Archive | Superman

It All “Ad”s Up

We sometimes have more artwork and photos than we can squeeze into the text features of our books. We’re just putting a wrap on Steve Canyon Volume 7, for example, and we have such an abundance of 1959-60 riches related to Milton Caniff and his creation that we’ll likely do a feature in this space showcasing some of the artifacts that didn’t make the cut as the book gets closer to its on-sale date.

Sifting through the files I’ve amassed related to a couple other recent books, I saw some newspaper promotional ads that we didn’t use. Here’s a “Kigmy”-related ad supporting Li’l Abner, circa 1949:

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And from that same year, an ad that does double duty, both as a promotion for Abner and as a contest pushing Proctor & Gamble products:

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I’m also partial to this 1933 ad for Tim Tyler’s Luck that we found while preparing our jumbo-sized LOAC Essentials/King Features Essentials Volume 2 devoted to Alex Raymond’s brief-but-memorable stint on that series.

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Seeing those items, and given my own soft spot for this type of material, I thought I’d sift through a batch of newspapers and see what other comic strip promotional ads I could find. The earliest one I located was from the year of the stock market crash, 1929, and is hyping Percy Crosby’s delightful and influential kids strip, Skippy:

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Fans of Gasoline Alley (myself included) may get a kick out of this 1930 advertisement, suggesting readers send in their summertime addresses and get the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delivered while on vacation in order to stay current with events in the Wallet household:

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And I was delighted to find this 1934 ad from the Asheville, North Carolina Citizen as the paper prepared to bring Little Orphan Annie into its lineup of daily comics. The ad symbolically reminds readers how “Daddy” Warbucks’s red-haired charge typically ends up in hot water :

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Not every ad was as elaborate as the Annie, of course. In 1940, when this ad promoting the Golden Age Superman was appearing in client newspapers across America, The Man of Tomorrow was scarcely two years old. How many readers in 1940 could have imagined the strange visitor from planet Krypton would still be entertaining millions, more than seventy-five years after this modest advertisement saw print?

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The sophistication and graceful action shown in this 1952 ad for Rip Kirby strikes me as resonating very closely with what Alex Raymond was presenting on the comics page as he chronicled the adventures of the ’50’s first modern detective:

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One of the strips I always enjoyed as a youngster was Andy Capp. I liked the “Englishness” of his world, its rough-and-tumble nature, and I’m heartened that Andy has successfully continued his visits to the local more than a decade after his creator’s death (Reg Smythe passed away in 1998). The copy in this 1967 ad from the Pittsburgh Press certainly reflects the tenor of those “Swingin’ Sixties” times, doesn’t it?

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Finally, here’s a March, 1971 ad for Doonesbury, only five months into its existence. It serves as a reminder of how the art style, themes, and characters in this sprawling, sometimes controversial, sometimes powerful, always-worth-reading strip have changed!

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Keep watching this space, because we’ll be back soon with, as the Monty Python troupe used to say, “something completely different” …

Superman on Campus

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He’s been called Brooklyn’s Number One Superman Fan. Our good friend Sid Friedfertig is giving a talk about the Man of Steel on Wednesday, September 16 as part of the Hutton House Lectures at Long Island University. If you’re fortunate enough to live in — or will be visiting — the area, put on your best Kryptonian attire and head out east. The lecture is free and runs from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Sid has accumulated a bevy of information on Superman, much more than he was able to fit in his introductions to our three volumes of the Silver Age newspaper strip.

The lecture will be held at Lorber Hall, Long Island University Post’s south campus in Brookville, New York. For more information, you can download the schedule as a PDF.

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Superman — Super Criminal?!

What happens when Earthmen from the future (3004 to be exact) travel back in time (to 1958 to be specific) in order to arrest the master criminal named Shark — who turns out to be none other than Superman?!!! It’ll be a while before we reprint the complete story in our Superman Sundays series, but here’s a taste in the meantime — three consecutive Sundays from June 22 through July 6, 1958. Click on each image for a larger size. (Superman is © and TM DC Comics, natch.)

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Pree-senting—Stories in Super-Scope

One of the benefits superhero fans and students of comics history enjoy as a result of LOAC’s teaming with DC is the ability to read the same basic story and plot structure presented in two different formats – the original comic book version, and the “Earth N” version that ran in the newspaper strip version.

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One of the benefits superhero fans and students of comics history enjoy as a result of LOAC’s teaming with DC is the ability to read the same basic story and plot structure presented in two different formats – the original comic book version, and the “Earth N” version that ran in the newspaper strip version.

