Monday, February 11, 2008

Russell Burbage - 1976

sgRussell Burbage I got Secret Origins of Super DC Heroes for Christmas 1976. This is the title that I always called it, because the DC bullet came straight between the words "super" and "heroes." I don't know if that is the correct, legal title, but I don't care. That's what *I* called it.

Christmas 1976 was a good year for me to get books about comics: along with this I also got The Origin of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee.

Ironically enough, I liked the covers of both of these books more than I liked what was actually inside. Stan's cover was a painting by John Romita featuring the main Marvel heroes jumping off of a piece of paper protruding from the typewriter. It was eye-catching, to say the least, and to my twelve-year-old mind much more interesting than fifteen-year-old Kirby and Ditko art for stories that I had probably already seen in some other collection. (I always liked Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but not The Hulk, Thor, or most of the other main Marvel characters, so that was a drawback, too.) As for this book, as you can see, it boasted an awesome Neal Adams cover.

I look like I'm about half-way through the book at this point. I'm sure I realized as soon as I opened it, though, that my favorite character, Aquaman, who was not drawn on the cover, wasn't anywhere to be found on the inside, either. I was used to his appearances in Justice League of America, and he hardly ever made it on the cover of that book, so I had hoped...yet not only was he not featured in this book, but in a direct slap in the face for our Sea King, his rightful place was taken by some jerk named Plastic Man. Plastic Man?!

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate that Plas is a classic character. But you couldn't tell that to me in 1976. I knew Aquaman from comics, from the Filmation cartoons running weekdays in St. Louis on KDNL Channel 30 syndication, and from The Super Friends cartoon on ABC. Who the heck was Plastic Man?

In my mind, it was all Denny O'Neil's fault. He was the editor/commentator of Secret Origins, so I figured that he had chosen the stories to include (or not!). Soon after I read this book I found out that when Denny was writing Justice League he had only used Aquaman in one single adventure. Obviously, he hated the character. This was all the more painful for me because I knew Denny was from St. Louis, just like me. As a fellow Missourian I *wanted* to like him. He was making it hard for me, though.

Besides the fact that Aquaman is not featured in this book, I can't tell you much else about it. That really did become the pivotal bit of information regarding this book, at least as far as I was concerned. I don't really remember which origin stories were featured, either. I remember that in neither the Golden Age or Silver Age Atom origin stories did the Atom actually appear in costume. This was a fact that Denny mentioned in his introduction, so I guess Denny's comments were a little interesting after all, since I somehow managed to retain that totally useless fact some thirty years later.

I actually *do* remember the Plastic Man origin story; Plas stretching up a flight of stairs to catch some crooks and Eel O'Brien waking up and stretching his face into puddy. Could it be simply because Plas took what I considered Aquaman's spot that I remember this story? Or perhaps it was the amount of talent that Jack Cole put into the story? Probably a little bit of both.

Eventually I came to grips with this book and what it represents. Denny O'Neil was a "realist" who wanted to write social dramas starring semi-realistic characters in semi-realistic situations. The King of the Seven Seas doesn't fall into this category, so he chose to ignore him. Fine. But for me, at the tender age of twelve, a book that could easily have been one of my all-time favorites ended up being just "ehh." Like so many other books with covers by Neal Adams, the cover is the best part.

By the way, my sister was going to Beloit College at the time, which is why I'm wearing a Beloit turtle t-shirt. I loved that shirt.


rob! said...

russell has now saved me a couple of bucks, because i've frequently considered getting that SO book, assuming that Aquaman was inside even if he wasn't on the cover. now i know better!

Anonymous said...

I figure I rec'd this book maybe a year after Russell. I come to this conclusion based solely on the fact that I rec'd The Son of Origins of Marvel Comics in addition to this tome rather than its predecessor.

I was also pretty dissappointed by Aquaman's absence from the book but I still kinda liked it.

For those who've never seen it in person, the book is devided into chapters by character - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, The Atom, Captain Marvel, and Plastic Man are all included. Each character's Golden AND Silver Age origin is presented (except for Cap and Plas - only Golden Age tales for them). Every chapter starts off with a few pages of background info. IIRC Superman, in chapter one, gets a 4-5 page essay but, by the time the book gets around to Plas, the essays have shrunk to a page and a half. I still remember the titles to some of the chapters. Batman's was something like "He was unable to not fight crime" and Green Arrow's was "He ain't nothing but Batman with a bow."

As I've mentioned before, the GA Green Arrow's origin as presented in the book always perplexed me. It wasm't the origin of the Emerald Archer but, instead, the story of Speedy his ward.

But the Silver Age Wonder Woman origin tale with Nubia (hubba hubba) is worth the price of admission.

Diana and Nubia drawn by Giordano. Buy the book anyway, Rob!

Rick L. Phillips said...

I always liked this book as I loved reading the classic golden age origin stories. Still Origins of Marvel Comics will always be my favorite. I liked how Stan did an intro to each story to give the reader a background to start from. Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes seemed to be just slapped together by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, Nubia! I remember her now that you reminded me. I liked that story, but it bothered me that I never ever saw her again except in one issue of SUPER FRIENDS. Did she die, or what?

Grears said...


I wrote about my NOT getting this book for Chridsatmas on this very blog back in December! I got stuck with a History of Comics book instead! Russell you are a very lucky man!

Rob may have to fight it out on ebay with me!

George Rears

Anonymous said...

George, if I can find this in storage, you can have it, man. Seriously.

Gernot said...

Wow, Russ! I never knew YOU were blogging around here! Just found all of your blogs about half an hour ago!

You should post a link to it in the club! :)