Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Supermen of America and "Superman from Serial to Cereal"

         Supermen of America

Strength, Courage, Justice and 10 cents

I was thinking about the new Superman “bio” book, “Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.

I smile when someone says I am basically just a Marvel guy, I flinch when they use a newer term, “Marvel Zombie.” I have read and collected all sorts of comics, DC, Harvey, Archie, Charlton and ACG among others. But I was there at the beginning of Marvel, 1961, not so for the other companies. So my Marvel stuff is more complete. The first comic I every held was Lois Lane #1. The first comic I ever read was World's Finest #108, The Caveman from Krypton!" And, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a devoted member of  the Supermen of America.

Yep, for 10 cents, I joined up.  Actually, I was elected, as you can see from my correspondence. I think it was 1966 and postage, in a large over-sized envelope was 4 cents. I got a small “poster” of Superman, letters and a badge, which was the size of a quarter.

I also got the keys to the famous Superman codes. You see, Superman left his members a secret message in Action every month.  We were going to learn his secrets, which were so secret we didn’t know he really had any.  Well, you wait and you finally get the cards in the mail and I was as disappointed as Ralphie in the movie, “A Christmas Story.” You see, he got his Ovaltine Ring and was able to read their codes!  The secret message they sent him, “Drink Ovaltine.”  My secret message: “Buy Superman Comics.” Boy was I upset. I was ten years old and already becoming a consumer advocate.

Years later, I must have sent a letter to the editor to at about this time because I got a form letter which I will post, but let me also write the text, so that it is easy to read. Please pardon the 50 year old pizza stains.

Dear DC Reader: Thank you for your recent letter. We are passing your comments on to the editor, who may wish to publish extracts in one of our "SUPERMAN family" of magazines—SUPERMAN, SUPERBOY, ACTION COMICS, ADVENTURE COMICS, LOIS LANE, JIMMY OLSEN or WORLD'S FINEST.

The following material may be of interest to you. It covers the subjects on which readers most frequently desire information. We know you will understand that, due to the huge quantity of mail received, it is impossible to answer each letter personally.

It is easy to start a fan club for Superman, Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, or any of our other heroes. Simply find at least four fans and a place to meet. Of course, all should be members of the Supermen of America; and they should keep up with the Superman family of magazines.

To join the Supermen of America, send your name, street address, city, state and zip code, together with 10 cents to cover cost of mailing, to SUPERMAN, c/o ACTION COMICS, 575 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022. You will receive a Membership Certificate, Button and Superman Code We will publish a code message in each issue of ACTION COMICS whenever space permits.

Because of lack of storage facilities, weds) not stock back issues of our magazines, so we cannot fill any orders for issues you may have missed. . Sorry.

It is possible to tour the National Periodicals offices at 575 Lexington Ave. in New York City. Such tours are conducted for small groups and individuals on Thursday afternoons, at 2:15 P.M.
Superman costumes may be ordered from the manufacturer, Ben Cooper, inc., 254 36th St., Brooklyn 32, N.Y.

The best way to get a letter printed in our letter departments is to make it brief (we prefer postal cards) interesting, original and constructive. And remember, we get so many letters pointing out any given error that the chances of any one of these being printed are consequently small. Also, don't say, "I dare you to print this." If we took all such dares, we would have to devote half our mags to these letters.

We sometimes have continued stories in order to give you better tales with more action in them--through we rarely run a story over two parts. To assure you are not missing the second part of a continued adventure, ask your newsdealer to reserve a copy for you.

Our subscription rates may be found in the masthead at the bottom of page one of each of our magazines. Subscription orders should be sent to our editorial offices in New York.

The letters DC originally stood for DETECTIVE COMICS, which was the first comic magazine to print all new stories. Previously, comic mags had dealt chiefly in reprints of newspaper strips.

There are five kinds of Kryptonite: Green Kryptonite can kill Superman by poisoning his blood. Red Kryptonite has weird, unpredictable effects on Superman. (However, no effect is ever repeated and no piece of Red K can affect him the same way twice.) Gold Kryptonite can destroy Superman's power permanently. Blue Kryptonite does not affect Superman. It affects only the Bizarro-Supermen, those weird, imperfect duplicates of the Man of Steel. White Kryptonite has no effect on Superman, either. However, it can destroy any form of plant life.

Here is a complete listing of the current membership of the Legion of Super-Heroes: Brainiac 5...Chameleon Boy...Colossal Boy...Cosmic Boy...Duo Damsel...Element Lad...Ferro Lad...Invisible Kid...Karate Kid...Light Lass...Lightning Lad...Matter—Eater Lad...Mon—EI... Phantom Girl...Princess Projectra...Saturn Girl...Shrinking Violet...Sun Boy...Superboy...Supergirl...Ultra Boy.

