The Architecture of Superman: A Brief History of the Daily Planet

 

first daily planet
The first appearance of the iconic Daily Planet building in the “The Arctic Giant,” the fourth episode of the Superman cartoon created by Fleischer Studios. Original airdate: February 26, 1942

“Look! Up in the Sky!”
“It’s a bird!”
“It’s a plane!”
“It’s a giant metal globe hurtling toward us that will surely result in our demise! Oh, nevermind…Superman took care of it.”

Whenever disaster strikes Superman’s Metropolis, it seems that the first building damaged in the comic book city is the Daily Planet – home to mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, his best buddy Jimmy Olsen, and his gal pal and sometimes rival Lois Lane. The enormous globe atop the Daily Planet building is unmistakable on the Metropolis skyline and might as well be a bulls-eye for super villains bent on destroying the city. But pedestrians know that when it falls –and inevitably, it falls– Superman will swoop in at the last minute and save them all (The globe, however, isn’t always so lucky. The sculpture budget for that building must be absolutely astronomical).

Though well known today, the Daily Planet building wasn’t always so critical to the Superman mythos. In fact, when the Man of Steel made his 1938 debut in the page of Action Comics #1, it didn’t exist at all. Back then, Clark Kent worked for the The Daily Star, in a building of no particular architectural significance because, well, there was no significant architecture in those early comics. The buildings were all drawn as basic, generic backdrops with little distinguishing features that did little more than indicate some abstract idea of “city”.

superman daily star
Clark Kent working at The Daily Star in Action Comics #1. Rest assured, Superman puts a stop to the wife-beating mentioned in the final panel. (image: Art by Joe Shuster, via Comic Book Resources)

As noted by Brian Cronin, author of Was Superman a Spy? and the blog Comic Book Legends Revealed, Kent’s byline didn’t officially appear under the masthead of a paper called The Daily Planet until the 1940 Superman radio show, which, due to the nature of the medium, obviously couldn’t go into great detail about the building. That same year, The Daily Star became The Daily Planet.

But the lack of any identifiable architecture in these early representations of the Planet hasn’t stopped readers from speculating on the architectural origin of the most famous fictitious edifices in funnybooks. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland lays claim to the original Daily Planet. But so too does Toronto. And a strong case can be made for New York. So what was the true inspiration behind the iconic Daily Planet building?

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