I like Superman. I like Silver Age Superman and Superboy with their ridiculous adventures. I like 90s Superman despite the way he looked. I like Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog and Beppo the Super Monkey.
But there’s just something about Golden Age Superman. I think I like him the best.
Golden Age Superman and all of those other guys do have a lot in common – the costume, the unwavering dedication to justice, the ability to do just about anything (even if GA Supes was technically less powerful). I think that the key difference lies in their respective attitudes.
After all, Superman was brand spanking new, the bastard child of pulps and comic strips and movie serials, and he definitely didn’t act the Big Blue Boy Scout. His pursuit of justice was by virtually any means necessary, including some that went against the letter of the law. Much like Batman (and a whole lot of other costumed vigilantes, of course), Superman was wanted by the law for the first part of his career, probably because of the many times that he broke people out of jail in order to prove their innocence.
You also get the impression that Superman is really enjoying himself in these early adventures. He spends a lot of time thinking up ironic ways to scare the hell out of wrongdoers, like the time that he flew an unscrupulous munitions manufacturer to a war zone and forced him to join the army – selling weapons to both sides in order to prolong the fighting no longer seemed quite so fun for the poor guy.
Or the time that he shot a trigger-happy Fourth Columnist from point blank range, only to catch the bullet at the last picosecond. The man had a sense of humour!
Of course, it didn’t last – as comics found their place and started creating their own cliches and then the Comics Code emerged from the underworld Superman evolved into the Ultimate Do-Gooder that we know today. As I said, I like that guy – his Silver Age adventures are some of the most surreally weird and entertaining examples of what made that time great – but I do miss the swaggering, laughing, leaping-over-tall-buildings guy who probably delighted in making as many crooks as possible soil themselves. Uh, for justice.
Always for justice.