Thursday, August 09, 2007

Under the Green Sun

By the era of the stories collected in Showcase Presents Superman #3, the new approach was beginning to become a rut of its own. Superman went from being the sole survivor of Krypton to being the custodian of a lilliputian city full of them, plus he had a teenaged cousin to keep an eye on. Every story explored the mythology: the easy availability of kryptonite of various colors, the ongoing threat to his secret identity and/or bachelor status posed by the workday presence of Lois Lane and Lana Lang, the revolving-door escapees from the newly-discovered Phantom Zone. It was getting harder and harder to present the Man of Steel with any real threat.

Which is why it fascinates me that, in the midst of all this, came this gem from Bill Finger and Wayne Boring. Finger was better known (when known at all, in these days before story credits) as a strong contributor to the Batman legacy, while Boring is the artist (following Schuster himself, and preceding Curt Swan) who defined for a generation of readers what Superman is supposed to look like.

This story owes more to the pulp magazines that inspired early comics than to the comics that immediately preceded it. John Carter wouldn't have been out of place in this story. Superman just happens to be cruising through interstellar space (because he can, I guess) when he happens upon a monster threatening a group of people (the human form being the default form of intelligent life) who don't notice it's there because they're blind.

If I attempt to summarize what happens in this sixteen-page story, it'll look like I'm trying to make fun of it, and I'm not. Despite -- or, perhaps, because of -- the absence of Lois, Jimmy, kryptonite, or any familiar element of the mythos, Finger and Boring prove that they still know what makes Superman tick. This may be my favorite Superman story ever.

1 comment:

Bill Ritch said...

This is one of those stories that I read as a kid that has stuck in my mind forever. It was the first (and for a long time) the only Superman story that had any emotional depth. The idea of a powerless, blind Superman who still must save the day. Wow.

And I will never forget the monument the inhabitants build for Superman and how his "likeness" was remembered.

As a sidebar this was also the story where I decided that I did not like the artist's interpretation of Superman. He looked to fake. And I hated the way he made Superman fly with one knee buried in his ass. Years later I found out the artist's name was "Wayne Boring" and I knew that even though his interpretation was iconic I still did not like it.

But I loved the story.