The Legion of Substitute Heroes: Chlorophyll Kid...Color Kid...Dream Girl...Fire Lad...Night Girl...Polar Boy...Star Boy...Stone Boy.

Superman gets his powers from the ultra-solar rays of Earth's yellow sun, which is hotter than the red sun of his home planet, Krypton. He also retains his mighty abilities under orange and blue-white suns; but under red and green suns he is just an ordinary man. An Earthman would not gain super-powers under a red sun.

Superman's hair, beard and nails do not grow under Earth's yellow sun. However, while he was growing up, his hair and nails grew to conform with the growth of the rest of his body.

In the matter of our characters' ages, we use a good deal of "poetic license." This is a common practice in comics and has kept Little Orphan Annie a "little girl" since 1924. At present, we consider Superman to be about 32. Lois Lane and Lana Lang are a year or two younger.

Supergirl was 15 when she came to Earth and is now about 19. Jimmy Olsen is 23. Lucy Lane is 21. Perry White is about 55.

Superboy was 2 years old when he arrived on Earth, and his foster parents, the Kents, were in their 30's. Most of our Superboy stories occur when the Boy of Steel is between 14 and 17; they don't always happen in the exact order in which they are published. At this time, Jonathon Kent is about 50, while Martha Kent is a year or two younger.

We cannot supply a list of all the TV channels on which "The Adventures of Superman" currently appears. From time to time, we publish up-to-date listings in our magazines. Aside from these, consult your local newspapers or TV magazine. Also, watch "The New Adventures of Superman," in animation, on the CBS network starting in the fall of 1966.

It is against our editorial policy to publish the full address of readers in our letter columns; therefore, we cannot use these pages to put you in touch with pen pals. However, if you would like to make new pen-pals, you may contact either of the following organizations:
People to People, Inc.                                 Student Letter Exchange
2401 Grand Ave.                                Waseca, Minn.
Kansas City, Mo. 64141                     Attention: R.C. Mishek

The question of who is faster, Superman or the Flash, will eventually be decided by a story in which they team up—probably in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.

If you are interested in pictures of our various heroes, keep watching our magazines for the series of giant pin-ups we are currently running.

If you are wondering how much an old issue of one of our magazines is worth, here are the facts. It is true that collectors will pay high prices for certain issues of comic magazines--chiefly those from the early 1940's—but only if they are in  perfect condition. If you have any you think might be valuable, get in touch with a dealer. Sorry, but we cannot supply the addresses of dealers or collectors.

Quite frequently we receive letters from readers who describe themselves as super-heroes desiring to join the Legion of Super-Heroes. There are far too many of these for us to use them all, but we will print the best in The Legion Outpost department in ADVENTURE COMICS. If the powers are particularly imaginative and unique, we may use the hero in one of our Legion stories and give proper credit to the reader who submitted the idea.

If you have any ideas for new model kits, like the Superman and Superboy ones, do not send them to us. Instead, contact the Aurora Plastics Corp., 44 Cherry Valley Road, West Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y.

The current members of the Legion of Super-Pets are: Beppo, the Super-Monkey; Comet, the Superhorse; Krypto, the Superdog; Proty II, Chameleon Boy's protean pet; and Streaky, the Supercat.

If you wish background information on Superman for a school term paper or a similar project, we regret that our supply of this material has been exhausted. We suggest you consult Jules Feiffer's book, "The Great Comic Book Heroes," published by Dial Press. You can also look up the article on "Comics" in Volume 7 of the ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA, and the article "Up, Up and Away!" by John Kobler, which appeared in the June 21, 1941 issue of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST (on file at most libraries.)

If you have sent us a story, or an idea, or a cover sketch, or some artwork, please understand that we receive a tremendous amount of such material from our readers every week. Of course, we cannot give individual criticisms of all prose submitted. However, we are constantly looking for new talent and will pass promising work by amateurs along to our editor. If he feels the material has exceptional merit, he will get in touch with you. If we think your art samples are good, you will hear from our art director. Meanwhile, if you like to draw, keep working at it and plan to study at a good art school. Several of the amateur writers and artists we have encouraged eventually made good at DC as professionals.

Whether Supergirl will get her own magazine has not yet been decided. We tried her out by teaming her with Wonder Woman in an issue of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, as well as giving her an 80 PAGE GIANT of her own. We may give her a SHOWCASE tryout in the future: If that proves a hit, we'll think seriously about giving her  own book.

If you're interested in "famous firsts" in the Superman line, here are the outstanding ones: Superman debuted in ACTION COMICS No. 1, dated June, 1938. SUPERMAN No. 1 bore the date Summer, 1939. ADVENTURE began as NEW COMICS, with the December 1 935 issue. No.12 was titled NEW ADVENTURE COMICS, and it became ADVENTURE COMICS with No. 32. Superboy first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS No. 101 (January-February, 1945) and ran for seven issues. He began his run in ADVENTURE COMICS with No. 103 (April, 1946.) The first issue of SUPER BOY was dated March-April, 1 949. Other first issues: JIMMY OLSEN—September-October, 1954; LOIS LANE—March-April, 1 958 (after a tryout in SHOWCASE Nos. 9 and 10, in 1957); WORLD'S FINEST—Spring, 1941. Supergirl made her debut in ACTION No. 252 (May, 1959.) The Legion of Super-Heroes was introduced in ADVENTURE No. 247 (April, 1958) and started its own feature in ADVENTURE No. 300 (September, 1962.)

