Hocus and Pocus

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The professional names employed by a pair of likeable, ingenuous, gullible fellows, their real names are Doc and Flannelhead, who start out as street corner salesmen of magic books, only to have their lives transformed when a series of bizarre coincidences convinces them that they have somehow become gifted with magical powers. (Act No. 83, Apr 1945: "Hocus and Pocus... Magicians by Accident!")

Doc, better known as Hocus, is the brains of the outfit; he is a wiry little fellow with a moustache, eyeglasses, and an ever-present derby hat “who speaks like a college professor but has the trusting simplicity of a child!” His companion, Flannelhead, better known as Pocus, a brawny, dim-witted fellow who murders the King’s English whenever he speaks, “has the strength of an ox … and about the same I.Q.!” Together with their “mascot,” a white rabbit named Moiton (Act No.88, Sep 1945: “The Adventure of the Stingy Men!”), the pair inhabit a furnished room in Mrs. Flaherty’s Boarding House, somewhere in Metropolis (Act No. 83, Apr 1945: “Hocus & Pocus... Magicians by Accident!”). Superman No. 45/1 refers to them as “that hilarious pair of cuckoo conjurers” (Mar/Apr 1947: “Lois Lane, Superwoman!”), and, because their magical feats work only through either coincidence or the surreptitious intervention of Superman, they are frequently described as “magicians by accident” (Act No. 97, Jun 1946: “The Magician’s Convention!”; and others).

In April 1945, Doc and Flannelhead have been eking out a meager living giving magic demonstrations on street corners and selling books on magic to passersby, and become convinced, through a series of freak occurrences and ludicrous coincidences, that Doc has somehow acquired the power to make whatever he wishes come true merely by reciting the wish aloud, accompanied by the phrase “Abracadabra... alacazam . . . hocus-pocus!” Complications arise for the well-meaning prestidigitators, however, when their magical abilities come to the attention of gangster Hijack Dorley, who wants them to use their supposed powers to help his gang loot a safe in a wealthy private home. Out of a sense of adventure more than anything else, Doc agrees to the scheme, confiding privately to Flannelhead that he intends to use his magic powers to return the stolen loot to its rightful owner immediately following the robbery. When Hijack Dorley asks his two new recruits to tell him their names, Doc replies that their real names are Doc and Flannelhead, but they prefer to be known professionally as Hocus and Pocus.

The attempt to rob the safe is thwarted by the timely arrival of Superman, but Hocus and Pocus escape, along with their underworld allies, when the Man of Steel is forced to break off the battle to attend to an emergency under circumstances that make it appear, to both the Dorley gang and the amateur magicians, that it is Doc’s magic that has forced Superman to beat a hasty retreat. When, back at the criminals’ hideout, Doc announces that he and Flannelhead have had enough of crime, Hijack Dorley and his henchmen take them captive so that they can continue to use Doc’s “powers” to stage spectacular crimes.

Hocus and Pocus are ultimately rescued from their dire predicament by Superman, who invades the criminals’ hideout and apprehends the Dorley gang at invisible super-speed, leaving both gangsters and magicians with the wholly erroneous impression that the criminals have been routed by Doc’s magical powers.

“But you don’t understand!” stammers Superman, trying, without success, to explain the unwelcome truth to Hocus and Pocus. “I..I know,” interrupts Doc knowingly. “You’re worried lest we use it Doc’s ability to perform magical feats for evil purposes. On the contrary, we shall use it to wage war against crime. We are going to open up... a private detective agency!”

“Oh well, who am I to disillusion them?” muses Superman to himself. “I guess from now on I’ll have to keep an eye on them and make the magic of Hocus and Pocus more than just accident!” (Act No. 83:“Hocus & Pocus... Magicians by Accident!”).

By September 1945, Doc and Flannelhead have indeed opened a detective agency. A sign on the door reads: “Hocus-Pocus, Super-Magicians,” and below that the words, “Also Detectives.” When a client offers the two self-styled magician-detectives $200 to entertain his guests with magic tricks at his forth coming lawn party—and Superman overhears Doc announce his intention to use the fee to buy war bonds—Superman decides to help Doc earn the money for that worthy cause by working behind the scenes at invisible super-speed to make Doc’s “magic” actually succeed, as when he surreptitiously helps Doc “materialize” an elephant by racing to the zoo at faster-than-light speed and delivering the gigantic animal to the lawn party in the twinkling of an eye. Since no one at the party is aware of Superman’s presence, Doc and Flannelhead and all of the party guests attribute the appearance of the elephant to Doc’s “magical powers.”

