Man, that’s a beautiful cover. It’s a painting of Superman, done in the early 1940s, which hung in the DC offices for years–this was its first actual printing. I bought this Treasury Edition at that regular old 7-11 again, and it’s a pretty good collection of stories.
It opens with an extremely early Superman story, back from the days when what little plot there was was subordinate to just watching Superman do incredible things. In this story, Superman duels a squadron of planes, despite not yet being able to fly. It’s a good example of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s defining work on the series.
Next up is one of two early stories drawn not by Shuster, but rather Jack Burnley, who would later go on to co-originate Starman. On the surface, it’s better drawn, but all of the figures have a certain stiffness to them, as though Burnley couldn’t go beyond whatever photos he was using for reference. Oh, and Superman smashes a Pharmaceutical ring selling tainted medicine.
Speaking of drawing, the next feature is a two-page spread by Curt Swan illustrating how he depicts the Man of Steel. I tried to emulate this approach as a kid, but to no avail.
Wayne Boring took care of the next Superman story, just as he did for much of the late 1940s and the 1950s. It’s about Clark Kent being entrusted with a dying scientist’s secret formula and how the bodyguards assigned to Kent until he can deliver that formula stymie his efforts as Superman.
Thereafter, a feature on the proposed Superman theme park in Metropolis, Ill, including all of Neal Adams’ concept drawings (loosely based on a story from the 1950s.) I longed to go there, but even when this feature was published, this park had become a pipe dream, and these illustrations as close as anybody would ever get to it.
Following that, Krypto headlines a Lois Lane yarn lovingly drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger. It’s strictly a by-the-numbers tale–Krypto attempts to play matchmaker between his master and Lois so that they can adopt him as a family, and hijinx ensue.
This next story I found a little bit creepy and disturbing, not in the least because of the stylized Ross Andru artwork. It’s the story of a female scientist who loves Superman, but whose overtures towards him over the years have been stymied by Lois, Lana Lang, and Lori Lemaris. So she abducts all three girls and sets a deathtrap for Superman in the form of two hue radioactive letter L’s.
Finally, the Treasury Edition closes with the first color printing of this great Origin of Superman, originally done for a souvenir magazine given out on Superman Day in Metropolis, Ill. It’s the definitive account of the beginnings of the Man of Steel, and has been reprinted many times since. Beautiful art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, working from Carmine Infantino’s layouts, which gave the pages a bit more zing.
The inside back cover depicted stills from the earliest episodes of the Adventures of Superman TV program. I had never seen these episodes–the earliest black and white episodes were even then not being rerun as frequently as the later color ones. And the back cover was a make-it-yourself diorama of the front cover. I must admit that I tried to do just that, destroying the book, and also not quite getting the diorama to work properly.