Deck Log Entry # 109: From the Mailbox---the Commander's Browsing List

Having become known as something of a Silver-Age expert, I occasionally receive questions on the subject in my e-mail. Sometimes these e-mails raise a topic of interest that is worth mentioning in my Deck Log, such as this one from a total stranger . . . .

Dear Commander Benson,

It goes without saying that you write the cleverest, wittiest, most fascinating column on comics to be found on the Internet. I am in awe of your vast knowledge and expertise on the subject of the Silver Age. Waiting for your next Deck Log entry is sheer agony. I know there is no way to rush genius such as yours, but could you recommend other blogs with which I might pass the time until you post your next masterful effort?

Yours truly,
Mrs. Cheryl Benson Smith

Thank you, dear lady, for that completely unsolicited testimonial. Loyal fans like yourself are a constant inspiration.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are quite a few blogs which do what I do, or something similar, with the same kind of enthusiasm and dedication to accuracy. Many of their authors have been good enough to give my Deck Log a shout-out and it’s about time that I returned the favour. Whether you’re a Silver-Age fan or not, they’re definitely worth checking out.

Of course, I have to lead off with this one, particularly since it’s maintained by one of our own Legionnaires, Pat Curley. Silver Age Comics covers the same material that I do, but Pat’s perspective has a bit more modern sensibility to it. A good indicator of how much I enjoy a blog is how much time I am willing to spend going through its archives, and I have read all of Pat’s---five years’ worth and some six-hundred-plus articles.

His current entry is a review of Jimmy Olsen # 94 (Jul., 1966), an issue chock full of the things which made the adventures of Superman’s Pal such groaners to read, most of the time. But then, even we die-hard Silver-Age fans never claimed that they were all gems back in the day. This particular period in the title suffers even more from the departure of Curt Swan as a regular artist, to be replaced by Pete Constanza. As I have mentioned before, the detailed, pristine art of Swan and inker George Klein had a way of making even the most inane tales more credulous. Never was it more so true than when it came to Jimmy Olsen, and any Olsen story not drawn by them suffers a real hit alpha.

Pat doesn’t shy away from the warts in this issue, either. But even his spot-on criticisms are delivered in an entertaining, engaging style.

As you’ve probably gathered, SupermanFan.Net covers all things Man of Steel-related, be it comics, television, film, or animation. While its author, Nightwing, doesn’t restrict himself to one era, many of his entries give the Silver-Age Superman a good scrubbing, sometimes in a light-hearted vein. That, and the fact that his opinion of Lois Lane is the same as mine (proving that he is a most perceptive fellow), makes me a regular follower.

Right now, he’s treating his readers to some of the letters and editor’s replies that appeared in Mort Weisinger’s Superman family of magazines. (For those of you too young to know, there was a time when people sent messages written on paper which were hand-carried to their recipients by a department of the federal government, and some of these would actually be published in the comics themselves. Pardon me while I take my daily slug of Geritol.)

It reminds me of how eagerly we Silver-Age readers looked forward to reading the thoughts of the fortunate correspondents whose letters were selected for publishing. There were a handful of letter writers whose names cropped up repeatedly---Guy H. Lillian III, Irene Vartanoff, Martin Pasko, Elizabeth Kane, and Kenneth Ahlstrand, among others. Not surprisingly, their commentaries were incisive, thoughtful, and well written. There were more than a few occasions when their letters proved more enjoyable than the stories in the magazine in which they appeared.

In those pre-Internet-forum days, it was the closest thing to being interactive with other fans, even if for most of us, it was vicariously only. It was a major deal back then to get one of your letters published. It entitled you to bragging rights for at least the month that the issue with your name in it came out. I was lucky enough to see five of my letters hit print, and even some forty years later with (hopefully) greater accomplishments to my name, I still have those five comics kept separately.

If there were such a thing as a doctorate in the Martian Manhunter, Frank Lee Delano would have it. If it involves J’onn J’onzz in any way, shape, or form, it’s there someplace in his blog, the Idol-Head of Diabolu. Years ago, Frank was gracious enough to ask my permission to use, for his blog, some posts I had made in another venue. He returned the favour when I needed, in my pre-scanner days, specific art for Deck Log entries on the Manhunter. Frank provided just the stuff I required.

Most of the Idol-Head of Diabolu’s material is post-Crisis J’onn J’onzz, but it dips back into the Silver Age often enough for me to check in regularly. His information is staggeringly comprehensive. I suspect if Joe Certa ever doodled the Manhunter on a paper napkin during lunch, Frank has posted a JPEG of it somewhere on his site.

Mark Engblom retired his Comic Coverage blog back in September of last year, and comics fans are the poorer for it. I discovered it only a few weeks ago and am still going through three years’ worth of archives. Comic Coverage is the standard to which every comics-related blog should aspire. There are long, serious pieces, filled with well-researched information, and shorter, light-hearted looks at some of the more absurd conventions of comics. A distinctive feature of his blog is his evaluations of the best and the worst of comic-book covers, drawn from his long experience as a professional artist himself.

Like some of the other blogs I’ve mentioned, Mark doesn’t confine himself to one comics era but, again like the others, he finds plenty in the Silver Age to talk about.

Finally, it would be a blunder of the highest order if I failed to mention Craig Shutt, Mr. Silver Age, who recently became a member of our merry band of Superfluous Heroes. The fulsome praise of Mrs.---ahem---“Smith” notwithstanding, while I may be a talented amateur, Craig is the real deal.

There’s a reason why he is called “Mr. Silver Age”. The depth and breadth of his knowledge encompasses the entire output from that era, not just the easy stuff like super-hero comics and war comics. He is versed in the genres I wouldn’t have touched with a stick, like romance comics and literary comics, as well. Craig is my greatest source of what the fellows in the spy business call “human intelligence”. He has come to my rescue more than once when I was stuck for a reference or the details behind a story event.

Since June of 1993, his Ask Mr. Silver Age column has entertained Comics Buyer’s Guide readers with his witty, informative articles on the elements which comprised that particular era. Few other sections of CBG generate as much debate and discussion from its audience. Always, Craig’s evaluations on a topic are measured and well reasoned. I know this both from his column and my own e-mail discussions with him.

If you aren’t a reader of Comics Buyer’s Guide, you can still enjoy the fruits of Craig’s knowledge at the magazine’s on-line incarnation, Just look for his name under “Columnists” and enjoy. And if you’ve a mind to, jump into the discussions. (And just to give our fearless leader a plug, you might also check out the Captain Comics forum there, too.)

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Comment by The Baron on September 7, 2010 at 4:17pm
And Baron, I wasn't making any kind of veiled remarks about my readers who don't post---I appreciate them just as I do my commenters, and I try to write to keep you all interested.

I didn't really think you were, Commander. It's more a case that I wish I could comment more - I never realized how many large swathes of DC history there were that I knew next to nothing about.
Comment by Mr. Silver Age on September 5, 2010 at 12:19pm
I just wanted to say thanks, Commander and everyone else, for the kind words. I’m likewise a fan of the Commander and his blog. I’m also smart enough to know that, were we to meet, I’d angle for us to team up right away rather than first go at it mano-a-mano in a trivia duel to shake the multiverse.

By all means, I invite everyone to visit and check out the Ask Mr. Silver Age forum. I think of myself as the ringmaster to a circus of contributors who keep things humming in some of the most offbeat SA topics and tangents you’ll find online.

Sadly, CBG has been migrating to a new site for the past *month*, so nothing has been added recently (except my current column on Batman’s fashion faux pas, in full color), because the Add Topics function doesn’t work yet. But there are years’ worth of back topics available, and you can read and even comment on any of them instantly, as the log-in function hasn’t become operational either.

I’ll hope to see you there. In the meantime, I’ll no doubt be around here, now that I signed on rather than just lurking. So I doubt the Silver Age is in any danger of being overlooked around here.
Comment by Commander Benson on September 4, 2010 at 10:48am
Fogey, Jeff, Baron, Philip,

Thank you very much for your strong compliments on my Silver Age knowledge. When I started this column, at Rich Lane's suggestion, I wondered if I would be able to hold anyone's interest (besides my own). And Baron, I wasn't making any kind of veiled remarks about my readers who don't post---I appreciate them just as I do my commenters, and I try to write to keep you all interested.

If Craig Shutt has been following these remarks, I know he is too gracious to defend his own expertise---so I will do it for him (not that he needs it) . . . .

Remember when you were youngsters? There was always one kid who could take one look at a passing car and identify it by make and model and year of production, right down to the line alterations. And another kid who could quote sports statistics as easily as spell his name. (My brother was one of those---baseball or football, he could give you the line-ups of every team and the current statistics of the players' performances.)

Those fellows just had those kinds of minds, augmented by the fact that those areas were those they were interested in. But as good as the kid who could nail down make and model of autos back to Henry Ford's Model-T was, that doesn't mean you'd want him as CEO of General Motors.

I had one of those kinds of minds, too. For two things---television and comic books, and it was my fortune to be there at the beginning of the Silver Age. My mind absorbed it all. But I'm still a dilettante.

For Craig, on the other hand, it's his bread and butter. He has the Silver-Age knowledge and the writing skill to make a living out of it. I may have a small reputation, but his name is known to thousands of comics fans, and it's that way for a reason---he did the work to carve himself out that status. But, as I know all too well, being "Mr. Silver Age" also carries a responsibility. He has to be constantly entertaining, constantly informative. If I start writing clunkers, it's no big deal---folks just skip reading my Deck Log and it doesn't affect my wallet.

For the same reason, if I have to skip a few weeks, because of OBE, again, it's no major problem. But Craig has to produce on a regularly scheduled basis.

And then there's the matter of accuracy. Craig pays assiduous attention to detail because, like myself, it's part of his professionalism. We both hate to inadvertently promulgate misinformation. But because he is "Mr. Silver Age", there are plenty of folks who go through his articles just waiting for the moment when they can say "Aha! He made a mistake!", rubbing their hands and chortling fiendishly, over being smarter than "the expert".

The point is: Craig has a much heavier obligation to be knowledgeable and error-free than I do, and he meets it by immersing himself in his chosen area of expertise.

Oh, certainly, I'm expert enough on the Silver Age to make good conversation for him, or even hold my own on points where we disagree. But it's not modesty when I state that his knowledge is greater. If for no other reason than it has to be.

Jeff, you've mentioned before printing some of my posts for ready reference, but I had no idea that you had done that with more than one or two. The fact that you do it all is a great compliment to me and I appreciate it to no end.

Fogey, I would agree with you that I know more about the Silver Age and why it was popular than the talent working for DC, now. But that's because I lived through it, while those folks can only experience it once removed---they can read the comics of the Silver Age, but they cannot have the same perspective that I do.

Thank you all again for you kind remarks. It's folks like you that make this still the best comics forum on the Internet.
Comment by Philip Portelli on September 2, 2010 at 11:50am
He certainly understands it better than some of the people there. RABBIT!
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on September 2, 2010 at 7:05am
Jeff of Earth-J Johnson is RIGHT! I'm POSITIVE that Commander Adam knows far more about DC Comics - at least the base of their popularity, the Silver Age - than anyone they have working for them right now!
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on September 1, 2010 at 8:51am
Speaking as one of the "small contingent of regular readers" (but not the "smaller sub-set of those who regularly post) I'd just like to say that you're being far too modest, Adam. I would love to see you write an introduction to a Marvel Masterworks or DC Archives edition, which is where hardcopies of many of your articles end up in my collection, carefully folded and placed between the pages. Others end up bagged and boarded alongside the comics themselves, such as your post about the various kinds of Kryptonite, filed along with my copy of Superman #227.
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on September 1, 2010 at 7:32am
And just to clear up for anyone who still cares:

Craig Shutt - Mr. Silver Age
Eric L. Sofer - Silver Age Fogey

He's the one who's likeable... ;)

"Having become known as something of a Silver-Age expert..." Okay, that's understatement to the point of (almost) absurd! I am no longer among the pure faith, being obnoxious and disliked*, but I would back Commander Adam against Mr. Silver Age in a mano-a-mano Silver Age trivia contest!

I remain,
Sincerely (and in awe),
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey

*I was the second administrator of this board, too! I don't remember any one person who replaced me... I never had a vice-administrator 'cause everybody contributed at least some vice... :D
Comment by The Baron on August 31, 2010 at 10:21pm
I always enjoy reading your stuff, Commander. If I don't comment more often, it's just because you, like the Skipper, started reading comics just enough before I did that much of what you write about covers stories that I have not read and that I do not have the time or the means to read. It's very educational, I'll read one of your blogs and suddenly realize that something I saw in Captain Potato #201 last week was actually an homage to/rip-off-of something that originally appeared in Unnecessary Stories #57 back in 1963
Comment by Commander Benson on August 31, 2010 at 5:33pm
No apoligies necessary, Mr. Portelli. My dander didn't rise nearly as much because you said it but because I hear it all the time. It's one of those things that people get into their heads and many refuse to let go of, no matter what the evidence shows. I can't even blame that one on the "misinformation begets misinformation" drawback of the Internet (though the Internet certainly amplifies it); that particular error was bandied about long before the home computers.

There are a few fora that are entertaining to me and that I visit regularly. But of all the things I find desireable in a forum, this site is number one in all of them. More than that. It's where I got started e-mailing, posting, and blogging. I have been welcomed at other fora and they have good citizens, too. But I call here my Internet home. I'm glad you find it enjoyable, as well.

As for my Deck Log, I have a small contingent of regular readers, and a smaller sub-set of those who regularly post. I appreciate them all. Your comments, for good or ill, are always welcome, sir.
Comment by Philip Portelli on August 31, 2010 at 5:07pm
I was on Mister Silver Age's forum before this one. If I recall, I called Insect Queen an honorary Legion member and got your dander up! My apologies!

I read a few other forums, some a bit too serious, a few too comical and one too dirty, so there's something for everyone out there! But I am happy here, so I'll be sticking around! Again, my apologies!


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