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By the end of Jerry’s long tenure at the Torch, Stiletto had been replaced by the author himself.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.
Master of the Obvious time, but how great was the new Cosmos??? I was a bit skeptical when he started flying around in the brushed silver Naboo ship, but it was pitch perfect: incredible production, biography, metaphor, just a bit of personal story, and Sagan’s classic line about starstuff. Loved it. That’s how to teach. People who popularize a subject sometimes get looked down upon by academics (sometimes), but there is a power to this kind of message that is undeniably (and overwhelmingly) positive. Check it out here. So cool to see all my scientist students and science teacher friends so happy to be represented in pop culture this way.
So I got to group-Skype with Dr. Tyson over the summer when I got invited to a thing at the American Museum of National History. I sorta proved him wrong (I think) over where Krypton was, but hey, it’s all good — it’s all science. As a guy who switched over to an English major from a science one, this was pretty cool. If you missed it, read it here.
Over at the Collector’s Society forums (which helped me in my research big time), somebody named Hibou made this in response to the question: if you had a time machine, would you go help Siegel and Shuster, Bill Finger, or stop Frederic Wertham? Some interesting answers to look at. I think I’d just go to the late ’70s, look around and come back. Fixed points and all that.
Ever since comics have become more accepted as an art form, the question of what to call them has been an ongoing one. I get asked this so much that I thought I’d write up an answer for BookRiot. Check it out here. Hint: it’s not “graphic novel.”
Around Christmas, I posted this film showing the Superman puppet show that Higbee’s department store sponsored here in 1940. I forgot I had this photo showing Jerry and Joe at the actual event!
It was too grainy to put in the book, but nothing is too grainy for the Internet.
So I’m going to be writing a regular column over at The Beat. I’m calling it Unassuming Barber Shop and it is going to deal with some mysteries of comics history. Read the first installment on the Human Torch today. Hope you like it.
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: