The 1950s Superman Newspaper Dailies

By Lou Koza

Sometimes you just have to yell out loud, “GREAT SCOTT!” That’s the great call heard many times over watching the 1950s Adventures of Superman when Clark Kent realized something startling. While the phrase was used far less frequent than Perry White’s “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”, it can pack just the same amount of wallop. “Great Scott!” are the chosen words I used when I came upon the greatness of the Superman Dailies during the period of 1949 to 1959. This is a must for Superman fans of all ages to see. Especially if you are partial to the classic time period version of Superman. To see these for the first time is something old, something new. And it’s glorious.

So what caused me to explore this period? I had already been exposed to some of the wonderful IDW books featuring the Superman Dailies and Sunday Classics, as well as the Kitchen Sink publishing of the Sunday Classics. I had already collected strips from an Internet newspaper database site and formed a very incomplete file of my own. Then along came friend Mike Korcek who asked if I had the whole 1956 Steve Allen storyline run. I didn’t have the entire story and it was on the backburner project I wanted to tackle someday. I knew there were Superman fans out there that have claimed wanting to see the entire story. So Mike got me going and I began gathering the strips to complete the run of over three-thousand strips. Another story I had wanted to make available was the Curt Swan story were Clark Kent assumes another identity and then was recruited to play the role of Superman in a movie, simply because he resembled the “Man of Steel”. I couldn’t help but be enthused about reading both stories in their complete form.

IDW published books covering the years 1939 to 1949 and 1959 to 1966. I had noticed that they did not produce the Dailies from 1950 to 1958, which came as a big disappointment to me. This is the period that runs parallel to the Adventures of Superman television show starring George Reeves. My fondest version of Superman is the 50s television show, followed by the seventeen 1940s Max Fleischer cartoons, then the Curt Swan illustrated comic books of the 60s and 70s. The Superman work by John Byrne in the mid-to late 1980s is another great entertainment for me. I felt I needed someday to close the 50s gap.

It was Brian McKernan who dialed me into Chapter 14 of his book, “With Thanks to Superman: 40 Years of Interviews, Reports, and Observations”. In this chapter Mr. Sid Friedfertig explained his reasons for not publishing this era. Which, I’ll leave it for your interest should you want to pursue. Brian’s book is terrific and worth reading his historical assessment of Superman.

The 1950s is a decade of Win Mortimer, Curt Swan and the Dailies. But rarely is Mr. Mortimer recognized in the same circles as Wayne Boring and Curt Swan are. Take note that the Dailies are credited to Wayne Boring, but we all know the Boring trademark style. I cannot profess any expertise insight as to why Wayne Boring’s name is displayed in the header of each strip. But the art is undeniably that of Win Mortimer and Curt Swan. Regarding Wayne Boring, his duty rested exclusively with the Sundays. Other creative forces on the Dailies included Alvin Schwartz and Jack Schiff as writers and inkers Stan Kaye and George Klein, which I only learned from the Internet websites because there is nothing that identifies them with each strip.

Curt Swan

Boring and Swan have always been household names due to Superman and Action Comics magazines where they have won over great admiration from the fans. Winslow Mortimer on the other hand seems less well known, with the exception of gracing us with his many wonderful covers. It is rare that we’ve seen full story Superman pages from Win Mortimer, which is why seeing his Dailies represents something almost overlooked.

That is not to say, Winslow Mortimer is a forgotten artist. The Internet does include sites we can learn of his overall body of work. Sites such as WinMortimerTrust.com, ComicVine and Wikipedia represent interesting aspects of Win Mortimer should you happen to be curious enough to discover the innovated information presented by their writers.

Newspaper Dailies gave the public a bit of humor and drama while commuting to and from work, or simply relaxing after dinner to catch up on the world news. I’ve seen Dailies displayed on the same page as the stock exchange figures.

The humorous strips were Blondie, Mutt and Jeff, Muggs and Skeeter, Ferd’nand, Bringing Up Father, Virgil, Pogo, Popeye. The drama strips were Tarzan, Gasoline Alley, Don Winslow, Buck Rogers, Gene Autry, Terry and the Pirates, Jeff Cobb, Little Annie Rooney, Brick Bradford, Buffalo Bill, Joe Palooka, Curly Kayo, Lesley Shane, and the classic Dick Tracy. These are all wonderful strips with wonderful artists. For example, Rip Kirby was illustrated by legendary artist supreme Alex Raymond. Rarely could anyone match the Dailies artists assigned by National Periodicals during the 1950s. With perhaps one exception, Hal Forster and his Prince Valiant. Both Mortimer and Swan are top notch illustrators with dynamic styles. Both are iconic artists for Superman of the 1950s and if you are the type to appreciate artistic craftsmanship, then you will not be disappointed.

