Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Episode #102: Happy Birthday, Noel Neill!

I would like to thank my friend Melissa Abrahamsen for allowing me to borrow her autographed copy of the book Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life And Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane, An Authorized Biography by Larry Thomas Ward, published by Nicholas Lawrence Books in 2003. This book is probably out of print but is available from a vendor at, other internet source or a used bookstore.

Neill was born on November 25, 1920, on Thanksgiving Day! Her mother, LaVerne Binger, was a war widow whose first husband killed on a French battlefield during WWI. She made the heartbreaking decision to send her infant son, Eugene Binger, Jr., to grow up with his paternal grandparents. (Noel would not meet her half-brother until they were adults. He served in the Merchant Marine, and lived for many years in Alaska.) Noel's father was a journalist and later editor Her parents married in 1919 and moved to Minneapolis. As a single woman LaVerne had been a vaudeville singer and dancer. She enrolled her young daughter in the Seton Guild of Dance and Dramatic Arts in Minneapolis. Noel would attend six similar schools for the next decade. As a child performer Noel would be in a variety of stage presentations, and would perform for radio beginning in 1928, although she is unawate of any recordings of those broadcasts.

Her first paid performance was in the 1930 vaudeville production Kid Nite Follies, which was billed as a miniature music comedy, at the RKO Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Noel was part of a child song and dance trio with two male performers. Young Noel would meet another child performer, Rose Marie, who would achieve her greatest fame as Sally in the 1960's sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. They would meet again seventy years later at a Hollywood Reunion at Studio City, California.

Noel described her mother as a typical stage mom, but in the best sense of the word. She encouraged her daughter to stay in the theater. While Noel enjoyed performing, it wasn't the whole world to her as it was to her mother. This was the era when children never questioned their parents, but Noel maintained a close relationship with her mother. Noel developed a lifelong love of athletics.

As a teen Noel sang, danced and performed at various State Fairs, and made her professional solo singing debut at the Blue Ribbon Nite Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico, escorted by her mother. Noel's career didn't interfere with her ability to be an excellent high school student. She was the secretary for the student council and the assistant business manager for her high school newspaper.

Her father's influence as a writer was passed on to his daughter, as she published a short story in the book Venture (maybe a high school publication?) and would later earn some money when the magazine Women's World Daily published an article she wrote.

After graduating from high school Noel and her mother took a car trip to Mexico and California. With her first taste of the California beaches she fell in love with the state and would eventually live there most of her life. Noel loved the beach and enjoyed tanning, surfing and playing beach volleyball. Acting on a neighbor's tip, Noel auditioned for, and was hired as, the job of singer at the Hotel Del Mar. Bing Crosby heard her perform and hired Noel and the band to play at his night club across the street, the Del Mar Turf Club. Noel performed there for two seasons. She found Bing always nice to her and upbeat. Once, when she did not feel well, Bing arranged for Noel to be taken to his beach house where his wife welcomed her and had the maid bring Noel herb tea.

In 1938 she applied for a job as a contract actor at Paramount Studio. She eventually hired Jack Pomoroy as her agent, for a 10% commission. He would later become agent for Jack Larson, who would play Jimmy Olsen on the 1950's Superman tv show. Noel's first film performance was an uncredited role in Monogram's Henry Aldrich For President. Her role in 1943's Lady Of Burlesque won Noel her first big studio contract with Paramount Studios for $75.00 per week. She would often be loaned to other studios, as was the practice at the time. One of her first roles under contract was in The Road To Utopia, one of the Hope and Crosby Road pictures. One day on the lot she heard someone behind her singing the Christmas carol Noel. It was Bing Crosby. He asked her if things were going well for her, and said that if she had problems with anyone to let him or his brother know, and they would take care of the situation. Noel never needed his help in that regard and felt his offer was genuine and his concern sincere.

Her biography credited Noel with 89 film roles in every genre. During WWII Noel was also a photographic model, and her biography credits her as being the second most popular pinup after Betty Grable. Noel acted in a number of Sam Katzman productions, which was how she won the role of Lois Lane in the Superman serials, Superman (1950) and Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950) for Columbia Studios. Harry Cohn, the studio head, stated that the Superman serials saved the studio from bankruptcy. At the end of her Paramount contract Noel had a role in the last Charlie Chan film, 1950's Sky Dragon.

Of the actors who portrayed Sueprman, Noel felt that Kirk Alyn, of the serials, was the most athletic, but also had the biggest ego of the Superman actors. She did say that, even though Alyn would get bruised from the stunts he had to perform on set, she felt safe on the set, and he was careful when he had to carry her. Jimmy Olsen was played by Little Rascals alumnus Tommy Bond. Noel performed more physical stunts in the second serial that the first one. (Listen to episode #43 for more about the Superman serials and actor Kirk Alyn.)

After the serials she continued in minor film roles. Among the more notable films she appeared in were, American In Paris, starring Gene Kelly, and Submarine Command, starring Bill Holden, both in 1951, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) which starred Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. One of Noel's best dance routines ever was cut from the film because Russell felt the female dancers were too good and had them replaced with beefcake.

Noel's earliest TV performances were not for the Advnetures Of Superman series in the 1950's, but back in 1943 while she was under contract for Paramount Studios. TV pioneer Klaus Landsberg produced an early TV show, Variety Hour in one of Paramounts older studios with rondown dressing rooms. Klaus trained kids from the mail room to run the cameras and other equipment in exchange for their help. Noel MC'ed the show and also sang and danced. She expressed her athleticism by hosting an exercise program.

She returned to the role of Lois Lane with the second season of the TV series. Phyllis Coates (subject of episode #56), Lois for the first season, had taken a job with a TV pilot that would not be picked up. Whiney had called Noel himself to ask her to join the show. The production had a very tight budget. After wardrobe Noel had to fix her own hair because there was no money for a haridresser. She also had to bring her own stockings and shoes from home. Noel did not meet George Reeves until rehersal for their first scene together. Director Tommy Carr kept having Noel repeat a line because he wan't satisfied with her delivery. Noel became frustrated because she knew that she was delivering the line right, but the director would not let it go. George came to her defense and told Tommy, "Why don't you give the kid a break. It's hard to come into an established family and do this just the way you want her to." Carr backed off and this seemed to be the only problem she had with Carr for the rest of the production.

George and John Hamilton (Perry White) had a racy sense of humor and would sometimes flub a line in a naughty way to relieve the stress on set. Then they would nail their lines on the second take. George and John would trade blue humor off the set, but not in Noel's presence. Noel liked Hamilton, who was a private and aloof man off the set and preferred to be called Mr. Hamilton. but he was great to work with on the set. Noel became very close friends with Jack Larson, who she had a lot of respect for his talent as a writer.

