Saturday, September 6, 2008

Episode #36: Alter Ego Issue #79

To commemorate Superman's 70th birthday, TwoMorrows Publishing,, featured Superman as the cover subject of their comic book history magazine Alter Ego. You can order it from your local comic book store, or order on line from TwoMorrow's web site store.
The Superman features in this issue include:
An editorial by Roy Thomas, complete with a picture of him with Noel Neill, the Lois Lane from movie serials and TV.
An article listing the top seven Superman artists. Of course Joe Shuster was listed first, with a picture of him in middle age, and a close up of a sketch he did for earlyBatman artist George Russos. Joe drew George with Superman and Batman. I was surprised at Wayne Boring's picture. He was a short and slender man, and I always thought of him as a big, burly man, much like the way he drew Superman in the 1950's. Most of the artists listed I discussed in episode #17, The Artists Of Siegel and Shuster's Cleveland Studio. Curt Swan, my favorite Superman artist of al, was also included. This article was written by Eddy Zeno, who also authored the book Curt Swan: A Life In Comics.
Next was an interview with Jean Shuster Peavy, the younger sister of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. She had some interesting anecdotes to share about the development of Superman, and her brother's relationship with DC Comics. Her other brother Frank also assisted with the early Superman stories as a letterer. She mentioned that she was never interviewed by Gerard Jones for his book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book. She dispelled his portrayal of her brother as being unluck with girls his entire life. She acknowledged that her brother was shy around girls in high school, but as an adult enjoyed dating showgirls from various nightclubs. Her name for him was a "stagedoor Johnny".
Roy Thomas himself writes the next article was about the "K-metal" Superman story, which I covered in eepisode #28, although the article was probably written before I began my research for the podcast. The article recounts the plot, with sample pictures of surviving artwork, and why DC rejected the story. Roy then writes about the rediscovery of the story. This is an excellent piece of little-known Superman history.
Dwight R. Decker wrote the next article, where he recounts his search for the truth of the legend that the Nazi regime in Germany officially denounced Superman and his creators. While he did not portray his findings as the final word on the issue, he gave some convincing evidence to dispel the legend. He traced the idea to an article in an SS newspaper, criticizing Jerry Siegel and Superman in very anti-Semetic slurs, and an ignorance of American slang and culture. Knowled og the aritcle reached over the Atlantic, and the story grew from there.
The back of the issue contained non-Superman related articles, but an interview with 1950's horror comics artist Lou Cameron contained a brief, unflattering anecdote of Jerry Siegel entering Ace Comics' offices when Cameron was there. The publisher threw Siegel out after Jerry gave the secretary a hard time because he refused to wait in the lobby.
Bob Rozakis writes an amusing alternate history of DC Comics, where All-American buys DC out, the reverse of the actual events. Superman and Batman become minor characters, and the big three in both comics and film are Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman. In this version, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster win their battle over ownership of Superman, but lose the war when Fleisher Studios passes on the character because of the legal battle. Green Lantern becomes the star of cartoons and Superman becomes a minor character in comic books. It was fun to see pictures of George Reeves and Noel Neill in a Green Lantern TV show in the 1950's.
Alter Ego is an excellent magazine to learn little known stoies of comic book history. Budget limits keep me from making this a monthly read for me, otherwise I would never miss an issue. But this issue featuring Superman was too uch for me to pass up!

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

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