For the first review of “Retro Friday” it felt like it’d be fun to go WAY back into the GP vault of comics and take a look at Superman #185, the first volume of the series that was released in February 1966. Back then comics were 12 cents and featured 25 pages of story and more.
Written by Leo Dorgman with art by Pete Costanza (for the first story) and Jim Mooney (for the second story) and a cover by Curt Swan the comic is so different than modern books with a style and story that has more in common with the classic Superman television and radio show than modern comics. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s interesting to see how much comics have changed in the 50 years since this comic was released.
The first thing I noticed is there seems to be a lack of credits anywhere in the comic. I went through it multiple times to figure out who handled the writing and art, but had to resort to a Google search to figure that out. It’s a minor thing, but caught me off guard and to begin reading the comic with that in my mind, I was looking at all of the details I could.
The issue features two stories the first up being “Superman’s Achilles’ Heel!.” When one part of his body is made vulnerable by a Red K exposure, Superman is targeted for death–literally–by gangland assassins. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds and even has Superman sporting a metal device around his hand to make the villains think that’s his vulnerable spot. Arrows, yes an arrow as in bow and arrow, are used along with rifles and other weapons to try to take Superman down.
The villian is a former actor turned gangster who’s initially out to just find Superman’s secret identity, but then finds out his flaw due to the Red K. From there, plans unfold in an attempt to shot him in his vulnerable spot. Riddles are sent tauting him, lions are released in a football game, it’s goofy to all levels, but still somehow entertaining probably due to it’s focus on the story of Achilles and not adding any other distractions.
The second story, “Target Superman!,” is told in multiple parts (I have no idea why) and features South American multimillionaire Jose Rivera who wants his daughter Dolores to marry Superman, she is attracted to Clark Kent…and Clark’s double on the Kandor Look-Alike Squad steps in to woo her.
There’s absolutely some antiquated views of women and their roles, though the story isn’t as cringeworthy as I expected once I figured out the gist of the story. It’s not good by any measurement, but the headshaking sighs as I read the comic weren’t as present as I thought they’d be.
There’s Superman, his robot, and then a being from Kandor? Yeah, this is a take on the twin taking over in a role type story with a twist at the end and it’s… interesting. Entertaining on some levels, an example of the time in many others, it’s that weird type of story that feels right at place in an anthology. Hell, with some small tweaks and a touch of more weird and this story could be revamped for today easily.
The art is great with nothing too dynamic, but this still feels like the early years of comics where overly dramatic depictions of action were still being figured out. It’s a bit choppy in the flow, but it’s fun to see the retro look of everyone depicted, especially Superman who looks more like a Fleischer cartoon than today’s take.
What’s really fun is the additional items in the comic beyond the story. There’s a letter page, ads, and a quiz that left my jaw on the floor. You can see it to the right here, but the quiz is the measure your “Brotherhood Quotient” and is published as a “public service in cooperation with the National Social Welfare Assembly, coordinating organization for National Health, Welfare and Recreation Agencies of the U.S.” What I think is more amazing is the answers that whoever owned the comic checked off. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.
Going back to read a comic that was published decades before I could read is not only interesting to see a snapshot of the time, but also see how comics have changed in the 50 years since this was published. To be able to come upon a quiz like that found in the comic, especially considering the answers(!), you really get to see some history.
The comic was an enjoyable one. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but goofy fun where you can turn your brain off and just enjoy the stories within.
Story: Leo Dorgman Art: Pete Costanza and Jim Mooney
Story: 6.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.65 Recommendation: Read