Kellogg's was the series sponsor, so the cast would supplement their meager salaries from the show with the more lucrative comercials, except for Noel. The situations depicted in the commercials, showing the actors having breakfast together, would imply that someone spent the night at someone else's house. It would not be appropriate, the sponsors felt, for Noel to possibly have spent the night at an unmarried man's house, which did not help her bank account. Noel's favorite episodes were The Tomb Of Zaharan, The Wedding Of Superman and Panic In The Sky.

After the end of production in 1957 Noel joined George Reeves in a song and dance troupe he financed. She sang while George and others played instruments, and George did a wrestling skit with another member of the troupe. It was not a success. George felt his agent did not promote it enough and they performed to dwindling crowds. Eventually the troupe broke up and went home. Noel convinced George to keep her fee because she knew that he lost a lot of money in the venture.

Some time after John Hamilton's funeral, the TV show was scheduled to resume production for a seventh season. Noel met with Reeves and director George Blair. Reeves looked forward to directing more episodes and appeared very upbeat. Two days later Noel received the news that George was dead from a gunshot wound to the head. While his mysterious death was ruled a suicide Noel and Jack Larson became resigned to the fact that the whole truth around his deise would probably never be learned.

She retired from full time acting around 1960 and bought a home at Santa Monica Canyon, where she lives today, near Jack Larson. She became a world traveler, and indulged her love of the beach and beach volleyball. In the late 1960's Noel became bored and decided to go back to work. She joined a temp service and eventually was hired by the United Artists Studio, not as an actor but as part of the staff of the publicity department. She would later join the television division, selling programs to stations west of the Mississippi River.

In 1974 Noel Neill received a call from a student of Monmouth College inviting her to speak at the college about her years of portraying Lois Lane. After agreeing on an appearance fee she was surprised on the turnout for her presentation. That led to over fifty appearances at colleges and universities across the country in the next four years. The travel became a grind and was interferring with her job, so she stopped making appearances.

She would make a cameo appearance in Supernan: The Movie, in the train scene portraying Lois Lane's mother. Kirk Alyn also had a cameo as Lois' father. Noel Neill became the only performer to appear in all three film versions of Superman, the 1940's serials, the 1950's TV show and the 1970's motion picture. She would also portray the dying widow Luthor married to scam her fortune in 2006's Superman: Returns.

Noel Neill would be laid off from United Artists when the movie Heaven's Gate almost banrupted the studio. An old friend contacted her about a young actor who needed someone to coordinate his fan mail. He was Tom Sellick, star of the TV show Magnum, P. I. She continues in this role at least part time. Noel describged Sellick as hardworking, considerate and loyal.

She has made many appearances, often with Jack Larson, promoting and remembering the TV show. Noel has appeared at many Superman Celebrations in Metropolis, Illinois (subject of episode #26). Both actors have also appeared in many documentaries, and even co-starred in an episode of the Superboy TV show, starring Gerard Christopher, in 1992.

Her travels in the last several decades have included Tibet, the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the waterways of Alaska and the Galapagos and Komodo islands. She also enjoys playing golf and bridge.

Next week: Episode #103: Superman In Exile, Part IV: Action Comics Annual #2, 1989!

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Episode #101: The Death Of Superman!

This episode does not explore the plot of the Death Of Superman story itself. For that, listen to episodes 86 and 89 of this podcast. Instead, the focus is on the creation and the ultimate publicity frenzy that erupted after its publication.

1992 was a big year in comic book history. That was the year that the top five artists at Marvel left to form their own comic book publishing company, Image Comics.

Over at DC, in the Panic In The Sky crossover, Superman led a team of DC super heroes against Warworld, led by Brainiac and Maxima, which threatened Earth. Other Superman plot threads of that year included Lucy Lane being hit by stray gun fire as police attempted to arrest Deathstroke. Jimmy Olsen rejoined the staff of the Daily Planet after being laid off the previous year. Superman rejoined and helped reform the Justice League. Lex Luthor II's secret of being a clone of the original Luthor was revealed to the Metropolis public. Senator Pete Ross was involved in some political intrigue with the right wing hero Agent Liberty. Superman was involved in the Eclipso crossover Annual event (not my favorite). Superman teamed with Robin against a vampire villain (which would be a perfect story today with the vampire craze. Who knew the Superman comics would be ahead of their time in that regard?) The Blaze/Satanus war occurred. Clark and Lois became involved with an abusive situation of one of their neighbors, and one story reprised a scene from Action Comics #1 where Superman stopped an abusive husband. That story was given a modern conclusion.

The Superman titles had begun including a "triangle number" on the cover to help readers follow the story through each Superman title in order, because at this point the story progressed very tightly from one title through the next every month. To keep the crative teams of the various Superman titles coordinated through the year, they began gathering at DC's New York offices every year to plan out that year's worth of stories. They had developed Clark and Lois' relationship to the point where they fell in love and Clark revealed his secret identity. Originally, they planned for them to marry in Superman #75. But the new ABC TV show Lois & Clark: The Adventures Of Superman wanted to marry them on the show first.

Left without their original plot, the Superman creative team had to regroup. Writer and artist Jerry Ordway used to joke every year that they should kill Superman for the major plot. This time they decided ot take it seriously. Through this story they wanted to show how important Superman was and why readers should care about him. The ultimate media frenzy caught him by surprise.

As the release date approached, interest built to the point that comic book retailers kept increasing their orders for Superman #75. Some stores had customers lined up around the block the day the issue was published. Some stores sold 10,000 copies just on the first day. The issue was reprinted for several months, eventually selling over 3 million copies. The death of Superman seemed to be the only news item happening that week. There was at least one report of a mock funeral for Superman, complete with a closed casket.

Members of the creative team were in heavy demand for public appearances and autograph sessions. Jerry Ordway remembered one appearance where he stayed four hours past his scheduled time, until the mall closed, because of the public demand. Dan Jurgens has said over the years that at various appearances he has had at least one person tell him that the death of Superman got them back into comics.

Not everyone was thrilled over the story. There were some critics who felt the story was just a publicity stunt just to boost sales. Others felt betrayed when Superman's death was only temporary.

Chuck Rozakis of Mile High Comics posted an essay on the store's web site expressing his opinion that the death of Superman story helped usher in the bust of the comic book boom of the early 1990's. The industry was filled with undercapitalized and ill informed retailers who ultimately did not survive the bust. Readers who hoped to sell their copies of Superman #75 for a profit found that only the first printing had any real value. He also noted that the comic book industry of today is only about 20% of what it was in 1992.

It seems naive to me for people to think that a character that was such an American icon as Superman would be killed permanently. While I believe the creative team when they say they weren't just planning a publicity stunt, but wanted to tell a good story (which it was), I also believe the marketing departments of DC and Marvel took advantage of the market to sell more comics, which any good business should do. but like any other industry, sometimes long term planning takes a back seat to short term gain.

While the comic book industry seems steady, the flux of comic book based movies has not increased readership, and digital technology has the industry at another crossroads. But that's a topic for the year in review episode.

Next week: Happy Birthday, Noel Neill!

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Episode #100: ACTION COMICS #100 & SUPERMAN #100!

This episode continues the tradition I began with episode #75, to look at the corresponding issues of Action Comics and Superman every 25 episodes. This time the issues featured are the 100th issues of Action and Superman.

Action Comics #100, the September 1946 issue, was published around July 16, 1946. The issue contained 48 pages for a dime. Jack Schiff was the editor at this time. The cover, featuring the Superman story for this issue, The Sleuth Who Never Failed, was pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Ed Dobrotka, both members of Joe Shuster's Cleveland studio (see episode #17). It featured the Scotland Yard detective Inspector Hawkins, peering through a magnifying glass, following Clark Kent and in turn being followed by Superman.

The story itself, The Sleuth Who Never Failed, was written by Alvin Schwartz and drawn by Ira Yarbrough. Inspector Hawkins introduced himself to Clark Kent in the Daily Planet newsroom and immediately informed him that he knew Clark was Superman, but his secret was safe. He then asked Clark for a lock of his hair but was interrupted by Lois Lane. Clark took the time to leave at super speed through a wig shop and back. The inspector then cut a lock of his hair (I assume Clark paid for the wig). He viewed the sample under a microscope and determined that it was animal hair and thus from a wig.

Next, the inspector told a bank guard he would pay him $500.00 to cooperate with him. The inspector had discovered that Perry White often had Clark take sensitive documents to a bank deposit box. When Clark walked into the safe to deposit some more documents, just before closing time, the guard closed the safe with Clark inside. He figured that Hawkins was involved and tore a hole in the inside wall of the safe door, and readjusted the time lock inside so that it would open. After setting off the alarm he closed the door, reset the lock and fixed the hole that he made. Clark then faked suffocating when the police opened the safe door.

Inspector Hawkins then disguised himself as a perfume factory worker and lured Clark there. Inside the perfume factory the disguised Inspector pushed Clark into a vat of perfume. After he got out Clark changed secretly into Superman and dove into the same vat of perfume. (I don't know how this would throw anyone off the trail. It would clinch Superman's secret identity for me, but then this is a late golden age story.) Hawkins then goes to a Veteran's rally and is in the front row. He noticed that Superman didn't smell of perfume, and no explanation was given.

After the rally, Superman spotted the Inspector snooping around his apartment. Sneaking into the next room, Superman wrote on a piece of paper, took it into space, then into a humid jungle and then a desert, before leaving it in the next room for the Inspector to find. He did, and read Clark's will, naming Superman his heir. The inspector noticed the yellowed paper and faded ink, and was finally convinced he was mistaken about Clark Kent being Superman.

After the four page humorous story about Hayfoot Henry titled The Rhyming Horse, the next story featured the adventure/crimefighter Congo Bill in the six page story The Case Of The Captive Seals. It was written by Alvin Schwartz and drawn by Fred Ray. Congo Bill assisted in an investigation of the disappearance of hundreds of seals from a government protected herd. He kayaked to an iceberg where many of them were, and noticed a seal being pulled into a hole. Bill thought a polar bear had trapped the seal until an ice trap door opened and he was pulled under the ice. He found himself on a ship, camoflaged by the ice, crewed by poachers. Congo Bill was knocked out and put in a hold with the captured seals. After getting two seals to balance his feet on their noses, Congo Bill was able to reach a ladder that led him out of the hold. He found some bags of salt and poured them on the ice, which melted and revealed the ship of poachers. They were arrested and the seals were saved.

The next feature was the two page text piece Indian Sign by Ben Ballard. Comic books had these prose features to qualify for cheaper postal rates well into my childhood of the 1960's. The next comic book story wasThe Book That Was Too Real, a ten page story featuring the crimefighter Vigilante, a singing cowboy. It was written by Mort Meskin and inked by George Roussos. Vigilante's sidekick, the non-politically correctly named Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, called Stuff for short, helped author J. Scriver Tome find the reformed criminal Blast Beadle. Mr. Tome wanted to interview Beadle as research for his book The Baffling Bandit, about a criminal who outwitted the police. Beadle skimmed the book and was inspired to kidnap Tome and use the book to commit real crimes. The gang tied up Stuff and left him behind. Stuff was able to knock the phone on the floor and have the operator call Greg Sanders, secretly Vigilante. He rescued Stuff and together they tried to stop the gang. Instead they were captured by the criminals, who put dynamite in the car and let it careen toward the bank, to crash into the bank and explode and allow them to steal the money. Instead, Vigilante was able to steer the car with his feet, chasing the gang to a dock and into the water. Stuff was able to get loose from his bonds and pull Vigilante and Tome out of the car just before it rode into the water and exploded. To show his appreciation, Tome decided to dedicate his next book to Vigilante.

The final story of Action Comics #100 featured Zatara, who had appeared in the title since issue #1. The seven page story was Magic: Past Or Present!, written by Don Cameron and drawin by William F. White. A group of ancient magicians led by Merlin and living by the river Styx are jealous of Zatara. They use their magic to observe Zatara using his magic to capture a gang of bank robbers. The Delphic Oracle told the gathered magicians to test their magic against Zatara's and the best magic would win. The ancient magician Toth caused a the floor in a room in Zatara's residence to burst into flames. Zatara caused it to rain inside and douse the flame, and a lightning bolt struck Toth. He returned to Styx.

Cagliostro caused Zatara's bed to rise as he slept. Zatara awoke and cast a counter spell which caused the bed to fall on top of Cagliostro. After the magician returned to Styx Zatara cast a protective spell over his bedroom.

The next unnamed magician walked into the bedroom, only to be drenched by a floating bucket of water over the door. Then he stepped on some tacks that appeared on the floor, and a table top cigarette lighter set the back of his robe on fire. He returned to the river Styx to cool off his backside.

Merlin challenged Zatara next, who caused musical instruments to appear and serenade the magicians (I guess he played their favorite tune?). This caused them to declare Zatara the greatest magician and return him to his home. They toasted Zatara at a banquet, leaving an empty chair reserved for him in his honor. Zatara awoke from a nap in a chair where he had been reading a book on magic and listening to music playing on the radio. He wondered if it was a dream, or if it really happened.

Superman #100, September 1955, was published around July 21, 1955, containing 32pages for 10 cents. Mort Weisinger was well into his editorial leadership of the Superman titles at this time. The cover was drawn by J. Winslow Mortimer and featured a bust shot of Superman, with the first, 25th, 50th and 75th covers in front of him.

The first story of the issue was the eight page The Toy Superman Contest written by William Woolfolk, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. Superman had licensed a toy figure of himself that had the ability to safely mimic his super powers. Proceeds from their sale went to charity. A Metropolis department store sponsored a contest to determine the most ingenious feat that a child could come up with for their Superman figure, and asked Superman to be the judge. The store had already trimmed the contestants to about twenty.

