Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Episode #115: The Legion Of Super-Heroes!

As DC Comics celebrates its 75th anniversary, I want to take the opportunity, as often as I can, to highlight aspects of that history as it affects Superman. According to Mike's Amazing World Of DC Comics at, the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics #247, April 1958, and, according to Mike's website, was published around February 27, 1958 (about 2 years and 7 months before I was born). In that story three super powered teens travel from the future and visit Superboy, inviting him to join their super hero club. They engage in some initiation hazing before Superboy is admitted. Superboy and the Legion would be intertwined for the next 30 years, and Superman would even sometimes visit the adult Legion. In this episode I will give a general overview of the history of the Legion, and won't really touch on many plot points.

The Legion was not an immediate hit. The next Legion story would not be published until about a year and a half later, in Adventure Comics#267, Decenber 1959, October 29, 1959. Future Legion stories would be printed sporadically in issues of Adventure, Superboy and Action until it became the title feature with Adventure Comics #300, September 1962, published around July 26, 1962. Legion popularity steadily grew, and its fans, although perhaps not the largest comic book fan base, became among the most avid and dedicated in comic books. It is often said that comic book fans of teen groups usually fall into two camps, the Legion and the X-Men. While I like the X-Men, especially the earliest Lee and Kirby X-stories, I guess you can chalk me up as a Legion fan. And that is only from a small handfull of Legion stories I managed to read growing up, and I'll mention a few of them in this episode.

One criticism about the Legion is that there are too many characters. My response to that is, isn't the same true about the X-Men? I'm not knocking the X-Men, but with the Legion, yeah, there are a lot of characters, but at least there is only one comic book title to keep track of. The X-Men have about as many titles as there are mutants. That's an exaggeration, but it takes a lot more money to keep up with the X-Men titles than it does with the Legion. But there is a lot to enjoy with both groups.

The first Legion story I have any memory of reading was the fourth Legion story, The Army Of Living Kryptonite Men from Superboy #86, January 1961, published around January 31, 1961. I obviously didn't read it when it was first published. I don't remember how I got a copy of it around the time I was learning to read. The young Lex Luthor invented a machine that could cause chunks of kryptonite to group together in a human shape to battle Superboy, who was rescued by Lightning Lad.

Adventure Comics would establish the classic era of the Legion, with the inverted rocket shaped clubhouse, rotating Legion leadership, Legion tryouts and eventually the Legion of Substitute Heroes. The first legion story I remember my Dad buying me was Adventure Comics #372, September 1968, published around July 30, 1968. The story in that issue was School Of Super-Villains, written by Jim Shooter, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Jack Abel. I saw it at a drugstore in Ocala, Florida, where I lived for a few years. What made me ask my Dad to buy it was the Neal Adams cover, showing Superboy turned into glass and being shattered by a sledgehammer. In the story Colossal Boy had been kicked out of the Legion in part one the previous issue, and joined a school for super-villains.

Legion fandom has produced a number of comic book professionals who have made major contributions to Legion lore. The first was Jim Shooter, who began his comic book career around the age of 14 writing for the Legion, beginning with Adventure Comics #346, July 1966, May 26, 1966. He would be the regular Legion writer through Adventure #384, January 1970. His final Legion story of the 1970's would be in Superboy #209, June 1975. He created the characters Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass and the Adult Legion. He also introduced the Legion villains Fatal Five, Dark Circle and Mordru. He also wrote the story of the first Legion death, who stayed dead, Ferro Lad in Adventure Comics #353, February 1967, December 27, 1966, when he sacrificed himself to destroy the Sun Eater.

Other creators who added to Legion history were writer Carey Bates, who wrote the story in which Bouncing Boy married Duo Damsel in Superboy Starring The Legion Of Super-Heroes #200, Jan./Feb. 1974, October 18, 1973, drawn by Dave Cockrum. He would draw the Legion from Superboy #184, April 1972 through Superboy #202. Mike Grell inked Dave Cockrum's last story and would become the regular Legion penciller with issue 203, August 1974, the story which told the death of Invisible Kid. He would draw the Legion uninterrupted through Superboy #235, January 1978. This era of the Legion, between Cockrum and Grell, is sometimes called the Legion's disco era because of the haristyles, bell bottoms, and skimpier outfits.

The second Legion wedding would occur in Superboy #236 & 237, March & April 1978, when Saturn Girl married Lightning Lad.

With issue #261, March 1980, Superboy would be dropped from the title and it became the Legion Of Super-Heroes. It would be renamed again, as Tales Of The Legion Of Super-Heroes with issue #314, August 1984 and run through issue #354, December 1987.

During this time other Legion fans became professionals. Paul Levitz, who was involved with comic book fanzines, and wrote and published the fanzine The Comics Reader, wrote his first Legion story with Superboy #225, March 1977, And Who Shall Lead Them? His first Legion run would end with issue#251, May 1979. He would return to the Legion with The Legion Of Super-Heroes #284, February 1982. The title would be renamed Tales of The Legion Of Super-Heroes with issue #314, August 1984. That same month a new Legion Of Super-Heroes title would begin with issue #1 (volume 3 of the Legion). This would be during the early days of the Direct Market, which is the dominant distribution system for comic books today. This new Legion title would be called the Baxter run because of the type of upgraded paper stock used for this edition, which carried a cover price of $1.25. Tales was the newsstand edition and sold for 75 cents, and would eventually become a reprint title of old Legion stories.