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Man of Tomorrow Archives Volume 3 also contains the comics version of a pair of stories we carried in our Superman Dailies Volume 2:

  • “The Super Luck of Badge 77,” a Binder/Plastino collaboration.
  • And, from Action # 257, Binder/Boring/Kaye’s “The Reporter of Steel!”
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Being able to compare and contrast these five stories by reading the alternate versions contained in these three volumes is one more piece of evidence that this is the Golden Age of comics scholarship. Between DC’s Archives, Marvel’s Masterworks, The Library of American Comics, and the many other comic book and newspaper strip reprint projects underway from publishers too numerous to mention, an unprecedented amount of the medium’s history is once again in print and available for interested readers to savor. At the end of his introduction to Superman: Silver Age Dailies Volume 1, scholar of all things Kryptonian Sidney Friedfertig concluded, “It’s a great time to be a Superman fan.” I’ll agree with Sid and add that it’s a great time to be a comics fan, with the LOAC/DC collaboration offering an invaluable window into link between comic strips and comic books.

Here’s a preview of Pete Poplaski’s cover to Volume Three of the Silver Age Dailies, scheduled for release in December.

 

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Superman — missing no longer

It’s been brought to our attention that in the first volume in our Superman Siler Age Dailiesseries, the July 2, 1959 strip is duplicated and the July 1st strip is missing. Below is the missing strip. Click on it for a larger version. For anyone who wants to print out a high-res replacement page 37 to place in your book, you can download a file here.

Our apologies for the error.

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So good that it will make your eyes pop out!

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Here’s Pete Poplaski mugging it up as he gets his first look at Volume One of the Superman Silver Age Dailies series for which he’s drawing the covers. Ya think he likes it? (Keen eyes will also notice the Wurtlitzer jukebox in the background at Pete’s left, a secret sign that he is visiting his old pal — and jukebox collector — Denis Kitchen!)

Meanwhile, here’s Pete’s finished cover for the first of the Superman Sundays series (in stores in December).

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Yes, Lois, He Still Draws with Pen and Ink

For what will be the cover for LOAC’s 79th release—Superman: The Silver Age Dailies, Volume One—here are some of Pete Poplaski’s interim stages. While many artists have switched to drawing digitally, Pete’s still does it the old fashioned way on paper—first pencil roughs, then tight pencils, and finally the finished inking. The printed cover will have a slight change from this one because we’ve shifted the contents a bit. Rather than start with the “Metallo” story from late 1958/early 1959, our premiere book begins with “Earth’s Super-Idiot” in April 1959 and continues through “The Mad Woman of Metropolis” in August 1961.

Here are some of the stages of Pete’s work for the first cover, plus a sneak preview of the back cover. Enjoy!

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It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…!

When Greg Goldstein at IDW called me a few months ago to tell me “some really great news,” I could tell he was enjoying keeping me in suspense as to what that good news was.

Well, he had his fun—and deservedly so because his news, as they say, did not disappoint. After years of negotiation with the fine folks at DC Comics, now DC Entertainment, he had secured the rights for the Library of American Comics to produce the definitive archival editions of DC’s classic Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman newspaper strips.

We all fondly remember the beautiful job Kitchen Sink Press and DC did in the 1990s reprinting the first few years of the Superman and Batman strips. But that’s all there was, although the Man of Steel’s strip continued until 1966, leaving nearly twenty-five years of Superman stories missing from the established canon. Lots of comic books have been reprinted in DC’s Archive Editions, but not the newspaper strips. Add to that the Batman & Robin strip from the 1960s and the super-rare Wonder Woman daily from the 1940s…and you can see why Greg was so giddy when he called.

So here we stand at the exciting beginning of a multi-year endeavor.

First out of the gate (in July) will be Superman. The dailies will be released in three sub-sets, starting with The Silver Age (1960s), then The Atomic Age (1950s), and finally, The Golden Age (1940s). Sundays will be released in a separate, concurrent, series later in the year.

Many of the stories from the Atomic Age and Golden Age were original tales by Alvin Schwartz. That changed in 1958. Under Mort Weisinger’s editorship, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was brought in to script adaptations of then-current comic book tales. The art is by none other than Curt Swan, Wayne Boring, and Stan Kaye.

To me, it’s like discovering an entire alternate universe of the now-famous Silver Age comic book stories that I read as a kid. It’s better than an imaginary story-it’s Jerry Siegel doing a remake of his classic Superman’s Return to Krypton!…it’s Curt Swan, not Al Plastino, drawing The Menace of Metallo. Around the Library, we’ve come to think of these strips as taking place on a brand new world—Earth-N for Newspapers!

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It’s a Swan, it’s a Kaye, no…it’s a Poplaski!

The first person we contacted was Sid Friedfertig, Brooklyn’s #1 Superman Fan. Sid is probably the only person to have amassed a near-complete collection of Superman dailies. Not an easy task—many hardcore Superman comic book collectors have long searched in vain for these delicate scraps of newsprint. Sid’s graciously loaned his collection and is already busy writing introductions for each of the collections of dailies. He’s thrilled to share his collection, telling me that he always wondered why no one had ever reprinted the strips. At first he didn’t even know how long it ran. After a little investigation, he discovered that the strips from about 1942 until 1966 were never seen anywhere after their initial appearance in the newspapers. Years later, he says, “the publisher at DC confirmed to me what I already knew—they didn’t have them.”

