by Jerry SiegelI finished Superman: The Dailies, 1939-1940 and it was a pretty fun look at the earliest Superman stories. The stories and artwork were fun in telling the original stories of the Man of Steel. His villains are mostly thugs, gangsters, corrupt government officials, warmongers, and a government assassin thrown in.
The early comic book is marked by some politically incorrect moments.
Superman uses enhanced interrogation procedures on thugs, tossing them up and down in air to get them to talk. And in one story, leaving them chained in a pool of water where they'd been holding Lois Lane, promising only to let them out if they confess.
In addition, a princess doesn't take kindly to Superman's refusal of her advances, so she tries to stab him. Superman responds by taking her over his knee and giving her a spanking which Superman concludes is long overdue. And when Lois complained about being demoted from reporter and stuck on the lovelorn columns, Clark Kent says, "Little girl getting bored?" (Though, it's hard to tell whether Kent's sincere in that mocking as he foregos a scoop and helps Lois get back to reporting.)
Of course, while Superman doesn't quite measure up to today's standards of political correctness, he was also addressing real problems confronting people in the 1930s and 40s with vigor. In one case, he dedicated himself to helping a down and out boxer get back into the ring, getting the homeless boxer into an apartment and training him while fighting disguised as the boxer, right until the championship fight.
Superman dedicating his time to helping one guy and defeating a gang of gamblers? Wouldn't happen today, but that's what the early Superman did. He was concerned about orphans being cheated by unscrupulous managers, the devastation of war, and the oppression of crooks and crooked politicians on the innocent.
You combine the goodness and the political incorrectness and this Superman reminds me a lot of many people I've met who are older who say things out of bad habits. They aren't up on the latest politically correct words, but they've got the courage and know the difference between right and wrong. It takes very little character to just avoid offending people, but a lot more to actually put it on the line to help others.
Beyond this note, The strips seem to chart three key journeys:
1) Superman from the rough around the edges character we meet in the comic strips and Action Comics #1 to the "Boy Scout" we know from productions such as George Reeves Adventures of Superman.
2) Lois Lane's journey from struggling journalist being kept down by the man to the daredevil of the Fleischer Cartoons.
3) The comic's journey from fantasy/reality to pure fantasy. Superman's early days are filled with a lot of real life characters that threaten and hurt real people to the fantastic costumed characters that inhabit most comic books from the Silver Age to the present.
This particular collection or the bigger collection of all Superman strips from 1939-42 is a must-read for fans.
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