Monday, June 29, 2009

The Superman Story (A repost)

Expect this to be a review in parts as I simply kept finding more and more images I wanted to scan and more and more of the frenetic, high Silver Age plot I wanted to either gently chide, openly admire or even more openly mock. I'm still figuring out the new scanner, but I really have wanted to review this paperback my wife found for me in a second hand store for quite some time now.Supermancover

Entitled "The Superman Story" it's a black and white paperback reprinting of Superman's origin and, at the same time, it's a hilariously convoluted... well, why should I spoil it for you? We won't even get half way through all of the crazy in this one little paperback today.


I love the idea that he knows he can melt steel with his eyes, but it never occurs to him that if he does that with glasses on he'll melt the lenses. I know I would do that.


Yes, the Metropolis World's Fair. You see, while the rest of the world has to share one World's Fair, the city of Metropolis gets a completely separate World's Fair of its own. This is why I love Marty Pasko. Well, this, and the fact that he wrote this story, where we find out that Superman is subconsciously hypnotizing every single person he meets.

Anyway, here we are at the Metropolis World's Fair and its magnificent Superman Pavilion, where throngs of onlookers will pass between Superman's magnificent thighs, directly underneath a twenty foot high super scale replica of his spandex clad genitalia, and enter into a display that contains some of the most magnificent artifacts in Superman's long history of crime fighting.

For instance, Superman is fully willing to donate the only thing in the world that can kill him, freakishly mutate him or permanently steal his powers

Supermanbw4Yeah, I personally might have balked at that. Not old Supes, though. As long as they stick the Kryptonite behind leaded glass he is totally okay with what is essentially a glorified carnival having the radioactive rocks that are more or less his only real weakness just displayed for any rube to break the glass and take him out.

The pavilion is ostensibly part of an attempt to donate money to charity, probably because Martin Pasko realized that it wouldn't be very Superman-like to go in for a huge celebration of, well, himself without some more noble motivation than 'wow, a big statue of me, cool!' I don't hold it against him - the fact that a guy who looks just like Colonel Sanders ends up being the dude behind the whole thing, or that Colonel Sanders is really just a puppet for an even more sinister mastermind (I know, you're wondering who could possibly outdo Col. Sanders as the story's villain... well, read on, my friend, although I won't actually be answering that question tonight... I am a tease.) is really more important than whatever flimsy justification we needed to embrace to get us scenes like this.

Supermanbw2Yes, that's Jor-El's infamous shooting of his son's dog into space. The best part is, the narrative chooses to show us the death of Krypton via Superman's use of a telepathic memory probe he invented as a teenager by studying a cache of Kryptonian weapons that included devices that could project convicted criminals into another dimension where they were doomed to exist forever as bodiless phantoms. This is so awesome. It's like you or I discovering how to invent an iPod by studying the gas chamber, really. You'll also notice the totally demented subplot of this story, which is that while wandering around the Superman pavilion coming insanely close to revealing his secret identity to a crowd of gawkers and pointing out exactly where in the exhibition hall they can find the only rocks in the world that could kill him dead, Superman is also having his memories stolen and downloaded into a clone of himself being grown and aged to adulthood at an accelerated rate in the basement.

No, seriously. That's what's happening. Did I mention that I love Marty Pasko?

Supermanbw6So yeah, there's a Blazing Saddles homage of Smallville in the basement. Everything Superman is remembering upstairs, his clone is being walked through with a fantastic beanie on his head below. And this is just a subplot. Of course, this does beg the question of what things, exactly, Superman is remembering upstairs. And the answer is, the Kent family and their incredible sense of laissez-faire when it comes to parenting. As you can see in the following picture, the Kent family knows that if you coddle your children they'll ultimately grow up to be no good. So it's best to let them get rough and tumble with the livestock as soon as possible.

Supermanbw1Some folks might not let their toddlers play with angry cattle. But if Jonathan Kent learned anything from his own father, it was that if you spare the gore, you spoil the child. Also, I know full well that in the back of Jonathan's head, he's secretly chortling at all the stumps he'll be able to pull up without breaking any more axles on his Zetar. Martha, meanwhile, is told by her son that he can see objects through walls and decides, basically, to haltingly restate that very fact in case the kid didn't remember what he just told her two seconds earlier. Then again, these are the folks who, upon finding a baby near the site of an exploded rocket ship, just cover the whole thing up and get away with it, managing to conceal not only the extraterrestrial infant but also his tremendously advanced spacecraft complete with a prototype faster than light engine composed of materials that actually become nigh-indestructable in our solar system. They may seem like simple farm folk but it's clear that the Kents taught Jason Bourne everything he knows about thwarting the US Intelligence community.

Anyway, after making sure that their super-baby meets all the criteria in their checklist, Jonathan makes him wear balloons and flies him around like a kite.

Supermanbw5You never believe me, do you? You know, Jor-El gets a lot of grief for basically depopulating Krypton's pet stores in order to fire every monkey and dog he could get his hands on into space, but at least he was trying to save everyone in his world from a violent, explosive death. What the heck is the reasoning behind Jonathan and Martha's decision to raise their adoptive son to wear a leotard and get shot at, and at what point in that process did the balloon harness first crop up? Were they drunk? I don't know if they make moonshine in Kansas but I have to wonder. Soon, however, our young hero to be gets to meet his best friend.

Supermanbw9If you think I'm going to snark on a picture that cute, you're wrong. Is that not the cutest thing? Look at his little tail wag! He's so glad that Jor-El strapped him into an untested missile and launched him into the cold, cruel vacuum of space. He's like Laika with a happy ending. Most people don't get why Krypto is such an integral part of the Superman mythology. Jon Morris once made an excellent point that Superboy is the boy who ultimately gets his every wish granted, and it's not until he grows up and matures and stops wanting the selfish things of a childhood heart that this quality fades... the safe arrival of Krypto on Earth to become Superboy's confidant and friend certainly fills that kind of role.

Supermanbw10The reason I love Krypto is for scenes like the above. The idea that the ultimate good son and formative hero requires the stabilizing influence of a good dog to romp with, and the unique bond they shared as the only other being who could possibly understand the subtle differences in life as a super being at that time, in that place, just warms all the cockles of my horrible, blistered, black heart. Love for that dog coats each nook and cranny in an emotional Thomas English Muffin of contentment.

Not all was peaches and cream in Superman's trip down memory lane, however. We do get to see that Kryptonians who are shot into space and crash land on alien worlds use every part of the spaceship when they decide to become superheroes. Even the cockpit!

Supermanbw8He uses his baby blankets, the seatbelt, the cockpit glass, a sliver of the frame as a needle, and even the seat upholstery to make his boots! Seriously, it's like that ship is a buffalo and he's a stereotype.

I may dig the copy out again and post more of it if folks are interested. Heck, I have scans of all sorts of old Superman stories to make fun of.

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