Friday, March 19, 2010

Superman breakdown - Action Comics #1

Superman's first story (posted yesterday) was nothing short of "Comic Book Geek Awesome!"

I thought I'd do a short breakdown of my thoughts.

First off, you'll notice, the Superman of July 1939 was not nearly the nigh-invulnerable being of today.

At first, Superman didn't have the ability to fly. That wasn't brought in until 1940 or so when The Fleischer Brothers were doing the animated version and the animators felt it was too clumsy to have him jumping and hopping everywhere. Seems lame by today's standards, but someone who could hurdle a 2 story building is indeed someone to be reckoned with.

Also we see that a bursting shell could very well pierce his skin, that's something else that toughened up over the years. He would gain all of the abilities we are familiar with by the end of the Golden Age, the end of the 1940's, though it wasn't until the 1970's or so that he was able to move planets and the like. And even geeks like me think that that is taking it too far.

Cool to see Superman basically strong-arming his way around this adventure too. Like a teenager (as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were at the time of doing this story) would do if he had these abilities!

Not only outright showing off with his strength...

But even throwing around a little teenage swagger and sarcasm. BITCHIN'!

He's even put in the position every 80 pound weakling fantasizes about and gets to play out through our new hero. Stopping a wife beater...coming to the age of a damsel in distress. Even challenging the jerk to "take on someone his own size".

This is the super hero fantasy in a nutshell! Distilled by Jerry and Joe in just a few panels.

And here's a great consistency...

...I guess it's comforting to know that, even 72 years ago, Lois Lane was already a snotty bitch and a c*nt!

Yet another sequence of Superman taunting and teasing his adversary with his abilities. Making the bad guys who think they're tougher than everyone else dang near poop their pants.

"A physical marvel, a mental wonder, Superman is destined to reshape the destiny of a world!"

Ah, if only it were real. Our destiny could use some reshaping

I'm really looking forward to checking out part two of this story. It occurred to me as I re-read this, I never have...but it's waiting right here on my computer.

I'm downright giddy.

But before I get to that, I should note that there was more to Action Comics issue #1 than just this classic story. The Golden Age of Comic Books was the era of the anthology book. 68 or 72 pages of thrills and adventures starring a rash of characters. As Superman was the first super hero and had yet to fire the trend that was soon to follow, Action #1 was filled with plenty of other stuff to put a young boy on the edge of his seat.

The history I, wanting to focus on here is the phenomenon of the super hero in comics and culture, though one day I may do a "Slight" history on some of these other genres.

There was "Chuck Dawson" a western feature...

...historical adventure in "The Adventures of Marco Polo"...

...athletic all-American "Pep Morgan"...

...hard bitten investigative drama with "Scoop Scanlon"...

...a text story. You see back in the day, to qualify for discount postage as magazines, comic books were required to have a minimum of 2 pages of text. By the 70's, when it was learned there was much to gain by speaking to the fans, DC, Marvel, MLJ, Charlton, etc. addressed this by adding a "letter to the editor" page and by having a company advertising page of some sort (i.e. DC Direct Currents, Marvel Bullpen, etc.) but in the 1930's-1960's comics would have a two page text story. This doesn't exist in present day, as the "magazine postage" issue is moot since almost all comics are sold through direct market (comic book stores), though the value of the "letters" page and company ad page is still there so they remain.

I have a theory that in 30 years of these two page texts, not a single person on the planet ever read even one. I can't even bring myself to read them now as I contemplate the idea. My theory is, that they're pure shit, and I have a sneaking suspicion that you'll never see a "A 'Slight' History of Golden Age Comic Books: The Boring Ass-Required by Postal Law-Text Stories" by me...

..."Sticky-Mitt Stimson" a humor strip...

...another western strip (westerns had big big in the movies since the 1920's silent days even) called "Tex Thompson"...

...and finally "Zatara"!

Zatara was an unabashed ripoff on the popularity of the newspaper comic strip "Mandrake the Magician", except instead of a hypnotic illusion "trick" like Mandrake, Zatara did indeed work some real magic.

More on Mandrake this Sunday. See Ya'll tomorrow!

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