The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

The Amazing World of Superman (Tabloid Edition)
edited by E. Nelson Bridwell and Sol Harrison
DC Comics
ISBN-13 : 978-1779509185

In the early 1970s, the town of Metropolis, Illinois, attempted to boost their economy by building a huge “Superman Land” amusement park. This ill-fated venture stalled and crashed due to the financial realities of the time (they blamed the oil crisis, but they’d never lined up any serious funding).

When the project was still alive, DC Comics published a special and unusual tabloid-sized comic book that acted as a program for the town’s 1973 Superman Day. This annual event is still held every June (barring pandemics) and in 1973 they went all-out with the mayor dressed as Superman and potential investors coming to town to survey the crowds and this tie-in, which was pretty darned cool.

Produced by DC Comics (then National Periodical Publications) this 64-page The Amazing World of Superman giant was printed on different, whiter, paper than DC used for their comics and weighed in at a slightly larger size (and proportion) than DC’s then-new “Limited Collectors Edition” comics, plus it was printed in black-and-white instead of color.

This new hardback edition reprints the book, pretty much as it was in 1973, with no real “DVD extras.”

Much of the book was filled with some pretty great articles for the time, including a step-by-step look at how comics were made–from writing and drawing to printing–and a look back at the 1966 Superman Broadway Play. It’s great to have this stuff back in print.

There were also some features reprinted from comics, including a classic story drawn by Wayne Boring in 1955 that speculated about a Superman Land amusement park, and a few pages drawn by Bob Brown that show Superboy’s secret lab in Smallville, but the star attraction was a brand-new 15-page origin story for The Man of Steel, created especially for this publication.

“The Origin of Superman” was written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by the then-top Superman art team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. DC’s then-publisher, Carmine Infantino is sometimes credited with the plot and layouts. It’s widely considered the definitive take on Superman’s origin story (at least pre-Crisis), and it’s cool to see it reprinted here in it’s original format and art size, with wash-toned black and white art.

At twenty bucks, this is a pretty nice package. It even includes the full-color “pull-out” poster map of Krypton (drawn by Sal Amendola) that came with the original book, although it’s inserted loose here, making life easier for everyone involved.

If you don’t have the original printing, this is a bargain, costing less than half as much as reading copies sell for on the secondary market.

However, it’s not perfect. The comic stories were all originally printed with gray tones, since the book was in black and white, and it looks like those original wash tones are either missing, or have degenerated over the past 48 years. This book likes like they scanned it from a printed copy, and the tones and screened photos are pretty muddy in places. That’s a bit disappointing.

Even the color cover looks like it was scanned from a printed copy. It doesn’t render the book unreadable, but it is very disappointing.

Also, there is NO historical context. Reading this book you would never know that the Superman Days celebration in Metropolis still happens almost every year. The only clue to the fate of Superman Land is a mention of it not happening due to the oil crisis, and that’s not even inside the book. It’s on a loose card with the UPC code that’s shrink-wrapped on the back of the book.

This is a 64-page black and white book, printed in China. It would not have broken the bank to hire someone to write an essay about the theme park, or insert a page with credits for the originally uncredited Origin of Superman story. They could have at least included the PR blurb inside the book.

A bit more than a year after this book was published, DC released their first Superman issue of the Limited Collectors Edition tabloid-size comic, and it included the new origin story–this time in color, with the artwork widened by DC’s production artists and credits attached, and that particular book also had a few pages of concept art for the amusement park, by none other than Neal Adams.

That would have made a great addition to this book, since so much of The Amazing World of Superman is about the proposed theme park. The information behind the plans not coming to fruition would have made for a fascinating background story.

Lately DC Comics has been hitting it out of the park with their selection of cool gems from their library to reprint in deluxe editions, but they have done a really crappy job of packaging this material with any meaningful essays or extras to give the reader the proper historical context.

With The Amazing World of Superman, it’s nice, but I still have my mint-condition copy that I ordered from DC Comics for three bucks back when I was 11 years old, and there’s nothing new in here at all, except for the questionable reproduction. If you don’t already have this in your collection, and you’re a big fan of Superman, you pretty much need this. Otherwise the only reason to get it is to have it in hardback.

I’m happy DC published this new edition of The Amazing World of Superman.  I just wish that the execution had been better.