Tom DeHaven, author of the novel It’s Superman!, is writing the foreword. For the covers, I turned to another old pal, Pete Poplaski, who created those great covers for the KSP/DC editions. Pete’s covers will reflect the Superman drawing styles and themes as they evolved over the years. Volume One is an homage to Curt Swan’s art and Ira Schnapp’s lettering design.

More on the Volume Two and the upcoming Sundays series in a couple of days. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was 8 years old again…

 

Two Birds, One Blog

During the recent LOAC mini-summit in Boston’s Back Bay, Lorraine Turner suggested that a good topic for this space would be a discussion of the questions readers might ask about my job.

I admit, I’m still mulling over how to address that topic – writing is a solitary pursuit, after all. In addition, years ago a close friend said, “People don’t want to read about writers.” I recalled my high school freshman English class rebelling halfway through John Steinbeck’s autobiographicalTravels with Charley: hmmm-m-m – maybe my friend was on to something. I don’t entirely agree with him, but I’ve come to believe it takes a writer as dynamic and entertaining as, say, Harlan Ellison to successfully fracture my friend’s rule of thumb. I have enough ego to think I do a pretty decent job of putting words into print, but let’s be honest: an Ellison I ain’t.

Recently, however, I finished reading a slender volume worth recommending to you that will also allow me to reflect a bit about how I approach my text features for LOAC titles. Submitted for your approval: Our Hero – Superman on Earth, by Tom DeHaven.

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Our Hero examines Superman’s history, his growth and evolution as a cultural icon, and his major appearances in media outside the comics (the movie serials and feature films, the live-action and animated TV series, the Broadway musical). It offers an insightful look at many of the key creators behind the Big Red S’s comics adventures – with emphasis, of course, on the amazing saga of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

I’m a long-time DeHaven reader – his novel Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies is an outstanding recreation of the Golden Age of Comic Strips and is also well worth reading – but my efforts for LOAC would put me on the side of Our Hero even if I had never previously read anything by this fine writer. The sheer volume of information DeHaven researched, read, distilled, and organized into a cohesive whole is staggering. I have a first-hand appreciation for this sort of thing, of course, and my reaction as I made my way through the book was consistently the same: “Wow!” DeHaven provides significant new information about pulp-era impresario Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, provided by the Major’s granddaughter, Nicky Brown – fascinating, not-to-be-missed stuff. And there are photos and illustrations sprinkled throughout the essay’s 206 pages.

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The book is hardly all facts ‘n’ figures. Rather, it’s a fast-paced, engaging, thoughtful assessment of the Man of Tomorrow, sprinkled with personal reflections that are insightful or humorous, sometimes both at the same time. Here is DeHaven on the gestation of the Broadway play, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman:

The songwriting team of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, who’d been successful with Bye Bye Birdie in 1960 and the musical adaptation of Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy in 1964, were looking for a next project when they asked magazine writers David Newman and Robert Benton … did they have any good ideas? It was Newman’s wife, Leslie, who suggested Superman after picking up a bunch of Action Comics from their kid’s bedroom floor. Newman and Benton thought it an inspired recommendation – this was, after all, the Pop Art era of Warhol lithographs and Lichtenstein paintings – and so did Strouse and Adams. Although usually it had taken the composers at least two years to write a score, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman was finished in just thirteen months.

After listening half a dozen times to the original cast recording, available again on CD, I think maybe they should’ve taken those extra eleven months …

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Another reason Our Hero resonates with me? DeHaven does something I continually strive to do in my LOAC work: he has found the story that makes the information compelling, and he does his usual excellent job of telling that story. No matter how impressive the research and how revelatory the new information brought to light, when an essay is written in the manner of an eighth grade social studies paper, my interest quickly wanes and I start asking myself why I’m spending my all-too-precious reading time on a snoozefest when I could be reading one of the John D. MacDonald paperback originals beckoning me from my To Be Read shelves.

Fortunately, LOAC books don’t put me in that frame of mind: our writing staff consistently delivers the goods. Jeet Heer knows how to entertain readers while he makes us all smarter about Harold Gray, Orphan Annie, and the worlds in which they both inhabit; you’ll soon enjoy the distinctive Heer touch in our first Polly and Her Pals volume, as well. Meanwhile, over in Rip Kirby, a lifetime spent inside the comics industry allows Brian Walker to write about Alex Raymond and Der Ripper with great confidence, while his work in Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Seahelped that book earn its Eisner nomination.

And me? I do my thing, striving to make readers want to keep turning the pages. I don’t want a future high school freshman English class to rebel against one of my essays the way my English class rebelled against Travels with Charley…

Read more about Our Hero here. And about Derby Dugan here.

 

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