Superman: First Son of Fanzines

One of my favorite zines from the last few years is one that was published in the winter of 2008 called My Time Annihilator: A Brief History of 1930's Science Fiction Fanzines. As a not-so-closet history geek, it was the kind of zine that made me wish that I had been the editor responsible for its creation. In addition to its cool antiquarian vibe, My Time Annihilator was super informative. In fact, it was by way of its pages that I came to discover that a large part of the modern zine-making tradition is steeped in fanzines that were published by science fiction fanatics in the 1930s.

While doing some seemingly unrelated reading on the interwebs a year or so ago, I had another chance to discover something else that really surprised me. When they were just high school students, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, were also a part of that 1930s fanzine movement. Even more surprisingly, I also learned that the foundation for the Man of Steel was laid not in a comic book, but in the pages of their 1933 fanzine Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization.

During that chance discovery, I also came to learn that the early Superman stuff produced by Siegel and Shuster a few years before their character's first appearance in Action Comics #1 were no longer under copyright. (Wha-wha?) This included not only the short story "The Reign of the Superman," but a series of twenty-four Superman comic strips that the writer/artist duo had spent a few unsuccessful years pitching to unreceptive newspaper editors.

As I pored over the preliminary Superman material that I had found online (in digitized pdf form), the first thing I thought was how cool it would be to see that vintage stuff on paper. That is, if only someone would take the time to clean-up and reformat it for publication. I certainly had no intention of taking up the challenge myself, but somewhere along the way (circa about a week ago), I decided to give it a shot. Superman: First Son of Fanzines is the swell-looking end result.

And so, in honor of the last son of Krypton's largely unknown underground lineage, Superman: First Son of Fanzines returns this iconic character to his humble fanzine roots. Contained within is a smaller reproduction of the "The Reign of the Superman" story which shows the famously named title character in his original incarnation––as a bald bad guy (yes, bad guy) with even stronger telepathic power than that other guy who would establish the X-Men three decades later. Also contained are the twenty-four early comic strips that would pave the way to Superman's first appearance in the June 1938 edition of Action Comics #1.

It has been a great big thrill for me to find myself archiving a mostly discarded portion of Superman's history, even if only in a small way. Yet it was from the primordial pages of a fanzine that one of America's most popular fictional characters evolved, and I considered it something of a responsibility to preserve its legacy in the pages of Superman: First Son of Fanzines.

St. Paco

Click to enlarge

No comments: