Everyone knows the Man of Steel has one rule:
The hero who stands for truth, justice, and the American way never kills.
Or does he?
A classic episode of “The Adventures of Superman” suggests he at the very least contributed to the deaths of two people.
In “The Secret Costume” (original air date Dec. 12, 1952), written by Ben Peter Freeman, a burglar, Johnny Sims (Norman Budd), stumbles into the apartment of Clark Kent (George Reeves) and discovers his secret closet containing but one item – his Superman outfit.
Racing out of the building, Johnny is shot by a cop. He makes his way to the apartment of his boss Ace (Dan Seymour) and Ace’s girlfriend Connie (Veda Ann Borg), hands over the costume and dies.
Ace doesn’t believe the garment is real.
Connie tries to set it on fire and cut it with scissors, but the Kryptonian material cannot be harmed.
If you’re wondering why Clark doesn’t have it underneath his business suit, this just happens to be the one day where the Daily Planet was requiring its employees to undergo physicals for a new group health insurance policy. Thanks, Obama!
When Clark finally realizes who has his suit, he bursts through their door as if it were tissue paper.
Ace shoots, and the bullets bounce off Clark’s chest.
That’s one secret identity confirmed.
Ace and Connie are unafraid. They know Superman never kills, so what can he do to them?
As it turns out, plenty.
“You better put some warm clothing on,” he tells the hoods. “We’re going places.”
Next stop: An ice-encrusted mountaintop, somewhere far away.
Superman lands with Ace and Connie at the edge of a cliff.
Our hero points out the cabin behind them.
This is where they will stay until he can figure out how to make sure they won’t spill his secret identity.
Doesn’t kidnapping someone and holding them against their will in an isolated location violate that whole “truth and justice” shtick? Isn’t due process part of the American way?
Sure, they’re not nice people – “would-be murderers and blackmailers,” as Superman points out. But that’s why we have a system of laws to ensure fair justice for all, even the bad folks, and Superman knows that.
There’s no way of getting down, he says, pointing out the craggy rocks below.
“Don’t try to escape. Your lives wouldn’t be worth a nickel,” he says.
He promises to return with food and firewood, and soars into the sky.
Ace and Connie panic. Ace is sure Superman will never return. He starts down the mountain, convinced he can make it to safety.
And once he gets down, how will he cross the thousands of miles over that arctic landscape?
He scoots down one ledge, then another.
“Come on. It’s a cinch,” he yells up to Connie.
Reluctantly, she follows in his path. At least, she tries to.
She slips on the ice and slides off one narrow ledge, and in a harrowing shot captured by director Lee Sholem, lands right on Ace, sending them both plummeting to their deaths.
In the closing tag, Clark acknowledges the deaths of the two to his private detective pal Candy (Frank Jenks) and doesn’t at all seem perturbed.
And for those who believe their deaths are just one horrible twist of fate, here’s a question: Why did Superman land right at the edge of the cliff? Why didn’t he land at the door of that allegedly safe cabin?
He practically dared them to try to get to safety below. And he probably knew, somewhere in the back of his head, that they were stupid enough to try, that his promise to return would only convince them they were being abandoned.
Crooks have such trust issues.
And what would Superman have ever done if Lois or Jimmy had discovered his secret identity?
Viewers remember “The Adventures of Superman” as a kids’ show, and that’s what it became, but that’s not what it started as. The scripts in the first season are dark, grim and border on noir at times.
“The Stolen Costume” is an unforgiving episode you will never forget.