It was during the "Baxter Legion" era, when John Byrne began his revamp of Superman with his Man Of Steel mini-series in 1986. Byrne's Superman was never a superhero as a youth, which contradicted with 25 years of Legion continuity. DC handled this conflict in several ways. Legion #'s 37 and 38 tied in to the Superman titles in a Superboy storyline. It established the Pocket Universe, fabricated by the Time Trapper, where the Legion was "actually" visiting this Superboy all these years. The Pocket Universe Superboy sacrificed himself in Legion #38 in a battle against the Time Trapper. Looking back, it seems to me that the Legion began to lose its way, which would not become evident until recent years with a number of reboots. The highlight of the "Baxter" Legion would be the storyline The Great Darkness Saga, which pitted the Legion against Darkseid in issues 287, 290-294 and Legion Of Super-Heroes Annual #3. The Baxter Legion title ended with issue #63, the end of The Magic Wars storyline, and marked Paul Levitz's last Legion story for many years.

The biggest change to the Legion happened with a new Legion Of Super-Heroes title, Novermber 1989, September 12, 1989 (2 weeks before my 29th birthday). This was the first Legion run where I followed it monthly. This fourth volume began five years after the Magic Wars. The United Planets had entered a dark era, with some member planets going to war, and EarthGov and the UP had a very srained relationship. The Legion had been forced to disband for some years, and the Legionnaires scattered to their home planets. Keith Giffen was the plotter and penciller, and husband and wife Tom and Mary Bierbaum wrote each issue.They got their start through The Legion Outpost fan club and Interlac, the Legion amateur press association (APA). It would eventually be revealed that EarthGov had been controlled by the alien race the Dominators.

It was during this time that DC editors decided to erase all mention of Superboy from Legion continuity. In issue 5 Mon-El destroyed the Time Trapper, which created an alternate timeline where Mordru ruled the UP. Glorith would take the Time Trapper's place in an attempt to usurp Mordru, and the timeline would be restored. Mon-El, called Valor in the 20th Centruy, would take Superboy's place as the Legion's inspiration, and be responsible for liberating Dominators' human captives, who had been the subject of genetic experiments. Valor would carry them to various worlds, and their descendants would become the United Planets, and be the source of the Legionairres' powers. During this time a duplicate Legion, first referred to as Batch SW6, also appeared. At first thought of as Legion clones created by the Dominators, they were established as temporal duplicates of the Legion in suspended animation found by the Dominators. These new Legionnaires would appear in their own title in Legionnaires #1, August 1993. Earth would be destroyed in Legion issue #38, December 1992.

With the Zero Hour crossover in 1994, 26 years of Legion continuity would come to an end, in Legion Of Super-Heroes #61 and Legionnaires #18, September 1994. After both Legion and Legionnaires had an issue #0, the new continuity began with Legion #62 and Legionnaires #19. New members of Legionnaires were XS, Barry Allen's granddaughter, Kenetix, whose power was telekenesis, and Gates, a teleporting insectoid. This era is referred to as the "Archie Legion" because the stories were a little more lighthearted at first. My last Legion issues for a few years were Legionnaires #78 and Legion Of Super-Heroes, December 1999. The last issues of these series were Legion #125 and Legionnaires #81, March 2000. With the UP near collapse, a group of Legionnaires disappeed in a space rift.

The twelve issue Legion Lost mini-series, May 2000 - April 2001, chronicled these Legionnaires difficult journey back home. Legion Worlds, June - November 2001, a six issue mini-series chronicled the UP during these Legionnaire's absences.

A new Legion #1 premiered with the December 2001 issue. this series was known for the post-Crisis Superboy, Conner Kent, and a 21st Century Superman clone, were members, and Lex Luthor was an honorary member. I began re-reading this title with issue #19, June 2003, when I began reading comic again with a new local comic book store opening. This Legion series would end with issue #38, October 2004.

What would be called a "3-boot" Legion with another new Legion Of Super-Heroes, volume 5, would begin with #1, March 2005. Writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson began this series. This Legion was different from any other version of the Legion. It was more of a youth movement than an organization. In a very conformist society this Legion was a reform movement. There were some interesting twists with some of the Legionnaires' powers in this Legion. Colossal Boy came from a race of giants who could shrink to human size, Chameleon Boy was known as the androgynous creature Chameleon, Phantom Girl existed in two dimensions at once, and would talk to people in both dimensions at the same time.

Tony Bedard would become the write with issue #31. Waid may have left because of some conflicts with Legion continuity in the JLA/JSA story The Lightning Saga in Justice League Of America 8-10, April-June 2007 and Justice Society Of America 5-6, June-July 2007. This story would involve the Legionnaires Starman (the original version), Dream Girl, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar and Brainiac 5. Jim Shooter would return to the Legion with issue #37. These stories were okay, but I did not like Princess, or Queen Projectra, becoming a villain after the destruction of her world. This series would end with issue #50.

