You’d think that super-heroes make a good theme for post stamps. After all, even the blandest version of the man-in-tights is iconic enough to appeal to a great audience. Not so, though. Naturally, there are stamps galore from the “exotic” countries – rough, badly designed rush jobs meant to make a fast buck. Strangely, about the only super-hero to consistently make it on post stamps, is Superman himself, the original Spandex Sporter.
The best Superman stamp, in my opinion, is a single issue from the United States from the 1998 150-stamp maxi series “Celebrate The Century”. It’s a humble 32-cent affair featuring artwork from one of the first Superman stories, and I like it a lot for its simplicity, and for the iconic values of the image used, how it’s cropped and how the colours are hightened by (again) a very light yellow.
Joe Shuster, who created Superman in 1938 together with Jerry Siegel, was of Canadian nationality. It’s no surprise then that Superman features heavily in a special 5-part Superheroes issue by the Canada Post Corporation from 1995. In addition to Superman, the stamps also feature Golden Age Canadian comics characters Johnny Canuck and Nelvana, as well as the more nationalistic heroes from the late 70’s and early 80’s, Captain Canuck and Fleur De Lys. Incidentally, this issue was accompanied by an actual comic book by Ronn Sutton, in which young stamp enthousiast Perf and generic hero Gauge (or Odonto) save the World Philatelic Exhibition from the evil Dr. Pane (or Bloc).
All in all, issues with a high production value. Which, sadly, cannot be said about the much heralded but very shoddily procuded Super Heroes Chapter One that the USPS issued in 2005, featuring ten major DC characters (only to be followed in 2006 by Chapter Two, which featured Marvel characters). Not only is it a bad idea to shrink cover art to a fraction of its original size (especially with currently prevalent styles), if you decide to cut your characters likenesses from artwork that was not especially created for a particular use, at least pick artwork that can be used for that purpose, and does not look like it’s been scissored out of a comic book by some blindfolded individual.
Finally, a recent set, published by the Jersey Post Authority to celebrate the appearance of Jersey-born actor Henry Cavill in the 2013 film, Man Of Steel. Six different stamps were included in that issue, each with a different “super power” ranging from a transparent background, over foil layers and thermochromic ink to a crushed granite finish and glow-in the dark lettering. The cherry on the cake was a lenticular sheetlet with actual footage from the film. Which sounds suspiciously like the variant covers that were all the rage in the 1990’s.