Monday, March 24, 2014

Weisinger's Fingerprints All Over 1958

I wrote awhile back that I had read all the Action issues from #230-#240 and could not really note any discernable change in the editorial style until #241, the first issue that bore the unmistakable imprint of Mort Weisinger's heavy hand.

Well, I was wrong, and I was wrong because I had not read many of the issues that came before #230.  Looked at in context, it is easy to see that Weisinger was intimately involved in the Superman stories of 1958 (and even earlier), and that these stories presage the Silver Age Superman to a very large degree.

Let's start with Action #231, from August 1957:
This was an unusual story for Action, as it heavily featured Jimmy Olsen, who despite his billing as Superman's Pal in his own magazine, was definitely second fiddle (or possibly fifth clarinet) to Lois Lane as a supporting character in any of Supe's main mags.  Weisinger regularly published stories in Action and Superman that featured Jimmy and Lois, stories that clearly belonged in their own mags.  But he was cross-selling; making the Superman readers more interested in the other characters as well.

Although it is not mentioned in #232, Jimmy Olsen's signal ring started popping up in Superman stories starting with Action #236:
The DC Wikia says that Jimmy's signal watch first appeared in Action #238, which is clearly wrong; aside from the earlier mention above, it was actually mentioned in every story of Jimmy Olsen #1, which came out three years earlier, and used in Jimmy Olsen #2>

Superman had used occasional robots over the years, but this was probably the first serious one:
But even that one required Superman to control it remotely with his X-ray vision.  Far more independent robots were coming soon.

So I was wrong to say that Weisinger's touch was not evident in Action #230-#240.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Plastino's JFK Story Now Where It Belongs

At the JFK Library in Boston:

Superman has finally soared into the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
Legendary comic book artist Al Plastino thought he donated the 10 hand-drawn comic strips of Superman teaming up with John F. Kennedy decades ago, but the artwork somehow fell in the hands of a private owner.
In December, comic book publisher DC Entertainment bought the black-and-white artwork and donated it to the library.
Plastino died in November at the age of 91. His four children, grandchildren and wife attended the exhibit opening on Thursday.
“We are just thrilled that these came home to where they belong,” said his daughter MaryAnn Plastino Charles, who made the trek from Alabama.

Kudos to DC for doing the right thing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Those Pesky Asteroids!

And comets, meteors and rogue planets! Here's another thing I noticed in my reading of the Action Comics starting with #200. Superman seemed to spend half of his time saving Earth from one asteroid or other bit of cosmic debris after another.

 Action #204:
It took awhile for the next one to come along, but after that it was Katie bar the door.  Action #221:

Action #222:
And #223:
Action #227:
Action #232 featured not one, but two near impacts:
In some cases, these asteroids/comets/meteors performed functions similar to Red Kryptonite later in the Silver Age.  For example, the comet in #221 imparted to Superman a magnetic power that was handy at times, but gave him headaches in his secret identity as Clark Kent.  The meteor in #232 ended up giving Superman the powers of Superman Junior.  The meteorite in #204 appeared to force Superman to perform all his super-feats while standing on his head.  And the comet in #227 was thought to have caused his X-ray vision to become uncontrollable.

I'll see if there are any further examples of this.  I seem to recall that one of the episodes of the Superman TV show in the 1950s also featured Superman saving Metropolis from an asteroid.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Man in the Background

I've been remiss in posting a lot lately, but I've also been reading a lot of comics that fall outside the target of this blog; I'm working my way through a couple of series, including the 1970s Flash issues and Cerebus. But as it happens, I got a hankering to read the Action Superman stories starting from issue #200, and I began noticing the man in the background of a lot of scenes set at the Daily Planet offices. And I do mean a lot. Action #200:
Action #202
That's the only instance I can find so far of him having any lines, but he appears quite often:
Sometimes he's portly, sometimes he's rather svelte:
But the pipe and the bald head are absolutely ubiquitous. Well, the bald head is, occasionally he does take the pipe out of his mouth:
He's also the little man in this picture which was pointed out by longtime commenter Ralph C:
There's not really any mystery here; apparently Superman artist Wayne Boring put editor Mort Weisinger into a lot of panels as an inside joke.
Update: For a more biting look at Mort Weisinger from Boring, check here. Hat tip to commenters Wordsmith for the suggestion and Diane for the link.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cool New Sci-Fi Comic

Okay, obviously this is a little off-topic, but late last month I was contacted by the writer of a new sci-fi comic who hoped for a review. I was particularly impressed because I get these pitches all the time from people looking for a link who indicate very strongly that they haven't looked at my site and don't realize that it has nothing to do with getting a diploma online, or whatever they're pitching.

