MY SUPERMAN SUMMER

by Jimmm Kelly

MY FAVOURITE FUNNIES No. 10

HOW I SPENT . . .
MySupermanSummer.colour

monkberry moon delight

***

On  May 17 ’71, Apple Records released Paul and Linda McCartney’s new album: RAM

[This was the post-Beatles pre-Wings Paul and Linda McCartney, whose musical productions had a hand-made in the basement while the kids are playing sound.]

RAMNaturally, my brother brought home the album soon after it was released (if not on the day). There are many good tunes on that LP: UNCLE ALBERT . . . ADMIRAL HALSEY seemed to be my brother’s favourite at the time. Others I like are: TOO MANY PEOPLE, HEART OF THE COUNTRY and THE BACK SEAT OF MY CAR.

But my favourite was and still is MONKBERRY MOON DELIGHT. Even if I had no idea what it was all about! It has those gritty vocals and that relentless melody.

As usual, there was a lyric I got totally wrong. The lyric that goes: Ketchup (Ketchup)/ Soup and Puree (Soup and Puree)! I misheard that as: Catch Up (Catch Up)/Super-Human (Super-Human)!

***

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MY FAVOURITE FUNNIES No.10

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The Super-Spectacular
10th Anniversary Issue

Table of Contents

part i: get back

ferry cross the georgia
amazing new adventures of superman
400th anniversary issue 
the many ghosts of leo dorfman

part ii: catch-up! super-human!

don’t get left behind
the last superman giant
the two bits bargain
death of the giants 
rise of the super spectaculars 

part iii: maybe i’m amazed

the fabulous world of krypton
sad superman’s saga
the man who was sand
that’s a problem?
shocking picture stories

Special Features

my checklist: 50 light years to lexor

indirect currents: 8 days louise!

***

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part i: get back

ferry cross the georgia

In the spring of ’71, I was finishing grade 7. This was the last year at elementary school, where I was a senior. After the summer, I would move on to secondary school, into grade 8, where I would be at the bottom again.

ferryroutestovancouverislandIt was tradition at our school, as we got closer to the end before school let out in June, that every senior class would go on a field trip to the Island (if their parents signed the consent form)–leaving early in the morning on buses at the school, which would head down to the ferry dock, then on the ferry over to Vancouver Island, on the bus again to Victoria, B.C. (the provincial capital), to visit sites like the Legislature and the B.C. Provincial Museum, before making the return trip, ending up back at the school in the evening.

Being a shy kid and needing something to read on the bus so I wouldn’t have to make conversation, I went in the ferry gift shop, on our way over to the Island, and I saw some funny books behind the counter. I had gotten out of the habit of buying comics a few years before–but every now and then I’d buy one, just for the nostalgia. But really at twelve years of age and in grade 7, I was too old for funny books.

SUPERMAN 237 (May '71). Cover by Adams and Giordano.

SUPERMAN 237 (May ’71). Cover by Adams and Giordano.

ACTION COMICS 400 (May '71). Cover by Neal Adams

ACTION COMICS 400 (May ’71). Cover by Neal Adams

The two comics I selected both had Superman on the cover. These turned out to be both May ’71 cover-dated issues: SUPERMAN 237  and ACTION COMICS 400.

[According to Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics, both those comics went on sale in March, but comics always went on sale later in Vancouver and–I imagine–on the ferry the comics went on sale even later and maybe stayed on sale even longer.]

***

amazing new adventures of superman

Even though I was embarrassed to be seen by the rest of my class, reading a couple of funny books on the bus, I soon got deep into the stories and forgot about everything else but Superman.

SUPERMAN 237 (May '71) art by Swan and Anderson.

SUPERMAN 237 (May ’71) art by Swan and Anderson.

Issue 237 of the Amazing New Adventures of SUPERMAN [as it said on the cover] had a full-length story about the Man of Steel getting infected by an alien plague and exiling himself to space so he wouldn’t infect the rest of humanity–meanwhile Lois Lane is on assignment in Central America and in the path of man-eating army ants. And there’s some stereotypical banditos–but I can’t say I cared for them as villains.

Unlike the Superman comics I had bought in the ’60s, these comics gave credits. The  story in 237–Enemy of Earth–had these credtis: story–Denny O’Neil; art–Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson; editor–Julius Schwartz.

A lot of things had happened, since the last time I checked in on Superman. Clark was now working in TV for some snarky boss. More importantly the art had improved by leaps and bounds. Every panel by the Swan and Anderson team was something to admire.

SUPERMAN 237 (May '71). Art by Swan and Anderson.

SUPERMAN 237 (May ’71). Art by Swan and Anderson.

Superman had always been an emotional guy–gasping, gulping, sighing and weeping about different irritants in his life–but O’Neil gave Superman a wider vocabulary to express his introspections. The artists preserved Superman’s noble bearing–even if he sometimes seemed more hang-dog than normal. The letter column for this issue has reaction to the events in issue 233, which apparently began all these changes. Other readers were re-discovering Superman, too!

Also in this issue there’s a strange Sand Creature who has taken the form of Superman and is leaching off his powers. This was an episode in the extended series of adventures that I call the Sand Superman Saga. Of course, having read this issue of SUPERMAN, I would have to buy the next.

And that’s how I got back into reading Superman funny books full time. Turns out I wasn’t too old for them, after all.

***

400th anniversary issue

Meanwhile, the two stories in ACTION COMICS also had Swan and Anderson art. In the letter column, the fans enthused about their work. This being the 400th anniversary issue, it was supposed to be a special event, but I didn’t see anything that would set it apart from any other comic.

Duel of Doom, ACTION COMICS 400 (May '71), art by Swan and Anderson.

Duel of Doom, ACTION COMICS 400 (May ’71), original art by Swan and Anderson.

