Superman in the Fifties

Superman in the Fifties

I didn’t expect to have quite this much fun with the reprints found in Superman in the Fifties, but due to the diverse selection, I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would.

Mark Waid’s introduction taught me some things about Superman I didn’t know (including how tightly tied together the various media appearances used to be), and there’s a lot of significant first appearances (of Krypto, Supergirl, and various villains). I wanted to read the stories behind some of the reproduced covers; I was curious about how the situations shown would be worked out, as the creators intended me to be. Unfortunately, there’s only so much space in the book.

It’s great to see so much background information included. As well as creator bios, all the stories are clearly labeled with their original appearance locations and dates. I was careful to check the reprint dates as I was reading, since that helped me place whether a story was earlier or later in the decade. Some of the earlier stories show how the mythology wasn’t quite built to the degree we’re familiar with. For example, the first story, from 1950, refers to inhabitants of Superman’s home planet as “Kryptonites”.

Superman in the Fifties

Other things that stood out: I enjoyed the opportunity to read the story, “Superman’s Big Brother”, that was later rewritten to serve as Mon-El’s first appearance. I didn’t know that, when Krypto first appeared, he looked cartoony, almost like Bugs Bunny as a hound. I also didn’t realize that Bizarro was created to fight Superboy at first. The story where Superman becomes a one-man newspaper was a neat reminder of the power of the press, and why Clark Kent wanted to be a reporter.

I know Wayne Boring is acclaimed as a classic Superman penciller, but I still can’t get used to the way he made Lois appear so sharp-featured and nasty. As expected, in many of these stories, people do wacky things with the slimmest of rationales behind them in order to keep the story rolling, but they’re still entertaining, even if for reasons unintended. I love books like this on car trips with other comic fans — they’re so much fun to read aloud and reminisce with.

Also available is Superman in the Forties.

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