75 years ago Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands, which means that today, for all intents and purposes, is Superman’s (née Kal-El of the planet Krypton) birthday. Happy birthday, good sir! As a Canadian, I also cannot help feel a bit of pride about this auspicious day – while created in the United States, one half of the team that dreamed up this mythic icon, Joe Shuster, was a Canadian. Yes, Jerry Siegel was American, but we Canadians take what we can get. (Perhaps we should look at Superman’s creation as an iconic representation of the partnership between our great nations, but even I have to admit that’s stretching the envelope pretty thin)
Anyhow, our esteemed editor, Andy Burns, asked me to say a few things about the Boy in Blue today, given it’s his birthday, and I said “Yes, for sure”, despite not being a huge fan of the series, the hero, or the DC Universe as a whole (not to say I don’t like these things – I’m just more of a Marvel boy). Why? Because Superman was my first introduction into the world of comics, just like he is for so many other fans, or one-time fans, of superhero comics. Superman is the superhero, after all; there was never anyone like him before, and there’s never been anyone like him since (all other attempts have been, at best, pale imitations – even Captain Marvel, who is the magical manifestation of the science-based Superman, never achieved the canonical status of Superman). The American dream made manifest, and a god amongst men, Superman is the dream to which we all aspire, even if we don’t really want to admit it.
Back in about 1980 (could have been as early as 1979 or as late as 1981), my father gave me two oversized comic books: Superman and Captain Marvel. Both contained origin stories and adventures involving the two caped heroes. Yes, I enjoyed the Captain Marvel stories (S-H-A-Z-A-M!), but it was the huge, almost-as-tall-as-me, Superman book that I kept returning to. In rich blues, reds, and yellows, Superman pummelled the bejeezus out of whatever Lex Luthor threw at him, and I loved every second of it; that well-worn, pages-falling-out, tome turned me into a comics fan for life. I was fascinated with his origin story (he’s from OUTER SPACE – what kid doesn’t like aliens and dinosaurs?), and his humble upbringing on a lonely Kansas farm before heading to the Big App…Metropolis as the über-nerd Clark Kent (no one in their right mind, even children, could understand how a suit and pair of glasses hid him from prying eyes, by the way, but it made for good fun) were terrific bookends to the madness and mayhem of Superman knocking Luthor-powered robots with his bare fists.
It was a glorious book, and a glorious introduction to the world of comics, and for that I thank you Messrs Siegel and Shuster, my dad, and above all, Superman.