Archive for the ‘The Silver Age with Rob’ Category
Right around the transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, comics loved to start getting into some real serious shit, both in regular series and non-canon PSA comics presented by third party organizations. Marvel cranked out more of these than anybody so a crazy amount of these involved your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A lot of these PSA comics managed to score some industry greats too, what with Danny Fingeroth telling us about epilepsy awareness, Bill Rosemann getting kids to respect power tools, and Howard Mackie and Al Milgrom warning us about proper tooth brushing habits (yeah, all of these are real books).
But forget those stories. This is far and away my favorite of all the bizarre Spider-Man PSAs, Spider-Man Vs. The Prodigy, in which he faces his most heinous villain yet: teenage boners!
In 1976, Planed Parenthood decided that there were way too many kids running around, fucking the bejeezus out of one another. One call to Marvel later and we end up with one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read, written by Ann Robinson (who I’m pretty sure wasn’t normally a writer, but the lady in charge of Marvel’s licensing) and penciled by the legendary Ross Andru.
Our PSA starts with Spider-Man climbing the Pan Am building and talking smack on Dr. J when he notices a bunch of teenagers filing into a helicopter. Immediately, Spider-Man gets suspicious. These kids don’t look upper class and look more like “they should be home listening to their new Henry Gross albums.” It’s worth noting that Ann Robinson was married to record producer Tommy West, the guy who produced Henry Gross’ albums around this time. Promoting your husbands’ albums in a quip made by Spider-Man in a free book distributed to kids by Planned Parenthood? Classy!
We cut to a giant mansion where a space alien from the planet Intellectia monologues about his plan to get on national television and use his “magnetic monotone” (according to the caption, his spaceship has shitty shields and the radiation absorbed while passing through the Earth’s ionosphere caused him to get the power to have a persuasive sounding voice) to brainwash America’s youth into making “stupid mistakes.” And what is his plan? Telling them to fuck, kidnapping the babies, and taking them back to Intellectia for child labor!
Back at the Pan Am building, Spidey decides to attach himself to the helicopter and hitch a ride to wherever it’s going. Of course, it ends up at the mansion. As soon as the helicopter lands, the kids are ushered into a classroom where the alien begins teaching them that grown-ups tell them to wait to have sex because they secretly don’t want kids to have a good time. He then tells the kids that unprotected wanton sex is the only way for a teenage boy to “prove hes a man.” And when hes questioned by some of the kids about how that goes against everything their sex ed teachers said, he just replies that getting pregnant is good for you because it “Clears up acne.” After finding out about his upcoming appearance on national television, Spider-Man has heard enough. He makes a totally not-at-all dated Marcus Welby, M.D. joke and springs into action.
Well, Spider-Man doesn’t get far before he’s spotted by the machine gun-wielding guards who chase him onto the roof. Spider-Man crouches down and pretends to be a gargoyle (seriously) but that doesn’t work because the guards aren’t complete idiots. Spidey knocks them all out between panels and makes his way to the mansion’s private TV studio. He waits outside for the broadcast to start and then smashes the window and rips off the alien’s mask revealing to the world that he actually just kinda looks like a green Sinestro. After Spider-Man wags his finger at the alien for a couple panels, he decides that he needs to “end the power of the Prodigy” (the first time the alien is given a name) and shoots webbing down his throat. One thumbs up to the camera later and the story abruptly ends.
The last three pages of this 18 page book are dedicated to Spidey Facts about everything sex and advertisements for other Planned Parenthood literature with weird titles (what the hell is The Sex Alphabet?). Man, people in the 1970s believed some weird shit. My favorites are that “masturbation won’t make you insane” and that “doctors are both men and women and so are nurses.” You know what? Here. I’ll just show you that whole awkward page.
So, there you have it. The best of the worst of the Bronze Age Marvel comics PSAs. You know, for being as awkward and as terribly written as this book is, Ross Andru still seems to have given it his all. At least it has that going for it, right?
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If you wanted to get laid in the mid-60s, it was easy. All you needed was a Vespa, a fistful of amphetamines, and a firm grasp on all things British Invasion-y. DC Comics, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cash in on mod culture with Swing With Scooter, a book about Scooter, a Paul McCartney clone, quitting his band and moving to the U.S. to live life as a normal teenager. Plus, the book was written by Jack Miller (creator of Rip Hunter) and drawn by Joe Orlando, one of the greatest artists to ever work on Daredevil! There’s no way this could go wrong unless, oh, let’s say John Lennon claims the Beatles are “more popular than Jesus” thing and the British Invasion going belly up. So what is DC to do? How about replace Miller and Orlando with Henry Boltinoff and Henry Scarpelli and turn the whole damn thing into another fucking Archie clone? Perfect! Here’s November 1968′s Swing With Scooter #15 (a triple-feature!).
Well, before we get too far into this, I guess you should know who all Scooter’s friends are. Sylvester’s the klutz who overeats (Jughead?), Kenny’s the player (Reggie?), Penny’s the rich brunette who wants to fuck Scooter (Veronica?), Cookie’s the not rich girl who wants to fuck Scooter (Betty?), and Malibu’s the vampire (um, Morbius?). Yeah, one of these things is not like the others.
Anyways, our first story (titled “Will the REAL Princess Please Step Forward?”) starts out poolside at Penny’s place. She gets a letter that Koobla Kin, the sultan of oil-rich Salti-Arraba, and his daughter are coming to visit. Everybody is psyched about it (with the exception of Malibu, who’s pissed that Salti-Arraba isn’t a democratic country) and decides to welcome the sultan by being as culturally insensitive as possible. Donning some Arabian costumes, the gang heads outside in time to greet the sultan, Sherry (his Americanized daughter), and Prince Amid (the overweight douchebag oil tycoon the sultan’s forcing Sherry to marry). Let the stereotyped hijinx begin!
Later on, Sherry reveals to Scooter that she doesn’t want to marry Amid, instead pining for Nikel Oozee, the guitar player for some garage rock band. Since Scooter has to get involved with everything, he calls up Oozee who immediately writes a song for, runs away with, and marries Sherry (well, that was fucking easy). Of course, the second Sherry’s gone, Amid shows up asking for her. Scooter decides to deal with this in the weirdest way possible, dressing up in a harem costume and running around flirting with the prince. Of course, this dumbass plan is ruined when the prince rips off Scooters’ pants (hello, international incident).
Koobla Kin captures Scooter and the gang, telling them that he’s going to have them tortured and executed. Fortunately for them, Koobla’s adviser runs in to tell him that Amid’s 17 oil wells all dried up (at once?) and that he’s broke. Malibu tells the sultan that Oozee’s band just got their sixth gold record (who he didn’t mention this sooner, I’ll never know) and he’s rich as fuck. In celebration, the sultan decides the kids won’t get brutally murdered, and runs off to drum for Oozee. A-yup.
Our second story, “Lover, Lover, Run for Cover,” is pretty much the same joke over and over again for about six pages (at least it’s Joe Orlando’s art again). Kenny wants to fuck some new girl in town named Ginger. Not having it, the gang and Ginger decide that he’s due for a good old0fashioned cockblocking. They go back to her place where Scooter and Cookie lie in wait, disguised as her parents. They run away, but Ginger wants to look at some house for sale. The real estate agent (Sylvester in disguises) mentions marriage and, once again, they run away. They decide to get a soda and head to a local diner, where the gang’s set up a wedding rehearsal. It just so happens, Ginger’s pro-wrestler brother, Ferdinand, is there as well. Kenny insults Ferdinand who then jumps on the back of Kenny’s Vespa and the story just kinda ends there. Moral of this story: Scooter and his friends are dicks.
Story three! “Sink or Swim!” Scooter and Penny come home from a school and discovers that his Aunt Hatta bought a elephant-shaped vase thing. Because this is an Archie rip-off, it is promptly smashed. They run to the local shop to buy a replacement but, much to their dismay, the shopkeeper says it’s “very rare” (despite having a ton under the counter) and wants $80. Since Scooter apparently spent all his rock star money on blow, he’s broke. Fortunately, Penny’s dad, J.P. Moneybucks (subtle) has a job opening as a lifeguard on his private beach. After flat out refusing, he gives him the job anyways. Problem solved!
Or so you’d think. For no real reason, Sylvester and Malibu decide to get him fired by throwing a fake shark in the water and pretending they need rescuing (how that’d get him fired, I don’t know). Before they have the chance, Moneybucks finds the fake shark and confiscates it.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Penny is putting the moves on Scooter and Cookie is jealous. She decides to get his attention by pulling a Sandlot and pretending to drown. As soon as she gets out in the water, though, a shark fin pops up. For some reason, Scooter assumes it’s the fake shark that nobody had yet mentioned to him and he rushes out to “make like Aquaman.” He punches the shark in the head and brings Cookie to shore just in time to see Moneybucks walk up with the fake shark. For some reason, Moneybucks just gives him the $80 and fires him. Scooter and Penny go out, buy the vase, and set it back up just in time for Aunt Hatta to talk about how ugly it is and throw it in the trash. Cue this sound clip.
So, yeah, even after the Archie-fication of Swing With Scooter the book lasted until issue #36. And it’s not like DC didn’t know what they were doing, Scarpelli had all ready been doing some more-cartoonish style work in books like DC’s own Stanley and His Monster and Dell’s Bewitched and Beverly Hillbillies books. Funny thing is, before Swing With Scooter, he’d only done one Archie story, a one-page in February 1968′s Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals #44. It wasn’t really until around 1987 that he really started working with the Riverdale crowd, including the cover for 1994′s bizarre Archie Meets the Punisher crossover (hell yeah, I did my research). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to The Kinks and read way, way too much Jean-Paul Sartre.
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For writing extensively about the Silver Age, it’s a wonder I’ve had yet to touch upon anything Marvel, specifically any of the bajillion collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. These two are responsible for the X-Men, Thor, Hercules, Hulk, Iron Man, and Nick Fury. I mean, come on, if that ain’t prolific, nothing is. And, while most of their books seemed to be somewhat more serious than DC’s books from the same era, Lee and Kirby seemed to write another of their creations, the Fantastic Four, as a bit more fantastical (hence the name, I guess). Let’s take a look at January 1963′s The Fantastic Four #10.
The issue starts out with Mr. Fantastic using his patented vibra-light process in his radioactive x-ray camera to try and help Sue control her invisibility. By the way, it’s worth noting that, while Star Trek may have perfected it, the Fantastic Four more or less invented bullshit technobabble (which this issue is full of). Anyways, he manages to take a picture of her while she’s invisible which I guess is good news or something. Before they can explain how that even begins to make sense, Johnny Storm spots the emergency signal flare out the window! To the Fantasti-Car!
Except it turns out that Reed’s nuclear lock is stuck and they can’t get into the garage. We are then treated to a full page of Reed stretching his arm under the door, trying to feel around for the Fantasti-Car. He fails, but Johnny discovers that he can “concentrate his flame so much that it burns without heat” (um, what?) and pops open the lock. For some inexplicable reason, Reed then decides that it’d be faster to walk anyways, rendering that entire sequence completely pointless. After Sue almost gets killed crossing the street and Reed almost gets his clothes ripped off by insane fans, they show up at Alicia Masters’ doorstep to discover that the Thing just wanted to show them Alica’s sculptures of various supervillains.
Meanwhile, across town, Doctor Doom shows up at the office of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Feel free to take a few seconds and let that last sentence really sink in. Turns out that Earth-616′s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are BFFs with all the heroes. Anyways, Doom demands that Stan call up Mr. Fantastic and somehow get him to the office. Reed suits up and heads on over, where Doctor Doom hits him with some sleeping gas and teleports away with an unconscious Reed.