The traditional Legion began to return with the Superman And The Legion Of Super-Heroes story in Action Comics 858 - 863, late Decmber 2007 - May 2008. The verious versions of the Legion joined forces with the Final Crisis: Legion Of 3 Worlds 1-5, October 2008 - September 2009, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by George Perez. The Legion would return to the new Adventure Comics #1/504, October 2009, August 12, 2009, as a back-up feature. while I have enjoyed these issues, I feel the Legion is too big to serve as a short feature in the back of a comic book. Geoff Johns and Gary Franks returned the Clark Kent Superboy to Legion continuity in the first two issues of Superman: Secret Origin, November and December 2009. Legion members have been involved in the 21st Century, in the Superman titles with the World Of New Krypton and World Against Superman storylines. Starman has been a member of the Justice Society in JSA in the last few years.

In upcoming stories, Adventure Comics will carry the Brainiac And The Legion Of-Super-Heroes story, involving the Legionnaires in the 21st and 31st Centuries, and General Lane's Human Defense Corps. Paul Levitz is scheduled to return to the Legion with yet another new series in May 2010. I will be reading it starting with the first issue.

I want to end this episode about the Legion with a look at two institutions of Legion fandom, The Legion Outpost and Interlac, the bi-monthly Legion Amateur Press Association (APA).

The Legion Outpost was both the name of the Legion letters page and the official newsletter of the Legion Fan Club, which published ten issues from 1972 - 1981. The fanclub arose after 1970, when Legion lost its spot in Adventure Comics to Supergirl. Mort Weisinger, editor of Legion as well as the Superman titles, had retired, and no editor at DC seemed interested in the Legion. The Legion was relegated to the back of Action Comics or the occasional Superboy title. Mike Flynn, a 13 year old Bronx resident, wrote a letter that was published in Superboy #182. He invited Legion fans to send him postcards with their information, along with their favorite Legionnaire, with the intent to form a Legion fan club, and show enough interest for DC Comics to give the Legion its own title. The first , 14 page, issue of The Legion Outpost was published as a newsletter. Harry Broertjos, a Northwestern University journalism student, became editor with the second issue. DC staff members contributed, including editor Murray Boltinoff, writer Cary Bates artist Dave Cockrum and others. In issue #8 Jime Shooter was interviewd, and he revealed he originally left the Legion after an disagreement with editor Mort Weisinger. Other comics pros itnerviewed included Mort Weisinger, Mike Barr and Len Wein. A book, Best Of The Legion Outpost, was published by TwoMorrows publsihing in November 2004, and is still in print.

Interlac is the bi-monthly amateur press association (APA). In the years before internet forums, it was the first APA devoted to the Legion. It got its name from the language of the United Planets. It was founded by Rick Morissey in June of 1976 with fifteen founding members. Among its members were Tom Bierbaum and Mary Gilmore, who met throught the APA. They would eventually marry and become Legion writers. Eight of the fifteen founders are still involved, four continuously through its history. Membership is limited to 50, but people can sign up for a waiting list. The leader serves as a central mailer, collecting submissions by members, making copies, collating, and mailing the finished issues to its members. Notable members of Interlac have included Jim Shooter, one of the founders, Dave Cockrum, Colleen Doran, Paul Levitz and Mark Waid.

With the new Legion Of Super-Heroes title, and with the young Clark Kent / Superboy restored to Legion continuity, I hope that the Legion will once again return to its place as one of the top series in DC Comics.

Wikipedia served as a foundation of information, along with Information about The Legion Outpost came from the website Other Legion websites are: The Legion Omnicon named after a 31st century version of an iPad.

There are several podcasts devoted the Legion of Super-Heroes:

The Legion Of Substitute Podcasters
Super Future Friends
LotsaLegion (last new episode on September 12, 2009)

Next episode: Happy Birthday, Irwin Donenfeld! (And before I forget, Happy Birthday, Superman!)

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

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comics 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

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, February 17, 2010

Episode #114: Clark Kent's Forgotten Girlfriend!

This episode is a little late for Valentine's Day. I should have scehduled it last week, and the Curt Swan tribute episode for this one, but I got my dates mixed up. Better late than never, but not when it comes to giving my wife something for Valentine's Day. The featured story of this episode was the second story of Superman #165, November 1963, published around September 19, 1963. It contained 32 pages and had the cover price of 12 cents. Mort Wiesinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein.

The first story of the issue was Beauty And The Super Beast, reprinted in the trade paperback Showcase Presents: Superman vol. IV, and was written by Robert Bernstein, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. It began with Lana Lang covering the excavation of Circe's tomb (a Greek mythological figure who turned some of Odysseus' friends into swine with a magic drink). while Lois Lane became the first woman in space in a Mercury style space capsule called Lady Planet. Superman hit a meteor that threatened to collide with Lady Planet, but for some reason his punch was only strong enough to deflect it, not destroy it. Lana is at Circe's tomb as it was opened, a glass coffin which contained her perfectly preserved body. When the coffin was opened Circe revived. She had only been asleep, imprisoned by an ancient magician. After Lana mentioned Superman, Circe swore revenge on the Man of Steel for spurning her advances when he visited the past.

