People who’ve known me for a while are likely to know that as much as I love comic books, they’re not the only thing I geek out over. Another of my abiding passions, going back more than forty years, is the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, in all its cultural manifestations — classic literature, modern prose fiction, art, films, music, and — of course — comics. Over the last few decades I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several opportunities to combine my interests in Arthuriana and comics in ways I can share with others — beginning with an article in the late, lamented fanzine Amazing Heroes in 1984, continuing with contributions to academic (!) works such as The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, and more-or-less culminating in my web site, “Camelot in Four Colors: A Survey of the Arthurian Legend in Comics” — est. 2000, and looking every day of its age (still, you should check it out, OK?).
I got the Arthurian bug in a big way around 1973 or thereabouts. It was sparked by a number of factors, among the most significant being T. H. White’s novel The Once and Future King (as well as its stage and movie musical adaptation, Camelot), Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels, and C. S. Lewis’ contemporary science fantasy That Hideous Strength. Those were all manifestations of the Arthurian legend that I encountered as an adolescent in the early Seventies — but, of course, like many if not most other English-speaking people of the modern world, I was first exposed to King Arthur and his mythos during the earlier period of my childhood. And what was probably one of the first truly significant exposures came along in September, 1966, in the form of World’s Finest #162 — in which the ranks of the Round Table knights were joined by none other than my two favorite heroes, Superman and Batman. Read More
Fifty years ago, in August of 1966, I picked up my first “80 Page Giant” issue of World’s Finest — a collection of reprinted stories featuring “Your Two Favorite Heroes — Superman and Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder (wait, isn’t that three heroes? oh, never mind) — in One Adventure Together!” It wasn’t my very first issue of the World’s Finest comic itself, however, and if you’d asked me what the main difference was between the then-new stories regularly appearing in that book and these vintage tales, I would have said that the new stories looked like the ones in the other new comics featuring the “Superman family” (Action, Adventure, and Superboy, as well as the Man of Steel’s eponymous book), while these reprinted stories looked much more like the old Batman stories I’d been reading in paperback as well as comic book reprints. Read More
This comic book features an “Imaginary Story”. (And if your response to that phrase is “but aren’t they all imaginary?”, rest assured that famed British comics author Alan Moore agrees with you.) “Imaginary Stories”, also known as “Imaginary Tales” or even (as in this very issue) “Imaginary Novels“, were a fixture of editor Mort Weisinger’s “Superman family” comics of the 1960s. They allowed the creators to explore “what if?” scenarios in which Krypton never exploded, or Jimmy Olsen married Supergirl, or Superman was murdered by Lex Luthor (sounds like a bummer, I know, but it made for a classic story) — in other words, scenarios that wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the “real” ongoing continuity of the comics. Read More
The story featured on the cover of the second issue of Superman I bought (but the oldest one I still own) was actually the second, back-up story in the issue. The lead story was a forgettable tale about a new “girl reporter” at the Daily Planet who begins scooping Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and even Clark Kent himself with what appear to be super powers — unfortunately, a fairly typical example of just how dull the most powerful superhero in comics could sometimes be under the editorial aegis of Mort Weisinger, probably the main reason why there are fewer 1960s issues of Superman and Action comics in my collection than you might imagine.
The real draw of the issue, justifiably granted the cover spot, was “The Superman of 2965!” — a tale that introduced a distant descendant of our own Man of Steel, who, despite the many intervening generations of interbreeding with ordinary (one assumes) Earthlings, still has all of his original namesake’s Kryptonian potency. The cover copy assures us readers that we won’t believe our eyes, because this future version is “so different from the original Superman of Krypton!” How different is he? Read More
According to the Grand Comics Database, this particular comic book, the first one I ever bought, went on sale on the 5th day of August, 1965. I probably didn’t buy it on that specific day, but it is possible. In any case, I’m going to post about it today — exactly 50 years to the date it originally hit the stands.
Why Superman? Well, then as now, he was the best-known comic book superhero in the world, having been published continuously from 1938 onwards. And I already knew him from television, for even though the live-action series starring George Reeves had ended its run in 1958 (when I was two years old), episodes were being re-run every weekday afternoon by one of our two local stations. It may be hard to believe in our era, when superheroes permeate popular culture in films, TV shows, games, toys, etc., but that was pretty much it for encountering comic book heroes in other media in the summer of 1965. (Things would change drastically pretty soon afterwards, but that’s a subject for our next post.) Read More