Tag: Superman comic strip

With Further Ado #284: Up, Up, and Away! So long, Sid Friedfertig

With Further Ado #284: Up, Up, and Away! So long, Sid Friedfertig

It with great sadness that I reflect on the passing of my pal, Sid Friedfertig, who died on December 30th in Brooklyn at age 69. Sid was the man behind preserving a special bit of comics history – the daily Superman newspaper strips. Partnering with the American Library of Comics and IDW Publishing, Sid worked to publish these strips in beautiful hardcover collections.

It was honor to invite Sid to exhibit, and lecture, at recent ITHACON comic conventions. He was gentleman and a professional – always kind and patient with fans at his booth. And when on panels, he was informative and upbeat; never stuffy.

Every year at ITHACON I’d buy one more volume of this superb series – and ask him to autograph it, of course. ITHACON is a wonderful event, but for me, it will shine just little less brightly this year. Fandom will be just a little bit dimmer with the loss of this hard-working comics historian.

So long, Sid. It was great to know you – all too briefly. And thanks for being a great guy, a great father and an outstanding Superman Fan.

For this week’s column, I’d like to re-present an interview that I had the pleasure of conducing with Sid a few years ago.

With Further Ado #39: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig
Originally published April 24, 2019

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 Freidfertig:

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?

SF: 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 doppelgangers. 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?

SF: I loved attending Ithacon. The only surprise was how appreciative of my efforts were the comics professionals in attendance. It was very fulfilling.

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 Brainiac, 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 Sundays 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.

 

 

Brainiac On Banjo: Truth, Justice, and All That Jazz

“Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets. ‘Up in the sky – look!’ ‘It’s a giant bird.’ ‘It’s a plane.’ ‘It’s Superman!’ And now, Superman – a being no larger than an ordinary man but possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on Earth: Able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile at a single bound, hurtle a 20-story building with ease, race a high-powered bullet to its target, lift tremendous weights and rend solid steel in his bare hands as though it were paper. Superman – a strange visitor from a distant planet: champion of the oppressed, physical marvel extraordinary who has sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need.” – written by Allen Ducovny and Robert Joffe Maxwell for the original Superman radio pilot, 1939.

The above proclamation was not original to the Superman comic books or the newspaper comic strip. It was streamlined, and the phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” was dramatically appended to the opening as President Roosevelt had started making his plans to dive head-first into World War II. It was also used in the opening to the Fleisher/Paramount Superman cartoons, and later the syndicated 1950s Superman television series.

“Truth, Justice and the American Way” is not in the U.S. constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or as far as I can tell, the bible of any “major” religion. It is and always has been a marketing slogan, not unlike Fisk Tires’ “Time To Re-Tire.”

Why should he? Superman, long acknowledged to be a world citizen, is not a native born American and never had been. He has acknowledged that being an alien he could not lawfully become president. If he wanted to cheat, he probably could have pulled off running as “Clark Kent” (not his real name), as long as nobody demanded to see his birth certificate. With a raised seal, of course.

Superman is an illegal alien. A dreamer who landed without government permission or knowledge in Kansas U.S.A. without any parents and was seized by a then-elderly heterosexual white married couple. We assume somewhere along the line “Clark Kent” probably forged those credentials he would need to go to school, get a driver’s license and a passport, get married, and so on.

So, of course, this native Kryptonian dropping the “American Way” tagline drove the Rabid Right completely around the bend. Because, you know, he’s posed with the American flag and stuff.

The new phrase, “Truth, Justice and A Better Tomorrow,” would sound great opening a network newscast, unless that network isn’t Fox, Newsmax, OAN or their fellow reality-challenged microcephalic internet rackets. The Rabid Right lost their collective mind. Again.

As I said in this space last week, I enjoy watching the Rabid Right lose its shit. They’re almost as fantastic at that as they are lying through their teeth and causing widespread death. First Superman Son of Superman is revealed to be bisexual, and now, about a week later, he’s an optimistic citizen of the multiverse who is absolutely not working to further any American interests per se. So if the entire idea is to keep the Right reflexively flinching, then right on, DC Comics!

(Mike Gold and Bob Harrison will be representing Pop Culture Squad at this weekend’s the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — of all places — the Baltimore Convention Center, the one in Maryland. Evidently, Mister Gold will be on separate panels about First Comics and Hawkman, both hosted by Mister Harrison. We smell a fix…)