What draws me to Win Mortimer is his keen sense of the Superman character. It is as classic as the 1940s Max Fleischer cartoons and the 1950s Adventures of Superman. For me, Win’s Superman is the closest to the Adventures of Superman on paper prior to fan Randy Garrett illustrating “Superman and the Secret Planet.” In Mortimer’s first year, he stayed close to the Boring look, but incorporated the more expressive and articulate characters with soft and smooth lines in motion. Absent was the brooding, stiff looking characters that is typical of the Boring trademark. It’s probably what awarded him the job. But by 1950, Mortimer’s Superman started to develop its own distinct style that I admire greatly, especially when Superman took flight, landed, cruised the atmosphere and certainly no one then or now has matched Superman’s exits and entrances through windows. Mortimer’s world of Superman is very three-dimensional, and as artist Rick Stasi has recognized, the approach to POV (point of view) so often incorporated into every panel is “the best.” Mortimer’s characters have also very real to life mannerism and body posture that was ahead of its time. Clark is handsome, Perry with his trademark cigar is the burley, cranky man of business, Jimmy is young, full of adventure and Lois is the very attractive news reporter with many rival beauties to keep her extra on her toes. In many ways, the storylines are more adult and be sure there’s lots of romance. Male readers will certainly be envious of Superman. This is the beginning of the modern Superman that paved the way for Curt Swan and Neal Adams.

Win Mortimer

Furthermore, if I may, nothing in Mortimer’s work is abstract, nothing floating, and nothing suggestive as you might see in today’s Superman monthly comic books. This is not a knock on today’s illustrators, but I tend to be less interested when I feel unfamiliar with the setting. With Mortimer and Swan, locations from city to countryside are spot on. Feet are grounded and the sidewalks, brick walls, doorways, automobiles and waterfront piers make up a solid Metropolis. For me, I get a sense of being an eye-witness to a story unfolding. Nothing in these panels are loose or appear to be created with shortcuts.

The only thing I wish I had were the storyline titles from 1950 to 1958. This is not to be confused with the individual daily strip titles. ComicVine does list “episode” titles with the respected from and to dates as associated with the IDW Golden Age Dailies from 1947 to 1949. If anyone out there knows of the 1950s storyline titles information, please help with providing those.

I present to you with great thanks to Steve Younis and his incredible website, the Superman Homepage, the two storylines that are so worthy of our attention. This has to be protected from never being seen. I hope to present more 1950s Superman Dailies in the future. Mike Korcek pointed out that seeing the Superman – Steve Allen story assembled into one package is the first time it’s been done in 70 years. This sentiment would apply to other stories from this time period as well. Please write to Steve and let him know you want to see more stories. Trust me, there’s a lot of them and you’ll be wondering how these never made it mainstream.

“GREAT SCOTT!”

Lou Koza

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bhof
bhof
May 4, 2024 11:34 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I love the Superman newspaper strip and have a few of the Golden and Silver Age books. I’m disappointed that the 1950s haven’t been covered. Does anybody else know why they stopped? I don’t have access to the McKernan book mentioned in the article and didn’t find anything online.

Lou Koza
Lou Koza
May 9, 2024 1:15 pm
Reply to  bhof

bhof, You are mighty welcome. I was also disappointed the 50’s weren’t done in book form. I have all the strips so good chance I’ll do more of these. I’d be good to know there are fans out there for it. So if people are taking notice to really like these and write a message then there’s a good chance I’ll do more. Brian’s book can be found at Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Thanks-Superman-Interviews-Reports-Observations/dp/B0BFTWJBCP/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1858Q3KS1KXYJ&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.Ee0IBkuBKHtENsFDhN73wsisc1WbKR4SvD18YOFWc89GHdlNYOjaTrVBPUikuOKdPzEIaqRtTgdGhLPmyV3iv3f6zcdEdtzQ0eViP1J9cqlyhjhrSO2ueT6b6tWTy0uDFKEWyYkFuPVrKX-S_D5EbISCjCtIIJrBpbEewfjCsGlSfP8QBbB2QfZ3ra5yGxJ8P5Xf5aPMvZTZg4Z957Sq4HyEhZifwdmD4BK6Dk8b6YM.yxVLQFVp3dIAwiRmq23-0ho43VwEaNI_a_xWbcohRq4&dib_tag=se&keywords=Brian+McKernan&qid=1715274637&sprefix=brian+mckernan%2Caps%2C735&sr=8-1