The Religious Affiliation of

Religion: manifestly non-religious CBR Scale: I

Name: Nick

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: 3

Enemy of: Superman

Ally: Pete
Ally: Butch
Employer: Dixie Club

Occupation: bouncer, thug

Worked for: Marty Kaye, Gus Snide, Slug Kelly

Gender: male

Common thugs were a frequently used character type in early Superman stories. Most were nameless and most were used only in a single story and forgotten. But a good case can be made that two thugs named Nick and Pete were re-used.

Nick and Pete first appeared in the Superman story in Action Comics #16 (Sep. 1939). Their names were known because their boss, illegal gambling club owner Marty Kaye, called for his bouncer/thugs to help him against Superman. Confronted by the unbelievably fast and strong superhero, Marty Kaye called out: "Butch! Nick! Pete! -- Help! Help me!" Two thugs showed up to defend Kaye. (In the four panels depicting Superman's confrontation with the thugs, only two thugs are shown. "Butch" must have been busy elsewhere.) The thugs were promptly thrashed by Superman. As the narrative caption describes, "A few moments later, much to their amazement, the strong-arm squad finds itself sailing thru the air in all directions."

Nick and Pete ran from Marty Kaye's office and probably ran from the illegal gambling establishment entirely. There were never seen again in this story. Often bad guys are jailed by Superman by the end of the story, but Nick and Pete were small fry and hardly mattered in Superman's much larger war on all illegal gambling in Metropolis. It isn't even clear that Nick and Pete were doing anything outrageously illegal or particularly immoral. They were defending their boss. One could make a case that they were hired as bouncers and simply tried to defend Marty Kaye against an intruder into his business. Of course, we know that Nick and Pete were not simply hired guards. Based on the way they were drawn and the gangster-like dialogue they exhibited in their handful of lines, it is clear that they were thugs quite accustomed to working for criminals. They probably knew that the club they were working in was the site of illegal gambling. Even though the police commissioner at the time was intentionally looking the other way when it came to such establishments, it the operation was still illegal. But, as stated before, Nick and Pete were "small potatoes" and Superman let them go without much thought.

Typically, thugs such as these are a dime a dozen. But Nick and Pete apparently turned up again. In the story retroactively titled "Terror In the Truckers' Union", published a few months later in Superman #4 (Spring 1940), Superman confronted a notorious racketeer named Gus Snide, a criminal who was trying to establish his "protection" racket in the trucking industry of Metropolis. Snide's principle helpers in this story were a pair of thugs named Nick and Pete. (Butch was nowhere to be seen.) Beyond the similarity in names, Nick and Pete in this story really do share physical similarities to Nick and Pete in the previous story. In both pairs of thugs, one man has short identically-colored reddish-blonde hair, wears a purplish-gray solid suit, a white shirt, and a bow tie. The other man is similarly clean-shaven with short hair and wears a solid green suit. One can also see differences in how their faces are drawn, but this can be attributed to the fact that artist Joe Shuster was often inconsistent in how he drew supporting characters.

None of this means that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster intended for thugs Nick and Pete in Superman #4 to the same characters as thugs Nick and Pete in Action Comics #16. But it is certainly possible, and there is no reason for us as indexers or archivists to regard these as separate characters. Whether or not the repetition of this pair of thugs was intentional or accidental, it seems likely that there is some reason why the names "Nick" and "Pete" emerged in tandem from Siegel's pen twice in a relatively short span of time. If there was no intention to re-use previously seen characters, then perhaps "Nick" and "Pete" are the names of friends of Siegel and Shuster. Or perhaps these names struck Siegel as particularly thuggish and he reflexively re-used them when needing names for common thugs.

Whatever the case, if we accept the premise that Nick and Pete were the same characters in two different stories, then we clearly learned more about how ruthless they were in the second story. In the first story, the worst thing they could be accused of doing was attempting to defend their employer in an illegal gambling den, which could be regarded as a "victimless" crime (although Superman didn't see it that way). That behavior is almost borderline between "supporting character" and actual "criminal" or "villain." Many heroes have done far worse than that. But in the second story some of their behavior goes beyond the pale and even seems despicable by the moral standards of many villains. In the second story, as described below, they tried to cut a young child's face with a knife.

