Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Death of The Planet

Many of us who write genre fiction learned about storytelling first through comic books. By age four I was a stone fanatic about Captain Marvel and Superman. Arrivals of new issues were on a par with new epidoes of Superman, The Lone Ranger and The Shadow on the radio.

By chance I saw a collection of Superman stories from the Forties and Fifties at the library today. I brought it home and read the pieces by Edmond Hamilton, whose science fiction was a mainstay of my early yute.

The first story concerned the death of the planet--The Daily Planet, that is, the newspaper that employed Clark, Lois and Jimmy fer God sakes. The whole lot of them thrown out on the street when a rival publisher buys the newspaper and then fires everybody. And you're right to think Rupert Murdoch. The Daily Planet is done in by a version of the Australian vulgarian and right-wing pol.

But the storytelling...fantastic. Every page adheres to the pulp formula of...just when you think it can't get any does! All I could think of was the Fugs' great song "River of Shit" because that's just what even Superman faces when he tries to right the wrongs that this slick media emporer throws at the good unemployed folk of the Planet.

In microcosm you have a complete pulp novel in eighteen pages. And what I'd forgotten about stories like these was the novelty of most sequences. You have Lois Lane now unemployed and working as a waitress; and publisher Perry White driving a taxi. And when the media bad guy buys up all the paper in Metropolis so the Planet folk can't even start a four sheet alternative weekly...why Superman heads for the forest and turns trees into wood pulp. Voila! Paper for their little but mighty newspaper!

Of course in the end, and as is only fitting, Superman wails on the media baddy, driving him not only out of Mteropolis but out of newspaper publishing altogether. "You're not fit to be a publisher," Superman says. Yes he does.

I loved this story. The invention and the humor show Hamilton at his best as a comic book writer and helps explain why the old Imagination and Imaginative Tales were never better than when they featured a Hamilton "Complete Novel" in a given issue throughout the 1950s.


Anonymous said...

Can you give us the name of the book>
Like to see it.
Jay (da retired np editor who was once near RM).

Ed Gorman said...

The title is simply Superman: The Daily Planet. A trade pb And well worth the money.