Adventures of Superman volume 1


By Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire, Justin Jordan, JM DeMatteis, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Michael Avon Oeming, Bryan J.L. Glass, Matt Kindt, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom DeFalco, Rob Williams, Nathan Edmondson, Kyle Killen, Chris Samnee, Riley Rossmo, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sal Buscema, Joëlle Jones, Stephen Segovia, Wes Craig, Craig Yeung, Pete Woods, Chris Weston, Yildiray Cinar, Pia Guerra & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5344-8

Nearly 79 years ago Superman started the whole modern era of fantasy heroes: indomitable, infallible, unconquerable, outlandish and flamboyant. He also saved a foundering industry and created an entirely new genre of storytelling – the Super Hero.

Since June 1938 he has grown into a mighty presence in all aspects of art, culture and commerce even as his natal comicbook universe organically grew and expanded. Periodically the Man of Tomorrow has been radically rebooted such as in the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earth in 1985-86.

There were subsequent minor tweaks in that continuity to accommodate different creators’ tenures from then until 2011 when DC root-&-branch re-imagined their entire comics line once more. Superman and his universe underwent a drastic, fan-infuriating all-encompassing revivification.

Probably to mitigate the fallout DC created a number of fall-back options such as this intriguing package…

Adventures of Superman began as a “digital first” series appearing online before later gathering chapters into issues of a new standard comicbook. As conceived and concocted by a fluctuating roster of artists and writers, the contents highlighted previous eras and incarnations of the Man of Steel’s stellar career – plus some wildly innovative alternative visions – offering a wide variety of thrilling, engaging and sincerely fun-filled moments for both old-timers and neophytes to treasure.

The comicbook iteration was enough of a success to warrant its own series of trade paperback compilations which – in the fullness of time and nature of circularity – gained their own digital avatars as eBooks too.

This first full-colour paperback collection contains Adventures of Superman 1-5 (July-November 2013) and displays a wealth of talent and cornucopia of different visions, beginning with ‘Violent Minds’ by Jeff Parker & Chris Samnee wherein Metropolis is devastated by a psionic marauder able to control Superman’s actions. Nobody is aware that the doomed desperado is merely another dupe of exploitative billionaire and clandestine archenemy Lex Luthor, still looking for a way to destroy the Man of Tomorrow…

Jeff Lemire then seamlessly blends childhood daydreams with a mythic war between Superman and his entire rogues’ gallery into a heart-warming parable of kid-fuelled nostalgic inundation in ‘Fortress’ before Justin Jordan & Riley Rossmo detail ‘Bizarro’s Worst Day’ with the Man of Steel finally finding a humane solution to the recurring problem of his monstrous other…

J.M. DeMatteis, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sal Buscema play hob with our expectations as the Caped Kryptonian chases a seeming phantom through ‘The Bottle City of Metropolis’, after which Joshua Hale Fialkov & Joëlle Jones describe what a ‘Slow News Day’ means for Clark Kent, Lois Lane and the Action Ace. Michael Avon Oeming & Bryan J.L. Glass then pit Superman’s future against the security of the entire timeline when a chronal Guardian demands baby Kal-El must be sacrificed for the ‘Best Intent’

In ‘Faster Than a Bullet’ Matt Kindt & Stephen Segovia explore in epic and spectacular terms just what Superman can accomplish if he really pushes himself, even as Lois and Luther indulge in a no less astounding and deadly battle of wits and wills, after which Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wes Craig & Craig Yeung gleefully explore Lex’s obsession with murdering the Man of Tomorrow in ‘A Day in the Life’

‘The Deniers!’ by Tom DeFalco & Pete Woods delves back into Golden Age mode and whimsically sees Superman the subject of furious discussion by a coterie of ordinary Joes and doubting Thomases whilst Rob Williams & Chris Weston offer a host of last-minute rescues by the ‘Savior’ before sharing with us the Man of Steel’s proudest and most cherished moments…

‘Infant in Arms’ from Nathan Edmondson & Yildiray Cinar extrapolates on what might occur if Superman is involved in a replay of his own origins as another interstellar foundling crashes to Earth. Now the hero must save the baby from alien assassins and America’s overreaching authorities, leaving Kyle Killen & Pia Guerra to conclude this initial compilation with a thought-provoking examination of the hero’s earliest days as ‘The Way These Things Begin’ sees young Luthor setting up the new Superman to fail whilst patiently laying the groundwork for an army of allies united against the Man of Steel…

Augmented by a spectacular cover gallery from Bryan Hitch, Samnee & David Baron, Camuncoli & Tony Avina, Segovia & Jay David Ramos, Bruce Timm & Nick Filardi and Cinar & Matthew Wilson, this is a spectacular celebration of Superman’s indisputably infinite variety which has resulted in decades of sheer delight for adventure addicts and promises even more to come for future generations.
© 2013, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman Sunday Classics Strips 1-183 – 1939-1943


By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster & others (DC/Kitchen Sink Press: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.)
ISBN: 9781402737862(Sterling)                    978-1563894725(DC/KS)

It’s indisputable that the American comicbook industry – if it existed at all – would have been an utterly unrecognisable thing without Superman. Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s unprecedented invention was rapturously adopted by a desperate and joy-starved generation, quite literally giving birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Spawning an impossible army of imitators and variations within three years of his 1938 debut, the intoxicating blend of breakneck, breathtaking action and wish-fulfilment which epitomised the early Man of Tomorrow grew to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, socially reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy, whimsical comedy and, once the war in Europe and the East affected America, patriotic relevance for a host of gods, heroes and monsters, all dedicated to profit through exuberant, eye-popping excess and vigorous dashing derring-do.

In comicbook terms Superman was master of the world. Moreover, whilst transforming the shape of the fledgling funnybook industry, the Metropolis Marvel relentlessly expanded into all areas of the entertainment media. Although we all think of the Cleveland boys’ iconic invention as the epitome and acme of comicbook creation, the truth is that very soon after his debut in Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel became a fictional multimedia monolith in the same league as Popeye, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Mickey Mouse.

We parochial and possessive comics fans too often regard our purest and most powerful icons in purely graphic narrative terms, but the likes of Batman, Spider-Man, The Avengers and their hyperkinetic kind long ago outgrew their four-colour origins and are now fully mythologized modern media creatures instantly familiar in mass markets, across all platforms and age ranges…

Far more people have seen or heard an actor as Superman than have ever read his comicbooks. The globally syndicated newspaper strips alone reached untold millions, and by the time his 20th anniversary rolled around at the very start of what we know as the Silver Age of Comics, Superman had become a thrice-weekly radio serial regular and starred in a series of astounding animated cartoons, two films, a TV series and a landmark novel by George Lowther.

He was a perennial sure-fire success for toy, game, puzzle and apparel manufacturers and had just ended that first smash live-action television presence. In his future were three more shows (Superboy, Lois & Clark and Smallville), a stage musical, a string of blockbuster movie franchises and an almost seamless succession of games, bubblegum cards and TV cartoons beginning with The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 and continuing ever since. Even his superdog Krypto got in on the small-screen act…

Although pretty much a spent force these days, for the majority of the last century the newspaper comic strip was the Holy Grail that all American cartoonists and graphic narrative storytellers hungered for. Syndicated across the country – and often the planet – it was seen by millions, if not billions, of readers and generally accepted as a more mature and sophisticated form of literature than comic-books. It also paid better.

And rightly so: some of the most enduring and entertaining characters and concepts of all time were created to lure readers from one particular paper to another and many of them grew to be part of a global culture.

Mutt and Jeff, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, Charlie Brown and so many more escaped their humble tawdry newsprint origins to become meta-real: existing in the minds of earthlings from Albuquerque to Zanzibar.

Most of them still do…

However it was considered something of a risky double-edged sword when a comicbook character became so popular that it swam against the tide (after all weren’t the funny-books invented just to reprint the strips in cheap accessible form?) to became a genuinely mass-entertainment syndicated serial strip.

Superman was the first comicbook star to make that leap – about six months after as he exploded out of Action Comics – with only a few ever successfully following. Wonder Woman, Batman (eventually) and groundbreaking teen icon Archie Andrews made the jump in the 1940s and only a handful like Spider-Man, Howard the Duck and Conan the Barbarian have done so since.

The daily Superman newspaper comic strip launched on 16th January 1939, supplemented by a full-colour Sunday page from November 5th of that year. Originally crafted by Siegel & Shuster – whose primary focus switched immediately from comicbooks to the more prestigious tabloid iteration –  and their hand-picked studio (Paul Cassidy, Leo Nowak, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, Ed Dobrotka, Paul J. Lauretta & Wayne Boring), the mammoth daily grind soon required the additional talents of Jack Burnley and writers like Whitney Ellsworth, Jack Schiff & Alvin Schwartz.

This superb collection – doubly out-of-print despite its superb quality and sublime content – opens with an Introduction by occasional contemporary Super-Scribe Roger Stern, recapping the sensation and his creators, before stupendously re-presenting the first 19 complete tales of the primal powerhouse in stunning full colour.

Whether in pamphlet or local periodical, these tales of a modern Hercules exploded into the consciousness of the world. No one had ever seen a fictionalised hero throw all the rules of physics away and burst into unstoppable, improbable action on every page. In fact, editors and publishers’ greatest concern was that the implausible antics would turn off audiences. Clearly, they could not have been more wrong…

Thus most of the early episodes are about establishing the set-up of an Alien Wonder masquerading as an extremely puny human at a “great Metropolitan newspaper” whilst crushing evil as his flamboyant alter-ego. These stories are all about constant action and escalating spectacle, displaying the incredible power of the bombastic hero and man of the people…

On the first Sunday in November 1939 the parade of marvels commenced with a single introductory page describing Superman’s origins in ‘The Man of Tomorrow’ followed seven day later by initial adventure ‘Twenty-Four Hours to Ruin’ which found the Action Ace in a non-stop rush of blood and thunder whilst saving a logging concern from sabotage and hostile takeover by gangsters.

Crime segued into scientific fantasy as Superman encountered and saved ‘The Mindless Slaves of Dr. Grout’ from forced labour as the villain fomented a coup against America…

The inklings of true comicbook themes and more complex storylines arrived as Clark Kent and Lois Lane were despatched to investigate the ‘Giants of Doom Valley’: discovering a race of hostile subterranean invaders for Superman to discourage…

‘Assassins and Spies’ then took them into the most pressing concern of the era when agents of a foreign power began spreading sedition and terror on America’s shores to bolster a European war.

