Saturday August 08, 2020
Richard Dix, Man of Steel
I spotted this poster last month or the month before when I was leafing through past issues of The Motion Picture Herald, a trade publication for the movie industry in the 1930s, '40s, etc. (I've since moved on to newspapers.com: warning.)
I'll have to check out the movie one day. It's the poster I'm fascinated with. Four things:
- The drawing of Dix
- The heavy drop shadow of the title
- The target,symbol on the back
- “Duke Ellis, man of steel”
All of it feels like a template for early Siegel/Shuster Superman. It's ur-Superman stuff and thus ur-superhero stuff. It's laying the groundwork for the next century of wish-fulfillment fantasy.
Yes, I know it's not the template but I'm sure this kind of stuff was around a lot in the 1930s and I'm sure it was influential. And we know Jerry Siegel at least dug this kind of stuff. In Action Comics No. 10, Superman becomes just this, a fugitive from a chain gang, in order to expose a corrupt, sadistic superintendent.
Put it this way: If you were making a movie about Siegel and Shuster and the origins of Superman, a not-bad opening would be the two Cleveland boys coming out of this movie and staring at the poster.