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Superman in the 70s - DC Comics Message Boards
Author Topic:   Superman in the 70s
Village Idiot
posted January 05, 2002 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Village Idiot   Click Here to Email Village Idiot
I'm tuned in, India. Testify, brother.

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 06:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
I highly recommend that SandSaga link. All should read it as it has a lot to do with some of the things I'm going to discuss here--well even if you're uninterested in what I have to say, you should read the link just to know what all the fuss was about back then.

For me, one of the main concerns in the Saga is what I call "Sad Superman." Throughout the Saga there's a building sadness surrounding Superman. This is the martyred Man of Steel, the suffering Son of Krypton, who sacrifices all of his being for the people, for the world, but when the chips are down--when he's powerless and at the end of his tether, the world turns on him, denounces him, strikes back at him--as if all his past sacrifices were worthless.

You get the sense of Sad Superman even in popular songs like "Superman (It aint Easy)" by Five For Fighting or "Superman's Song" by The Crashtest Dummies.

And no one draws Sad Superman better than Curt Swan. Other artists drew the sadness in the mouth (Neal Adams draws the eyes shut and the mouth open and twisted in torment), but Swan drew it in those open soulful eyes.

The Sad Man of Steel is all over the place in the early 70s. He's there in Action 400, mourning over the fate of his adopted son; he's on the cover of Justice League of America No. 86, December, 1970 (illustrated by Adams), crying for a starving world.

But it's Dennis O'Neil who milks the pathos for all it's worth in the Saga. There the martyrdom of the Man of Tomorrow would kick into high gear with issue 140 (check the link for details). Mocked and jeered as "Superman Fails" (Neal Adams' cover for that issue plays the sentiment for all it's worth), by the end of the story our Kal-El lays defenseless (and powerless) as thugs attack him, one of them bruising the suffering hero's forehead with the butt-end of his gun. The resulting contusion would have important consequences in the next couple of issues as the Saga came to its ultimate conclusion.

But the issue just before 140--Superman 139, June-July, 1971--is a Giant (G-84). By this time Giants were 64 pages for 25c--and of course ENB is the credited editor in the indicia (in that issue's lettercolumn the indication is that Bridwell is now editing almost all the Giants except the war books, edited by Joe Kubert, and some DC Specials).

It would seem that this Giant would give us a respite from all the gathering gloom in the Superman series thusfar, as we journeyed back a decade earlier to the days of Camelot, a pleasant early 60s world, before assassinations, unjust wars, and environmental degradation made our society sad, suffering, and mournful.

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Village Idiot
posted January 06, 2002 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Village Idiot   Click Here to Email Village Idiot
Hmm. It's interesting to compare what you describe, India Ink: the "Sad Superman" to the "Woe is Me" Superman of the past year. Perhaps the contrast lies in the fact that the source of grief for the Sad Superman seems to be exterior (e.g., rejection by society, the death of his adopted son), while for the current Superman, the sources of grief seem to be internal (e.g., self-doubt, guilt, etc.). On the other hand, perhaps they are not differences are not so easily delineated; that is, the source of his current internal grief is ultimately external (i.e., the war, etc.).

When the convention comes around this summer, I will try to see if I can buy some of these issues.

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Village Idiot
posted January 06, 2002 07:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Village Idiot   Click Here to Email Village Idiot
On second thought, I just checked out the prices on the 230s: Twenty bucks a pop for near mint (which means they'll probably be selling Fines for that amount). The 240s are 12 bucks a pop.

Yes, I think it'd be nice if the cranked out a Sandman tpb...

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 07:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
The theme for this Giant? "Superman's Greatest Battles."

Leading off the collection of three great contests is a Hercules two-parter--"Hercules in the 20th Century!" & "Superman's Battle with Hercules," from Action Comics 267 & 268, Aug. & Sept., 1960, by artist Wayne Boring and an uncredited writer.

Now this is a fun story.

I love how it begins with Lex Luthor in yet another stunt to break out of prison. These breakouts were superb as he, like McGiver, uses his ingenuity to cobble together some device from ordinary objects in a bid for freedom. In this instance, an aspirin, a shaving mirror, and a few odds and ends are reconfigured into a time-travel device with which Luthor brings the legendary Hercules forward through time and into the scientific mastermind's prison cell.

Soon enough, Lex dupes "Herc the Jerk" into breaking them out of prison and enlists the legendary marvel as his muscleman on a crime spree. Nevertheless, Hercules tumbles to the deception and helps the Man of Steel capture Luthor.

As Clark Kent, Superman gets Hercules a job at the Planet posing as Roget Tate, photographer, where the hero of twelve labours falls for the divine Lois Lane. Declaring his love for the girl reporter, Herc's attentions are spurned by Miss Lane as she cares only for one man, the mighty Man of Steel.

Roger Tate/Hercules wrangles an assignment to Athens, Greece, where he makes a bee-line for the secret location of the Oracle of Olympus. And with the Oracle's aid, the antique Argonaut enters the realm of the Olympian gods. At his request, they confer upon him their powers and the use (for one time only) of certain weapons in their arsenal.

In the second part, Superman and Hercules battle for the affections of Lois Lane, but an arrow of Eros shot at Lois only makes her love Superman all the more for she was looking at the Man of Steel's eight by ten when Hercules released the love-dart from his bow.

In fustration, the son of Zeus uses Apollo's flute to put Superman asleep for a hundred years. Immediately the Metropolitans get out one of the handy dandy glass display cases they seem to keep in storage for just such occasions, putting the dormant Action Ace on view in the public square, and Lois pines for the king of her heart. Hercules says he'll bring Superman out of his century slumber if but the beautiful journalist would sware her hand to this Greek gladiator.

Such blackmail transgresses the sacred bounds of honest affection, and Aphrodite intervenes on behalf of True Love.

Once awakened by the Love Goddess, the Metropolis Marvel leads Hercules on a chase that breaks through the barriers of time, and as they both emerge in Ancient Greece Hercules loses all memory of what transpired in the distant future.

The story ends with Lois musing, "Why didn't I accept Hercules in the first place!?!"

The second story in this collection of three, from Superman 127 (Feb., 1959), again by Boring and an uncredited writer, in seven and two-thirds pages tells of the misadventures of a hapless chimp named "Toto," shot into orbit only to be transformed by two passing meteors--one of uranium and one of kryptonite--into the titanic primate called "Titano the Super-Ape."

But it's the last story in this triad that had such a profound affect on me when I first read it (here in this Giant and not in its original place back in Superman 164, October 1963, a comic book I long to hold in my hand but never have), the greatest single Superman story ever written, illustrated by Curt Swan and George Klein, and authored by (although uncredited in the Giant) the immortal Edmond Hamilton.

"The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!" (also called "The Super Duel") tells of the ultimate confrontation between the Last Son of Krypton and his arch enemy on a distant forgotten planet orbiting a red sun.

The story is readily available in Superman in the Sixties (but not in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, which is an offense against all reason), so I won't go into deatils here, but at sixteen and two-thirds pages the tales achieves a perfect sense of its two principle characters.

This is the Weisinger Luthor at his best--equal mixtures of evil, genius, brutality, trickery, empathy, sadness, love, and tragedy. And this is Superman. More than the sum of his considerable powers, a noble person haunted by the ghost of a dead planet, struggling for his own survival with only his wits to keep body and soul together.

In their bare knuckles brawl, powerless Kal-El can hardly hold his own against Luthor and as a result wears a black-eye for the rest of the story.

Now I repeat, this is a reprint but it's also issue 239. The very next issue has Superman powerless and bruised by thugs. The previous issues have shown a powerless Superman, the following issues will show the ultimate degradation of Superman, and this Giant shows us a powerless Man of Steel pummelled by his bitter enemy. We see him, in this story, facing the bitter weather and made an outlaw through Luthor's manipulation as the people of "Lexor" celebrate the renegade scientist and condemn the champion of Krypton.

Now when Batman or the Spirit get beaten senseless, it shows how tough they are, it's a way of indicating the high stakes of their crimefighting endeavours. But when Superman, powerless, is beaten up--that's an indication of something else. It enhances this sense of Superman as martyr. The sad suffering Superman.

In the last pages of this Giant is a "new" two page spread Map of Krypton (no doubt the product of ENB's extensive research), and a two page lettercolumn (with great letters by the likes of Rich Morrissey).

Since I don't have the previous Superman Giant in my collection, I can only conclude from this letters page that "Superman's Return to Krypton" (by Siegel and Boring, from Superman 141, November, 1960) and two other stories that I don't know much about--"The Phantom Zone Fugitive" and "Wizard City" (the latter being, I gather, a precursor of Kandor or Argo City in the Superman legend).

This Giant was actually issue 232, in other words the issue immediately before the big important issue--the "Kryptonite No More" issue--in which Schwartz began revitalizing Superman. It's interesting that this Giant was used to re-establish a lot of Krypton lore in the minds of new and old readers.

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 08:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
It's funny how dealers use the mint guide price as the low end in their calculations for selling good and fine copies.

It's hard to find copies of these books for under twenty dollars. I'd suggest trying to find a damaged shabby old issue, if even those are on sale anywhere. One issue just to offer a taste of the times. The collections are obviously a good way to see the stories themselves (although I've seen some reprints do a bad job on Murphy Anderson's inks), but having a copy of an actual original (whatever its condition) somehow sets the story into context.

One of the letters from Giant G-84 (Superman 239) and its response puts things into perspective as to where the Superman mythmakers were at, back in those days. Allow me to quote in its entirety...

Dear Editor:

I've been an avid reader for 15 years now, and I've enjoyed your stories very much.

However, checking over my back issues, I find that you've contradicted yourself over the years. If not that, you've got the members of the Superman family and friends doing too many things at once.

Jimmy Olsen--Back in the early '60's, in a Superman Giant, Olsen went back to Krypton before it exploded. Jor-El had finished a rocket for his family, only he did not have time to fuel it. Olsen escaped in a time ship that he had used to reach Krypton.

In Jimmy Olsen #101, Olsen goes to Krypton by a time-transporter watch. He and Jor-El did not get along. Olsen escaped with his watch. Questions: How could Olsen escape by two different methods at the same time? How could Jor-El be simultaneously friendly to Jimmy in one story and unfriendly in another?

Superman and Lois Lane: Lois Lane went to Krypton before it exploded. This was shown in a story years ago. Superman was on Krypton at the same time (see Superman #232 [ie. the previous Giant--India]). They didn't meet, though both were trying to save Krypton. The scenes took place in Kandor. However, both methods failed because Braniac shrank the city. Question: Are both devices still in the city of Kandor?

Another thing--Superman has gone to Krypton on a few occasions. Besides Superman #232 [again the reprint of "Superman's Return to Krypton"--India], he went back in a recent World's Finest. Since the one in Superman occurred first, why did Jor-El and Lara in WF, have no memory of his earlier visit?

Also, you have Jor-El so busy in the last moments of Krypton that I can't see how he accomplished all he did. He finished a robot teacher; he sent several aliens (including Mon-El) back into space; he finished writing his journal; sent his son's rocket into space; and also gave a voice tape to a fellow scientist. You sure keep him hopping.

Also, try to keep the same designs for Kal-El's rocket and his parents' clothes when the end comes. I can't see how the same rocket can change shape in minutes.

Charles C. Vornadore, Greensboro, N. C.

(When we set out to write the first in the World of Krypton series for Superman, these many contradictions--accumulated over a number of years, confronted us. It was decided that the only thing to do was to throw out part of the tales and work out the rest into a consistent whole. The first Olsen story was rejected for several reasons; the Lois tale was junked because it had Kandor stolen before Jor-El and Lara married, while the Superman tale placed it after the wedding. From now on, we'll try to keep our Kryptonian stories free from such contradictions.--E.N.B.)


This lettercol exchange gives a taste of how Bridwell operated. He's forthcoming, not dismissive, not wise-cracking (though he could write a few puns), informative, patient, and thoughtful.

It also shows that Bridwell was thinking a lot about the legacy of Superman including Krypton. The map in this Giant is a product of that thought. So too is the World of Krypton series that was appearing in the back pages of Superman. Even if Bridwell didn't write all those Krypton stories (he did write a few) he was still the main consultant and architect behind them.

We'll see more evidence of this collaboration between the Weisinger past and the 70s present when I pick up this thread to discuss another Bridwell Giant of 1971.

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 09:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
The next Giant I want to talk about is G-86.

Around this time DC was jumping up from 32 pages for 15c to 48 pages (new + reprints) for 25c. I suspect this left DC in a quandary what to do about their 64 page Giants which had been 25c. So this one was 35c, but I think one of the few Giants that was ever sold at this price. In the end DC would go the 100 Page Super-Spectacular (50c) route.

This Giant also happens to be issue 140 of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (August-Sept., 1971) and it comes right in the midst of the Kirby run when Kirby was editor on JO. But no Kirby here. Bridwell is our editor and the only sign of Kirby's Jimmy is on the contents page (with a Swan Superman). This is an All Swan, All Klein, All 1963 comic (the declared theme on the cover is "Amazing Adventures out of this World!").

The combination of Giant G-84 and this one, G-86, put me in a natural 1963 high that summer of '71. I was convinced that Hamilton, Swan, and Klein had been kings in their day (I haven't lost that impression since)--I asked for 1963 Supermans that Christmas and got them from my brother (some pretty good ones, but not 164).

Not to keep you all in suspense much longer, here's the "Table of Contents" for that ish:

Earth is shocked by raiders who are as mighty as Superman...and the Man of Steel learns they are from his own world! Only his pal, Jimmy Olsen, accompanies him on the dangerous mission to track them down!
THE DYNAMIC DUO OF KANDOR...............12
In Kandor, where he has no powers, Superman takes a leaf from the Batman's book, as he and Jimmy become Nightwing and Flamebird!
THE CITY OF SUPER-PEOPLE................21
and his super-pal are hunted by the Kandorians...and Superman condemned to death! Their crime? Trying to save the city and everyone in it from certain doom!

The Batman and Robin of Kandor return when Superman and Jimmy are called on to stop a super-thief--in a place where Superman is not super!
With the new Nighthound, Jimmy works solo when Superman lies sick in Kandor! Can a youth and a dog stop a super-powered crook?

Condemned as a criminal by a mystery alien, Jimmy is exiled to a world inhabited by grotesque copies of himself--in the wierdest forms he has taken!

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 11:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
"Superman in Kandor" (25 and two-thirds pages), by Hamilton/Swan/Klein is from Superman No. 158 (Jan., 1963); "Nightwing and Flamebird (the Caped Crimefighter of Kandor!)" (almost 18 pages if you count the two two-thirds of a page), by Hamilton/Swan/Klein is from Jimmy Olsen No. 69 (June, 1963); and "The World of Doomed Olsens" (8 and two-thirds pages) is by Swan/Klein with an uncredited writer--but we know it was Jerry Siegel because we have the LSH archives, vol. 2, in which this story is also reprinted.

Okay so you remember how I was talking about the Sad Superman and about how Superman got injured on his forehead in the July, 1971 issue (No. 140) and about how the beatings are signs of his martyrdom, and how the contusion continued into the next issues (the August and September issues, which happened to come out around the same time as this Olsen Giant)?

Okay so what happens to Superman in the first story in this collection, in the first chapter as he enters the city of Kandor, powerless? Stirred up against Kal-El by Than-Ol, an angry mob which has just pulled down the monumental statue of Superman in the city square see their "traitor" Superman and turn on him and start to stone him, one stone bashes Kal-El on the left side of his forehead (the exact same place he was injured in Superman 240). Luckily, Jimmy commandeers a Kandorian vehicle and rescues his Super-pal before things can get much worse.

"And as the car speeds away through strange streets..."

SUPERMAN: My own father's people...and they've driven me out...tried to kill me! I can't believe it...

And then the two fugitives are tracked through the forests that surround Kandor. The search party uses a pack of telepathic hounds. These hounds can find people at any distance by reading their minds to "see" where they are. in order to put the hounds off their trail, Jimmy and Superman imagine that they are back in the city far from the forest.

They have one ally in the person of Nor-Kann, a scientist living far from the city itself in his suburban mansion. With his help, the two pals assume identities based on Batman and Robin, but since there are no bats or robins in Kandor, they use the common nightwing and flamebird as the models for their costumes. With jet propulsion utility belts they fly from their subterranean Night-Cave to do battle with Than-Ol's henchmen.

In one scene as Superman muses in the gardens of Nor-Kann's mansion...he thinks, "These flowers...these birds...all just as on old Krypton! It makes me think of when I went back through the time-barrier to Krypton before it perished, and father and mother, who didn't dream I was their grown son come back through time...and Lyla Lerrol, whom I loved...and who perished with my parents when Krypton exploded..." And our editor tells us "Superman met Lyla Lerrol in "Superman's Return to Krypton" in issue #232 Giant Superman (providing the reference for the reprint but not the original issue).

Nor-Kann was a good friend of Jor-El and Lara, and he happened to be in Kandor when it was abducted by Brainiac. He acts as a replacement father for Kal-El in these stories.

Another ally proves to be Van-Zee (a Superman look-alike, distant cousin to Kal-El, married to the Earth-born doppelganger of Lois Lane, Sylvia) and his Superman Emergency Squad.

Ultimately the faithless people of Kandor learn they have misunderstood their brother Kal-El and they seek his forgiveness ( the miserable jerks ).

The second Kandor tale in this ish provides even more glimpses into the wonders of Krypton. In the search for a mysterious Super-Thief little anecdotes of the past pop up...

Like the Machine-King, a master computer that the Kryptonians had entrusted with running their political system only to their regret when the Machine-King manufactured its own Machine-Police to enforce its will.

Or the bottle city of crystal people--a shrunken community of semi-intelligent beings created by the biologist Jor-Dan, they live on minerals and would have eaten the entire planet if they hadn't been shrunken to a manageable size.

Or the Winged Ones--creatures part griffin, part pegasus, somewhat like unicorns--revered as sacred by all the people of Krypton, never to be tamed--one was used as a steed by the explorer Dakar-Ra when he stumbled upon an alien invasion at the northern frontiers of the Krypton world and he flew off to raise the alarm in the great cities to the south.

Superman is laid up with the Scarlet Jungle Fever ( that's a clever bit ), leaving Jimmy to track the Super-thief of Kandor. The Super-thief sends a telepathic hound to track Jimmy. As these hounds can read thoughts, the hound realizes that Jimmy is a good person and will be a good master and so he befriends Olsen, thus becoming Night-hound (akin to Batman's Ace the Bat-hound). Jimmy even puts a mask on the hound to disguise him (don't question it, just accept it).

It turns out that the thief makes himself super by using a ring that stores energy from Earth's yellow sun (apparently a few rays of yellow sunlight penetrate into the bottle city, enough so that when stored in the ring it acts as a kind of solar battery to power its wearer). As soon as I read that I started wondering why Superman never used this ring, either in future Kandor stories or in other stories that had him travelling to planets with a red sun--I guess one isn't supposed to ask those questions.

The last story, "World of Doomed Olsens," I won't talk much about except to observe that it tells how Jimmy was made an honorary member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. It's interesting to note that the Legion had fallen into a bad state during the last couple of years in the sixties, and had barely survived to be an occasional feature in the Superboy comic. But by this time editor Boltinoff was discovering that their was still life left in the teen team and began to feature them more and more in Superboy, and they would soon take over the book. This LSH connected story may have been featured precisely because of the rising call for more Legion content.

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India Ink
posted January 06, 2002 11:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
It may sound like sacrilege, but I liked the Jimmy in this Giant much more than the one that was available in the Kirby books.

Looking back I can see that Kirby was great, and I would have done better to buy his comics. But at the time I bought very few Kirby books and mostly stayed away from Jimmy, even though he was one of my favourite characters.

Could it be that there were others like me? Mainstream thinking consumers who just weren't ready yet for Kirby, not at DC.

It took Kamandi to turn me around, and yet when you get down to it there are quite a few qualities that Kamandi and Kirby's Olsen share.

Did DC notice a greater interest in the Giant Jimmy than the regular King Olsen?

People love to blame Carmine Infantino (the publisher at the time) for the failure of Kirby's Fourth World (forgetting that it was Infantino who launched the project in the first place), but if they really want to blame someone they should blame me.

I didn't buy Kirby's Fourth World, and I didn't show much interest in Joe Orlando's Jimmy (which immediately replaced the Kirby version)--only when writers Bates and Dorfman, with Boltinoff as editor and Schaffenberger as artist, assumed the job of keeping up the Superman and Jimmy friendship did I start to show an interest, one that continued through the Superman Family run. And why did I prefer that version? because it was closer to the one I knew, closer to the Hamilton and Swan Olsen.

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Frank Schiffer
posted January 07, 2002 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Frank Schiffer
The 70's Superman WAS great. The art, the stories. While I was out of touch with comics during most of the 70's, I collected all those back issues and read them as if they were from God! I also enjoyed the great stories from the 50's and the art of Wayne Boring. He drew the Superman I grew up with. I hope DC with do an archive of those stories.

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India Ink
posted January 08, 2002 05:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Hey! Don't take my word for it, read the whole 26 pages of "Superman in Kandor" over on the fortress link:

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India Ink
posted January 08, 2002 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Or use the fortress links for all these tales:

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India Ink
posted January 08, 2002 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Or go to the fortress network (I don't own it, I'm just a fan):

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India Ink
posted January 09, 2002 12:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Superman was 48 pages for 25c (with the exceptions of issues 245 & 251) from No. 141-153, with Superman reprints in all of them. A lot of the 40s stories were labeled as "Silver Anniversary" stories featuring material from twenty-five years prior...from 1946 and 1947-- a few other stories were from 1940-45, but almost nothing from the initial two years. In other words, stories that had a refined version of the Siegel and Shuster Superman, but also stories originally published before Jerry and Joe had departed DC over the fight for their rights.

While the 60s stories seem important to the Superman "dogma," how should we view the 40s tales? as apocrypha? Or perhaps an attempt by Bridwell to construct an image of the Earth 2 Superman.

The following exchange in the Metropolis Mailbag (from issue 153) may give some insight into where ENB's head was at...

Dear Editor:

Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson are excellent artists; however, I do wish they would start to draw Superman, his friends and foes as they were originally drawn in the '30's and '40's. I also wish Superman would have fewer missions in space and on other planets, and start fighting more criminals like Luthor and the Toyman.

Now I am going to prove to you that Superman was never a super-hero when he was a boy. In other words, he was never known as Superboy. Here are some words quoted from the first Superman story, reprinted in Superman #224: "The passing away of his foster parents greatly grieved Clark Kent. But it strengthened a determination that had been growing in his mind. Clark decided that he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind. And so was created--Superman."

So that proves that Superman began his career after his foster parents died, and as Superman, not Superboy.

Bart P. Rask, Portland, Ore.

(Your're right--and wrong! As readers of Justice League of America are aware there are two different Earths, each with its own Superman. The Earths exist in different vibrational planes. On Earth-One are the heroes of the Justice League, including Superman--the Superman of our magazine. On Earth-Two live the Justice Society members, including a Superman who resembles ours--but with differences which go back to the Golden Age stories. The Earth-Two Superman never had a Superboy career. He worked for George Taylor, editor of the Daily Star, rather than Perry White of the Daily Planet. His foster parents were John and Mary not Jonathan and Martha. He even has a power our Superman never had--to twist his features into any shape. The Earth-Two Superman is the son of Jor-L and Lora, of Krypton. As Clark Kent, he is now the Editor of the Daily Star--and married to the Earth-Two Lois Lane. He wears a different "S" symbol, too--and we're reproducing a shot of the Earth-Two Supes on this page, from the sensational story scheduled for next month's issue, to show you his insignia--E.N.B.)

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India Ink
posted January 09, 2002 12:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Only, that story never appeared in the next issue, because 254 went back to 32 pages (for 20c).

And it seems like E. Nelson Bridwell himself is both right and wrong...Fact is, even as some of the reprinted stories indicated, Clark worked for Perry White at the Daily Planet during most of the 40s (Taylor and the Star only appear in the earliest stories). There were even Superboy stories back in the 40s (in More Fun Comics).

However, it's almost certain that Bridwell knew he was bending the truth. But he was being selective for a reason--in order to construct an image of Earth-Two Superman that contrasted with the Earth-One Superman. He even attributes the power "to twist his features into any shape" to the Earth-Two Superman--a little seen power. This power was shown in one of the reprints--as well as another power, "telepathic will control"--in "The Case of the Living Trophies!" reprinted in issue 251, May, 1972, from Superman 45, March-April, 1947.

Reading the JLofA crossovers with the JSofA, the concept of Earth-Two remains rather vague for the first couple of times he shows up. It's only around this time--with the crossover from the previous summer in issues 91 & 92 that Earth-Two Superman starts to look at all different from Earth-One Superman (mainly the insignia is different, while Dillin draws them as twins), and they seem to be matched evenly power for power.

It's likely that E.N.B. motivated the changes to Kal-L which ensued through the 70s, producing the Earth-Two Superman that existed right up to the Crisis. Wally Wood's version of Superman in All-Star Comics a few years later would look very much like the Superman image shown on the Metropolis Mailbag page. And Bridwell himself would write the Mr. & Mrs. Superman stories about Earth-Two Lois and Clark, a running series in the Superman Family, set in the fifties.

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Village Idiot
posted January 09, 2002 03:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Village Idiot   Click Here to Email Village Idiot

As you're writing this stuff, you are saving it, right? When you "finish," your contributions to this thread should be re-edited into a single document and submitted to Superman homepage. I'm not kidding.


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India Ink
posted January 10, 2002 12:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Actually I'm not saving it. In fact I have no idea how I would go about that. I may decide to print out a few pages for some easy reference one day. But I imagine eventually this thread will die and delete.

Anyone's free to "steal" the things I've written (I encourage them to do so), and afterall I'm just using the texts that DC has provided.

So back to the reprints...

A couple of stories appeared on this same theme: Does Superman exist (sort of like asking if god exists or if Santa Claus exists)?

In 246 (Dec. '71) there was the charming tale, "There is No Superman!" from Superman 40, May-June, 1946 (uncredited, 12 pages). While previously, in Superman No. 242 (Sept. '71), they reprinted "The Girl Who Didn't Believe in Superman!" from Superman 96, March, 1955, with art by Wayne Boring (writer uncredited, 10 pages).

"There is No Superman" centred on Professor Whiffensniff who challenged the ridiculous stories that Lane and Kent had been writing about a supposed "Superman." While the heart-wrenching "Girl Who Didn't Believe in Superman!" told the story of little Alice Norton of 32 Chesapeake Drive who doesn't believe in Superman because she's blind.

In the latter story, Superman does everything he can to give Alice faith that he exists, but her doubt is insurmountable. Eventually he discovers that there are fragments on her optic nerve which if removed would hopefully restore her sight. But no doctor can perform such a delicate operation. Undaunted, at super speed, Superman studies to be a doctor and operates on her (using his sensitive x-ray vision). In the end Alice Norton can see Superman and becomes an ardent believer.

Another story, this one in issue 241 (August '71), is of particular interest because it's the first story that provides the address for Clark Kent. "Superman's Neighbors" originally appeared in Superman 112, March '57 (art by Boring, 8 pages) and it most certainly influenced the seventies Superman stories--especially those by Len Wein that re-established Clark Kent's address from this reprint--apartment 3B, 344 Clinton Street--and told more stories about CK's neighbors (but characters from Wein's own imagination). Like the seventies Clark, fifties Clark is shown helping the neighbors in his building, often secretly using his powers in their aid.

And "Superman's Day of Truth!" added to the wealth of Krypton lore which was being exploited in the all-new Fabulous World of Krypton stories. Eight pages, originally published in Superman 176, April '65, by writer Leo Dorfman and artists Swan and Klein, the story tells of a day of the year when both Superman and Supergirl are bound to tell the bald honest truth. Turns out this a rite that all Kryptonians must honour in memory of their great culture hero, Val-Lor...

Long ago on Krypton, a race of aliens called the Vrang invaded that great planet in the star system Rao. The Kryptonians were soon enslaved, forced to mine the "living jewels" from the Jewel Mountains--they cowtoed to their masters, never defying their overlords. But one among them, Val-Lor, would not keep silent, would not suffer the yoke of slavery. He spoke out honestly against their alien masters and led a revolt of his people against the Vrang.
And so to honour him, the Kryptonians are bound to speak the truth on this special day. And thus our story ends with Superman and Supergirl inside the bottle city of Kandor paying tribute to the statue of Val-Lor.

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posted January 14, 2002 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
Hello, everybody. This is a great thread! I hope I’m not too late to butt in.

India Ink, I really enjoy your posts. You (and the other posters) have had me rifling through my old comic collection. The story you were talking about, “Superman’s Day of Truth,” has been a favourite of mine since I was a little kid. It’s actually a powerful little tale. It starts out with a lot of genuine humour and ends up being quite moving.

To quote Superman judging a baby contest (to the horror of the babies’ mothers): “…This is the worst collection of misbehaved brats I’ve ever seen…”

Later, Jimmy Olsen introduces his new girlfriend to Superman. Jimmy says, “How’s that for a gorgeous, blue-eyed red-head?” Then, right to the girl’s face, Superman says, “Jimmy, my x-ray vision detects she’s wearing a wig and blue contact lenses. Are you really two-timing Lucy Lane for this phoney?”

Superman continues to upset people all over town, even telling Perry White his cigar smells like the city dump.

Later in Kandor (as you have said, India) we find out what is behind the tactless truth-telling of Superman and his cousin - the history of the enslavement of the people of Krypton by the ruthless Vrangs. The Vrangs took great pleasure from gunning down Kryptonians with their weapons, torturing the captive Kryptonian leaders, forcing much of the population into slave labour, and feeding the Kryptonians slop from troughs. The people were expected to scrape and beg and smile before the Vrangs on pain of death.

But one day, after years of slavery, a Vrang pointed to a youth in chains and demanded, “Who are you, stripling? Why do you not smile like the others? Are you not happy to serve us?”

The youth stood tall and said, “I will not lie! My name is Val-Lor! I hate and despise you Vrangs. I wish you were all dead!”

The Vrangs shot him to death on the spot, but Val-Lor had not died in vain. The other Kryptonians started to revolt: “While we cringed and pretended to be happy, Val-Lor spoke the truth… hurled it into the teeth of our oppressors!”

It’s a neat little story. Val-Lor’s defiant speech used to make my spine tingle when I read the story as a kid.

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India Ink
posted January 14, 2002 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Great summary Aldous--better than I coulda done. I invite any and all to contribute their recollections/reviews of these stories, since I'm just giving general surveys mostly and can't always get into these details.

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India Ink
posted January 14, 2002 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Seeing the World through Super-Spectacles

You'd think by 1970 DC would not be fiddling with the issue numbers on their titles, but I guess they were still at it, because with the DC 100 Page Super-Spectacular title they played with the digits. No use looking for issues 1-3, because they don't exist.

The first one was DC-4, Summer '71, a "Wierd Mystery Tales" collection with a cover by Berni Wrightson (DC would do to reprint this as one of their facsimile editions). Then came the "Love Stories" (DC-5) Super-Spec which was reprinted recently. Then the sixth issue was called "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" and had a nice Neal Adams cover showing a mix of JLAers and JSAers--I should think DC will get around to releasing a new edition of this one soon.

After that mostly the Super-Specs are part of the runs of regular titles. As with the next issue, DC-7, which was also Superman 245 (Dec.'71-Jan.'72). In addition to Superman himself, there were stories of Kid Eternity, The Atom (Ray Palmer), Super-Chief, Air-Wave, and Hawkman (silver age version).

Leading off the collection is another epic by Swan and Klein (and no doubt by Edmond Hamilton, though he wasn't credited in this Super-Spec), running at 27 pages, from Superman 167 (February, 1964).

Try reading the story at this link (be patient as it doesn't load so fast):

There they do indeed credit Hamilton as writer. This one confirms the greatness of the Hamilton/Swan/Klein team (not that there was any doubt). Several elements that were stirring in other stories come together here. We get a slight nod to their work over on the Legion, mention of Lexor (the planet where Lex is a hero), and more Kandor content. The mythology is firmly in place and Hamilton can now move around in it, using bits of it as he pleases.

And finishing out the issue is a ten page Prankster tale from Superman 87, Feb., 1974--"The Prankster's Greatest Role!"--by Al Plastino with an uncredited writer.

But if that weren't enough, the black and white inside back cover has pencil sketches by Curt Swan showing Superman's head in several different poses (a reference guide for other artists). The range of emotion and expression in these poses is utterly brilliant. Looking at these there can be no doubt that Swan was one of the best realistic artists in the biz (on equal footing with Neal Adams or Alex Ross).

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India Ink
posted January 14, 2002 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Seeing the World through Super-Spectacles

The next Super-Spec to headline Superman was issue 252 of Superman (or DC-13), June, 1972.

This one had a stunning Adams wraparound cover showing several DC heroes in flight (Superman being most prominent, you have to look at the whole cover to see his big body flying--later DC would put this image above the title on the Superman book).

The list of characters shown on the cover (as given on the back inside cover) were Superman*, Dr. Fate*, E2 Hawkman* and Hawkgirl*, Black Condor*, the Spectre*, Starman*, the Ray*, Johnny Quick, E1 Hawkman and Hawkgirl, E1 & E2 Green Lanterns (Hal and Alan), Lightray, J'Onn J'Onzz the Martian Manhunter, Kid Eternity, Mr. Keeper, Sir Justin the Shining Knight riding Winged Victory, Red Tornado (II), The Black Racer of Death, and Supergirl (those with an * are characters who actually starred in stories inside the book).

Leading off the book were two finds from the forties--"Powerstone" (Action Comics No. 47, April, 1942, 13 pages) and "When Titans Clash" (Superman No. 17, July-August, 1942, 13 pages). Both stories centre on Luthor's search for a mystic Powerstone with which he gains great power.

I was knocked back on my heels by this Powerstone storyline and I still regard it as one of the great Superman sagas.

And batting clean-up this ish was "Superman's Greatest Feats" from Superman 146, July, 1961, with art by Al Plastino (written by uncredited, 13 pages).

Looking back on this story, it has more meaning now then maybe it did back in the early seventies or in the early sixties when it was first printed. The basic story tells how Superman goes back in time (as he has done many times previously) expecting that he won't be able to change events (he has never been able to before) only to find that he can--he can save Krypton, save Lincoln, prevent all kinds of tragedies throughout history. Stunned by his own success, Superman returns to the present anticipating that all these feats will have turned out for nought, yet checking the history books he finds that he has indeed changed everything (and the world seems to be pretty okay still). But he puzzles out that he somehow didn't travel back in time into his universe, rather he stepped over into another twin universe's timeline and it's that one he interfered with, and in that universe time can be changed. But the longer he stays in this alternate timeline the more unsteady things become, he has to leave right away or otherwise create a "cosmic disturbance" that could destroy both universes.

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India Ink
posted January 14, 2002 11:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
Seeing the World through Super Spectacles

Most Super-Specs continued to be part of the runs of individual titles. But there were some released as stand alone 100 Page Super-Spectaculars. And Superman was the headliner in DC-18, July 1973.

Bridwell finally found a place for that story that was due to be reprinted in issue 254. At least I'm assuming so, because the pic of Superman on the splash of "I Sustain the Wings," is an exact match for the pic Bridwell ran in the lettercol of 253.

This tale comes from Superman 25 (Nov-Dec., 1943), a 12 pager written by none other than Mort Weisinger! A WW II patriotic tale, it's the sort to get the blood pumping with pride. Reporter Clark Kent is sent to Yale University on assignment for the Daily Planet as a trainee at the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command.

Co-Stars in this EXPLOSIVE 100 page extravaganza were tales of the Golden Age and of the Silver Age Atoms, TNT & Dan the Dynamite, The Hour-Man, and Captain Triumph.

A frequent reprint showed up: "Superboy's Last Day in Smallville," (from Superman 97, May, 1955, 10 pages, art by Wayne Boring).

And bringing the celebration to an epic conclusion was "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!" Originally reprinted in Superman 162 (July '63), this 24 page imaginary novel is by Dorfman/Swan/Klein. It's been reprinted elsewhere--in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told--but that book leaves the credits at Dorfman/Swan/Klein, whereas this Super-Spec provides us with a little more information (which would be obvious to a keen eye)--namely Kurt Schaffenberger drew Lois and Lana in the story.

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India Ink
posted January 16, 2002 12:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
In my younger days I was a cook in the Naval Reserve. I was often being re-assigned to one small ship or another (with crews of about twenty to thirty men) and I quickly had learned how to handle that first day on board a new vessel.

You make T-bone steaks (grilled to order) and baked potatoes for supper.

That's the secret. The reason? Well, on the first day you have a lot of planning to do, checking inventory, figuring out your menus for the next week or two, possibly ordering in supplies. There always seem to be lots of steaks in the freezer on any vessel, and there's always lots of spuds. So you take the steaks out of the freezer to thaw, and you wash the spuds and wrap them in tin-foil and put them in the oven. Then you have a good two or three hours before supper to do an inventory check, get your paper work done. And when the crew see that the new cook is serving steaks to order off the grill with baked potatoes, they instantly are won over--every hand on board a ship seems to love steak and baked potatoes. Your first day and you're an instant hero!

I told that story not just to prepare any new cooks working on small vessels, there's an analogy in there somewhere.

I think that 1971 (or more rightly the latter part of 1970 and the first part of '71) was like a first day for Schwartz and the other editors taking over Superman. They didn't necessarily know what all they wanted to do with the Man of Steel in the years ahead, they were still trying to figure out where they were at, taking stock. So what do they do? They give the readers steak and potatoes.

Look at the things that were happening in '71. Superman struggling against a powerful nemesis over several issues. Jimmy dealing with Boom Tubes and Intergangs. Lois alienated from Superman and embroiled in her Intergang related plots.

All of this is very distracting and gets our attention right away. But where are they going to go with it?

Especially Schwartz whose in the driver's seat with the main Superman title.

In a way the Bridwell reprints are an inventory of what has been done with the Man of Tomorrow in the past. Schwartz can check reader reactions to these tales. But then the Sandman Saga ends and where are we now?

This seems to be the situation immediately after the Saga. They've tried on the Sad Superman bit, the martyr angle. That's one way they could have continued to go. But at that moment (in late '71 and continuing into '72), they don't seem to have any clear plan as to just where they want to go with Superman. In fact they don't quite know who Superman is.

That's why "Must There Be a Superman?" (Superman 247, Jan., 1972) was such an important story. It's a story that strives to define Superman and set his place in the universe (the DC one that includes Green Lanterns and Guardians).

Check Maggin's own comments on this story:

But there actually were few stories like this--stories of the Superman faith. Some stories explore Krypton connections (a la the Hamilton stories of old), some re-define Clark and his environment (a la "Superman's Neighbours"). Few address Superman as saviour (a la "Superman-Red, Superman-Blue"). To my chagrin, Lexor is never mentioned in the new stories. Kandor only appears fleetingly (and no new Nightwing and Flamebird tales, at least for a few years).

Given that the reprints present these possibilities, it's interesting what Schwartz and co. chose to ignore.

Around this time, I'd say we're getting "sci-fan" Superman--meaning both science-fantasy and fandom (given Bates and Maggin started out as fans of Superman).

Despite the similarities in background of Schwartz and Weisinger (both worked with science fiction writers of major standing), the Schwartz brand of science fiction is different--tending to be more grounded in real science. But Superman's world is a fantasy world.

In this struggle to find Superman, Maggin seemed to be in the right place at the right time. On the one hand Maggin had a science-fiction bent (albeit a Kurt Vonnegut bent), but on the other hand he understood Superman.

Just what was on the menu for Superman in the seventies was subject to change...

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posted January 17, 2002 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aldous
They give the readers steak and potatoes. - India Ink

A good analogy and an interesting post.

I'm more a fan of steak and potatoes than the hand-wringing, self-pitying warbling that substitutes for character development in a lot of modern comic book stories.

Your comments about a "sad Superman" are very interesting - I'll come back to them in a moment.

The angst-ridden, self-doubting superhero thing takes great creators to pull off. It's often not done well at all. When I see it done poorly, I roll my eyes and shake my head. It's way overdone these days. When it's done extremely well (Steve Ditko's Spider-Man springs immediately to mind) it's like finding gold.

India, do you think the Superman stories we're talking about were so meaty because the writers didn't spend page after page having the heroes whingeing and hand-wringing? Maybe they did it a little, where and when appropriate, but for the most part the stories were plot-driven, ie. we were presented with a great story... we wanted to keep reading; we wanted to see how the story turned out. Who the characters were and what motivated them was always vital, of course, but they didn't wallow in it like hogs in mud - primarily, they got that story rocketing along.

I'll give you an analogy (sort of)... bear with me... I find it hard to like modern TV shows. (Yes, there are some I like, but not a lot.) They seem to have an inappropriate amount of time spent on in-depth character studies (for that, read whingeing and whining), while I'm sitting there thinking, "This is all very well, and I feel sorry for the poor sod, but when is something going to HAPPEN?!"

I contrast this with one of my favourite shows, The Fugitive (David Janssen) - the plots of these episodes are brilliant... they fairly rocket along. We don't need half the show devoted to Dr Kimble blabbering on about how scared he is, how tired of running, how stressed he is at almost getting caught. We just see his face. The guy's petrified! With one expression, he tells us volumes. And in the meantime, THINGS ARE HAPPENING! We get a great idea of the character of Kimble, but we don't need half-hour speeches every other week to tell us about it.

What does this have to do with my all-time favourite Superman ("Superman Breaks Loose," by O'Neil and Swanderson, Superman No 233)?

Damn... I have to go... Gotta drive someone to work. I'll pick this up later. I want to come back to your "sad Superman."


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India Ink
posted January 17, 2002 05:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for India Ink
I'm intrigued Aldous.

While I'm waiting for you to develop this further, I'll throw in my two cents, something that I've thought about before but which your comments sparked in my brain again.

Some years ago I saw this movie called "In a Lonely Place" directed by the great Nicholas Ray. That one stars Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Graham. There is characterization in this movie, and lots of thoughtful dialogue, but it made me think about my parents' generation--the people born of the Depression who lived and fought through World War Two.

The fact is these people suffered through a lot--and no one had to really tell each other how much they had suffered through, because it was a shared knowledge. They didn't need big long "poor me" monologues, they instantly knew the depth of personal trials.

Having gone through so much in the thirties and forties, these grown-up folks in the fifties and sixties understood the simple pleasure of just being-- no protracted discussions of motivation--

For me Batman and Superman were like my parents. It made sense to me that they didn't talk about their suffering or motivation too much. That's what made them really human in my mind. If they had spent the whole story talking about how they felt, then I wouldn't have related to them as parental figures. And that's what made their weak moments all the more poignant for being so rare.

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