Back in an age where ‘Limited Edition’ meant just that, this hardback behemoth was released to celebrate the Man of Steel’s 50th anniversary in 1988 and restricted to 2500 copies. Published by Russ Cochrane Ltd. In association with DC Comics and grandly mounted inside a slipcover box embossed with a metallic ‘S’ shield, (bottom pic) ‘The Adventures Of Superman Collecting’ created and designed by Harry Matetsky (written and edited by Amanda Matetsky) is a celebration of paraphernalia charting the evolution of Superman’s comic origins to the multi-million, multi-media property of ‘today’.
Beautifully presented, this volume opens with a detailed summary of Siegel & Shuster’s creation and their battle to bring it to a wider audience before abandoning any further insights in favour of a simple picture book showcasing a plethora of rare and obscure vintage treasures (nicely photographed by Robert Scott) contributed for documentation by many a dedicated fan.
Less flashy and more conservative than Chip Kidd’s Batman Collected published some years later, there is still much here to please the nostalgic eye, such as the colour-guide celluloid for Max Fleisher’s Superman cartoon and the first jointed Superman doll (released by the Ideal Novelty & Toy Co. in 1940). However In its 215 pages, you would be forgiven for expecting more coverage of action figures yet curiously, few more are mentioned save for an overcrowded group shot spread over two pages at the back. This means there is no mention of the revolutionary Mego figures in either scale of the late ’70’s – a baffling omission.
Thankfully, there are features devoted to merchandise derived from Superman’s appearance in other media, including the cartoons, Movie serials and TV Series. The Superman Movies are also bestowed with two pages per picture (second & third pics) though the range of memorabilia on show is barely representative of the unprecedented marketing drive initiated by Warner Brothers at the time.
And therein lies the only criticism you could possibly level at this volume, that for all its grandiose presentation there eventually amounts to little more than an elaborate auction catalogue in content. Perhaps this explains why (besides the expense – I first saw this book 20 years ago with a £100 cover price!) after an initial rush, sales dwindled and perfect, unread copies still occasionally become available. An absolute must for the Superman historian, and to date still the definitive (and only) book on the subject, this edition is long overdue an update, or at least, a well-earned Volume II…