Review by Woodrow Phoenix
In 1972, the town of Metropolis, in Southern Illinois decided to create a tourist attraction to capitalise on the name it shared with the fictional Metropolis, home of Superman. The Metropolis Chamber of Commerce contacted DC and publisher Carmine Infantino agreed to their plans beginning with the erection of signs proclaiming Metropolis to be the official home of Superman, a Superman Award for people who helped develop the town of Metropolis and the eventual construction of a Superman theme park. In 1973, DC published a special 64-page black and white souvenir comic The Amazing World of Superman – Official Metropolis Edition, to be sold in The Amazing World of Superman gallery which had just opened. It was phase one of the planned theme park, but the oil crisis and an economic recession meant the plans never materialised.
The Amazing World of Superman, released on the 50th anniversary of the original publication is a hardcover facsimile edition of that souvenir book, same tabloid size as the Treasury Editions produced by DC in the 1970s. It’s basically a scrapbook: half proud highlights for fans who want to celebrate his place in popular culture, and half introduction for readers who have never picked up a Superman comic before. The variety of stories and features showcasing all aspects of the mythos is designed to cover all the bases.
‘Superman in Superman Land’ is a twelve page story featuring Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent visiting a Superman-themed amusement park to report on the opening day for The Daily Planet newspaper. A little footnote on the splash page proclaims “From fiction to fact! This Superman story was conceived in 1955. Now the fiction will become a reality in Metropolis.” Other stories and pin-ups include Curt Swan showing us ‘How to Draw Superman’ with a range of heads, facial expressions and beautiful pencil turnaround poses; a guide to all the members of ‘The Superman Family’; a diagram showing ‘How the Super-Family Came to Earth from Krypton’; ‘The Origin of Superman!’ retold by Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson; plus maps and cutaway diagrams, important dates and other memorabilia, strips from selected issues and photos of all the TV and stage incarnations of Superman, including the New York Times’ review of the Broadway musical ‘It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!’ , which mostly seems like an excuse to show off the stylish rendition of the cast by the legendary Al Hirschfeld.
The most interesting feature for nostalgic fans who might pick this book up is the ten page ‘How a Comic Magazine Is Created’ text article which takes us through the now-historical comics production process in fascinating detail. It shows informative photos of long-gone processes and techniques employed by people whose names are familiar from the small type on the letters pages of 1970s comics; Sol Harrison; Joe Letterese; Morris Waldinger; Gaspar Saladino; Al Kupperberg; Glynis Wein; Jack Adler; Milt Snapinn; Lois Barker; Gerda Gatte and others. It’s both fascinating and slightly depressing to see how one or two designers with laptops can replace an army of proof-readers, specialist letterers, paste-up artists, plate-makers, photo retouchers, and colour separators. Technical insights aside, there is nothing much here that will stand up to rereading but it’s a reasonably-priced book and ideal birthday or Christmas present material for anyone interested in comics history.