One guest who is particularly impressed, however, is “confidence man and flim-flam artist” Roger “Nifty” Nolan. Posing as the president of a home for foundlings, Nolan plays on Doc’s and Flannelhead gullibility and warm-heartedness in order to make them his dupes in a scheme to bilk two stingy Metropolis millionaires out of $250,000. Nolan persuades the well-meaning magicians to use their magic powers to place the two millionaires in “perilous situations where they will be as helpless as foundlings,” so that, continues Nolan, “they will realize that money is not everything” and freely contribute $250,000 toward the construction of a new home for foundlings.

Realizing from the outset that Nolan intends to wait until Hocus and Pocus have solicited the contributions from the two millionaires and then murder the two magicians and abscond with the money, Superman nevertheless works invisibly behind the scenes to make Doc’s “magic” work in order to help the magicians acquire the funds needed to build the new foundling home. Then, just as the ruthless confidence man is on the verge of killing Hocus and Pocus, the Man of Steel intervenes to apprehend Nolan and rescue the well-meaning magicians from his clutches. Nolan will go to jail, the new foundling home will be built, and Doc still believes he possesses magical powers (Act No. 8 “The Adventure of the Stingy Men”).

In June 1946, Doc and Flannelhead attend a magicians’ convention, where a prize of $25,000 is being offered to the magician who can perform a magic trick capable of stumping all the other magicians. When unscrupulous magician Conrad the Conjurer, convinced that he will never be able to outdo Hocus and Pocus, hires some hoodlums to kidnap the two magicians to prevent them from being on hand to compete for the prize money, Superman intervenes to apprehend Conrad the Conjurer and his cohorts and rescue Hocus and Pocus from the villains’ clutches.

Soon afterward, another magician at the convention, Gregor the Great, hires Hocus and Pocus to recover the secret plans for the fantastic new trick he intends to perform in the magicians’ contest, which have been stolen by criminals and are being held for $10,000 ransom. With some invisible assistance from the Man of Steel, Hocus and Pocus succeed in recovering Gregor’s plans and capturing the criminals. Hocus and Pocus are unaware, however, that the real purpose of Gregor’s trick—an elaborate escape illusion involving Gregor’s being imprisoned in an airtight steel box submerged in a tank of water—is to enable him to rob the safe of the hotel where the convention is being held by escaping unseen from the specially constructed steel box during the performance of his trick, looting the safe, and then returning to the box in time to “escape” from it for the finale of his trick, Superman, however, has discovered Gregor’s real motive for performing this particular trick, and, working at invisible super-speed, he apprehends Gregor in the act of robbing the hotel safe, while making it appear that Hocus and Pocus have thwarted the robbery by means of their magic. Indeed, at story’s end, Hocus and Pocus have won the magicians’ contest, still under the delusion that Doc can actually perform real magic (Act No. 97:“The Magician’s Convention!”)

In March-April 1947, while Clark Kent and Lois Lane are visiting the office of Hocus and Pocus in order to interview them for the Daily Planet, Lois accidentally trips over a balcony railing and plummets toward seemingly certain doom on the sidewalk below. Just as Clark Kent is about to leap to Lois’s rescue, even at the cost of betraying his secret identity! Doc gets the idea of using his “magic” to transform Clark Kent into Superman so that Kent can fly through the air to rescue Lois. And so, in hopes of protecting the secret of his dual identity. Kent rescues the fatling Lois and then pretends that it was Doc’s magical powers that enabled him to temporarily change into Superman.

A complication arises; however, when Doc offers to demonstrate his “powers” again by using them to endow Lois Lane with super-powers, for now, in order to protect his own identity, Superman must contrive to make it appear as though Doc has actually succeeded in conferring super-powers on Lois. And so, in the period that follows, Superman works behind the scenes to make it seem that Lois lane has become magically transformed into a “Superwoman,” as when he makes it appear that she has single handedly apprehended the notorious BBB Gang, a “cold, violent, inhuman” underworld trio “whose vicious crimes blot the police ledgers of 16 slates!”

Ultimately, however, by means of an elaborate ruse designed to make Lois feel that it is unfeminine to be super-powerful, Superman persuades Lois to pay Hocus to use his “magic” to deprive her of her super-powers and turn her back into plain Lois lane again. Everyone concerned, except for Superman, believes that it was Doc’s powers that gave Lois super-powers and then took them away again. Only the Man of Steel knows that it was only his surreptitious intervention that, for a time, transformed Lois Lane into a superwoman (S No. 45/1: “Lois Lane, Superwoman!”).

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