At Superman's appearance at an auditorium, Circe transformed Superman's head first into a lion, then a mouse. She relnted and returned him to normal when he asked her to let him fulfill a promise to excavate the foundation to a new city hall. Circe commanded him to walk to the site as a common man, then climb a crane to dive into the ground. He does and pushed a plug of bedrock the size of the intended foundation into space. After Superman again spurned her proposal she ordered him to juggle upside down. While he juggled he used the balls to disarm a mini-tank that attempted to rob a bank. Circe gave up her attempts to force Superman into matrimony and returned to the past. The scene was viewed by the Superman Revenge Squad orbiting Earth in their spaceship. They returned to their headquarters to face the consequences for their failure.

Superman viewed their departure with his telescopic vision as he flew over Metroipolis. He met Circe outside the city. She was actually Saturn Woman, accompanied by her pet Protty II. In a flashback, Superman noticed he was weaker when he hit the meteor, but his powers returned when he flew upside down. Using his telescopic vision and his super hearing, the Man of Steel eavesdropped on the Superman Revenge Squad, learning that they had zapped him with a counter energy ray, which had caused his weakness. Superman used his super ventriloquism to tell Krypto to travel to the 30th century and get Saturn Woman's help. (If we could harness Superman's super-ventriloquism it would transform the communications industry.) Superman deduced that he could keep his superpowers when he remained upsdie down. She disguised herself as Circe, and Proty II transformed itself to the lion and mouse heads over Superman's face. The crew of the Superman Revenge Squad was demoted to the Krypto Revenge Squad.

The main feature of this episode was The Sweetheart Superman Forgot, written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Al Plastino. It was reprinted in the trade paperbacks Superman In The Sixties and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. IV. The story began when Clark read on the news teletype machine that an unknown object was on a collision course for a satellite. Superman caught it just in time and threw it toward the sun, but not before being exposed to some red kryptonite on the object. After he flew back into the atmosphere he was mysteriously compelled to remove his Superman uniform and hide it and his Clark Kent identification. (Let's hope noone found the stash, or Clark and Superman would probably never be able to explain the coincidence away.)

Clark walked along the road, and the final effect of the red kryptonite was amnesia. He walked to a barn and asked for a drink of water. A beautiful blonde gave the amnesiac Clark a drink of warm milk, then he fainted. Her father put Clark in a bed to recover from what he suspected as sunstroke. Clark dreamed he was dressed as a theater usher who flew after a dragon that jumped out of a movie screen. When he awoke Digby Selwyn and his daughter Sally introduced themselves to the amnesiac Clark, who blurted out his name as Jim White (unknowingly mentioning the names of his closest friends, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White). Their butler assisted "Jim" with using an electric razor (since as Superman he never needed to shave, at least in the silver age).

The Selwyn's showed Jim around their property on horseback. They found a pitchfork stuck in the ground near some dynamite at the site of an underground waterpipe installation, as a thunderstorm approached. Jim lassoed the ptichfork with a rope and dragged it to a safe distance away before the pitchfork was struck by lightning. That night Jim was plagued by another nightmare about being chased by red and green rocks (red and green kryptonite). The next day Jim was given a job at the family timber company, working for a man named Bart. He yelled at Jim for releasing a deer caught in one of Bart's mink traps. Sally rode a horse by at that moment and told Bart to remove his traps. Bart then ordered Jim to ride a log down the river to a nearby mill. He then caused the log to roll, sending Jim into the river. As Sally helped Jim out of the water, Bart asked her to be his date at that evening's dance. She declined, saying that Jim was his date. Jim said he didn't know how to dance, but Sally told him she would teach him that afternoon.

That night Jim and Sally won the dance contest, so she must have actually taught him how to dance that afternoon. Afterwards they kissed passionately, but Jim didn't feel he deserved to ask her to marry him. Sally told him she would never forget that kiss. Sally showed Jim her father's land, and mentioned that when he retired her father would need somone like Jim to run things. Jim wanted to build his own future and decided to enter the rodeo to win the $5,000.00 prize for being able to ride the bucking bronco Black Terror.

The next day a man put some "loco weed" in Black Terror's feed, which would drive the horse wild when he was ridden. Jim was throw off the horse and landed on his back. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors told him he might be crippled for life. After he was released Sally took him to her father's home. In his wheelchair Jim told her to forget about him, but Sally said she wanted to marry him. She knew of a doctor in Europe who might be able to operate and restore the use of his legs. Bart eavesdropped on the conversation.

Jim wheeled himself to a secluded spot to think and was met by Bart, who mocked Jim. Jim wheeled himself to the cliff edge overlooking a river. Bart rolled a fair sized boulder down the hill to scare Jim, but the rock knocked Jim out of his wheelchair into the river to drown. Bart made a quick exit. Sally was overcome with grief and vowed to never love again.

Clark awoke in a glass booth underwater. He had been found by Aquaman, who brought him to Lori to care for until he revived. With his memories returned he retrieved his Superman uniform and Clark Kent identification and returned to the Daily Planet offices. A female reproter for a school newspaper asked Lois Lane if Superman would ever marry, and Lois doubted it. Clark doubted that a woman would ever marry him for himself, without knowing he was really Superman. Apparently he had no memory of his time as Jim White, even as Sally continued to grieve over her lost love.

This was one of the more tragic Superman love stories, but we should have known it couldn't last. After all, her initials weren't L. L.

Next Episode: The Legion Of Super-Heroes!

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

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comics 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

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Episode #113: A Curt Swan Toast!

Curt Swan's birthday was February 17, 1920. To commemorate his birthday this year I decided to give a toast to Mr. Swan, through the words of some of his peers in the comic book industry , as recorded in Eddy Zeno's book, Curt Swan: A Life In Comics. It was published by Vanguard Productions in November 2002. I featured this book on episode #52. In that episode I gave an overview of the contents but did not go into many specifics of the boigraphy. On future episodes around Curt Swan's birthday, I would like to interview some comic book pros who worked with Curt. This year I did not have the time to set up and record an interview, so I decided to settle for an imaginary banquet in Curt's honor using the words of some comic pros as told in Eddy Zeno's book.

I want to begin with the famous comic strip artist Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, Hi & Lois and other strips. He considered Curt one of his closest friends and they knew each other for over 40 years. According to Mort, they met around 1955 through their mutual friend, cartoonist John Fischetti. What Mort admired most about Curt's art style was his realistic anatomy. Mort called Curt's Man of Steel, "the best anatomically correct Superman."

Next to the podium is Murphy Anderson, one of Curt Swan's most popular inkers. Murphy enjoyed Curt's sense of humor. They became friends at the DC Comics offices during the late 1950's - early 1960's, although they rearely socialized much outside the office. Murphy's favorite project that he and Curt collaborated on was the Superman origin story published in one of DC's oversized Treasury Editions (which I have a copy of in DC's Collector's Edition Superman #C-31). It was laid out by Carmine Infantino, and Curt did the finished pencils.

Carmine Infantino also mentioned the same Superman origin story as his personal favorite, and considered himself fortunate to layout the art for Curt Swan. Carmine described Curt as a very under-rated artist.

Following Carmine was Julius Schwartz. Ever the editor, the first thing he mentioned about Curt Swan was that he never missed a deadline. Julie, as his friends called him, attended a number of comic book conventions with Curt later in the artists life. Curt enjoyed the interaction with his fans during this period of his life, but not the lack of work. Julie wished that Curt could have seen Jerry Sienfeld tell Larry King, when he promoted his then upcoming American Express commercials with Superman, that he insisted that the Man of Steel be the Curt Swan Superman. He was familiar with Curt after many years at the DC Comics offices, but did not really get to know Curt until he became editor of the Superman titles. When Curt would go to the offices to deliver the finished pencilled art for a story, he and Julius would chat, and Julius would have both a check and a new script ready for Curt. Julie noted that Curt appreciated this, as Julie's best friend Mort Weisinger would at times make Curt wait while he finished editing a script. Schwartz noted that Mort could be tough on his "slaves", as Mort called the talent that worked for him. Julie also had an anecdote about Superman scripter Eliot S! Maggin, who would go on a tangent in his scripts, telling jokes, etc. Curt would comlain that when he finished reading the script for a certain panel, that he would sometimes forget what he was supposed to draw. Julie also shared an anecdote about Murphy Anderson. Murphy never appeared in public without a coat and tie to a comic book convention, even for breakfast. At a small show Julie forbade Murphy from wearing a coat and tie. Murphy appeared in a windbreaker.

Next up was Sheldon Moldoff, who inked Curt Swan's pencils during the 1960's. Editor Mort Weisinger liked his inks, so Sheldon inked many Superman, World's Finest and Legion Of Super-Heroes stories. Sheldon said that Curt liked his inking as well, because they kept the same "feeling" that Curt put into his pencils. Sheldon felt that other inkers made the Man of Steel their Superman, not a Curt Swan Superman.

After Sheldon, Elliot S! Maggin elaborated on the story Julius told about his scripts. Elliot was thrilled with the first of his stories that he ever saw drawn, Must There Be A Superman from Superman #247, January 1972, by Curt Swan. He was chagrined to learn that Curt Swan didn't like him - or so Elliot was told. He noted that in the early 1970's, divide and conquer was a respected management technique by the more conservative editors of DC Comics. At that time, Elliot described himself as still a kid, so he would folow rabbit trails in his scripts: write at length aobut scenes, characters and motivations, or tell jokes. He also noted that Curt Swan was a mature adult who didn't have time for sophomoric humor. The story goes that one day Curt brought in the pencilled pages of the latest story and told Julie that he would "throttle" Elliot if he didn't stop the "elaborate digressions". With Elliot being a young, rookie comic book writer, Julie jumped on it and Elliot would be reminded, at times, that Curt didn't like him. For 15 years Elliot wrote stories that Curt illustrated, but they rarely met. Whenver they were in DC's offices, Elliot usually found somewhere else to be; he didn't want to give Curt another reason to "throttle" him. Elliot and Curt would not really get together until the mid-1980's, at a comic book convention in central New York state. Elliot had avoided Curt at the convention until after breakfast Sunday morning. Curt approached Elliot and asked, "Can I interest you in a little libation?" Elliot described himself as a sucker for anyone who knew how to use the language. They talked until dusk about everything, and Elliot found that they had a lot in common. Their three favorite subjects were Superman, Julie Schwartz and politics. They both believed in Truth, Justice & The American Way. Elliot described Curt's politics as to his own left on the political spectrum. Curt and Elliot spent a lot of time together, many times over beer and scotch, and good naturedly ribbed Julie for keeping them at odds all those years. Elliot summed up his thoughts about Curt Swan by describing him as a good man whom he wished he had known better.

