"Superwoman's Phony Manager!"
Superwoman's fame and infamy were equal. Newspapers rushed to get more pictures and details of her exploits. The public was clamoring for information, as were several government agencies. As far as the Daily Star was concerned, Superwoman was good for business. Since they were the first paper to introduce her to the public, most people assumed there was some kind of connection between the two.
So it came to no surprise that various publicity people would barge into George Taylor's office, demanding Superwoman endorse their perfume, breakfast cereal, or whatever line of products that they had on hand. Clara Kent, from her desk, would watch the hucksters and smile softly. "Granted, with my powers I could probably make a quick buck selling anything, but I'd hate to be ensnared by some kind of corporation. I have to remain above it all. If I got into someone's pocket, they might get the idea that I can be bought." She watched them all be escorted or thrown out and rarely thought about it.
Naturally she was shocked when a slick looking man in a sharp suit strolled into Taylor's office one day and stayed there for a good half hour. Concentrating, she strained her hearing to ignore the office chatter and listen to the conversation. Using her x-ray vision, she saw past Taylor's door.
The man, Taylor was addressing him as 'Mr. Williams', was sitting before Taylor and grinning broadly. She listened to him speak. "Look, all of this is legit. You've had a great run of luck getting my client's stories to press before your competitors, but sooner or later you're going to get scooped. Why not let us save you some trouble?"
"Client?" Clara stood up and moved towards the door. She could have listened just fine from her desk, but something about the man drew her attention.
"Look, my reporters have done a first rate job of covering Superwoman, but you have a point. Of course, how do I know if you're on the level? You're not the first guy to come in here and claim to represent Superwoman."
Williams chuckled and pulled out a thick legal document. "I bet, but did any of them have a contract?" He handed it to Taylor. Clara stared at the document. It appeared legit. "What I have here is a signed and notified contract, giving me exclusive rights to Superwoman and her likeness."
Williams stood up and open the office's curtains. Clara gasped when she gazed into the street. "Look at that! And we have twenty others going up all over the city!" A large billboard was being plastered across the street. 'Use Superwoman gas and go-o-o-o!' it cried with an illustration of her racing a car. "And that's not all! We have endorsement deals with Kellogg's, Kaufman Brothers Toys, even the Mutual Broadcast System for a daily radio show!" He produced bills and contracts, proving his words. "And if you sign now, I guarantee the Daily Star will be the official Superwoman newspaper. What do you say?" He thrust the contract towards Taylor.
Clara took that moment to open the door. "Oh, hello Mr. Taylor, I didn't know you were with someone." Clara narrowed her eyes at Williams.
"Not a problem Kent." Taylor waved her over. "Kent, this is Nick Williams. He says he can get us an exclusive deal with Superwoman."
"Really? Wow!" Clara tried to hide the sarcasm from her voice. She wasn't entirely successful.
Williams wasn't a dummy. "Kent? Ah, the reporter who gets so many scoops about my client! Well, if the little lady doesn't believe me, why don't we have a good old fashioned sit down? Just to prove I'm on the level, of course."
Clara raised her eyebrows and tried to stifle a smirk. "Well, if it's not too much bother."
"No bother at all! Here's my client's hotel. Swing by about 9 tonight and be sure to bring plenty of film!" Williams left a copy of his contract on Taylor's desk. "I'll come around tomorrow to pick these up, if you're still interested of course." Williams smiled broadly as he left the office, nearly bumping into Louis Lane on his way out.
"Say, who was that joker? He looked like that cat that swallowed the canary."
"Just a nut I bet." Taylor hefted the thick document and called to the copy boy. "Olson, take these down to legal, will you?"
"Sure thing sir!" The red-headed youth saluted sharply and scampered away.
"Legal? But sir you really can't be thinking of going into business with that snake oil peddler!" Clara protested. She sneered at the billboard across the street.
"No Kent, but I would like an expert's opinion on those papers. I agree, Williams is probably just selling snake oil or worse, but so far everything seems legal. If Superwoman appears with him, well, I don't know what to say."
"But there's no way she'd ever consent to sell junk!" Clara almost shouted.