Finally, we appreciate your interest in our magazines and we hope you will continue to read and enjoy them.


“Superman Serial to Cereal”

Books about comic book history are common now but throughout the 1960s and early 1970s they were rare: Steranko’s History of Comics and All in Color for A Dime were about it.  So I was very happy to see Gary Grossman’s Trade Paperback “Superman Serial to Cereal” published in 1976 by Popular Library for $5.  It is interesting to note that the copyright is owned by Leonard Maltin.

And in honor of “The Supermen of America” I am writing the first paragraph the secret Krypton code:

Kyv sffb zj dfjkcp asflk kyv knf Jlgvidae jvizacj jkaiizex Bzib Accpe aeu ae acdfjk vgzjfuv xlzuv kf kyv Aumveklivj fw Jlgvidae KM jyfn.  Kyviv zj mvip czkkcv satbxifleu fi yzjkfip yviv asflk kyv fizxzeac tfdztj, iauzf jyfn fi taikffej.  Xifjjdae kabvj yzj kzdv aeu zekifultvj vmvip jlggfikzex atkfi ze kyv dfmzv aeu KM jvizvj, tfdgcvkv nzky szfj aeu a ylxv adflek fw gztklivj. Adaqzex jkfizvj aiv kfcu asflk gifultkzfe aeu yv atklaccp dvekzfej kyv dfevp gvfgcv dauv. Efvc Evzcc dauv $225 ae vgzjfuv aeu Aatb Caijfe dauv $250. Vaty vgzjfuv ze kyv svxzeezex tfjk $15,000 aeu kyvp dauv knf a nvvb. Xvfixv Ivvmvj vmveklaccp dauv $2,500 ae vgzjfuv fi $5,000 a nvvb. Dfjk atkfij kyve uzu efk ivtvzmv ivjzulacj wfi ivilej, slk Ivvmvj uzu. Yfn dlty zj efk tcvai slk zk tflcu yamv svve lg kf $200 vaty kzdv ae vgzjfuv naj ivile fe a daafi jkakzfe.

Well, that REALLY is in the Krypton code, but for you non members:

This book is primarily about the two Superman serials starring Kirk Allyn and Noel Neill and an guide to the Adventures of Superman TV show. It lists and describes most of the episodes and often put in little tidbits of information available nowhere else at the time.   There is very little background on the original comics or radio show. The Fleischer cartoons do get an episode guide, but not much more.  Grossman takes his time and introduces every supporting actor in the movie and TV series, complete with bios and a huge amount of pictures I had not seen before or since. Interesting stories are told about production and he actually mentions the money people made. Noel Neill made $225 an episode and Jack Larson made $250. Each episode, at the beginning cost $15,000 and they made two a week. George Reeves eventually made $2,500 an episode or $5,000 a week. Most actors then did not receive residuals for reruns, but Reeves did. How much is not clear but it could have been up to $200 each time an episode was rerun on a major station.

The book is accidentally dated. Written in 1976, years before the video explosions caused by VCRs and later DVDs, Grossman says that he doubts we will ever see the Superman serials again, so he gives a chapter by chapter descriptions.  He also feels we may never see the complete movie “Superman versus the Mole Men” but will have to settle for the two part TV show made of it, cutting out about 20 minutes.  Well, all have shown up on DVD, it’s funny how money motivates movie studios! This is an interesting and affectionate look back, again, now bit dated. But the pictures alone are worth the price, if you see it cheaply anywhere, I see it used on Amazon for $15,  pick it up and enjoy.


  1. I couldn't have been paying attention back in the '70s, because I was unaware that the Supermen of America club was still running at that time. If I'd known, I'd have joined. Thanks for showing what the paraphernalia looked like.

  2. Kid, it is a pleasure sharing with you. When the Hulk book comes out in America, the one you told me about that has stories not printed here, I will, with you consent,do a blog here about. After all I will be stealing from your great site!

  3. Feel free to use anything you want from my site, Barry. You don't even have to ask. And I look forward to reading that post.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I've got one of those late '60s FAQ letters myself, minus the pizza stains. For some reason, mine is printed on sage-green paper, not white. I was 7 at the time, and now that I'm closing in on Perry White's age, it's still a prized possession. I never did join the Supermen of America, though. I suspect that it had been discontinued, as I don't remember seeing any coded messages in Action Comics after 1965.