Superboy’s Amazing New Power of Bio-Magnetism!

 

 

Today at ComicsAlliance, it’s another installment of good ol’ fashioned let’s-make-fun-of-this-old-story comics blogging when Bizarro Back Issues takes on The New Adventures of Superboy #11, a Cary Bates / Kurt Schaffenberger classic where Superboy gains the power of bio-magnetism and has a black hole suck it right out of his body.

It’s worth it just for the shot of Luthor in his goggles.

The Sandman Connection

 

 

With the big announcement that Sandman‘s eyeliner-loving, ankh-sporting Death will be appearing in Action Comics, I’ve taken a look at the past crossovers between the DCU and Sandman!

I’ve never really gotten why the Vertigo characters were verboten over the past few years — like I said in the article, the answer that was given to me when I asked at a DC Nation panel was that they didn’t want to cross over with “Mature Readers” books, and this was a year after Rapety Rape Rape Identity Crisis came out — especially given how good the existing uses of those characters actually have been. Say what you want about Gaiman’s “annoyance” (Wikipedia’s word) over Cary Bates throwing Death into Captain Atom, but it’s a pretty solid issue that I think does right by the character. But then again, I didn’t create her, so I’m willing to accept that my opinion may be a little less valid on the matter.

What I’m getting at here is that Grant Morrison and Cary Bates are awesome.

The Satanic Son of Superman!

Superman is a lot of things. He’s a great hero, certainly. A symbol of all that’s good in the world, sure. He’s even a halfway decent reporter.

But he is not a very good father.

I mean, look at the evidence here: Whenever we’ve seen Superman as a father, the results have tended to fall somewhere between disappointing and disastrous. Sometimes, he raises a disaffected youth who travels the country on a motorcycle doing the “Funky Robot.” Sometimes, he raises a daughter who can’t stop making out with her cousin. And sometimes… He ends up raising the mass-murdering spawn of Satan.

 

 

Or at least, that’s the case in 1972′s Action Comics #410, which predates The Omen by a good four years and proves once again that Cary Bates–whose return to comics last month with True Believers included the phrase “weaponized WiFi”–was way ahead of his time.

Anyway, in this particular imaginary story Superman’s kid is Krys, who… Well, I’ll let Bates & Co. explain:

 

 

That’s right, folks: In addition to looking like Li’l Spock from that one episode of the Star Trek cartoon, Krys is pure evil, and possessed of the vast, ill-defined plot-driving power to do pretty much anything, up to and including turning water to sulfur and dragging chunks of a white dwarf star all the way across space and chucking them at a restaurant on the moon.

And if that wasn’t enough for a single super-parent to deal with, Superman also has to deal with the pressing threat of these guys:

 

 

The Trolvs–or as I like to call them, the Klandroids–are an indeterminate number of evil killer robots in bathrobes that were created by, and I quote Superman, “a dying criminal scientist who hated me bitterly,” which begs the question of why Bates went all vague instead of just saying “Lex Luthor.” I mean, it’s not like he was kicking off a whole series of the adventures of Widower Superman and his Satanic Offspring that might feature Luthor in future installments or anything, so why the hell not? Oh well, no point worrying about it now. More on these guys later, when they become relevant to the plot.

At this point, any questions about the Trolvs are going to have to take a back seat to wondering just how Superman’s kid turned out to be such a bad seed anyway. Is he the horrible result of Lana Lang mating with Superman in some bizarre insect form? Could it be that Lois Lane’s poison womb had finally gotten its revenge on a world that hated and feared her?

No, the actual cause comes from Superman’s one true love, Krysalla!

 

 

What? You guys don’t remember Krysalla, who appeared one time in an imaginary story by Cary Bates where she married Superman, revealed she was a witch, gave birth to his son and then died off-panel? Hmph. You kids today. No respect for the classics.

It’s worth noting that when she reveals her witchity nature to her husband, Clark’s awfully indignant for a guy who hasn’t bothered to tell his wife that he’s actually Superman. Remember, kids: Grown-up relationships should be built on honesty, unless there’s something you really don’t want to tell your wife. In any case, when the truth finally comes out, it’s because she’s worried that her dark powers will cause complications for their son, and, to nobody’s surprise, she is absolutely right.

