Superman-Tim Comics? Never heard of them. Superman, yes -- but who the hell is this TIM character?! Does Jimmy Olsen know about him?
Way back in 1942, a company called Tim Publications, Inc. used to print small, 6" x 9" booklets in black with a single color. These booklets were issued monthly, and the stores that sold them created clubs for younger kids.
The club you belonged to depended on how old you were. Older children had the Tim in Space club and the "Gene Autry-Tim" club, while younger kids had the "Superman-Tim" club, and its companion comic book: Superman-Tim comics.
UP, UP AND AWAY!
The first issue of Superman-Tim was published in 1942, just a few years after Supermans debut in Action Comics #1. The Superman-Tim comic had three purposes: First, to sell items in the Superman-Tim clothing line, second, to build moral character and teach social responsibility, and third, to create hours of fun for grade-school boys.
The Superman-Tim comics were not intended to compete with other comic books. They didn't feature traditional stories. Instead, they were more like super activity books, filled with one- or two-page features devoted to helping boys solve puzzles, construct paper planes, and grow up to be better citizens. How very 1940s-ish!
A typical issue began with an all-black cover using a one-color overlay. Covers featured Superman and Tim in various action poses, usually involving a younger boys standard fun activities: winning a trophy, going to the circus, or taking a summer vacation. The inside front covers usually featured something like Clark Kent reading a note from Tim, or reminding "the gang that Fathers Day was coming up soon. Perhaps Dad might like some Superman-Tim clothing? If he doesn't have any, he's a WOO-SHOO.
THE THREE PHASES of SUPERMAN-TIM
During its eight-year run, the Superman-Tim comic went through three distinct phases. In the first phase, the book was packed with one-page features. Young Tim was apparently a brilliant inventor in his own right. He always emphasized the value of clear and positive thinking, and, since the books were all published during the height of World War II, Tim sometimes even offered his own suggestions for better ways to kill the enemy. What a thoughtful little boy!
There were poster shots of Superman announcing yet another in the endless series of contests sponsored by the publisher, Superman and Tim solving mysteries containing secret codes only they could decipher, inventions from club members, directions for constructing everything from a birdfeeder to a paper airplane, and endless promotions for the Superman-Tim clothing line.
Kids were warned monthly not to be a WOO-SHOO, or, as the comic defined it, A kid who gets this magazine, but doesn't buy any of his clothes from the Superman-Tim store. Gee whiz, who would want to be like that? Who indeed, my young huckster, who indeed?
The publications second phase, which lasted from 1946-47, featured standard comic book stories, involving Superman and Tim having adventures together. These 16-page stories were all produced by the Siegel/Shuster Studios, creators of Superman, and they looked positively beautiful.
Reading them is like finding a whole nother Man of Steel in a parallel universe. In these stories, Tim uses the Whirlaway Watch, a device he invented with Superman to travel into the past and explore different cultures and civilizations firsthand. Not even Jimmy Olsen's famous signal watch could do that!
The final phase of Superman-Tim comics began in January 1948. This period featured a series of stories where Tim and Superman tried to rescue an American pilot trapped on a "Floating Island. The Superman-Tim comic book ceased publication in 1950.
RAREST OF THE RARE
Why are the Superman-Tim books so extremely rare? A combination of low print runs and spotty distribution, added to the fact that the books contents usually consisted of single-page features intended to be torn out of the comic and either solved or assembled, meant that most Superman-Tim comics ended up in a million pieces.
Today, Superman-Tim comics which are still intact (or close to it) are highly-prized collectors items. If youre lucky enough to come across one-- grab it! But dont give in to the urge to tear out a few pages and become a better citizen by building a giant monster robot.
Instead, keep the book in a glass case, stare at it from afar, and take it out only when youre in a mood to relive that most glorious and magical part of life: childhood!