Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Golden Age Superman, Vol. 4

Reprinting the Superman stories from World’s Finest # 3-5, Superman # 12-15 and Action Comics # 41-47, this fourth volume takes us to 1942. With these tales we see the propaganda machine kick in and cover art depicting Superman against the Nazi regime. Jerry Siegel wrote all of the stories and he’s having a blast. The cover artist on these gems was Fred Ray and these are among his best work, including the patriotic eagle cover on Superman # 14. Most of the interiors are by Leo Nowak, although the stories are credited to Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. Shuster was operating his art studio with contract staff by this time. Leo Nowak has the style down, clearly patterned after Shuster’s original art, although there’s more freedom with the layout and panel size. Fred Ray’s influence has also taken hold, and there’s an obvious concentrated effort to streamline and stylize the S-symbol on Superman’s chest. Jimmy Olson makes an appearance, but he is still a minor character. Lois Lane and Lex Luthor play major roles in these stories. Best of all, Jerry Siegel’s incredible imagination is on display with some fantastic tales that hint at the strong fantasy and science fiction elements that will dominate the series in the 1950s and 1960s. Superman visits strange, unknown islands and battles a tribe of natives, a giant prehistoric monster and Lex Luthor. There’s a dash of the fanatical elements from popular pulp fiction with Superman discovering and undersea city with mermaids, and this notion of unexplored worlds will manifest itself again in the coming years. The final story from Action Comics # 47 with artwork by John Sikela is a Lex Luthor classic and not to be missed. With the original pulp magazines aging rapidly and the pages becoming brittle, this reprint series is the pre-eminent repository of Golden Age Superman stories.

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