"How do you know?" Louis countered. "How do any of us really know? I mean maybe she has bills to pay, a sick cat or something. Maybe she's just greedy, I don't know." Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"That's the thing Lane, I want you to know. Lane, I'm assigning you and Kent to both cover this story. I want to know the who, the how, and why and I want it by tomorrow's morning edition!"
Clara adjusted her hat in the washroom mirror. Louis had sworn he gotten on the details on Williams a few hours ago and being a good partner, he would share them over dinner. Clara had dolled herself up, as much as a reporter could afford to at any rate, and met Louis at his club.
"So far Kent this Williams guy seems to be perfectly on the level, but there's always something else."
Clara pretended to be bored as Louis spoke, but she was actually memorizing every detail both spoken and written down in his notebook. "Oh? Like what?"
"Well, he got his start in the carnival fighting circuit. There were allegations of him skimming from the wrestlers but nothing was ever proven. He did some of the grindhouse circuit after that, mostly doing midget acts and hoochie dancers. There were plenty of raids but he was never placed at the scene. It seems until Superwoman showed up, he'd been a pretty low level boxing manager."
"You really think Superwoman is working for him?"
Louis snorted. "With a bum like that? Are you kidding? Of course, she might be. I mean, what's her real name? Nobody can be that good all the time and not have some vices."
Clara was hurt but tried not to show. "I guess you have a point." She turned her head as Louis fumblingly dripped something into her glass. Clara heard him the entire time. "Drugging my drink? I guess Louis still wants to handle this solo, which would work pretty well for me actually." Turning back around, she gently sipped her drink.
A lesser person would have passed out, but Clara ignored the drug. "I can't say as I'm happy about how Mister Lane conducts himself, but that's an issue I can settle latter." Dropping the glass, she put her hand to her forehead. "Oh, I feel so faint!" She tried to sound weak and hoped Louis bought her act.
If he didn't he didn't give the impression. Signaling the head waiter, the pair of them dragged her to the curb and hustled inside a waiting taxi. Louis thrust a few bills and some paper at the driver. "Make sure she gets home, ok Bill?"
Clara would have laughed at the sheer audacity of it all had she not been so annoyed. As the car pulled away, Clara opened her eyes and turned around. She saw Louis hail another cab. "Actually driver, I feel quite fine now." She opened up her purse. "Here's a five. Forget about this whole night, will you? And let me out here."
The cab screeched to a halt. Clara barely exited the vehicle before it took off. "Ok, now with that little drama out of the way, let's go see this Mr. Williams and Superwoman!"
Williams paced the hotel room like a cat; a cat that hadn't been feed in three days and was suffering from mange to boot. "Look, will you calm down? They're just reporters!"
Sitting on a ratty sofa was someone that could have passed for Superwoman, assuming the looker was near sighted and had recently been punched in both eyes. "Look boss, I can't fly or nothing! How can we convince this rube I'm the real McCoy?"
"Lord, this is what I get for working with wrestlers!" Williams muttered under his breath. "Look Velvet, all you have to worry about is the stunts we rehearsed. These two rubes will be impressed and we can write our own tickets, got it?"
Louis exited the car and took in his surroundings. The neighborhood may have been upper crust forty years ago, but it was clear that those glory days were long past. Louis paid the driver. "Hey buddy, this is a pretty rough place. You want me to wait?"
He shook his head. "No, I'll hitch a ride with a friend." He entered the rundown hotel and went up to the top floor. A quick knock nearly made the rusted number fall off.
Williams yanked the door open on the second knock. "Mr. Lane! Come in, come in!" He ushered him inside before glancing around the hallway. "I'm glad you could make it, but where is Ms. Kent? Superwoman wanted to meet her so badly."
"She, ah, felt under the weather and sends her condolences." Louis managed to say that with a straight face. "So where is the Woman of Steel? I have plenty of questions for her!"
A window slamming shut made Williams perk up. "And it sounds like she just arrived! Come this way!" He threw open the door with a flourish. "Ta-da!"
The faux Superwoman flexed her muscles. "Hi Mr. Lane! Glad you could make it!" She gripped his hand and pumped it firmly. Louis winced and glanced around the room.
"Not that I don't believe you but how about some demonstrations of your client's abilities?"