Sadly, Superman himself doesn’t catch on until ten years later, after a decade of Krys’s subtle mass murder:

 

 

The catch here is that Krys doesn’t actually know that he’s causing all these horrible disasters and he’s actually a decent kid at heart, which doesn’t stop Superman, who has decided that his son’s evil power can no longer run unchecked, from strapping him to a chair and shooting him with a Future Gun:

 

 

And this is where it starts to get completely insane.

No sooner has Superman put his son down like Old Yeller than the boy splits in two, and at this point I can no longer make jokes about it, because the culprit behind Krys’s evil deeds is revealed to be…

 

 

…his INTERDIMENSIONAL GHOST DEMON SIAMESE TWIN BROTHER.

 

Once he’s free of his host body, however, Krys’s Evil Twin’s reign of terror only manages to last a grand total of nine panels, screeching to a halt when the Trolv’s bust in and Superman–who can fly fast enough to break the time barrier and shoot death-rays from his eyes–conveniently fails to stop them until after they’ve killed the little rugrat.

Thus, Superman reveals that his Future Gun was only meant to put him into suspended animation until he could put together a proper exorcism, and everything eventually works out okay.

Still, though. An Interdimensional Ghost Demon Siamese Twin Brother…

 

 

Yes, Superman. Yes it is.

The Inevitable Challenge of the Dinosaur Uprising

If you’re the kind of person who keeps your finger on the pulse of comics news, then you probably already know that this July sees the return of none other than Cary Bates with a series called True Believers, and while it also includes the horrific grotesques of Paul Gulacy, I’m pretty excited.

Why?

 

 

Oh, I have my reasons.

I’ve mentioned Cary Bates and his work before, but for those of you who aren’t aware, I’ll explain: One of the comments on the ISB once referred to him as “the Grant Morrison of the ’70s,” and that’s not too far off. Along with Bobs Haney and Kanigher, Bates completes the triumvirate of DC’s bat-shit crazy writers of the Bronze Age, and really, the fact that we don’t have a set of action figures along those lines is a major failure on the part of DC Direct.

Point being, you can pretty much grab any comic from the man’s run on Flash and end up with something pretty mind-blowing. Like, say, a cover where the Flash and his kid sidekick are menaced by dinosaurs who–despite being “smart”–choose to attack by hurling logs rather than using their razor-sharp claws and fangs.

Before we get to the meat of the story, though, one quick word about that cover: You gotta love the way that the Flash immediately pinpoints the problem of advanced dinosaur intelligence, rather than getting hung up on the end results of dinosaur hero-bludgeoning. Just sayin’, if I was the flash, that sentence would’ve come out a little differently.

But back to the matter at hand: The whole thing gets started when Gail Manners, a young friend of Kid Flash who gained the power to sense impending disaster when she was vibrated through time by an earthquake–yes, vibrated through time by an earthquake–lapses into a coma. Clearly, the medical science of 1978 is just not equipped to deal with a time-traveling Tiresias, and thus young Wally West comes up with a daring plan.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t bother to tell us, instead using the printed version of an old cartoon standby:

 

“Here’s what we do… First, I’ll psspsspsspsspsst…

 

Why Bates chooses to keep us in suspense for all of three pages, we may never know, but before long, the Flash’s plan is made abundantly clear. And really, it’s what we should’ve expected all along: He’s going to hook up his treadmill to a boat and then run real fast until they get to the Mesozoic era.

No, really.

 

 

It should be noted that at this point, nothing has happened in this story that would be considered even remotely unusual, not even the trip through time on the Cosmic Treadmill. That one was a staple of the Flash’s Silver Age adventures, which gave us plenty of stories where Barry Allen–SCIENTIST!–would travel to the far reaches of time to discover their wonders and mysteries…

 

 

…and then beat the living hell out of them. Suck it, Butterfly Effect. Suck it hard.

