It’s not everything you ever wanted to know about Superman, but it’s close.
A biography released last month from Random House Books has the unwieldy title of “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero.”
Author Larry Tye walks over well-trodden soil but gives a solid history of Superman and his creators, Clevelanders Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. With the aid of trusty researchers, Tye follows the careers of the creators and the creation.
(For the record, I was one of the people interviewed for the book, and The Plain Dealer archives were used in the book’s production.)
The story of how two Glenville High School teenagers created a super man who could rise above Depression-era Cleveland has been well documented. Tye nicely outlines Siegel and Shuster’s fortunes, albeit with missing pieces here and there, while doing the same for Superman. The book describes various incarnations of Superman over seven decades, up to the present.
Most fascinating is a deep look at a DC Comics editor who handled Superman stories in the 1950s and ’60s. By all accounts, Mort Weisinger was a deceptive, wrongheaded, nasty piece of work who delighted in keeping his stable of writers and artists down.
He did allow Siegel to return to the job he loved in 1959, writing the character he created, but tortured him in the process. Tye tells how Weisinger insulted and belittled the writer, while paying him $10 a page.
While the end of the Siegel and Shuster legal wrangling with DC Comics over the rights to the Man of Steel has yet to be written, despite the fact that a judge has ruled in favor of Siegel’s heirs, the saga does not have a neat, happy ending.
As we approach the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in “Action Comics” No. 1 in 1938, it’s good to be reminded that even Superman had to pay his dues.
HOT ON THE STANDS
“The Spider” No. 1 (Dynamite, $3.99) Do we really need another updated version of the infamous pulp anti-hero of the 1930s?
No. But I’m glad it’s here. Writer David Liss and artist Colton Worley prove there’s life left in the old dog.
Spider, often cited as one of the inspirations for Batman, now lives in the present day but maintains his hatred for criminals. This guy does not mess around; he kills and brands them with his spider-laser so police know who’s responsible.
The first issue clips along very smoothly and introduces readers to the hero’s troubled alter ego.
“Incorruptible” No. 30 and “Irredeemable” No. 37 (Boom, $3.99) are the final issues of the magnificent Mark Waid books with the odd names. The companion books tell the story of what would happen if Superman went crazy. You’ll have to read them to see how they tie into Cleveland.
In Waid’s world, the Plutonian succeeds in almost destroying Earth after years of being a superhero in “Irredeemable.” When good turns bad, villain Max Damage decides he has to step up and become the good guy in “Incorruptible.” Both titles tell the story of life on Earth when Superman goes crazy. At one point, Earth strikes a deal with aliens to save the planet from the Plutonian in exchange for enslavement at a future time. But even that devil’s bargain fails.
The books are worth reading from start to finish. They can be downloaded from comixology.com or purchased in trade paperbacks.
COMIC CON IN AKRON
The North Coast Comic Con (Saturday-Sunday, July 21-22) features amazing writers and artists, including several rarely seen in the Buckeye State: Gerry Conway, John Ostrander, Mike Gustovich (Marvel and DC writer/artist), Josh Medors (“G.I. Joe”) and Marc Sumerak.
Conway, co-creator of The Punisher for Marvel and Firestorm for DC, makes a rare Ohio appearance. Since the 1990s, Conway has spent most of his time writing and producing television shows like “Baywatch,” “Law Order: Criminal Intent,” “Silk Stalkings” and many others.
Ostrander’s work on “Suicide Squad” in the ’80s and ’90s set the standard for the title about supervillains given the chance to earn their freedom. Despite the many fine incarnations of the title, Ostrander’s work has never been equaled.
The same could be said for his work on “The Spectre.” DC needs to get on the stick and release these works in collected editions for the benefit of people who have never seen them.
Sumerak, a local boy, has had his hands in numerous Marvel titles, including “Power Pack,” “Spider-Man Family” and others.
Stop by Tadmor Shrine Hall, 3000 Krebs Drive. Go to northcoastcomiccon.com for details.