In fact, other than the remarkable artwork, this issue felt a lot like the same old Superman I had known before. The lead story is by Leo Dorfman: My Son . . . is he Man or Beast?  A European scientist, Jan Nagy [was this a sly reference to TV artist Jon Gnagy?] has died and leaves his teen-age son, Gregor, in the care of Superman. The youth reveals through flashback that one of his father’s experiments gone wrong has given him the power to transform into just about anything he wishes, at least temporarily. For some inexplicable reason he feels bad about this and blames Superman for his problems.

Gregor dies at the end, crumbling into dust, appearing as a ghost above Superman. And the Man of Steel declares that he will always remember his “son”–but we never hear anything about Gregor again.

Scene from Duel of Doom reprinted in SUPERMAN FROM THE '30S TO THE '70S ('71, Bonanza Books), p. 382.

Scene from Duel of Doom reprinted in SUPERMAN FROM THE ’30S TO THE ’70S (’71, Bonanza Books), p. 382.

I liked the back-up story by Geoff Browne much more: Duel of Doom! This is a tale of Kandor, the bottle city which contains survivors of Krypton. Two youths–one female, one male–are graduating from the University of Kandor, but they have to go through one more test–a battle of the sexes.

In certain respects, this competition is remiscent of a similar one between Lois Lane and Lana Lang when they were in Kandor that I had read back in ’67, in SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE 78 (October ’67) [Courtship, Kryptonian Style].

Of course, that earlier story never had any credits on it, but it turns out it was written by Leo Dorfman. The same guy who had written the lead story in ACTION 400–and, when truth be told, the guy who had also written the back-up story in that issue, because Geoff Browne was a pen name of Dorfman’s–derived from his son’s name–Geoff–and his wife’s maiden name–Brown. Another pseudonym he used, that appeared in other comics, was David George.

***

the many ghosts of leo dorfman

Leo Dorfman was a prolific writer (which might explain why he decided to write under other names). Of the old guard Superman writers–Edmond Hamilton, Otto Binder, Alvin Schwartz, Jerry Siegel, Jerry Coleman, Robert Bernstein–Dorfman was the only one left still writing Superman in ’71.

He’s probably best known for writing the Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue–an imaginary story in SUPERMAN 162 (July ’63). But he created loads of other classic tales and was continuing to produce entertaining adventures in the early ’70s.

RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT 32 (April '72)

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT 32 (April ’72).

Also working for Gold Key (and before that Dell and Fawcett), Dorfman  wrote many of their mystery anthologies. Uncredited, he wrote for such titles as RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT [True Ghost Stories].

On July 8th of ’71, DC would launch one of the few new titles from this era that actually had a considerably long run: GHOSTS [True Tales of the Weird and Supernatural] and Dorfman wrote all the stories for that anthology, as well. Mark Evanier reports that an editor at Gold Key told him:

Leo writes stories and then he decides whether he’s going to sell them to DC [for GHOSTS] or to us. He tells us that if they come out good, they go to us and if they don’t, they go to DC. I assume he tells DC the opposite.

Three years later, on July 9th of ’74, Leo Dorfman died. Needless to say, the news came as a shock.

By the time ACTION COMICS 400 had come out, Murray Boltinoff had replaced Mort Weisinger as editor on that title and he would be Dorfman’s editor on GHOSTS, also. In CARMINE INFANTINO: PENCILER – PUBLISHER – PROVOCATEUR (2010, TwoMorrows Publishing, pp. 124 – 125)–hereafter referred to as CIPPP–speaking about Leo Dorfman in interview with Jim Amash, Infantino said:

He was very quiet, unassuming. He looked like an insurance salesman. He and Murray would sit and plot for hours at a time. I think he enjoyed writing for Murray more so than for Mort Weisinger. Mort was hard on Leo.

In additon to writing for comics, Leo wrote detective novels, under another pen name, as well as fiction and non-fiction for all ages. Other comic book work included adaptations of movies, novels and TV shows.

In Memoriam for Leo Dorfman, AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS ('74)

In Memoriam for Leo Dorfman, AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS No. 2 (September ’74)

This In Memoriam quotes Dorfman’s brief self portrait: “. . . born too late for World War I. Noncombatant in World War II, but donated enough blood to raise a generation of vampires. Knocked around in the years between, holding down dozens of jobs while attending high school and Brooklyn College at night . . . and undertaking the start of some semblance of a writing career.”

 

***

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part ii: catch-up! super-human!

don’t get left behind

With MONKBERRY MOON DELIGHT playing repeatedly in the summer of ’71 and mishearing the lyric–catch up! super-human–I attached my understanding of it to Superman.

Here was this super-human hero who had got left behind by the times. He needed to catch up! And that’s what the new DC comics were about. Superman feeling out of it, isolated, cut off, but desperate to find a place in the new world–doing everything he could to catch up with the times, so he wouldn’t get left behind.

I needed to catch up, too. I had got left behind by these funny books and I needed to catch up. Superman was my entry back into that world, so I mainly stuck with his books, before branching out to others.

Still, as much as I was interested in the new changes at DC, I was just as curious about the funnies left behind in the past–the reprints!  These always felt like a safer bet. You were buying tried and true material–and thanks to the giant-sized format they were a good deal.

***

Original cover art by Swan and Anderson for SUPERMAN 239 / G-84(June-July '71).

Original cover art by Swan and Anderson for SUPERMAN 239 / G-84(June-July ’71).

the last superman giant

The giants weren’t as good a deal as they had been–the pages had been cut from 80 to 64–but still the comics were 25 cents. Considering regular comics had gone up to 15 cents from 12, giant-size comics were still the better bargain.

I reckon the first giant I got that year was  SUPERBOY 174 / G-83 (May-June ’71) A Collection of Super-Animals. 