Fortunately for the laws of causality, smacking the crap out of one sea monster seems to be enough to bring Gail out of her coma, much to the relief of her dashing yachtsman of a father:

 

 

Despite the fact that they’ve apparently solved their problem, this is where the story really starts to get going. Because really, when it comes to helping out a girl whose prophetic visions cause her to fall into a coma, you’re just going to have to keep running back to the Age of Dinosaurs until you deal with the root of your troubles.

And what, you might ask, is the root of their troubles? What else?

 

 

Aliens!

Yes, despite the promise of a cover, the Flash only spends about four panels wandering around while super-intelligent dinosaurs use ropes and drop rocks on each other before Bates chucks that plot and goes with his ol’ standby.

As it turns out, the aliens have come to Earth on a mission of world domination–one of roughly eighteen thousand such missions that Bates would chronicle over the course of his career–and I’ve gotta say, this one pushes even my suspension of disbelief.

The master plan is as follows:

 

 

That’s right, folks: The aliens come to Earth to stop the rise of humanity by putting a fantastically advanced machine in a volcano and using it to alter the minds of the native population, which has long-lasting effects on the mental health of today’s citizens.

And really… Who’s gonna believe that?

The Skill of Skating! The Kill of the Derby!

Even when you compare him to a guy like Batman, the Flash has always had some of the most popular villains in comics, to the point where they’ve actually become synonymous with the term “Rogues Gallery.” When you get right down to it, though, a lot of them are… Well, they’re not very good.

Okay, admittedly: Captain Cold and Weather Wizard aren’t bad, and thanks to his time with the Suicide Squad, Captain Boomerang’s a lot better than anybody with that name ought to be, but after that, it’s a pretty sharp dropoff. I mean seriously, you guys: The Turtle? I like guys with opposite powers as much as anybody, but when your story’s about the Fastest Man Alive fighting the Slowest Man Alive, there’s not a whole lot of tension in figuring out who’s gonna win that round.

I guess it’s true what they say: They can’t all be Kolossal Kate.

 

 

Yes, long before the Roller Derby became the sole province of cute-but-tough hipster chicks with names like Helen Felon and Rainbow Fight, it provided the Flash with a challenge that could only have been defeated by virtually anyone in the pages of 1971′s “Flashing Steel,” with art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, and a story by–who else?–merry Cary Bates.

For those of you who don’t know, Bates, like Jim Shooter, started working for DC as a teenager and as you might expect from the fact that I’m discussing a story where the Flash has to save the world from the evil machinations of a world-shattering rollergirl, he’s second only to Bobs Kanigher and Haney as the writer of DC’s most mind-bendingly insane stories.

Which brings us back around to this one. The whole thing gets started on the same kind of slow news day that filled the Silver Age to the point where the Daily Planet was printing stories about its cub reporter busting up a crooked lumberjacking ring every morning. This time, though, it’s fallen to Barry Allen’s wife, Iris, to put her investigative reporting skills to good use by exposing the brutal world of the jam:

 

 

Let’s pause here for a moment. If you’re like me, you might’ve noticed that there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the Kate Krasher that we were promised on the cover–a shapely, taunting siren on rollerskates courtesy of Dick Giordano–and the one that we’re actually getting, which appears to be Irv Novick’s rendition of famed Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus. Needless to say, that’s something of a disappointment.

Anyway, Barry eventually makes it to his seat, only to find that Iris isn’t in the stands, having opted instead to take a hands-on approach to the story by jumping skate-first into the angriest group of women I’ve seen since the last time one of my Tarot reviews got linked by When Fangirls Attack:

 

 

Unfortunately for Iris, Kate Krasher’s not messing around, and when she starts throwin’ elbows like Ludacris, Iris takes a nasty spill over the guardrail, bumping her head and ending her brief career as a rollergirl. The immediate thought, of course, goes to what she’s going to do with all those neon fishnets she’d stocked up on in hopes of landing a permanent position on the squad, but as it turns out, there’s another, slightly more pressing problem that came with her head injury:

 

 

Before we get to Barry’s response, I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that in the previous issue, the Flash traveled to the year 2971 to stop a cyborg John Wilkes Booth with a jetpack from killing a cyborg Abraham Lincoln, so really, he should be pretty open to ideas that some might consider to be a little bit crazy.