Next at the podium was Len Wein, who, last year lost his home to a fire. Len started off by describing Curt Swan as the most humanistic artist he ever worked with. Curt was the best at portraying people interacting naturally. He could not think of a single time he was unhappy with how Curt rendered what Len envisioned. Most of the scripts Len wrote for Curt were "full" script, with a few "Marvel style" (Len noted that Marvel did not invent the "plot" style, which started in the 1940's, but was its most famouse practicioner.) Personally, Len preferred working "Marvel" style because he felt that gave the best collaboration with the artist. The only drawback with that writing style is when he was not sure how the artist would interpret his plot. That was never a concern with an artist of Curt Swan's experience. Len's first Superman story was Danger - Monster At Work for Superman #246, December 1971. In that story he introduced the people who lived in Clark Kent's apartment building. Len also described inker Murphy Anderson and penciller Curt Swan as an unbeatable team. He also said that he learned more about story structure and storytelling from Julius Schwartz than any other editor. Len reminisced that he would go to the DC Comics offices more than other freelancers because he enjoyed the interaction, and used those trips as motivation to get his work done. Curt would appear every few weeks to deliver his latest pencilled story and pick up the next script. Len said he and Curt had a long term, on and off relationship, and that Curt Swan was a very friendly, open guy. He also said that Julie would tell the story that Curt Swan drew to get money to go golfing.

Irwin Donenfeld, who became DC's editorial director, spoke next. We might have to thank Irwin for being partially responsible for the reprint editions of DC stories we have today. Irwin told how, as part of the art department, he would make negatives of the finished pages to send to the engravers. When he found out that the engravers would rinse the solution off of the negatives for the silver content, he made them return all of the negatives to the art department. Irwin was Curt's boss for many years, but shared a personal anecdote.Curt made an appearance at the school Irwin's son attended. Curt would draw art that would be raffled off and the proceeds given to a local charity. Irwin's son Luke had a ticket and desperately wanted to win. When he didn't, Luke was almost unconsolable. While Luke's mom wanted Luke to learn to be a better sport about it, Irwin decided that this time his son didn't have to lose. After the event Irwin spoke with Curt, who promised Luke that he would draw something for him. Luke received a watercolor Superman drawing, on which Curt wrote, "To Luke, with best wishes, Curt Swan, 11/79." Another unnamed artist at the event also drew sometihing for Luke. As Editorial Director, Irwin oversaw the editors and didn't have a lot of contact with the artists, but knew Curt Swan well. One time Curt entered Irwin's office, and mentioned that he had not had a raise for several years. Irwin took care of it, since he was the boss. Irwin noted that Mort Weisinger was Curt's imediate boss, and Irwin also noted that noone liked Mort, who was not popular with the creators who worked for him. Irwin was another person who admired Curt for his business-like demeanor about his work, who met his deadlines and was on time for his appointments.

Next was Mark Waid, who admired Curt's ability to draw an "alien powerhouse" from deep in outer space and give him humanity. Curt Swan's Superman was a warm and gentle savior without sacrificing his grandeur and power. Mark compared Curt Swan and Christopher Reeve's abilities to protray Superman as a friend. He also noted that he learned professionalism from Curt, in an industry that was often lacking. One of Mark's highlights as editor of Secret Origins was to give Superman work post-Superman. Curt never missed a deadline, even though Mark realized that Curt sometimes pulled all-nighters to help turn around a book quickly. Curt never cheated, perfectly rendering the script in every panel. To Mark, there was no such thing as bad Curt Swan art. Many inkers lined up for the opportunity to ink Curt Swan's art even at this late stage of his career. Once, Curt mentioned to Mark that one of the best inking jobs on his pencilled art was by a then young artist Eric Shanower on the one issue special The Legend Of Aquaman It was one of the jobs over his long career that he was most proud of. While Mark felt that Murphy Anderson's inks over Curt's pencils added a dynamic power to them, his favorite Swan inker was George Klein.

The final speaker tonight was Joe Kubert, whose career has spanned the entire history of comic book history. Since Curt lived in Conneticutt and Joe in New Jersey, the two only met at the DC Comics offices to deliver art. Joe considered Curt the nicest guy he knew. What set Curt Swan above a lot of comic book artists was that many learned how to draw from other comic book artists, while Curt learned from classic illustration and life drawing. Joe noted that Curt Swan was generous with advice to other comic book artists when they asked him. Curt was just as accepting of advice that was given him. Back in the 1970's some DC editors felt that the Superman stories could use a more dynamic panel layout. It fell to Joe's unenviable task to talk to Curt about it. Curt was very open to suggestion and wasn't above learning from others. But Joe went out of his way to make sure this sotry did not detract from what Curt Swan brought to comics.

I want to thank everyone who listened to this imaginary toast to Curt Swan. There were more comic book pros who spoke about Curt Swan, but it will have to wait for another special occasion. Or, better yet, read Eddy Zeno's book, Curt Swan: A Life In Comics for yourself, which would be the best anyway.

Next episode: Clark Kent's Forgotten Girlfriend!

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

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comics 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 .