Tommy had his Superman figure smashing a meteor before it struck Earth. Another wrapped steel girders around him and spun fast enough to become a magnet and pull the guns from a gang's hands. A third would save a car heading out of control into a swamp that had some kryptonite. His Superman figure would turn his cape into a kite, tie it to an iron fencepost and harpoon the car so that Superman could use his super breath to float the car far enough from the swamp to save the car and its passengers (except for the hole in the vehicle).

Bob would have his Superman figure save a champion swimer who was suffering a cramp and in danger of drowning, by having Supemran burrow underground to a salt deposit. He took a large block of salt underground into the body of water, until it melted and made the water salty enough to make the swimmer float on the surface. (I would hate to be near this new Dead Sea later when all of the fish died from the salt.)

Harry was the final entrant. His feat was to have Superman use his x-ray vision to see how a scientist at a chemical plant was doing with an experiment without bothering him. Superman declared him the winner and flew out of the department store, leaving a lot of unhappy kids. He went to an unknown office to test a pair of glasses. Superman returned to the store and explained everything. He had been searching for an escaped convict when he got a tip that the suspect had placed some heat sensitive bombs around the waterfront where he was hiding. The bombs would detonate from the heat of his x-ray vision. The glasses absorbed the heat from his x-rays. allowing Superman to use his vision power to find the criminal and apprehend him. He got the idea from Harry's model, which showed a piece of asbestos on the part of the building the scientist was working, which would absorb the heat from the x-ray vision. (This was a typical off the wall silver age comic book story.)

After a one page humor strip Little Pete, the second Superman story was Superman -- Substitute Teacher. The eight page story was drawn by Al Plastino. The writer is unknown at this point. Clark Kent had changed into Superman in an alley to catch a falling piano that was being lowered from a window and its rope had broken. After the save he was putting on his civilian clothes when a man saw Superman getting dressed. He only saw his back, and Clark disguised himself with a fake mustache. The man followed him down the street to find out Superman's secret identity when a boy called him Mr. Cranston. It turned out that Mr. Cranston resembled Clark Kent, and was a substitute teacher. He eventually got a job at a school substituting for the regular teacher, to throw the man off.

The rest of the story dealt with the disguised Superman dealing with some class pranksters. One gave the teacher an apple, which was made out of wood. The disguised Superman decided to have some fun and ate the apple, making the boy believe he brought the wrong one. After a sereis of pranks gone bad and a lunch break, the class pranksters had snuck straws into the class and were going to use them as pea shooters. Superman used his x-ray vision to seal the ends of the straws so they couldn't work. After some more failed pranks the principal entered the classroom and complimented Mr. Cranston for a well behaved class. Superman then revealed his true identity and used his powers for some practical classroom demonstrations and flew away at the end of the school day. At the end of the story the stranger was following the real Mr. Cranston, who told his stalker to go away because he was not the real Superman.

The Clue From Krypton was the eight page final story of the issue. It was written by Bill Finger, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. Clark Kent went to the home of a Mr. Fowler, who had promised him a scoop. It turned out that the scoop was the secret of his secret identity. Fowler had used Superman's autobiography I Superman to find a clue about his identity. Fowler used a metal detector on the field that the infant Superman's rocket had crashed and exploded, after the Kents had retrieved him from the rocket. Fowler found a rocket fragment with the super baby's fingerprints on it. He enlarged the prints and compared them to the fingerprints of people known to be involved with Superman. The only match he found was Clark Kent. He bribed Clark to make him rich, and then he would give him the evidence.

While Clark never changed into Superman in front of Fowler, he did his bidding. Superman used his x-ray vision to located a barren field that covered an untapped oil deposit. After Fowler bought the land Superman built an oil well. Next he took a piece of coal near Fowler's fireplace and squeezed it into a large diamond. After Fowler deposited it in a bank deposit box he gave Superman a rocket fragment, only it wasn't the one with the fingerprints. Fowler had decided to keep it in order for Superman to do something else for him in the future. Superman repaid Fowler's treachery by digging a tunnel under his oil deposit so that it flowed away from Fowler's land, and then told him about it. Obviously angry, Fowler reminded Superman that he still had the diamond. Superman then flew Fowler to the bank and sang an ear splitting note. It shattered the diamond in the safe deposit box (without damaging the contents of anyone else's deposit box we assume). Now really angry, Fowler held a press conference the next day and presented his evidence. Superman, in his Clark Kent identity, used his x-ray vision to warp the fragment with the fingerprints. An expert compared the two sets of prints and declared that they didn't match. This convinced Fowler that he had been mistaken all along.

Being a Bill Finger story, it is no wonder this was the best story of either issue. While his stories are certainly of their time, they seem to hold up better when read all these years later. He is an underappreciated talent of the comic book industry.

I would like to thank everyone who has listened to this podcast over these first hundred episodes. I would like to thank Taylor (who used to work at the same place I did), Chris, both Michaels, Mick, Mike of New York, Ralph of North Jersey, Barry of Chicago and Brad of Australia, not to mention the From Crisis To Crisis podcast, for being members of the Superman Fan Podcast groups on facebook. Also, I would like to thank Chris, John, Mick and the FCTC podcast again for being members of the My Pull List group on facebook.

Next week: The Death Of Superman!

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Episode #99: Superman: Secret Identity

The four issue mini-series Superman: Secret Identity was originally published in a collected edition on November 3, 2004. The issues themselves were publsihed from January to April of that year. It was written by Kurt Busiek, art and covers by Stuart Immonen and lettered by Todd Klein. Kurt worte in an introduction that he was inspired by DC Comics Presents #87, November 1985, and the story The Origin Of Superboy Prime. He was born on "our" Earth (during the era of DC Coics of the multiverse) where the DC heroes were fictional characters in comic books and super heroes did not exist.

Kurt fashioned his own story that was not a sequel or adaption of that earlier story. Clark was born to David and Laura Kent in Picketsville, Kansas, who thought it would be fun to name their son after the fictional character. Of couse, the humor of the situation escaped their son, as is usually the case. His birthdays are always filled with unwanted Superman themed gifts, but he is a good sport about it. There is no Lana Lang or Pete Ross in Clark's high school life. The closest friend he has is a girl named Cassie. He discovers he has super powers in a unique way and eventually decides to take up the mantle of his fictional namesake.

He does become a writer, but he avoids newspaper journalism, becoming a magazine writer and then a book author instead. So there are no Perry or Jimmy, but there is a Lois. She is not a Lane, and is not a reporter. They eventually marry and have twin daughters.

Clark does not operate openly, even though he does wear a traditional Superman costume. It is a good thing too. Unknown men in black investigate sightings and unusual rescues. Clark is eventually captured and finds a morgue filled with the bodies of about twelve other people similar to himself, including a few infants. He is able to eventually get the government off his back in return for his services, with a few caveats.