Later, Reed awakens in Doom’s secret lab, completely unrestrained. He just stands there while Doom talks about how he survived being shot into space on a meteor by being picked up by some weird aliens called Ovoids who taught him how to swap bodies with somebody. After he finishes his story, Doom reveals that while Reed was just kinda hanging out and listening, he’d used telepathy to switch their bodies. Doom-in-Reed then proceeds to beat the shit out of Reed-in-Doom before the rest of the Fantastic Four shows up and finishes the job. After they talk about whether or not they should bury him alive in the desert (holy fuck, that’s an option?), they decide to lock him in a plexi-glass prison in his own lab. Ben is super concerned that Reed-in-Doom will run out of air, but Doom-in-Reed convinces him that there’s tons of air in there and he’ll be fine. After they leave he then pretty much says, “Just kidding, there’s only an hour of air. See ya!”
Back at the Baxter Building, the team is shocked when they open Reed’s lab and a ton of tiny-sized animals run out. Ben notices that that day’s headline reads “Zoo Animals Missing.” Gasp! The gang rushes in to confront Doom-in-Reed but he contests that he was doing it for them, merely testing out his new reduction ray to help increase the group’s powers! This is immediately followed by the greatest example of sequential art (laced with more technobabble) I have ever seen.
Doom-in-Reed explains that the reason dinosaurs went extinct is that while their bodies grew larger and larger, their brains did not (bullshit). But what if they got smaller? With their brains being so large compared to their tiny bodies, those dinosaurs would be scientific geniuses and rule the world (bullshit)! Doom-in-Reed hypothesizes that if he uses his Shrinky Dink laser beam on the group, their powers will retain their intensity, yet grow when they are un-shrunk (such bullshit!). He tells them that Johnny could fly faster than a jet, Sue could turn parts of herself invisible at will, and Ben will be able to turn human again. Rather than question the logic behind any of that crap, the gang starts arguing over who’s going to get shot by the laser gun first. Doom-in-Reed tells them to come back in a few hours and, as soon as they’re gone, starts giving exposition to the empty room. Basically, he’s just gonna shrink the Fantastic Four out of existence. Surprise, surprise.
Back at Doctor Doom’s secret lab, Reed-in-Doom escapes his plexi-glass prison by blowing up the rest of his oxygen tanks. He immediately runs over to Alica’s house to get her help convincing the others that he is actually Reed. Before he can get a word in, an invisible Sue beats him over the head with a vase, knocking him out. Ben and Johnny run in and get ready to beat the shit out of an unconscious Reed-in-Doom but Ben realizes that, for some reason, he can’t bring himself to punch him. Confused, they take him back to the Baxter Building.
Doom-in-Reed (seriously, all they have to do is look at his new evil Peter Lorre eyebrows) ties up Reed-in-Doom and tells the rest of the Fantastic Four that the ray is read to shrink them. They eagerly stand in front of it, but a desperate Reed-in-Doom runs around screaming that everybody is dumb for not listening to him. Johnny decides to test this out by using a heat mirage to make it look like there’s a stick of dynamite in the room. While Doom-in-Reed freaks out and climbs up a pipe to escape, Reed-in-Doom tries to remove the fuse. Doom and Reed suddenly switch bodies back to normal and a fight ensues. Sort of. Doctor Doom just throws himself in front of the reduction ray and starts screaming for somebody to turn it off. They don’t, he shrinks into nothingness, the end.
So, yeah. While Lee and Kirby’s other books like X-Men and Hulk were way more dramatic, Fantastic Four is anything but (pretty much til the Silver Surfer shows up). I mean, hell, this issue alone had aliens, cameos from the creators, and technobabble out the ass. Oh. And dinosaurs in spacesuits. Shit, did I forget to mention the dinosaurs are in spacesuits?
I just realized that every single fucking one of my Silver Age Recaps has been a DC Comics book. Have I seriously become this subconsciously biased against the other publishers? Should I finally give in and do a Silver Age recap of a Marvel book? Nope. I mean, eventually, yeah. But right now I think I’d rather rub your nose in one of Dell Comics’ weird-ass products, Don Segall and Sam Glanzman ‘s Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle #5 from January 1963.
First off, I guess you need a little bit of backstory. Dr. Henry Dodd, his daughter Mary, and his grandkids Mason and Lily are flying over the Pacific Ocean in a blimp on their way to Australia to get Aborigines to help the Navy talk to aliens. Instead they fly straight into a storm and crash land on a island full of the cover to “Big Lizard in My Backyard.” After getting attacked by some big ol’ bats in a cave, they’re rescued by Kona, a neanderthal man (who, despite living on a tropical island, is whiter than Tipp-Ex) and his tribe. Afterward, Dodd teaches the tribe to use his ridiculously huge cache of guns and grenades (which he had why?) and become total BFFs, meaning Kona has to pull their stupid asses out of usually avoidable adventures time and time again. Awesome!
Kona #5 drops us off right in the action, with the best first page I have ever seen in a comic. EVER. Seriously. I’m not even going to describe this shit, just LOOK at it. FUCK YES.
Immediately, Kona jumps into action while Dodd wonders where the hell a giant cat like that comes from. Insert buttloads of exposition. Apparently, before Kona’s caveman crew showed up the island was used as a nuclear testing site where they tested how much fallout would be left from various sized bombs. They also kept a pet kitty cat named Amsat, whose main job was to run around and kill mice and be adorable. And then they fucking left him there. A few years of fallout later and Amsat was 30-feet tall with a taste for shark meat. As a matter of fact, he loved shark meat so much that he “feasted on these sharks with a wrath and satisfaction common only to killers driven purely by madness.” FUCK YES (again).
Finally, with the exposition over, we get back to the action. And holy shit, is it great. Unfortunately, Tim and Lex or whatever their names were are stuck under the paws of this giant cat. Fortunately, Kona and his tribe are a bunch of badasses and keep pet tyrannosaurs (as in more than one) for such occasions. One of them pops out of the ocean and brawls with Amsat, chasing it into the woods. Later that night, Kona comes to the conclusion that they need to kill Amsat or else he’ll keep coming back till they’re dead because Amsat is a cutesy-wootsy stone-cold killer. After ruling out digging a hole and shooting it, they come to the conclusion that they need poison, fire, and water.
Kona puts the plan into action with step one, setting the entire goddamn island on fire and cornering Amsat between the blaze and the ocean. Considering that Amsat is seen time and time again swimming in the ocean, I don’t know why this stops him, but whatever. Dr. Dodd fills a hollow arrow with some poisonous plant goo, gives it and an arrow to Kona, and tells him to go do his thing. After finding a dead rabbit, Kona dives into the ocean, climbs up on some rocks, and fires the arrow at Amsat. He takes out his knife (dear lord, where the fuck was he keeping that knife?) and pours bunny blood into the ocean attracting all those sharks. Amsat, driven by gluttony, dives into the sea to eat himself some shark ignoring his whole being-full-of-poison handicap. The sharks quickly gobble him up, leaving nothing but bones.
Dodd, Kona, and the dead weight decide that they need to leave the island and never come back. They hop onto their schooner (wait, where was THAT this whole time?) and take off. Hooray! Everybody’s safe! Oh, except when they get about 100 yards out and a giant fucking sea monster pops out of the ocean ready to eat the boat in a cliffhanger ending. You know, something tells me that Dr. Dodd has such shitty luck that he has to fight a giant spider every time he tries to go to Taco Bell or something.
But wait! The issue isn’t over! There’s a back-up story in here about Anak, some kid who crash landed in some jungle and is taken in by the Great Ape Thoth after he fights off the Serpent King and blah blah blah. Thoth and Anak come across a giant statue of Buddha and are attacked by a big-ass tiger. The Serpent King jumps out, bites the tiger, kills it, and everybody walks away. The end. What the fuck? What kind of back-up story is that?
Whatever. The best part of this book? Holy secret Christian agenda, Batman! Before and after the Kona story, there are a few essays about random shit. The first one is about the Emim, Rephaim, and Anakim tribes from the Bible and the second is about why cats and dogs hate each other so hard, chalking it up to Adam and Seth from Genesis. There’s also a weird-ass warning against using your cats in witchcraft. So, yeah. Don’t use your cats to conjure up Satan or anything.
So, in 1968, hippies didn’t really read comics. Maybe they were too busy with the whole Vietnam War thing going on, maybe “truth, justice, and the American way” just wasn’t really their bag. Either way, DC Comics had a fool-proof plan to get their hard-earned busking dollars: hire Joe Simon, legendary co-creator of Captain America (clearly the most liberal of all heroes), to create the ultimate hippie superhero! And what did he come up with? Brother Power, a mannequin who was struck by lightning and brought to life. Yeah, there’s no way this’ll fuck up. God help us, let’s take a look at December 1968′s Brother Power, the Geek #2.
Our book starts out where issue one left off, with Brother Power (aka: the Geek) floating in the San Fransisco Bay. On a nearby shore, a bunch of hippies are fishing and one of them just happens to reel in Brother Power’s body and decides that the best course of action is to dance with it before stealing it’s clothes. Meanwhile, on an overlooking cliff, a bunch of guys in World War I-era German uniforms (complete with a balsa wood glider made to look like a Fokker biplane) are spying on the hippies and notice Brother Power’s sweet, sweet boots. Apparantly, that’s enough reason for a full-on attack, so they push their glider off the cliff and the epic hippie ass-whooping begins! Just kidding. Two panels after they land, the Geek stands up and the German guys puss out and run away.
After the “battle” ends, a completely unprovoked Brother Power decides to tell the hippies his origin story (previously seen in the entirety of the previous month’s issue, making this sequence 100% filler and entirely fucking pointless). For those that are curious, Brother Power started out as a mannequin in an abandoned tailor shop where a bunch of hippies were squatting. They put their clothes on him and left him by an open window where he was struck by lightning and “somehow, I was alive! And I had enormous strength!” That’s one of the reasons I love the Silver Age. They don’t feel the need to explain why shit happens, it just does. Anyways, Brother Power was kidnapped by a traveling freak show and put on display, escaped, and was chased by cops till he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where we came in to this.
The hippies accept him as one of their own and indoctrinate him into their gang, the Clinkers. Unfortunately for them, Brother Power is horrified to learn that they don’t have jobs and decides to get work in a grocery store stocking shelves and bagging groceries (which is totally the kind of action I look for when I read comic books). After impressing some old lady by taking groceries out to her car on roller skates, she offers Brother Power a job at her husband’s missile factory. At that very moment, Acme Missile Parts Factory president J.P. Acme is freaking out because “one small snag” in their assembly line is costing them a million dollars a year and bankruptcy is inevitable! Unfortunately, there’s only one man who can help save the company: the evil Lord Sliderule!
Brother Power shows up for his interview just in time to witness J.P. Acme signing the company over to Lord Sliderule (and Sliderule’s midget henchmen backflipping all over the place in celebration). Sliderule immediately tries to fire the Geek, to which Acme remind him that he has to solve that snag in the assembly line before he gets complete control. So, what is this snag that could be destroying this giant corporation? A right-handed guy has to grab something on his left side and is slowing down the assembly line. Brother Power suggests they get a left-handed guy to do the job. Sliderule gets pissed off that he didn’t come up with the idea and sics his men on Brother Power! Another epic fight ensues! No, just kidding again. The next panel just has a caption that “Lord Sliderule and his nasties are no match for our Geek” and shows Brother Power getting promoted to plant foreman and then CEO, like, one panel later when J.P. Acme says, “Fuck it, I quit”
Suddenly, the Clinkers appear outside holding a “non-violent demonstration” against the missile factory! Some of the employees run outside and start beating the crap out of the hippies so the Geek runs out after them and explains that the missiles aren’t for war, but for outer space. He promptly hires all of the hippies for the assembly line and pats himself on the back. Unfortunately, Lord Sliderule (who the Geek also apparantly hired at some point) writes an article for the local paper with the headline “Are Hippies Slowing Down the space Program as Protest?” freaking out the U.S. Space Agency. To prove that everything is cool, Brother Power schedules a missile launch the next day which, thanks to some sabotage by Lord Sliderule, explodes on the tarmac. Ronald Reagan then sends out a bunch of tanks to arrest Brother Power (haha, what?). Fortunately, Brother Power also seems to have hired the head German guy who crashes his Fokker plane as a means of distracting Ronald Reagan’s army. It works and the Geek decides to hide in another of the missiles. Which Lord Sliderule then launches into space. It ends with the following caption:
Damn straight, you’ll never believe where. It turns out that not only did Joe Simon hate writing Brother Power, the Geek (going so far as refusing to talk about it to this day), but then-Superman editor Mort Weisinger hated the hippie culture so much that he pressured DC publisher Jack Liebowitz into canceling it. So then where did Brother Power land? 21 years later in Neil Gaiman’s Swamp Thing Annual #5, in which Ronnie Raymond guides the rocket back to Earth, Brother Power discovers he’s an elemental of dolls, and Batman and Abbie Cable have to stop him from destroying Tampa Bay. Yeah, you know what? Don’t ask.
