Classic Comic Books Home Page
|Dates||Superman||Superboy||Lois Lane||Jimmy Olsen||Action||Adventure|
|"S's First Exploit"||Games||"Wonder Lad"|
|Bizarro||Actress||"The Boy Who Killed S."||Kandor||"Legion" Origin|
|"S's Other Life": Imaginary Tales||"First Day at School": Untold Tales||Ingenious Tales||"How Jimmy First Met S."||Supergirl||"The First Two Supermen"|
|Didactic Tales||Reporter||Undercover Work||Adoption||"Batman Team"|
|"Story of S's Life"||Friendship Tales||Super Power||Hollywood||Reversal||"Gravity Girl"|
|Anti-Dictator||Ingenious Pete Ross||Romance||Romance||Red K|
|Kandor Utopia||"Superboy Hoax"||Hoax||Fantastic Adventure||Robots||"Substitute Heroes"|
|Challenges||Detective||"Legion Romances"||Proty II|
Entries with quotes refer to single stories. The titles are abbreviated, to fit into the table.
Entries without quotes refer to series of stories. For example in the Jimmy Olsen column, we see such entries as Undercover Work. This refers to a whole series of stories in that magazine in which Jimmy worked as an undercover reporter-detective.
I made up these periods for the Superman family tales, based solely on examining the stories themselves, and trying to see where they fell into similar, related groups of tales. The periods are my own personal interpretation. These periods have no "official" significance; I just made them up out of my own head, after a lot of careful thought. Still, they seem to help one to understand the different trends and groups of common themed stories in the magazines. They do not explain everything: stories on a common subject might peak during a single period, but related tales might occur before or after the period in question.
Again and again, periods seemed to begin and end around October. For example, the main Romance stories in Jimmy Olsen run from "Jimmy Olsen's Sweethearts" in October 1961 to "Jimmy Olsen's Super-Romance" in October 1962.
I have no idea why October seems to be a month of transition for tales in the Superman family of magazines. There does not seem to be any business significance attached to October in DC's comics: the October issues look just like any other.
Late 1957 - 1958. This is the period when mythos building starts in earnest. Instead of a series of independent stories, the Superman family starts constructing a common background for the tales. These elements will appear in story after story, often interacting with each other in ingenious ways. This mythos will be the chief distinguishing factor of the Superman family magazines, something unique and wonderful that sets it apart from everything else.
By 1958, Superman had existed for twenty years. The stories had appeared in comic books, comic strips, movies, and a long running television series. There were hundreds of tales, and everyone in the country was familiar with them. So Weisinger and his writers were dealing with characters that in theory, should have been approaching artistic exhaustion. Instead, they were about to achieve new imaginativeness and originality. This was due in part to the building of a mythos. Another way in which they did this: increasing the science fiction quality of the tales. There were now many stories set on Krypton, and other advanced planets. Numerous stories involved time travel to the past. The Legion of Super Heroes involved both time travel to the future, and the advanced societies of that era. Many of the key mythos building and science fiction stories were written by Otto Binder.
Late 1958 - 1959. Mythos building continues. This is also a period when the Superman family invented new kinds of storytelling, the Imaginary Stories and the Untold Tales. Both of these innovative narrative strategies depend on the background of a mythos. They only make sense in a storytelling world, like that of the Superman magazines, that has a common mythos as its foundation. The Untold Tales look back at key historical moments in the building of the mythos. And the Imaginary Stories look at alternatives to and variations on the mythos itself.
This is also a peak period for "transformation" stories, tales in which the characters undergo temporary, mysterious transformations. Jimmy Olsen often received super powers during this period, for example, and Superboy encountered Red Kryptonite for the first time in Adventure, a substance that always transforms him in unexpected ways. Otto Binder was the author of many of these stories.
The Superman family introduced several major female characters in 1959, notably Supergirl, Lois Lane's sister Lucy, the adult Lana Lang and mermaid Lori Lemaris.
Late 1959 - 1960. The motto of this period could be "Get a Life". There is less emphasis on mythos building here, although the common mythos that has been built up is preserved and used as a background. Instead, the emphasis is on the daily lives and key emotions of the main characters of the magazines. For example, there is renewed emphasis on the reporting careers of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Story after story shows them working at their job, trying to track down stories for the Daily Planet. Often times they are trying to solve crimes in order to get a scoop for their paper. These stories treat Lois' and Jimmy's work with great respect, and depict them as outstandingly skillful at their jobs.
Similarly during this period, Superboy first experiences the need for a friend. This need will drive most of the best Superboy stories over the next three years. And the Supergirl stories will increasingly focus on the possible adoption of Supergirl, and the other kids at Midvale Orphanage.
These stories help give a principal focus to the characters: Lois and Jimmy are most concerned with doing their job; Superboy is looking for a friend; and Supergirl wants to be adopted. This focus will help generate and structure numerous stories in the Superman family magazines. It also gives a window into the minds of the characters: what they think and feel, what is important to them.
One can see other common elements in this period. Several stories dealt with a possible feature motion picture dealing with the life of Superman and the other characters. These works include "The Super Star of Hollywood" in Adventure, "The Big Superman Movie" in Jimmy Olsen, and the Reporter story "The Star Reporter of Metropolis" in Lois Lane.
Late 1960 - 1961. The stories of this period are especially beautiful.
Late 1961 - 1962.
Late 1962 - 1963. This is a climax period in the Superman Silver Age. It includes the great novels in Superman, and some related long tales in Action. It also includes the Fantastic Adventures in Jimmy Olsen, and the related "Superbaby II" in Action. The climactic Pete Ross tales appear in Superboy.
Late 1963 - 1964.
Late 1964 - 1965. This era contains a revival of quality and a renewed emphasis on the Superman mythos. It includes a number of tales in which Jimmy Olsen gets transformed into members of other groups in the Superman mythos: Bizarros, Brainiac-like beings, Congorilla. These stories combine the transformation motif, with elaborate tales involving these mythos elements. The Bizarros, after being largely neglected for two years (1963 - 1964), stage a big comeback.
There are tales involving Kandor, most of which involve new developments in the mythos. They also tend to involve Superman getting transformed, sometimes by Red K and sometimes by Kandorian custom, and having to preserve his identity. There are stories involving startling surprises. Supergirl goes to college. All of the above categories tend to promote the Superman mythos.
There are tales involving Superman's successors. These stories have an undercurrent of a farewell to the Superman Silver Age.