A mysterious mastermind used super-science, coercion, abduction and giant insects to ensure ‘The Chosen’ carried out his plans of global financial dominance before a more bucolic tale saw Superman helping Lois escape fatal consequences as ‘The Dangerous Inheritance’ left her with 5,000 acres of seemingly worthless scrubland…

Woe in the wilderness gives way to big city bombast as ‘The Bandit Robots of Metropolis’ cause carnage in search of cash, pushing the Man of Steel to his physical and intellectual limits and priming him for a landmark clash against ‘Luthor, Master of Evil’ who turns the weather into a weapon in his ongoing war against mankind.

A cunning murderer attempts to frame a professional automobile driver in ‘Death Race’ whilst a high-tech propaganda campaign seeks to destabilise the city when ‘The Committee for a New Order’ begins pirating the airwaves. As Superman crushes their campaign of terror he is embroiled in a blistering battle against vile enemy agents who know Lois is his Achilles Heel…

Another corporate assault on trade is exposed when freight drivers are poisoned by crooks whose orders are to ‘Destroy All Trucks’ of a businessman’s rivals, before a mirage-making super-villain pillages Metropolis until her galvanic guardian see through ‘The Image’

When Clark’s ‘Arson Evidence’ convicts an innocent man, his other self moves heaven and earth to exonerate the jailbird and ferret out the true fire-fiend after which – it being almost three years since his debut – Superman spent two weeks reminding old readers and informing new ones why and how he was ‘The Champion of Democracy’.

To a large extent mention of World War II was kept to a minimum on the Action Ace’s funny pages, but now ‘The Superman Truck’ – detailing how a formidable prototype military transport was relentlessly targeted by saboteurs – jumped right in with a subplot about a reluctant taxi driver enlisting in Army Transport Corps.

Tracing his induction and training, this yarn was a cunningly-conceived weekly ad and plea for appropriately patriotic readers to enlist…

Military motifs continued as a ship full of diplomats and war correspondents is set afire by an incendiary madman allied to in-over-their-heads Fifth Columnists. It’s not long before ‘The Blaze’ is in critical timberland, acting on his own deranged impulses and leaving Superman a huge job to save America’s war effort…

Showbiz raised its glamorous head when Clark and Lois were sent to cover the morale-boosting ‘Hollywood Victory Caravan’ tour, only to stumble into backbiting, sabotage, intrigue and murder at the hands of Nazi infiltrators.

Wrapping up the vintage spills and thrills is another fervent comics call to arms as Superman and Clark take a well-intentioned but lazy and perpetually backsliding wastrel in hand, shepherding him through aviator ‘Cadet Training’ to a useful existence as a warrior of Democracy…

Supplementing the gloriously rip-roaring, pell-mell adventure are spellbinding extra features including ‘How Superman Would End World War II’ (first seen in the February 27th 1940 issue of mainstream icon Look magazine), ads and a 1942 ‘Superman Pinup’.

This specific Sterling Publishing volume is a reissue of the 1999 DC/ Kitchen Sink co-production, but either edition offers timeless wonders and mesmerising excitement for lovers of action and fantasy. If you love the era or just crave simpler stories from less angst-wracked times these yarns are perfect comics reading, so this a book you simply must have…
Superman and all related names, characters and elements are ™ DC Comics © 2006. All rights reserved.

Superman the Silver Age Dailies volume 3: 1963-1966


By Jerry Siegel & Wayne Boring (IDW Publishing Library of American Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-6134-0179-4

It’s indisputable that the American comicbook industry – if it existed at all – would have been an utterly unrecognisable thing without Superman. Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s unprecedented invention was fervidly adopted by a desperate and joy-starved generation and quite literally gave birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Spawning an impossible army of imitators and variations within three years of his 1938 debut, the intoxicating blend of breakneck, breathtaking action and wish-fulfilment which epitomised the early Man of Steel grew to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, socially reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy, whimsical comedy and, once the war in Europe and the East affected America, patriotic relevance for a host of gods, heroes and monsters, all dedicated to profit through exuberant, eye-popping excess and vigorous dashing derring-do.

In comicbook terms Superman was master of the world. Moreover, whilst transforming the shape of the fledgling funnybook industry, the Man of Tomorrow relentlessly expanded into all areas of the entertainment media. Although we all think of the Cleveland boys’ iconic invention as the epitome and acme of comicbook creation, the truth is that very soon after his debut in Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel became a fictional multimedia monolith in the same league as Popeye, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Mickey Mouse.

We parochial and possessive comics fans too often regard our purest and most powerful icons in purely graphic narrative terms, but the likes of Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers and their hyperkinetic kind long ago outgrew their four-colour origins and are now fully mythologized modern media creatures instantly familiar in mass markets, across all platforms and age ranges…

Far more people have seen or heard an actor as Superman than have ever read his comicbooks. The globally syndicated newspaper strips alone reached untold millions, and by the time his 20th anniversary rolled around at the very start of what we know as the Silver Age of Comics, Superman had been a thrice-weekly radio serial regular and starred in a series of astounding animated cartoons, two films, a TV series and a novel by George Lowther.

He was a perennial sure-fire success for toy, game, puzzle and apparel manufacturers and had just ended that first smash live-action television presence. In his future were three more shows (Superboy, Lois & Clark and Smallville), a stage musical, a blockbuster movie franchise and an almost seamless succession of games, bubblegum cards and TV cartoons beginning with The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 and continuing ever since. Even his superdog Krypto got in on the small-screen act…

Although pretty much a spent force these days, for the majority of the last century the newspaper comic strip was the Holy Grail that all American cartoonists and graphic narrative storytellers hungered for. Syndicated across the country – and often the planet – it was seen by millions, if not billions, of readers and generally accepted as a more mature and sophisticated form of literature than comic-books. It also paid better.

And rightly so: some of the most enduring and entertaining characters and concepts of all time were created to lure readers from one particular paper to another and many of them grew to be part of a global culture.

Mutt and Jeff, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, Charlie Brown and so many more escaped their humble tawdry newsprint origins to become meta-real: existing in the minds of earthlings from Albuquerque to Zanzibar.

Most of them still do…

So it was always something of a risky double-edged sword when a comicbook character became so popular that it swam against the tide (after all weren’t the funny-books invented just to reprint the strips in cheap accessible form?) to became a genuinely mass-entertainment syndicated serial strip.

Superman was the first original comicbook character to make that leap – about six months after as he exploded out of Action Comics – but only a few have ever successfully followed. Wonder Woman, Batman (eventually) and groundbreaking teen icon Archie Andrews made the jump in the 1940s and only a handful like Spider-Man, Howard the Duck and Conan the Barbarian have done so since.

The daily Superman newspaper comic strip launched on 16th January 1939, supplemented by a full-colour Sunday page from November 5th of that year. Originally crafted by such luminaries as Siegel & Shuster and their studio (Paul Cassidy, Leo Nowak, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, Ed Dobrotka, Paul J. Lauretta & Wayne Boring) the mammoth task soon required the additional talents of Jack Burnley and writers like Whitney Ellsworth, Jack Schiff & Alvin Schwartz.

As seen in this volume, the McClure Syndicate daily feature ran continuously until April 1966, appearing at its peak in more than 300 daily and 90 Sunday newspapers, boasting a combined readership of more than 20 million. Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s artists Win Mortimer and Curt Swan had occasionally substituted for the unflagging Boring & Stan Kaye, whilst Siegel provided the lion’s share of stories, telling serial tales largely separate and divorced from comicbook continuity throughout years when superheroes were scarcely seen.

Then in 1956 Julie Schwartz kicked off the Silver Age with a new Flash in Showcase #4 and before long costumed crusaders began returning en masse to thrill a new generation. As the trend grew, many publishers began to cautiously dabble with the mystery man tradition and Superman’s newspaper strip began to slowly adapt: drawing closer to the revolution on the comicbook pages.

As Jet-Age gave way to Space-Age, the Last Son of Krypton was a comfortably familiar icon of domestic modern America: particularly in the constantly evolving, ever-more dramatic and imaginative comicbook stories which had received such a terrific creative boost when superheroes began to proliferate once more. The franchise had actually been cautiously expanding since 1954, and in 1961 the Caped Kryptonian could be seen not only in Golden Age survivors Action Comics, Superman, Adventure Comics, World’s Finest Comics and Superboy but also in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane and Justice League of America.

Such increased attention naturally filtered through to the far more widely-read newspaper strip and resulted in a rather strange and commercially sound evolution…

This third and final expansive hardback collection (spanning November 25th 1963 to its end on April 9th 1966) opens with a detailed Introduction from Sidney Friedfertig, disclosing the provenance of the strips; how and why Jerry Siegel was tasked with repurposing recently used and soon to be published scripts from the comicbooks; making them into daily 3-and-4 panel black-&-white continuities for the apparently more sophisticated and discerning newspaper audiences.

It also offers a much-needed appreciation of the author’s unique gifts and contributions…

If you’re a veteran comicbook fan, don’t be fooled: the tales “retold” here at first might seem familiar but they are not rehashes: they’re variations and deviations on an idea for audiences seen as completely separate from the kids who bought comicbooks. Even if you are familiar with the traditional source material, the adventures collected here will read as brand new, especially as they are gloriously illustrated by Wayne Boring at the peak of his illustrative powers.

After a few years away from the feature, Boring had returned to replace his replacement Curt Swan at the end of 1961, regaining the position of premiere Superman illustrator to see the series to its demise. Moreover, as the strip drew to a close many strip adaptations began appearing prior to the “debut” appearances in the comics…

As an added bonus, the covers of the issues these adapted stories came from have been included as a full, nostalgia-inducing colour gallery…

Siegel & Boring’s astounding everyday entertainments commence with Episode #145 ‘The Great Baroni’ (from November 25th to September 14th 1963), revealing how the Caped Kryptonian helped an aging stage conjuror regain his confidence and prowess: based on a yarn by Siegel & Al Plastino from Superboy #107 (which had a September 1963 cover-date).

‘The Man Who Stole Superman’s Secret Life’ (December 16th 1963 to 1st February 1964 and first seen in Superman #169, May 1964, by Siegel & Plastino) was a popularly demanded sequel to a tale where the Man of Tomorrow lost his memory and powers but fell in love.

