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.


Jim Page said...

I've wondered why, if Mort Weisinger was the story editor of the Adventures of Superman television series, there was such a disconnect between the stories on the show and the stories in the comics. For example, in some episodes on the TV show, the secret closet in Kent's apartment holds several Superman uniforms on hangers and no robots. There are other examples of differences, but that one always puzzled me. In the comics, they make quite an issue of there being but one costume.

Anonymous said...

I'd never thought of that. I'd imagine it was a budget issue with the show. it kinda looked like it was done on a shoestring.

Jim Page said...

Oh, there were budget issues on that show; no doubt! When they show Superman flying from left to right, the "S" logo on his costume is reversed, indicating they simply flopped the film.

Still, the writing and the actors were wonderful, and the impact that show had on a 1950s kid was overwhelming. It was just mesmerizing and totally believable.

When we heard that George Reeves had died, we were absolutely stunned. "How can Superman be dead?"

wordsmith said...

There's less of a disconnect between the series and the comic books than you'd imagine--as I'm sure Pat can confirm, several plots of "The Adventures of Superman" also ran in early issues of "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen", which are available in "Showcase Presents: Superman Family" Volume 1, which you can order thru Amazon. It's really a fun book.

Pat said...

Wordsmith, I wrote about one of the TV episodes that was later turned into a comic story here:

Jim Page said...

Pat, that was a great article, and reminded me of the impact those stories had on me as a kid in the 1950s and '60s. You never knew what to expect from a Weisinger comic.

I remember a Superboy comic (#91 from 1961) where Superboy went back in time to the Civil War period. A real hook of a cover and a fascinating Jerry Siegel story that I read and re-read.

Weisinger was certainly able to get the best stories out of certain writers, regardless of his bizarre management methods.

wordsmith said...

Pat, I was referring to the SP,JO #3 story, "The Boy Millionaire" which had almost exactly the same plot as the TAoS season 3 episode, "Olsen's Millions"--in both, a wealthy woman mistakenly believes Jim has rescued her cat from a closed safe (with Supes performing the actual rescue, of course), and rewards Jimmy with a fortune. He even loses his riches the same way in both stories (no spoiler here).
Another story in SP,JO #3 is "The Fastest Gun in the West", which had pretty much the same plot as the TAoS season 3 episode "The Bully of Dry Gulch", wherein a fast gunfighter has terrorized a a modern western town. I think there were a handful of other examples, which I noticed while reading "Showcase Presents: Superman Family: Volume 1", which I mentioned before, and highly recommend.

Kirk House said...

I too adored The Adventures of Superman... I've read that part of the Silver Age breakout into outer space, Brainiac, Kandor, etc. came because the show had been cancelled. That with the budgetary concerns, they kept Superman tied to small-time thugs and the like, and that the comic books tried to keep pace.
But all that aside... look at Lois Lane's gesture with her "free" hand in the robot panel. She's definitely a prima donna. but she's not on stage, so the gesture's utterly unrealistic... but it's terrific anyhow. Wayne Boring gives us characters whose body parts all seem to have their own minds and their own goals... and Superman in flight carrying his own Fortress... and Superman apparently jogging through the sky... and he makes it all work.

Arion said...

I absolutely love that cover. Jimmy Olsen as a knight is pretty cool, but the best part is he's riding a bike instead of a horse.

Gene Phillips said...

You might find interesting this blog-post of mine, in which I channeled the research of fan-writer Eddy Zeno, who asserted that the years 1952-53 were a big heavier on SF-concepts than the ensuing years, up until the same 1958 date that you peg here.