Super Heroes Stamp Album #1 (1998)
“Book I: 1900 to 1909!”
Writer – Doug Moench
Pencillers – Paul Ryan, Angelo Torres, Joe Orlando, Joe Staton, Dan Jurgens, Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, M.D. Bright & Ernie Colon
Inkers – Doug Hazlewood, Josef Rubenstein, Tom Palmer, Mike DeCarlo, Bill Sienkiewicz & Bob Smith
Colors – Tom Ziuko, Rick Taylor, Patricia Mulvihill & Bob LeRose
Letterer – Gaspar Saladino
Postmaster General – Marvin Runyon
Alrighty folks, today we have what might be one of the more bizarre… and boring books we’re ever going to discuss here. This one was made in cooperation with the United States Postal Service in order to promote their line of Celebrate the Century Stamps.
These were ten sheets of stamps, one for each decade of the 20th Century… with 15 stamps on each highlighting important events in semi-recent United States History.
What this has to do with superheroes… well, you got me. Though, to be fair, it looks like Superman will get his own stamp in Book III. This line of comics was supposed to be an actual “stamp album”, just like it says on the cover.
You were supposed to collect the stamps, and put them in their proper spot inside this very book. We really got into that sort of thing around the turn of the century… ask anyone who collected the 50 State Quarters!
Anyhoo, this piece will likely be a bit lighter on commentary than usual, because… there’s no story here. It’s just several of our late-90’s DC Comics favorites dropping knowledge on us. As always, we’ll do the best that we can!
We open with Superman beginning our tour through the 20th Century. Are you excited? I know I’m excited. Hell, even Batman’s sorta smiling! For our first stop, Superman “The Action Ace” introduces us to Theodore Roosevelt “The Action President”. We learn of young Teddy’s health problems, and his service with the Rough Riders. Also, the circumstances which led to his becoming President of the United States.
The next stop on our tour is hosted by Wonder Woman… and she’s taking us to Ellis Island. She informs us that in the first decade of the 20th Century alone, nine million immigrants came through New York Harbor… with 4,000 passing through the Ellis Island Processing Point on an average day.
Remember Theodore Roosevelt? Well, we’re not done with him yet. This time Robin tells us the story of the first Teddy Bear. Ya see, legend has it that Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub while on a hunting trip… he considered it “unsporting”. When this story spread, a toy shop owner crafted a stuffed version of this bear to sell.
Back to Superman, and the story of the first World Series… well, after he shows off some of his powers for us, by cracking a ball into orbit… and speeding up to catch it. It was a best-of-nine series that took place in 1903, pitting the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates against the American League’s Boston Pilgrims (later Red Sox). The Pilgrims would win it in eight!
Off to Muir Woods with Connor Hawke, where we learn a bit about preservationist John Muir. Dude quit his job and walked 1,000 miles across the country. He had founded The Sierra Club in 1892 in attempt to preserve the Yosemite Region from loggin and whatnot. He even became pals with the aforementioned (several times) Teddy Roosevelt.
Back to Robin for the quick and dirty on Crayola Crayons. Did you know that crayons are made out of chalk and oil? Well, you do now.
Over to Wonder Woman for a look at “the ideal woman”… and no, we’re not talking about Diana. This is the Gibson Girl… a creation of an artist named Charles Dana Gibson that appeared in a humor magazine. Homeboy got paid, and her look became “the” look many women would aspire toward.
Next stop, Kitty Hawk… where Superman tells us all about Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight. He’s probably the most fitting hero to discuss these fellas, no?
Then Kyle Rayner tells us all about the first American blockbuster film, “The Great Train Robbery”. Anyone ever see it? I haven’t. Looks like it’s only 12 minutes long… I guess it might be worth a look.
Okay, 12 minutes and 10 seconds. Anyhoo, Kyle informs us that movie-goers actually freaked out when the gunslinger in the film started firing off shots toward the camera. Imagine living in a time like that?
Off to St. Louis so Wonder Woman can tell us all about the 1904 World’s Fair. Looks like there were a whole lot of important concepts and ideas introduced, including such mundane things as ice cream cones, iced tea, and hamburgers! What a time to be alive!
Batman then fills us in on the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act. A story that begins with an old favorite of mine, the Snake-Oil Salesman. Looks like these potions and tinctures weren’t as harmless as you might think though… many were laced with stimulants. I’m sure that wasn’t always a bad thing for the patrons, however.
Next, our man Steel tells us about William Edward Burghardt DuBois… which includes such concepts as Jim Crow Laws… and leads to race riots and the eventual formation of the NAACP. Steel ends his tale by informing us that, prior to his passing, W.E.B. DuBois renounced his American citizenship and spent his final days in Ghana, Africa.
Off to… maybe Metropolis, where Superman takes a break from attending to a city-full of crumbling skyscrapers to tell us all about Frank Lloyd Wright. All I knew about this fella was his more Arizona-centric dealings… and the fact that we have a major road named after him out this way. I used to work over the road, and had to visit his Taliesin West (which he used as a “winter home”) several times. Unfortunately his vision didn’t help Arizona all that much… as we’re still very much “cookie cutter” as far as housing, at least in the major metropolitan areas.
Next up, the Flash tells us about the Model T Ford, and how Henry Ford launched the second Industrial Revolution in America. Wowsa!
The final stop on this tour is guided by Batman, as he slinks down the back alleys to tell us about Ash Can Printing. As comics enthusiasts, we’ve no doubt heard the word “ashcan” before… but this is a bit different. This is an art movement, where folks would paint “plain or ugly subjects”… gritty realistic images which may include things like “dirty alleys or garbage cans”. In comics, I think we just call that the 1980’s.
And so, we’ve made it through the first decade of the 20th Century! Are you excited for the next ten years? Well, Batman certainly is! Just look at that grin.
Well, that was kinda dry, wun’tit?
It’s difficult to really analyze something like this… so we’re not going to.
Upon reading this, I feel like these were neat little succinct looks at American History… which, I think any interested young person (or adult, I guess) could get something from. All told, not a bad package insofar as the delivery of the information. It was easy to read, and (just barely) more engaging than a textbook. Probably not the worst way to introduce a youngster to the material.
The art… was kind of a mixed bag. Doesn’t really feel like anybody involved on that side of the table (outside of a couple) really brought their “A” Game. I’m never really a fan of “jam” issues, however, considering what this book is all about, I suppose I could live with it.
Overall… a pretty strange little novelty. It might not be worth your time to read… but, as an interesting piece for your collection, I’d say it might just be worth having. I definitely wouldn’t spend more than a buck or two… though, I might nudge up if the book came complete with stamps already included.
And so, we wrap up April… when you come back tomorrow, you might wanna wear shades because our future’s so… well, you know.