The next was probably the giant-sized SUPERMAN 239 [if you want to know what happened in SUPERMAN 238, that actually came out after this issue and I’ll get to it in part iii]. This was also numbered as G-84 and featured Superman’s Greatest Battles.

The first match-up is a two-parter–Hercules in the 20th Century and Superman’s Battle with Hercules–from ACTION COMICS 267 (August ’60) and 268 (September ’60) with art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, written by Otto Binder.

It starts off with Luthor in prison. Using simple items, like an aspirin, alarm clock and shaving mirror, the criminal scientist transports Hercules from Ancient Greece into his prison cell. I always loved the way Luthor could turn the simplest items into super-scientific devices. Luthor dupes Herc into doing his bidding until the hero of legend finally cottons onto the scam. After that, Clark Kent arranges for Hercules to work in disguise at the DAILY PLANET as a photo-journalist. There he falls hard for Lois Lane, but she’s in love with Superman.

Heading to modern Greece, Hercules gains an audience with the gods who grant him their special powers. This part of the story resembles Superman’s three-part battle with Zha-Vam in ACTION COMICS 351 (June ’67) – 353 (August ’67)–also by Otto Binder and Wayne Boring. Both adventures are reminiscent of Binder’s even earlier work on Captain Marvel, who gains his powers from the gods.

Hercules in the 20th Century, SUPERMAN 239/G-84 (June-July '71), art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.

Hercules in the 20th Century, SUPERMAN 239/G-84 (June-July ’71), art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.

Now powered up, Hercules battles Superman to win Lois as his prize. The ancient hero finally succeeds in putting Superman into a deep sleep, from which he will not awake for a hundred years. However–in a true deus ex machina moment–Aphrodite intrudes as Hercules has used the powers that the gods gave him for bad deeds. Superman is revived and Hercules ends up back in Ancient Greece, having forgotten everything of the future.

The next battle is another one from Binder, Boring and Kaye which would’ve come out around the same time as the Hercules story–Titano the Super-Ape–from SUPERMAN 127 (February ’59). This reprint has a thing in common with some of those super-animals in the SUPERBOY giant, in that green Kryptonite can have an unusual effect on Earth creatures. Toto is a talented chimpanzee launched into space, but after a clash with two meteors–one uranium, the other green K–upon his return to Earth, Toto grows into the super-ape Titano.

The last duel in this collection made a big impression on me. I consider it to be the finest Superman adventure–both in story and art–because it brings together so many essential elements of the Superman world. And it does so with economy–being only 17 pages.  This is the Showdown Between Luthor and Superman, by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein–reprinted from SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63). For more on that story see 50 Light Years to Lexor.

The most important thing about the Showdown for this discussion is it convinced me there was just as much quality in the stories from the early ’60s as in the present. I became an admirer of the Hamilton, Swan and Klein team. An element of their masterpiece–how Superman is beaten down and bruised–connects with the ongoing Amazing New Adventures.

The editor of this giant and almost all of DC’s other giants was E. Nelson Bridwell–an expert on just about everything! He must’ve given a great deal of thought to the selection of the reprints and how they worked into DC’s ongoing continuity. In addition to the stories in this giant, Bridwell provides a two-page Map of Krypton (illustrated by Sal Amendola), which furher extrapolates ENB’s ideas about Superman’s lost world.

Map of Krypton, SUPERMAN 239/G-84 (June-July '71) by E. Nelson Bridwell and Sal Amendola

Map of Krypton, SUPERMAN 239/G-84 (June-July ’71) by E. Nelson Bridwell and Sal Amendola

As well, there’s a letter column where Bridwell responds to comments about the previous giant-size SUPERMAN issue (a collection devoted to Krypton).  I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last giant SUPERMAN issue of its kind that was ever published. Changes were afoot.

***

the two bits bargain

Those changes came about a couple of months after I had gotten back into DC comics. With the August cover-dated issues, DC’s regular titles jumped to 25 cents. These went on sale in June, according to Mike’s Newsstand, but later for me. The jump in price was explained in a letter from editiorial director Carmine Infantino, inside these issues.

letter.infantino

DC had not just increased the price, but they increased the page count from 32 pages to 48 pages. That meant more story pages, which were mainly reprints–although some titles provided all new material to make up the difference. Either way it was a bonus. Yes, paying ten cents more was a strain on my budget, but I was happy with the extra content.

According to Carmine Infantino [in CIPPP (2010), p. 114], Martin Goodman “pulled a fast one.” Both DC and Marvel were going to do the same–adding pages and upping their price to 25 cents. In fact, most of the Marvel titles did this for the October and November cover-dates (due to be on sale in July and August) before they quickly cut the extra pages and went down to 20 cents to undersell DC. Infantino says Goodman made a fortune by doing that–

He outsold us like crazy. He even threw a party across the street from DC to celebrate it.

Carmine reveals that both companies got information from the printer–they used the same one in Sparta–so they always knew what the other guy was up to.

Together with Jack Liebowitz, Harold Chamberlain–at Independent News, the distributor for DC–had decided on the format and price change, according to Infantino. When Marvel went down to 20 cents, Infantino wanted to do the same, saying to Chamberlain, “It’s not going to work. We’re going to get creamed.” But Chamberlain said that he knew more about this than Carmine, “We’re staying at a quarter. Our readers are loyal.” But given the cheaper price for Marvels, many opted to buy them over DC. [All quotes from CIPPP (2010), pp. 114 – 115.]

For me, Marvel wasn’t a realistic option. I had returned to DC and I was staying.

Intro for the reprints in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 94 (November '71) from R.C. Harvey's THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 148.

Intro for the reprints in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 94 (November ’71) from R.C. Harvey’s THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 148.

The 25 cent issues featured a lot of great reprints: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 94 introduced me to Sandman and Starman in their first Golden Age appearances. And other 25 centers had select tales from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. It was all new to me–and gave me a rich appreciation for DC’s storied past!

 

***

death of the giants 

NEW GODS No. 3 (June-July '71). Cover by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

NEW GODS No. 3 (June-July ’71). Cover by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

But if the 48 page comics were 25 cents, where did that leave the 64 page giant-size comics? This was a bit of a problem for DC as they had to adjust their prices. The giant-size comics ended up being momentarily pushed to 35 cents. Although in reality, there were only four such issues–three of which I bought.

The first was SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 140 G-86 (August-September ’71)I had bought the previous issue 139 [a regular 15 cent comic], which continued Jack Kirby’s Fourth World stories–but honestly the only reason I bought it was because it had Don Rickles on the cover. I had sampled some of these Jack Kirby comics in my dentist’s waiting room. I remember in particular reading the story about the Black Racer of Death in NEW GODS 3 (June-July ’71), while waiting in mortal fear for what new pain my dentist would inflict (he was not a good dentist).

SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 140/G-86 (August-September '71). Cover by Swan and Anderson.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 140/G-86 (August-September ’71). Cover by Swan and Anderson.

Table of Contents, SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 140/G-86 (August-September '71)

Table of Contents, SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 140/G-86 (August-September ’71)

But I was never a Marvel fan, so King Kirby coming over to DC had not impressed me–I always looked at his work with a jaundiced eye.

Issue 139 had been continued, so it was a surprise when the next issue was a 35 cent giant instead (but not so much of a surprise, because DC pulled this trick often). However, I was happy to get the comic, as I liked the reprints in this one much better than the new story in 139.

Two of these were Hamilton, Swan and Klein masterpieces–the first two Nightwing and Flamebird adventures [from SUPERMAN 158 (January ’63) and SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 69 (June ’63)].

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 93 (October-November '71). Cover by Dick Giordano.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 93/G-89 (October-November ’71). Cover by Dick Giordano.Reprinting JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 13 (August ’62) and 18 (March ’63)–Riddle of the Justice League and Journey into the Micro-World–by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs. Strange Adventures!

Nightwing and Flamebird were the identities that Superman and Jimmy took when they shrank down into Kandor–as the Batman and Robin of the bottle city. They were aided in their efforts by the scientist Nor Kann, a contemporary of Superman’s father, Jor-El.

A third story was the World of  Doomed Olsens which was a funny story about how Jimmy became an honorary member of the Legion of Super-Heroes–written by Jerry Siegel, but again with art by Swan and Klein [from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 72 (October ’63)–originally on sale the same month as SUPERMAN 164].

After the Jimmy Olsen giant came SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE 113 / G-87 (September-October ’71)–which had a cover too shocking to buy at the drugstore.

But I bought the last two–which also had classic stories from the early ’60s: WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 206 / G-88 (October-November ’71) and  the last in the giant series, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 93 / G-89 (October-November ’71). I had just gotten into the Justice League with issue 91 (August ’71), so I was hungry to read their best exploits.

***

rise of the super spectaculars 

What I didn’t know at the time was that DC already had another format in the wings to replace the giant-sized format. This was the DC 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR. I missed the first few issues of this format. Although, since the first was a mystery anthology and the second was a romance mag, I likely wouldn’t have noticed them in the drugstore and for 50 cents a shot, I wouldn’t be likely to blow my bank account on them.

But the third was dedicated to the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes and had a magnificent wrap-around cover by Neal Adams [a sly salute to THE BIG ALL-AMERICAN COMIC BOOK of ’44–not that I would’ve known that]. I didn’t find that SUPER SPECTACULAR for a few more years. And the numbering on these didn’t start at No. 1 either, but started instead at No. 4.

DC 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR No. 6 ('71). Wraparound cover by Neal Adams.

DC 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR No. 6 (’71). Wraparound cover by Neal Adams.

One of the amazing things about DC’s reprints was the volume of Golden Age material they produced–and not just from DC/All-American’s past, but from Fawcett, Quality and Prize. The files for these comics had long been lost or destroyed, but Infantino asked his main colour artist and production man, Jack Adler, to come up with a way of producing usable pages for reprints. Adler, being something of a genius (he’d pioneered 3-D imaging), developed his own process that could create this large reservoir of reproductions.

SUPERMAN 245/DC-7 (December-January '71-'72). Front and Back Cover by Swan and Anderson.

SUPERMAN 245/DC-7 (December-January ’71-’72). Front and Back Cover by Swan and Anderson.

After appearing as separate issues, the Super Specs started to show up within the runs of different DC titles, just as the 80 Page Giants had done before them. So the first actual 100-pager that I got came out later that year–SUPERMAN 245 / DC-7 (December-January ’71-’72).

SUPERMAN 245/DC-7 (December-January '71-'72)

SUPERMAN 245/DC-7 (December-January ’71-’72)

Among the many stories in that issue was the Team of Luthor and Brainiac from SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64).

[For more on this story see 50 Light Years to Lexor.]

Again another Hamilton, Klein and Swan epic–probably selected by Bridwell to fit in with the others he had already reprinted.

So impressed I was with the work of these guys and those comics from that ’63-’64 era, that I made a list of some SUPERMAN issues I would like. And my older brother (who had a job and could afford such things) made an effort to find many of them–presenting a stack of them to me as a Christmas present.

***

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part iii: maybe i’m amazed

the fabulous world of krypton

Just like the back-up story in the anniversary ACTION 400–about Kandor–the back-up story in the Amazing New Adventures of SUPERMAN 238–about Krypton–proved to be more fascinating than the lead story. This was in part due to the novel script by Cary Bates, but also due to the singular artwork of Gray Morrow. [I suspect that Morrow did his own colours on this story, as well as others for DC–as the unique inks and colours combine to make his art jump out on the page.]

A Name is Born, SUPERMAN 238 (June '38), art by Gray Morrow.

A Name is Born, SUPERMAN 238 (June ’38), art by Gray Morrow.

A Name is Born is presented as a tale told to school children on Krypton–so it combines elements of science fiction with that of fable.

Two aliens from different worlds happen to land on Krypton at the same time in its primordial past and, in the strange environment, they misunderstand each other’s motives and could become enemies, but end up making friends.

This fable has a twist ending [I won’t spoil it–you can read a reprint of it in the tradepaperback, SUPERMAN: THE WORLD OF KRYPTON (2008)].

That twist and the whole style of the telling makes it feel like a ’50s EC story you could have found in WEIRD FANTASY or WEIRD SCIENCE–if it was not about Superman’s homeworld.

This was one of the Fabulous World of Krypton tales, which had begun in SUPERMAN 233 and were sometimes fables like this or sometimes related to Jor-El and the House of El. In the letter column for the giant SUPERMAN 239 / G-84, responding to comments about the contradictory continuity concerning Krypton, E. Nelson Bridwell wrote:

When we set out to write the first in the Word 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 Krypton stories were obviously the assistant editor’s baby. He had served as Mort Weisinger’s assistant editor, too. And was now either assisting or co-editing with the other Superman family editors–and the go-to guy for all this Krypton continuity. The reprint selections also reflect ENB’s process of selection–what fits in this continuity and what belongs in another continuity.

***

sad superman’s saga 

Colour guide [from CIPPP] and published cover for SUPERMAN 238 (June '71), art by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

Colour guide [from CIPPP (2010), p. XVI] and published cover for SUPERMAN 238 (June ’71), art by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

Menace at 1000 Degrees–the lead story in SUPERMAN 238 (June ’71)–begins with the Man of Tomorrow at the power level of the early Golden Age Superman, able to leap but not fly. His clash with the Sand Creature in the previous issue has left him below full strength.

Swan and Anderson original art for SUPERMAN 238 (June '71) in R.C. Harvey's THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 143.

Swan and Anderson original art for SUPERMAN 238 (June ’71) in R.C. Harvey’s THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 143.

Yet Superman jumps into a new emergency without a second thought for his security and tangles with a gang of modern-day pirates who have taken over what looks like an offshore drilling platform–but this rig is drilling for magma not oil.

With hostages on board the platform (including Lois Lane), the head villain threatens to drop a hydrogen bomb deep into the Earth. What would happen then is anyone’s guess–maybe the cataclysmic destruction of our planet. Superman doesn’t want to see his adopted world go the way of his birth planet.

In the middle of this adventure, Superman has a talk with Sandy, who is a gritty sort of sod and has no interest in humanity.

Superman Breaks Loose told how this creature came to be in the first Schwartz edited issue–SUPERMAN 233 (January ’71):

In Death Valley, a scientist’s experiment with creating energy from green Kryptonite causes an explosion–Superman is caught in this explosion that throws him to the ground–a chain reaction turns all Kryptonite on Earth to iron. The Sand Creature later emerges from the sands where Superman had fallen.

Superman Breaks Loose, SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE THE SEVENTIES ('71, Bonanza Books), p. 351

Superman Breaks Loose, SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE THE SEVENTIES (’71, Bonanza Books), p. 351

Also, Morgan Edge declares that Clark Kent will be a TV reporter. This was one of the big changes that stuck for many years. It was a forward looking idea, as even then newspapers were out of date.

I missed the first four issues of SUPERMAN where the Sand Superman Saga plays out–or really three issues, because 236 has nothing to do with any of this and mostly takes place in another dimension.

But Superman Breaks Loose was reprinted in the hardcover SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE SEVENTIES (a super collection of reprints, edited by Bridwell, published by Bonanza Books), which came out later that year.

That book also presented the Pied-Piper of Steel from ACTION COMICS 398 (March ’71)–the first time Boltinoff”s ACTION acknowledges the new changes in Superman’s life.

Pied Piper of Steel, SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE THE SEVENTIES ('71, Bonanza Books) p. 332.Galaxy Broadcasting has bought out the DAILY PLANET (removing the planet symbol from the top of the building in ACTION 398).  Morgan Edge runs Galaxy–he’s sometimes portrayed as a J. Jonah Jameson type, who hates the blue and red costumed clod. Well, that’s his evil clone–later on the real Edge will turn out to have a softer side.

There were also developments in the other titles featuring Superman–WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN and SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE–but the Sand Superman Saga was contained primarily to SUPERMAN.

The conclusion to the Saga gets going in SUPERMAN 240 (July ’71) building to its ultimate end in SUPERMAN 242 (September ’71). The Metropolis Marvel is underpowered, as the Sand Creature has stolen most of his powers, looking now like a Sand Superman. The Man of Steel’s failures become frontpage news and Superman takes all the insults to heart, feeling like giving up on the ungrateful masses he has served all these years.

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the man who was sand

To Save a Superman, SUPERMAN 240 (July '71), art by Curt Swan and Dick Giordano.

To Save a Superman, SUPERMAN 240 (July ’71), art by Curt Swan and Dick Giordano.

Meanwhile, the underworld have also seen the headlines and the Anti-Superman Gang (an old nemesis, composed of commonplace gangsters) decides the city is ripe for picking without its defender. Superman has enough power to take care of some henchmen when they pull off a bank job, but the big bosses get away.

Superman and Diana Prince, WORLD'S FINEST COMICS 204 (August '71). Cover by Neal Adams.

Superman and Diana Prince, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 204 (August ’71). Cover by Neal Adams.

