I was looking for some old magazines I had saved for reference articles when I found a small storage tote of old comic books. April isn't just the scary tax month ... it's a celebration of an American icon. SUPERMAN.
In April of 1938, National Allied Publications ... a predecessor of today's DC Comics ... launched Action Comics #1. The story was based on a character created by Jerry Siegel and refined with the help of artist Joe Shuster while the two men were working in Cleveland in 1933. The original character was actually a bald world conqueror with telepathic powers. The concept piqued the interest of many, but it was five years before their revised heroic creation ... modeled after swarthy American actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. ... made its way into the hearts and minds of the American public.
Action Comics #1 introduced us to Kal-El, a man who was sent to Earth as an infant to escape the destruction of his homeworld, Krypton. He was found in a crashed rocket by Jonathan and Martha Kent and raised with solid values of family and community as their adopted son, Clark. At an early age, the Kents discovered that their son's alien origins included some unique gifts such as super strength, enhanced speed and reflexes, invulnerability to most weapons, heat and x-ray vision, and the ability to fly at incredible speeds.
Over the decades, the adventures of Clark Kent have entertained millions with incredible acts of heroism, dynamic battles with a vast array of villains, touching romantic entanglements, and an ongoing struggle to fit in with people who he has sworn to protect while never truly being one of them. There have been radio serials, newspaper cartoon strips, dozens of comic book titles, paperbacks and novels, feature films (not the best), animated cartoons, and three notable TV series ... the latest going into its 10th (and supposedly final) season this fall.
I have two favorites. In the comics, I think Superman is best in the Justice League of America series, an assemblage of some of the world's greatest heroes like Wonder Woman, Black Lightning, Zatanna, Green Lantern, Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Firestorm, and Doctor Light. As a member of the JLA, Superman can share the responsibilities of being a hero and gets the opportunity to let his guard down around other empowered individuals. There are even a few alien members, so they can lament about being "strangers in a strange land."
And on television, Smallville wins hands down. It's slick and dark and the characters are ruggedly handsome/incredibly sexy and extremely capable. And there's definitely an innocence to the show that isn't easy to find on today's channel guide.
So HAPPY 72nd ANNIVERSARY, SUPERMAN!! ... you don't look a day over 32.
POINT OF RANT: Did you know Siegel and Shuster sold their rights to the Superman character for about $130? There have been lawsuits and concessions made to the men and their families, but ... WOW ... that's definitely finding a Picasso at a yard sale!