Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition
By Jerry Siegel
Illustrated by Joe
April 17, 2018
Comics / Science Fiction
Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe
Edition shows the evolution of the character created in 1933
by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They sold Superman
to Detective Comics, the future DC Comics, in 1938. This book
shows why Superman has maintained his appeal from generation
The book features over 19 stories and essaysincluding a forward
by Paul Levitz, an introduction by Laura Siegel Larson (Jerry
Siegel’s daughter) and other pieces by Jules Feiffer,
Tom DeHaven, Marv Wolfman, David Hajdu, Larry Tye and Gene
Luen Yang. There is also a section with cover highlights and
full biographies at the end.
The comic stories include the first comic, “The Mystery
of The Freight Train Robberies” to “The Super-Duel
In Space,” and ending with “The Game” written
in April 2018. There are also stories that explore the relationship
between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman as well as some
cameo appearances by some famous figures including President
John F. Kennedy. Readers are treated to comics that explore
the origins of Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude,
as well as a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed
to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster
studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away. Along with
this book, people can also purchase the 1000thedition, making
Superman the first comic book to reach that highlight.
Below is an interview with Larry Tye who wrote the essay in
the book, Endurance.He is a journalist and author of many
biographies including Bobby Kennedy, Satchel Paige, and the
Man of Steel, entitled
The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.
Elise Cooper: How has Superman changed over the years
regarding his appearance and the enemies he has faced, which
Larry Tye: Superman has evolved more than the fruit
fly. In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed
to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the forties,
he defended the home front while brave GIs battled overseas.
Early in the Cold War he stood up taller than ever for his
adopted country, while in its waning days he tried singlehandedly
to eliminate nuclear stockpiles. For each era, he zeroed in
on the threats that scared us most, using powers that grew
or diminished depending on the need. So did his spectacles,
hair style, even his job title. Each generation had the Superman
it needed and deserved. Each change offered a Rorschach test
of the pulse of that time and its dreams. Superman, always
a beacon of light, was a work in progress.
Elise Cooper: What influences has Superman been on
comics, movies, and TV shows?
Larry Tye: Over the years comics have been transformed
– from childhood entertainment to art form to mythology
– and Superman helped drive that transformation. The
comic book and its leading man could only have taken root
in America. What could be more U.S.A. than an orphaned outsider
who arrives in this land of immigrants, reinvents himself,
and reminds us that we can reach for the sky?Yet today this
flying Uncle Sam is both global and multi-media in his reach,
having written himself into the national folklore from Beirut
to Buenos Aires. It is that constancy and purity – knowing
that he is not merely the oldest of our superheroes, but the
most transcendent – that has reeled back aging devotees
like me and drawn in new ones like my daughter. It is what
makes the Man of Tomorrow timeless as well as ageless.
Elise Cooper: Do you think the aviation's golden age
influenced having Superman fly?
Larry Tye: I think it has less to do with what was
happening in the real world of aviation than in the heads
of his creators Superman was a man of the world, perennially
on call and needing to dash to wherever Lois Lane and others
required his help. Flying would have made that easier and
would become his trademark, but it did not happen overnight
in the comic books or strips. The most he could manage in
1938 was leaping an eighth of a mile and outracing an express
train. Two years later, after what must have been intense
training, he could vault into and beyond the stratosphere,
outrace an airplane, and run a mile in a scant second. By
1942 he could run at the speed of light and outpace an electric
current. But still no take-off. There were hints it was coming
in a single frame of a story in May 1943, when his jump looked
like he might be taking flight, and he did, finally and irrefutably,
that October in Action Comics’ “Million-Dollar
Marathon” story. “Let’s see ya fly!”
adoring boys at Children’s Hospital yelled to Superman,
and so he did, telling them, “I’ll be back for
a real visit pretty soon! Up – up – and away!”
Elise Cooper: I noticed in the first Superman issue
there was a comment, "You're not fighting a woman,"
and in the comic “Superman and The Teen Titans,”
Wonder Girl says to him, "Nowadays us liberated ladies
don't take much to being called inferior by a man." Do
you think women's issues also played a role?
Larry Tye: Yes, and that was especially apparent
with the launch of a comic that let women and girls see a
Superman-like character created in their own image. The fellow
Kryptonian who gave Superman the greatest joy, and the most
sleepless nights, was his cousin Kara Zor-El, known on Earth
as Supergirl. It took until 1959 to launch her as a character,
when we quickly got the full story. The Maid of Steel, who
would get her own comic book, gave Superman a blood relative
and fellow outsider with whom he could let down his defenses.
If youths of all stripes embraced Superboy, now girls had
a heroine made in their own special image. And if H.G. Wells’s
War of the Worlds had given aliens a bad name, Supergirl and
Superman polished the image of the interplanetary interloper.
Elise Cooper: Can you summarize Supergirl’s
Larry Tye: She and all of Argo City had been hurled
into the cosmos when the rest of Krypton exploded. Later,
when the orbiting Argo itself was threatened, Kara’s
father launched the child in a space ship headed for Earth.
Save for gender, her story mirrored her famous cousin’s:
she assumed the secret identity of the pigtailed Linda Lee,
she had adoptive parents named Fred and Edna Danvers, she
shunned her male admirers, and she had superpowers that she
used to help humankind.
Elise Cooper: What about Lois Lane as a role model?
