Commissioner Watson

Religion: indeterminate

Name: Commissioner Watson

Other Names: Police Commissioner Watson

Classification: villain villain  

Publisher(s): DC

First Appearance: Action Comics (vol. 1) #16 (Sep. 1939): "Superman and the Numbers Racket"

Creators: Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster

Number of Appearances: 1

Enemy of: Superman

Employer: Metropolis

Occupation: police

Gender: male

Note: corrupt; took "protection" bribes from illegal gamblers

After preventing a despondent compulsive gambler from committing suicide, Superman decided to do something about the city's pernicious gambling problem. As reporter Clark Kent, he suggested an investigation to his editor, who agreed. Clark Kent started by visiting the Police Commissioner's office.

Clark Kent asked the Commissioner, "There's only one thing I want to know, Commissioner Watson. And that's: Why haven't you clamped down on gambling?"

The Commissioner looked to be a serious man, but didn't think this was as serious a problem as Clark Kent did. The Commissioner told the reporter, "We're doing the best we can. Murderers and robbers keep us busy enough, without our chasing after tin-horn gamblers."

Clark Kent, who was clearly not a libertarian, strongly disagreed. He said, "In my opinion, gambling is just as revolting a crime as any other. And it's your duty to strictly enforce the laws against it!"

The Commissioner was angry at Clark's words. He replied, "Are you trying to tell me I'm incompetent? Get out!"

Clark Kent left, thinking to himself, "If the Commissioner stubbornly refuses to do his duty . . . there are other ways to meet the situation!"

We know that Commissioner Watson was the police commissioner of Metropolis. In fact, he can be said to be the first government official who was explicitly identified as someone who worked for the city of Metropolis. Prior to Action Comics #16, the city in which Superman (and his alter ego Clark Kent) lived and worked was unnamed. But in panel 8 of page 3 of the Superman story in Action Comics #16, the city is identified for the first time as "Metropolis."

In this panel, Clark Kent asks his editor at the Daily Star: "How come gambling is permitted to flourish in the city of Metropolis? And why hasn't the Daily Star done anything about it?"

It is on the very next page that Clark Kent visits the city's Commissioner Watson, the police commissioner for the city of Metropolis.

Many prior Superman stories clearly took place in the city in which Superman lived. But at the time they were published, the city was unnamed. The city can be retroactively identified as Metropolis, but such identification is implicit, not explicit at the time of publication. Beginning with Action Comics #16, Metropolis would increasingly become not simply a generic American city, but a distinctive fictional place - almost a major character in its own right in the Superman mythos.

As initially introduced in Action Comics #16, Commissioner Watson seemed like he was simply an ineffectual police commissioner on the matter of gambling. Later in the story, it is revealed that he is something of a villain in his own right.

On page 11 of the Superman story in Action Comics #16, Superman is in the middle of physically wrecking all of the gambling dens in Metropolis. He was able to find them after forcing the head of numbers rackets in the city to give him a list of all the locations he had connections with. At one recently wrecked place, the operator made a fateful phone call. He told the person on the other, "You promised all of us protection. You've got to keep your word. I'll expect you here in a few minutes."

Unbeknownst to the gambling den operator, Superman was on the roof using his super-hearing to listen to the phone call. Superman realized, "So the man who furnishes the gamblers in this town 'protection' will soon show up! Fine -- I'll be waiting for him!"

In a few minutes the man did show up. It was Commissioner Watson himself! Superman forced the Commissioner to call all of the city's leading gamblers to a meeting, telling them they were gathering to combat the menace of Superman to their operations.

Once all the leaders of the city's illegal gambling arrived, Superman lectured them about the parasitic vice that gambling is. He told the gamblers to all leave town "while you can, in one piece!" Superman even threatened to kill selected gambling leaders if they didn't leave town within twelve hours. They all left.

As for Police Commissioner Watson, he resigned immediately. Superman no doubt made it clear that this corrupt city official's physical well-being would be in dire jeopardy if he didn't resign. (Superman was rather prone to violent threats at this early point in his career.)

This character is in the following story which has been indexed by this website:
Action Comics (vol. 1) #16 (Sep. 1939): "Superman and the Numbers Racket" (8-panel cameo)

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