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Author Topic: Revelations from the Action Comics archives...  (Read 5099 times)
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Gangbuster
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« on: January 22, 2007, 02:05:24 PM »

I had the pleasure of reading Action Comics archives, vol. 1 this weekend. Furthermore, instead of shelling out 50 bucks for it, I read it for free! (I love the public library system.)

Here are some little-known facts about the Man of Steel:

- Despite my expectations from reading Superman issues, not all stories were self-contained. The first Superman story arc takes place in Action Comics #8-9, where Superman destroys a slum to force the government to rebuild nice apartments there and the police send a detective named "100 Percent Riley" after him. Riley's nickname is subsequently changed to "99 Percent Riley" after he fails to bring in Superman (though he almost uncovers his identity as Clark Kent.)

- In his first battle against Ultra-Humanite in Action Comics #13, Superman is shown to be vulnerable to fire. This was never referred to again.

-Superman stole. He swiped expensive chemicals from a lab to help a scientist create a cure for the "Purple Plague" created by Ultra-Humanite.

- He also swindled a million dollars from two individuals who were selling fake oil stock. You are left for several issues thinking "Wow, Superman's a millionaire!" Finally, he uses the money to save a huge orphanage called "Kidtown." In these early issues, (before it's revealed in Superman #1 that the Kents went back to the orphanage to get him) Superman is himself portrayed as a hard-edged (but sympathetic) orphan.

-Superman tortured to get answers. His favorite method was repeatedly throwing people over a hundred feet in the air until they talked.

-Superman once gathered gambling operators together and threatened to kill whomever drew an Ace of Spades out of his deck...if they didn't leave town. All of them wandered away pale, because he used a stacked deck.

These are only a few examples from the first 20 issues of Action Comics. In the early issues of Superman, he also plugs for Roosevelt's programs. There are two Superman prose stories that are not well known. And his favorite target seems to always be racketeers. During all of this time, he works at the Daily Star and his arch-nemesis is the Ultra-Humanite, who eventually dies and has his brain transplanted into the body of a rich actress.

Furthermore, after also reading some Doc Savage this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that while Siegel might have been inspired by Doc Savage, he didn't swipe ideas from him and graft them onto Superman. That job mostly fell to later writers.


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Aldous
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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2007, 04:46:27 AM »

Superman is mostly swipes, although the combination of the swipes is brilliant.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2007, 01:20:34 PM »

Quote from: Gangbuster
Furthermore, after also reading some Doc Savage this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that while Siegel might have been inspired by Doc Savage, he didn't swipe ideas from him and graft them onto Superman. That job mostly fell to later writers.

I agree. The similarities between Superman and Doc Savage were not present in the early Golden Age version of the character. The most significant idea is Superman having a saintly, humanitarian and vaguely Abraham Lincoln-esque characterization, something true of Doc but not Superman at this time.

Still, there are similarities. One of them is the way Superman and Doc Savage both shy away from publicity, for example...but nothing as overt as what later writers would do with Superman.

Incidentally, what Doc stories did you read? This deserves a thread unto itself, but for me, the greatest Doc stories were THE CZAR OF FEAR (in many ways the least typical Doc story, with no exotic locale), FEAR CAY, THE PHANTOM CITY (which was the Tarzan book that most conspicuously showed the influence of ERB at an early period when Dent had yet to find his voice), and that one whose name escapes me now where Doc punches Hitler.
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Gangbuster
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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2007, 06:43:05 PM »

Quote from: Gangbuster
Furthermore, after also reading some Doc Savage this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that while Siegel might have been inspired by Doc Savage, he didn't swipe ideas from him and graft them onto Superman. That job mostly fell to later writers.

I agree. The similarities between Superman and Doc Savage were not present in the early Golden Age version of the character. The most significant idea is Superman having a saintly, humanitarian and vaguely Abraham Lincoln-esque characterization, something true of Doc but not Superman at this time.

Still, there are similarities. One of them is the way Superman and Doc Savage both shy away from publicity, for example...but nothing as overt as what later writers would do with Superman.

Incidentally, what Doc stories did you read? This deserves a thread unto itself, but for me, the greatest Doc stories were THE CZAR OF FEAR (in many ways the least typical Doc story, with no exotic locale), FEAR CAY, THE PHANTOM CITY (which was the Tarzan book that most conspicuously showed the influence of ERB at an early period when Dent had yet to find his voice), and that one whose name escapes me now where Doc punches Hitler.

I just finished reading MYSTERY ISLAND, and I'm working on MEN OF FEAR right now. The latter goes into great detail about Doc's method of reforming criminals...mindwiping them at a special "institute" by performing brain surgery. I'm also about halfway through TARZAN THE TERRIBLE right now.
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TELLE
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2007, 08:37:24 PM »

Ultra Humanite, great villain or greatest villain?

Much of the "off-character" bits of early Superman (law-breaker, etc) are discussed in Supermanica and over at the Rorshack (sp?) thread in the clubhouse.

http://superman.nu/wiki/index.php/Superman#The_Relationship_with_the_Law-Enforcement_Establishment
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Criadoman
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2007, 03:47:22 AM »

Ultra Humanite, great villain or greatest villain?

Well, as unpopular as this might be received, I'm with the Byrne's version of Ultra and Luthor amalgam.  However, if I had my druthers, actually, I'd have preferred Ultra to be the science guy and Lex more along Wolfman's version.

Although the science looks great in books, hyper-intelligent and strategic human would make for some great stories.  Keeping them separate would make for some interesting team-up battles.  But ultimately (no pun intended) Lex became the super-science guy and Ultra was phased out. 

True Golden Age Supes is always a treat to read.  If you notice in the K-Metal story, people are in fear around Superman, which there was an extensive thread on this earlier.  That story was completed around mid to late-1940.  So that demonstrates "Superman=fear" to be somewhat status quo as late as then.  But, there again, in the early GA stories, I think a lot of what you're seeing is the joy of Siegel asserting his own wishful thinking through his character on what he'd like to do to handle societal ills. 

The history I've been piecing together while working on K-Metal was just mainly due to his and Shuster's shop having trouble keeping up with the demand of the character, more and more, Supes became the expression of the publisher than his creators - hence the more Abe Lincoln-esque personality developments Supes later assumes. 

Where would Superman be if Shuster and Siegel continued to hold onto the production and writing?  I would hypothosize we'd have lost him to Captain Marvel by the mid to late 40's.  I'm sincerely doubting National would be so keen to have legal battles with Fawcett if National never brought Supes in house, and it was mainly one crazy Mr. Wertman's relatively successful attack on comics, combined with the pressing legal issues that caused Fawcett to give up the Cap'n Marvel ghost.
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