Thursday, June 26, 2008

Episode #22: Superman vs. Superman!

June 10 marked the 22nd anniversary of the publication of Man of Steel #1, the six issue mini-series that relaunched Superman in 1986. It was written and drawn by John Byrne. Superman and Clark Kent were essentially the same, and the basics of the Superman story remained unchanged, but the new version differed greatly in the details.

The classic Superman could fly unhindered in outer space, forever if he wanted. In the new version his body could withstand the vacuum of space, but needed an air supply, which limited his range if he could not replenish it. Especially in the silver age, Superman could fly at unlimited speeds until he broke the time barrier and could travel through time. While we don't know how fast the "modern" Superman can fly, he certainly doesn't have the ability to travel through time with his own super powers. Classic Superman had a number of robots to take his place in Metropolis if he had to be away for some reason, or to protect Clark's secret identity. In an early story after the reboot, Prof. Hamilton invented a Superman robot, but it proved not entirely successful and was abandoned. In the classic origin, Kal-El had super powers from the moment his rocket landed on Earth. In the current origin, Clark developed his powers slowly, especially as he approached puberty, and so there never was a Superboy in Smallville. The classic Superman costume was made from indestructible Kryptonian fabrics that were in Kal-El's rocket. At the end of Man of Steel #1, Ma Kent sewed Clark's uniform so he could use his super powers and still have a private life. It wasn't torn because it was protected by an indestructable "aura" that surrounded Kal-El, being a tight fitting uniform. The cape wasn't so lucky. It was a good thing that Ma Kent always kept her son well supplied with them. Young Clark was orpaned again, before he became Superman in the classic story. In the current version, Ma and Pa Kent are still alive to support and advise their son. During the silver age, only Pete Ross ever discovered Clark Kent's secret identity. At the conclusion of the Man of Steel mini-series, we learned that after Ma and Pa Kent revealed to Clark the truth about how they found him, he confided his secret to his best friend, Lana Lang. Finally, in current continuity there is only one version of kryptonite, green. There was a story in the 1990's, The Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, which involved Mr. Myxlplk. Green kryptonite was introduced late in the golden age, and during the silver age a variety of colors developed for kryptonite, with various effects on Superman: green kryptonite, of course kills, red causes strange effects on Superman, no two alike, gold permanently removes a kryptonian's powers, blue harms only Bixarros, white harms only plant life on any world, and jewel allows anyone to metally control a kryptonian.

The last issues of Superman comic books under the original continuity were Superman #423 (originally on sale June 12, 1986) and Action Comics #583 (originally on sale June 26, 1986), both cover dated September 1986. These issues were parts one and two of the now classic story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Curt Swan. Superman #423 was inked by George Perez, and Action Comics #583 was inked by Murphy Anderson. On the cover, standing in front of the Daily Planet staff on the Planet's roof, are Julius Schwartz (waving), Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan and Jeanette Kahn.
The Man Of Steel six issue mini-series, which restarted Superman, was published from July 10, 1986 - September 25, 1986). Monthly Superman stories began with a new Superman #1 (cover dated January 1987, published on October 9, 1986), and written and drawn by John Byrne. Adventures of Superman continued the numbering of the original Superman with issue #424 (January 1987, published on October 16, 1986), drawn by Jerry Ordway. Action Comics continued its original numbering, also drawn by John Byrne.
Three four issue mini-series explored this new continuity and the background of Superman. The World of Krypton (December 1987 - March 1988), The World of Smallville (April 1988 - July 1988) and The World of Metropolis (August 1988 - Novenber 1988).
A new Man of Steel monthly began publication on May 14, 1991 (cover dated July 1991), written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Jon Bogdanov. And so a Superman comic book was now published every week, except on months with five weeks.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow took care of that extra week, published quarterly beginning with the Summer 1995 issue (published on May 30, 1995). It's last issue was #15, Fall 1999, (published on September 29, 1999).
The last issue of Man of Steel was #134, cover dated March 2003 (published January 2, 2003). Adventures of Superman ended with issue #649, cover dated April 2006 (published on February 15, 2006). Superman continued its original numbering with issue #650, cover dated May 2006 (published on March 15, 2006). That issue was the first part of the Up, Up and Away story, the beginning of DC's One Year Later in all of its titles, after its mini-series Infinite Crisis.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Episode #21: Brainiac!

