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The Great Superman Book

(This article is archived from Supermanica. The current version is here.)
The Great Superman Book, re-issued as The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume Three: Superman in 2007
The Great Superman Book, re-issued as The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume Three: Superman in 2007

Cover to the original edition of The Great Superman Book, 1978
Cover to the original edition of 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.


Cross-references are indicated by capitals and small capitals, as in the following example:

LIGHTNING-MAN. A mysterious super-hero, his true
Identity unknown, who appears in METROPOLIS in July-
August 1957 and performs a series of mind-boggling
super-feats during a period when the world’s greatest
crime-fighters – including SUPERMAN, BATMAN AND
ROBIN, the KNIGHT and the SQUIRE, the MUSKETEER, the 
LEGIONARY, and the GAUCHO -- are gathered in the city to 
accept a valuable gift from “well-known philanthropist” 
John Mayhew, a lavish Club of Heroes which he has
constructed to serve as their Metropolis headquarters.

The cross-references in the above example, the first paragraph of the entry on Lightning-Man, indicate the existence of separate articles, elsewhere in the encyclopedia, on Metropolis, Superman, Batman, Robin, the Knight, the Squire, the Musketeer, the Legionary, and the Gaucho. Since the duplication of information in the various articles of the encyclopedia has been kept to a minimum, the articles indicated by the cross-references invariably contain new information not available in the entry in which the cross-reference appears.

Textual References

In order to relate the innumerable statements and quotations in this encyclopedia to their precise sources in the chronicles, a system of textual references was devised, relating every single fact in the encyclopedia to its source in the collected comic book adventures of Superman.

A textual reference consists of the title of a cmic book series (e.g., Action Comics, Superman, World’s Finest Comics); the issue number of a particular comic book in that series and the story number of the specific story being cited; the issue date, as stated on the comic book’s indicia; the title of the story being cited, if it has a title; and, in cases where a story has been divided into parts or chapters, the titles of the individual parts or chapters where part or chapter titles exist.

For a complete listing of the abbreviations used in the textual references, consult the Table of Abbreviations at the end of this essay.

Textual references appear in the encyclopedia in parentheses, directly following the fact or group of facts they are intended to substantiate. The shorter entries in the encyclopedia generally contain only one textual reference apiece, indicating that all of the information in any one such entry derives from a single textual source. In the case of entries containing two or more textual references, however, each textual reference applies to the information in that article following the textual reference that directly precedes it.

The following is a typical textual reference:

(S No. 114/2, Jul ’57: “The Man Who Discovered Superman’s Identity”)

The textual reference given above informs the reader that whatever quotation(s) or statement(s) preceded the reference can be found or substantiated in the Superman comic book series; issue number 114; the second Superman story in the issue; issue date July 1957; story title “The Man Who Discoveres Superman’s Identity.”

Here is another example:

(WF No. 144, Sep ’64: “The 1,001 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac!” pts. I-II – no title: “The Helpless Partners!”)

The textual reference given above informs the reader that whatever quotation(s) or statement(s) preceded the reference can be found found or substantiated in the World’s Finest Comics comic book series; issue number 144; the only story in the issue featuring Superman (indicated by the lack of story number); issue date September 1964; story title “The 1,001 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac!”; the story is divided into two separate parts, the first of which has no title, the second of which is entitled “The Helpless Partners!”

In cases where a story lacks an overall title, the textual reference simply appears without one, as in the following examples:

(S No. 3/4, Win ’40)
(WF No. 150, Jun ’65: pts. I-II – “The Super-Gamble with Doom!”; “The Duel of the Super-Gamblers!”)

In the cases of textual references pertaining to comic books containing more than one Superman story, a story number has been inserted in each textual reference – directly following the issue number and separated from it by a slash mark – to indicate the precise position in the comic book of the story being referred to.

This system of story numbering applies only to the fully illustrated Superman stories. It does not apply to stories without illustrations or to those featuring the logo of some other major character. Where a textual reference refers to a comic book containing only one Superman story, a story number would be superfluous and has therefore not been included.