Like his original creators, this Clark Kent/Superman was a trailblazer, with all of the trials and troubles that come with it. But Clark gets to see things change. Governments don't fear super powered beings eventually. They begin to operate openly and even work with the government. And the Superman Family grows, as his twin girls inherit his powers, along with grandsons Perry, Clark and Jimmy. That Kent sense of humor got passed down too.

Secret Identity was the most real look at super heroes I've read. It probably wouldn't be all praise and glory between bouts with a super villain. With great powers would come great fear. It would make sense to operate secretly, colorful costume or not. the best part of the story was the development of Clark and his own Lois, who is very different from her comic book namesake. the story of their life is what is most interesting, super powers or not. Any Superman fan , or comic book reader in gerneral, would enjoy this story. I would even venture to say that people who would not normally read comic books would find this story interesting.

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

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Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009


This episode was part of the Comic Book Theme Week for Halloween among many comic book podcasters.

The story They Saved Luthor's Brain! was collected into a trade paperback by the same name, released on January 26, 2000. It collected the following issues Superman (vol. 2) #2 and Action Comics issues 660, 668, 672 and 676-678. However, there are more issues of the various Superman titles that were a part of this story.

The story began with Superman #2, February 1987. At the end of the new Superman #1, Metallo had almost killed Superman with kryptonite poisoning before vanishing. In issue #2 it was revealed that Luthor's security forces had captured Metallo, and Luthor himself ripped out the kryptonite that powered Metallo's robot body with his bare hand, and had a new ring with a kryptonite stone setting custom made for himself, as a symbol of his ability to keep Superman at bay. What Luthor would eventually learn was that kryptonite was not totally harmless to humans. While short exposure posed no threat, prolonged exposure would prove fatal to Luthor.

His troubles really began in Action Comics #600, May 1988, published on February 2, 1988. In the third story of the issue, Games People Play (written by John Byrne, pencilled by Dick Giordano, inked by John Beatty, lettered by Albert Tobias DeGuzman, colored by Thomas J. Ziuko and edited by Mike Carlin), Lex's right hand, with the kryptonite ring, had been aching. When he slammed his right fist on his desk in anger, the pain was excruciating. Dr. Kelley diagnosed kryptonite poisoning.

Luthor had his hand amputated and a robotic hand installed in Superman #19, May 1988, Febryary 2, 1988, in the story titled The Power That Failed (written and pencilled by John Byrne, inked by John Beatty, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Petra Scotese. That would not stop the spread of cancer, as Lex found out in Action Comics #656, August 1990, July 10, 1990, Going To Blazes (written by Roger Stern, pencilled by Bob McLeod, inked by Brett Breeding, lettered by Bill Oakley, and colored by Glenn Whitmore). In Action Comics #660, December 1990, November 6, 1990, titled Certain Death, Luthor was taking chemtherapy treatments for the cancer. He decided to go out with a bang instead of withering away to nothing. He commissioned a round the world flight, around the poles, on one of his LexWig planes with a co-pilot. During the flight Luthor jettisoned the co-pilot in a rescue capsule in the Caribbean, and the plane crash landed in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

Luthor's will, naming an heir, would eventually be found in Action Comics #662, February 1991, January 8, 1991, in the story Secrets In The Night, in the same issue that Clark Kent revealed his secret identity to Lois Lane. Happersen and Kelley, Luthor's inner circle, went to New South Wales, Australia, to find Luthor's son, whose mother was none other than Dr. Kelley herself, in Action Comics #670, October 1991, September 3, 1991.

Lex, Jr. landed in Metropolis in the very next issue, and in #672 settled the Daily Planet strike by promising to buy afvertising in the paper for various LexCorp companies. Lex, Jr. had his father's affection for the ladies and began a romantic affair with the Matrix Supergirl in issue #677.

The true story behind Lex, Jr. was finally revealed in Action Comics #678. The cover, drawn by Art Thibert, carried the title They Saved Luthor's Brain, which served as the title of the paperback collection of this storyline. The title of the story itself was Talking Heads, written by Roger Stern, pencilled by Jackson Guice, inked by Andy Parks, lettered by Bill Oakley and colored by Glenn Whitmore. The story began when Lex, Jr. was attacked by a gunman, who was then injured when one of his bullets richocheted off of Supergirl. He was taken to a hospital and identified as Dr. Dabney Donovan (mentioned in episode #34, Jack Kirby's Project Cadmus). He was interviewed by Inspector Henderson, who remained in the shadows of the hospital room that night.

Dabney told the whole story, how the "late" Lex Luthor had secreted another body, also missing his right hand, onto the ill-fated LexWing. With the jet on autopilot, Luthor placed the body in the pilot's seat and ejected in a secret escape pod. He was found by Dr. Happersen and taken to a remote lab established in the Australian Outback. There, Donovan and Dr. Teng, another old Luthor associate who had created the original Bizarro (in the Man Of Steel mini-series) operated on Luthor. All they were able to save from Lex's body that was cancer free were his brain, eyes and spinal cord, which were placed in a fluid filled isodation tank. A clone body was grown around the brain, and sleep tapes gave the "new" Luthor the correct Austrailan accent.

When the new Luthor was ready to resume his life as his own heir, he blew up the lab. Teng was killed but Donovan survived to plan his revenge. Inspecotr Henderson was revealed to be a disguised Lex Luthor, Jr. Luthor revealed to Donovan that he had planted his will so that it would be found after his death, when his company would be in chaos, along with the rest of Metropolis, because of Luthor's demise. The stage would then be set for Lex, Jr. to arrive and become the savior of Metropolis and once again be the city's top dog. Luthor planned to poison Donovan with a syringe, but Dabney beat him to it. Donovan himself was a clone, and activated an implanted self-destruct device and burst into flames. Of course Luthor escaped the hospital without detection.

That was not the end of the cloned Luthor, during the Bizarro World story, found in all of the Superman titles from Superman #87 - Superman #88, a disease swept through the clone community, Cadmus escapees who lived underground below Metropolis, and afflicted Luthor as well. He had Bizarro captured and experimented on to find a cure. Luthor withered away and he lost his hair. Lois and Superman stopped Luthor's experiments but too late to save Bizarro. Luthor's condition continued to deteriorate, and when it seemed that death would not escape Luthor he decided to take Metropolis with him. In The Battle For Metropolis and The Fall Of Metropolis storylines, which ran through the Superman titles from Action Comics #699 - Action Comics #701, most of Metropolis was destroyed. Luthor was finally stopped and his body became paralyzed while his mind was still actvie, a fitting punishment.

His health was restored in Underworld Unleashed #2, when the demon Neron offered to restore Lex's health in exchange for his soul. Since Luthor did not believed in the afterlife he found that quite a bargain. Luthor was eventually cleared of all charges when he was able to prove an evil clone of himself was responsible for the atrocities, which cleared the way for Lex Luthor to eventually run for President and all of the adventures that followed.