With the publication of Action Comics #866, Brainiac part I, I thought it would be the perfect time to dedicate an episode to Superman's other major villain, Brainiac.
Brainiac first appeared in Action Comics #242 (July 1958, first published around May 29, 1958). The cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. The editor at this time was Mort Weisinger. Otto Binder created Brainiac for the story Super Duel In Space. The artist was Al Plastino. This story was reprinted in the following reprint collections:
Superman In The Fifties
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow ARchives vol. I
Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor
Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I
Clark and Lois are covering the launch of the first manned rocket launch as passengers. In Earth orbit the rocket is attacked by an alien spaceship. Clark dons a spacesuit and exits through an emrgency exit hatch to change to Superman. He is unable to penetrate a force field surrounding the spaceship. Superman pushes the Earth rocket to safety. Brainiac proceeds to shrink Earth's cities and place them in glass bottles, about the size and shape of water cooler bottles. His purpose is to repopulate his homeworld because the population was wiped out by a plague. Superman unsuccessfully battles Brainiac, who is protected by a similar force field. When the rocket returns to Earth, Clark meets Lois at the Daily Planet, just as Brainiac shrinks Metropolis. Superman escapes, and hides from Brainiac by flying into another bottle. It turns out to be the Kryptonian city of Kandor. Superman happens to find a scientist who was Jor-El's college roommate. He takes Superman on a tour of Kandor, and uses a telescope to study Brainiac. Brainiac goes into suspended animation to begin the long journey to his home world. Superman uses a Kandorian rocket to escape Krypton's bottle and restore Earth's cities. Kandor is the only city left, but there is only enough energy to restore either Superman or Kandor, not both. Before he can act, another miniature rocket flies out of Kandor's bottle and activates the enlarging ray, restoring Superman. Superman takes Kandor from Brainiac's ship and places it in his Fortress of Solitude.
In Superman #167, The Team of Luthor and Brainiac, it is revealed that Brainiac is actually a robot, built by the computer tyrants of Colu as a human spy to find human worlds for Colu's tyrants to conquer. The reason for this change is explained in the Metropolis Mailbag letters page. A Brainiac Computer Kit for home experimenters in the 1950's was invented in 1955 by Edmund C. Berkeley, an early computer expert.
Kandor was finally enlarged in Superman #338, August 1979. This issue was discussed in Superman Fan Podcast Episode #1: My Top 10 Favorite Superman Stories.
Brainiac met his demise in the story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, discussed in the same episode.
Post-crisis, Brainiac first appeared in Adventures of Superman #438 ( March 1988). Vril Dox was executed by the computer tyrants of Colu for treason. Somehow his mind drited through space until it inhabited the body of Milton Fine, a carnival mentalist who operated under the showname Brainiac. Dox murders to gather cranial fluid to maintain his control of Fine.
In the storyline Panic In The Sky, Brainiac takes control of Warworld, and Superman leads a group of super heroes to attack Warworld before it reaches Earth. Dead Again tells of Brainiac succeeding to inhabit Superman's body and exile Superman's mind in the body of a thirteen year old mental patient. In The Doomsday Wars Brainiac gains control of Doomsday to defeat Superman. All of these trade paperbacks are out of print but can be found from various vendors on, ebay or your local comic book store.
Brainiac aws also featured in the trade paperback Our Worlds At War, which should still be in print.
In the 1990's cartoon Superman: The Animated Series Brainiac was the computer network of Krypton, which thwarted Jor-El and fooled the population of Krypton to keep them from learning of their planet's doom. Brainiac created a vessel to contain his program to escape at the same time as Kal-El's rocket.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Episode #20: Jerry Siegel's Other Artists

Thanks go to the following web sites for being valuable resources for this episode:

