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Superman Archives, Vol. 1 (Superman Limited Gns (DC Comics R)) Hardcover – February 1, 2005
All Books, All the Time
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And this probably isn't the Superman you know either. The original Superman was much more of a mystery-man/pulp character than super-hero, and he hadn't yet adopted his motto of "Truth, justice, and the American Way"; people get killed in these comics as a result of Kal-L's actions; property is severely damaged, and lives are changed. He's just out to do what he thinks is "good" for the "innocent". With the coming of the War, Superman would become the hero we all know and admire, but here he's a bit of a boor at times. But he does his best, as I'm sure cheated creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were as well.
I really like the way DC used to reprint these books. Nowadays, DC only reprints the stories themselves, but for this archive, they reprinted the entire books, including ads and short text stories, as well as one-page cartoons, trivia facts and other stuff. I can understand that other people might not like this, but I enjoyed the nostalgia factor immensely.
Now, onto the stories. This isn't your boy scout Superman. This volume reprints the first 4 issues of the eponymous series, and we see Superman here in all of his vigilante glory. In fact, in one issue, the police see Superman as just as much of a crook as the people he tries to capture. Superman is usually pitted against small-time hoods working for evil industrialists, but there are exceptions. In two separate stories, Superman takes the place of an athlete (a football player and a boxer) in order to stop corruption and do a personal favor. In one story, Superman helps a young boy at an orphanage. And in two stories, Superman's arch-nemesis, Luthor, appears, in all of his red-haired glory. The Luthor stories are actually duds, though - in both of them, Luthor seems to have clearly outwitted his adversary, only to have some plot coupon allow Superman back in the game. This observation is not lost on the afterword, either.
One interesting thing: Superman flat-out kills people in this volume. He lets a ton of people just die, but in one instance, he throws a goon into what appears to be a vat of green acid (which was to be used to kill Lois Lane, so it's obviously deadly). In the penultimate story, Superman callously discharges electricity to kill his hapless attacker (and this is after he lets another guy fall into a vat of molten metal). Like I said, this ain't boy scout Superman.
Perhaps the most bracing difference is Clark Kent. He might be the most unlikable character in the whole comic (and that includes the villains). Lois Lane positively despises him, and with good reason: he's a coward, he's weak, he constantly asks her out, and he steals her scoops (not so much here, but give a read of World's Finest: Superman if you don't believe me). He really was the opposite of Superman in these early stories (to paraphrase Bill from Kill Bill 2).
This volume has recently seen a price drop on the Amazon Marketplace. I would recommend it even at cover price.
For example, the first Superman story contains a none-too subtle anticaptial punishment message, as our man saves a lady from an execution and a man form a lynching (remember, this is 1938). The second shows Supe stopping a war that is concocted by munitions manufactureres (an early anti-WW2 message).
Along with that, reading these early adventures gives you the feeling that you're a little kid in pre-television 1938-39, sitting with awe and wonder with these exciting tales either being read to you by a skilled adult storyteller, or by yourself with a flashlight at night. Once you get in that mood of an inner child, you can really get into this stuff and it's lots of fun.
However, I would agree that the cost is a bit much for a new edition. Buy a good used copy. Gather the kids (over age 10, that is) around, turn the lights down low, read it with vigor, and have a ball!
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ood drawing, very attractive compilation, good color,and very amazing stories,,,definitely the world has...Read more