When his Kryptonian abilities returned he returned to his regular life, unaware that he had left heartbroken Sally Selwyn behind. She thought her adored Jim White had died…

Now as Clark investigated a crook who was a perfect double for Superman he stumbled into Sally and a potentially devastating problem…

Episode #147 – running from February 3rd to March 9th – saw the impossible come true as ‘Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor’ (by Leo Dorfman, Swan & George Klein from Superman #168 April 1964) reveals how the criminal genius fled to 1906 and landed the job of running a prestigious San Francisco newspaper… until a certain Man of Tomorrow tracks him down…

March 9th saw Clark, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane begin ‘The Death March’ (originally an Edmond Hamilton & Plastino tale from Jimmy Olsen #76, April 1964): a historical recreation which turned agonisingly real after boss Perry White seemingly had a breakdown. Of course, all was not as it seemed…

‘The Superman of 800 Years Ago’ has a lengthy pedigree. It ran in newspapers from April 6th to May 18th but was adapted from the unattributed, George Papp illustrated story ‘The Superboy of 800 Years Ago’ as seen in Superboy #113 (June 1964) which was in turn based upon an earlier story limned by Swan & Creig Flessel from Superboy #17 at the end of 1951.

Here a robotic Superman double is unearthed at a castle in Ruritanian kingdom Vulcania, and our inquisitive hero time-travelled back to the source to find oppressed people and a very familiar inventor. Suitably scotching the plans of a usurping scoundrel, he left a clockwork champion to defend democracy in the postage stamp feudal fiefdom…

‘Superman’s Sacrifice’ was the 150th daily strip, running from May 18th to June 20th (adapted from a Dorfman & Plastino thriller first seen in Superman #171, August 1964). Here the Man of Steel is blackmailed by advanced alien gambling addicts Rokk and Sorban. They want to wager on whether Superman will kill an innocent. If he doesn’t they will obliterate Earth. The callous extraterrestrials seem to have all the bases covered and, even when the Metropolis Marvel thinks he’s outsmarted them, Rokk and Sorban have an ace in the hole…

It was followed by another tale from the same issue wherein Hamilton & Plastino first described ‘The Nightmare Ordeal of Superman’ (June 22nd to July 25th) wherein the Man of Tomorrow voyages to another solar system just as its power-bestowing yellow sun novas into red. Deprived of his mighty powers our hero must survive a primitive world, light-years from home, battling cavemen and monsters until rescue comes in a most unlikely fashion…

The author of ‘Lois Lane’s Love Trap’ was unattributed but the tale was drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger when seen in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane # 52 (October 1964). As reinterpreted here by Siegel& Boring from July 27th to August 22nd however, it tells how Lois and Clark travel to the rural backwoods to play doctor and cupid for diffident lovers, after which August 24th to October 10th offered ‘Clark Kent’s Incredible Delusions’ (seen in comicbooks in Superman #174, January 1965 by Hamilton, Swan, Plastino & Klein).

Incredible incidents begin after a visitor to the Daily Planet casually reveals he is secretly Superman. Not only does he have the powers and costume, but Clark cannot summon his own abilities to challenge the newcomer. Can Kent have been hallucinating for years? The real answer is far more complex and confusing…

A tip of the hat to a popular TV show follows as a deranged actor trapped in a gangster role kidnaps Lois and her journalistic rival, determined to prove her companion is a mobster and ‘The “Untouchable” Clark Kent’ (October 12th November 7th): a smart caper transformed by Siegel from a yarn by Dorfman, Swan & Klein from Superman #173 November 1964.

‘The Coward of Steel’ (Siegel & Plastino, Action Comics #322, March 1965) ran from November 9th – December 19th, revealing how Superman’s pipsqueak act became all-consuming actuality after aliens ambushed the hero with a fear ray.

The year changed as Lois went undercover to catch a killer in ‘The Fingergirl of Death’ (Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane # 55 by Otto Binder & Schaffenberger; February 1965), reinterpreted here by Siegel& Boring from December 21st 1964 to January 23rd.

‘Clark Kent in the Big House’ – January 25th – March 6th – was seen in Action #323 April 1965 by Binder & Plastino and found Clark in a similar situation: covertly infiltrating a prison to get the goods on an inmate. Sadly once he’s there the warden has an accident and nobody seems to recognise that Kent is anything other than a crook getting his just deserts…

There was more of the same in ‘The Goofy Superman’ which ran March 8th to April 12th, taken from Robert Bernstein & Plastino’s tale from Superman #163; August 1963. This time though, Red Kryptonite briefly made Clark certifiably insane. After he was committed and got better, he stuck around to clear up a few malpractices and injustices at the asylum before heading home…

A different K meteor caused extremely selective amnesia and ‘When Superman Lost His Memory’ from April 14th to May 22nd (originally by Dorfman, Swan & Klein from Superman #178 July 1965) the mystified Man of Steel had to track down his own forgotten alter ego…

‘Superman’s Hands of Doom’ was the 160th strip saga, running from May 24th through June 26th, adapted from a Dorfman & Plastino thriller in Action #328 (September 1965). It detailed the cruelly convoluted plans of big-shot crook Mr. Gimmick who tried to turn Superman into an atomic booby trap primed to obliterate Metropolis, after which a scheming new reporter started using dirty tricks to make her mark at the Planet, landing ‘The Super Scoops of Morna Vine’ (June 28th – August 21st) through duplicity, spying, cheating and worse in a sobering tear-jerker first conceived and executed by Dorfman, Swan & Klein from Superman #181, November 1965.

The comicbook version of ‘The New Lives of Superman’ – by Siegel, Swan & Klein – didn’t appear until Superman #182 in January 1966, but the Boring version (such an unfair name for this brilliant artist!) ran in papers from August 23rd – October 16th 1965: detailing how Clark Kent had an accident which would leave any other man permanently blind.

Not being ordinary, Superman had to find another secret identity and hilariously tried out being a butler and disc jockey before finding a way for Clark to return to reporting…

Something like the truly bizarre ‘Lois Lane’s Anti-Superman Campaign’ was seen in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane # 55 (Dorfman & Schaffenberger, January 1966). However, as reinterpreted by Siegel & Boring for an adult readership from October 18th to December 18th, the stunts produced for the Senatorial race between her and Superman are wild and whacky (and could never happen in real American politics No Sirree Bob!), even if 5th Dimensional pest Mr. Mxyzptlk is behind it all…

Running from December 20th 1965 through January 8th 1966, as adapted from a Dorfman & Pete Costanza thriller in Superman #185 (which eventually saw full-colour print in April 1966), ‘Superman’s Achilles Heel’ offered a slick conundrum as the Man of Might began wearing a steel box on his hand after losing his invulnerability in one small area of his Kryptonian frame.

The entire underworld tried to get past that shield but nobody really thought the problem through…

The end of the hallowed strip series was fast approaching but it was business as usual for Siegel & Boring who exposed over January 10th to February 26th ‘The Two Ghosts of Superman’ (Binder & Plastino from Superman #186, May 1966) as the hero went after crafty criminal charlatan Mr. Seer. Fanatical fans might be keen to see the cameo here from up and coming TV superstar Batman before the curtain closes…

The era ended with another mystery. ‘From Riches to Rags’ (Dorfman & Plastino from Action Comics #337, May 1966) has Superman compulsively acting out a number of embarrassing roles – from rich man to poor man to beggar-man and so forth.

Spanning February 28th to April 9th, it depicted a hero at a complete loss until his super-memory kicked in and recalled a moment long ago when a toddler looked up into the night sky…

Superman: – The Silver Age Dailies 1963-1966 is the last of three huge (305 x 236 mm), lavish, high-end hardback collections starring the Man of Steel and a welcome addition to the superb commemorative series of Library of American Comics which has preserved and re-presented in luxurious splendour such landmark strips as Li’l Abner, Tarzan, Rip Kirby, Polly and her Pals and many of the abovementioned cartoon icons.

If you love the era or just crave simpler stories from less angst-wracked times these yarns are great comics reading, and this a book you simply must have…
Superman™ and © 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman Chronicles volume 10


By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, John Sikela, Leo Nowak, Ed Dobrotka, George Roussos, Jack Burnley, Fred Ray & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3488-1

Without doubt the creation of Superman and his unprecedented adoption by a desperate and joy-starved generation quite literally gave birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Within three years of his Summer 1938 debut, the intoxicating mix of eye-popping action and social wish-fulfilment which hallmarked the early exploits of the Man of Tomorrow had grown to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy and even whimsical comedy, but once the war in Europe and the East snared America’s consciousness, combat themes and patriotic imagery dominated most comicbook covers if not interiors.

In comic book terms at least Superman was master of the world, and had already utterly changed the shape of the fledgling industry. There was the popular newspaper strip, a thrice-weekly radio serial, games, toys, foreign and overseas syndication and the Fleischer studio’s astounding animated cartoons.

Thankfully the quality of the source material was increasing with every four-colour release and the energy and enthusiasm of Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster had informed and infected the burgeoning studio that grew around them to cope with the relentless demand.

Superman was definitely every kid’s hero, as confirmed in this classic compendium, and the raw, untutored yet captivating episodes reprinted here had also been completely embraced by the wider public, as comicbooks became a vital tonic for the troops and all the ones they had left behind…

I sometimes think – like many others I know – that superhero comics were never more apt or effective than when they were whole-heartedly combating global fascism with explosive, improbable excitement courtesy of a myriad of mysterious, masked marvel men.

All the most evocatively visceral moments of the genre seem to come when gaudy gladiators soundly thrashed – and I hope you’ll please forgive the offensive contemporary colloquialism – “Nips and Nazis”.

However, even in those long-ago dark days, comics creators were wise enough to offset their tales of espionage and imminent invasion with a barrage of home-grown threats and gentler or even more whimsical four-colour fare…

This tenth astounding Superman chronological chronicle – collecting #18-19 of his solo title, episodes from flagship anthology Action Comics #53-55 and the Man of Steel segment of World’s Finest Comics #7 (covering September to December 1942) – sees the World’s Premier Superhero pre-eminent at the height of those war years: a vibrant, vital role-model and indomitable champion whose sensational exploits spawned a host of imitators, a genre and an industry.

Behind the stunning covers by Jack Burnley and Fred Ray – depicting our hero smashing scurrilous Axis War-mongers and reminding readers what we were all fighting for – scripter Siegel – who authored everything in this volume – was crafting some of the best stories of his career, showing the Action Ace in all his morale-boosting glory; thrashing thugs, spies and masters of Weird science whilst America kicked the fascist aggressors in the pants…

Co-creator Joe Shuster, although plagued by punishing deadlines for the Superman newspaper strip and rapidly failing eyesight, was still fully involved in the process, overseeing the stories and drawing character faces whenever possible, but as the months passed the talent pool of the “Superman Studio” increasingly took the lead in the comicbooks as the demands of the media superstar grew and grew.

