Superheroes on super postcards

As a child I read every comic book printed, but I never collected them in spite of my mania for accumulating everything from pebbles to paper napkins. No doubt some rare early issues went through my hands, but the deal with my dad was: Read and return.

He had a newsstand in his drug store and brought home one of each issue, then took them back to throw in a box with other unsold magazines that were returned to the distributor.  It didn’t make him popular with the news agency that had to sort them and tear off covers to receive credit, but it was all in the family. The manager married my aunt.  (By the way, if you see piles of coverless books for sale today, they’re stolen.)

No wonder I found Dick and Jane readers painfully dull!  Who could care whether Sally’s cat climbed a tree after reading Batman or Superman’s adventures? And, I have to confess, I’ve seen all the superhero movies, including this summer’s Black Knight, Hellboy II and Ironman.

It goes without saying that I jump at the chance to add superhero postcards to my collection. They’re not terribly common, probably because copyright laws discourage unauthorized reproduction of the comic strip heroes, and they’re not especially old either. Superman, the grand old man of incredible heroes, debuted 70 years ago, and the postcards I’ve gathered are considerably more recent.

A good beginning to a superhero collection is a set of Marvel Comics cards. They were obviously  issued in book form, since one end of each card is perforated. Still a great find, they picture all the major Marvel heroes from the 1940s to the ’70s. Captain America leads the way with his team, the Avengers. It includes some lesser known characters such as Red Skull, an enemy sent against him by Hitler himself. In all, there are 32 cards in the set, including famous superheroes like Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel (from the politically correct ’60s), X-Men, Daredevil, Thor, his enemy Loki, and the Invaders, a team that helped fight World War II.

Superman is in a class by himself, and Metropolis, Ill., has claimed him as their favorite hometown boy. One continental size postcard shows the “Largest Superman Mural in the World.”  Another, with multiple views, shows a billboard painting of Superman, a painting on the town’s water tower, a Superman award and Superman’s only official phone booth. You almost expect him to be in front of the town hall handing out autographs. A few years ago DC comics issued a limited edition reproduction of the Superman #1 comic book. It came with a postcard of the historical cover which prompted me to buy a comic book for the first time since my children stopped reading them. For Batman fans, postcards copyright 1966 play into the popularity of the TV series with balloons of sometimes humorous dialogue. They were published by National Periodical Publications and printed by Dexter Press. I have Series #1, which has 10 cards. I don’t know if other series were actually published, but here’s a hint about Dexter Press cards. They tend to get cloudy or smudgy, but they can be restored with a light coat of gloss acrylic spray available in most craft stores. Follow directions on the can and practice on a common card first.

The U.S. Postal Service has issued series of stamps picturing superheroes and comic book covers. Finding (or creating) postcards franked with them can also make nice additions to a superhero collection.

Given their scarcity, superhero postcards are relatively inexpensive, but if the movies are any indication, they have great future potential.

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