First Appearance: Superman (vol. 1) #4 (Spring 1940): "Terror in the Trucker's Union"
Number of Appearances: 1
Enemy of: Gus Snide
Ally: Clark Kent
Occupation: truck driver
Note: honorable Truck Drivers' Union chief
Carlson was the major guest supporting character in the story retroactively titled "Terror In the Trucker's Union," published in Superman #4 (Spring 1940). Carlson was a truck driver who was the local chief of the Truck Drivers' Union.
Clark Kent met Carlson when he attended a Truck Drivers' Union meeting, having gone there after his editor received a tip that there "may be some excitement" at the meeting. There was indeed some excitement. A thug working for notorious racketeer Gus Snide tried to interrupt the meeting and intimidate Carlson. But Carlson would have none of it. He actually jumped off the stage at the meeting and punched the thug.
After the meeting was over, Clark Kent talked to Carlson, who explained that Gus Snide was trying to "force his way into the union." This means that Gus Snide wanted to illegally extract "protection money' from the union and its members.
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster supported many "progressive" causes of their day, but there seems to be some ambivalence in their stories about unions. Their stories clearly present some honorable union members, such as Carlson, but also expose serious problems with unions, such as the involvement of criminals and mobsters portrayed in this story.
Clark Kent was later invited to Carlson's home to conduct an interview. When he arrived he found that Carlson and his wife were despondent. Their young daughter Amy had been kidnapped.
Fortunately Clark Kent was able to turn into Superman and save Amy from Gus Snide's thugs just before they were about to scar her face with a knife as a "message" to Carlson.
When Superman returned Amy to his worried parents, Mr. Carlson said simply, "Thank God!" This was apparently a very heartfelt, sincere utterance. From chan be discerned about Carlson in this story, he truly was a God-fearing man.
The rest of the story details Superman's efforts to take down Gus Snide and his racketeering operation. In order to gather evidence against the criminals, Superman actually pretended to join them. In order to prove his loyalty, Gus Snide ordered Superman to kill Carlson. Superman pretended to obey, kidnapping Carlson from his home, bringing him to Gus Snide's office, and throwing him a mile away. Superman quickly left Snide, saying he had proved himself, and caught Carlson just before he hit the ground, which would have killed him. Carlson was of course irate about this, until Superman explained his plan. Carlson was then very forgiving and agreed to cooperate completely with Superman's plan.
It is impossible to determine Carlson's precise religious affiliation from this story, but it is clear that he was a deeply ethical who wanted what was best for his fellow truck drivers and courageously stood up to dangerous criminals. He could have quietly capitulated to Gus Snide's demands and enriched himself with bribes from the racketeer, as many real-life union bosses have done. But instead he stood by his convictions, even when his own family was threatened. After Carlson's daughter was kidnapped, he understandably didn't want to do anything to antagonize her kidnappers. Fortunately Superman intervened so that Carlson was never forced to concede to Gus Snide's demands in order to prevent his daughter from being harmed. He clearly loved his daughter and, like most good fathers, probably would have done almost anything to protect her. He demonstrated his strong desire to keep his daughter from harm when he declined to tell Clark Kent more about his situation after Snide's men called him and told him to "get rid of that reporter," and also when he tried confronted Superman with a gun when he thought the super-hero was one of Snide's men returning to harm his child.
At the end of this story, Superman apprehends Gus Snide and turns him over to police. Snide was no doubt convicted and sentenced to a long prison sentence due to the testimony of his own hired thugs, who he betrayed, as well as Carlson's testimony. Carlson had seen Snide's evil first hand, including the time when Snide ordered Superman to murder Carlson when Carlson was standing right there in the room.
In the last panel of this story, Carlson the Truck Drivers' Union chief told Clark Kent, "I wish I could personally thank Superman for breaking the grip of those racketeers on the union!"