Thus most of the stories in this volume were illustrated by studio stalwarts John Sikela, Leo Nowak and Ed Dobrotka with occasional support from others…

The debut of Superman had propelled National Comics to the forefront of the fledgling industry. In 1939 the company collaborated with the organisers of the New York World’s Fair: producing a commemorative comicbook celebrating the opening. The Man of Tomorrow prominently featured on the appropriately titled New York World’s Fair Comics beside such four-colour stars as Zatara, Gingersnap and The Sandman.

He starred again a year later in the sequel issue with newly-launched Batman and Robin in another epochal mass-market premium – World’s Fair 1940.

The monolithic 96-page card-cover anthologies were a huge hit and convinced National’s Powers-That-Be to release a regularly scheduled over-sized package of their pantheon of characters, with Superman and Batman prominently featured.

The bountiful format was retained for a wholly company-owned quarterly which retailed for the then-hefty price of 15¢. Launching as World’s Best Comics #1 (Spring 1941), the book transformed into World’s Finest Comics from #2, beginning a stellar 45 year run which only ended as part of the massive decluttering exercise that was Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Here – illustrated by Nowak & Sikela – the thrills begin with ‘The Eight Doomed Men’ (World’s Finest Comics #7); a tale involving a coterie of ruthless millionaires targeted for murder because of the wicked past deeds of their privileged college fraternity. This enthralling crime mystery is suitably spiced up with flamboyant high-tech weaponry that pushes the Action Ace to his limits…

Superman #18 (September/October 1942) then offers a quartet of stunning sagas, leading with the all-Sikela’s ‘The Conquest of a City’ wherein Nazi infiltrators used a civil defence drill to infiltrate the National Guard and conquer Metropolis in the Fuehrer’s name until Superman spearheads the counter-attack, whilst in Nowak’s ‘The Heat Horror’ an artificial asteroid threatens to burn the city to ashes until the Metropolis Marvel defeats Lex Luthor, the manic mastermind who aimed it at Earth.

‘The Man with the Cane’ offers a grand, old-fashioned and highly entertaining espionage murder mystery for Ed Dobrotka & Sikela to illustrate after which Superman takes on his first fully costumed super-villain after ‘The Snake’ perpetrates a string of murders during construction of a river tunnel in a moody masterpiece drawn by Nowak.

Sikela is inked by George Roussos on fantastic thriller ‘The Man Who put Out the Sun!’ from Action Comics #53, wherein bird-themed menace Night-Owl uses “black light” technology and ruthless gangsters to plunder at will until the Man of Steel takes charge, whilst in #54 ‘The Pirate of Pleasure Island!’ (Sikela) follows the foredoomed career of upstanding citizen Stanley Finchcomb, a seemingly civilised descendent of ruthless buccaneers, who succumbs to madness and becomes a modern day merciless marine marauder. Or perhaps he truly was possessed by the merciless spirit of his ancestor Captain Ironfist in this enchanting supernatural thriller…?

A classic (and much reprinted) fantasy shocker opened Superman #19. ‘The Case of the Funny Paper Crimes’ (by Sikela & Dobrotka) saw bizarre desperado Funnyface bring the larger-than-life villains of the Daily Planet’s comics page to terrifying life in a grab for loot and power, after which ‘Superman’s Amazing Adventure’ (Nowak) finds the Man of Tomorrow battling incredible creatures in an incredible extra-dimensional realm – but all is not as it seems…

Some of the city’s most vicious criminals are commanded to kill a stray dog by the infamous Mr. Z in ‘The Canine and the Crooks’ (Nowak) and it takes all of Clark and Lois Lane’s deductive skills to ascertain why before ‘Superman, Matinee Idol’ breaks the fourth wall for readers as the reporters visit a movie house to see a Superman cartoon in a shameless but exceedingly inventive and thrilling “infomercial” plug for the Fleischer Brothers cartoons then currently astounding movie-goers; all lovingly rendered by Shuster and inked by Sikela.

This latest leaf through times gone by concludes with a witty and whimsical Li’l Abner spoof illustrated by Sikela & Dobrotka. ‘A Goof named Tiny Rufe’ focuses on desperate cartoonist Slapstick Sam who plagiarises – and ruins – the simple lives of a couple of naïve hillbillies to fill his idea-empty panels and pages until Superman intercedes to give the hicks their lives back and the devious dauber the drubbing he so richly deserves……

Although the gaudy burlesque of evil aliens, marauding monsters and slick super-villains still lay years ahead of Superman, these captivating tales of villainy, criminality, corruption and disaster are just as engrossing and speak powerfully of the tenor of the times.

Most importantly all problems are dealt with in a direct and captivating manner by our relentlessly entertaining champion in summarily swift and decisive fashion. No “To Be Continueds…” here!

As fresh, thrilling and compelling now as they ever were, the endlessly re-readable epics re-presented here are perfectly presented in these glorious paperback collections where the graphic magic defined what being a Super Hero means and with every tale defined the basic iconography of the genre for all others to follow.

These Golden Age tales are priceless enjoyment at absurdly affordable prices and in a durable, comfortingly approachable format. What dedicated comics fan could possibly resist them?
© 1942, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade


By Landry Q. Walker, Eric Jones & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2506-3

As a rule, superhero comics don’t generally do whimsically thrilling anymore. They especially don’t do short or self-contained. The modern narrative drive concentrates on extended spectacle, major devastation and relentless terror and trauma. It also helps if you’ve come back from the dead once or twice and wear combat thongs and thigh boots…

Although there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that – other than the inappropriateness of striving to fix wedgies during life-or-death struggles – sometimes the palate just craves a different flavour.

Once such continued cosmic cataclysm was the exception, not the rule, and this enchanting collection first seen in 2009 harks back to simpler days of complex plots, solid characterisation and suspenseful fun by way of an alternative take on Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, late of Argo City and Earth’s newest alien invader…

After a few intriguing test-runs Supergirl began as a future star of the expanding Superman pocket universe in Action Comics #252 (May 1959). Superman’s cousin Kara had been born on a city-sized fragment of Krypton, hurled intact into space when the planet exploded. Eventually Argo City turned to Kryptonite like the rest of the detonated world’s debris, and her dying parents, observing Earth through their scopes, sent their daughter to safety even as they perished.

Landing on Earth, she met Superman, who created the cover-identity of Linda Lee and hid her in an orphanage in bucolic small town Midvale whilst she learned of her new world and powers in secrecy and safety.

In 2009 much of that treasured back-history was euphorically reinstated for a superb miniseries for younger readers with Saturday morning animation sensibilities. Kara Zor-El was recast as a plucky 12-year-old whose world was suddenly turned upside down, forcing a decidedly ordinary kid to adapt to and cope with impossible changes at the craziest time of her life…

It all begins as Superman and Lex Luthor again indulge in another life-and-death duel. The battle ends suddenly as the evil genius’ war machine is wrecked by a gleaming rocket, from which emerges a dazed girl in a knock-off Man of Steel outfit. Panicked by the press pack that converges on her, the waif jumps back and suddenly catapults into the air…

Soon however Superman has caught and calmed the careering child and explanations ensue. She’s his cousin Kara from Argo City, which escaped the destruction of Krypton by a fantastic fluke: being hurled by the blast unharmed and entire into another dimension…

The Argoans thrived in their pocket reality and watched baby Kal-El become a mighty hero. In fact, it was a message-probe aimed at him that Kara sneaked onto before being accidentally sent to Earth. It is a horrific shock to learn Superman has no idea how to get her back to them…

Marooned on a weird, primitive planet with powers she doesn’t understand and cannot control is bad enough, but discovering her cousin has no time or space to look after her is the worst. Soon, wearing a pair of awful glasses, orphan “Linda Lee” begins a new life at Stanhope Boarding School

The lessons are dull or baffling; nobody likes her; Principal Pycklemyer is a snide, snarky ass and worst of all, Kara’s superpowers keep turning off and on without any rhyme or reason. The first week is sheer hell, but ends on an up note as, after another fruitless attempt to get home, Linda heads back to the girls’ dormitory and finds a present waiting: a super-phone which can reach her mum and dad…

The Pre-Teen Powerhouse is still screwing up in class and her troubles multiply in detention when an odd green mineral interacts with a light projector in the science lab and creates an evil doppelganger.

Smug, arrogant Superiorgirl calls herself Belinda Zee and is instantly more popular. She also sets out to make Linda’s life an unending succession of petty aggravations and annoyances…

However, Belinda’s greatest scheme to humiliate Linda is foiled by a new transfer student. High-maintenance misfit Lena Thorul is a scary genius who takes an instant liking to fellow outcast Linda and saves the day with a mind-control helmet she whipped up…

Soon the weird pair are dorm-mates, even though Lena is a bit clingy and rather aggressive. She might even be preventing other students befriending Linda…

Life is never quiet and when Supergirl intercepts a glowing red meteor in space the fallout scatters scarlet debris all over Stanhope. The effect is amazing, as almost everybody develops superpowers…

Naturally Linda can’t reveal her own hidden abilities so she and a few pitiful others are quickly relegated to a remedial class for the “super-heroically challenged”. When the powers all suddenly fade, Supergirl is kept busy saving the students from their own youthful follies and is astonished to later discover the power drain was caused by Lena…

And that’s when things get truly complicated, as her solution to the on-going problem gives Supergirl the ability to time-travel and the notion that she can warn her earlier self to respond differently to the crisis…

Another day, and another disaster dawns as Linda’s experiments with Green Kryptonite – in hopes of finding a cure – instead give an alley cat incredible super-powers. As Streaky stalks the halls of Stanhope, Lena reveals her true nature and Superiorgirl is forced to choose sides…

The adventure concludes on ‘Graduation Day’ as chaos reigns and the real reason for all the incredible events Linda has endured are finally exposed. Luthor escapes jail, Streaky returns, Belinda becomes queen of Bizarro Zombies, Fifth Dimensional Sprites attack and Supergirl meets Supragirl before ending with a new trusty companion – Comet the Superhorse. Sadly he won’t be enough to aid the Maid of Might as she strives to prevent the destruction all there is…

With Reality unravelling Supergirl needs a little help and it comes from the last person she expected…

Joyous, thrilling, warm-hearted and supremely entertaining, this festival of Fights ‘n’ Tights fun is a delightful romp for youngsters and a fabulous tribute to DC’s Silver Age, and fans can also enjoy bonus features including sketch sections on ‘Redesigning Supergirl’, lovely pencil roughs and a full cover gallery.

