Comic Cards Project: Day 41 • Superman
If you’d never read a Superman story from the late 50s to early 60s, you’d probably think they dealt with Superman fighting crime or fending off some threat to humanity. But you’d be wrong.
Back in those days, Superman spent a lot of time protecting his secret identity, being pulled into romantic dramas, and investigating situations more perplexing than menacing (Why was the ghost of Lois Lane haunting him? Why did the entire planet forget he existed?)
When the writers ran out of these silly premises they came up with the “imaginary story” concept. These “what if” stories were a way to address situations that would dramatically alter Superman’s life, without having to deal with the narrative complications of their actually happening. What if Superman married Lois Lane? What if Lois Lane died? What if Lois had super powers and Clark Kent didn’t?
Occasionally Superman foiled a robbery or kept a meteor from flattening a city, but these episodes were secondary to a larger plot of, say, Lois trying to best Lana Lang for Superman’s attention. Examples of Superman primarily using his powers to stop criminals or save people from natural disasters were few and far between.
But you really can’t blame the writers. They’d invented a character who was practically indestructible and could physically do almost anything. Besides possessing godlike strength he could fly, shoot x-rays from his eyes, or even use his ridiculous “super ventriloquism” to throw his voice. It was pretty hard to come up with anything that might be any kind of a challenge to him—except perhaps for navigating human relationships.
Illustrating one playing card a day using characters found between 1957-1967 in DC Comics. Tomorrow: Zatanna the magician!
“Why, you hussy!” Metamorpho #10 (January-February 1967)
“We can do marvelous things that humans can’t!” Metamorpho #16 (January-February 1968)
Comic Cards Project: Day 39 • Metamorpho
Rex Mason was a handsome and famous soldier of fortune (only in comic books, right?), employed by super wealthy scientific genius Simon Stagg. Not a fan of Stagg’s power-hungry ways, Mason agreed to one last job for (wait for it) ONE MILLION DOLLARS so he could quit and marry Stagg’s beautiful daughter Sapphire.
While on his mission to retrieve a rare Egyptian artifact, he was exposed to a radioactive meteorite that transformed him into a repulsive freak—but it also enabled him to control the elements in his body. He could now become a fluorine gas, reshape himself into an iron tank, or turn his fist into cobalt at will. However, he couldn’t change back into his former good-looking self.
Despite Stagg’s brilliance and vast fortune, he couldn’t rectify Mason’s freakish condition but promised to keep trying. In spite of his ugliness, Sapphire still loved and stood by him. She came up with the name Metamorpho for her fiancé and convinced him to use his great powers for good.
The unusual hero who didn’t want his superpowers was produced by an unusual artist. Ramona Fradon, just about the only woman drawing superhero comics at the time, designed Metamorpho and drew his first four stories. She also enjoyed a long run drawing Aquaman and co-created his sidekick Aqualad. She confessed later that she hated drawing superheroes but didn’t mind drawing goofy characters like Plastic Man—and Metamorpho.
Illustrating one playing card a day using characters found between 1957-1967 in DC Comics. Tomorrow: Metamorpho’s female counterpart: Element Girl!
“I’ll give you a sun shade!” Metal Men #7 (April-May 1964)
“Like a lonely person, Tin windowshops hardly seeing what he’s looking at…” Metal Men #13 (April-May 1965)
“I’m just Tin! I’ll disgrace you all!” Metal Men #8 (June-July 1964)
“Surely you can find some use for Tin!” Showcase #39 (July 1962)
Comic Cards Project: Day 38 • Tin
Like all the Metal Men robots created by Doc Magnus, timid and stuttering Tin had a unique personality. Unsure of his abilities, Tin suffered from an inferiority complex, thinking he didn’t measure up to the rest of the team.
But brave Tin was harder than Lead and always did his best to prove himself worthy, even when he thought it was hopeless. He never hesitated to sacrifice himself to help someone in danger, although Doc always found a way to piece his demolished robots back together.
Egotistical Mercury didn’t have much use for Tin but the other members of the team—and the readers—had a soft spot for the small, weak robot as you might for a stray puppy.
Illustrating one playing card a day using characters found between 1957-1967 in DC Comics. Tomorrow: Metamorpho, the Element Man!
“Don’t worry—Bat-Girl will save you!”
Batman #139. April 1961
First Appearance of: Batgirl (Betty Kane)
Where Aquaman went wrong? Adventure Comics #226 (July 1956)
“Hastily, Aquaman strips off his shirt…”
Aquaman Saturday morning cartoon, 1967.
Aquaman’s Saturday morning cartoon, 1967.