Larry Tye: Lois Lane was a fixture from the very
start, although at first, she was mainly a foil for Superman
to rescue and Clark to pine over. Action 1 set the pattern:
kidnapped by three thugs, Lois was quickly whisked to safety
by Superman then laughed at by her editor who, hearing her
recount her unlikely adventure, inquired, “Are you sure
it wasn’t pink elephants you saw?” Over time she
became a role model for millions of women of all ages, and
especially the thousands of young women attracted to the no-nonsense
world of journalism by the no-nonsense reporter Lois, who
always beat Clark to the story, even if she never quite got
his quick-change alter ego.
Elise Cooper: What do you think was Superman’s
Larry Tye: With his perfect pug nose, electric blue
eyes, and a boyish spit curl that suggested Anglo as well
as Saxon. No hint in his sleek movie-star name, Clark Kent,
which could belong only to a gentile and probably one with
a lifelong membership at the country club. His social circle
didn’t give it away either: Lois Lane, George Taylor,
and even Lex Luthor were, like him, more Midwest mainstream
than East Coast ethnic.
Cooper: Does his background reflect any historical significance?
Larry Tye: The evidence of his ethnic origin lay
elsewhere, starting with Kal-El, his Kryptonian name. El is
a suffix in Judaism’s most cherished birthrights, from
Isra-el to the prophets Samu-el and Dani-el. It means God.
Kal is similar to the Hebrew words for voice and vessel. Like
Moses. Much as the baby prophet was floated in a reed basket
by a mother desperate to spare him from an Egyptian Pharaoh’s
death warrant, so moments before Kal-El’s planet blew
up, his doomed parents tucked him into a spaceship that rocketed
him to the safety of Earth. Both babies were rescued by non-Jews
and raised in foreign cultures – Moses by Pharaoh’s
daughter, Kal-El by Kansas farmers named Kent – and
all the adoptive parents quickly learned how exceptional their
foundlings were. The narratives of Krypton’s birth and
death borrowed the language of Genesis. Kal-El’s escape
to Earth was the story of Exodus.
Elise Cooper: Where does Superman’s moral code
Larry Tye: The three legs of the Superman myth –
truth, justice, and the American way – are straight
out of the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish oral traditions.
“The world,” it reads, “endures on three
things: justice, truth, and peace.” The explosion of
Krypton conjures up images from the mystical Kabbalah where
the divine vessel was shattered and Jews were called on to
perform tikkun haolamby repairing the vessel and the world.
The destruction of Kal-El’s planet and people also rings
of the Nazi Holocaust that was brewing when Jerry and Joe
were publishing their first comics, and it summons up as well
the effort to save Jewish children through Kindertransports.Superman’s
lingering heartsickness was survivor’s guilt.
Cooper: Do you think Superman represented the immigrant population
of the time?
Larry Tye: Superman had even stronger cultural ties
to the faith of his founders. He was the ultimate foreigner,
escaping to America from his intergalactic shtetl (a small
Jewish town or village in eastern Europe)and shedding his
Jewish name for Clark Kent, a pseudonym as transparently WASPish
as the ones Jerry had chosen for himself. Clark and Jerry
had something else in common: both were classic nebbishes.
Clark and Superman lived life the way most newly-arrived Jews
did, torn between their Old and New World identities and their
mild exteriors and rock-solid cores. That split personality
was the only way he could survive, yet it gave him perpetual
angst. Jules Feiffer, an authority on cartoons and Jews, said
the Last Son of Krypton was born not on Krypton but on “the
planet Poland, from Lodz maybe, possibly Crakow, maybe Vilna.”
The alien superhero was, more than anything, “the striving
Jewish boy’s goyishe American dream.”
Cooper: Interesting that JFK appeared to be a part of a Superman
comic-why do you think that happened?
Larry Tye: By the 1960s, as the age of peaceniks
and flower children gained steam, Superman’s influence
had risen to the point where even the White House was laying
out the red carpet. The Kennedy administration wanted the
hero’s help spreading the word about its campaign to
close the “muscle gap.” Superman creative director
Mort Weisinger put two of his best writers on the story, which
he called “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.”
The Champion of Democracy flew across America pushing young
runners to run harder, hurdlers to jump higher, and flabby
journalists at the Daily Planet to do fifteen minutes a day
of calisthenics. When the New York Times got wind of the preparations
it scooped the comic book with an article headlined, “Superman
Meets Kennedy on Vigor.” The comic story, all set to
run, was pulled back when the president was assassinated in
November of 1963. Shortly afterwards, Weisinger got a call
from President Lyndon Johnson saying, “We’re waiting
for the story. When’s it coming out?” Mort explained
his worry that running it might be in bad taste, at which
point, as he recalled the tale, Johnson interrupted: “Horsefeathers.
You can run it with a posthumous foreword, explaining that
Iordered it!” Mort did.
Elise Cooper: Was Kennedy in any other comics?
Larry Tye: This was not the first time President
Kennedy had teamed up with Superman. In 1962, when Superman
was ready to introduce his cousin Supergirl to the world he
brought her to the White House to meet the President. High
drama, indeed: the Camelot President on the same stage with
the Sir Lancelot of comic-book heroes. Two years later Superman
took Kennedy into his confidence, sharing his dual identity
as Clark Kent. “If I can’t trust the President
of the United States,” Superman asked, “who can
I trust?” There was one other time when the name Jack
Kennedy had turned up in Superman’s comic books. It
was in the very first of the Superman series, in July 1939.
A character named Kennedy was murdered and the newly minted
Man of Steel saved a wrongly-accused man from being executed.