Monday, February 20, 2017

Secret Origins: The Comic That Made Me Cry

I never wanted a comic book more than the 25-cent DC giant Secret Origins, which was on newsstands in June 1961, the month I turned 7.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. The comic sold out instantly at my newsstand in Effingham, IL, and I was so disappointed I burst into tears on the spot. Then I was ashamed at having cried.
But we almost never got to read characters’ origins in those halcyon days, and to acquire a bunch of those in one comic would have been a thrill.
I wouldn’t learn until years later than DC’s apparent discomfort with reprinting 1940s material would lead them to cheat a bit on the Secret Origins title, meaning that the real origins of the Superman-Batman team, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow would remain secret.
In fact, the only “Golden Age material” to be found in all 80 pages was an old copy of Flash being chuckled over by police scientist Barry Allen while he ate lunch in one panel.
The earliest story reprinted was the origin of the Martian Manhunter from Detective Comics 225 (November, 1955). The Silver Age characters Flash, Green Lantern, Adam Strange and the Challengers of the Unknown had all debuted in 1956 or later, and their actual first stories were included as well.
But instead of Wonder Woman’s real 1941 origin, we got a reconned version by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito reprinted from Wonder Woman 105 (April, 1959).
Green Arrow and Speedy got even shorter shrift, merely a text page that summarized their origins from Adventure Comics 256 (January, 1959) and Adventure Comics 262 (July, 1959). In fact, of course, they had debuted 18 years earlier in More Fun Comics 73 (November 1941).
Even May of 1952 was apparently too “Golden Age” for the editors. That’s when Superman and Batman actually met in the pages of Superman 76 (although they’d teamed up even earlier on Superman’s radio series). Instead, DC reprinted the retconned Origin of the Superman-Batman Team by Edmond Hamilton, Dick Sprang and Stan Kay that had appeared in World’s Finest Comics 94 (May-June, 1958).
So that dark, sunny June day I had to content myself with the origin of a new superhero in Archie Comics’ Adventures of the Jaguar 1, Detective, the second issue of Charlton’s  Gorgo, the battle between Batman and the super-powered Villain of 1,000 Elements in Detective Comics 294, learning The Secret of Tigerman from World’s Finest 119, seeing the debut of The Legion of Super-Villains in Superman 147 and the exciting third Superman Annual, featuring The Strange Lives of Superman.
That one was almost as good as Secret Origins.
Despite its deficiencies, Secret Origins remained The One That Got Away. I hadn’t learned, at 7, that desire often makes the unattainable seem more wonderful than reality can ever be.

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