When it comes to Barry Allen and his Silver Age stories, I notice a running theme (pun so totally intended): up until the last page or two, he has the absolute shittiest luck ever. It doesn’t matter who he fights, he always ends up knocked out, stranded, incarcerated, and/or pretty much powerless until he either remembers that he can vibrate through anything or that comic book chemistry can fix everything ever. Even when teamed up with somebody as legendary as Batman against somebody as dumb as Bork (as is the case in January 1969′s Brave and the Bold #81), he still manages to just get the shaft over and over again.
Our story begins at the Gotham City docks where street thug Carl Bork has been spotted trying to steal cargo from a ship. The captain must be crazy forgiving, because all he does is shoo Bork away. As he sulks away from the failed heist, Bork walks straight into the path of an oncoming truck and is creamed at full speed! But instead of dying like us normal folks, Bork just gets up and realizes that he is both now invincible and only able to talk in the third person (oh, that’s not going to be annoying)! He decides to try out his new found power by robbing a diner’s register. The cops show up and immediately try to shoot him in the leg (Gotham cops don’t have time to fuck around), but the bullet just bounces off!
Meanwhile, Barry Allen is getting a tour of Gotham’s police lab by Batman and Commissioner Gordon when they hear the call over the radio: there’s a “rumble” at the docks! Barry and Gordon carpool to the scene while Batman “flits” and beats them there, just in time to see a lone Bork challenging Milo Manning and his gang. Milo takes a swing at the invincible Bork, who survives getting hit with a forklift and pretty much just claims Milo’s gang as his own. Batman realizes that Bork is invulnerable and, for whatever reason, decides that his fist can do what a forklift couldn’t. Yeah, it can’t. Bork shouts his catchphrase, “You can’t hurt Bork but Bork can hurt you,” and then takes out a bunch of cops and hands Batman his own ass, just in time for Barry and Gordon to show up. Bork then announces that he’s taking over Gotham and there ain’t shit they can do about it. By the way, that annoying catchphrase? Yeah, Bork says it four times within the first seven pages (five if you count the cover).
A couple of hours later, Bork has practically the entire Gotham underworld under his control and has announced his demands to the Gotham City Hall. They have 24 hours to kick Batman out of town, give over half of the city counsel seats to his goons, and give him areas of the city that cops can’t touch. If not, there’s gonna be a riot! Batman decides that Bork must have gotten his invincibility at some point during his never before mention travels all over the world and asks Barry to suit up and figure out the where and how of it all. As the Flash, Barry gets the manifests to all of Bork’s destinations and discovers that he’s been all over the damn place, including a small unnamed African nation where he impoverished all of the citizens (somehow). And as luck would have it, their president has sent some commandos to Gotham to apprehend him! Simultaneously, those same commandos open fire on Bork but the bullets just bounce off! Batman shows up and everybody runs away.
During his investigation, Flash discovers that Bork was once shipwrecked on Desolation Island where the natives carved a magical sculpture of him. Oh, man, Barry is having some awesome luck! All he has to do is destroy the sculpture! He races to the island and finds the Bork statue on top of a volcano. Sweet! What could go wrong? Well, just then the volcano erupts and the whole island fucking explodes. The Flash and the statue are thrown into the air where is hit in the head with a lava rock and passes out. He lands on a big piece of driftwood while the statue gets caught in a current and is picked up by some “grizzled adventurer” in a sailboat. While Barry tries to follow the current, the adventurer gets caught in a storm miles away and the statue falls overboard. Just as the Flash finally finds it again, a tiger shark starts trying to eat it. Barry jumpkicks the shark (yeah, that’s kinda awesome), grabs the statue, and starts banging it against rocks. When that doesn’t do anything, he ties it to his back and starts running at the speed of light, trying to use friction to burn the Bork statue. He goes fast enough to end up both in the future and a different dimension, but that damn statue is still in one piece. When he’s about to give up, he decides, “Fuck it, I’m gonna shoot it with a laser.” It doesn’t do much, but it kiiiiinda burns a spot on the hand of the statue. Kiiiiinda success!
Meanwhile, Batman and Gordon confront City Hall, who are ready to give in to Bork’s demands. Batman says that Bork is just like Hitler (for some reason) and he and Gordon storm out. Apparently there are some panels missing, because the next thing you know, Batman is throwing Bork into a paddywagon while reminding him that invulnerability doesn’t mean that a jail cell can’t hold him. I, the reader, then think to myself, “Actually, it kinda does. I mean, couldn’t he just punch the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it?” One page later, Bork punches the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it. The African commandos catch up with Bork and decide that a blowgun will be able to do what machine guns couldn’t. The dart just happens to hit the same spot on his hand as the laser hit on the statue and it works. What are the odds!
Barry decides that the only way to destroy the statue is by throwing it into the sun (you know, the same way every fictional character has destroyed every fictional dangerous object ever). He straps it to his back, runs up a ramp, and vibrates through the sun with the statue, burning it to a crisp. At that exact moment, Batman punches Bork in the jaw, knocking his ass out. In the end, they send him to Africa to stand trial for being a douchebag and dicking over an entire country.
