EXCLUSIVE LOOK: The SUPERMAN Strips That Freaked Out the US Government

A fascinating chapter in the history of the Man of Steel…

Cover by Pete Poplaski

The latest collection of Superman newspaper strips — Superman: The Golden Age Dailies, 1944-1947 — has a pretty wild backstory.

The 272-page hardcover volume, out 5/9 from IDW’s Library of American Comics imprint in association with DC Comics, includes an intro by Sidney Friedfertig that explains the history of one of the stories in the book — and a lost chapter in Super-lore:

As World War II raged on, the US government was deep in the top-secret Manhattan Project. As part of the war effort, news organizations were barred from writing about the feds’ nuke activities. But up popped a story in the Superman daily newspaper strip in the spring of 1945 that dealt with atom smashers — three months before the US first detonated a nuclear weapon.

“The FBI thought they had uncovered a leak,” Friedfertig writes. “Agents visited the New York offices of Detective Comics, Inc. and ‘insisted we get rid of the cyclotron and bring the story to a quick conclusion’ according to DC managing editor Jack Schiff.

“They did not get a quick conclusion to the story—it turned into the longest episode reprinted in this volume—but the storyline did change course, switching from a weapon of mass destruction to a method of mass distraction, from cyclotrons to circling the bases in a ‘Super’ baseball game,” Friedfertig adds.

“A memo—declassified after the war—sent by Colonel John Lansdale to Lieutenant Colonel W.B. Parsons (director of Military Intelligence at the bomb production site Oak Ridge, Tennessee) concluded that because the device appeared on the funnies page and in no way resembled an actual cyclotron, it would not be taken seriously; therefore the government’s concern was unwarranted.”

According to Friedfertig, Alvin Schwartz, who wrote the story — The Science of Superman, with art by Wayne Boring — later said he had “gotten my material about cyclotrons from a 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics, so I didn’t have any idea about the bomb.”

Still, it’s a nifty bit of history and you can check out some of the strips — never reprinted before — right here in this EXCLUSIVE LOOK:

There’s plenty more to it — and there are a total of 16 storylines in the collection, edited by Dean Mullaney — so make sure you check out the complete volume when it’s released 5/9. It lists for $49.99.


— The SUPERMAN Art Unseen in 60 Years. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Once again thanks for tip about this coming out. Somehow somewhere I had heard this story. In these days with the discussion of centrifuges again with us, the irony is well ironical.

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  1. HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week! | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] newspaper strips — including a batch that freaked out the US government during World War II. Click here for…

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