The daily Superman newspaper comic strip began in January 6, 1939, and a separate Sunday strip was added on November 5, 1939. These strips ran continuously until May 1966. In 1941, the McClure Syndicate had placed the strip in hundreds of newspapers. At its peak, the strip was in over 300 daily newspapers and 90 Sunday papers, with a readership of over 20 million.
The daily strip was host to many storylines, unique from the regular Superman comic series. The early years consisted of Siegel-era Superman stories, many of which have yet to be republished. The strips contained the first appearance of a bald Lex Luthor, the first appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk, and the first telephone booth costume change in comics. Other stories that are of note include Superman saving Santa Claus from the Nazis, WWII-era stories of Superman protecting the American home front, and Clark Kent marrying Lois Lane (and they lived together for years without her figuring out that he's Superman). The artwork, as mentioned above, includes runs by famed Superman artists Wayne Boring and Curt Swan.
Superman appeared in the newspapers again in 1978, with the newspaper strip The World's Greatest Superheroes, which lasted until 1985. Between these two comic strip series, Superman appeared in almost 12,000 unique newspaper strips.
Writers and Artists
Over the years, there have been a number of different writers and artists on the Superman newspaper strips.
Originally, the strip was drawn by Joe Shuster. As Superman became more and more popular and the workload kept increasing, Shuster turned over many duties to his studio assistants. Paul Cassidy was the first in a line of ghost artists on the strip, and took over the inking and detail work in 1939. In September 1940 Leo Nowak replaced Cassidy on the strip. Other assistants during this time included Dennis Neville, John Sikela (beginning in 1940), Ed Dobrotka (beginning in 1941), Paul J. Lauretta, and Jack Burnley (beginning in 1941). Sikela and Dobrotka often traded penciling and inking duties between each other. Lauretta primarily inked and did backgrounds on the strips. Burnley eventually left to work on his own comic book, Starman, but did return to pencil the Superman Sundays in 1943. The Superman strips during this early period of shop work ended up being a team effort, with multiple artists working on different parts of the same strip.
This early period ended with the start of WWII. Jerry Siegel, the main writer, was drafted in 1943. Early that same year Leo Nowak and John Sikela were drafted as well. In 1943 Stan Kaye took over the inking. Wayne Boring, who had been another early assistant to Joe Shuster, had left the Shuster studio in 1942 to directly draw the daily strip for DC. Boring and Kaye would dominate the daily strip’s artwork throughout most of the 1940’s. The two of them would also provide the artwork for the Sunday strip between 1940 and 1966.
In the middle of 1949, Win Mortimer took over the daily strip from Wayne Boring. Stan Kaye continued inking Mortimer’s work, until Kaye temporarily left, and Mortimer inked his own work until he himself left DC in 1956 to publish his David Crane strip.
Curt Swan took over the daily strip on June 18, 1956, along with Stan Kaye. Swan would continue on the strip until November 12, 1960.
As for the stories in the Superman strips, Jerry Siegel originally wrote them until he was drafted in 1943. Whitney Ellsworth, who had begun on the strip in 1941, continued until 1945. Jack Schiff began his writing on the strip in 1942, and worked on the strip off and on until 1962.
Alvin Schwartz first started writing for the Superman strip in October of 1944. Between 1947 and 1951, Schwartz was the only writer on the Superman strip, and he continued on the strip until 1958.
In 1959, Bill Finger started scripting stories, and worked through the series' end in 1966. During this final period, Jerry Siegel resumed his duties writing some stories for the character he helped to create.
The Superman comic strip was a separate continuity from the comic books. In the early years of the comic strip, stories from the strip were occasionally adapted (with changes) into the comic books. In the final years of the comic strip, almost all the stories were adapted (with changes) from the comic books.
The entire 25 years of the comic strip is one continuity, and is not split into "Earth-Two" and "Earth-One" versions or anything like that. However, like most adventure strips, the continuity is loose and the characters never seem to age.
- The Speeding Bullet: A Complete Archive of Superman Newspaper Strips
- Supermanartists.com: Who Drew Superman?
- Lambiek Comiclopedia: A Compendium of Comic Artists
- Artist Biographies: Curt Swan
- After the Golden Age with Alvin Schwartz
- James Winslow Mortimer
- Superman Supersite: Win Mortimer (1919-1998)
- Curt Swan: A Superman Walked Among US