Final verdict? Barry Allen needs to get a fucking desk job and Bork needs to shut the hell up.
Posted October 18, 2009on:
In his DC Nation column this week, Dan DiDio announced the temporary resurrection of eight discontinued DC titles for January, the Blackest Night skip month. I was psyched to read that Geoff Johns would be in charge of writing the Atom and Hawkman #46. Ray Palmer and Jean Loring’s destructive relationship was a huge deal in Identity Crisis – yikes – and it resulted in a ridiculous amount of death. Blackest Night #1 gave us Black Lantern Hawkman; I’m betting that the Atom and Hawkman #46 will deliver Black Lantern Jean (yes, she’s dead, dammit, see Green Lantern #43). Holy crap.
Then it dawned on me, what better time than now to recap the last issue of the original Silver Age run of the Atom and Hawkman? Prepare yourselves, for Ray, Jean, and Carter in October 1969′s “Queen Jean, Why Must We Die?”
The issue kicks off with Jean Loring lawyering it up in defense of an unnamed client (who totally wasn’t at Harry’s Hot-cha Hacienda on the 24th, by the way) when suddenly, all of the jurors and the judge get this creepy smiley face! Jean freaks the fuck out and runs outside where EVERYBODY has the same face. Fortunately, she gets through the hallucinations and gets up to her apartment to relax. Of course, being a Silver Age woman, she’s gotta look in the mirror first and, who’s staring back but Creepy Smiley Face McGee? Spooky!
An hour later, Ray Palmer walks up to the apartment building, stroking his unified alpha field-detector (wink?) when a flying vase almost hits him square in the dome! It turns out that Jean was the one who threw it, trying to take out the building’s bellhop! She’s trying her damnedest to hit him with an ashtray when Ray blindsides her and stops her the Hank Pym way.
After telling the building superintendent that he’s got an ugly looking head, Ray escorts Jean back to her suite, where she fills him in on what’s going on. It turns out that a while back she tried defending a murderer named Lenny Kirtman, failed, and got his ass sent to the electric chair! But before Ray can finish trying to tell her that Lenny was a bastard, he noticed that his unified alpha field doohickey is glowing like crazy, meaning that the room is full of radiation! He kicks Jean out and shrinks his ass down into the totally sweet 1960s shag carpeting. But before he can land, something coats his arm in silver (I guess Silver Age characters LOVED coating other characters in precious metals).
The Atom plays possum until his attacker comes out from behind the carpet fibers. Turns out the guy is a microscopic gnome in a suit of armor with an upside-down fruit bowl on his head! After realizing that he’d seen the armor before (and noticing another weird techno-gizmo), Ray “applies his fist vigorously to the side of the opponents face” (uh, he punches him in the mouth). Ray apparently had enough time to write an opus on how to punch, but I guess just didn’t have any time left over to plan out where his enemy would land. Whoop! The dwarf guy lands next to the other gadget-thing! The gnome grabs the alpha field thingabobber and shoots alpha-beams right at Ray! Ray grows as fast as he can to escape, but is it too late?
Yes. Just as he becomes full sized, he passes out and wakes up to find Jean gone! He freaks out and decides to call up Carter Hall at the museum and ride the phone lines to him. After Ray gets Carter up to speed, he realizes that one of the suits of armor in the museum is identical to the gnome’s. It’s and ALINE suit, and it was discovered in Death Valley! Carter (now in his Hawkman get-up) and the Atom race to Death Valley and decide they need to shrink down to sub-atomic size to save Jean Loring from her microscopic prison! Wait, when was she captured? Whatever.
As soon as the pair arrive in Sub-Atomic Land, they’re attacked by a bunch of gnomes on robot birds. Carter is outmaneuvers them, no problem, but then in comes the last robot bird, carrying Jean Loring! She’s dressed like a Disney princess and talking like a creepy pervert (“Naugh-teee! You’ve been sooooo bad, Hawkman! Queen Jean will punish!”). Anyways, Hawkman and the Atom get shot with lasers and they pass out.
When they wake up (sans Carter’s wings and the Atom’s dignity), one of the alien gnomes decides to tell them their story. Turns out that they really are aliens from the planet Jimberen! They landed on Earth to try to colonize with the cavemen, but their queen instead decided to marry a neanderthal. Soon after, the aliens shrunk to escape a plague that only affected the Jimberen, killing their normal-sized queen. It turns out that Jean is a direct decendant to the long-dead queen and, according to custom, she needed to be driven insane and put in charge. Because Jean Loring is really fit to lead when she’s in a mood, right? The gnome shoots our heroes with another laser, binding an anti-escape harness directly to their flesh’s molecular structure “through your clothes.” Basically, they’re doomed to stew in their own juices forever (gross).
Queen Jean yells for the pair to be put to work and they do so, enduring a whole day of pyramid building and soup eating. The Atom flips out after a while, so he and Carter decide to fake their own deaths by jumping off of a cliff. Jean and the head gnome just kind of go, “Well, that sucked,” and walk off, allowing Carter and Ray to make a break for the machine that controls their anti-escape harnesses. Ray reverses the polarity on the machine, freeing them. And then comes the most abrupt ending to anything ever.
Carter gets his wings back just by asking for them. The Atom grows to back to man-sized. He shoots Carter and Queen Jean with the embiggening laser and everybody is happy. Oh, except Jean Loring is still insane and thinks she’s a queen. Also, we don’t know what the fuck was up with that killer’s face subplot. But, I mean, plots don’t really HAVE to get resolved, right?
Finally, modern age comics are taking a cue from some of my favorite late-Silver Age books and are plugging in some secondary co-features. The Flash Vol. 1 #206 features a completely fucking absurd pair of stories: Barry Allen in “24 Hours of Immortality” and a bizarre seven-page Elongated Man co-feature entitled “Showdown in Elongated Town!” Well, hell, if the book comes with two stories for the price of one, it looks like you’re gonna get two recaps, too! Lucky, lucky you!
