Seventy-Six

 

Today is the 76th anniversary (as near as we can tell) of the publication of Action Comics #1. I thought I’d post this — something optimistic — their first (until their deaths) cover story in their hometown, announcing the appearance of the Superman syndicated newspaper strip — which was, back then, the much bigger deal.

 

 

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Instability

The thing about doing a project this massive is you eventually start to see connections everywhere — and this can be a real danger. You can start to see things that aren’t there.

So you have to be careful. Until something like this happens.

This is from “Spy” in 1937′s Detective Comics #22 :

What th-? Lorenzo Rica? Granted, he’s one “c” short, but this stereotypical Italian bad guy (with weird paisley pajamas) has a common version of the last name my grandfather brought to Cleveland from Sicily. What does this mean? Is this coincidence? Destiny? VOICES FROM BEYOND? Or, more likely, have I finally lost it? Maybe. But good research and good work is also sometimes just focused paranoia. That goes for anything, whether it’s a book or a bathroom remodel or making a giant quilt.

Still, if you’ve read the book you know that Jerry and Joe named many of their early characters after people they knew. So what does that mean?

Whoever Lorenzo is, he’s no match for Sally and Bart:

I really don’t know what to make of this other than maybe it’s past time to move onto the next project. But you know what — forget that. I’m totally counting this as being in a Siegel/Shuster comic by way of a weird spacetime continuum shaped by metafictional bizarre forces that neither of us can fully or truly understand.

Maybe. Or not. It’s still pretty cool.

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Jerry Siegel, True Detective

The detective magazines of the thirties were the most popular genre of the pulps. Jerry read any he could get his hands on, including True Detective Mysteries.

In fact, Jerry’s first recurring fictional character was a detective named Stiletto Vance. As I detail in the book, Jerry started him off as a standardized pulp dick for the school newspaper, the Glenville Torch. But in true Jerry fashion, Stiletto very quickly transformed into a wholly comedic enterprise designed to produce laughs and impress girls.

 

 

 

By the end of Jerry’s long tenure at the Torch, Stiletto had been replaced by the author himself. Here is a complete story from the Torch with Jerry himself in the role of detective:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic juvenalia, right? But this kind of writing was important, as was the genre: all of Jerry and Joe’s work in their first comics — Spy, Radio Squad, Federal Men, etc. — were variations of the detective/crimestopping theme. Superman was just the next extension of that, with Clark and Lois becoming journalist-detectives themselves.

 

And don’t forget one of the best of the Siegel/Shuster detective duos: Slam Bradley and Shorty.

Season 2?

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The Lawyers Weigh Inn

Last night I got to speak at a really unique event: the Cleveland chapter of the William K. Thomas Inn of Courts (a bunch of lawyers club?) invited me to talk about Superman. So that, but then — but then — a bunch of high-powered attorneys acted out the Superman litigation history. To elevate the drama, Time-Warner was played by Lex Luthor and Superman himself represented the families. Brainiac, Daredevil, and Batman (he was the bailliff) were there, too. The judge was played by a prominent Cleveland standing judge (no names, please). I really wished Jeff Trexler was there — seeing it this way was actually very enlightening, even as (especially as?) farce. The Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court was there, too (talking about Groupons). Thanks to legendary civil rights attorney (and fantastic host) Avery Friedman for inviting me.

As we mingled in the cocktail hour, I spoke with real-life lawyers who had all reviewed the case. They all said: what a ____________ mess. After years of being convinced I was just dumb, this felt really good to hear. I also felt relieved that the two things I was most mad about in the case — the termination/trap letter to Jean Peavy Shuster and the 6-page dismissal from the 9th Circuit — were also looked at by the lawyers as really bizarre, shady events.

Afterwards, I met Adam (above), who was working there and got Rosa from Mac’s Backs some much-needed coffee. He grabbed some of our empty book boxes for “his comic collection.” I asked what he read and he showed me this:

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SMODCAST

Over on Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” podcast, he has Neal Adams for a 3-part interview.  It’s really great stuff — Neal is as good a verbal storyteller as he is a visual one. My favorite part so far is when he talks about Al Williamson.

 

Neal helped me with the book and gave me a cool blurb even though he kind of terrified me in the beginning. People always ask me if we can trust his version and I think his is the one to trust for the 1975 crusade. With some small modifications for storytelling, of course. But he was a big help. And if you want to know WHO Neal was talking to on the phone for the settlement, the book gives the name.

Listen to the podcast for free on SMODCAST here. I always support Kevin because of this. Plus he once picketed his own film with a “God Loves, Man Kills” sign.

And if you haven’t listened to the podcast with Marc Tyler Nobleman on Bill Finger, it is another must-listen.

Check out and support the Wayne Foundation, too. 

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