Friday, March 11, 2016

Showcase Presents: Superman # 1

This 2005 compilation includes over 500 pages of Superman comics reprints from 1958 and 1959 and originally sold for the low price of $9.99. One of the many injustices inflicted upon Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s iconic creation is the unfortunate copyright control by an organization that cares little for the character, his fans, or the original creators and subsequent writers and artists who developed the character into the greatest pulp fiction hero of all time. With that spear tossed, my poisoned point being that these stories are reprinted in black and white. Color facsimiles would have been the preferred format, but these mindless buearocrats, comprised of a squadron of pantywaist attorneys and sissy-ass accountants, all lacking in any emotional investment in the character, have forgone any reasonable approach to history and opted instead to maximize their return on the dollar. So we have black and white reprints instead of color reprints, the cheapest method of mass production. I’ll take what I can get. The artwork is great, old school, highly imaginative, and far more appealing than today’s Manga-Japanese influenced nonsense of crowded panels and Rorschach designs. Artists such as Al Plastino, Stan Kaye, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, and Kurt Schaffenberger are all predominantly featured. Superman and Action Comics have always offered a glimpse into an American past and way of life that has nearly vanished, and so these stories may appear dated, perhaps even trite. What impressed me was the incredible imagination that went into the stories. Writers such as Otto Binder, Jerry Coleman, Bill Finger, and even Jerry Siegel dug deeply into that well of fantastic ideas and tapped into elements and themes that surely inspired the artists. If anything, many of these stories are simply entertaining science fiction, seldom bordering on greatness, but entertaining nonetheless. Of course, my comments are tainted by nostalgia. Batman makes an appearance here; but this is the Batman that is Superman’s friend. I never bought into Frank Miller’s overrated concept that these two would be at odds. Superman and Batman are crime-fighters with a common goal. The first story reprinted here is a charming tale about Superman’s anniversary of arriving on earth. Other stories include Superman’s nemesis, Brainiac, which always makes for some fun science fiction. Another story, “The Super-Merman of the Sea” was penned by Otto Binder with artwork by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. This is before Swan became the primary artist on the series. Tales featuring Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo, Bizarro, Supergirl and many others are all included. Both Otto Binder and Jerry Coleman aren’t given enough credit for their development of Superman’s mythology. The stories in this volume will give readers an indication of the creative involvement such diverse talents had in molding Superman into the greatest hero of all time.

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