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, February 4, 2010

Episode #112: Superman Vs. The Clan Of The Fiery Cross!

Update about Episode #111: Who's Who In Action Comics!: Last Saturday I did go to Acme Comics in Longwood, Florida and looked for the Millennium Edition: Action Comics #1. Unfortunately, while it had other Millennium Editions of other significant DC Comics titles, the store did not have the M. E. edition of Action Comics #1.

Since February has been designated Black History Month, I thought this first episode of the month would be a good time to focus on a very small, but notable, role Superman played in the civil rights movement. Gerard Jones, in his book on comic book history Men Of Tomorrow, noted that in the years before WWII, Hollywood studio executives, many of whom were Jewish, were hesitant to produce and release films critical of Germany's Nazi regime. They were afraid of losing the German and Italian movie markets. That would happen anyway with the U. S. entry into the war. The producers of the Superman radio show were not hesitant on tackling social issues of the day in 1946, several decades before DC Comics published stories relevant to the issues of the 1960's.With the end of the war the producers were looking for new antagonists to replace the spies, saboteurs and Axis sympathizers the show used during the war years.

There are several things that are surprising about the radio show's willingness to tackle potentially controversial subjects. The Superman radio show had an audience in the millions, and is considered the top rated juvenille radio show. It was sponsored by one of the top cereal producers, Kellogg's. A common habit of producers of the most popular movies and TV shows is to steer clear of controversy.

In 1946 the radio show broadcast a number of stories about social topics of the day:

-- a group stirred racial tensions in Metropolis to prevent the building of an inter-faith recreation center.

-- a racketeer fostered juvenille delinquency while working with a corrupt mayoral candidate to block a slum clearance and renewal project.

-- a crooked political boss used racial and religious tensions to keep war veterans out of state jobs they had been promised.

The subject of this episode is a story the radio show broadcast from June 10 - July 1, 1946 about the Ku Klux Klan, in the form of the thinly veiled Clan of the Fiery Cross. The episodes of this story exposed actual Klan practices and code words.This information came from an actual Klan infiltrator, Stetson Kennedy, who is still alive at the time of this recording. I'll have more about his background later.

One of the podcasts I subscribe to is a re-release of the Superman radio show. It has not gotten to the episodes mentioned in this episode, so the plot summary I'm using comes from James Lantz's review of this radio show story from the Superman Homepage website (.

Jimmy Olsen managed a youth baseball team sponsored by Unity House. He had to break up a fight between pitcher Chuck Riggs and Tommy Lee, an Asian-American who replaced Chuck as the team's #1 pitcher. During practice, Chuck crowded the plate and was beaned accidentally by a pitch thrown by Tommy. Chuck believed Tommy did it on purpose, and Jimmy was forced to send Chuck home because of his attitued.

Chuck told his uncle, Matt Riggs, about it. Matt recognized Tommy's last name because his father was promoted to the Metropolis Health Department as a bacteriologist. Uncle Matt convinced Chuck that Tommy did bean him on prupose and took his nephew to a secret meeting of what Matt described as "true Americans". The members at the meeting are dressed like Uncle Matt, a hooded white robe decorated with a blue scorpion design. Matt revealed to Chuck that he was the Grand Scorpion who led the Clan of the Fiery Cross.

A burning cross was placed on the lawn of the Lee house. Tommy wanted to quit the team because of it but Jimmy advised against it. He assured Tommy that he would get Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent to help. Clark conviced Dr. Lee to stay in Metropolis, and promised to get Inspector Henderson to provide police protection. Jimmy and Tommy were leaving together on a bicycle to ride to their next game when Clark's super vision noticed a bomb placed under the bike's seat. With no time to change into Superman, he forced Jimmy and Tommy off the bike and rolled it down the hill before it exploded.

After the Clan learned of the plot's failure, they hatch another plan. They recruit a member of the opposing team, who would make it seem like he lost his grip on his bat so that the bat would hit Tommy on the head. Superman's super speed protected Tommy from the flying bat. Tommy's pitching helped Unity House win the baseball game and a berth in the championship game.

Later a gang of Clan members kidnapped Tommy and knocked out his father. Unknown to them, the crime was witnessed by Chuck who had been riding his bike in the neighborhood. Whatever his past feelings about Tommy, Chuck is concerned enough to call Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. After several attempts he speaks with Clark, and gives his information but not his name. While Superman searched for Tommy, the boy was able to escape from his captors but suffered a broken arm in the process. To help his escape he jumped into a river and was rescued by Superman downstream, before he drowned.

The Daily Planet offered a $1,000.00 reward for any information about the Clan of the Fiery Cross. Riggs expressed his displeasure about the Planet's involvement by having a flaming cross placed on Perry White's lawn. Perry, Clark and Jimmy found White's personal chef beaten and unconscious. Perry had the Planet's reward raised to $5,000.00. He ignored Clark's pleas to have Inspector Henderson provide protection. Perry would regret his decision later, when he and Jimmy were in Perry's car, returning to the Daily Planet offices. His car was run off the road by another vehicle, and they were kidnapped by members of the Clan and taken to a secluded cave. Perry and Jimmy were bound while Riggs returned to Metropolis to get tar, in order to tar and feather them.

