Recalling summer days as a kid growing up in N.Y., it seems to me that with the exception of camp, children weren’t booked up with tons of extra “enrichment” activities. It was usually left to our own desires and creativity to choose the activities in which we wanted to partake. This could mean playing a game of handball, or enjoying a day at the beach, or simply stretching out in someone’s backyard reading comic books.
I read a variety of comic books: Little Lotta, Richie Rich, and even the ‘True Romance’ comics (which, looking at today, are quite funny). My favorite comics, however, were Archie comics (including Jughead, Betty & Veronica, etc) and Superman comics. We would actually buy the comics new (at $.10 and $.12 an issue, $.25 for an ‘annual) and then buy, sell, and/or trade them when we were through reading them.
There was nothing that appealed to me more than settling down with a Superman comic. I enjoyed the ‘off-shoots’ of Superman as well: Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter, Lois Lane Girl Reporter. What I liked about the earlier issues was that the stories had a human element to them. I’m not sure I could have explained this as a child but I think it was something I realized instinctively. There were stories such as Lois Lane, Fat Lady of Metropolis or Jimmy Olsen Boy Tycoon. I looked forward to reading about characters from Bizarro land, from other dimensions, and those with the initials “L.L.” (including Superman’s arch enemy, Lex Luther). This all changed drastically in the late sixties as did just about everything in pop culture. The drawings became more intricate, the stories more violent, and the focus more on action than on character. Some people liked the change; I was not one of them.
Still, the character of Superman never lost its appeal for me. The Adventures of Superman was one of my favorite television shows growing up. I preferred the earlier seasons, which starred Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. These were directed in a somewhat gritty way and had a distinctly noir feel to them. When Coates was later replaced by Noel Neill the stories became sillier and campier. George Reeves was the perfect Superman and others in the cast (Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and John Hamilton as Editor of the Daily Planet, Perry “great Caesar’s ghost” White) were excellent supporting actors.
Christopher Reeves brought much to the role of Superman when he was cast in the film version in the seventies. Hard to believe that the producers tossed out his photo and resume on three separate occasions before finally casting him in the part.
There is a new Superman movie due out this year. I’m looking forward to it, hoping the actor cast as Superman lives up to his predecessors in portraying “the man of steel”.
I’ve listed some favorite episodes of the television show, The Adventures of Superman. I didn’t write down the title of the episode but those of you who were fans will certainly remember them:
- The episode where Superman takes a bride (Of course this was just a dream. Too bad, his “wife” was played by the lovely Joy Lansing).
- The episode in which Lois discovers a ghost town where the few remaining people seem to be dying off.
- The episode where Jimmy finds himself on an eerie island in which a lone voice is heard begging for help (turns out to be a parrot).
- The episode where the “mole people” invade the planet from beneath the earth’s surface.
- The episode where members of a secret society are being killed off one by one.
- The episode where the ghost of an Englishman seems to appear in the English country side (filmed on a Hollywood back lot of course).
- The episode in which a demented clown is haunting a circus.
- The episode in which Superman loses his power (temporarily) by being exposed to Kryptonite.
- The episode that centers on a bet made on a lemon meringue pie.
- The episode where Professor Twiddle (raspy voiced Sterling Holloway) propels everyone into cavemen times.
Sorry I’m posting this later than usual but I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey along Rhodes Less Traveled.
Have a great weekend,