This is probably my favourite image of the mod Diana Prince–gotta dig those hot pants! In the same month they were getting together in SUPERMAN 241–and in another story by O’Neil–Diana and Clark were going on a date in this issue’s Journey to the End of Hope, after being fixed up by a computer dating service,. The yarn has a certain City on the Edge of Forever twist. And this being the month when DC titles became 48 pages for 25 cents, there’s also a Captain Comet and a Green Arrow reprint, both from ’52.

 

Superman gets help with his power outage from an unexpected source–the blind Chinese mystic name of I Ching. To understand who this guy is you have to know that back in ’68 Wonder Woman gave up her powers and had many adventures on Earth and abroad as the butt-kicking woman of action, Diana Prince. Diana was trained by I Ching, a kind of all-purpose, mystical blind martial arts master from the exotic east.

The saga puts Superman into a trance, but just then the Anti-Superman Gang bust in and knock out the blind mystic before he has a chance to fight back [given Ching’s heightened senses and superior fighting skills this should not have been possible]. They pistol whip the unconscious Kryptonian, but coming out of his trance-state, with just pure human grit, he fights off his attackers to save Ching’s life.

The hero wonders if he wants to be super-powerful again–maybe it’s better to live a good life as an ordinary human being. But Ching convinces him that the world needs a Superman, so they continue with the magic act and once more in a trance state, from the Man of Steel’s body, the mystic draws out his psychic form.

Rising into the heavens, the Soul Superman clashes with the Sand Superman–their two forms repel each other and Sandy falls to the Earth while Soul Man flies back into Superman’s body. The Man of Steel is now back at full power, it seems, but he’s acting loopy. Conferring with Diana Prince, Ching believes the injuries Superman sustained when he was out of it have caused brain damage. To repair the damage they seek out the Sand Superman.

They find Sandy in New York’s Central Park (where he had fallen), nearly dying. The creature is from the alternate realm of Quarrm. Formless without substance, it entered this realm through a rip in the dimensions opened by the explosion that converted all Kryptonite to iron and it sucked power from the nearest thing, which was Superman. Because of the explosion, its atoms and Superman’s are charged with opposite energies and they cannot touch without causing complete destruction.

The Shape of Fear, SUPERMAN 241 (September '71), art by Swan and Anderson.

The Shape of Fear, SUPERMAN 241 (September ’71), art by Swan and Anderson.

To cure the brain damage, Diana lures the Man of Steel into a meeting so the Man of Sand can siphon off his powers.

Superman escapes but runs afoul of another creature from Quarrm that has entered through a different hole between the dimensions, this one in Central Park. This entity has brought to life the form of a paper Chinese War Demon and as it comes close to Superman, it leaches off his power.

Beaten by the War Demon, Superman is discovered unconscious in a junkyard by Jimmy Olsen and taken to the hospital.

Now that the Kryptonian has no invulnerability, the doctors can operate on his brain.

The Ultimate Battle, SUPERMAN 242 (September '71) art by Swan and Anderson

The Ultimate Battle, SUPERMAN 242 (September ’71) art by Swan and Anderson

The War Demon comes after Superman in the hospital, but the Kryptonian is able to drain power from the Quarrm creature and just then the Man of Sand joins the battle. The two Supermen drive the War Demon toward the dimensional hole in Central Park, sending it back to Quarrm.

Superman and Sand Superman are now both at equal strength. To settle the argument between them, Ching cancels the effect of their opposing atoms and they engage in the Ultimate Battle, but the cost of their all out war is worldwide destruction. Superman sees the results of this senseless fight, yet awakens to the realization that Ching has put them both in a trance so they might see the consequences of their argument.

Sand Superman has shared the same experience and nobly chooses to surrender life on Earth and go back into Quarrm. The Man of Steel has decided not to take back the portion of power that the Man of Sand stole from him, judging that too much power is a dangerous thing. Still shaken by the visions of his psychic trance, Superman is left alone in the twilight to ponder his thoughts.

***

that’s a problem? 

Not allowing for the covers, by the likes of Neal Adams and Carmine Infantino, all of the art for the Sand Superman Saga was by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, with the exception of To Save a Superman in 240, which saw Dick Giordano inking Swan. This was a great job–one of my favourites from the series. Giordano brought out a grittier aspect of Swan’s Superman.

SUPERMAN 241 (August '71). Cover by Adams and Giordano.

SUPERMAN 241 (August ’71). Cover by Adams and Giordano.

No. 241 was the first issue of SUPERMAN to make the jump to 25 cents for 48 pages. With reprints being added, they couldn’t rightly call it the Amazing New Adventures and the New was dropped. Adding classic tales to the title allowed Bridwell to bury deeper into the mythology.
The reprints in the issue are: Superman’s Neighbors from SUPERMAN 112 (March ’57)–which establishes Clark Kent’s home address and would inspire future stories in the ’70s; and Superman’s Day of Truth from SUPERMAN 176 (April ’65)–a tale that adds to Krypton lore, as Superman, Supergirl and the Kandorians are bound to speak the truth on this day of the Kryptonian calendar in honour of the legendary hero Val-Lor–and thanks to the credits added by ENB we know that this one was by Leo Dorfman with Swan and Klein.

 

Denny O’Neil wrote all of the Sand Superman Saga. There’s not a lot else of significance that he did on Superman. Except maybe the tabloid-sized Superman vs. Muhammad Ali [ALL NEW COLLECTORS’ EDITION C-56 (’78)]–although that’s a complex matter as Neal Adams took over on writing that, in addition to the art.

And most of O’Neil’s scripts seemed to require powering down Superman, for Denny to handle the character the way he wanted. Which is always a divisive point between Superman writers. Some want to write the Man of Steel at full power, while others need to power him down for the sake of their plots.