In Perry's absence, Clark and Lois publish a special morning edition of the Daily Planet, with a front page notice asking the anonymous boy who called Clark Kent to come forward. Chuck was debating this decision when Uncle Matt returned and threatened him to keep his secret. Chuck's eyes were opened to the fact that Uncle Matt would not even let family ties interfere with his dedication to the Clan of The Fiery Cross.

The Clan members returned to the cave to find Perry and Jimmy getting out of their bonds. There was a brief scuffle, and Perry succeeded in removing Matt's hood, revealing his identity and sealing his own and Jimmy's fates.

Clark Kent finally found the information that lead him to Chuck Riggs. Chuck was scared, but Clark comforted him by telling him that Superman would protect him. The boy aided Superman in finding the secluded cave where the Clan met, but it was already abandoned. The Clan had taken Perry and Jimmy to a glade in order to execute them and bury their bodies. Superman arrived in time to deflect the bullets from Perry and Jimmy, in front of their open graves, and captured the Clan. He took the whole gang to Inspector Henderson, where they discovered that Matt Riggs was still missing.

Riggs had left for Graham City to meet the Grand Imperial Mogul of the Clan of the Fiery Cross. Matt was shocked to learn that the Grand Mogul used hate mongering only for his own profit, and didn't even believe in the tenents of the Clan. Riggs strangled the Grand Mogul and returned to Metropolis to finish off Perry, Jimmy and Tommy. He found them too well protected by the police but devised another plan. He got a sniper rifle and positioned himself looking over the little league field where the Metropolis youth baseball championship game would be played. Perry White was scheduled to hand out the awards to the winner, so all of his targets would be in one place. Clark Kent's super eyes catch an odd reflection of light and, as Superman, captured Matt Riggs.

The Unity House team won the championship. Chuck wanted to give his trophy to Tommy, because he felt unworthy over his treatment of his teammate and what had happened to him. But Perry had an extra trophy made for Tommy, so the whole team went to the hospital to visit their teammate and give him his trophy.

Stetson Kennedy became a Klan infiltrator at the behest of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation during WWII. Kennedy was unable to qulaify for military service because of a back injury. He would ultimately find Klan ties in law enforcement. Klan ties crossed party lines and public institutions, including churches and even Congress. Kennedy would send his evidence to politicians, prosecutors, reproters, or anyone else who he thought would distribute his information. A popular radio personality of the day, Drew Pearson would take Kennedy's notes and read actual minutes of Klan meetings, including code words and rituals, and the names of prominent citizens involved. Some of them were unashamed of their associations, while others were embarrassed to be linked to the Klan. Various source claim that such publicity hurt Klan recruitment and membership.

Kennedy also gave his information to Robert Maxwell, producer of the Sueprman radio show and its later TV incarnation starring George Reeves. That information was woven into the story that would eventually be told on the air.

Stetson Kennedy was born on October 5, 1916 in Jacksonville, Florida and is still alive, as I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, at the time of this recording. Two of his ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. Another served as a Confederate officer in the Civil War. John Batterson Stetson, the founder of the hat company and the person for whom Stetson University was named after, was another ancestor. Kennedy had a varied career as a writer, folklorist, labor and human rights activist and environmentalist. In 1937 he joined the WPA sponsored Florida Writer's Project, where he worked with folklorist Zora Neal Hurston. Several volumes of Florida folklore were published through the project.

Kennedy's first book, Palmetto Country, published in 1942, used leftover information not used in the WPA editions. His two most famous books on the lu Klux Klan were: Southern Exposure (1946), which is out of print but available from vendors selling through, or possibly used book stores. The second was titled The Klan Unmasked (1954), originally titled I Rode With The Ku Klux Klan. This second book is still in print.

His interest in civil rights may have had a more personal inspriation. When he was a boy his parents employed a black maid, as was a common custom of the day. Kennedy considered the maid, named Flo, as almost a second mother. Flo questioned a white bus driver one day, when he refused to give her back correct change. She paid for her break of etiquette by being tied to a tree, beaten and gang raped by a group of Klansmen. This act of voiolence opened Kennedy's eyes to the brutality of the Klan, exposing their lie as Christian patriots.

Stetson Kennedy did have his detractors, and not just from Klan sympathizers. Some scholars and writers challenged some of his written accounts of his eyewitness accounts, claiming he took credit for the actions of other, anonymous infiltrators. Other scholars and writers have defended Kennedy, saying he never hid when his information came from other unnamed sources, to protect their identities. However, that is beyond the scope of this episode. What cannot be argued is the personal risk he took by infiltrating the Klan and the general truth of his accounts of Klan activity. Attached will be links to the internet sources I used for research and you can make your own decision.

In the years since these radio episodes were broadcast and Kennedy's accounts were published we've come a long way as a society, yet have a long way yet to go.

The sources used as research for this episode were: NOTE: this website does not clebrate the Jim Crow era. It documents the history of the era from the perspective of civil rights.

Next Week: A Curt Swan Toast!

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

Superman Fan Podcast is a proud member of the League of Comic Book Podcasters at and the Comics 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 .

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.

Superman WebRing

Superman WebRing The Superman WebRing
This site is a member of the best
Superman websites on the Internet!
Previous SiteList SitesRandom SiteJoin RingNext Site
SiteRing by



Total Pageviews