29 April 2011

Superman as “Meretricious Dreck”

From the Comics Journal’s appreciation of comic-strip collector and scholar Bill Blackbeard, who just died after a lifetime of preserving the nation’s daily verbal-visual entertainment:
“Far from being overwhelmed when Action came out with Superman,” he continued, “I thought it was meretricious dreck. I liked the art. I’d been following Slam Bradley [also by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster] in Detective Comics. And I liked the art and the storyline; I thought that was fine. But the Superman content did nothing for me because I immediately saw what many other people saw: there’s no story here. If he can do anything he wants to, who cares? Why bother? But the art did appeal, and I looked at it occasionally. It was nicely drawn.

“Then the whole superhero thing came in, and I recall thinking in the early forties that certain things—like Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch—I thought those were psychotic, the work of a lunatic. And of course Mickey Spillane was scripting, so I wasn’t that far off. I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to immerse themselves in such stuff.
Spillane did write some scripts and prose stories about the Torch and Sub-Mariner, but he didn’t create those characters. Ironically, Spillane’s biggest success came after he failed to sell a comic-book private eye of the Slam Bradley type. Unable to find a publisher for “Mike Danger,” he rewrote his script into a prose novel featuring Mike Hammer.

No comments: