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.

 

 

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.

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By the end of Jerry’s long tenure at the Torch, Stiletto had been replaced by the author himself.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?

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. 

1 in 4 People Believe Superman in the Bible*

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was disappointed when venerable London periodical The Sun went to an online subscription model. At least I admit it. This was the *shocker* in The Sun yesterday:

The study, done by “The Bible Society,” also concluded that “Half the parents surveyed thought the story for hit movie The Hunger Games was from the Bible.”

So is this the usual Sun “Man U Captain Caught in Snog with Gail Porter’s Flatmate — and Noel KNOWS?”  Not really: I looked up the report and it seems to have a good sample size (though the questions are a bit conditional).

The Society’s aim is a campaign called “Pass It On,” to “encourage parents to read, watch or listen to a Bible story with their child.” Read the entire report here.

So is Western civ screwed or is this just really cool? If anything it’s that “could be” in the question that might be the most telling: Superman is a very Biblical character — some Moses, some Jesus, even some Samson. That we get. And while I don’t think it defines the narrative, it might have bolstered it, as this survey seems to suggest. The parallels give it legs.

I’ve been pretty vocal that it is difficult to completely claim Superman for one religious group or testament. Jerry and Joe grew up in Orthodox Jewish households, but then became much more reformed in their own religious practices. Joe even joined a Christian mystery cult for a time. I don’t say that as anything other than my interpretation of things I have determined to be facts. These were complicated human beings whose spiritual lives are difficult (and almost impossible) to wholly define, just like it is for many of us. They were guys, not gods. That being said, I was just told a great story about Jerry from someone who knew him in Cleveland:

Ps – I forgot to add that – as Joe may have told you – he used to see Jerry Siegel and talk to him when Siegel came to their shul – a tiny synagogue in a house on 105th st. – a 3 minute walk from Glenville – on the anniversary of his father’s death to say Kaddish.

This survey may not reflect well on our combined Biblical knowledge. But it might reflect on what we believe while in the absence of something, whether it is facts, people, or events.

Isn’t that the point?

 

But I have no idea why The Hunger Games. And, of course, Comment Guy:

 

Ten Creators

Over at Newsarama, George Marston ranks the “10 Creators Who Made Superman Truly Super.”  Number 1?

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s contributions not only to comic books, but to our culture go far beyond Superman, but it all started with the Man of Steel. Though many of the conventions of Superman’s mythos that we now take for granted were later contributed by others, it all sprang forth from that core ideal crafted by Siegel and Shuster…

Read the full rankings here.