Respect for the Old Days

September 15th, 2008 by | Tags: , , ,

A while back I bought a big hardcover called Superman: Sunday Classics 1939-1943 for about $5. Not a bad deal. Much like my copy of Snoop Dogg’s novel (which I bought for a dollar), I never really intended to get around to reading it. If anything, it was just a conversation piece on my bookshelf.

I finally sat down and gave it a look. Right now I’m about a third into it and I thought it deserved some comments. I went into it thinking that I was in for some absolute weirdness on the level of Fletcher Hanks’ I Must Destroy All the Civilized Planets, but found something more.

For one, being from the early, early days, nobody knew who Superman was. That was kind of jarring, compared to how he’s such a household name in any recent comic he appears. Criminals would be in complete shock to see their weapons have no effect on him, whether it be simple bullets or a bucket of fire. Yes, a bucket of fire.

The stories are so different from how we see him now. Not in the Superdickery sense, which itself barely appears in these strips. More that he doesn’t spend his time going to space or fighting monsters capable of hurting him. He sticks around Metropolis and mainly takes on street level threats. Most stories involve some good-hearted citizen who tries to help society in some way or another. Bad people are out for this guy’s blood and Superman is the only one stopping them.

It’s a sense of wish fulfillment that we rarely see out of the character anymore. The closest I can think of is that issue from a year ago where that woman thought Superman was an angel meant to specifically protect her. That’s really what made these fun. Superman wasn’t just a superhero, but an honest to God guardian angel.

Ah, but there is some old-school craziness abound. Every once and a while they toss in a weird story to liven things up, based on Superman fighting something a little more powerful than a bear or a circus lion. For instance, Luthor uses a hurricane-making device on Metropolis and sends out a series of glowing, purple cars immune to its effects in order to rob banks. When Superman tries to stop them, they use “hurricane guns” to knock him back. How great is that?!

Even better is the story about an explorer being kidnapped by giants in a mysterious cavern. Superman investigates and rescues this explorer. Now, they could have used just about any explanation for what those giants were up to. Just about anything would’ve done fine. Hell, they could have just said, “These giants are fucking nuts! Let’s get out of here!” Instead, they decided to go with something far more insane.

“Never mind my identity. Do you know why you were kidnapped?”

“These giants are hemophiliacs, men who bleed profusely if they suffer the slightest scratch. They kidnap people from the outer world, steal their blood to replenish their hungry veins!”

No, that does not play into anything. In fact, in the next page, Superman simply punches a giant’s flamethrower and it somehow causes the entire cavern to explode, killing all the giants.

Hemophiliac giants. God, I love it. It’s like, “Oh shit! Giants who aren’t really that hard to kill! Run!”

I’ve also discovered that Lois Lane was kind of a bitch. We get that Clark Kent is supposed to play the role of coward to hide his identity (except for when he mans up anyway and kicks a lawyer’s ass for twisting Lois’ wrist), but there’s one point where two armed men run out of a bank with money and Lois demands Clark go confront them. Then she gets on his case when he says no.

I’m having an absolute blast with this book. If you come across a copy for cheap like I did, give it a shot.

Before I go, the most badass moment in Superman’s early days? There’s this part where a hunchback criminal fires his gun at an unconscious man. Superman flies over with his hand out, as if he’s going to catch the bullet. He does catch the bullet, but with his teeth instead. Then he spits the bullet out at the hunchback, bouncing it off his skull and knocking him out. Hells yes.

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4 comments to “Respect for the Old Days”

  1. There wouldn’t happen to be one of these for Batman, would there?

  2. back up, Snoop Dogg wrote a novel?

  3. There wouldn’t happen to be one of these for Batman, would there?

    There is, actually. A book on Batman Dailies. I also have this one, which is larger than the Superman one. I was meaning to post about it when it was at clearance at Barnes and Noble because for a few days, it was on sale for a dollar.

    back up, Snoop Dogg wrote a novel?

    Love Don’t Live Here No More.

  4. Co-Written? Shame, the image of Snoop hunched over a 50’s typewriter furiously mashing keys as fast as he can think is charming.