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Issue #97: An Interview With Billy Tucci!

I would like to thank Billy Tucci for taking the time out of his busy schedule for this interview. It was conducted and posted on Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

Billy Tucci wrote and drew the story Flash Vs. Superman: To The Finish Line!, published on Wednesday, October 21, 2009, in the 80 pg. DC Halloween Special 2009. It was colored by Brian Miller of HiFi Design and lettered by Rob Leigh. It is available now at your local comic book store or your internet vendor.

During this interview Billy also discusses his recent mini-series: Sgt. Rock: The Lost Batallion, his self-published title Shi, some future projects and his own military service. We also get to meet his youngest son Matthew! The hardcover edition of Sgt. Rock: The Lost Batallion is scheduled to be published on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, and his Sgt. Rock Christmas story in the DC Holiday Special 2009 on Wednesday, December 9, 2009.Visit Billy Tucci's web site at:

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comcs Podcast Network!

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Episode #96: Happy Birthday, Edmond Hamilton!

Edmond Hamilton was born on October 21, 1904 and died on February 1, 1977. He was a science fiction and comic book writer who was born in Youngstown, Ohio. He grew up there and in nearby New Castle, Pennsylvania. He graduated high school at the age of 14, and attended Westminster Colleg in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania until he was 17 but did not graduate.

His science fiction career began in 1926 when his story The Monster God Of Mamurth was published in the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales magazine. The first hardcover compilation of his stories was published a decade later, titled The Horror On The Asteroid And Other Tales Of Planetary Horror. Hamilton was a prolific writer. He wrote around eighty stories for Weird Tales, as well as for every other science fiction magazine in publication. It was not uncommon for four or five stories to be published per month among various magazines, and sometimes more than one story would appear in a title. In those cases he used a pseudonym for one of the stories.

Hamilton was well known for writing in the space opera sub-genre of science fiction. His story The Island Of Unreason (originally published in the May 1933 issue of Wonder Stories) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best science fiction story of the year. the Verne Prize was voted on by fans and was the precursor of the Hugo Awards.

During the Depression Hamilton also wrote detective/crime stories.

In the 1940's he wrote many stories for the Captain Future character, originally published in the Ned Pine stable of publications. Captain Future was designed for younger characters and created by Mort Weisinger, an editor for the Ned Pine titles who would later be Hamilton's editor at DC Comics.

When science fiction moved away from its space opera roots, some science fiction readers seemed to find Hamilton's stories, and other similar writers, outdated. Since I have never read any of Edmond Hamilton's stories I cannot comment for myself.

Edmond Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who had a script credit for the film The Empire Strikes Back after her death in 1978.

He began writing for DC Comics in 1942 and retired from writing comic book stories a little over twenty years later in 1966, writing a total of 282 stories. His first published story was Bandits In Toyland in Batman #11 June/July1942. He also wrote for a variety of DC titles, including the Superman family of titles and The Legion Of Super-Heroes. Hamilton also wrote for Julius Schwartz's science fiction comic book titles Strange Adventures and Mystery In Space for which he created the character Chris KL-99, who first appeared in Strange Adventures #1 and was similar to the Captain Future character. He also wrote for the Tommy Tommorow science fiction character in Action Comics. His last DC Comics story was The Cape & Cowl Crooks in World's Finest Comics #159, August 1966 (mentioned in episode #64 about Perry White).

In the late 1970's Edmond Hamilton worked on anime adaptions of his Captain Future stories and a live action Japanese TV adaption of his story Star Wolf. He died on February 1, 1977 after complications from kidney surgery. On July 18, 2009 Kinsman, Ohio celebrated Edmond Hamilton Day.

The Edmond Hamilton Superman story featured in this episode was The Last Days Of Superman, originally published in Superman #156, October 1962, originally published on August 2, 1962. It has been reprinted in the editions Superman In The Sixties, Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. III.

For more information about Edmond Hamilton:

Edmond Hamilton Day:

Edmond Hamilton's science fiction bibliography:

Edmond Hamilton's comic book work:,http://www.comics.org

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Episode #95: Happy Birthday, Harry Donenfeld!

Harry Donenfeld is considered by many Superman fans the other villain, after Jack Liebowitz, in the legal saga of Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster. Their story is the spine of the history of comic books in Gerard Jones' non-fiction book Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters And The Birth Of The Comic Book. The exact date of Harry's own birth is lost. Son Irwin could find no birth certificate or other immigration records when he search for his father's family history. It is believed he was born around October 16, 1893 in a Jewish family in Romania. They immigrated to New York's Lower East Side, the destination of many Eastern European Jews, where many pioneers of the comic book industry emerged from.

As a youth Harry floated among street gangs. He was short and chubby, but what he lacked in stature he made up with personality. Harry always had a tall tale to tell. He avoided the draft in 1917 because of his lack of a birth certificate. The next year he married Gussie Weinstein. Son Irwin was born on March 1, 1926 and daughter Sonja, called Peachy, in 1928. The couple opened a clothing store in Newark, New Jersey with a loan from Gussie's parents, but the store closed after the economic slump of 1920-21. Harry found work as a salesman and fourth partner of his brothers' Martin Press, and quickly became successful at his job. He was able to bring higher end print jobs to the company, and when a print job required more sophisticated printing techniques than his company possessed, would sub-contract with a company with the right presses but no sales force to land the job.

When Prohibition brought a rise of organized crime, Harry, as part of the printing industry, became part of the distribution network for the now illegal alcohol. Paper trucks bringing newsprint form Canadian paper mills also smuggled alcohol, and printing warehouses stored booze as well as paper. Harry would become friends with many gangsters, most notably Frank Costello, and would tell many stories about his mob friends. That would change years later when comic books were under public scrutiny, and such affiliations were not convenient for a comics publisher.

In 1923 Harry landed the job of printing six million subscription inserts for Hearst magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. The family company, Martin Press, would move into a new twelve story building in the Chelsea district, complete with the latest printing presses. Two older brothers would eventually be driven out of the company and return to the garment industry, supposedly never to speak a kind word about their younger brother again. Brother Irving would reman minority partner and head printer. The company name would be changed from Martin Press to Donny Press.

His business contacts put Harry in a social level far higher than someone from the lower East Side could have imagined, and he lived the nightlife of drinking, gambling and womanizing. Donny Press would begin printing magazines in the 1920's, including the pulps, and by the late '20's become a publisher of pulps as well. Pulps were magzines filled with fictional stories of various genres and were the predecessor of modern paperback books. As mentioned in the previous episode Harry published sexy pulps called smooshes and art magazines called nudies because of the photos. His publishing company also grew when it took over titles from other publishers when they could not pay their printing or distribution bills to Harry.

