Golden Age Superman Volume One

This is a review of Superman The Golden Age Volume One. I have a confession to make – I thought these comics would be awful. They aren’t. I enjoyed this graphic novel, warts and all, and liked seeing how Superman has changed over the years.

Superman is Clark Kent, milksop reporter. In reality, he’s a space alien rocketed to earth after his home planet explodes. Superman’s power set has evolved from his origins, where he jumps – just like The Incredible Hulk, minus the torn purple pants – instead of flying. He’s also super strong and invulnerable, although not quite as invulnerable as today.

What about Superman’s cast? At the moment, it’s just Lois Lane. Lois wears red a lot, which I’m guessing is a conscious choice on the part of the creators. She’s not very nice to Clark Kent (Superman’s alter ego). In Lois’ defense, Clark hits on her – well, all the time. My theory is that Lois stopped being cordial after rebuffing the first hundred attempts. No human resources departments back then, looks like.

The creators tend to use Lois as a hostage/rescue object, although nobody alive can beat Wonder Woman in that department. In one episode, Lois is thrown out a window and rescued by Superman. Apparently she’s in love with the big fella, because who wouldn’t love a space alien that can leap like an enormous grasshopper?

The basic template of a Superman story goes like this. Superman sees a bully kicking sand in someone’s face; Superman kicks the crap out of the bully. Sometimes the stories can get overly complex or weird, as when Superman kidnaps a college football player by jabbing him with a hypodermic needle and then poses as said youth, in order to teach the coach of the opposing team a lesson.

These stories are glorified power fantasies, which is fine, but they blend. They also overlook basic realities of human nature. In one issue, Superman kidnaps the generals of two opposing forces and tells them to fight. When they realize they’re not mad at each other, the generals end the war. Yeeeeeah.

There’s not a whole lot of suspense in these comics. The writers hadn’t invented kryptonite yet, so in the first year of stories Superman is invincible. It takes the introduction of the Ultra Humanite, whose claim to fame is managing to briefly knock Superman out a few times, to add an element of danger to the series.

I will leave you with this. There’s a fine line between fighting a bully and being a bully yourself. Superman might be the strongest man in the planet, but that doesn’t make him tough. He didn’t have to work for it.

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