Sunday, March 8, 2009

Episode #63: The Return Of The Silver Age Superman!

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Superman Fan Podcast's host web site , is back on line. I have posted this episode on my web site, http://supermanfanpodcast/ , and will continue to post episodes there, as well as to the gcast feed below. The last fifty episodes are still on, but I lost the first 32. I will repost them as quickly as possible to both feeds, as well as to .

NOTE: Because my regular web site, , is down while the home site is being upgraded,I have uploaded this episode to: . I do not know when the site will be back up again, but I do plan on returning to it when it is back on line. Until then I will be posting episodes on To subscribe to the gcast feed on itunes, copy the above url, click on the "subscribe to podcast" menu option under "Advanced" on the menu bar, and place the url in the window, and click "ok". I have changed the url on the itunes submit podcast link, so this episode may upload on the original itunes feed shortly, or on a separate itunes feed.

In recent years, and particularly in recent months of Superman titles, a lot of the silver age heritage of Superman has returned to modern continuity. When DC Comics restarted Superman continuity in 1986, much of the silver age Superman continuity was stripped away. At the time it was felt that much of it had made Superman behind the times if not outdated. They were considered barnacles on the character, weighing Superman down and making it harder to create stories that were more relevant to the then current times.

John Byrne returned Superman , for the most part, back to his Siegel and Shuster roots. He was once again the sole survivor of Krypton's destruction. Superman would appear as an adult, as in the first Action Comics stories, with no apprenticeship as Superboy. There was also no bottle city of Kandor, no Krypto, and no Supergirl, at least not from Krypton. Also missing were the Phantom Zone, and after a brief appearance in the Man of Steel mini-series, no Bizarro, at least for a while.

In this episode we review the original appearances of many of the members of the silver age Superman's world. The silver age world of Superman was developed under the strict guidance of editor Mort Weisinger.

As mentioned in the previous episode Superboy first appeared in More Fun Comics #101, Jan./Feb. 1945 issue, published approximately on November 21, 1944. The unnamed origin of Superboy story was produced by Superman's creators, Siegel and Shuster. The only reprint I could find of this issue was in DC's Millineum Edition #44, November 2000 issue. Superboy gained his own title with Superboy #1, the March/April 1949While Superboy first appeared during the peak of the golden age of comics he would enjoy his peak of popularity during the silver age, especially as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

No boy should be without his favorite pet, and Superboy's pet first appeared in Adventure Comics #210, the March 1955 issue, first on sale on January 27, 1955. The story The Super Dog From Krypton was written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by John Fischetti. This story has been reprinted in the trade paperback Superman In The Fifties.

The bottle city of Kandor first appeared in Action Comics #242, July 1958 issue, firt published on May 29 1958. This story also contained the first appearance of the arch-villain Brainiac. The Super Duel In Space was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. This story has been reprinted in a number of editions, Superman In The Fifties, Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archives vol. I, Superman: The Bottle City Of Kandor and Superman vs. Brainiac. Brainiac was the subject of SFP episode #21, .

Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, first appeared in Action Comics #252, Maay 1959, first appearing on newsstands on March 31, 1959. She was featured in this podcast on episode #38 . The Supergirl From Krypton was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. This story would reappear in Supergirl Archives vol. I, Superman In The Fifties, Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I and Showcase Presents: Supergirl vol. I.

Supergirl herself had a number of pets. The first was Beppo the Super Monkey, who first appeared in Superboy #76, October 1959, first published on August 20, 1959. The Super Monkey From Krypton was written by Otto Binder and drawn by George Papp. Beppo was a Kryptonian animal that was apparently a lab specimen of Jor-El's, who used him to test a prototype of Kal-El's rocket. Apparently Beppo stowed away on the infant's rocket, and also gained super powers when the rocket landed on Earth. This story was reprinted in DC Goes Ape vol. I.

Comet the Super Horse was another of Supergirl's pets, but was not Kryptonian. He was originally a centaur in ancient Egypt. Circe gave him a potion to make him completely human, but she made a mistake and the potion instead made him completely horse. To make amends Circe gave him powers, including immoprtality. When a comet passed through the solar system he could temporarily change into a human. As a human he briefly dated Supergirl and Lois Lane, such was the sometimes bizarre nature of silver age stories. His story was first told in Action Comics #292, Sept. 1962, on sale around July 26, 1962. The story was written by Leo Dorfman and drawn by Jim Mooney. comet the horse had a comet shaped mark on his back. Because he was not Kryptonian he was immune to the harmful effects of kryptonite. this story was reprinted in Showcase Presents:Supergirl vol. II.

The Phantom Zone first appeared in Adventure Comics #283, April 1961. The Phantom Superboy was written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by George Papp. The Phantom Zone was not a region of Krypton, but was another dimension discovered by none other than Jor-El. Kryptonian authorities would use the zone as a place to incarcerate convicted criminals for the duration of their sentences. But these details would be developed in later stories. In this story, Lana Lang's archaelogist father gave Superboy a box of what he somehow recognized as Kryptonian weapons. When Superboy examined them alone, he accidentally activated one of the weapons and was sent into the Phantom Zone, a place where he existed as a ghost. Through a typically silver age plot twist Superboy managed to return to Earth at the end of the story. Unfortunately I was unable to find any reprint information on this story.

No mention of the silver age Superman would be complete without mentioning the multi-colored hues of kryptonite. Kryptonite was first discussed on this podcast in episode #28, The K-Metal From Krypton . This episode detailed the development of kryptonite, from Jerry Siegel's rejected k-metal story to kryptonite's first appearance in the Superman radio show. It first appeared in comic books in Superman #61, Nov./Dec. 1949, published around September 7, 1949, in the story Superman Returns To Krypton. This story was reprinted in The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told and Superman In The Forites. To review the various forms of silver age kryptonite quickly: green k kills, gold k permanently removes a kryptonians super powers, red k causes strange temporary transformations, blue only harms Bizarros, white only harms any form of plant life from any planet, and jewel k was used by Phantom Zone crominals to psychically control people. X-kryptonite ws accidentally created by Supergirl when she researched for an antidote to kryptonite poisoning. the accident gave her pet cat Streaky super powers. In Action Comics Annual #10, March 2007 issue, on sale January 31, 2007, in the story The Deadliest Forms Of Kryptonite, Earth scientists, including Luthor experimented on green kryptonite, creating the various forms mentioned here. They have been used in recent issues of the New Krypton stories in the Superman titles.

After reading Geoff Johns' excellent updates of these silver age creations, I can only conclude that it was these creations from that era that weighed the Superman titles down. Between Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz, the two men edited the superman titles for forty years. While there are many excellent stories Superman fans can enjoy, it is also clear, as the 1960's developed, that the events of the time that found their way into the superman stories were seen through the prism of men in their fifties. that perspective sometimes made DC's efforts at "relevancy" as the trend was called in the late '60's, fall flat (the excellent Green Lantern / Green Arrowstories notwithstanding). With the combination of an older audiance and younger editors and creators, these silver age leftovers have been dusted off and given new life. They have been what has made Superman stories as good as they have been in 2008 and now into 2009. Every month I look forward to seeing what the crew of Superman writers and artists will create next.

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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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