Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Classics - Superman #1

It's Superman month, thanks to the fact that he's celebrating his 75th anniversary and the fact that his new film, The Man of Steel, opens this weekend.

To join in the fun, we'll spend the next few weeks dedicating out "Classic" reviews on Wednesdays to the Man of Tomorrow.

What better place to start than the first issue of his comic from the '30s?

I know, he first appeared in Action Comics #1 - but my reprint of that issue is buried away, and the first issue of this comic reprinted that story anyway - so there you go.

I should admit that I'm not a big fan of Golden Age comics. I have no nostalgia for them (I didn't start reading comics until around 1960), and the stories and art are mostly pretty crude.

But given that DC never seems to quite know what to do with Superman, they'd be well served to look at these earliest appearances (as Grant Morrison obviously did) for inspiration.

So if you had Superman's amazing powers, what would you do? (I think Roger Stern once said his first act would be to go on TV and say, "As your new emperor...")

His creators - Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - had a different answer: their hero helped people, but had fun at the same time.

This Superman operates on a street level, dealing with thugs, criminals and dirty politicians with equal verve. He doesn't hesitate to use his power to intimidate (he wrings a confession out of a murdering woman by threatening her), to destroy (he smashes the car of a bully just for fun), and most importantly, to see justice is done (he plucks the generals of two opposing armies off the battlefield and forces them to fight. They decide peace is a better option).

The art is a bit crude, of course, but it's packed with energy and excitement. Shuster's storytelling is clean and to the point.

So if DC's wondering what to do to make Superman "work," take the character back to basics - let him have fun with his powers, let him tackle worthy causes (lots of helpful suggestions in the daily newspaper). Let him find creative solutions to problems (in one story he joins a foreign army to keep tabs on a villain, in another he becomes a miner to teach a corrupt owner about the importance of mine safety).

Most important: have fun with him, and the readers will have fun, too.

Grade: B



Glen Davis said...

WWII really did a number on the character of Superman, just as it did to so many fictional characters, including Flash Gordon, The Saint, Perry Mason, and The Shadow.

Anonymous said...

I loved the early Superman stories, he was such a mensch, lots of caring for the poor and downtrodden and bringing crooked businessmen and politicians to justice!