"Of course!" Williams directed Superwoman over to a large gray metal bar resting on the floor. "If she bent this iron bar, would that convince you?"
Without waiting for Louis's input, Superwoman picked up the bar and bent it into a circle. She dropped it on a nearby desk. The wood frame buckled and collapsed under the weight. "Well, is she real or what?"
Louis laughed. "I'll go with what." He casually picked up the bent bar and straightened it with a little effort. "Also, I'd recommend getting an oak desk instead of balsa wood."
Williams' face grew cold. "When did you figure it out?"
"When I looked at your Superwoman." He jerked a thumb at the annoyed woman. "She has black hair, not brown, for starters."
"Enough!" Williams pulled a pistol from his pocket. "I wanted this to go better Mr. Lane but since you won't cooperate!"
Louis stepped back, cagey but unafraid. "Oh? And how are you going to spin my being shot?"
The smile on Williams face returned. "Simple, we are going to be attacked by an enemy of Superwoman. Sadly you were thrown from the window before we could stop him."
"Then I guess you'll be putting away the gun then?" Louis eyed the door, but the phony Superwoman slipped behind him and slapped her thick arms around his neck in a full Nelson.
"No, but a fall from this height and they won't even bother to check. Goodbye Mr. Lane." Williams moved to open the window, but a blue and red clad bullet smashed it to pieces.
"Not so fast!" the real Superwoman hopped into the room. "I heard everything!"
"Cripes, it's the real deal!" the fake Superwoman thrust Louis forward and dashed for the door. Superwoman narrowed her eyes at the imposter's cape. Twin red beams of intense heat shot from her eyes and set the cheap costume fabric on fire. The imposter yelped as she tore the flaming fabric free and stomped it out.
"Now for you!" Superwoman turned her full attention to Williams. "The cheap ads I could have ignored, but this?"
Williams, in a panic, fired his gun. Superwoman didn't even flinch as the bullet flattened against her cheek and fell useless to the floor. Before he could squeeze the trigger again, she snatched the gun from his hand and crushed it into a ball.
"Don't hurt me!" Williams wailed as Superwoman picked up by the collar.
"I'm not, but I am going to see you off at the nearest precinct. Mister Lane, are you going to press charges?"
Louis straightened tie. "Of course."
With a pale Williams and the phony Superwoman spilling their guts to a shocked desk sergeant, Superwoman and Louis stayed outside. "Well, this was quite a scoop!" Louis beamed as he tightened his coat.
"I'm sure, and thanks for helping me expose Williams. I'll see that his money is returned to the rightful parties."
"Say, Superwoman," Louis stopped her before she leapt away, "how did you know I was in trouble?"
"I ran into Miss Kent on her way home. She says she's feeling much better now, but I'd ease off on the dinners with her." Louis kept his face calm, but his heart rate shot up. "Try to stay out of trouble Mr. Lane, I can't always be everywhere." Before he could ask for an explanation, she leapt off into the night sky.
Based on "Superman's Phony Manager", which first appeared in Action Comics I#6 (November 1938) with credits to Jerry Sigel (script), Joe Shuster (pencils/inks), and Paul Lauretta (letters)
Next time, Superwoman Joins the Circus!
They call me Bruce
Love it, keep 'em coming
Nice remake of the original Action Comics#5 tale. As it was interesting to see Superwoman tackle a broken dam problem. Please do keep up the good work upon such a great tale like this one as I cannot wait to read your next installment in the series.
Oh yeah the Monk, I can't wait but I'll have to.
Cambot's version of Action Comics#5 takes a few more liberties than usual with the original. For example, in the original the railroad bridge was weakened by the river (presumably strengthened by the same rains that threatened the dam) rather than being decrepit. For another, this story is often citied as the first example of the Superman-Lois-Clark love triangle, while the topic doesn't appear at all here. The original was only 9 pages, 4shorter than usual, so perhaps he felt he needed to keep up the breakneck pace in this text only version and had to shed some of the subplots? Looking forward to more adventures of Superwoman!
Thanks, and yes, I figured the focus on that story should have been about the dam. There will be plenty of love triangles and squares to worry about later.
Check out these future issues
Detective Comics#6-The Bat VS the Vampire!
Sensation Comics#8-Wonder Woman goes to the Circus!