24 Hours of Immortality: Our main story starts out with Susan Logan, an aviatrix (which I’m assuming is a cross between an aviator and a dominatrix) and her son, Timmy, soaring amongst the clouds. She tells him in explicit detail about the Sky Devils Circus aerial stunt contest she’s entered to win his college tuition, to which he replies by reminding her that her husband is dead. Heartwarming!
In the next panel, neurosurgeon William Kandel and his wife, Sylvia, are cruising around in their convertible, talking about how some professor is both on the verge of developing a cure for cancer and dying of some unnamed something or other. Fortunately, Dr. Kandel is ready and able to perform the life saving surgery. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, how about Susan the Aviatrix crashing her plane straight into William’s car? Because that’s totally what happens. Both Sylvia and Timmy are killed in the flaming wreckage, leaving William and Susan to weep over the corpses of their beloved family members. But don’t worry, it’s totally cool, because THERE ARE ALWAYS ALIENS.
Enter the ghostly-looking Duus and Unuus, two aliens who claim to be “countless light-years advanced” over us (because how advanced your society is is measured by distance) and sent by the Astra-Counsil (dibs on the band name) to study humans under extreme stress. Since ghost-aliens are totally all-powerful and stuff, they decide to bring Sylvia and Timmy back to life on one condition: in 24 hours, Susan and William will die! William agrees to the deal and, since he’s a man, Susan automatically agrees too, even though she didn’t actually say anything. The aliens raise the dead, repair the plane and car, and say, “Oh, yeah, you’re also immortal for those 24 hours. Later!”
Immediately, William is back behind the wheel of the car, determined to save that professor’s life before his time is up. Unfortunately, he’s the unluckiest son of a bitch ever, and he drives right into the middle of a high-speed firefight between a bunch of convicts and cops. The Flash runs up just in time to watch William catch two slugs in the chest. Barry vibrates the front tires off of the convicts’ truck and uses his “ultra-vibrations” (kinky) to hurl them at the escaping convicts. He goes to check up on the totally not dead Dr. Kandel, who tells him the story of the aliens, right down to the same details Susan told Timmy in the plane (because Dr. William Kandel is everywhere all the time). He finishes by mentioning the professor’s impending surgery and asks the Flash to get them to the hospital. On the way, William mentions that the surgery takes ten hours and he only has 24 hours to live and he wants to spend time with his wife and his staff is only human and he wishes he had some way to “speed up their movements” and blah blah blah. Solution?
The surgery is a success and the Flash runs off to check out “the other human whom nothing can kill — for a day!” Instead of finding her, he finds a massive forest fire surrounding the airfield where the Sky Devils Circus contest is supposed to take place, threatening to shut it down! Poor Susan watches from her plane and worries whether she’ll ever get her son’s college tuition.
Thank god the Flash shows up. He simultaneously puts out the fire by running around it and lectures us about how fucking evil and apathetic people who smoke cigarettes are. He then runs up the smoke (what?) and pushes the plane the rest of the way to the contest. To make a long, stupid story short, Susan wins the contest by jumping out of her plane and landing on her feet, totally unharmed. Nobody questions how she pulled that off. She wins Timmy’s college money.
The next day, Barry, Susan, and Dr. Kandel all meet up where the aliens granted the day of immortality and, guess what, the aliens show up with guns, ready to kill the pair. The Flash trots out the whole cliche “you gotta get through me first” thing and the aliens open fire on him with a bunch of different space lasers, all of which he just vibrates through. Then the story ends in the most boring way possible. The aliens just go, “Man, fuck this. We’re going home.”
Here’s my question, though. If Susan and Dr. Kandel knew the aliens were planning to killthem, couldn’t they have just, you know, not shown up for the rendezvous? I mean, the aliens gave up pretty fucking fast in the end anyways. I’m pretty sure they’d have just gone, “Aw man, they totally stood us up. The Astra-Counsil is gonna be pissed!” Whatever.
Showdown in Elongated Town: This ridiculously short story starts out with Ralph Dibny running through an Old Western ghost town, suddenly realizing that he has no idea what the fuck he’s doing in an Old Western ghost town. The weird(er) thing is, the entire town looks like it’s being reflected in “a fun-house mirror” (hint, hint). Before he can think about what’s going on, his nose starts twitching and he’s confronted by a stretchy distorted looking cowboy-type.
After yelling that “the town can’t stetch enough fer the both of us,” the cowboy pulls out a revolver with a tiny mirror on top (hint, freaking, hint) and shoots a light beam at Ralph. Unfortunately, when Ralph dodges the laser beam, he bonks his head and allows the cowboy to switch places with a dummy, getting away. always the detective, Ralph pulls the dummy close to his face and realizes that only stuff far away from him looks all funky.
As soon as he comes to this conclusion, he finds himself trapped between a stampede of bulls and a rattlesnake! He quickly realizes that the bulls and snake are holograms (HINT, HINT, RALPH) and he ducks into a hotel window. Hidden from view, he POPS HIS EYES OUT OF HIS SKULL and realizes that somebody stuck funky shaped contact lenses on his eyes while he was spaced out. He grabs a rifle off of the wall and figures out who the cowboy really is, Mirror Master!
The Mirror Master tells Ralph that his plan was to use Ralph Dibny as a practice fight, kill him, and use his corpse to lure the Flash into a trap. But as we all know, you can’t kill a Dibny! Ralph packs himself into the rifle and shoots himself at Mirror Master’s dick, knocking him unconscious. The story (abruptly) ends in the ghost town’s Sherrif’s office, where Ralph discovers a “mirror-mesmerizing gizmo” and a bunch of old movie posters. The last panel is just Ralph staring at a passed out Mirror Master. Creepy!
How can anyone hope to solve a crime when the Silver Age Riddler is involved? I mean, yeah, he’s dropping clues like crazy, but honestly, these are the most vague fucking clues EVER. You’d have better luck if you just ignored his clues entirely and did some actual detective work. I don’t know if ol’ Nigma’s riddles can possibly get much goofier than they did in Batman #171, “the Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler.”
