The Great Superman Book

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Cover to The Great Superman Book, 1978


The Great Superman Book


Read the Preface.

How to Use This Book

The Great Superman Book is a comprehensive encyclopedic chronicle of the comic book adventures of Superman for the first twenty-eight years of his ongoing career. Comprised of well over 1,000 entries-assembled in a convenient A-Z format and ranging in length from a few short lines to more than 100 printed pages-it contains detailed accounts of more than 1,000 separate adventures. In addition, this encyclopedia contains 446 illustrations culled directly from the comics, including pictures of Superman, his friends and adversaries, and scenes and diagrams of such diverse places of interest as the Fortress of Solitude, the planet Krypton, and the bottle city of Kandor.

The entries in The Great Superman Book are based on detailed notes taken by the author and his assistant on each of the comic books containing Superman's adventures. The entries contain a wealth of detail on the plot of each adventure, the powers and equipment employed by Superman and his adversaries, the major themes and relationships that emerge from Superman's collected adventures, and on every other topic of interest to students of Superman. No reference work can serve as a substitute for its subject, but a conscientious effort has been made to organize and record within this volume data pertaining to every aspect of Superman's life and adventures. In studying the comic books containing Superman's adventures and in writing the entries in this encyclopedia, the author and his assistant made use of no outside sources whatever. Only the direct, firsthand evidence of the comic books themselves was used. Accordingly, The Great Superman Book is a detailed reference guide only to the comic book adventures of Superman. No information has been recorded here concerning the appearance of Superman on radio and television, in cartoon and live-action movies, on the Broadway stage, or as a newspaper comic strip. Indeed, it is in comic books that the character originated, and there that he has achieved his greatest renown.

Over the years, Superman's unparalleled popularity has even rubbed off on members of his immediate comic book "family": his girl friend Lois Lane, his pal Jimmy Olsen, his cousin Supergirl, and his boyhood self, Superboy, have all, at one time or another, become headline characters in comic book series of their own. These spin-off series have not been chronicled here. To have done so would have produced a volume three or four times the size of this one and would have added little truly substantive to our appreciation of the Superman legend. Similarly, this book contains no information concerning either the literary and artistic genesis of the characters or the literally dozens of writers and artists who have, since 1938, been creatively responsible for shaping Superman's destiny.


Throughout the encyclopedia, the word "text" is used to designate a single comic book story, and the word "texts" is used to designate two or more comic book stories, or, occasionally, as a synonym for "chronicles." The word "chronicles" is used to designate all the texts which, taken together, comprise the Superman legend. The word "chroniclers" is used to designate the artists and writers who have been collectively responsible for "recording" Superman's adventures for posterity.

In comic books, the thoughts and dialogue of the characters appear printed inside roughly ovular shapes called "word balloons." Other writing, usually narrative and frequently in the third person, appears at the opening of each story and above or below some of the pictures. In The Great Superman Book, these fragments of narrative writing, known as captions, are referred to as the "narrative text" or "textual narrative."

Treatment of Events

In the writing of this encyclopedia, certain conventions were employed. Superman and all the other characters appearing in the chronicles were treated as though they were real people, and the adventures were treated as though they were actual historical events. The comic books containing the accounts of Superman's exploits were studied as though they were historical documents chronicling the lives and adventures of actual persons.

The legend of Superman is elaborate and complex. Individual comic book sources sometimes differ in recounting a given set of events, and sources can often be found to support conflicting sets of "facts." In cases where comic book sources were discrepant with regard to particular details of Superman's life and career, an effort was made to reconcile the discrepancies in light of the total data available. A fact attested to in several comic books was accorded more weight than a contradictory fact stated in only one comic book. A statement made in a comic book concerning a contemporary event in Superman's life was accorded more weight than a contradictory statement concerning that same event made years later in the form of a recollection or flashback. Wherever strong support exists in the texts for opposing sets of facts, the evidence for both is examined in detail in this encyclopedia.


The events described in any given comic book were assumed to have taken place on the issue date of that comic book, except in those cases where the events were clearly described as past events or where internal textual evidence argued persuasively for a different dating, such as in the case of an adventure taking place at Christmastime in an issue dated February.

Most comic books bear issue dates of either a single month or a single season. A very few--such as the obscure New York World's Fair Comics series, of which only two issues were ever printed, one dated 1939, the other dated 1940--have been issued listing only the issue year. In the case of a comic book issued on a bimonthly basis, the issue is given a bimonthly dating, e.g., November-December 1957. When events are described in the encyclopedia as having occurred in a two-month period, e.g., in November-December1957, it is because those events were recorded in a bimonthly comic book.

When an event is described as having taken place "in" a given month or season, it means that the event is described in the texts as taking place in the present,i.e., during the period of the issue date. When an event is described as having taken place "by" a particular month or season, it means that the event is descibed in the texts as having taken place in the past, prior to the period of the issue date.

If, for example, the arch-villian Lex Luthor is described as breaking jail in November-December 1957, it means that Luthor is shown or described as breaking jail in a comic book dated November-December 1957. If, on the other hand, Luthor is described as having broken jail by November-December 1957, it means that Luthor is shown or described, in a comic book dated November-December 1957, as having broken out of jail sometime in the recent past.

Characters with Dual Identities

In the case of characters with dual identities – e.g., Clark Kent and Superman, or Linda Lee Danvers and Supergirl – actions and quotations are attributed in the encyclopedia to one identity or the other depending on which role the character is playing at the time he or she performs the action being described or recites the speech being quoted. Superman dressed in his super-hero costume is referred to as Superman. Superman dressed in his everyday attire is referred to as Clark Kent. Similarly, Supergirl dressed in her super-heroine costume is referred to as Supergirl. Supergirl dressed in her everyday attire is referred to as Linda Lee Danvers.

When Supergirl is described as saying something and Clark Kent as replying, it means that the text from which the dialogue is being quoted depicts a costumed Supergirl conversing with Clark Kent dressed in his everyday attire. When Supergirl is described as saying something and Superman as replying, it means that the text from which the dialogue is being quoted depicts a costumed Supergirl conversing with a costumed Superman.

The distinction is important. In the world of the chronicles, the fact that Clark Kent is Superman is a closely guarded secret. To their contemporaries, the journalist and the super-hero are two different persons. Accordingly, they are often referred to in this encyclopedia as though they were two different people. Superman is a member of the Justice League of America, for example, but Clark Kent is not. Clark Kent is on the staff of the Daily Planet, but Superman is not. Superman’s headquarters is the Arctic; Clark Kent resides in an apartment house somewhere in Metropolis.


The vast majority of the entries in The Great Superman Book are articles about persons, but there are also numerous entries on animals, extraterrestrial and extradimensional aliens, distant planets and alien dimensions, aliases, and a host of other subjects.

At approximately 100,000 words, the article on Superman is the longest and most exhaustive entry in the entire encyclopedia. It contains a complete account of Superman’s origin, an exhaustive inventory of his super-powers and special equipment, a complete month-by-month chronology of the first twenty-eight years of his crime-fighting career, a comprehensive analysis of the major themes and relationships of the chronicles, and many other features.

As such, the Superman entry is the hub of this encyclopedia. By reading the month-by-month chronology and then following up the various cross-references, the reader will eventually come upon every entry in the encyclopedia.

Any character appearing in two or more Superman stories has been accorded an entry of his own, as have all the famous historical personages – people such as George Washington and William Shakespeare – with whom Superman has formed associations during his numerous journeys into the past.

Characters appearing in only one Superman story have sometimes been accorded entries of their own and sometimes not, depending on their importance within the single story in which they appear, their significance within the overall Superman legend, and other factors.

In general, one character from each story – usually the villain, but not always – has been chosen to serve as the vehicle for summarizing the plot of the story. The roles played by such subsidiary characters as Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Krypto the superdog are summarized in their individual entries.


The titles of individuals – e.g., Dr., Prof., Major, Count – are given in parentheses in the entry title after the individual’s name, as indicated in the following examples:

D’ORT (Count)

Whether a title is spelled out (e.g., Doctor) or abbreviated (e.g., Dr.) depends on which form is employed most often in the actual text or texts in which the character appears.

In cases where a title reflects actual rank or status, or academic or professional standing, the entries have been inserted in alphabetical order in the encyclopedia under the last name of the individual, as in the four examples listed above.

Often, however, particularly in the case of villains, what would be a title in the case of an ordinary person is, in comic books, actually part of an individual’s name. Here are two examples:


In cases such as these, the entries have been inserted in alphabetical order in the encyclopedia under the individual’s name including the titles, as in the two examples listed above.

Professor Memory is not referred to as Professor, after all, because he has earned a Ph.D. Professor Memory is merely the stage name of a now-retired vaudevillian.

Similarly, in the case of Mister Sinister, Mister is not a title, but part of the villain’s name. Sometimes an abbreviated title precedes a name, as in the cases of Mr. Gimmick and Mr. Wheels. In such cases, the entries have been inserted in alphabetical order in the encyclopedia as if the title had been fully spelled out, so that Mr. Gimmick (read as Mister Gimmick) follows the Miracle Twine Gang and Mr. Wheels (read as Mister Wheels) follows Mister Twister in the alphabetical ordering.

Extraterrestrial and Extradimensional Aliens

Most extraterrestrial and extradimensional aliens in the comics have only one name (e.g., Klor, Lahla, Quez-Ul). Some, however, have both a first name and a last name (e.g., Halk Kar). In such caes, each entry has been alphabetized in the encyclopedia as though it were one long name (i.e., as Halk Kar) to avoid the unnecessary confusion that would result from reversing two strange names that are unearthly and unfamiliar.


The Great Superman Book contains numerous quotations from the comic book literature, some of them quite lengthy. With rare exceptions, the words in comic books are all lettered by hand, and all the lettering is done in capitals. Hand lettering makes possible a wide variety of letter sizes and styles not readily duplicated in mechanically set type. Because all-capital lettering is jarring and confusing outside the comic book context, the quotations in this volume has all been translated into the more familiar form of small letters and capitals. Great care has been taken, however, and a wide range of type styles employed, to ensure capturing the flavor of the original hand-lettering as well as the essence and spirit of the comic book style. In every case, the quotations in this volume were carefully transcribed by hand from the original comic books and then set into type in a manner calculated to re-create as closely as possible the style of the original.


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Textual References

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In Conclusion

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