Some characters are clearly capable of surviving seemingly infinite reinvention and the Girl of Steel is certainly one of those. Here in this charming, engaging, inspiring yarn for older kids and young adults you can enjoy a pure and primal romp: simultaneously action-packed and funny as it perfectly demonstrates how determination, smarts and courage trump superpowers and cosmic omnipotence every time
© 2009, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Time Masters: Vanishing Point


By Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rodney Ramos & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3047-0

After the cosmos-crunching Crisis on Infinite Earths re-sculpted the DC Universe in 1986, a host of characters got floor-up rebuilds for the tougher, no-nonsense, straight-shooting New American readership of the Reagan era. The decluttering exercise also made room for a few superheroes of types previously unknown at the company “Where Legends Live”.

Disgraced sports star Michael Carter came back from the 25th century to our era, tooled up with stolen technology, determined to recreate himself as a superhero. As Booster Gold he made a name for himself as a mid-level hero and supreme self-promoter and corporate shill.

Created, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens, the saga featured a brash, cockily mysterious apparently metahuman golden-boy jock setting up his stall as a superhero in Metropolis. Here he actively sought corporate sponsorships, sold endorsements and hired a management team to maximise the profit potential of his crusading celebrity.

He was accompanied everywhere by sentient, flying, football-shaped robot Skeets.

Their time came and went and Booster’s title folded, but he lived on as part of Justice League International where he became roughly half of comics’ funniest double-act, riffing with the equally light-hearted lightweight Blue Beetle.

Booster and Ted Kord (technically the second Blue Beetle) were the class clowns of billionaire Maxwell Lord’s League: a couple of obnoxiously charming frat-boys who could save the day but never get the girl or any respect.

When Lord murdered Beetle, precipitating an Infinite Crisis, Booster was shattered. Eventually, though, he recovered and redefined himself as a true hero through a succession of multiversal conflagrations. In landmark weekly maxi-series 52 and later Infinite Crisis, his intriguing take on Heroism diverged down strange avenues when Booster – traditionally only in it for fame and fortune – became a secret saviour, repairing the cracks in Reality caused by all the universe-warping shenanigans of myriad multiversal Crises and uncontrolled time-travel.

Working at the instruction of enigmatic and irascible mentor Rip Hunter: Time Master, Booster relinquished his dreams of glory to secretly save us all over and over and over again as the protector of the time-line, battling incredible odds to keep history on track and continuity in order.

This time-bending full-colour collection gathers 6-issue miniseries Time Masters: Vanishing Point (from September 2010-February 2011), detailing how Rip, Booster and Skeets steer a small posse of superheroes through the uncanny and lethally mutable corridors of time in search of a missing comrade vital to the existence of everything…

At the climax of a harrowing campaign of terror by The Black Hand and following Earth’s invasion by the New Gods of Apokolips, Batman was apparently killed at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis

The world at large was unaware of the loss, leaving the superhero community to mourn in secret whilst a dedicated army of assistants, protégés and allies – trained over years by the contingency-obsessed Dark Knight – formed the Network to police Gotham City in the days which followed: marking time until a successor could be found or the original restored…

Most of the Bat-schooled battalion refused to believe their inspirational mentor dead. On the understanding that he was merely lost, they eventually accepted Dick Grayson (the first Robin and latterly Nightwing) as a stand-in until Bruce Wayne could find his way back to them. The more cosmically endowed super-friends weren’t prepared to wait, however…

Batman, of course, is the most brilliant escape artist of all time and even whilst being struck down by the New God of Evil had devised an impossibly complex and grandly far-reaching scheme to beat the devil and save the world…

The chronally-fluctuating epic opens with elderly time guardian Booster sharing a few moments of educational bonding time with his son before Rip Hunter shakes off the happy memories and gets back to the immediate task at hand: reminding Superman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and a blithely oblivious prime-of-life Booster of the dangers involved in interfering in historical events, no matter how tragic or cruel they might be…

Meanwhile, at the End of Time mystery hero Supernova is finding inviolate citadel Vanishing Point has been destroyed by incalculable forces and, after consulting with his unseen boss, grimly sets off in search of Rip…

The rescue mission for Bruce Wayne is Hunter’s idea. He tracked the hero to various time periods, where the Dark Knight briefly materialised before plunging back into the time stream again. Rip now hopes to extract him with the assistance of some of the Gotham Guardian’s oldest allies, before his random trajectory causes irreparable damage. He also fears enemy interference from enemies as yet unknown…

In Rip’s 21st century Arizona lab, Booster’s sister Michelle is confronted by two likely suspects as “Time Stealers” Per Degaton and Despero break in. The battle looks lost until Supernova arrives to turn the tables, but after driving off the villains the mystery man vanishes; still intent on finding the reason for Vanishing Point’s destruction and the time-stream’s increasing instability…

In the 15th century the rescue squad’s search ends in frustration, but as Rip prepares to bring them home a chronal disruption seizes them, propelling them all on an uncontrolled trip through time and also across dimensions…

On arrival Rip is confronted by a barbarian warrior with a demonic right hand (DC’s short-lived 1970s sword-&-sorcery star Claw the Unconquered), and Hunter’s thoughts go back to another salutary lesson delivered by his father on the crucial nature of his self-appointed mission. After a short battle he finally convinces the enraged swordsman that he is neither wizard nor foe.

As they join forces against a common threat, in another time and place Booster, Superman and Green Lantern have arrived in the middle of a war between humans and aliens. Unable to obey Hunter’s admonition not to get involved, the heroes engage the invading Mygorgs, unaware that in a distant time-pocket Degaton and Despero have met with their allies Ultra-Humanite and Black Beetle.

The consensus is that some outside force is destabilising time and it must be stopped if their own plans for domination are to succeed…

The superheroes’ resistance ends when Booster encounters a sword-wielding woman warrior named Starfire (another star of DC’s short 1970’s dalliance with sword-&-sorcery) and a tenuous alliance is formed just as a dragon-riding witch captures Superman and Green Lantern…

Although separated by dimensional walls, both Rip and Claw and Booster’s team are facing similar perils: held by unearthly wizard Serhattu and his accomplice sorceress Skyle whilst the mage attempts to control of time and escape his extra-dimensional realm using the out-worlders’ science…

And in the ruins of Vanishing Point, the Time Stealers find a cell and free Hunter’s greatest foes: former comrades and fellow Linear Men Matthew Rider and Liri Lee

As Serhattu and Skyle prepare their campaign of conquest and their captives struggle against mind-bending mystic shackles, at Vanishing Point Supernova attacks but is unable to stop the Linear Men and Time Stealers getting away.

In the other-dimensional realm, Hunter takes a huge chance and the heroes escape imprisonment but are sucked into a time vortex. The gamble succeeds and the liberated champions recover in time to chase Serhattu and Skyle to the site of the first Atomic Bomb test and stop their attempt to steal the awesome unknown power for themselves.

After returning Starfire, Claw and the mages to their rightful places, the heroes press on, unaware that the Black Beetle has betrayed the Time Stealers and Linear Men to steal the time-warping powers locked in remains of chronal-energy being Waverider

Hunter’s team are again diverted however by time-travelling psychopath Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash who wants the Omega energy causing Batman’s time-ricochets for his own…

As they battle the super-fast maniac, elsewhen Supernova attacks Black Beetle, and another player co-opts the Waverider power. With time in flux the battles bleed into one another and Hunter’s heroes meet the Time Stealers, Linear Man and Supernova for one final catastrophic clash…

Fast-paced, deviously compelling and extraordinarily convoluted, this is the kind of Fights ‘n’ Tights clash die-hard comic fans live for: a complex saga full of fights, inside jokes or references and impossible situations all surmounted by bold heroes in full saviour mode. It’s just a pure shame that such excellent work excludes so many readers who would certainly enjoy it if only they had the neceassry background history to hand.

Furious fun and thrills for those in the know, or anyone willing to trade comprehension for non-stop action…
© 2010, 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Batman Adventures volume 3


By Kelley Puckett, Paul Dini, Mike Parobeck & Rick Burchett with Michael Reaves, Bruce Timm, Matt Wagner, Klaus Janson, Dan DeCarlo, John Byrne & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5872-6

The brainchild of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Batman: The Animated Series aired in the US from September 5th 1992 to September 15th 1995. The TV cartoon – ostensibly for kids – revolutionised everybody’s image of the Dark Knight and inevitably fed back into the printed iterations, leading to some of the absolute best comicbook tales in the hero’s many decades of existence.

Employing a timeless visual style dubbed “Dark Deco”, the show mixed elements from all eras of the character and, without diluting the power, tone or mood of the premise, re-honed the grim avenger and his team into a wholly accessible, thematically memorable form.

It entranced young fans whilst adding shades of exuberance and panache that only the most devout and obsessive Batmaniac could possibly object to.

A faithful comicbook translation was prime material for collection in the newly-emergent trade paperback market but only the first year was ever released, plus miniseries such as Batman: Gotham Adventures and Batman Adventures: the Lost Years.

Nowadays, however, we’re much more evolved and reprint collections have established a solid niche amongst the cognoscenti and younger readers…

This third inclusive compendium gathers issues #21-27 of The Batman Adventures comicbook (originally published from June to December 1994) plus that year’s Batman Adventures Annual: a scintillating, no-nonsense frenzy of family-friendly Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy from Kelly Puckett, Mike Parobeck & Rick Burchett and a few fellow-pros-turned-fans…

Puckett is a writer who truly grasps the visual nature of the medium and his stories are always fast-paced, action packed and stripped down to the barest of essential dialogue. This skill has never been better exploited than by Parobeck who was at that time a rising star, especially when graced by Burchett’s slick, clean inking.

Although his professional career was tragically short (1989 to 1996 when he died, aged 31, from complications of Type 1 Diabetes) Parobeck’s gracefully fluid, exuberantly kinetic, frenetically fun-fuelled, animation-inspired style revolutionised superhero action drawing and sparked a renaissance in kid-friendly material and merchandise at DC… and everywhere else in the comics publishing business.

The wall to wall wonderment begins with the contents of Batman Adventures Annual #1: a giant-sized gathering of industry stars illustrating Paul Dini’s episodic, interlinked saga ‘Going Straight’.

