Sunday, April 5, 2015

Young Superman Chronicles

The Superman Chronicles Volume 3: written by Jerry Siegel; illustrated by Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring, Jack Burnley, and others (1939-1940; this collection 2007): The third chronological volume of Superman's adventures sees the art chores shifting away from co-creator Joe Shuster, whose eyesight was already failing, and onto the artists of the Shuster studio. It's a mostly clean transition. Though Shuster's successors would often be far better artists than him, none would bring the sketchy, restless energy to the adventures of Superman that Shuster did.

Co-creator Jerry Siegel writes all the stories included here. They're a pretty good representation of Siegel's interests in politics and pulp science fiction. Superman stops a war in Europe between two fictional countries and cleans up the crooked slot machine racket in Metropolis. Don't gamble, kids!

But he also battles early mad-scientist-nemesis the Ultra-Humanite, once a bald man but now with his brain transplanted into that of a Hollywood starlet. Seriously. Lex Luthor also begins his run here, not yet bald but instead red-headed. Nonetheless, he's a malevolent foe who unleashes super-science on The Man of Steel, including a heavily armed Undersea City. The Ultra-Humanite brings the atomic disintegrator. Sometimes you're fighting the gambling schemes of mobsters, sometimes you're punching out sharks and robots. 

Even early in his career, the Man of Steel led a rich, full life.  But he's less powerful than later iterations, less concerned with preserving the lives of his enemies if they themselves are murderers, and a whole lot punchier. It's a characterization of Superman that would probably be a lot more popular now than all the other iterations people have been trying in comics and on the big and small screens for decades. Why someone doesn't go back to the beginning is beyond me. He wisecracks like Spider-man and has only slightly more regard for the lives of his enemies than Wolverine. And he's left-wing. What's not to love? Recommended.

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