26 December 2009

When Superman Was a Leftist, part 2

Scripter Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams are often credited with bringing socially-conscious political themes into superhero comics (or at least into DC Comics’ magazines) with their Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories of the early 1970s. But in this conversation for The Comics Journal, O’Neil noted an important forerunner:

I will disabuse anybody of the notion that Neal and I were the first. There are some Superman stories that are socially conscious — in the way that Warner Bros. movies were back then. . . .

…the last year I had an editorial job, I was living here in Nyack and it’s an hour and 15 minute drive [to New York City], so I listened to a lot of old radio shows and the Superman radio show was remarkable. The writer in me responded to it: “Wow! They establish everything you need to know every day without slowing down the story.” There were also a number of them that were really socially conscious.

My own memory of my first glimmering of social consciousness was hearing — as maybe a 6-year-old or 7-year-old — Superman on the radio telling me that the difference in skin color was only because of a chemical called melanin and people were all the same. I had never heard anything like that.
And that eye-opening fact eventually led to these famous panels from Green Lantern, #76. (When Superman Was a Leftist, Part 1.)

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