Jerry Siegel co-created a number of other super hero characters that were published by DC Comics. I guess because of the demand his partner Joe Shuster was under to produce Superman art, Jerry used other artists to draw the first stories of these characters. In episode #3, I discussed these characters and artists. For this episode I will feature the artists themselves and review their careers and the publishing history of the characters they helped create.
The characters and aritistic co-creators were:
The Spectre: Bernard Bailey
Star Spangled Kid: Hal Sherman
Red, White and Blue: William Smith
Robotman: Leo Nowak and Paul Cassidy
Bernard Bailey (April 15, 1916 - January 19, 1996) co-created not only The Spectre with Jerry Siegel, but also the golden age hero Hourman with writer Ken Fitch. The Spectre first appeared in More Fun Comics #52 (February, 1940), and Hourman first appeared in Adventure Comics #48 (April 1940). Hourman was Rex Tyler, who invented the vitamin Miraclo which gave him superhuman strength and speed for one hour. His last golden age appearance was in Adventure Comics #83 (February 1943).
To listen to a great description of the first adventure of the Spectre, listen to The Golden Age of Comics podcast episode for October 10, 2005, hosted by Bill Jourdain, at, or
Bernard Bailey also worked on a number of other characters for National Comics, a precursor to the modern DC Comics, such as Tex Thomson for Action Comics #1, which ran through Action Comics #32 (January 1941). Thompson became Mister America from Action Comics 33-52 and then Americommando from Action Comics 53-74 (July 1944). Bailey also wrote and drew the character Buccaneer, a pirate adventure, in More Fun Comics #32-51 (June 1938-January 1940).
In 1943 he founded Bailey Publications, and with artist Mac Raboy, Bernard Bailey studio, a comic book packager for a variety of publishers which lasted until 1946. Some fledgling artists that worked for him were Gil Kane, Carmine Infantinoand a sixteen year old Frank Frazetta. During the 1950's he worked on DC's suspense and mystery titles like House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, as well as TV adaption comics for Mr. District Attorney and Gangbusters. He also worked on similar style stories for Fawcett Comics, the publisher of Captain Marvel, as well as other publishers including Atlas (Marvel) on such titles as Asatonishing, Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales among others. Bailey worked on several short lived comic strips during the '40's and '50's, and contributed to the Mad rival cracked. During the '50's and '60's he produced a series of public service annoucements for comic books with writer Jack Schiff. In the 1960's he drew stories for DC's supernatural, mystery and scifi anthologies The Phantom Stranger, Strange Adventures, Weird War Tales and others. Bailey also drew the cover for the b/w comics magazine Chilling Tales of Horror #1 for Stanely Publications. His last known comic book work was the eight page story His Brother's Keeper, written by Jack Oleck for DC's House of Mystery #279 (April 1980).
In the 1970's he published a series of farm periodicals.

Hal Sherman (born 1911) began his career as a gag cartoonist. He co-created the Star Spangled Kid with Jerry Siegel. The character first appeared in a house ad in Action Comics #40 (September 1940). The Star Spangled Kid first appeared in story form in Star Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941). He was Sylverster Pemberton, an older teen who doscovered and defeated some Nazi saboteurs with help from an older auto mechanic, Pat Dugan. Pemberton became the Star Spangled Kid and Dugan was his sidekick and chauffeur Stripsey, driving the Star Rocket Racer. It was a car that could reach speeds of 200 mph and fly for short distances. The characters lost their cover spot with Star Spangled Comics #7, which featured the first appearance of the Newsboy Legion. The Star Spangled Kid and Stripsey continued to appear in the title until their last issue with Star Spangled Comics #86 (November 1948). They were brought back into comics during the 1970's.
According to, he worked on a different character named Wonder Woman which he tried to seel until the Marston / Peters version was published. (This is a not uncommon occurence in comics. Have you ever created your own character, only to findf out someone already published a character by that name?)
Sherman also drew stories for DC titles Leading Comics, More Fun Comics as well as Startling Comics for Better Publications. Sherman worked on the Star Spangled Kid until 1943, when he began to serve in the U.S. military. After the war, around 1946, he worked with Bernard Bailey, assisting on backgrounds on The Spectre.
Eventually Sherman returned to gag cartoonign, but did work on Harvey Comics' character Spooky.
Hal Sherman is not to be comfused with the artist Howard Sherman, who drew the first stories of DC characters such as Dr. Fate, Wyoming Kid, Space Cabby among others.

William Smith (1918-1989) co-created Red White and Blue with Jerry Siegel. The characters wer REd Dugan (Army G2), Whitey Smith (Army) and Blooey Blue (Navy), who assisted FBI agent Doris West in fighting Axis forces. Their final appearance was in All American Comics #71 ( September 1945). They never appeared in comic books again and never appeared in Who's Who In the DC Universe.
Smith only had a few comic book credits, including a now obscure character The King, a master of disguise whose normal costume was a tuxedo with an opera cape, top hat and domino mask. Smith attende the Art Student League and Grand Central Art School in New York and two art institutes in Paris, France. He was a writer for the Walter Lantz animation studios in the late 1930's. His comic book career only lasted during the 1930's and 1940's. Some of his work for other publishers included Captain Cook of Scotland Yard, Race Keane, Yankee Eagle and Navy Section for Quality Comics, and Doc Savage and The Shadow for Street and Smith Comics. During the 1940's he was a regular artist for such magazines as Boy's Life, Saturday Evening Post. Good Housekeeping and McCall's. Later Smith focused on watercolor painting.

Joe Siegel also co-created the character Robotman withtow artists who worked in Joe Shuster's Cleveland studio, Paul Cassidy (October 10, 1910 - May 15, 2005) and Leo Nowak (1907 - January 6, 2001) They were feature in Superman Fan Podcast episode #17, The Siegel and Shuster Cleveland Studio, so I will concentrate on the character here. Scientist Robert Crane was critically injured by some gangsters, and his brain was put into a robot body, sohe was more of a cyborg instead of a robot. As Robotman, he was a member of the World War II team All-Star Squadron. In his solo stories he had a humorous sidekick, Robotdog, for comedy relief in lighthearted adventures. Robotman first appeared in Star Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942), lasting until issue 82 (July 1948) He shifted over to Detective Comics from issues 138 (August 1948) through his last golden age appearance with issue 202 (December 1953). He would return to comic books with DC's Justice League of America 144 (July 1977). Robotman's final comic book appearance was in America vs. the Justice Society of America 2 (February 1985).

To see some pictures of an older Leo Nowak and samples of his art go to

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Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Episode #19: Happy Father's Day, Jonathan Kent!

On this first Father's Day for Superman Fan Podcast I knew I would have to share a special Superman story, The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent. It was published in two parts in the pages of Action Comics issues #507 (May 1980, first on sale: February 25, 1980) and #508 (June 1980, first on sale on March 24, 1980). The story was done by the following:
Cover: penciller: Ross Andru; inker: Dick Giordano
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiarmont
Colorist: Gene D'Angelo
Letter: (#507) Milt Snapinn, (#508) Ben Oda
The easiest way to read this story is to pick up the DC Comics trade paperback Superman In The Eighties (2006).
The story about Jonathan's visit to Metropolis, twenty years after he is supposed to have "died", (and of course death means nothing in comics) and why is a very compelling story. The minor, one shot villain is the weak point in the story. While he is a challenge for Superman to defeat, this "hippie" character is not only twenty years out of fashion, but is also characterized as if he is a 40 or 50 year old's idea of waht a '60's hippie was like. So if you don't take the villain plot seriously and concentrate on Jonathan Kent's story, it should be an enjoyable read.
That's the thing you get with Superman stories. As much as I love reading them from every decade, there are certainly many stories that even the staunch Superman fan that I am finds silly. The bad guy in this story is weak, while Jonathan Kent's story is fantastic.

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thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Episode #18: The Mystery of the Superman Sketch

During one segment of an episode of the PBS series History Detectives, one of the hosts meets with a woman who found a Superman sketch at her mother's home. It was autographed to her late father and signed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. She had two questions for the segment host. Are the sketch and signatures authentic? How did her father meet Superman's creators?
This segment aired during the eleventh episode of the series' fourth season, on September 4, 2006. To find information about this particular segment go to At the bottom is a link to a .pdf document to read a transcript of this particular segment, or just click the following link to go directly to it:

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Episode # 17: The Artists of Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's Cleveland Studio

