Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!
Superman #312 – June, 1977
Cover art by José Luis García-López
At first glance, Superman #312, appears to be a pretty generic comic book cover and not necessarily the type which we would feature here at Classic Comic Cover Corner, but in the midst of all the turmoil in the Middle-East, racial tension right here in the homeland, the threat of an Ebola pandemic, and the chaotic weather tied to global warming, an event took place this past week that somehow moved all of those problems to the back burner and brought this particular comic book into focus.
Of course, I’m talking about the unfortunate suicide of actor and comedian, Robin Williams, a man who entertained millions of people, and more importantly, made them laugh hysterically. It seems like everyone and their mother has weighed-in on this tragedy, a testament to the love our nation has for this man and his work, and if I may be so bold, I’d like to use my soapbox this Sunday to offer my own thoughts and remembrances of Mr. Williams.
As a kid in 1970’s Northern Arizona, we only received one television channel, and unfortunately it wasn’t the one that carried the popular Mork & Mindy TV show where Robin Williams’ crazy antics made him a bona fide star and a household name; but I still knew about the actor and saw his funny Orkian face everywhere and on everything from lunch pails to trading cards and T-shirts.
In 1980, I was actually fortunate enough to see Williams perform at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, in probably his first “concert” tour (see Reality…What a Concept), at what was arguably the height of his Mork popularity, and I had never seen anything like it, before or since. It was like watching an unpredictable and hilarious madman on stage, fueled by dangerous atomic energy that was barely being contained.
I saw the performer again a few years back at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, and even though he had mellowed a little with age, he still had that unbridled frenetic energy; and my wife and I were shocked to learn he had to have heart surgery just a few days after that show.
Of course, Williams was a huge movie star as well and his first big screen appearance is one of my favorites, Robert Altman’s musical film, Popeye. The actor completely embodied the one-eyed sailor-man, and the movie has a special place in my heart because it was the first film I saw after completing Navy boot-camp (so maybe it’s a sailor thing.)
A couple of years later, Williams appeared in another of my favorites, his first “serious” role in The World According to Garp, where he proved he was so much more than just a crazy comedian. But my favorite Robin Williams film is one that has gotten a lot of attention since his death, but that a lot of people were not previously aware of, 1998’s What Dreams May Come, where he plays a lost soul searching through the afterlife trying to save his wife, who has (now ironically) committed suicide. It’s a beautiful film that is very highly recommended.
So, what, you are probably asking, does any of this have to do with Superman? Well, through the myriad of online Williams tributes that have flooded the Internet the past week, one in particular caught my eye. There was a picture of Mork reading a Superman comic book, from a Mork & Mindy episode, “My Dad Can’t Beat Up Anybody,” where Mork pretends to be a superhero. After scouring the web, I was finally able to figure out which issue he was holding in his hands, and there you have the featured comic, Superman #312.
While looking for information about this book and the Mork & Mindy episode it is seen in, I came across a very good article on the supermanhomepage.com fan site, where I learned that Williams and Superman actor, Christopher Reeve, were actually longtime friends who had attended the Juilliard performing arts school together in the early seventies. You can read about it HERE.
In this ugly world we live in, it’s incredibly sad to have lost a super-powered laugh-maker like Robin Williams, just when we need him most. In tragedies like this, it is always mind-boggling to learn that a person with the ability to make millions of people happy could be so unhappy themselves. There are some things that even Superman can’t save us from.
Learn how you can better understand suicide and how to help prevent it at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
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