Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Episode #57: E. Nelson Bridwell!

Before I get to the subject of this episode, if you would like to look at a fun Superman editorial cartoon, go to http://halltoons.blogspot.com/2009/01/this-is-kinda-cool.html, especially if you are a Florida Gator fan like I am.
January 23 is the anniversary of E. Nelson Bridwell's death in 1987. He was born in 1937 in Sapula, Oklahoma. He brought his lifelong love of folklore and mythology to his comic book career in his encyclopedic knowledge of comic book trivia and continuity. He began his DC career in 1965 as an assistant, and assistant editor to Mort Weisinger, and later to Julius Schwartz. Bridwell would become an editor in his own right. Among the many titles he was involved with in the Superman family were Lois Lane from 1968 - 1972, and Superman Family from 1980 - 1982. He was most famous for being editor on many reprint edtions, oversize comics filled with stories from the many decades of DC publications. He also was the editor to three anthologies: Superman, Batman and Shazam: From the 30's (in Shazam's case, From the 40's) To the 70's. He also advocated a strong continuity, not as a creativity stiflying tool, but as a means of presenting a consistency in a character's world. He also believed in a shared universe between characters.
Bridwell was also a writer, not only for DC, but also for Warren Publications' Creepy and Eerie and Mad magazine as well. He wrote the Lone Ranger spoof Lone Stranger with Tonto's line, "What you mean We, white man?" For DC he created the White Witch for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Fire and Ice, who I would first read about in Justice League: Europe. He is credited as the writer of the first Legion origin story originally presented in Superboy #147 (May/June 1968, originally published on March 14, 1968). I have a reprint of this issue, which is also one of many 80 Page Giants DC published at this time, filled with Legion reprints. For Superman Bridwell wrote the three issue mini-series World of Krypton (July - September 1979). It expanded the history of Kal-El's birth planet.
There are three short lived but original titles that E. Nelson Bridwell created that were original ideas and very different from each other.
The first title was a superhero team spoof called the Inferior Five. They first appeared in Showcase issues #62, 63 and 65, in 1966, and had their own title from 1967 - 1968 for ten issues. Issues 11 & 12 appeared in 1972, but were reprints of their earliest Showcase stories. His co-creator was artist Joe Orlando, who drew the first story. Mike Esposito would ink some of the early stories. They were the sons and daughters of members of the superhero group the Freedom Brigade, and had to work together to fight crime because they were not talented enough individually to be superheroes. The members of the Inferior Five were:
-Merryman (Myron Victor): son of The Patriot and Lady Liberty and descendant of Yellowjacket and Crimson Chrysanthemum (spoofs of the Green Hornet and the Scarlet Pimpernel). He wore a jester's costume and was the team leader.
-Awkwardman (Leander Brent): son of Mr. Might and the Mermaid. He could live underwater and was super strong, but was also very clumsy.
-The Blimp (Herman Cramer): he was the overweight son of Captain Swift. He had his father's flight power but not his super speed, so he could only fly at super slow speeds, with a tailwind.
-White Feather (William King): son of The Bowman and an unnamed woman. He was a superb archer, when noone was watching. People made him nervous, along with almost everything else.
-Dumb Bunny (Athena Tremor): the not very smart but super strong daughter of Princess Power.
Angel and the Ape first appeared in Showcase #77 (1968) and then in its own seven issue series. The main characters were Angel O'Day, private investigator with the O'Day and Simeon Detective Agency. Her partner was Sam Simeon, a talking gorilla detective who moonlighted as a comic book artist. The art was by Bob Oksner, with some inks by Wally Wood.
The most unusual title Bridwell created was the Secret Six. His co-creator was artist Frank Springer. They premiered in their own title in seven bi-monthly issues from May 1968 - May 1969. They were led by the mysterious Mockingbird. They were a strike team of overt operatives, highly trained in various fields. They were blackmailed by Mockingbird to obey their orders or risk their darkest secrets being publicly revealed, destroying their lives. The members were Tiger Force (Mike Tempest), a boxer, Crimson Dawn, a famous model, King Savage, a Hollywood stuntman, August Durant, a nuclear physicist, Carlo DiRenzi, a magician and escape artist and Lili DeNeuve, an exclusive spa owner. The title was revived several times, including a run as one of teh rotating features of Action Comics Weekly during the 1990's.
E. Nelson Bridwell also wrote for other DC titles, such as Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and their appearance in the Oz / Wonderland War trilogy. He also wrote stories for the various Super Friends cartoons, and the DC Super Friends comic book tie-in.
Following his death Bridwell's papers were acquired by the McFarlin Library on the campus of the University of Tulsa. In October 2005 E. Nelson Bridwell was posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame.
The comic book I feature at the end of the podcast is the 100-Page Super-Spectacular #6, with one of Bridwell's trademarks, a wraparound cover of many characters, accompanied inside by a key which identified all the characters along with brief biographical information, complete with secret identities.
To read more about E. Nelson Bridwell, check out the following links:

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at http://supermanfanpodcast.mypodcast.com. Send e-mail about this podcast to supermanfanpodcast@gmail.com.

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the comic books I read every week. It can be found at http://mypulllist.blogspotcom. Send e-mail about this blog to mypulllist@gmail.com.

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

Superman and all related characters are copyright DC Comics.

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