Religion: Protestant clergyman
Name: unnamed clergyman
First Appearance: Action Comics (vol. 1) #24 (May 1940): "Carnahan's Heir"
Number of Appearances: 1
An unnamed Christian clergyman appeared in panel 8 of page 12 of the Superman story in Action Comics #24 (May 1940). This clergyman was shown accompanying Peter Carnahan on his way to be executed by electric chair. The presence of this religious minister at an intended execution hearkens back to a similar scene in Action Comics #1 (the very fist appearance of Superman). This was a different clergyman, however, and the scene may well have taken place in a different prison and maybe even a different state.
The clergyman in Action Comics #24 is only the second clergyman to be portrayed in a Superman comic. It is interesting that the first and second clergymen to be seen in Superman comics were both seen as spiritual counselors at would-be executions.
This unnamed clergyman is shown leading a solemn march from death row to he execution chamber. The clergyman is followed by the convicted "killer" Peter Carnahan, who is flanked by two uniformed prison guards.
The narrative caption reads: "And simultaneously Peter is led down the gloomy blue-lit corridor toward the execution-chamber."
Peter Carnahan earnestly proclaims, "But I'm innocent, I tell you -- Innocent!"
One of the guards responds, "So they all say!"
The clergyman calmly says, "Peace, my son!"
The clergyman wears a solid great suit coat, a white shirt, and a clergyman's collar. In the small, simple image, it is possible to misconstrue the man's shirt as a white turtleneck, but it is almost certainly intended to be a clerical collar. The man's appearance and single line of dialogue, taken within context, mark him unquestionably as a clergyman.
This story's clergyman is almost certainly a Protestant, and almost certainly was intended by the artist as a representative of a different denomination than the one represented by the Evelyn Curry's Christian clergyman counselor in Action Comics #1. The clergyman in Action Comics #1 had a clearly "High Church" appearance, with a rather ornate robe and high-rising hat. He is probably Catholic or Episcopalian. The clergyman in Action Comics #24 is dressed rather simply by comparison. This clergyman, who serves as a spiritual counselor to Peter Carnahan, looks like he is probably Lutheran or Methodist or Baptist, or something along those lines - an oldline/mainstream Protestant.
Peter Carnahan was clearly not a regular churchgoer at the time he was accused of murder and imprisoned. The clergyman was probably not a person he had a prior regular association with. This clergyman may have been an associate of Peter's father, the multi-millionaire industrialist Rufus Carnahan. But it is more likely that the clergyman is a prison chaplain or in some other way assigned by the prison itself to work with Peter.
It is worth noting that Peter Carnahan did, in fact, not commit the murder he was accused of. He may have been an irresponsible lout and a compulsive gambler, due in large part to being coddled and spoiled by his wealthy father, but Peter was no killer. Fortunately, Superman found the real killer and stopped the execution just in the nick of time.
After being pardoned, Peter Carnahan led a virtuous, radically reformed life. He used the great wealth left by his deceased father to found a home for wayward underprivileged youth. It is reasonable to assume that the unnamed clergyman seen in just one panel of this story did a considerable amount of "off-panel" counseling with Peter, and that the influence of this man of the cloth was partially responsible for Peter's own spiritual rebirth.