By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and the Superman Studio (DC Comics)
The third collection of the Man of Steel’s earliest adventures, reprinted in the order they first appeared, reaches the still innocent year of 1940 in a spiffy little package that covers his appearances in Action Comics #21-25, Superman #4-5, and his last starring role in New York World’s Fair #2 (and that only because the title would convert to initially World’s Best and eventually settle as the much more reserved World’s Finest Comics).
Although Siegel and Shuster had very much settled into the character by now the buzz of success still fired them and innovation still sparkled amidst the exuberance. ‘The Atomic Disintegrator’ in Action #21 was followed by ‘Europe at War,’ which was not only a tense and thinly disguised call to arms for the still neutral USA, but a continued story — almost unheard of in those early days of funny-book publishing.
Superman #4, cover-dated Spring, featured four big adventures, ‘The Challenge of Luthor’, ‘Luthor’s Undersea City’, ‘The Economic Enemy,’ a spy story about commercial sabotage by an unspecified foreign power, and a tale of gangsters and Teamsters called ‘Terror in the Trucker’s Union’. Action #24 featured ‘Carnahan’s Heir’, a wastrel Superman promises to turn into a useful citizen, whilst the next told the tale of the ‘The Amnesiac Robbers’ compelled to crime by an evil hypnotist.
Superman #5 is a superb combination of human drama, crime and wicked science with ‘The Slot Machine Racket’, ‘Campaign Against the Planet’, the insidious threat of ‘Luthor’s Incense Machine’ and finally the Big Business chicanery of ‘The Wonder Drug’. All topped off with a gangster thriller from and set in the New York World’s Fair.
(And as a personal aside, difficult though it might be to successfully attribute credit so many years later, I’m pretty sure that this last adventure is not Shuster and the many fine artists that formed the Superman studio, but the wonderful Jack Burnley. Anyone got any comments or information they care to share here?)
My admiration for the stripped-down purity and power of these Golden Age tales is boundless. Nothing has ever come near them for joyous child-like perfection. You really should make them part of your life.
© 1940, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.