The Mysterious Superman Painting
While doing research for the Superman infographic, I came across this intriguing illustration by pulp artist H.J. Ward. It’s said to be the first time Superman ever appeared in painted form, and is the subject of not one, but two mysteries.
The first mystery was of the painting’s disappearance. It hung on a wall in Harry Donenfeld’s office at DC Comics until he retired in 1957, and then was considered lost for over 50 years. However, a few years ago art historian David Saunders discovered it hanging on the wall at the Lehman College library in New York. You can read the full story on that here.
The other mystery was why an image painted in 1940 has a version of Superman’s emblem that didn’t appear until 1941.The easiest explanation would be that this is the first appearance of the emblem appeared, and it took a year before the artists at DC adopted it.
But wait, what’s this?
This photograph of the same painting hanging in Donenfeld’s office reveals that it was originally painted with the 1939 emblem! Not only that, but he also had a stronger jaw, and his hair was styled differently!
Saunders says the image was originally commissioned to help promote the 1940 radio serial (“an image for a medium you cannot see,” as the New York Times article says). You can see how it was used in this photograph, with the stars of the radio serial:
But this photograph was taken no earlier than 1942. How do I know? Because the microphone says “Mutual,” and the Superman radio series wasn’t broadcast on Mutual until August of 1942, by which time the 1941 emblem was well in use.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the emblem was repainted just for this occasion, especially if it’s true that the painting was originally commissioned for the start of the radio serial in early 1940. Do any photos exist from the original promotional campaign?
But even if they did exist, they wouldn’t be in color. And that’s what saddens me. It appears no color, or even high quality reproduction exists of the painting in its original form.
What’s worse, according to this source the retouching may not have even been done by Ward himself. Instead it was modified by airbrush artist Joseph Szokoli, who was experienced at doing touch-up work. (It’s unknown why he decided to paint the emblem with six sides, the only time Superman’s shield has been represented that way.)
The physical painting may have since been found, but in some ways the original still remains lost.
I Got a Wrong Number Today. Here's how that went:
- Me: Hello?
- Guy: Is Lonnie there?
- Me: No, I think you have the wrong number.
- Guy: Didn't I dial *reads off my number*?
- Me: Yes, but Lonnie hasn't had this number in years.
- Guy: Now look lady, what'd you do with Lonnie?
- Me: Um, first of all, I'm not a lady. Second, like I said, Lonnie hasn't been at this number in years.
- Guy: You're not a lady? Well, get some bass in your voice.
- Me: *hangs up*
Today Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met with Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator and questioned her on the new EPA regulations regarding water. Three of the nine Republicans on the committee wrote press releases on the meeting. In all them, they include long-winded rants about how the people of their state don’t like the new regulation and that regulating ditch and puddle water is asinine. What none of them include are Ms. McCarthy’s responses. I’m sure the reason she is not quoted is because her answers didn’t mesh well with the Republicans.
"Regulating ditch and puddle water is going too far!" We actually don’t plan on doing that and we have rewritten the proposal to be clearer on that.
"No one in my state like this proposal!" We’ve heard very little from the people of the state but they still have until October to let us know what they think.
"Why have you started this war on agriculture?" Water is our greatest natural resource. All the water we have on Earth right now is it. If we don’t protect what little water we have and can actually use then what will happen to future generations?
Visiting Boston’s Dead: Fancy Cemetery Edition
Lots of dead people underfoot in Boston. Every tourist who comes to this town will pass by cemeteries from Colonial and Revolutionary days, like the Granary Burial Ground just off Boston Common.
The Granary has 2,300 markers but probably twice as many bodies. In 2009, a tourist on a walk there discovered one unmarked grave by falling into it. She put her foot on just the right spot, where a broken slate slab had finally given way, and found herself hip-deep in a stairwell leading down to the tomb.
My favorite part of the Granary Burial Ground: After paying your respects to Samuel Adams, you can walk across Tremont Street, enter the Beantown Pub, and order a Sam Adams. This pleases me.
At the Granary and at Copp’s Hill in the North End, both begun in the 17th century, the gravestones — now just thin grey shards — lean and sink into the earth. There are forgotten mass graves, too. According to one historian, a couple dozen British soldiers probably lie underneath homeowners’ gardens in Charlestown, not far from Bunker Hill.
Sorry to ramble — that stuff is all just pretty awesome. I could talk about graveyards all day! But I write today not to discuss humble churchyards; no, I want next-level graveyards. I want Victorians.
Forest Hills Cemetery and Mt. Auburn Cemetery
I’m surprised by how many locals haven’t visited the Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain or Mt. Auburn in Cambridge. Rich Bostonians went nuts with obelisks and tombstones, even above-ground, walk-in tombs of the sort I imagined were only used for undead French people in movies.
Mt. Auburn was supposedly the first “garden cemetery,” where monuments were arrayed artfully among hills and near ponds, instead of the Colonial churchyard rows in places like Copp’s Hill.
Behold! I have finally gotten an Instagram account. #sometimesIneedfilters
Prime real estate
Mt. Auburn’s big draw is the tower right in its center, from which you can perfectly view the Boston skyline. The zoom on my smartphone camera isn’t great, so you’ll just have to trust me on that.
But that’s just Mt. Auburn — Forest Hills came along slightly later, and is more grandiose and quirkier, and therefore my favorite. I go every year in the autumn, so pardon my photos’ autumnal bent:
Forest Hills seems to be the place where people asked themselves: “Which tombstone really reflects me, as a person?” There are huge monuments to self-aggrandizement, as well as genuine pathos. I mean, look at this stuff:
Little stone sculptures of children’s empty beds. In a cemetery full of children and infant graves. I mean, good God.
The place is dotted with sculpture as well: It’s an outdoor museum, impeccably landscaped. The perfect place to walk on an October day. It’s like being in an Edward Gorey sketch when it’s cold and misty, and simply gorgeous when it’s sunny.
Pottery shard obelisk
Why are these tiny houses carved into the rock the walls off this path? I don’t know, but I love it.
A few of my favorite pictures from my wanderings around the Kansas State Capitol today.
I also changed my profile picture after it being the same since I started this blog in 2012.