A typical issue in the Action Comic series, for example, contains one story about Superman followed by one or more stories featuring other heroes or heroines. Textual references pertaining to comic books in the Action Comics series therefore contain no story number, for no issue of Action Comics has ever contained more than one story about Superman. Here is a typical textual reference to a comic book in the Action Comic series;

(Act No. 112, Sep ’47: “The Cross-Country Chess Crimes!”)

Wherever a textual reference fails to contain a story number, the comic book which it cites may be understood to contain only one Superman story.

In the case of the Superman series, however, a single issue may contain as many as four illustrated Superman stories, and the Superman stories are occasionally interspersed with other illustrated features that do not include Superman. Superman No. 28, for examples, contains four illustrated stories, three of them Superman stories and the fourth, featuring an entirely different logo, a story initiating a new series of adventures starring “Lois Lane Girl Reporter.” Since the story numbering system applies only to Superman stories, the story headlining Lois Lane is excluded from the system, and the three Superman stories in the issue are numbered consecutively from one to three, from the front of the comic book to the back. Here is a textual reference to one of the three Superman stories in Superman No. 28:

(S No. 28/3, May/Jun ’44: “Stand-In for Hercules!”)

This textual reference informs the reader that whatever quotation(s) or statement(s) preceded the reference can be found or substantiated in the Superman comic book series; issue number 28; the third Superman story in the issue; issue date May-June 1944; story title “Stand-In for Hercules!”

Whenever information normally included in a textual reference is stated beforehand in the body of an entry, that information is omitted from the textual reference, as in the following two examples:

The Domino is exposed and apprehended by Superman in March 1942 (Act No. 46: “The Devil’s Playground”).
Superman No. 20/2 describes Superman as a “champion of democracy” (Jan/Feb ’43: “Destroyers from the Depths”).

The following paragraph, taken from the article on the Daily Planet, illustrated the extensive use of textual references in the major entries of the encyclopedia:

The Daily Planet is headquartered in the Daily Planet
Building (Act No. 36, May ’41; and others), a large
Downtown skyscraper situated at the center of Planet
Square, the so-called “crossroads of the world” (Act No.
77, Oct’ 44: “The Headline Hoax!”; and others). Owned, at
least for a time, by Metropolis Millionaire EBENEEZER
WALKER (Act No. 214, Mar ’56: “Superman, Super-
Destroyer”), the building features an electric news-sign
Encircling the topmost story (Act No. 229, Jun ’57: “The
Superman Satellite”) and a “giant globe of the world” – 
Encircled by a Saturnlike ring and by giant block letters
Spelling out the name Daily Planet – mounted on the roof
(Act No. 272, Jan ’61: “Superman’s Rival, Mental Man!”;
and others). Extending skyward from the Daily Planet
Tower, at the summit of the building, is the broadcast
Antenna of WPLT, a radio station owned and operated by
the Daily Planet (S No. 39/1, Mar/Apr ’46: “The Big
Superman Broadcast!”). Across the street from the Daily
Planet Building is a small park, where a marble statue of
SUPERMAN is unveiled in January-February 1946 (S No.
38/3: “The Man of Stone!”; and others).

Occasionally, a textual reference will be followed, within the parentheses, by the words “and others,” as in the following example:

(Act No. 165, Feb ’52: “The Man Who Conquered Superman!”; and others)

These added words indicate that evidence to substantiate whatever statement(s) preceded the reference can be found in the specific comic book issue cited, in this case Action Comics No. 165, and in at least two other comic books as well. When such a textual reference follows a direct quotation, it means that the quotation itself was taken from the comic book issue cited, but that data supporting the substance of the quotation is available in at least two other Superman texts as well.

In Conclusion

The Great Superman Book has been designed for both the browser and the researcher, the casual fan and the serious collector. Great care has been taken to make it enjoyable as well as functional, entertaining as well as definitive. Whether you are engaged in scholarly research or reading pleasure, writing a thesis or preparing a trivia quiz, The Great Superman book will provide you with the information you seek and with many pleasurable hours as well.

entry origin: Supermanica ( database)
This article was composed by the Supermanica consortium of editors.

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