Illustrators Timm & Burchett set the ball rolling as jet-propelled bandit Roxy Rocket is released from prison, prompting Batman and faithful retainer Alfred to discuss whether any villains ever reform…

Apparently one who almost made it was Arnold Wesker, who played mute Ventriloquist to his malign dummy Scarface. Tragically in ‘Puppet Show’ (art by Parobeck & Matt Wagner) we see how even a good job and the best of intentions are no defence when Arnold’s new boss wants to exploit his criminal past…

Harley Quinn is insanely devoted to killer clown The Joker and Dan DeCarlo & Timm wordlessly expose her profound weakness for that bad boy as she’s released from Arkham Asylum but is seduced back into committing crazy crimes in just ‘24 Hours’

The Scarecrow’s return to terrorising the helpless resulted from his genuine desire to help a girl assaulted by her would-be boyfriend in the chilling, poignant ‘Study Hall’ (with art by Klaus Janson), after which ‘Going Straight’ concludes with Timm detailing how Roxy Rocket is framed by Catwoman and Batman has to separate the warring female furies…

The melange of mayhem even came with its own enthralling encore with The Joker solo-starring in ‘Laughter After Midnight’ as the Mountebank of Mirth goes on a spree in Gotham, courtesy of artists John Byrne & Burchett…

The Batman Adventures #21 then saw Michael Reaves join Kelley Puckett to script tense thriller ‘House of Dorian’ for Parobeck & Burchett as deranged geneticist Emile Dorian escapes from Arkham and immediately turns Kirk Langstrom back into the marauding Man-Bat.

Moreover, although the Mad Doctor’s freedom is bad news for Gotham, Langstrom and Dorian’s previous beast-man Tygrus; for a desperate fugitive afflicted with lycanthropy, the insane physician is his last chance at a cure for his curse…

Dorian couldn’t care less. All he wants is revenge on Batman and Selina Kyle…

Like the show, most stories were crafted as a three-act plays and the conceit resumes with #22 as Puckett, Parobeck & Burchett settle in for the long haul.

‘Good Face Bad Face’ sees the return of Two-Face; also busting out of Arkham in ‘Harvey Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ to settle scores with Gotham’s top mobster Rupert Thorne. His first move is to set free his gang in ‘Nor Iron Bars a Cage’, but this time Batman is waiting…

Poison Ivy is back in #23, spreading ‘Toxic Shock’ as she teams up with the Dark Knight in ‘Strange Bedfellows’ to save a famed botanist and ecologist dying from a mystery toxin. ‘Fighting Poison with Poison’, she and Batman search for a cure, forcing the mystery assassin into more prosaic methods in ‘How Deadly Was my Valley’

‘Grave Obligations’ sees the Gotham Guardian’s past come back to haunt him when a ninja clan invades the city. They seem more concerned with fighting each other in ‘Brother’s Keeper’, but a little digging reveals how one has come ‘From Tokyo, With Death’ in mind for Batman, and it takes the force of a much higher authority to halt the chaos in ‘Cancelled Debts’

An inevitable team-up graces Batman Adventures #25 as Puckett, Parobeck & Burchett reintroduce legendary ‘Super Friends’.

With Lex Luthor in town and bidding against Waynetech for a military contract, a mystery bombing campaign begins in ‘Tik, Tik, Tik…’

Even as unwelcome guest Superman horns in, Batman realises his old foe Maxie Zeus might be taking the credit but is certainly not to blame for the ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Zeus!’

A little deduction and a grudging alliance with the Caped Kryptonian results in the true scheme being unravelled in ‘The Gods Must be Crazy’ and Batman rejoices in having made a powerful friend and a remorseless and resourceful new enemy…

‘Tree of Knowledge’ focuses on college students Dick Grayson and Babs Gordon as they score top marks in a criminology course. ‘Pop Gun Quiz’ sees them singled out for special study by their impressed Professor Morton and on hand in ‘Careful What You Wish For’ to experience an impossible crime in the University Library. Despite all their investigations, it’s only as Robin and Batgirl that a devilish plot is unravelled and crucial ‘Lessons Learned’

The last tale in this terrific tome revisits the tragedy of Batman’s origins as ‘Survivor Syndrome’ sees an impostor risking his life on Gotham’s streets in search of justice or possibly his own death.

‘Brother, Brother’ reveals how athlete Tom Dalton’s wife was murdered and how he surrendered to a ‘Call to Vengeance’. Everything changes once the real Dark Knight takes charge of Tom and trains him to regain ‘The Upper Hand’

With a full compliment of covers by Timm and Parobeck & Burchett – plus a ‘Pin-Up Gallery’ with stunning images by Alex Toth, Dave Gibbons, Kelley Jones, Kevin Nowlan, Mark Chiarello, Mike Mignola, Matt Wagner and Chuck Dixon & Rick Burchett – all coloured by the astounding Rick Taylor – this is another stunning treat for superhero lovers of every age and vintage.
© 1994, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?


By Alan Moore, Curt Swan, Dave Gibbons, Rick Veitch, George Pérez, Kurt Schaffenberger, Al Williamson & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2731-9

Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, sometime in April 1938 (the cover said June but that was, by custom, the date by which unsold copies had to be returned – and hard it is to imagine that there were any!). An instant sensation, the Man of Steel promptly spawned a veritable infinitude of imitators, and gave birth to a genre, if not an industry.

The Original outlived them all; growing and adapting, creating a pantheon and a mythology, delighting millions of readers over the generations.

Alan Moore is one of the most lauded names in comic history, and much of his most memorable work has appeared – one way or another – under the banner of DC Comics’ various imprints. Here, then, finally collected into one volume are all the stories he produced starring the most important icon of the funnybook industry, gathering a trio of much reprinted yarns into one unmissable trade paperback edition.

This book reprints Superman #423, Action Comics #583 from September 1986, DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) and the epochal and influential Superman Annual #11 for 1985, and includes a Dave Gibbons pin-up and leads off with an incisive Introduction ‘The Time has Come!’ by Paul Kupperberg.

Two-part crossover ‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’ ended the initial run of Superman and Action Comics prior to the hero’s groundbreaking post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot in 1986.

In the 50th anniversary year of DC Comics, the Powers-that-Be decided that modern readers had moved beyond the old style and continuity, and consequently re-imagined the DC universe and everything in it. Crisis on Infinite Earths unmade the continuity and remade the greatest heroes in it. The editors have spent the intervening years since trying to change it all back again in some manner or other.

None of which is particularly relevant, except that in the lead-up to the big change, departing Editor Julius Schwartz turned his last issues (Superman #423 and Action Comics #583) into a blessed gift of closure for the devoted fans who had followed Superman for all their lives – if not his.

With these amazing tales all concerned said goodbye to a certain kind of hero and a particular type of story. They made way for a tougher, harder universe with less time for charm or fun.

‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’ is a glorious ending to an era and a sensibility, lovingly written by Alan Moore – who cunningly managed to instil a sense of doom and tragedy into the mix – with gloriously evocative pencil art from Curt Swan and loving, lavish inks from George Perez & the hugely underrated Kurt Schaffenberger, respectively.

Here, Moore parades for one last time the characters and concepts that made Superman special and shows the reader just how much will be lost once the World turns. It deftly blends modern narrative values into the most comfortably traditional scenarios, making the tale work in contemporary terms whilst keeping all the charm, whimsy and inherent decency of the characters. It is a magical feat, a genuine Gotterdammerung; full of tragedy, nobility and heroism but with a happy ending nonetheless. I’m not going to tell you the plot, other than to say it details the last days of the World’s Greatest Superhero. Be prepared to cry when you read it.

This is a story every comic fan, let alone DC reader, should know, and even works as an introduction as well as a grand farewell.

Following that is a team-up of Superman with Moore’s signature character Swamp Thing. ‘The Jungle Line’ comes from DC Comics Presents #85, illustrated by Rick Veitch and Al Williamson, and finds Superman slowly succumbing to a fatal disease contracted from a Kryptonian spore. Plagued by intermittent powerlessness, oncoming madness and inevitable death, the hero deserts his loved ones and drives slowly south to die in isolation. Mercifully in the dank, dark emerald wetlands he is found by a monster: Earth’s singularly benevolent plant elemental and envoy of The Green…

Moore & Dave Gibbons produced one of the last truly great Superman stories before the cosmic upheaval of Crisis on Infinite Earths. ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ (Superman Annual #11) has alien despot Mongul invading the Fortress of Solitude and attacking the Action Ace with the most insidious of weapons. The valiant last-minute intervention of Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman are barely enough to turn the tide…

A spectacular battle-romp, this one also shows a dystopian Krypton for the first time: a view that the fabulous lost world might not have been a super-scientific paradise after all and one that has become a given of all later interpretations…

This is an incomprehensibly enchanting collection of Fights ‘n’ Tights wonderment: a pure package of superhero magnificence: fun-filled, action-packed, absolutely addictive and utterly unmissable.
© 1985, 1986, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: The Trial of Superman


By Louise Simonson, Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, David Michelinie, Roger Stern, Stuart Immonen, Jon Bogdanove, Ron Frenz, Tom & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-331-5 (DC)                    978-1-85286-856-2 (Titan)

The Man of Steel has proven to be all things to most fans since his dynamic debut in 1938. Although largely out of favour these days with all the myriad decades of accrued mythology being re-synthesised into an overarching all-inclusive multi-media film-favoured continuity, the stripped-down, gritty post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Action Ace, as re-imagined by John Byrne and built upon by a succession of immensely talented comics craftsmen, resulted in some stunning highs…

Almost as soon as the Byrne restart had stripped away much of the mythology and iconography which had grown up around the Strange Visitor from Another World over fifty glorious years, successive creative teams spent a great deal of time and ingenuity putting much of it back, albeit in terms more accessible to a cynical and well-informed audience far more sophisticated than their grandparents ever were.

