When we see Superman flying across the universe and effortlessly pushing planets back into orbit, it's easy to forget that he was created by two Depression-era kids from Cleveland who lived most of their lives in poverty. It's not so easy, however, when you read the early Superman stories that those two kids actually wrote and drew, in which the Man of Steel was less of a big blue Boy Scout and more of a raging anti-establishment maniac in red underpants who spent more time destroying property than catching criminals. Think we're kidding? Check it out:
#5. Superman Destroys an Entire Poor Neighborhood (Action Comics No. 8, 1939)
Right off the bat, here's Superman threatening to drop some children to their deaths:
"Sir, I've got my hall pass right here!"
And, as you'll find is typical in this article, the context only makes it worse. In that 1939 issue, Superman steals those kids away from the police as they're being arrested for attempted burglary, then tries to scare them straight by threatening to drop them so that they'll be "crushed to a pulp."
But then it occurs to Superman that the slums they grew up in are really to blame for their criminal behavior. But what can he do about that? Suddenly, a newspaper headline gives him a deranged idea.
"Senseless destruction, hundreds dead! Yes!"
He's going to destroy it all.
So, Superman instructs the little thieves to go door to door in their neighborhood telling everyone to leave their houses if they don't want to die, literally putting the lives of hundreds of innocent people in the hands of a bunch of wanted criminals. With that out of the way, and having given the people mere minutes to get their valuables out of their homes, Superman gets to work.
Superman, hoping no one will notice that he put his shirt on backward this morning.
Superman starts destroying all the houses, under the logic that the government will then have to build new ones and that this will somehow end all crime. At no point does Superman consult the people who actually live there, or attempt to hide the fact that he's having way too much fun wrecking their homes.
"A long time" meaning when he destroyed a South American village that morning.
The horrified citizens call the National Guard, but obviously they're no match for Superman's insanity -- the military sends aerial bombers in a desperate effort to stop the destruction, but Superman uses their bombs to help him in his task. Soon the entire neighborhood is in complete ruins and Superman goes off to wreck someone else's day.
The Man of Steel only hated Lex Luthor for being inefficient.
The story ends by saying that "the slums were replaced by splendid housing conditions" ... but where did all those poor people live in the meantime? We didn't see Superman offering to let them stay in his Fortress of Solitude while construction took place, or, like, giving the slightest fuck about what happened to them at all.
#4. Superman Goes All Saddam Hussein on an Oil Well (Action Comics No. 11, 1939)
While investigating a suicide, Superman discovers that the victim was a shareholder who had been sold worthless oil stock, along with several others. Upon learning this, yet another crackpot plan begins forming in Superman's warped little mind, one that will culminate with him borrowing a page from a certain Iraqi dictator. First, Superman goes to the homes of all the other shareholders and buys the remaining stock using the alias Homer Ramsey.
"Say, aren't you that Superman fellow from the papers?"
"No. I have a hat."
Next, he goes to the worthless oil well and drills the ground until he actually strikes oil -- the corrupt owners are thrilled by this development, until they find out that all the stock was recently bought by one Homer "Seriously, Though, I'm Not Superman" Ramsey. Luckily for them, Homer drops out of the sky one day (literally drops out of the sky, in the panel below) and offers to sell them the stock for exactly $1 million.
"Nothing shady about this."
Supes takes the million and distributes it to the original shareholders, especially the suicide victim's family ... haha, just kidding, he does no such thing. Instead, he kidnaps the corrupt owners while they sleep, takes them to the oil well in their pajamas ...
Superman probably thinks that those are regular clothes.
... and makes them watch as he destroys the well.
It had been a few days since Superman had caused any property damage, and his hands were getting itchy.
The oil well's employees come running in an attempt to stop the destruction -- apparently, Depression-era workers were not fond of seeing their livelihood destroyed. Superman does look out for them, though, telling them to run for safety ...
"Actually, don't bother. I'm probably going to set you on fire anyway."
... before lighting the well on fire, Gulf War style.
"And before you even ask, I've already killed Red Adair."
If Superman really wanted to help the scammed shareholders, he would have bought out the corrupt owners instead of everyone else (they thought it was worthless, too), then tapped the well and simply let it flourish -- but nope, creating an ecological disaster and putting Americans out of work clearly made more sense in his head. But hey, at least he got a million bucks and a few laughs out of the whole thing.
#3. Superman Rats Out a Torture Victim, Gets Him Whipped (Action Comics No. 10, 1939)
In this story (also from 1939), Superman (as Clark Kent) gets called to a hotel room where an escaped prisoner tells him about the horrifying living conditions at the local chain gang. Tormented, whipped and starved by his jailers, the prisoner, Walter Crane, confides in Supes on the condition that his identity and whereabouts remain anonymous.
"You can trust me, I'm definitely not a sadistic godlike being from another planet."
Superman says yes, of course ... then turns around and sells out Crane to the authorities at the first chance he gets.
"I just asked you for the time, but OK."
And then, instead of trying to warn Crane that his torturer is coming, Superman literally leads the superintendent to his door and does nothing as Crane gets beaten:
"Listen, it's nothing personal. I just love squealing."
It turns out that this is all part of another one of Superman's deranged plans (although we're pretty sure that he just makes them up as he goes along) -- he intentionally gave up Crane to make the superintendent think that he had gotten away with everything and get him to "go to even further depths of cruelty."
"If we don't see how far he'll take it, how will we know how many times we have to kill him?"
And sure enough, Crane is once again savagely whipped. But this time Superman is there to catch it on camera:
"This is gonna kill on Instagram."
Note that Crane was in no way in on this, and never agreed to get his back torn open by a bullwhip to help Clark get his story. And also note that Superman could have accomplished the same thing by, say, getting himself arrested and having somebody else take the pictures. Since, you know, the whipping wouldn't hurt him.
The photographic evidence turns out to be completely worthless, by the way, because Superman finally gets tired of fucking around and gets a confession out of the superintendent using a much more efficient method -- the threat of suffocation.
"I told you, I'm just the janitor!"