Read an exclusive extract from Grant Morrison's Supergods
Sunday 25 September 2011
In 1958 Superman comics were still big sellers, having weathered the storms of the witch-hunt years by adhering closely to the central tenets of the Comics Code and aping the formula of the popular TV show. After Mortimer Weisinger occupied the editorial chair that year, Superman sales overtook even the Disney titles, making him the most popular comic character in the world.
Famously described by comics writer Roy Thomas as “a malevolent toad,” Mort Weisinger had worked as a story editor on TV’s Adventures of Superman before returning to New York to revamp the comic book. While other comics strove to connect with an older audience, Weisinger aimed his books at the gigantic audience of children from the postwar population boom. To keep the bright, active kids of the 1950s engaged, Weisinger and his writers exchanged the pedestrian realism of the TV series and the comic stories it had inspired for the kind of science-fantasy spectacle that couldn’t be duplicated on film or TV. No other popular form existed where spec¬tacular scenes of men tossing planets at one another could be created with any degree of believability. Under Weisinger, a sci-fi fan, Superman reached levels of power previously enjoyed only by Hindu gods.
Even the covers became more exciting, transformed into compelling poster-like advertisements for the stories within. In the forties and early fifties, a typical Superman cover portrayed him in iconic pose: lifting a car, towing a liner, or waving the Stars and Stripes. But Weisinger favored sensational “situation” covers with word balloons and unlikely setups that could only be resolved by purchasing the issue. Oddly, while this cosmic inflation was taking place, Superman stories were becoming more inti¬mate and more universal in their appeal. In tune with the psychoanalytic movement (and to evade the code), Weisinger developed an uncanny ability to transform every dirty nugget from the collective unconscious into curiously compelling narratives for kids.
Superman was now a grown-up, a mature patriarch, drawn in the clean fifties lines of an artist with the unfortunate name of Wayne Boring.
©Grant Morrison, 2011
Extracted from Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero, by Grant Morrison, published by Jonathan Cape.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 2 President Obama comments on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up