It’s ironic that Superman Breaks Loose was supposed to get rid of the so-called writer’s crutch–green K–but in the same instant introduced another crutch to weaken Superman. So what did Superman break loose from?

After the Saga ended, it was debated in the letter columns just how much power Superman had at the end of the day.

Had Sand Superman stolen a half, a third, two-thirds of his power? And if Superman’s powers were nearly limitless then what did it mean to lose a half of that? At one point in the Saga, Superman says he used to juggle planets. Others have taken this too literally–he was overstating his powers for dramatic effect. Sometimes he was shown to push worlds around, yes, but juggling planets not so much.

It’s also pointed out that after the Saga there didn’t seem to be any consequence. Superman went right back to flying around the cosmos.

Yet, as amazing as his powers are, the Metropolis Marvel doesn’t do the kind of tricks he used to do in the Weisinger era. The barrier to Superman’s level of power would be more psychological than physical. This would be developed a few months later, in SUPERMAN 247 (January ’72), by freshman Superman scribe, Elliot S! Maggin: Must There Be a Superman?

I Ching argued there must (in 241); the Guardians of the Universe say maybe not. Even before Maggin’s story, the seeds of doubt have been planted in the Saga and Superman’s greatest limitation proves to be his conscience.

Those that don’t understand Superman say the problem with him is he’s too powerful. That not’s the problem with him, that’s the problem he struggles with. The question of power and what to do with it is the whole underpinning of the Superman story. It’s not the amount of power he has, but how he uses it. Take away that problem and you don’t have a story, you don’t have a Superman.

Or, at least, not the Superman I care about

***

shocking picture stories

COVERS.71SUMMER

For every few funny books I bought, there was always one I ought to have got but didn’t. Money was one limitation. Poor distribution at the drugstore might’ve been another. But there were many comics I passed over because the covers were simply too shocking.

SUPERMAN'S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE 113 / G-87 (September-October '71). Cover by Dick Giordano.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE 113 / G-87 (September-October ’71). Cover by Dick Giordano.

The giant comic I didn’t dare buy! Which is really too bad, because it turns out to have a lot of great Lois Lane stories inside it. But how could I ever buy it? The cover was too shocking for the drugstore! What the heck is with all the weird smooching? What’s Lois doing with that dead, green Superman? Was this a Superman comic a romance comic or some weird horror mag?

 

I couldn’t face going up to the counter with these and having the cashier look me in the face. After all, I had just completed grade 7, I was hardly mature enough to handle some of the adult content in these relevant comics.

The drugstore people all knew my parents, were chatty with them. And what would happen if my parents saw some of these daring funny books? I didn’t want them to worry I was going down a wrong path.

One issue I had to pass on was SUPERMAN 243 (October ’71). I debated buying it, but the Neal Adams cover showing Superman in a clinch with some beauty was just too adult! I found it later, in another store, where my parents never shopped–but I was always careful to hide it away under my bed. [For some reason I believed the space under my bed was a region my mother could never find in her regular cleaning expeditions.]

I rejected most of the run of GREEN LANTERN co-starring Green Arrow, because the cover art was too political or too sensational. I really wanted to read the comics with the drug theme, but how could I explain the drug abuse on the covers to my parents?

And then there was the stuff inside the comics. I usually only saw this when I had bought the funny book and brought it home, because they discouraged flipping through comics in the store–I bought most of my funnies based purely on what the covers showed.

Pied Piper of Steel, SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE THE SEVENTIES ('71, Bonanza Books), p. 335

Pied Piper of Steel, SUPERMAN FROM THE THIRTIES TO THE THE SEVENTIES (’71, Bonanza Books), p. 335

The Wierd World of Aurora ad, which ran in all the August cover-dated DC issues.

The Weird World of Aurora ad, which ran in all the August ’71 cover-dated DC issues.

I was mortified whenever I saw this. I didn’t know who the heck Vampirella was–I didn’t want to know–and I didn’t appreciate her flashing her half naked body, while I was reading my comics. Suppose my mother was looking over my shoulder just when I turned to that page? I couldn’t believe the Comics Code allowed them to print this smut!

 

I avoided horror (don’t know why, since I loved horror shows), romance (mush–that’s for girls) and war comics (give peace a chance, man, war is over), but horror, romance and war could show up in the oddest places.

Some super-human adventures can be read as allegories. A lot of Superman’s stories were allegorical in nature. Not so much about the real world, but commenting on the real world through a story intended for kids.

There’s a thesis I might develop one day that argues Superman’s power level goes up and down in correlation with the rise and fall of the United States as a world super power.

Besides allegory, the comics could get into real world situations. And there was a lot more of that in the relevant phase of the early ’70s.

I liked that.

I liked that I was reading work that was ripped from the newspaper headlines–even if DC’s stack of newspapers was left over from a paper drive three years ago.

In grade 7, we students had got stirred up about what was going on with the nuclear tests on Amchitka. That was a big movement in Vancouver in the fall of ’70. There was a rock concert held at the Pacific Coliseum on October 16 ’70, with Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs. And that led up to the Greenpeace mission and the whole foundation of that organization.

The Private War of Johnny Dune reprinted in SHOWCASE PRESENTS: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol. 5 (2011), p. 220, art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.

The Private War of Johnny Dune reprinted in SHOWCASE PRESENTS: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol. 5 (2011), p. 220, art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.

We were kids, but we wanted to be taken seriously. This was our future god damn it! I was going into high school and I was worried about the world situation. Would there be a future to look forward to?

The war in Vietnam, civil rights, pollution, women’s rights, the right to a living wage, native land claims, student protests, the back to the land movement, the population explosion, nuclear disarmament, the energy shortage, rock music.

All of these hot button issues were covered in the DC funny books of the day. The writers didn’t always have good answers–but neither did our political leaders. I just was thrilled that these issues were being raised.

I was growing up and the funny books seemed to be growing up with me. But relevant comics didn’t sell. The horror comics did well and the war comics, but social commentary funny books didn’t find an audience. Soon enough, the super-heroes went back to fighting super-villains.

The ripped-from-the-headlines sagas were tossed aside.

Still, in that summer of ’71, reality was at the forefront. Don’t get left behind.

***

SUPERMAN 242 (September '71)

SUPERMAN 242 (September ’71)

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SUPERMAN created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster © 2013 DC Comics, used here for educational and review purposes.
All on sale dates might be approximate, as provided by Mike’s Amazing World of Comics (The Newsstand) and by other sources.
All characters, logos, and images are owned and © 2013 by current copyright holders. They are used here for educational and review purposes.

Coming in the Fall . . .

As You Like It!

myff11.3stooges***

_______________________

indirect currents

myff8days.red

8 DAYS, LOUISE . . . of Summer!

QUENTIN’S THEME–DARK SHADOWS

8 MORE DAYS, LOUISE! of August . . . shadows of the night falling silently, echo of the past calling you to me . . .

On spinner racks August 7 ’69, DARK SHADOWS No. 3 (November ’69)–with a pull-out poster of  Barnabas Collins, suitable for putting up on your bedroom wall.

DETECTIVE COMICS 31 (September ’39) introduces Bruce Wayne’s fiancee, Julie Madison, as well as the Baterang and the Bat-Gyro, when the Batman follows Julie to Transylvania where she comes under the spell of the vampire called the Monk (story by Gardner Fox; art by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff). At your newsstand on August 10 ’39.

August 10 ’72, (October-November ’72 cover date). Len Wein. Bernie Wrightson. SWAMP THINGFirst issue. “Nough said.

Dell publishes the first issue of DRACULA (October-December ’62), based on the Universal Pictures version of Bram Stoker’s vampire. Rising from the grave on August 16 ’62.

August 17 ’71, in SINISTER HOUSE OF SECRET LOVE No. 1 (October-November ’71), gothic horror and gothic romance from editor Dorothy Woolfolk–with a painted cover by Victor Kalin.
 

More fanged horror comes your way on August 19 ’71 in SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN 142 (October ’71), when WGBS secretary Laura Conway comes under the sway of a vampiric villain from Transilvane.

On sale August 26 ’71 more horror haunts SUPERBOY 178, with all manner of monsters and warlocks lurking behind the cover by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.

–In ALL-AMERICAN COMICS 61 (October ’44), fifty years before, Cyrus Gold was murdered and his body dumped in Slaughter Swamp, now his reanimated corpse rises from the swamp as a lumbering pale-skinned monster, who plays havoc in Gotham City and challenges the Green Lantern–when the monster tells two hobos that he was “born on a monday,” the new villain is dubbed Solomon Grundy after the old English verse–on sale August 29 ’44–story by Alfred Bester, inside art and cover by Paul Reinman.
Try to Remember–Jerry Orbach

***

. . . try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh so mellow, the first week of September . . .

“Busy” Arnold’s Quality gets in the funny book trade with the first issue of FEATURE FUNNIES (October ’37) with Joe Palooka on the cover, on the newsstands (about) September 1 ’37.

Tower releases the first issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS and TIPPY TEEN, both cover-dated November ’65 and both on sale about September 1 ’65. 25c.

On the spinner racks September 2 ’69, a shocking story in touch with our mod, mod times–from Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano, in WONDER WOMAN 185 (November-December ’69)–Diana must save runaway Cathy Perkins from the threat of Them.

The Red Bee tangles with a Killer Fish on Lou Fine’s cover for HIT COMICS No. 5 (November ’40), at your newsstand on September 4 ’40.
Hit comics 5, Lou Fine

In The Great Clayface-Joker Feud, Kathy Kane and Betty Kane make the moves on Batman and Robin, while the Joker is angered when gangland thinks Clayface is better than him–it’s another great yarn as only Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris can tell it. [This is the fourth appearance of  Clayface, having debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS 298 (December ’61).]  Next up in the same issue: Alfred continues to imagine what might happen in the future for the Batman family and fills in the details on how Bruce Wayne Jr. was born and raised, the Boyhood of Bruce Wayne Jr. –by the regular art team of Moldoff and Paris, but the writer is unknown–cudos to him or her for a bang-up job. It all unfolds in BATMAN 159 (November ’63) at your neighbourhood newsdealer September 5 ’63. And also to be found on the stands that day . . . Adam Strange gains incredible intelligence, but when he returns to normal and returns to Earth, he brings an irradiated rock with him that gives incredible intelligence to Ira Quimby, who devises new criminal schemes that challenge Hawkman and Hawkgirl, in the double-header for MYSTERY IN SPACE 87 (November ’63).

Coming to your town on September 5 ’67: Teen pop magazines are selling in high numbers, so National Periodical Publications figures the first issue of its TEEN BEAT mag (November-December ’67) has got to be a hit–and it’s got the hit sensation the Monkees on the cover (what’s the secret side of Peter?) and stories about the Animals, the Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles–so how could it go wrong? The mag changes to TEEN BEAM with the second issue, but after that it falls off the radar like a lead zeppelin.

September 6 ’55. Bobo likes to play with his model train set, but when hijackers loot the Silver Bullet freight car, Detective Chimp gets to play engineer for real, in ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG 24 (November-December ’55).

September 7 ’61. In THE FLASH 124 (November ’61), the Fastest Man Alive enlists the Ductile Detective’s aid in discovering how Captain Boomerang is able to use boomerangs to steal, while he apparently is elsewhere–cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.
THE FLASH 124

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