Superman’s Weirdest Allies Were the DC Universe’s Worst Magicians

Today we find out how two terrible stage magicians somehow became regular members of Superman’s supporting cast!

It’s about “You Act Like We’ve Never Met”, which is a feature film about former cast members of popular comic book series who have been let down in the years since. Some of them are characters that would appear in comic books regularly read by hundreds of thousands of people, but are now effectively mysteries.

As I’ve written a few times over the years, the introduction of Hocus and Pocus in 1945 was very much part of the very nature of comic book design in the Golden Age. The dominant design was oversized comics filled with tons of stories, with each character having their own feature. When certain characters became popular enough to get their own ongoing series, however, suddenly those characters weren’t just appearing as a feature in a bigger anthology, they also had to, in effect, star in their own anthology where EVERY feature featured that a character. With such a setup, it’s only natural that comic book creators will often seek out any idea they might come up with for recurring features in order to fill the space a little easier than having to come up with a new story idea every number. This led to the introduction of the recurring feature in Superman’s ongoing series Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, where we would follow Lois on some of her missions. Basically, the pages had to be filled somehow, you know?

It also led to some writers trying to come up with other recurring ideas and characters that they could revisit regularly. While continuity was a thing during the Golden Age, it just wasn’t as strict as later years. Continuity, in the Golden Age, meant more than anything else recurring characters and features. Meanwhile, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, both shared an interest in humorous comic books. It really wouldn’t necessarily tie into Superman stories that often, but when it could, they would, and so in 1945 Siegel and Shuster presented their second most famous creations behind Superman in Hocus and Pocus, in action comics #83! Look how confident they were in these new characters! They were featured on the cover of the comic!

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When we met Doc and Flannelhead (also known as Hocus and Pocus, respectively), they, along with their pet rabbit, Merton (stylized as “Moiton” in this comic, as that was when the people found it very funny that the characters would speak in thick Brooklyn accents, like Doiby Dickles), have trouble finding work as stage magicians. Desperate, they jokingly talk about using magic to gather money and, wouldn’t you know…

This, of course, sets up the gag, Doc thinks he now has magical powers because every time he casts a “spell” the coincidence leads to the thing he was trying to make happen, eh well, you know, HAPPEN…

This being a comic, their apparent new magical abilities are quickly taken over by some villains who insist that they use their new abilities to commit crimes for them. They agree, on the theory that whatever money they steal, they’ll just use their powers to replace it. Superman shows up to stop them and Doc uses his powers on Superman and of course a woman tries to kill herself and so Superman has to go! At this point, Jerry Siegel clearly felt it was getting so ridiculous that he decided he had to hang a lantern on the whole thing and he does it with a clever caption about how, hey, what can they say, this is what happened…

Things go badly for Hocus and Pocus when they refuse to commit any more crimes, but luckily Merton escapes and when Superman finds out, he asks Merton to drive him to his owners, then lets Hocus and Pocus believe that Merton chewed them for free. .

In the end, the villains are defeated and Superman tries to explain that Doc doesn’t actually have powers, but instead they ignore him and decide to open a magic detective agency! The story ends with a note to readers asking for more Hocus and Pocus stories if they enjoyed this one.

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I don’t know if anyone actually wrote asking for more Hocus and Pocus (imagine those letters. “Yeah, that Superman guy is fine, but I love that Brooklyn accent! Give me more Hocus and de Pocus!”), but they returned for two more engagements in action comicsand both times they got cover spotlights…

I guess they really thought Hocus and Pocus had power for some reason…

Sadly, that was around the time Siegel and Shuster tried to get the Superman copyrights back and when they filed that lawsuit, they were fired from their jobs at DC (when they went create a new superhero, their idea was a comic superhero known as Funnyman. He didn’t do as well as Superman). So Alvin Schwartz wrote the last Hocus and Pocus story of this era, drawn by John Sikela in the main feature in 1947. Superman #45. In a clever story, Lois Lane is about to be killed in front of Clark Kent and Hocus and Pocus when Doc uses his “magic” to turn Clark Kent into Superman in order to save Lois…

Clark obviously goes along with the idea, but then he’s kind of trapped, because he’s now essentially “proved” Lois that their magic is real, and so when they next give Lois superpowers, Superman has to pass the rest of the story trying to keep them from being exposed, because if THIS isn’t real, then giving Clark powers couldn’t be real either, and then that would mean Clark was Superman…

The solution wasn’t so smart (Superman tricks Lois into wanting to give up her powers because no one will dance with a woman with super strength. Ooooph).

That was it for Hocus and Pocus during the Golden Age. I could cover their semi-shocking return decades later in the future.

Alright, that’s it for this episode of You Act Like We Never Have Met! Feel free to write to if you have any suggestions for future installments!

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About the Author

Brian L. Hartfield