Matt Ritter, on the other hand had clearly looked over the site.  He frankly acknowledged that perhaps it wasn't a perfect fit for a modern comic.  So I agreed to look it over and no, it's not a perfect fit for Silver Age comics fans.  But it's still a lot of fun, and actually fits in with another of my passions which many of you may share: old-time video games.

Nova Phase is about a young female bounty hunter trying to get off into space.  When she captures the notorious criminal Fred "Quick-Draw" Gunnard, she apparently has enough cash to fulfill her dreams.  But... let's just say there are unexpected expenses and she is discouraged.  Fortunately she had relieved Quick Draw of his lucky coin, which turns out to be the object of a galaxy-wide hunt.

I'd tell you more, but that's all I know right now.  The artwork is intended to have the look of an old-fashioned RPG along the lines of Sega Genesis's classic Phantasy Star, (an old favorite of mine) and it's superbly executed with solid sequential drawing.   Here's a look:

The characters are interesting, the plot entertaining and there' a sprinkling of humor throughout the story.  I really, really enjoyed reading this through both times.  The first issue is free and the second can be had for the bargain price of 99 cents through Comixology.  There are six issues planned in the series, although given the quality I see in the first two issues I certainly hope that there will be sequels.

This comes with my highest recommendation, and no, I don't get any commission, although I hope Matt will let me have the rest of the issues free, because I'm dying to find out what happens next.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Al Plastino and JFK, 50 Years Later

I wrote many years ago about the famed Action #309 issue, where Superman divulges his secret identity to President Kennedy so the later can impersonate him (as Clark Kent) at an event where both Supes and Clark are both expected to appear.  Horrifically for DC, the issue appeared on the newsstands a full month after JFK was assassinated, although (obviously) it had been scripted, drawn and sent to the printers before the events in Dallas.

I also noted that DC had another story featuring JFK in the works at the time, which they had pulled from publication, but after urging from his successor Lyndon Johnson, they published in Superman #170, with this note at the end:

Well, turns out that Al Plastino died on Monday, and there was an additional story:

Controversy arose when the original artwork was found up for auction 50 years later -- not in the library as originally planned. Plastino asked a New York state court to release the name of the person who sent the artwork to auction in an attempt to retrieve the piece and ensure its public display. "I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I just want the right thing done here and to be treated fairly," he wrote in a Facebook post to fans. The auction has been removed from the schedule, but the fate of the famous Kennedy comic remains up in the air.
 Further details here:

Plastino believed the artwork was supposed to have been donated to the planned Kennedy Library in Boston 50 years ago, the same year Kennedy was assassinated, according to court documents.

Plastino was surprised to learn recently that it was scheduled for auction on Friday in Beverly Hills, California. Heritage Auctions has since pulled the artwork from this week's sale, said Heritage spokesman Noah Fleisher.
Given that original art comic pages commonly go for hundreds of dollars, and that this particular issue would be regarded as particularly historic (especially with the auction coming near the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination), it would certainly appear that Plastino had a legitimate issue (as might the JFK Memorial Library).  However, the current owner has a defense:

"Heritage policy is not to publicly discuss pending litigation," Fleisher said in a prepared statement. "I can tell you, though, that our consignor bought the artwork at a Sotheby's auction and we withdrew the artwork weeks ago as soon as we learned of the dispute and have returned the item to the consignor." (bolding added for emphasis)
 Kudos to longtime commenter and emailer M Hamilton for finding this.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Say Hello to:

Unforgettable Sights of a Paper World, a blog about comics from Antonio Gatti, an Italian comics blogger (don't worry, it's written in English).  It's interesting to get a foreigner's perspective on the Man of Steel.

Here's a review of the terrific story from Superman #137, featuring Superman's evil duplicate, Super-Menace. I reviewed the same issue many moons ago.