PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES Comic Strips

The celebrated Mr. K celebrates his cult-fave Superman strips…

By PAUL KUPPERBERG

Once upon a time, it was the ambition of many, if not most, comic book creators to land a syndicated newspaper strip. A comic strip was the pinnacle of the cartooning pyramid, a daily dose of action, adventure, romance or humor by some of the best illustrators in the business, legendary names like Hogarth, Caniff, Murphy and Young. Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Murphy Anderson, Joe Kubert and many others would make the leap from the comic-book page to the newspaper funny pages.

Myself included. Sure, by the time I had entered the comics writing game in the mid-1970s the heyday of the American comic strip was long past, but I had grown up on a combination of the New York Daily News’ bountiful comic page and Sunday color comic sections and the 1965 comedy, How to Murder Your Wife. (The pic stars Jack Lemmon, Virna Lisi and, of course, the indispensable Terry-Thomas. Lemmon plays a comic-strip artist playboy living the life of Riley in a fabulous Manhattan townhouse with his faithful butler until in a drunken blackout he marries Lisi, the girl who speaks no English he met after she jumped out of the cake at a bachelor party. Most of it was pretty far-fetched of course, pure misogynist farce in retrospect… but a townhouse in the city [that’s what us Brooklynites call Manhattan] and a butler? I’m for that!)

It would be another 16 years before I got my hands on a newspaper strip of my own as the fifth of the five writers to script the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes Starring Superman syndicated strip for the Chicago Tribune/New York News Syndicate (April 3, 1978, to February 10, 1985). Instead of a townhouse in Manhattan, I got cruddy apartments in Queens and Brooklyn’s Park Slope. And no butler. Not that I could have afforded either. Writing the strip paid page rate, the same money I got for writing a regular comic book; it came to four pages of paid work a week, with two strips (six panels) equaling one page and the Sunday counting as one page.

The series originally featured DC’s big stars but eventually came to focus on Superman.

But I didn’t care. I had a daily and (for most of the first year) Sunday strip in the newspapers! Except, you know, not in any newspaper I ever saw. By the time I took it over (after Martin Pasko, Paul Levitz, Gerry Conway and Mike Barr), the strip no longer had a very strong base of subscribing newspapers, and the Daily News had stopped carrying it. As of November 11, 1982, the Sunday strip was turned into a puzzle and activity page written by Bob Rozakis.

Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES PRESENT SUPERMAN STRIPS:

January 12, 1981. Though signed “P. Levitz,” the script for this week (and the six weeks that followed) were ghost written by P. Kupperberg. This was my first attempt at writing a daily strip but thanks to a lifetime of reading them, I had absorbed the medium’s rhythm and pace and didn’t have any difficulty slipping into it.

January 18, 1981. My first (ghosted) Sunday strip.

January 11, 1982. This was the official start of my run on the Superman strip, and I made sure it included an iconic Clark Kent/Superman moment to kick things off: Clark’s dash into an empty room to change because it’s “a job for Superman!”

January 17, 1982. My first official Sunday strip.

May 3, 1982. After four years of the daily (and Sunday!) grind, George Tuska bid his farewell to the strip and we welcomed new artist Jose Delbo to the fold, still inked by Vince Colletta.

May 27-29, 1982. Jose and Vinnie kick chiaroscuro’s ass!

September 16-18, 1982. I never want to hear another bad word about Vinnie’s inking!

November 12, 1982. Sometimes, it was necessary to sacrifice a few precious panels of storytelling to just show off.

August 25-27, 1983. Injecting some hardcore DC history and continuity into the strip.

January 26-29, 1984. Explaining Bizarros to the mass newspaper reading audience.

September 6-8, 1984. From the Toyman continuity. It’s only cute until it starts giving you the stink eye!

December 25, 1984. The creators stand behind this Christmas greeting, in the back row, where left to right Jose included me (holding the typewriter), himself (glasses and beard), editor Joe Orlando, Paul Levitz, and inker Sal Trapani. And to all a good night!

January 23-26, 1985. Super-science-self-save!

MORE

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite SHOWCASE #100 Moments. Click here.

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite WORLD OF KRYPTON Miniseries Moments — RANKED. Click here.

Sure, you know Paul Kupperberg as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics, I Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own Words, The Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the peek at these strips! George Tuska drew one of my favorite JLA issues, number 153 (the only break in Dick Dillin’s decade-long run on the title) and for that reason, I would love to see all of his JLA art on this strip as well. The only collection I’ve been able to find is a small paperback that reprints some of the Superman strips. Maybe someday we’ll get a nice hardcover of the whole series, meticulously restored. Wouldn’t that be something? All best wishes to you, Mr. Kupperburg, and thanks for the many Bronze-Age stories that you penned!

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  2. I remember the strip in the Detroit Free Press funnies. I also remember the BATMAN run. They all need the hardcover treatment. That is also one of my favorite Lemon movies. Wasn’t Lisi from Star Trek fame?

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  3. I’m loving these posts. I know your work from comics but didn’t know about Superman newspaper strips or that Tuska drew them.

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  4. I also was one of those whose area newspapers did not carry the WGSH strip. But as a one-time newspaper guy and a long-time newspaper strip fan, I sought out the strip whenever I had an opportunity. Thank you Paul, for your participation in what was an all-round fun outing (what comics should still be, but sadly are not) and thank you for your attention to the strip in your own blog awhile back. I agree with all of those who are saying the strip really needs a nice hardcover reprint release. I think it is so important that comics like this be preserved for today and the future, because current comics have lost so much of the fun factor that writers like you brought to us for so many years.

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  5. Vince Colletta COULD do a good job inking. His style meshed well with some pencil artists (and not so well with others, but that’s true of most inkers). It’s just when he rushed his inking was substandard. I’ve seen some very good work from Vince, and some pretty shoddy (half assed) stuff as well. But I’ve got the book, The Thin Black Line, and it explains how Vince was interested in getting as much work as possible, and part of that was doing rush jobs when books were behind schedule. At his best, I’d say he was an above average inker. At his worst, he was fairly bad (generic, lack of details, simplistic work). I’m guilty of badmouthing him, but he wasn’t a bad inker – he was just too interested in getting MORE done (to make more money, understandably) than doing better work.

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  6. The original Tuska and Colletta WGSH was something to look forward to every day. The most nicely-illustrated newspaper strip at the time. When Delbo replaced Tuska, Colletta was still there to maintain both the quality and continuity of the series.

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