The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther
Superman missed out on becoming the first comic book superhero to appear live on the silver screen – that honor goes to his Fawcett Comics’ rival Captain Marvel by way of his very popular 12-part serial the year previous (technically, comic strip hero Dick Tracy beat both of them to the punch with a trio of popular serials between 1937 and 1939) – however he has the honor of being the first comic book superhero to make the leap to prose. In 1942, The Adventures of Superman debuted, written by George Lowther and featuring interior artwork by Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster.
The bulk of the story centers on Clark Kent earning his reporting credentials by way of exposing a freighter full of skeleton pirates and a Nazi plot, however the most interesting part of the book is the opening chapters. As the only other writer besides Jerry Siegel at this point to catalogue the adventures of the Man of Steel, Lowther effectively has carte blanche to extrapolate on Superman’s youth, from Jor-L’s impassioned plea to the ruling council of Krypton and desperate rush to save his child, to the adopted Clark’s difficult childhood on Earth.
Lowther’s vision of Clark’s childhood is a surprisingly complex one. Not yet a powerful man of determination and resolve, the young Clark Kent finds his powers a mystery and a burden. Guilty, embarrassed, unsure of himself, his growing powers actually undermine Clark’s confidence – although he finds spontaneous joy in suddenly leaping tremendous heights with only a gentle push.
Although writing a book which was ostensibly aimed at the juvenile market, Lowther wrote against type for boys’ adventure; His young Clark Kent suffered the insecurities and doubts of a deeply sensitive boy at that age. In many ways, it resembles the current iteration of young Superman with which we may find familiar from the motion pictures or the television show Smallville, and certainly must have resonated to some degree with Superman’s co-creator Jerry Siegel, whose own childhood must have been punctuated with similar insecurities.
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