How, then, does he respond when the love of his life breaks down and confesses that the eight-foot tall monstrosity of the roller derby might actually be an alien?

 

 

Oh come now, honey! Those are just your silly female emotions playing tricks on that beautiful brain of yours!

 

All heart, that Barry Allen.

Cut to the next day, and Central City’s wracked by an earthquake, presumably because Bates realized that there was no way an evil alien roller derby queen was going to be able to fill up sixteen pages and that seeing the Flash chuck steel girders into a hole in the ground is a good way to pad things out. As it turns out, however, that’s only part of the reason for the quake, which the Flash learns when he finds out that the tremors originated underneath–prepare for a shock–the Roller Derby Stadium!

I’m going to go ahead and skip past the part where Central City can support a massive stadium dedicated exclusively to the roller derby, because really: If we’ve come this far, getting hung up on the details would be counterproductive at best. Suffice to say that the Flash runs over there, makes a critical discovery…

 

 

…and is then conked on the head so that we can finally get the exposition of Kate’s sinister master plan:

 

 

Clearly, a drill to the center of the Earth is Serious Business, and–okay, look, I’m sorry, but that’s a dude. I mean, I’ll buy Kate here being an alien from space, and I’ll even go so far as to accept that the most efficient way to power her evil space drill is by using magnetic roller skates and a small army of lady jammers, but seriously, you guys. Asking me to believe that nobody thought to point out that the champion of the womens’ roller derby has a five o’clock shadow and hands the size of tennis rackets is pushing it a little too far.

Unless… you know, maybe that’s why Iris was investigating the whole thing to begin with! I take it back, and I apologize. I should’ve known better than to doubt Cary Bates.

Right: So Kate tricks the Flash into jumpstarting the last phase of Operation Drill The Crap Out Of Earth, but thanks to a suitably bizarre feat of heroism–in this case, using his super-speed powers to skate with ten pairs of skates at once, which is certainly as impressive as that time he ran to the sun–he’s able to reverse the process and defeat evil once and for all:

 

 

Yeah, I wouldn’t bet on that one, Barry.

 

Note: Normally I wouldn’t have done this bit, since PostModernBarney’s Dorian Wright covered it last May, coming at it from something of a different angle. Fortunately, he was nice enough to encourage me to go ahead and have at it, thus proving that this world of ours is big enough for multiple takes on such a weird little story. In an effort to keep things fair, though, I sat down before writing it and just did shots until I couldn’t remember a thing about his post. And really, after reading this far, that’ll probably explain a lot.

The Presidential Fury of Future Lincoln!

Long-time ISB readers might recall that while I like to consider myself more of a comics reader than anything else, there are a couple of things that I go after just for the joy of having them, and chief among those is my collection of comics with covers featuring America’s greatest leader, President Abraham Lincoln.

Imagine my good fortune, then, when I stumbled across this little gem purely by accident yesterday:

 

 

That, my friends, is a cover that asks us to accept a lot of things. Namely:

 

1. That the robot in question is accurate in both its reporting and its statement that this news is happening now

2. That it is indeed the year 2971, as evidenced by the yellow skies and the fact that Adam Strange is swinging by to fight with the Flash’s word balloon

3. That the Elongated Man was once a selling point

And perhaps most importantly…

4. That the MILFs of the future will have some dynamite legs.

 

Of course, there’s also the part where we’re to assume that it’s actually Lincoln and not just a sophisticated Robot Lincoln designed to preserve the Union during a futuristic Civil War, but–Spoiler Warning!–it’s really just a sophisticated Robot Lincoln designed to preserve the Union during a futuristic Civil War.

As for the why of all this madness, that can be summed up pretty well in about two words: Cary Bates.