Also mentioned in the previous episode, Jack Liebowitz would become Harry's business manager for his publishing company. Jack ran the business side while Harry was the public face of the company. He wined and dined clients and closed the deal. He would play gin rummy games with Jack at the end of the business day.

Harry expanded his pulp titles to include the crime genre, which were no less lurid than his smooshes. He was late to realize that the party of Prohibition was over after the election of Fiorello LaGuardia as New York mayor on a platform of cleaning out corruption. His distribution license was threatened to be pulled because some of his smooshes might be indecent material. Harry talked employee Herbie Siegel (no relation to Jerry apparently) to take the fall as publisher of Pep magazine, which was considered indecent. Herbie served sixty to ninety days in jail, and Harry kept his promise to take care of Herbie for life, as he worked for Harry for at least thirty years. One trick Harry would pull would be to dissolve one company and sell its assets to another company, which was actually a dummy corporation established in another state that Harry actually owned.

Harry began an affair with Sunny Palin, which would last the rest of his life. Son Irwin would comment in later decades that his Dad had a wife and mistress and cheated on both. Harry traveled the country for his distribution company Independent News, the establishment of which was detailed in the previous episode. He would meet and socialize with newsstand distributors around the country.

Donenfeld's biggest fortune would come from the three title comic book company he and Jack Liebowitz would buy from the bankrupt Maj. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (again, see the previous episode). At the very beginning comic books were just a small cog of his publishing company. After Superman and Action Comics birthed the superhero comic book, the road was paved for Harry and Jack's comic book company to dominate the industry for decades to come. In 1939 Harry hired press agent Allen Ducovny to publicize Superman in newspapers and magazines. Ducovny arranged to have reporters and photographers at Joe Shuster's bedroom studio in Glenvillle, Ohio, then co-created sample episodes of a Superman radio show with Robert Joffe (Bob Maxwell) that would be a radio hit until the rise of TV. The opening, "Look, up in the sky!" is credited by some to the radio show.

Another source of revenue for Harry came from licensing Superman. He put Ducovney, nicknamed Duke in charge of Superman, Inc. Superman was as big of a hit overseas as in the USA. Advertising rates rose for Harry's publications, and Jones, in Men Of Tomorrow, said that his research indicated that Harry's comic book business earned $26 million in fiscal year 1941. That amount did not include his other interests in publishing pulps, printing covers, paper and ink suppliers, printing presses or distribution. As mentioned in the previous episode Harry earned money from his comic book competitors by distributing their titles, which would eventually include Martin Goodman's Timely (later Marvel) Comics. After years involved in racy pulps and bootlegging, his biggest moneymaker came from kid's entertainment, the target audience of comic books for many decades.

Friends would greet Harry with, "Hey, Superman!" He began wearing a Superman t-shirt under his suit, and at the right moment, like a spilled drink or a woman alone at a bar, would rip his shirt open revealing the Superman "S" and say, "This is a job for Superman!" Like most comic book publishers at the time, and many decades to come, Harry enjoyed the success of the characters he published as if he created them himself. He eventually could afford to move his mistress Sunny into a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Park Avenue. Harry continued to meet with his distributors, but now traveled in his own Pullman car on the railroad. He lived and partied hard while partner Jack kept the company steady financially.

When Jerry and Joe began to feel discontent over their deal, Harry would smooth things over temporarilly by making vague promises that worked for a short while. there is even an unproven story, which Itwin believed, that Harry even paid for eye surgery for Joe on one occasion. When Harry turned 5o in 1943, a birthday card was commissioned as a comic strip, which ended with Harry putting Superman on his knee. He gave the Man Of Steel a spanking saying, "I'm 50 years old, but you're still taking orders from me." Superman replied, "And that's the way I like it." He also had a large Superman painting commissioned, which hung in the boardroom for many years. It was reproduced as the cover for the oversized Superman Collector's Edition #C-31 in 1974, which reprinted the Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson Superman origin story.

By the war years of the 1940's Harry had pulled out of his illegal rackets, due in no small part to the business practices of partner Jack Liebowitz. Harry did use his connections to keep his company amply supplied with paper during rationing. He was also in demand for bond drives and patriotic campaigns. This former bootlegger and publisher of racy pulps had become part of the establishment.

After the war Harry began to fade into the background as Jack Liebowitz seemed to exercise more control over the company. After the anti-comics hysteria of the 1950's Jack might have wanted Harry's mob and bootlegging roots buried as deep as possible in his desire to make the company as legitimate as possible. Harry's years of hard drinking and living began to take its toll. Son Irwin would join the company and be assigned some of his Dad's jobs by "Uncle Jack". After children Irwin and Peachy grew up and left home to live their own lives Harry moved in permanently with mistress Sunny at the Waldorf, even though wife Gussie would never agree to a divorce.

Gussie became ill and died in 1961. Later in the year National Periodicals Publications (as DC Comics was known then) made its first public stock offering. It looked like Harry would finally be able to marry his mistress, but it was not to be. Son Irwin found his dad laying in bed one day, breathing but unresponsive. He seemed to have fallen and hit his head on the corner of a piece of furniture and somehow staggered to his bed. Irwin called for an ambulance. Harry awoke the next day unable to speak and no memory. He would recover some function, walk, speak a few words, but never seemed to regain his memory. Irwin and his sister put their father in a care facility where Harry died in February 1965. And so this short, larger than life man died silent and empty.

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My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

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Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Episode #94: Happy Birthday, Jack Liebowitz!

Jacob S. Liebowitz was born on October 10, 1900 and died on December 11, 2000, so his life literally spanned the 20th Century. His first name was Yacov when he was born in Proskurov, Ukraine to mother Mindl and an unnamed husband who abandoned his family when his son was still an infant. Mindl would later mary Yulyus Lebovitz around 1903. He was a fur cutter and a socialist involved in labor union activity, which concerned her family. After she married Yulyus, she gave birth to five more children by the time the family moved to New York's Lower East Side around 1910. Yulyus and Mindl's names were Anglicized to Julius and Minnie Liebowitz, and youg Yacov became Jacob, then Jack. Julius became a garment worker and full time organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, ILGWU.

In school Jack was always good at numbers, and considered pursuing either law or accounting until a high school accounting class tipped the balance. He earned an accounting degree from New York University in 1924. After graduation he married his wife Rose and rented an apartment in the Bronx. They would eventuallly have two daughters, Linda and Joan. Jack established an accounting office in Manhattan's Union Square and his only client was the ILGWU.

Within a year he was put in charge of the union's strike fund, and kept it solvent through a six month, 50,000 worker strike. He began taking other clients and studied the stock market, investing the strike funds in stocks. After the stock crash of 1929, when the value of union stock holdings plumeted, Jack and the union parted ways. Jack's father Julius asked Harry Donenfeld, who had done some printing jobs for the union, if he had a job for Jack. Harry needed a new business manager for his publishing company, and so the two men who would eventually head DC Comics came together.

