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October 7, 2012

Ten Rarely-Discussed Superman Comics


By Dr. Martin Stetter

1. "Demontown," Action Comics #15, Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy, August 1939.
An alarming 20-page story where Superman, in the most pointed realization of the character's populist roots, eviscerates much of Detroit's commercial infrastructure Dresden-style and punch-decapitates multiple captains of industry in front of a bloodthirsty, pro-union crowd. Frank Miller's favorite Golden Age comic.

2. "Homefront Reds And Blues," Superman #39, Dan Cameron and Jack Burnley, March/April 1946.
A feature-length story where Superman is confronted by multiple veterans asking him why on God's earth he didn't fly over to Germany and then Tokyo and end the war as quickly as possible, with the Man Of Steel muttering various unconvincing answers until finally admitting that he was worried about a decline in sales on Superman comics if they were to lose the GI market. Superman's sheepish grin and shrug in the last panel later became the subject of a 1958 Jules Feiffer essay in Holiday called "Stop Smiling, Superman," which itself was appropriated by Quentin Tarantino for an elevator speech given by priest/hitman Lawrence Hilton Jacobs in the director's little-seen 2009 Norm MacDonald-starring remake of Charley Varrick.


3. "And Don't You Forget It," World's Finest #108, Bill Finger and Curt Swan, July 1959.
A typical space-menace story save for a harrowing two-page scene of Superman yelling at Batman in an out-of-the-way roadside diner that he can do Batman's job and his job without any problem and insinuating that only Robin's presence is keeping their argument from "getting physical," by which he means "pulling your legs off." DC's campaign to have kids mail those pages back to the company in exchange for a Kryptonian decoder ring largely successful save for the ring-reluctant Southwest, where pristine copies dot the region's lot-by-lot antique malls.

4. "Aiee! Bad Dog!" Superboy #107, Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino, September 1963.
Codeless comic about Krypto's neutering.

image5. "I Am Bi-Curious, Hello!" Lois Lane #109, Robert Kanigher and Werner Roth, November 1970.
Using strangely specific Kryptonian technology, Superman turns Lois Lane into a gay person for 24 hours so that she can perform the research necessary to write the latest installment of her Daily Planet column, "Lois Lane's Extremely Patronizing Stories."

6. "Ocean's Home By Eleven," Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #146, Jack Kirby and Mike Royer, April 1972
Little-read coda to Kirby's Fourth World Saga where Jimmy Olsen teams up with a pack of sentient animal-men resembling the Rat Pack to fight the awesome, random-machine-generating menace of the Spirit Of Entropy, as represented by the visual of a kid with a big scarf and knit hat playing marbles. According to a 1990 Les Daniel book, Superman's head was redrawn more than 47 times by members of a tourist group that happened to be visiting the DC offices that week. Guest appearance by comedian Dick Gregory.

7. The Day Metropolis Was Saved By Superior Film Quality Despite Unfair Market Advantages, Paul Kupperburg and Dick Giordano, DC Comics/Sony, Summer 1981.
This was the third and best in a series of giveaways featuring Superman in partnership with Bob and Bobbi, the Betamax Twins. Destruction of planet Krypton blamed squarely on the adoption of VHS as the standard videotape format. Grant Morrison later ret-conned the videotape-focused Krypton narrative into Earth 350x480, "one of the particularly boring Earths."

8. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali 2, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, DC Comics, 1989.
This not-as-successful sequel to the 1970s classic consisted of a long, genial, and at-time barely audible conversation between the Man Of Steel and the Greatest Of All Time on the porch of Ali's house.

9. "Superman's Funeral, Part Two," Superman #78, Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, March 1993.
Various exhausted, grief-stricken super-friends seek late-night sustenance at Smallville's Applebee's franchise before, as Aquaman puts it, "The world's mightiest mortals waste an entire weekend sorting through 20 boxes of crap." Horrifying nature of intergalactic porn stash discovery sends Martian Manhunter on meditative road trip. Dramatic subplot involving Pete Ross picking up a very drunk Jayna of the Wonder Twins is the original source of 2008 presidential campaign catchphrase "Shape of kicks your ass."

10. All-Star Superman: The Decision, Gran Morrison and Frank Quitely, April 2011.
In this webcomic sequel to the popular mini-series, we find the Man Of Steel, distraught by the growing popularity of Batman and Green Lantern, declaring in worldwide broadcast with Morgan Edge, "I'm taking my talents to Opal City," where he joins Starman and an also-relocating Tarantula as the city's newest defenders. Lex Luthor writes unfortunate letter posted to Daily Planet web site vowing that Metropolis will be the site of multiple narrowly-averted, potential universe-ending disasters before Opal City even has one. Nike's attempt to resuscitate Superman's image in commercial that takes oblique shots at Hour Man and Captain Atom confuses remaining fans.


originally appeared in Rocket From Krypton, 2011; reprinted with permission


Bio: Dr. Martin Stetter is popular life coach and radio guest on pop-culture matters from "twizzlers to Murder, She Wrote." He is twice-divorced and headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His libretto for Wertham! will debut in Branson, Missouri next summer.



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