The irony of a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper appearing in the funny pages of a great metropolitan newspapers, and quite a few rural newspapers, is not lost on me.
Superman in comics, in the movies, on TV or the in the newspaper inspires the best in us. I had the pleasure of catching up with entrepreneur and super-fan, Sid Friedfertig, at the 44th annual Ithacon and it was a such a treat. He’s a guy with great passion inspired by Superman. Through his Herculean efforts (or should I say “Kryptonian efforts”?) , fans can enjoy so many lost Superman adventures – and rediscover old adventures in longer stories with better, but still vintage, art! “What is this?”, you say? Well, read on and enjoy my chat with Sid Friedfertig:
Ed Catto: Can you tell me why you are such a Superman fan, and why do you feel Superman is so enduring?
Sid Friedfertig: Superman endures because he is unique. With every other costumed hero the plots must be crafted so the hero’s ability is able to counter the menace facing him. Superman is the reverse, he is the All-Good, the ideal. To me that makes him more interesting.
EC: How did you get hooked on the Silver Age Superman, and how did you develop such an interest in the Superman Newspaper Strips?
SF: I grew up reading the Silver Age Superman comic books, which featured covers mostly drawn by Curt Swan, while at the same time watching the Adventures of Superman TV series. George Reeves was Swan’s Clark Kent come to life. Sometimes though, the story inside the comics was drawn by another artist. I wanted to see Swan’s artwork that went with those glorious covers. Later I realized that Swan had drawn those same stories for the Superman newspaper strip. Here were the stories that went with those covers, and I decided that I was going to find all of them.
EC: I love how you partnered with IDW for this effort. Can you tell me a little about the relationship?
SF: I own the only known collection of Superman newspaper strips. I knew that fans had been for years demanding from DC that these stories be reprinted but DC did not have them. Due to a decision that is lost to history DC published the strips once then threw them away. No copies were made, no individual titles were recorded, we don’t even have an accurate list of which newspapers carried the strip in its final years, so I created a website to showcase my collection; it received a great deal of attention. IDW approached me and we have been working together ever since. They have a wonderful imprint called The Library of American Comics, headed by Dean Mullaney, whose aim is to publish as many lost American comic strips as is possible, not only Superman.
EC: How many books in the series do you have out now, and what’s coming up next?
SF: IDW picked up in 1943 where Kitchen Sink Press left off. In the late 1990’s they reprinted the first three years of dailies and Sundays. Each dailies volume covers 2 to 2 ½ years of episodes. The final Golden Age volume will be in stores in May. Next year we will enter the Atomic Age of comic strips after which comes the one I am looking forward to most, the final book in the series, the beginning of the Cambrian explosion of creativity also known as the Silver Age.
EC: The covers to these books are wonderful! How are they designed?
SF: The beautiful covers, front and reverse, were drawn by the great Pete Poplaski. Lorraine Turner designs all the books. I think each cover conveys the lighthearted spirit that permeated 60’s comics.
EC: What makes these Superman Newspaper Strips so special, and why should Superman fans read them? If you love Silver Age Superman stories that appeared in the comics, you will love these books. Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was rehired by DC to transform scripts written for the comic books into strip format. The added length of the strip versions allowed Siegel to give the stories more depth and characterization than their comic dopplegangers. These strips were Siegel’s last Superman work and in my opinion the best work of his life.
EC: You recently were a guest at ITHACON. What was that like? Were there any surprises there?
EC: These newspaper strips have so many familiar supporting characters. Did they also introduce new characters or narrative elements to the Superman mythology?
SF: Because the comic books have a longer lead-time than the dailies, several episodes appeared in the strips first. As a result the first appearance of arch foes Braniac, Bizarro, Metallo, and Mr. Myxptlk occurred in the strips. Supporting characters like lovely Lyla Lerrol also made their debuts in the strips.
EC: Which creators worked on these strips and who do you feel delivered the best work?
SF: Wayne Boring was so adept at drawing the Superman strip that he drew both dailies and Sunday’s for a time and he remained on the Sunday strip for a quarter of a century. But the most fulfilling part of my journey has been publishing Jerry Siegel’s final Superman work that had been lost for over half a century.
EC: What’s your favorite Superman Newspaper adventure and why?
SF: Siegel’s story ‘Superman’s Return To Krypton’ is my favorite. In the comics, it appeared as a full-length novel, which means the single story occupied the entire comic book. When Siegel wrote the newspaper version he told the same story using about 50% additional panels giving the story great depth. The interaction of Superman and his doomed parents achieves great poignancy, those scenes always break my heart.
EC: Thanks so very much for your time and for all your efforts, Sid.