Nick and Pete were two thugs who worked for notorious racketeer Gus Snide. They were particularly brutal. When Carlson, the Truckers' Union chief, refused to capitulate to Snide's criminal demands, Snide's thugs kidnapped Carlson's young daughter Amy. Clark Kent found out about the kidnapping when he went to Carlson's home for an interview. The thugs were nearby watching Carlson's home. One of them called Carlson and him, "We've got your child. Whether she gets hurt depends on you. First, get rid of that reporter!"

Carlson did as the thug asked, asking Clark Kent to leave. Fortunately, Clark Kent's super-sensitive hearing had heard what the thug on the other side of the phone said to Carlson. Clark Kent looked around and spotted the thugs in a nearby auto.

The thug who called Mr. Carlson got back into the car, telling the little girl (who looked to be about 6 years old), "Don't get scared kid -- I'm just gonna mark yer face a little!"

This thug was actually reaching forward with a large knife, intent on carving the girl's face up as a "message" to her father! Fortunately Superman arrived just in time to stop the knife.

Superman used his foot to shove the car, with the thugs in it, into a telephone pole. The frightened thugs fled. Superman returned Amy to her parents and followed the thugs as they went to Gus Snide's office.

When the thugs told Gus Snide what had happened, Snide deduced that the man who had "butted in" must have been Superman. "Superman!" exclaimed one of the thugs in surprise. The other thug said, "G-gosh -- I thought he was a myth -- didn't really exist!"

Gus Snide responded, "Well, it appears he does! Which means we've got to act fast! Nick -- Pete -- Get Carlson!"

This utterance by Snide is the only time in this story where Nick and Pete are actually named. It is never really clear which one is Nick and which one is Pete. These two thugs worked together in the beginning of the story and continue to do Gus Snide's evil bidding throughout the rest of the story.

At the end of the story Superman forcibly declares that he has taken over Gus Snide's racketeering operation. Of course, Superman has done this because he wants to shut Gus Snide's operation down. Snide realizes his time is up in Metropolis, so he calls the police and tips them off about his hangout and the operation there. Snide thus betrays his loyal henchmen, which is not really a surprise given how evil Snide is. When police arrive to arrest Snide's men, including Nick and Pete, they quickly realize they have been double-crossed and they confess, agreeing to tell what they know about their boss.

Nick shows up just a few months later, working for yet another racketeer: "Slug" Kelly, as seen in the story retroactively titled "The Slot Machine Racket," published in Superman #5 (Summer 1940).

Nick apparently didn't spend much time (if any) in jail. Maybe he neglected to tell police about how he almost carved up a child's face with a knife. Superman certainly didn't stick around to provide the police with details. He left that up to Mr. Carlson (who didn't witness Nick's attempted knife attack) and the confessing criminals themselves.

In panel 6 of page 6 in the story in Superman #5 about Slug Kelly and his slot machine racket, we see Nick present while Slug Kelly is threatening a captive Lois Lane. "Slug" forced Lois to sign a document falsely accusing her editor, George Taylor, of being his partner in the slot-machine racket. Slug Kelly told Lois he would kill Clark Kent (held captive in the next room) if she didn't sign the paper. Slug Kelly then told Lois that if she published anything about his racket, nobody would believe her, because her signed statement will have already been published by a rival newspaper.

After fully informing Lois Lane of the situation as a means of intimidating her into silence, Slug tells one of is henchmen, who has been in the room all this time, to take the signed document to a rival newspaper. He tells the hired thug, "Nick! Take it to the Morning Pictorial."

The thug Slug Kelly addresses as "Nick" has short hair, a clean-shaven face, and a very distinctive profile with a "broken nose" and round chin. It might just be a coincidence, but the profile of this thug named "Nick" looks just like the profile of the thug named "Nick" seen in the previous issue, in the story retroactively titled "Terror In the Trucker's Union," published in Superman #4 (Spring 1940). A good place to see this resemblance is in panel 1 of page 3 of that story.

Nick's old partner Pete is never mentioned by name in the slot machine racket story, but he might be one of Slug Kelly's many hired "hoodlums."

This character is in the following 3 stories which have been indexed by this website:
Action Comics (vol. 1) #16 (Sep. 1939): "Superman and the Numbers Racket" (4-panel cameo)

Suggested links for further research about this character and the character's religious affiliation: