The beginning of a universe builder

November 24, 2015

By Avi Green

The Superman Chronicles, Volume 1
Writers and artist: Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster

I’ve gotten the chance to read all about how the Man of Steel first began in the Golden Age, along with such notable cast members as Lois Lane. And while not perfect in every way, it’s pretty good. This collects some of the first stories from Action Comics, and at least one from New York World's Fair, and the sans-adjective Superman that began soon after.

In the first story from Action Comics #1, we’re introduced to how Superman’s origin told of his being rocketed to earth from a “planet dying of old age”, and from there, he grew up to become Clark Kent, shy newspaper reporter who worked for the Daily Star. (By the Silver Age, it was changed to the Daily Planet, which became the mainstay onwards.) The story itself tells about how Superman first helps Lois out of a situation where she’s abducted by a nasty mobster, and then, it turns to a story about a warmongering munitions builder who provides guns to warring guerrilla factions in Latin America, but doesn’t have the courage to fight in wars himself. Superman figures out how to get him to cut out his warmongering ways in the second issue.

Indeed, some of the first stories were about social issues, as one could call them, though by the following year, Siegel and Shuster were making efforts to add more sci-fi elements as well, like the introduction of what would become the first recurring villain in the DCU, the Ultra-Humanite. Some of these are pretty good, although one I’m of mixed minds about is where Superman was shown tearing down an old neighborhood to get the government to rebuild it as a cleaner street. It’s a rather absurd way to make a statement about how to get better housing conditions built.

There’s also interesting tales involving organized crime, and how Superman combats them, alluding to the problems of the 1930s and 40s when mafia was reigning. We also see how Clark and Lois’ love-hate relationship began at the time, as she thought Clark in his civilian guise was just a wimp, while his superhero guise impressed her better. And for the most part, it’s pretty well done.

I recommend this collection if anything, for how it introduced to the world what would become a famous superhero creation, and how he, along with his co-stars, would become very notable in pop culture as time went by. It’s also certainly better done than a lot of the modern tales since the New 52 came into being, that’s for sure.

Copyright 2015 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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