Religion: manifestly non-religious
Name: J. E. Curtis
Other Names: J. F. Calhoun; J. F. Curtis; J E Curtis
First Appearance: Superman (vol. 1) #4 (Spring 1940): "The Economic Enemy"
Number of Appearances: 1
Enemy of: Superman
Ally: Barney Calhoun
Employer: a foreign nation antagonistic to the U.S.
J. E. Curtis was an apparently wealthy man with strong ties to and knowledge about America's economic infrastructure. A foreign nation promised him "important concessions" (probably meaning political power) if he would wreck America's economic structure. Curtis hired powerful gang leader Barney Calhoun to carry out his plans. Calhoun's plans for Curtis included bombing auto factories, murdering steelworkers, derailing passenger trains, and other activities designed to foment economic distress.
When Superman finally caught up to the gang leader Barney Calhoun and forced the villain to talk, Calhoun explained, "The man responsible is J. E. Curtis. A foreign nation has promised him important concessions if he'll wreck America's economic structure! I just work for him! This very night Curtis is going to launch a financial upheaval that will panic the stock-exchange and plunge the country into its worst depression!"
Superman took Calhoun to the residence of J. E. Curtis. Just before Superman arrived, Curtis was saying to himself, "A few more minutes and I'll telephone the order to my brokers that will plunge the country into economic chaos!"
But then Superman arrived with Calhoun in tow. Curtis asked, "What does this mean?"
Superman said, "It means that your subversive activies have come to an end!"
Perhaps Curtis was so entrenched in his self-serving, greedy philosophy that he thought everyone was motivated only by money and power like he was. He tried to bribe Superman, saying, "Reconsider -- You would be an invaluable aid to me. Join forces -- and you'll be incredibly wealthy."
Superman answered, "I'm not interested in your tainted money."
J. E. Curtis pulled out a weapon with which he electrocuted the shocked Barney Calhoun. Curtis told Superman, "You see -- I am not unarmed and helpless as you imagine!" Curtis then told Superman, "Yield to me -- or you, too, shall be struck down!"
Curtis had just murdered Barney Calhoun, the man had been loyally serving him in their plot. He was quite ready to murder Superman as well.
Superman was defiant. He stood his ground and simply told Curtis to "Try it!"
Curtis did indeed try. As the narrative caption describes, "Superman is the target of a terrific barrage of electricity bolts!"
Curtis was shocked to see his weapon didn't harm Superman at all. Curtis himself was not so fortunate. The narrative caption describes Superman's next move: "Reaching out, Superman touches the plotter's figure. The electricity passes from him to the other man's body, instantly electrocuting Curtis!"
So, basically, Superman returned Curtis's electrical attack on him to kill Curtis himself. (This was before Superman had established a strict code against killing.)
Superman had put an end to J. E. Curtis, and to the brilliant but evil man's attempt to derail the entire nation's economy. A week later, when Clark Kent's editor asked him how he got that material for this story, Kent said, "That doesn't matter. What is important is that the nation is once again returning to its march toward prosperity!"
Note about this character's name: It is not clear to us why a number of reference sources list the name of J. E. Curtis as "J. F. Calhoun." The character's name is clearly "J. E. Curtis" (technically, "J E Curtis") when first mentioned in panel 5 of page 12 of the story retroactively titled "The Economic Enemy" in Superman #4 (Spring 1940). The character is again named "Curtis" in 5 subsequent panels on pages 12 and 13. Nowhere is this character ever referred to as "Calhoun," which is the last name of the gang leader he hired. Nothing in the story suggests that Curtis and Calhoun are related. And yet, The Comic Book Database (comicbookdb.com), The Big Comic Book Database (comics-db.com) and the Grant Comics Database Project (comics.org) all list J. E. Curtis's name as "J. F. Calhoun." The two possible explanations for this that we can think of are: 1) The character was named "J. F. Calhoun" in earlier versions of the story and the name was changed in the reprint we read (The Superman Chronicles, Volume 3, published in 2007; or 2) one of these sources mis-transcribed the character's name during the indexing process and the other two sources copied the error into their databases. Looking carefully at the lettering in the story, it really does not seem like the name was changed in the 5 subsequent references to Curtis's name. "Curtis" is a shorter name than "Calhoun" and the spacing seems like it is right for "Curtis," not "Calhoun." But in the very first reference to the character's name, something is odd about the lettering. It is possible that the character was incorrectly identified as "J. F. Calhoun" when he was first mentioned by a frightened Barney Calhoun in panel 5 on page 12. But then the character was correctly called "Curtis" throughout the rest of the story. Perhaps the first time (or first few times) this story was printed, it contained the incorrect initial identification, but that mistake was corrected in more recent reprints.
Suggested links for further research about this character and the character's religious affiliation: