CITIZEN KANE MINUTE #26 - Superman Meets Orson Welles
To celebrate Orson Welles' birthday on May 6, in this special episode Rob and fellow network all-star Max Romero discuss "Black Magic on Mars!" from SUPERMAN #62 by ?, Wayne Boring, and Stan Kaye!
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9 responses to “Citizen Kane Minute #26 – Superman Meets Orson Welles”
You know, I want to say this team-up of Superman and Orson Welles is too bizarre to be believed, but it’s Orson Welles and therefore makes a weird sort of sense. Welles being treated as the Boy (or Actor) Who Cried Wolf, complete with space travel and an alien invasion. It sounds like an insane read to say the least.
I have heard of this story for years, but have never read it. The casual trip to Mars is the type of whimisical stuff that seems lost forever to super hero comics.
I wonder, if in addition to Whitney Ellsworth, that Mort Weisinger didn’t have a hand in crafting this? He was already the editor of the Superman titles at the time, and he seemed to always want more recognition for his editiorial efforts, mostly because most of his childhood chums were famous sci-fi authors! He may have pushed Ellsworth to make some connections. We see a few other celebrities in his Superman titles over the years, like Alan Funt of Candid, Camera Fame, and Steve Allen.
I appreciate Wayne Boring’s enormous contribution to the Superman legend, but I run hot and lukewarm (never cold) on his art, for the most part. Their’s barrel chested (like a Dick Sprang Batman OR Superman) and there’s “tree trunk” Superman as I call him. BUT, it did fit the idea of “manly strong man” at the time as you and Max pointed out.
I read this story in “Superman from the 30’s to the 70’s” when I picked up that book from Half-Price Books.
That book didn’t have the cover copy so I didn’t know that the story referenced a real movie. I accepted it as a plot device to give Welles a stock of magic items to use in the story. Later, after I saw him on the Tonight show. I realized Mr. Welles probably had all his clothes equipped to do several tricks on the spur of the moment.
So many guests and hosts on comic podcasts have said that the hardcover books of reprints by decades were their introduction to the early stories of Superman and Batman because libraries bought them, I thought it was a universal experience.
Thanks for bringing this story out of the Golden Age.
I’m always interested when real life random celebrities like Alan Funt or Don Rickles pop up in comic books. Just last month at the Popular Culture Association conference I did a short presentation on Woody Allen’s comic book & comic strip appearances. He turned up in Showcase #71 (1967) meeting The Maniaks. Most of my talk was actually on the “Inside Woody Allen” comic strip that ran from 1976 to 1984. The strip’s debut was featured on a People magazine cover. Allen was an unofficial consultant on the strip. In his recent autobiography, he mentions reading comic books as a kid in the 1940s, but never discusses the strip based on his persona. Now I’m wondering what an Orson Welles comic strip would have been like.
As mentioned, this was one of the featured stories in the famous Superman 30s to 70s book, an odd choice for sure.
I got that book as a kid for Christmas. I get the sense I already knew about the War of the Worlds stuff about Welles, even then.
But it was only a few years ago that I learned that Black Magic was a real film!!! My mind was completely blown!!
Anyways, this is a bonkers story but I love it. Insanity. Thanks for covering it!
Rob and Max, this was very entertaining. Thank you.
As soon as you said there was no writer credit, I though,”Orson wrote it. Or at least, wrote so much of it that no one else could take credit.” I mean, think about it. He had enough of a an ego to care how he was portrayed in any medium, and despite his prestige, he was no snob when it came to culture (roasts, talk shows, Transformers movies). It wouldn’t surprise me if he even read some comics.
This comic was the inspiration for the lyric of the unrecorded third verse of the Devi song: “If you fight a Martian fleet, you must whip it.”
You know what? Let’s ABSOLUTELY remind people of all ages that we hung Nazi leaders (after a fair trial, of course). I thought Orson’s comment was appropriate and even natural, like something you’d really say to someone who emulated Hitler. I’m an American parent, and I heartily approve this message.
Devi = Devo
Great show Rob and Max! I also read this story in the Superman from the 30s to the 70s book and also never realized this was an actual movie! Thanks for the discussion of Wayne Boring art which I have always enjoyed. The casual trip to Mars is a riot and loved the fact that no one believed him.
Thanks for the bonus episode!
Goes to show he was not always “best known for Citizen Kane”, so a very interesting segue. Black Magic and War of the Worlds would have been the two “genre” pieces he would have been known for in ’49, so it makes sense that these would mingle in the comic.
Thanks for covering it.