Monday, January 1, 2018

Superman Smashes the Secret of the Mad Director by George S. Elrick

This 1966 paperback from Whitman is an oddity among Superman collectibles. It is unknown save for us die-hard Superman collectors, and although a few copies show up on e-bay, they are seldom found elsewhere. Printed in a slightly larger size than the traditional paperback, Superman Smashes the Secret of the Mad Director is a short prose novel for young readers. It sold for 29 cents. All 166 pages features an illustration. The artist is uncredited, but the interior illustrations resemble the Al Plastino and Curt Swan standard images. The cover artist is also unknown, and I’m guessing the artwork was handled by Plastino with some freelance assistance. Author George Elrick wrote extensively for Whitman, including handling characters such as Batman, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Lassie and books based upon the television series Bonanza and The Man from UNCLE. In Superman Smashes the Secret of the Mad Director, Perry White instructs Clark Kent to investigate the rumors that a film director named Max Malice uses real bullets in his pictures, often causing injury to the actors. Malice is in Metropolis to film an epic about the legendary King Arthur, so naturally Lois and Clark join the cast as extras. Malice is an unscrupulous director, and devious in his approach to filming a realistic action scene. In the end, Superman vows to discredit him after a series of contrived drama, including Lois Lane losing her memory. This is an odd book, with no obvious historical precedence for its existence other than to make money. In 1966, the Batman television program was immensely popular, and the juvenile storyline of Superman Smashes the Secret of the Mad Director mirrors that campy style. It’s also true that in the mid-1960s, Superman comics were the number # 1 best-selling comics worldwide. The impetus for the publication of Superman Smashes the Secret of the Mad Director might be as simple as DC Comics wanting to cash in on a brand name. No matter the reason for its publication, it makes a nice addition to any Superman collection.

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