Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling pop culture commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!
Superman #12 – September, 1941
Cover art by Fred Ray
As a reminder, Memorial Day is a holiday when we are supposed to remember and honor the men and women who died in service of our country. It’s not the national mattress sale day or BBQ day that it has turned into over the years (although I’m absolutely certain that our fallen heroes have no problem with us enjoying a good burger and a beer on their behalf); so we respectfully salute all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the red, white and blue, and also their families, who have to carry on without them.
Now, on to the funny books: During World War II, comics played at least a small part in our country’s fight against tyranny and aggression. Entire books could be written on this subject and, in fact, many have. (Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerald Jones, is a great one; and so is the graphic novel compilation, America at War: The Best of DC War Comics, edited by Michael Uslan.)
WWII comics helped to provide a cheap escape from the horrors of war (especially for the troops serving overseas); superheros led War Bond campaigns; they provided patriotic propaganda to help garner support for the war efforts; they helped some of our poorer enlisted men learn to read; and the sequential art form was even used by the military for many instructional pamphlets and posters.
Superman #12 was one of DC Comics first books to show solidarity with our troops and with the United Sates’ march to war. The cover, by Fred Ray, has the Man of Steel walking arm-in-arm with a sailor and a soldier and the message was clear. If Superman is on-board with the military efforts, shouldn’t you be?
Then, like now, the comic book writers were faced with a dilemma, in that why can’t these godlike characters use their abilities to simply put an end to the fighting? And how do they tell stories without making light of the very real sacrifices that were/are being made by the armed forces?
For Supes the answer, for the most part, was that he simply avoided the conflict. Many of his comic covers from the WWII era showed the hero fighting the good fight, but very few of the stories within the books had anything at all to do with the war. There was even a news strip that explained how Clark Kent avoided the draft (after an incident involving his x-ray vision – read about it at comicbookresources.com).
It’s worth remembering that unlike Clark Kent, many of the real comic book creators of the Golden Age actually did serve in the military during World War II, including Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel and Captain America co-creator, Jack Kirby (just to name a couple.)
The original historic cover art for Superman #12 is going to be sold by Heritage Auctions in an upcoming public sale (May 28 – 30, 2015). This is said to be one of the oldest surviving original art pieces of Superman ever discovered; and making it even more awesome is that it comes from the personal collection of legendary Batman artist, the late Jerry Robinson (whom you might remember as the co-creator of The Joker.)
So if you have an extra $110, 000 or more lying around, you might want to get in on this auction action – find all the details HERE; or even better, make Superman proud and donate to the National Military Family Association, which helps ensure surviving military families are cared for – learn more HERE.
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