Book Review: Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies, Volume 2: 1961-1963: Super-Ridiculous, Super-Fun

A terrific collection of strips that would otherwise be lost to the world.
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Created in 1933, Superman has gone on to become one of the most popular and successful comic-book characters in the world.  He has appeared in countless comics, newspapers strips, radio shows, and movies.  In 1939, the character began appearing in daily newspapers where he remained a fixture of the comics page until 1966.  The Library of American Comics in conjunction with DC Comics has binded together and printed for the first time a comprehensive collection of those newspaper strips.  This book covers the years between 1961-1963 and contains over 700 individual strips.

This era of the strip is notable for bringing back Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel to the fold, writing each strip's story.  Interestingly, Siegel very rarely creates new stories for the strip but rather adapts the comic books that were appearing at the same time to the newspaper format.  Presumably, DC figured there was a different audience for the comic book and the newspaper, so they felt no need to create completely different stories, although in newspaper stories all references to other superheros have been edited out.  All of the art in this volume was done by Wayne Boring. 

During this time period, Superman was pretty close to a god in terms of powers and abilities.  Physically, he could do just about anything and he had a semi-omniscient knowledge of everything, making the stories a little bit silly in terms of finding something or someone to stop him.  In order to create some tension, the stories of this era often focus on Superman protecting his secret identity as Clark Kent.

Often, it all gets a bit ridiculous, but it's still loads of fun.  For example, in the story The Trial of Superman, our hero is imprisoned for murder in order to keep his identity a secret.  The story begins with Clark and Lois Lane investigating some bad guys.  Trouble quickly comes and Clark uses his super-ventriloquist  powers to throw his Superman voice to the other room.  Clark rushes into the room, slams the door to keep Lois out, and then has a pretend argument with Superman.  He changes into the Superman outfit, rigs his Clark clothes to look like he’s still in them, and then throws them out the window just in time for Lois to see and think that Superman has killed Clark.

Though no body is found, the police arrest Superman, a jury declares him guilty, and he’s sentenced to life in prison.  They take him at his word that he won’t try to escape and that’s that.  Superman bides his time until the day he knows some crooks are meeting together for some crime doing where he uses his super powers to project his image near the crooks, causing them to make a scene bringing on the cops.  He then changes into Clark clothes while no one is looking and is appropriately released from prison.

All the stories are like that.  Preposterous situations cause Superman to get ridiculously creative to protect his identity and also save the day.  It's all a bit silly, but I can’t really fault the strip nor get mad at it.  It's kind of fun in a Mystery Science Theater sort of way.

These strips are very dated, both in art design and from a story point of view.  I can’t imagine a modern child getting as involved with them as a kid from the '60s would.  They are however kind of awesome from a historical perspective, and super fun to read.

It should be noted that none of the strips were initially kept by DC and that this book comes from the actual newspaper printings that were clipped by various fans throughout the years and meticulously recollected.  As such, some of the art is not pristine and there is some noticeable smudging here and there.  It is all still very readable and considering the age of these strips it looks good.  They are collected in a handsome hardback book with some nice cover art and an introductory essay by Sidney Friedfertig.

Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies, Volume 2: 1961-1963 is a terrific collection of strips that would otherwise be lost to the world.  Well worth collecting for fans and those interested in the history of the world’s most popular superhero.

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