Thursday, February 19, 2009

Episode #61: Curt Swan: "I Flew With Superman"!

Curt Swan was born on February 17, 1920 (died June 16, 1996). To comemorate the anniversary of his birth, the topic of this episode is a story he drew, and co-starred in, in the back of Superman Annual #9, 1983, titled I Flew With Superman. I could find no reprint information about this issue. If you would like to read this story before listening to this episode (which I would reccommend) you should be able to find this issue on line or in the back issue bin of your local comic book shop. I found my copy in the back issue bins of my comic book store Acme Comics (

The editor on this issue was Julius Schwartz. The cover was drawn by Gil Kane. He had a clever way of placing his name on the cover. Near the lower right corner of the cover, on a sign on a storefront partially covered in the background, Gil wrote his name. Higher on the page on a skyscraper in the background he wrote his stylized initials. The first story, titled Villian, Villain, Who's Got The Villain? was written by Elliot S! Maggin, pencilled by the legendary Alex Toth, inked by Terry Austin, lettered by Gasper Saldino and colored by Thomas J. Ziuko. The villain of the story was Lex Luthor, portrayed in the slightly slapstick Gene Hackman style of Lex Luthor from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. The Gene Hackman version of Lex Luthor is one of my least favorite versions of the character, and one of the weak points (along with Otis) of the first two Superman movies, which I love.

I Flew With Superman was plotted by Cary Bates, written by Elliot S! Maggin, pencilled and inked by Curt Swan (one of the few stories he did that on), lettered by John Costanza and colored by Anthony Tollin. The story begins with Curt Swan at his well worn drawing table, drawing a splash page of Sueprman flying over Metropolis, toward the reader. Curt was pulling an all-nighter to meet his deadline and working through his exhuastion. He falls asleep at his drawing table and wakes up on a park bench. He thinks he sleptwalked into the city, and begins walking around to get his bearings before catching the train home. He is shocked when he finds himself in front of the Galaxy Broadcasting / Daily Planet building. Curt then buys a newspaper at a newsvendor on the sidewalk. It is the latest edition of the Daily Planet. He wanders up to the apartment building at 344 Clinton, Clark Kent's address. Frank the doorman buzzes Clark, who invites Curt to his apartment 3-D. After a brief discussion about Superman's status in our universe, Clark changes into Superman and takes Curt for a flight over the Metropolis skyline. Superman has to leave Curt on the Daily Planet globe as he stops a mugging in an alley. After dropping the muggers off to authroities, he picks up Curt and returns him to his own world in a flash of light. Curt wakes up on his drawing board and sees that he fell asleep for seven hours. Just as he thinks he's going to call Julie Schwartz, his editor, to tell him he'll be late finishing his story, Curt looks at the page on his drawing board. It is the fully lettered and inked last page where Curt appeared with Superman. He then remembered that just before Superman returned Curt to his own dimension he shook his hand. Curt remembered that Superman placed something in his hand during the handshake. When Curt opened his right hand he found three bullets that Superman stopped when he caught the muggers.

In Eddy Zeno's book Curt Swan: A Life In Comics, Curt's two daughter made some comments about this story. Oldest daughter Karin Swan Brooks talked about how we think things will last forever. When Curt's grown children mentioned to him that they didn't have any original comic book art pages to remember him by, Curt gave each of them a page from I Flew With Superman. Karin received the title page.

Youngest child Cecelia Swan Swift commented on the final page of the story, when Curt opens his hand to find the three bullets in his palm. In a coincidence, after Curt died and he was cremated, she received some of his ashes in a small brass container, shaped like a bullet.

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

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