Why I Love Golden Age Superman

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.

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9 Responses to “Why I Love Golden Age Superman”

  1. Nuv says:

    “No! No! That would be MURDER!”
    The second panel needs to be on a shirt or a poster or something.
    Amazing stuff!
    You seem to share my love for Superman.
    You should check out my site
    We review comics, movies, music, blah blah
    Check it out. I think you’ll like it.
    Good stuff, Johnathan.

  2. skizelo says:

    My favourite GA Supes moment is when he resolved to stop traffic accidents by smashing up cars. Or maybe when he decided the way to deal with the crime problem in slums by smashing up the slums. One of the bystanders (I think he was a cop who was really bad at his job) was watching admiringly saying “Once that disgrace is out of the way, we can replace them with crime proof tenement buildings!” (I paraphrase).
    Basically, smashing as the ultimate social curative.

  3. Scott says:

    Superman did the same thing in the Birthright series, and it was awesome.

    And out of character.(???)

  4. Johnathan says:

    Out of character now.

    It’d likely have to be some sort of alternate version of the guy, but I’d love to read a modern comic abbout a smash-first-ask-questions-later swashbuckling Superman that was written today. Uh, written today by someone who wouldn’t take the opportunity to turn that into a gore- or angst-fest, that is.

  5. Matt Bird says:

    At the very least, let’s have Superman revive his old catchphrase, “Now to return to my apartment!”

    He might as well add “because I’ve almost gotten down to the Fried Chicken Meal in my stack of TV dinners!”

  6. Scott says:

    I think it’s funny that Superman works as this great wish-fulfillment for his creators, and they still throw in things like “Has a place of his own” next to “He’s bulletproof.”

  7. Jess says:

    @skizelo: I love the “stop car accidents by smashing up cars” story so much. My favorite part is when he smashes up a radio station and beats everyone inside it up in order to announce his new war on cars; then, at the end of the story, we see a worker at the radio station putting the final touches on the repaired wall, only to have Superman burst through it again like the Kool-Aid guy. Awesome.

  8. Pj says:

    I forget how great GA Superman was, because my mouth is tarnished by the taste of SA Superman. I gotta go back and read some of those archives again.

  9. Johnathan says:

    Man, you shouldn’t eat Silver Age Supermans. They’re so, so bad for your liver.

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