Lots of people are talking about Superman today, the 75th anniversary of the publication of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s first Superman story in Action Comics #1 in 1938, me among them, because, well, because Superman is the best.
Comic Book Resources, including their partner blogs, have had quite a bit of Superman-related content, including a list of the 75 best Superman stories of all time (the list is pretty good, but suffers from being a list voted on by the kind of people who post in comment sections; the top 10 is pretty deece, though).
But what I’m really here to talk about is this: a user poll of the definitive Superman writer of all time.
The results there are not suprising: Grant Morrison is clearly the defining voice on Superman in the modern age, having demonstrated unparalleled understanding of the character in such works as All-Star Superman, Action Comics, JLA, and DC One Million.
I clicked the link for the poll expecting to vote for Grant Morrison, because I didn’t think my real answer would be an option.
But he was, and I voted for him, and was hugely disappointed—but not surprised—to see that (as of this writing), the actual best and most significant Superman writer ever is 13th out of 16 options with a mere 18 votes.
So I’m here to preach the gospel of Otto Binder, perhaps the most underrated superhero comics writer of all time.
Before he even started writing for Superman, Otto Binder was THE writer of Captain Marvel comics at Fawcett. While he wasn’t the creator or original writer of the Big Red Cheese, between the years of 1941 and 1953, Binder wrote 986 out of 1743 published Cap stories, well over half.
During this time, he introduced Mary Marvel, Uncle Dudley, Tawky Tawny (this is enough to put him in the hall of fame!), Black Adam, Mister Mind, Sivana Jr and Georgia, as well as basically inventing the Marvel Family concept (which he would take with him when he moved to DC!). He also co-created Kid Eternity at Quality Comics, but that’s neither here nor there.
We’re here to talk about Superman.
While there were a number of great writers working on Superman in the 50s and 60s, like Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Leo Dorfman, and Edmond Hamilton, Binder was THE definitive Superman writer of the Silver Age.
Think of a Silver Age Superman story.
Lion head Superman? Binder did it.
Superman with the giant bulging bald head? Binder did it.
Jimmy Olsen marrying a gorilla? Binder did it.
Here are some elements that together with artist co-creators Binder introduced to the Superman mythos:
- Bizarro World
- Legion of Superheroes
- Phantom Zone
- Jimmy’s signal watch (he was the main writer on Jimmy’s solo title for the first several years)
- Jimmy as Elastic Lad
- Krypto the Super-Dog
- Beppo the Super-Monkey
- Titano the Super-Ape
- Lucy Lane (for better or worse)
- AND one of the most defining ideas of the SIlver Age, the Imaginary Story
That’s not even all. Otto Binder’s stories were fast-paced, twisty and clever, and immensely entertaining. His presence can be heavily felt in the first three or so volumes of the Showcase Presents Superman series, and this doesn’t mention his significant contributions to the Supergirl, Superboy, and Legion titles.
This is all very long, I know, but what I’m saying is:
Superman wouldn’t be Superman as we know him without Otto Binder and he damn well deserves to be higher than 13th place.
Can we at least get him higher than Jeph Loeb? For fuck’s sake.
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