Collecting Action Comics #716-717, Adventures of Superman #529-531, Superman volume 2, #106-108, Superman: Man of Steel #50-52 and Superman: Man of Tomorrow #3 (spanning November 1995 to January 1996), this hyper-charged space opera thriller reads best if taken in conjunction with a working knowledge of the characters, but outright newcomers can soon get up to speed by paying attention to the carefully administered snatches of expository dialogue, and if all you’re after is a heaping helping of far-flung Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy you’re in for a real treat…

The star-spanning saga begins with ‘Split Personality’ (by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove & Dennis Janke from Superman: Man of Steel #50) as an alien armada approaches Earth. The Metropolis Marvel doesn’t notice. He’s busy losing a fight with murderous energy-eater the Parasite

The situation gives super-powered Alpha Centurion and his Team Luthor mercenaries an opportunity to move in. The Roman hero had spent two thousand years away from Earth winning intergalactic renown with his alien arsenal, and on his return home became a flirtatious rival for Lois Lane’s attention. Although generally a decent sort, he’s still always happy to prove his innate superiority to Superman…

He doesn’t get the chance, however, as a cadre of extraterrestrials beam in and arrest the power-drained Man of Steel. He’s so debilitated the hulking Brute brought along to subdue him is unnecessary. As they all fade away, Centurion returns to the battle with Parasite and can’t help but wonder what agents of the famed and just Tribunal want with Superman…

Aboard ship, the enervated hero is baffled to find himself accused of cosmic crimes but cannot find what exactly he’s supposed to have done. The confusion only increases when Brute tries to murder him by throwing the emaciated Kryptonian into the sun…

As Alpha Centurion finally defeats Parasite on Earth, 93,000,000 million miles away, Brute rectifies his mistake: battling with recapturing a now fully re-powered Superman, all the while thankfully babbling that now he’s proved his worth, his hostage “milk-brother won’t be executed”…

When they get back on the Tribunal ship, however, a panel of alien judges sentences Brute to death by solar incineration before getting around to charging Superman with a billion counts of murder and of causing the destruction of Krypton……

The confrontation continues in Superman #106 (Dan Jurgens, Ron Frenz & Joe Rubenstein) as the astounded Man of Tomorrow pleads ‘Not Guilty!’ The case is laid out by Tribunal Prime who relates that a distant ancestor of the Last Son of Krypton instilled a genetic flaw in his entire race by means of a miraculous device dubbed the Eradicator. It prevented them from ever leaving the planet and now Kem-L’s descendent Kal-El bears the responsibility for their extinction…

Aghast but unbowed, Superman struggles free but is easily pacified by a mysterious power of the Prime and dumped in a vast cell. That only exacerbates the crisis as one of the other inmates is brutal alien Massacre who instantly tries to slaughter his despised enemy…

When the catastrophic clash is broken up by the guards, Superman is horrified to witness the sadistic response the Tribunal considers to be justice served…

Back on Earth, Lois has been working on the Centurion. She wants the arrogant champion to use his super-spaceship Pax Romana to trace the avenging Eradicator Brute mentioned when Superman was initially abducted. After learning the eerie antihero (an uncanny merging of a dying human scientist with Kem-L’s recovered wonder-weapon) is no longer on-planet, Lois starts on the next stage of a rescue plan…

Karl Kesel, Stuart Immonen & José Marzán Jr. contribute the next chapter (Adventures of Superman #529) as, aboard the Tribunal flagship, Superman meets other inmates awaiting judgement/execution and makes unlikely new friends.

On Earth the now fully-engaged Centurion contacts some of the Action Ace’s old ones – Steel, Supergirl and Superboy – and sets off in pursuit of the Tribunal, even as, back in the cosmic adjudicators’ gigantic jail, Superman and his new chums stage a ‘Jail Break’

Having picked up Eradicator en route, Alpha Centurion’s rescue party surges on, unaware that the man they’ve come to liberate has crashed onto a distant planet where, thanks to one of his fellow escapees, they all find refuge in an inter-dimensional bolt-hole called Haven

When said fellow escapee then tries to take over the place, the runners experience surprisingly fair ‘Fugitive Justice!’ (Action Comics #716 David Michelinie, Kieron Dwyer & Denis Rodier)…

The Tribunal have not been idle. With their special Police Agents scouring the local systems, Prime engages the service of flamboyant bounty hunter Freelance who promptly locates and captures the harassed runners only to fall for one of them.

Earth’s finest are doing less well. The “S” symbol most of them wear is all over the interspacial networks and cash-hungry hunters from every star-faring species just assume they must also be ‘Wanted’ (Simonson, Bogdanove & Dick Giordano, Superman: Man of Steel #51)…

‘Bottled Up!’ (Superman #107, Jurgens, Frenz & Rubenstein) finds Superman’s Rescue Squad abandoned by the Centurion. Piling into a salvaged ship they head onwards to the Tribunal’s homeworld, unaware that the object of their concerns – and his fellow escapees – have all returned to Haven to save a wounded comrade.

The consultation with infamous wizard Tolos is deeply disturbing. The creepy mage has a thriving city in a jar and amiably offers to cure ailing Mope in return for a promise of future favours. That price comes due whilst far away the super friends are ambushed by avowed enemy Hank Henshaw, the undying Cyborg-Superman, who is apparently working for the intergalactic arbitrators…

Tolos plans to live forever. His bottles are filled with beings whose bodies he will inhabit and burn out, but with a Kryptonian in his sights, the wizard thinks he might have all he’ll ever need. He attacks but completely misjudges the resolve of the mighty Man of Steel…

In ‘Different Demons’ (Adventures of Superman #530 Kesel, Immonen & Marzán Jr.) the fugitive Superman is diverted by a mercy mission to a magical world to clear Mope’s name, whilst on the Tribunal world Alpha Centurion has been arrested and thrown in cell with Superboy… who believes the Roman is actually Henshaw in disguise…

As the far-flung Action Ace and Mope war with invisible aliens and more mages in ‘Fighting Back’ (Superman: Man of Tomorrow #3, Roger Stern, Tom Grummett & Brett Breeding), elsewhere, evidence of collusion between a high official and Henshaw starts to emerge…

Superman and Mope however have now moved on to fully-automated murder-metropolis ‘H’Tros City’ (Action Comics #717 Michelinie, Dwyer & Rodier), but as the cosmic conurbation continually attempts to eradicate them, the seemingly ubiquitous Henshaw take control of its programs to finish his enemy off in person.

The blockbuster battle instead goes Superman’s way, but the hero typically sacrifices his victory to save the cyborg and is rewarded with betrayal…

‘Crime and Punishment’ (Simonson, Bogdanove & Giordano, Superman: Man of Steel #52) once more finds the valiant champion in front of the triumphant Tribunal. Sentenced to immediate execution he battles on, but seems doomed until the impatient Henshaw – who always planned to double cross the judges – seizes control of the planet’s computers, inadvertently allowing the rescue squad to break out of jail and mount a last minute save…

In the aftermath of a shattering final battle the cyborg appears beaten at last but despite his clear guilt there’s ‘No Escape!’ (Superman #108 by Jurgens, Frenz & Rubenstein) for the Last Son of Krypton either…

The court of catastrophe explosively descends into all-out civil war and by the time the dust settles and our heroes head home there’s precious little ‘Justice!’ (Adventures of Superman #530 Kesel, Immonen & Marzán Jr.) to be seen anywhere…

Clever drama, spectacular action and rollercoaster pace, coupled with the usual high standard of character interplay, smart writing and fabulous art, all underscore this hugely enjoyable yet largely forgotten extraterrestrially epic diversion in the amazing life of Superman, but this starry saga is truly deserving of a second look and honest reappraisal.

A British Titan Books edition is also readily available from on-line sellers.
© 1995, 1996, 1997 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman the Silver Age Dailies volume 2: 1961-1963


By Jerry Siegel, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan &Stan Kaye with Otto Binder, Leo Dorfman, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger & Robert Bernstein (IDW Publishing Library of American Comics)

ISBN: 978-1-6137-7923-1

It’s indisputable that the American comicbook industry – if it existed at all – would have been an utterly unrecognisable thing without Superman. Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s unprecedented invention was fervidly adopted by a desperate and joy-starved generation and quite literally gave birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Spawning an impossible army of imitators and variations within three years of his 1938 debut, the intoxicating blend of breakneck, breathtaking action and wish-fulfilment which epitomised the early Man of Steel grew to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, socially reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy, whimsical comedy and, once the war in Europe and the East sucked in America, patriotic relevance for a host of gods, heroes and monsters, all dedicated to profit through exuberant, eye-popping excess and vigorous dashing derring-do.

In comicbook terms Superman was master of the world. Moreover, whilst transforming the shape of the fledgling funnybook industry, the Man of tomorrow relentlessly expanded into all areas of the entertainment media. Although we all think of Cleveland boys’ iconic invention as the epitome and acme of comicbook creation, the truth is that very soon after his debut in Action Comics #1 the Man of Steel became a fictional multimedia monolith in the same league as Popeye, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Mickey Mouse.

We parochial and possessive comics fans too often regard our purest and most powerful icons in purely graphic narrative terms, but the likes of Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers and their hyperkinetic kind long ago outgrew their four-colour origins and are now fully mythologized modern media creatures instantly familiar in mass markets, across all platforms and age ranges…

Far more people have seen or heard the Man of Steel than have ever read his comicbooks. His globally syndicated newspaper strips alone reached untold millions, and by the time his 20th anniversary rolled around at the very start of what we know as the Silver Age of Comics, he had been a thrice-weekly radio serial regular, starred in a series of astounding animated cartoons, two films and a novel by George Lowther.

He was a perennial sure-fire success for toy, game, puzzle and apparel manufacturers and had just ended his first smash live-action television serial. In his future were three more shows (Superboy, Lois & Clark and Smallville), a stage musical, a franchise of blockbuster movies and an almost seamless succession of games, bubblegum cards and TV cartoons beginning with The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 and continuing ever since. Even superdog Krypto got in on the small-screen act…

Although pretty much a spent force these days, for the majority of the last century the newspaper comic strip was the Holy Grail that all American cartoonists and graphic narrative storytellers hungered for. Syndicated across the country – and often the planet – it was seen by millions, if not billions, of readers and generally accepted as a more mature and sophisticated form of literature than comic-books. It also paid better.

And rightly so: some of the most enduring and entertaining characters and concepts of all time were created to lure readers from one particular paper to another and many of them grew to be part of a global culture.

Mutt and Jeff, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, Charlie Brown and so many more escaped their humble tawdry newsprint origins to become meta-real: existing in the minds of earthlings from Albuquerque to Zanzibar.

Most still do…

So it was always something of a risky double-edged sword when a comicbook character became so popular that it swam against the tide (after all weren’t the funny-books invented just to reprint the strips in cheap accessible form?) to became a genuinely mass-entertainment syndicated serial strip.

Superman was the first original comicbook character to make that leap – about six months after as he exploded out of Action Comics – but only a few have ever successfully followed. Wonder Woman, Batman (eventually) and groundbreaking teen icon Archie Andrews made the jump in the 1940s and only a handful like Spider-Man, Howard the Duck and Conan the Barbarian have done so since.

The daily Superman newspaper comic strip launched on 16th January 1939, supplemented by a full-colour Sunday page from November 5th of that year. Originally crafted by such luminaries as Siegel & Shuster and their studio (Paul Cassidy, Leo Nowak, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, Ed Dobrotka, Paul J. Lauretta & Wayne Boring) the mammoth task soon required the additional talents of Jack Burnley and writers like Whitney Ellsworth, Jack Schiff & Alvin Schwartz.

The McClure Syndicate feature ran continuously until May 1966, appearing at its peak in more than 300 daily and 90 Sunday newspapers, boasting a combined readership of more than 20 million. Eventually artists Win Mortimer and Curt Swan joined the unflagging Boring & Stan Kaye whilst Bill Finger and Siegel provided stories, telling serial tales largely separate and divorced from comicbook continuity throughout years when superheroes were scarcely seen.

Then in 1956 Julie Schwartz kicked off the Silver Age with a new Flash in Showcase #4 and before long costumed crusaders began returning en masse to thrill a new generation. As the trend grew, many publishers began to cautiously dabble with the mystery man tradition and Superman’s newspaper strip began to slowly adapt: drawing closer to the revolution on the comicbook pages.

As Jet-Age gave way to Space-Age, the Last Son of Krypton was a comfortably familiar icon of domestic modern America: particularly in the constantly evolving, ever-more dramatic and imaginative comicbook stories which had received such a terrific creative boost when superheroes began to proliferate once more. The franchise had actually been cautiously expanding since 1954 and in 1961 the Caped Kryptonian could be seen not only in Golden Age survivors Action Comics, Superman, Adventure Comics, World’s Finest Comics and Superboy but also in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane and Justice League of America.

Such increased attention naturally filtered through to the far more widely-read newspaper strip and resulted in a rather strange and commercially sound evolution…

This second expansive hardback collection (spanning August 1961 to November 1963) opens with a detailed Introduction from Sidney Friedfertig, explaining the provenance of the strips; how and why Jerry Siegel was tasked with retuning recently published yarns from the comicbooks; making them into daily 3-and-4 panel black-&-white continuities for the apparently more sophisticated and discerning newspaper audiences.

This frequently required major rewrites, subtle changes in plot, direction and tone and, on occasion, merging more than one story into a seamless new exploit to excite and generally amuse sensible, mature grown-ups.

If you’re a veteran fan, don’t be fooled: the tales retold here might seem familiar but they are not mere rehashes: they’re variations and deviations on an idea for an audience perceived as completely separate from kids’ comics. Even if you are familiar with the original comicbook source material, the adventures presented here will read as brand new, especially as they are gloriously illustrated by Wayne Boring (with a little occasional assistance from Curt Swan) at the very peak of his artistic powers.

After years away from the feature Boring had replaced his replacement Curt Swan at the end of 1961, regaining his position as premiere Superman strip illustrator to see the series to its eventual conclusion.

As an added bonus the covers of the issues those adapted stories came from have been included as a full, nostalgia-inducing colour gallery…

The astounding everyday entertainments by Siegel & Boring commence with Episode #123 from August 14th to September 16th 1961 revealing how timid Clark Kent mysteriously excelled as a policeman whilst wearing a legendary old cop’s lucky tin star in ‘The Super Luck of Badge 77!’: a yarn based on an adventure of the same name by Otto Binder & Al Plastino from Superman #133 (November 1959).

‘Superman’s Hunt for Clark Kent’ (September 18th to 5th November and first seen in Superman #126 January 1959, by Binder, Boring & Stan Kaye) then detailed how a Kryptonite mishap deprived the Man of Tomorrow of many of his memories and left him lost in Metropolis trying to ferret out the secret of his other identity after which Episode #125 – running from November 6th-December 23rd – saw the restored Clark as ‘The Reporter of Steel’ (originally a Binder, Boring & Kaye yarn from Action Comics #257, October 1959) after Lex Luthor very publicly inflicted the mild-mannered journalist with unwanted superpowers, setting suspicious Lois Lane off on another quest to prove her colleague was actually the Caped Kryptonian.

‘The 20th Century Achilles’ ran Christmas Day 1961 through January 20th 1962, adapted from an Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan & Kaye thriller in Superman #148 (October 1961) which detailed how a cunning crook held the city hostage to his apparent magical invulnerability whilst ‘The Man No Prison Could Hold’ (January 22nd – February 24th by Bill Finger, Boring & Kaye from Action Comics #248, in January 1959) saw Clark and Jimmy Olsen captured by a Nazi war criminal using slave labour to construct a mighty vengeance weapon. Unbeknownst to all the Man of Steel had good reason to foil every escape attempt and stay locked up…

An old-fashioned hard lesson informed the Kryptonian Crimebuster’s short sharp shock treatment of ‘The Three Tough Teenagers’ which ran from February 26th to March 31st, based on a Siegel & Plastino collaboration contemporaneously appearing in Superman #151 (February 1962) at the same time. Perhaps the headline-grabbing nature of youth in revolt was too immediate to resist? Usually timing discrepancies in publication dates could be explained by the fact that submitted comicbook stories often appeared months after they were completed, but here it feels like neither iteration of the franchise was willing to surrender sales-garnering topicality…

Swan illustrated portions of the Siegel/Boring strip version of ‘The Day Superman Broke the Law’ (2nd to 28th April) from the original by Finger & Plastino from Superman #153 May 1962, which saw the hero fall foul of a corrupt city councilman rewriting ordinances to hamper him after which the hero became ‘The Man with the Zero Eyes’ (running 30th April to June 2nd from an uncredited tale in Superman #117, November 1957 and first limned by Plastino) as a space virus caused uncontrollable super-freezing rays to blaze from his eyes.

Spanning 4th – 23rd June ‘Lois Lane’s Revenge on Superman’ grew out of a comedy tale by Siegel, Swan & George Klein in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #32 (April 1962). Here however there’s a dark edge to the story as the frustrated journalist revels in humiliating her ideal man after a magic potion turns him into a baby whilst ‘When Superman Defended his Arch-Enemy’ – published from 25th June to August 4th as adapted from Action Comics #292 and released in September 1962) by writer unknown & Plastino saw the Metropolis Marvel acting as defence Counsel for the ungrateful mad scientist after the fleeing maniac dismantled a sentient mechanoid on a world of machine intelligences…

Appearing daily from 6th August to September 8th ‘Lois Lane’s Other Life’ retold Siegel, Swan & Klein’s tale from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #35 (August 1962) as the daring doll changes her appearance to go undercover but subsequently loses her memory after which ‘The Feud Between Superman and Clark Kent’ from September 10th to 27th October (originally by Hamilton & Plastino in Action Comics #292, October 1962) saw the two halves of the hero separated by Red Kryptonite. Sadly the goodness and nobility are all in the merely human Clark part and he must stay out of his merciless alternative fraction’s murderous clutches until the effect wears off…

As first conceived by Siegel, Swan & Klein in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #38 (January 1963) ‘The Invisible Lois Lane’ – which filled newspaper pages between October 29th and December 1st – was more comedy than drama but here the undetectable investigator quickly sees her quarry switch from Clark to Superman and it takes super-ingenuity to convince her otherwise…

‘The Man Who Hunted Superman’ – December 3rd 1962 to January 19th 1963 – originally appeared as Boy of Steel blockbuster ‘The Man Who Hunted Superboy’ (by Leo Dorfman & George Papp in Adventure Comics #303, December 1962) and found Clark subbing for a prince in a Ruritanian kingdom, complete with adoring and compliant princess bride, until the Action Ace could topple a highly-placed usurper and save the kingdom whilst ‘Superman Goes to War’ January 21st to February 23rd (initiated by Hamilton, Swan & Klein in Superman #161, May 1963) sees Lois and Clark on an film-set sponsored by the US military and inadvertently caught up in a real but unconventional alien invasion…

From February 25th to April 20th Red K stripped our hero of his powers leaving ‘The Mortal Superman’ forced to fake it due to an unavoidable prior engagement in a terse reinterpretation of the Dorfman & Plastino yarn seen in Superman #160, April 1963.

The Man of Steel for good and sound patriotic reasons allowed himself to be locked up for the alleged murder of Clark Kent in ‘The Trial of Superman’ between 22nd April and May 25th, later seen in its original format in Hamilton & Plastino’s thriller from Action Comics #301, June 1963.

Hardworking obsessive editor Perry White loses his memory and falls into the clutches of criminals who use his investigative instincts to uncover Earth’s greatest secret in ‘The Man who Betrayed Superman’s Identity’ – 27th May to July 6th – as adapted from Dorfman, Swan & Klein’s suspenseful romp in Action Comics #297, February 1963, whilst with adult sensibilities fully addressed, genuine tragedy and pathos pushes Siegel & Boring’s reinterpretation of ‘The Sweetheart that Superman Forgot’ running from 8th July to August 17th into the heady heights of pure melodrama as Superman loses his astounding powers, memories, and use of his legs; loving and losing a girl who only wanted him for himself.

In one of the most adult of stories of his canon, the hero recovers his lost gifts and faculties and has no notion of what he’s lost and who waits for him forever alone: a depth of emotion the author could only dream of approaching in the Plastino-illustrated original version which appeared in Superman #165, November 1963).

Painfully locked into the un-PC, sexist comedy tropes of the era, from August 19th – September 14th comes ‘Superman, Please Marry Me’ wherein a novelty record of Lois purportedly begging her ideal man to give in makes the reporter’s life a living hell in a “tweaked-for married-readers” yarn based on ‘The Superman-Lois Hit Record’ by Siegel, Swan & Klein from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #45 (November 1963) after which ‘Dear Dr. Cupid’ – based on Siegel & Kurt Schaffenberger’s light-hearted turn from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #45, (November 1963), which ran from September 14th to October 12th – details how the news-hen’s surprising and unsuspected gift for doling out advice as an Agony Auntie leads to a series of disturbing gifts from an unexpected admirer…

This epic chronicle concludes with ‘The Great Superman Impersonation’ from October 14th to November 23 1963 and based on Robert Bernstein & Plastino’s Action Comics #306, (cover-dated November 1963) with Clark kidnapped by foreign agents who want to pass him off as the Man of Tomorrow in order to take over a Central American republic: big mistake, especially as Superman is in a playful mood…

Superman: – The Silver Age Dailies 1961-1963 is the second of three huge (305 x 236 mm), lavish, high-end hardback collections starring the Man of Steel and a welcome addition to the superb commemorative series of Library of American Comics which has preserved and re-presented in luxurious splendour such landmark strips as Li’l Abner, Tarzan, Rip Kirby, Polly and her Pals and many of the abovementioned cartoon icons.

If you love the era, these stories are great comics reading, and this is a book you simply must have.
Superman ™ and © 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.