When Jack joined Harry's company it was limited to publisheing sexy pulp magazines, called smooshes, and art magazines, or nudies. The company would add more pulps to their magazine stable, as they took over ownership of titles when their previous owners could not pay their printing or distribution bills. In 1931, when Harry's old distributor Eastern News faced bankruptcy, Harry did not want to be at the mercy of another distributor. He proposed a deal to Eastern co-owner Paul Sampliner to create Independent News Company. Harry would be head salesman, brother Irving would be head of printing and publishing and Jack would head accounting. To fund Independent News, Sampliner borrowed the money from his mother. Independent was ready to move in when Eastern folded. Sampliner would become a silent partner as Harry and Jack became the public faces of the company.

Jack kept the bills paid on time and earned client's trust. He kept costs down and kept the pressure on debtors to keep their bills paid. He also began to look for other properties and opportunities as well. Jack and Harry would enter the comic book business in 1935. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson needed a new distributor for his comic book company, National Allied Publications. At this point the company had only two titles, New Fun (which would eventually become More Fun), and New Comics (which would become New Adventure Comics and then Adventure Comics). New Fun was the first modern comic book with all new material, instead of newspaper comic strip reprints as was the custom to that point. It was an anthology, as were all comic book titles in this era. The Major premiered a third title, Detective Comics #1, cover dated March 1937, on February 25, 1937. This new title was the first comic book to feature a single genre, detective stories as the title suggested.

After the Major ran out of money and defaulted on his debts to Donenfeld Press, Harry told him to go into receivership, and Jack Liebowitz went to bankruptcy court and bought the Major's assets. The company became Detective Comics, Inc., with Donenfeld and Sampliner as officers. That ended Wheeler-Nicholson's involvement in the comic book industry.

Jack pusked former National Allied editor Vin Sullivan to publish the previously planned fourth title that the Major failed to deliver, originally named Thrilling Comics but later changed to Action Comics. Sullivan asked friend Sheldon Mayer at the McClure Syndicate if he or fellow McClure editor Charlie Gaines (later founder of E. C. Comics, or Educational Comics, changed to Entertaining Comics by son Bill) if they had anything the syndicate wasn't using that could fill this new comic book. They had several weeks worth of a comic strip called Superman. The strips were sent back to Siegel and Shuster to be cut apart and rearranged and expanded to a thirteen page story. Jerry and Joe got #130.00 check, signed a release giving the character rights to the publisher, and began both their fortune and their pain. Jerry and Joe would never win against an accountant like Jack Liebowitz.

When Charlie Gaines asked Harry to distribute and finance his own comic book publishing company, Harry agreed on the condition that Jack become minority partner in the new venture. All-American got it's start, and would publish the golden age characters, the original Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and others. Jack let Gaines and Mayer run All-American while he held tight reign on DC, Inc.

Jack would show himself ahead of his time on several occasions. The first time was when he and new editor Whitney Ellsworth created the first comic book code of conduct for super heroes, about fifteen years before the Comics Code Authority, to avoid censorship drives that plagued the pulp magazines. There would be no more stories of Superman ripping the wings off of a plane and allowing the pilot to fall to his doom, or Batman machine gunning a monster from his Bat-autogyro.

Liebowitz also protected the company by filing lawsuits against comic book publishers he felt were printing copycat super heroes. The most famous lawsuit was against Fawcett, who published Captain Marvel (no similarity to the Marvel character of the same name). While the legitimacy of that lawsuit might seem debatable, there were other characters that were clearly clones of Superman, or other DC heroes.

Harry's son Irwin would become very close to Liebowitz, who he referred to as Uncle Jack, and had a closer relationship with him than his own father, even though he spoke fondly of him. Irwin would learn the comic book business from Uncle Jack.

When Gaines left All-American to form E. C. Comics he sold his part of the company to Jack, who merged the two companies together.

After the Congressional hearings about comic book violence and the establishment of the Comics Code Authority, DC struggled along with the other publishers, many of which went out of business. DC was less affected by the Code because their content was governed by their own editorial code, which was a basis of the Comics Code itself. DC grew by buying the characters of defunt companies as they went out of business. Through Independent News, DC would make money by distributing the comic books published by their competitors, including Martin Goodman's Timely (later Marvel) Comics.

Liebowitz was ahead of his time again when he used the new media of television to promote DC's characters with The Adventures Of Superman TV show. When the final four of the six seasons were filmed in color, it made the show more popular for syndication when color broadcasting became the norm in the 1960's.

Jack's wife Rose died of cancer in 1956. He would remarry in 1967 to a woman many years younger than him.

In 1961, DC went public and became National Periodical Publishing, with Jack Liebowitz as president. According to Gerard Jones' book Men Of Tomorrow Jack wanted Harry's money moved to a family trust and Harry himself off the board of directors. As DC became more respectable Jack wanted Harry's old Prohibition and mob ties buried as deeply as possible. Harry fought the move until his wife passed away.

In 1967 National was bought by Kinney National Services, which bought Warner Brother's the next year to form Warner Communications. Again Jack would earn a place on the board of directors then and once more, when Warner merged with Time-Life to form Time Warner. Jack would visit the office and be active on the board into his 90's.

When he died Jack was survived by his second wife Phyllis, daughters Linda L. Stillman and Joan L. Levy, and stepson Robert Schwartz, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was one of the founding trustees of Long Island Jewish Hospital (later renamed North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System). He was also a trustee of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and other charitable endeavors.

Superman Fan Podcast is at . Send e-mail about this podcast to .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Join the Superman Fan Podcast and My Pull List groups on facebook, and follow the podcast and blogs on twitter @supermanfan.

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Episode #93: The Unauthorized Biography Of Lex Luthor!

Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography was published as a deluxe softcover 48 page comic book on May 16, 1989. It was written by james D. Hudnall, drawn by Eduardo Baretto, lettered by Bill Oakley and colored by Adam Kubert. It fleshed out the backstory of Lex Luthor, at least the version established in John Byrne's mini-series Man Of Steel.

The biography is told through the eyes of down on his luck writer Peter Sands, who bluffs his way into a bookk deal to write about Luthor, the corporate magnate. The plot also involves Clark Kent, who is framed for his murder.

In this version of Lex Luthor, he was raised in the Suicide Slum area of Metropolis, boyhood friend of Perry White, later of the Daily Planet. After taking out a life insurance policy on his parents he arranges for them to be killed in a car accident by tampering with their vehicle. Sands uncovers people who know Luthor when, and uncovers some unsavory details about how Lex built the foundation of his corporate empire.

Of course Sand's efforts do not go unnoticed by Luthor, who demonstrates his ability to keep himself from being incriminated for his evil deeds, to the ultimate detriment of Sands himself. The story is a chilling look at one of the most famous comic book villains, and why he is such a match for Superman.

This story is no longer in print, but may be found in the back issue bins of your local comic book store or on the internet.

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

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