Thanks go to and web sites for help in researching this episode.
Since Action Comics and Superman were 64 pages each, Jerry and Joe quickly needed help to fill that many pages every month. The addition of a daily comic strip added to the work load. They set up a Cleveland studio led by Joe to produce the art. Generally, Joe Shuster would begin the rough art, one or two assistants would finish the pencils and another would usually ink. The inker was usually Ed Dobrotka. Joe Shuster himself would finish and ink the heads of Superman and Lois Lane.
The main artists of the Cleveland studio were:
Paul Cassidy
Leo Nowak
John Sikela
Wayne Boring
Don Komisarow
Ed Dobrotka
Paul Cassiudy (October 11, 1910 - May 15, 2005) was the first ghost artist on the Superman comic books. He began by doing inking and detail work and eventually did solo stories. He brought a bolder, fluid line to Shuster's art. His notable addition was the "S" symbol to Superman's cape. He moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he continued to do freelance work. He passed away there at the age of 94.
Leo Nowak (1907 - January 6, 2001) was also a musician and painter. He joined the studio in September 1940 after Paul Cassidy moved to Wisconsin. Nowak remained with the studio until he was drafted in 1943. His first work appeared in Superman #10. He drew bold, stocky figures and close-ups, with wide shoulders drawn diagonally across the panel. During WWII he was a batallion artist. He eventually moved to southern California and worked for 25 years in advertising. He also did political cartoons for The Daily Independent in Ridgecrest for twelve years.
John Sikela (1907 - 1998) was one of the longest lasting Superman ghost artists. He also joined the studio in 1940. He also was known for dynamic panels and aerial views. He is credited as the artist of the first Mxyztplk story in Superman #30, 1944 in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, 1987 (attributed at and to Joe Shuster or Ira Yarborough). Sikela also drew sotries to the Superboy spin-off. Hist first solo story was Luthor and the Great Animals of Baracoda in Superman #12. He drew Superman flying as if he was grabbing the air. Joe Sikela also served in the armed forces during WWII and returned to the studio in late 1946. He worked until the studio closed after Siegel and Shuster lost their lawsuit against DC Comics over the rights to Superman.
Ed Dobrotka (1917 - 1977) began as an inker for the other artists. He also did pencils but inked exclusively after 1945. Ed inked Sikela on Superboy until 1950. He also worked on the early Lois Lane solo stories. Dobrotka also inked stories for All-Star Comics and Quality Comics. Ed Dobrotka is also credited as co-creator, with writer Don Cameron, of the Superman villain Toyman in Action Comics#64.
Hi Mankin (1926 - 1978) worked at the Cleveland studio for only a month at the age of 15. He stayed with Jerry's family while he attended a Cleveland high school, and would ink Superman at night. He would go on to draw the characters Johnnhy Quick and Gangbusters for DC, the Roy Rogers comic strip, and the titles Crimebusters and Daredevil for publisher Lev Gleason.
World War II brought changes to Superman. The publisher would begin to weild tighter control on the character as Jerry Siegel and some of the artists served in the armed forces. Joe Shuster was classified 4-F because of his poor eyesight, and was thus exempt from military service.
Jach Burnley (1911 - ?) was the first Superman artist directly employed by DC Comics. His first job was to produce advertising art that would appear in the issues. His first comic book art was for World's Fair Comics #2, then Action Comics 28 - 34, September 1940 - April 1941. He then worked on the daily comic strip. Some Superman fans consider him the best of the early Superman artists. He drew Superman covers beginning with Superman #19. Mankin also created Starman for Adventure Comics in April 1941. From 1944 - 1946 he pencilled the Batman Sunday comic strip, and briefly pencilled the Superman strip in 1944. In 1947 he left DC Comics to return to sports cartooning.
Fred Ray (1922 - ?) pencilled Superman covers beginning with Superman' s Christmas Adventure in 1940, and first appeared in the regular titles with Superman #9 (Fall 1940). His most famous cover was for Superman #14, the iconic image of Superman standing in front of a triangular stars and stripes shield as an eagle perched on one arm. His only interior art was the story for Superman #25, Sustain the Winds, written by Mort Weisinger for the War Department. Ray is also known for his particular "S" design. He also worked on the character of Congo Bill, Tomahawk and various westerns.
Pete Riss (1906? - 1962?) drew five Superman stories in 1943. He drew Meet the Squiffles, written by Jerry Siegel, about an imp from another dimension named Ixnayalpay who meets Adolph Hitler. Riss drew Superman flying with one knee kicked up so high it obscured the "S" on his chest. Riss would go on to work for various publishers in characters such as Kid Eternity, Millie the Model and Hopalong Cassidy.
George Roussos (1920 - 2000) began his career as a "ghost" artist on Batman. He began inking Superman during WWII and continued after the war ended. He also inked Superboy.
Ira Yarbrough (1911 - 1983) had a comical style. He is one of the artists credited as penciller and/or inker on the first Mxyztplk story in Superman #30. He drew Superman flying with his arms flexed above his head.
Sam Citron drew Superman form 1943 - 1946. America's Secret Weapon in Superman#23 (July 1943) was done for the War Department. After 1946 he drew Mr. District Attorney and other DC comics. He would later work for American Comics Group drawing horror and mystery comics.
Dick Sprang, artist on Batman from the late 1940's into the early 1960's is credited as drawing at least one superman story during the Cleveland studio years. He would draw Three Super Musketeers for World's Finest Comics #82 (May-June 1956).
John Small (d. 1966) was born in England. He drew at least one Superman story, The Laughing Stock of Metropolis in Action Comics #95 or False Paradise for Felons in World's Finest Comics #18 (Summer 1945)
Wayne Boring (1916 - 1987) was the definitive Superman artist of the 1950's. Along with John Sikela, he is probably the longest tenured artist of the Cleveland studio. He drew Superman flying as if he was walking on air or sliding. He was one of the earliest artists of the Superman strip, and drew the strip exclusively after 1942. He did nost of the covers after 1944. Wayne Boring drew Superman with a barrel chest, and Superman and Clark Kent often had brooding expressions. He drew the emotional stories The Girl From Superman's Past in Superman #129, March 1959, and The Origin of Superman in Superman #53 (1948) He was also known for drawing Kryptonian and other alien cityscapes. Boring returned to the Superman comic strip in the 1960's, and did some Superman stories in 1966 and 1967. He left DC to work for Marvel, drawing among other characters Captain Marvel. After his comic book career Wayne Boring worked as a security guard.

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