Superheroes have been the dominant comic-book genre ever since Superman transformed the industry in 1938. Other than a handful of hardy survivors, the hundreds of costumed crime fighters that sprang up in comics’ early era are long forgotten. Supermen! consists of vintage stories featuring a representative handful of those heroes. The earliest, some actually precursors of the Man of Steel, are Mandrake-inspired magicians (Yarko the Great), masked detectives (the Clock), space explorers (Cosmic Carson), and, occasionally, hybrids (Fero, Planet Detective). Later come cape-and-tights-clad stalwarts Skyman, Silver Streak, Daredevil, and Blue Bolt. Their primordial exploits may be crude, primitive even, but also quaintly entertaining and possessed of a brash, undeniable vitality. Often their naïveté is unintentionally hilarious, as in two stories by Fletcher Hanks, the Ed Wood of comics. But there’s also incipient artistry in the early work of Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Basil Wolverton, and Jack Cole, who developed into leading talents. These early examples of a genre still finding its way display conventions recognizable in their superpowered successors. --Gordon Flagg
What was once mundane had become utterly fascinating in Fantagraphics’ superb collection Supermen!
(Rob Lott - Bookgasm)
A beautifully designed volume of early American comics... The edition is both aesthetically pleasing and sturdy, featuring clarified reprinting of the colour strips, covers, and scattered elements of advertisements and back matter. (Michael Leader - Den of Geek)
A fun anthology that perfectly captures the experience of stumbling across a random stack of old comics in someone’s attic. (Tangognat.com)Supermen!
provides a concise glimpse into what the early comic books were like back when the medium was really fresh... Today’s readers will be surprised at how some of the material from a supposed more naive times really comes across rather grim and gritty... The 20 stories on view here provide an intriguing insight of where many of our modern day comic book heroes may have originated from, even if indirectly. (Kevin Mathews - The Power of Pop)
Pure pop culture heaven. (Kevin Church - BeaucoupKevin.com)
Excitingly surreal…our appreciation for the bizarre otherness of these characters in retrospect suggests that our contemporary icons might well appear no less ‘totally opaque and infinitely awkward’ to future readers. (The Village Voice)Supermen!
, this anthology lovingly assembled by Greg Sadowski, makes the case that these earliest endeavors by the future creators of masterworks like The Spirit
, Captain America
, and Plastic Man
were more than crude throat-clearings―they were unfiltered manifestations ?of psyche, lousy with erotic charge and questionable politics. [Grade:] A–. (Entertainment Weekly)
The biggest surprise might be how good these stories are, even if they failed to take off in the way that, say, Superman did... [T]he Notes section at the end, written by editor Greg Sadowski, ...is truly fantastic... His studious efforts are worth the price of the book alone... These stories deserved another look and more attention. Sadowski has done an admirable job of making Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936–1941
not only reverent, but exciting and fun as well. (John Hogan - Graphic Novel Reporter)Supermen!
is a rambunctious anthology of the earliest superhero stories―gaudy, crude, infernally potent things, cranked out by young cartoonists. (Douglas Wolk - The New York Times Book Review)
I’ve always gotten a kick out of early comics. They’re anti-art in action. Irrational, crude and daffily violent. Kinda like early punk rock. (M. Ace - Irregular Orbit)Supermen!
excited me... for suggesting a burning, manic soul of superhero comics... It felt like the start of a future, and the comedown only hit when I realized I enjoyed it more than any new superhero comic of 2009. (Joe McCulloch - Jog: The Blog)
Featuring an eclectic assortment of rare, long-out-of-print American superhero short stories... an all-star cast of early work from luminaries including Siegel and Shuster, Simon & Kirby, Fine & Eisner, Wolverton, Cole, Hanks, etc. The reproduction of each story is top notch, with bright, vivid colors, slightly oversized pages and thick paperstock. (Marc Sobel, - Comic Book Galaxy)
[A]n amazing collection of Golden Age comics and heroes, beautifully restored. (Carol Borden - The Cultural Gutter)
I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen!
anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business. (Rich Kreiner - The Comics Journal)
A marvel... a non-stop visual delight as much for the art as for the colors as for the audacious (sometimes by default) layouts… [T]he early days of comic books were like the underground: Everything was possible, especially the impossible. You absolutely must buy this book. (Jean-Pierre Dionnet, co-founder, Les Humanoïdes Associes)