More Fun Comics #101 - Cover date January-February 1945
Not since the launch of Superman in 1938 had there been such an important new creation in the Man of Steel’s personal franchise - the introduction of Superboy.
Siegel had previously pitched Superboy series on two other occasions, in 1938 and 1940, but it was only in 1944 - when Siegel was serving overseas - that plans were put into action. In early 1945, the Boy of Steel debuted without Siegel’s permission or management. It was a turning point in the already-contentious relationship between Siegel and Jack Liebowitz, National’s publisher, who appeared to be wresting complete control of the franchise while its co-creator was called away.
The ownership issue of Superboy eventually led to the courts, with Siegel retrieving his rights to the character from National - but allowing them to continue publishing the character as the owner. Never a savvy defender of his legal rights as much as his ethical rights, Siegel effectively signed away Superboy in the wake of having just won him back.
As for Superboy himself, he debuts to almost no fanfare at all - not only is he not featured on the cover, but he’s not even mentioned (alongside co-inhabitants Johnny Quick, Aquaman, Spectre, the comedy team of Dover and Clover, and the book’s foremost attraction, Green Arrow).
In a terse, five-page retelling of Superman’s (and now Superboy’s) origin, we see more of Krypton than any other comic has yet shown, as well as what is very likely the first image of a pleasant, aged Kent couple doting over their lovable, adopted super-infant.
Rather than being encouraged by his dying father to mask his great powers behind a meek disguise in order to better serve humanity, it’s young Clark who determines that he must hide his light under a bushel.
Although the brief tale doesn’t leave much room for nuance, it’s also insinuated that Clark invents his Superboy identity out of whole cloth - as he does his costume, which he sews himself (predating the home-ec handiness of Peter Parker by a couple of decades).
Obviously, there’s little in the way of canon in these early stories - the radio serial alone has upended Superman’s origin for its own purposes, at the very least - but Superboy’s presence will dramatically change all sorts of assumptions about the character of his older self, in short order.
Superman vol.1 #32 - Cover date January-February 1945
Behind one of the most iconic covers of Superman’s lengthy career, the Man of Steel finds himself afflicted with amnesia and left to wander the streets of Metropolis in a vain attempt to discern his own civilian identity. To the credit of his assumed alternate ID, even Superman finds Clark Kent to be too timid and anemic to be Superman’s alter-ego.
Following that, Superman confronts a so-called “Death-Bird” menace at a luxury ski resort, discovering fake ghosts and subversive schemes worthy of a Scooby Doo episode. While Lois dramatically breaks up a pickpocketing ring in her solo adventure, the issue wraps up with Toyman disguising himself as a master toymaker (which is to say, a master toymaker other than one wanted by the police) whose clever inventions allow him entrance to the homes of the wealthiest Metropolitans.
The cover of this issue is striking and finds itself reproduced in homage and merchandise, but it doesn’t tell much of a story - where is Superman that he’s pelted from all sides by electricity? Typically, when the image is expanded upon, it’s the center of fuming storm clouds, but there’s no clue as to context here, merely an affirmation of indestructibility - which is often the appeal of Superman as a character, that he can survive terrific abuse in the pursuit of adventure.
I want to re-read (actually just read lets be honest here) the Death of Superman and then write one of those out of left field opinion pieces about why it’s actually the best comic in the history of comics and appeal to such vague concepts like “the human desire for resolution”
Because theoretically it was a great comic, a resolution to a story ~70 years in the making, and before it ultimately was revealed to be just another undo-able sales ploy it really seemed like we had finally seen the end of history and the end of Superman
Imagine if the Death and Return of Superman actually got rid of Clark Kent as Superman. The story could have went on like it did only without Superman’s return. After the Cyborg’s defeat, the three remaining Supermen could’ve just taken over the titles. Superman: The Man of Steel is renamed Steel, The Adventures of Superman becomes The Adventures of Superboy, Superman becomes Eradicator and Action Comics focuses on Supergirl and the Metropolis cast.
After a couple years, a new Superman could be introduced in Action Comics with a new Superman title premiering a year or so later.