playing the role of a saboteur during the mock invasion. She must have had a late start, because she’s only now unknowingly heading into the Daily Planet with a real bomb.

Superman arrives and tries to convince Lois that the bomb is real, but she stubbornly refuses to give up the suitcase to him. He flies her out to a bridge and she throws it off rather than let him have it and is surprised when it explodes for real. “Why didn’t someone tell me?” she asks, presumably frustrating Superman to no end.

In the end, Lois goes to check up on Clark, who has returned to his grave and claims that he fell in right before they shot him and was knocked unconscious. Back in the newsroom, everyone is ultimately happy that thanks to Superman everything turned out okay and the populace are more aware of the fascist threat than before.

Issue: Superman #18, September-October 1942


Clark: “I tell you, White – the citizens of Metropolis are asleep! It’s got me worried – Our very existence is imperiled by fascism and yet we are still troubled by petty problems. Everywhere there is a false sense of gaiety – the people have got to wake up…!!!”


Perry: “And to think I helped sponsor the ‘invasion’ in the hope that it would awaken the public to its peril!”

Lois: “That hope has been realized! The real invasion has jolted the public’s indifference!”

Clark: “Everyone is now co-operating beautifully. It’s all out to beat the axis! And that’s the way Superman would want it!”


In this cartoon short, Nazi soldiers are posing as supernatural beings to occupy a jungle tribe and use their land as a staging area for war stuff. Lois Lane, on some assignment related to the war, happens to be flying overhead, but is shot down and captured. When Clark Kent flies by on his own mission and sees the downed plane, he heads in as Superman to investigate. As Superman fights the Nazis, Lois goes undercover to radio the American base, ultimately allowing them to destroy a Nazi submarine fleet.

Original release date: March 26, 1943

If you feel like watching it, it’s on Youtube: ( ) Though I warn that the depiction of a stereotypical African tribe is pretty crappy.


My thesis here today is that these stories don’t count as Superman versus Bigots stories except in the most technical sense. “Conquest” presents us with a Clark that is positively Antifa, but neither story mentions, let alone refutes, the racism espoused by the Nazis.

Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish, so I will always find meaning in having their creation oppose the Nazis (quick googling of the artist on this issue, John Sikela, doesn’t confirm for me if he was also Jewish). But unlike when Captain America creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, had their hero punch Hitler in the face on the cover of his first comic, these two Superman stories are from after America had joined the War. The Nazis, bigots they may be, but in these stories the focus was that they were enemies of America.

It’s worth noting, I suppose, that “Jungle Drums” is a pseudo-adaptation of a story now known as “Peril on Pogo Island” which first appeared in Superman #12, from September-October 1941. That story does predate America joining the War, and though the enemies there are never explicitly identified as Nazis (They are from “a country at war”) the implication is clear. Still, that story does show a bit of that Cap-style spark of attacking the Nazis before the rest of the country agreed it was okay to do so. But anyway, both “Jungle Drums” and “Pogo Island” have those depictions of natives that make me reluctant to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Carl Bland in “Conquest of a City” is, like Frank Hill in “The Hate Mongers Organization,” an actual Nazi agent using American youth in his mission. The difference is that the young men in the Izan Athletic Club are aware they serve the Nazis and they get no face turn at the end of the story. Superman refers to them as being “Pro-Nazi” rather than Nazis, so this story seems more aware than “Hate Mongers” that the attitudes are in America and we need to be on guard for more than just foreign interference.


  • At one point in “Conquest” Superman tells the police not to be so trusting of the mock invaders. You’re lucky you’ve got a secret identity Clark, because you were one of the first to trust those guys.
  • In “Conquest” just before digging through the ground out of his grave, Clark says it’s a new trick. I wonder if this is the first recorded instance of Superman super-digging.
  • Lois Lane gets more to do in “Conquest” than she did in “Hate Mongers” of “Fiery Cross” which is nice, but she comes across as an idiot. That’s most of why I included “Jungle Drums” here, because I feel like we get a good Lois there.
  • Is it just me, or is the bombing of the U-boats in “Jungle Drums” surprisingly violent?


I am going to do one more of these about Superman versus Nazi comic stories from the 40s because I because I know a few that I can give more anti-racist credit to. After that I expect I’ll feel like we can finally get back on track and return to the radio show.