In retrospect, those might not be the words you were expecting, but still. Bates is, after all, the guy who brought us stories like the one where a 10 year-old Batman kicks the crap out of a grizzly bear. Sadly, that’s not a theme that he revisits here, but we do get an opening sequence featuring this:

 

 

Yes, as revealed by the “probing” of the Flash’s “time vibrator,” in the grim future of 2971, there is only war! Civil War in fact, as Earth-East and Earth-West struggle against each other for reasons that are never actually made clear. What we do know, however, is that the War has left Earth-West with “inadequate news coverage,” to the point where they’re recruiting from the twentieth century.

Specifically, they’re going for Iris West, who was born in the future and then sent to the past, but came back after Professor Zoom–you know what? Let’s just skip it. All you really need to know is that she’s the Flash’s girlfriend, and in order to fulfill a community service requirement left over from transporting electrified chemicals over the border, she’s volunteered to help set up a “picture news service.”

One quick hop on the Cosmic Treadmill later, she and the Flash arrive in the future to hear the grim news: President Lincoln has been assassinated. And even more amazing, nobody saw that one coming.

 

 

You’d think Barry Allen might be used to things like this, what with the fact that he himself is following in the footsteps of another guy who ran really fast and called himself “The Flash,” but the whole thing just blows his mind. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder how he deals with other repetitive aspects of his life.

“Incredible! The McRib was only available for a limited time! How can it be available again–a whole year later?!

Needless to say, he doesn’t bother to stick around for the thirty or so seconds that it’d take to explain what was going on, instead choosing to tear off across the country to investigate the murder and track down the responsible party: The 30th-Century Doppelganger of John Wilkes Booth!

Or, as he would become known to his contemporaries…

 

 

JOHN WILKES JETPACK!

 

Only the addition of Sarah Vowell could make that more awesome.

Unfortunately, the Flash’s zealous pursuit of justice in the name of the Union is not without the hazards that come from hasty crimefighting:

 

 

Just for future reference, things are usually referred to as things like “The Wild Region” because there’s something there that you really don’t want to run into. In Metropolis circa 1971, the problem was an overabundance of high-tech street-racing super-hippies.

In Earth-East, however, it’s more a problem of Stranger Danger:

 

 

Of course, the real issue here is the prevalent amount of powerful hallucinogens in the atmosphere–which coincidentally was a condition shared by the offices of DC Comics throughout the decade–and before long, Barry figures out a way to block out the evil of the spectral hands.

And I think it’s a solution from which we could all benefit:

 

 

And he does, finally revealing the trick that the readers probably assumed six pages ago in a sequence involving the search-result skewing image that can only be described as “Naked Robot Lincoln.

For those of you requiring further explanation, allow me: With the threat of a Civil War involving atomic weapons–very atomic weapons–looming over their heads, the hot-shot scientists of the 30th Century decided that the best course of action would be to look to the past for inspiration. Thus, in a move that pretty much confirms that it’s all downhill from here as far as world leaders go, they do what Walt Disney did a thousand years before: they make themselves a Cyborg Lincoln.

But sadly, thanks to a two-and-a-half-star laser-blast from Cyborg John Wilkes Booth, his term as President of the Future was cut short. OR WAS IT?!

For you see, while the Flash is caught up in The Worst Deathtrap Ever–a ball and chain that it takes him like three pages to figure out he can get out of by rotating the other way–Future Booth meets up with his sinister paymaster Bekor, the Ruthless Commander of Earth-East, who is not Ming the Merciless, but an incredible simulation.

By this point, though, Booth has outlived his usefulness, and after delivering the murder weapon to his boss–a plot point that’s about to be pretty relevant despite never being explained–he’s immediately shot, at which point things start to get way more awesome.

Because this is where Lincoln comes out of the laser gun and reassembles his atoms thanks to an anti-disintegration pocketwatch he’d been holding for just such an occasion.

Thus: Presidential Beatdowns, presented here in all their wondrous, democratic glory.

 

 

 

 

 

Man! Not since Benito Cereno’s Tales From the Bully Pulpit has there been an Abe-Related Beatdown that Union-preservingly thorough!