Thursday, 24 May 2012

BOOK REVIEW

How Superman Would End the War (1940)

This book review (magazine actually) is offered as part of Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase. Hop over and check out the eclectic mix of reviews by other bloggers. It will be worth your while.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were bubbling with ideas to give Superman new adventures. How else do you explain this two-page comic story Jerry wrote and Joe drew for Look, a general-interest American magazine, in February 1940? The world is barely six months into World War 2 when the Man of Steel swoops down upon Hitler’s alpine mountain retreat and flies off with him, like a great eagle taking off with its unsuspecting prey.

Superman then stops over in Moscow to grab hold of Hitler’s ‘friend’ Josef Stalin, in front of his troops, before turning around and heading for Geneva where he deposits the two dictators at a meeting of the League of Nations which holds them “guilty of modern history’s greatest crime — unprovoked aggression against defenceless countries.” We don’t know whether they are sentenced to death or to a life behind bars. Death by legal or foul means was rare in early comics in which 
superheroes regularly handed over criminals to law enforcers. 

Everything’s fine about this short comic story except for Superman’s costume — white bodysuit, white cape and a pair of red shorts. Even the big ‘S’ on his chest is wonky. Those were early days. I liked the comic though, it’s vintage stuff (courtesy: www.archive.org).

Take a look at the comic strips below…and don’t forget to check out an sf book way below.






Among other Forgotten Books news (at my end), I recently picked up a used science fiction paperback titled We All Died at Breakaway Station by American sf writer Richard C. Meredith (Venture SF, 1969). A short version of this story, about “race survival teetering in the balance,” appeared in Amazing (1968). I liked the cover. I hope I like the story too.


The blurb on the back cover says...

When race survival teetered in the balance...

Captain Absolom Bracer, with an artificial brainpan and synthetic eyes. Astrogation officer Gene O'Gwynn, a lady with a plastic face. Weapons officer Akin Darby and Communications Officer Miss Cyanta, both with assorted prosthetic parts.

These were the officers of the Iwo Jima, one of the two heavy battle-cruiser starships protecting the vast, cumbersome Rudoph Cragstone, a hospital ship returning to Earth with thiousands of wounded in 'cold-sleep'. These brutally injured officers had been restored to temporary, artificial life to do this job because no intact man or woman could be spared from the main conflict.

But then Breakaway Station, a vital link with Earth, was suddenly threatened...

It looks like a challenging read, doesn't it?

8 comments:

  1. Another left-field choice Prashant - great stuff. Have you read Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY? It's a wonderful take on the mythopoetic power of the comicbook and superhero characters in general as seen in the light of the European War. It's an amazing book, won every award that was going and really deserved them (which si nice, for once!)

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  2. Thanks very much, Sergio. I didn't have the time to do a regular FFB this week as I am caught up in my newspaper's 11th anniversary edition, a 100-page bumper issue due to be published early next week. I missed Todd's Overlooked Films/TV too. Hopefully, the hectic schedule should ease by mid next week. This was one of several vintage comic-books I read online recently. I think there is a full colour version of the comic too but I am not sure.

    I am familiar with Michael Chabon's very popular novel though I have never read it. Thanks for bringing it to my notice again — I am going to purchase the book soon. A WW2 graphic novel I found touchingly disturbing was Art Spiegelman's graphic novel MAUS. Clearly, comic-books do much more than merely entertain.

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  3. Funky superman for sure. I've wanted to read that Meredith book. I've liked others I've read by him.

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  4. MAUS is nicely done, sad and disturbing as it should be. Not "comic," though it has moments of humor, if I remember right. The approach to this kind of dark material is similar to the animated Israeli film WALTZ WITH BASHIR.


    I started the Chabon book but it was such a doorstopper, and a subject I needed help getting more interested in. I know it throws doubt on my gender, but I was never much of a comic book fan.

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  5. Charles, creators Siegel and Shuster got Superman to do all kinds of stuff in the intervening years before DC bought the rights to one of the world's most popular comic-book characters. I'm looking for more "funky" Superman.

    I hadn't even heard of Richard C. Meredith before leave alone read his books. I am only now getting acquainted with sf in a more serious way. Meredith, I can tell, is not an easy read.

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  6. Ron, you remembered correctly — MAUS definitely has its "moments of (dark) humour." Spiegelman, I guess, didn't let personal emotion or experience (both his parents were survivors of the Holocaust) overshadow his artistic instincts. Whatever the subject-matter, a comic-book is a comic-book.

    I have only heard of WALTZ WITH BASHIR and I'd certainly like to watch it. It's animated too, which appeals to me even more.

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  7. I hope you're experience with Meredith's work is better than mine...but I've never read his novels, only his late short fiction, which was pretty dire. He died young, and depressed, I gather.

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  8. Todd, I picked up this book on impulse and because it was sf. I have only flipped through the pages so far and in spite of my lack of knowledge of science fiction, I'll venture to say that Meredith has a fairly unconventional writing style, or so it seems at first glance. I didn't know he died "young and depressed" given which he has written quite a lot, both the long and short of it.

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