The issue opens to Eddie Nigma standing across a desk from the warden of the aptly named State Penitentiary; he’s receiving a wad of your hard earned tax dollars for being good and making parole. In exchange, Eddie asks the warden a riddle (“Why do the cons in this prison call it ‘Fiddler’s Inn?’”) with the promise of giving him the answer when and if he returns. After some anti-Batman inner monologue, Eddie buys himself a newspaper and reads that Batman is struggling to capture the Molehill Mob. This pisses attention-whore Eddie right the fuck off so he promises to “do something about this.”
The next day, Eddie is hanging outside of the police headquarters, like you do, when he catches Batman and Robin just kinda milling about. They don’t recognize him out of costume so he asks them that “once in a minute, twice in a moment” riddle. “Oh, shit, you’re the Riddler!” cries Robin, prompting the stupidest fucking origin story ever.
As a kid, Edward Nigma “won an historical jigsaw puzzle” by taking a picture of it, so he turned to a life of puzzle based crime. By this logic, if you look at the picture on the box of any puzzle before completing it, you’re a terrible human being and you will probably spend the rest of your life committing elaborate crimes. My grandmother is a terrible human being.
Anyways, Batman just assumes that the Riddler is about to give him the clue to his next crime. Au contraire! It turns out that the Riddler has turned over a new leaf and is only interested in helping capture the Molehill Mob! Ever the brilliant mind, Batman replies with “HUH?!” and then thinks about the Molehill Mob. Apparently, this gang giving Batman and Robin so much trouble is, like, three or four unarmed guys who are remarkably good at navigating the sewers after knocking over banks (Did the Turtles go rogue?). The Riddler does have one condition for helping, however: he wishes to wear his “working clothes” (what is he, a hooker?).
After a one-panel interlude of Bruce and Dick playing Scrabble (totally necessary, I guess?) we cut to the Riddler, Batman, and Robin jumping into the sewers. Despite being stuck in prison and never even hearing of this gang until after he was released the freaking day before, the Riddler is able to lead our heroes straight to the Molehill Mob, no problem. The gang springs a few sewer-themed traps in an attempt to thwart Batman and Robin (rolling manhole covers, giant spools of wire, what I’m pretty sure are creepy hentai tentacles), but the Dynamic Duo escapes easily. Then, I guess everybody just goes home.
Two days later, Batman and Robin are hanging out at the Police Athletic League picnic at the park when they discover a riddle in their picnic basket! “What is the longest word in the world?” Time for Batman logic: it turns out the answer is “smiles,” because there’s a “mile” between the first and last letter! And hold the phone, there’s a man named “Smiles” Dawson who owns a fancy yacht, the Black Pearl of the Pacific, at the Gotham City Marina! Let’s roll!
Batman & Robin head to the marina and, after escaping the Riddler’s worst puzzle trap ever (honestly, look at that picture and tell me how you’d NOT be able to escape), they confront the villain. Yeah, turns out ‘Smiles’ just bought the yacht for $30,000 and “forgot” about the puzzle traps that shoot out of the car when you hit that hidden button in the glove compartment (I completely understand, I’m always hitting those damn secret glove compartment buttons). Everybody laughs it off and the Riddler bails.
But wait! He left another riddle! “How is an orange like a bill?” Simple! They both must be peeled/pealed! Oh, nothing reads like a joke that only works when said aloud! Anyways, it turns out that the Peale Art Gallery is in Gotham and is currently hosting the Fancy-Ass Shit exhibit. Let’s roll (again)!
They show up just in time to see the Riddler pointing a pistol at a very frightened looking man handing him an ivory cross covered in rubies!The Dynamic Duo break in and tackle Eddie, bringing his ass to justice. Suddenly, the frightened looking man yells, “But the Riddler didn’t steal the cross, Batman!” Que el fuck? Turns out, Eddie’s uncle died and left him the cross in his will, the gun was actually a cigarette lighter, and the man’s frightened expression was just poor genes or whatever. Once again, the Riddler gets to walk away, but not after telling Our Heroes that they’ve already got the next riddle. Riveting!
Back in the Batmobile, Robin comes to a startling conclusion. The boat was called the Black Pearl! The cross was red and white! “What’s black and white and red/read all over?” A newspaper! And it just so happens to be the Gotham Times 100th anniversary tonight! Doesn’t matter, by the way. Robin’s wrong.
They hightail it to one of Gotham’s “gay night spots” (uh, wink?), the western-themed Ox Club just in time to see the Riddler going through the manager’s safe! But it’s cool, the Riddler assumes a weird stance and gives up. Nope, just joshin’, instead the most confusing fight ever breaks out. The Riddler’s suit turns electric and he becomes impossible to knock over, like one of those Weebles from the 70s. The Riddler’s henchmen run in and Batman & Robin proceed to make Wild West puns that are so bad, the underlings vanish into thin air. They turn their attention back to the Riddler and punch the shit out of him, not really doing any damage. Batman realizes that the weird stance I mentioned earlier was the Riddler hitting a secret button on his chest, pumping himself full of painkillers. Batman re-hits the chest button like a Lord Zedd Putty, turns off the drugs, and punches the Riddler in the stomach. But how ever did Batman figure out where the Riddler would be?
Forget the colors, the clues were in the shapes. Or something. Whatever, fucking Batman logic. The boat was called the Black Pearl and pearls are round, the cross was a cross and crosses are cross-shaped. Put a round-shaped thing next to a cross-shaped thing and you get the word “ox” (but not “to” or anything with the initials “O.X.,” “X.O.,” “T.O.,” or “O.T.”) which means it HAD to be the Ox Club. Case closed, brain exploded.
But what about the riddle Eddie gave the Warden back on page one? Well, it turns out the inmates call State Penitentiary the “Fiddler’s Hotel” because it’s such a “vile inn/violin!” Wait, really? That’s the worst joke ever. Dude, Eddie? Shut the fuck up.