Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Jim Shooter is in the house (Legion Clubhouse, Fortress of Solitude, whatever)

My Silver Age rereading has now reached the summer of ’66, which means teenage Jim Shooter is DC’s new writing star. His Legion of Super-Heroes work is what he’s best remembered for (from that era — obviously he did a shit ton of stuff after the Silver Age) but he also worked on other Mort Weisinger books, including Action #340’s story “The Power of the Parasite.”

It’s a solid yarn. Max Jensen is a flunkie at a research lab, dimwitted enough to think the container of radioactive waste he’s disposing of secretly conceals the lab’s payroll. When he opens the container the radiation turns him into an energy vampire, draining strength and other abilities from anyone within a few yards of him. Trouble is, his body burns up energy almost as fast as it takes it in. If only there were someone who had lots and lots of energy to keep him going …

The Direct Currents for this issue described the Parasite as someone who could drain Superman’s powers without magic or kryptonite; that’s less startling now but back then it was a shocker. You just couldn’t do that to Superman that easily!

What struck me rereading the issue is that Shooter already has a handle on fight scenes, and how to write Superman.Knowing Shooter’s inspiration was Marvel comics of the same era, it’s easy to spot. This resembles the way Lee wrote the Thing on several occasions, someone who could be overpowered but would never, never quit. Regardless of the source, it works. The scene also shows Superman has combat skills, something I often see underestimated.

As a writer, I’m also impressed Shooter knew how to tell stories this well at the age of fifteen. I wouldn’t master my craft until I was a lot older.

#SFWApro. Covers by Curt Swan, interior page by Al Plastino.



  1. Jeff Nettleton

    Shooter was a good, occasionally great writer, especially in that era. he had built up the ego and resentments and, though he hardly wrote liberated women (who did, back then?) he hadn’t yet fell into full on misogyny, like far too much of his later work, or the obsession with godlike powers. Always seemed like he would have been better served to just be a writer and not an editor.

    1. I don’t think he had any trouble writing the Legion women as competent and a match for the men. His story where the evil matriarchy recruits the female Legionnaires was yeah, a typical response to feminism (see: Lady Liberators)
      I remember his issues with gays from later in his career (the infamous Hulk issue), not so much any misogyny (not doubting you, just not recalling anything in particular).
      I do agree I liked him better as a writer but I know plenty of people who rate him higher as an editor than I do.

  2. Le Messor

    A lot of people underestimate Superman by overestimating him. ie: ‘He has all these powers; then that must be *all* he has!’ Looks like Shooter didn’t.

    I heard he was notoriously arrogant as Marvels EIC, but most of their best comics came during his tenure. (Or am I confusing him with someone else?)

    1. I love Manchester Black’s line from “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” to the effect that “He had a plan! I didn’t think he did plans!”
      For a lot of people yes, Shooter’s tenure produced awesome stuff; I remember being dissatisfied by a lot of it though this long after I’m not sure I could say why.

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